Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sign This

There are some days in a mom’s life when it all comes together: a hot breakfast on the table at seven a.m., after a soothing early morning run around a quiet town. Lost socks, tangled hair, broken shoe laces – these minor hiccups are no match for me on days like this. In one swift pass around the house the sock has a mate, pony tails are installed, and the laces are replaced. Tears after school? Not a problem. My reassurance that “It will pass,” is met with no resistance or argument. Days like this are capped with dinner on the table promptly at 6 p.m., before the whining starts, and backs are scratched as the little and medium-sized people drift off to sleep at precisely the right time. Just enough time for a glass of wine, a few kisses and another day in paradise is put to bed.

On those nights, I try to remember to fall asleep with my fingers and toes crossed.

However, sometimes I forget.

That’s when I wake up the next morning, and before my feet have even hit the floor, there is a totally different vibe going down.


“What?” my husband says as he staggers to his feet.

“I forgot to put J’s wash in last night. I promised him his jeans would be clean. Shit!”

On days that begin like this, the kids fetch their own cereal because I’m doing last night’s dishes and yesterday’s laundry. The ones not emerging from their darkened rooms are treated to the sound of “Are you going to school today or WHAT?!” at a level even they cannot sleep through. Not only that, but St. Mom, Finder of Lost Things and Slayer of Evil, is lacking in both compassion and patience.

“Mom, where is my new beanie? I left it right here!”

“Must have grown legs and walked away. Probably went to live at some kid’s house who actually cares enough about her stuff to put things AWAY!”

From the other side of the house another tune springs to life:

“MOOOMMMMM, there’s a HUGE WEIRD LOOKING SPIDER IN THE SHOWER! I think it’s a Brown Excuse!”

“Is it wielding an ax?"

"What? No!"

"Then I think YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF IT!” I holler from the kitchen as I scramble to make an inside out sandwich so my oldest daughter won’t figure out she’s eating the heels. How I can’t manage to forget to bring a loaf of bread home from not one, but three trips to the grocery store in one week is beyond even my understanding.

On days like this, sensitivity is not my strong point. It is also on these days when I contemplate the possibility that perhaps, this time, I’ve gone too far.

Usually, those moments happen late into the days from hell. Did I need to point out to my daughter at bedtime that the world can finally stop looking for those elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction as I navigate her bedroom floor trying to avoid landmines? Was it necessary to taint the moment of the goodnight hug and kiss with a lecture? I get all mad at myself as I leave her room. Why can’t I just keep my big mouth shut? Just then I step on an empty hermit crab shell. I stomp back in and let her know that her crab ran away from home with the beanie.

Take that!

I had a brainstorm the other day, one that will finally put my mind to rest, and relieve me of the constant worry of wondering which of my four kids will be the first to haul my butt into a therapist’s office someday. Once I get them to “sign” on to my plan, I can finally relax, knowing it will be narrowed down to only those with access to an expensive, high-powered contract law attorney.

I began putting Operation Safety Net into play with the second youngest, knowing she’d probably be the toughest sell. I knew that if I could get her to sign on the dotted line, the rest would follow, especially the thirteen year-old, who could be convinced of just about anything, especially if he sees it in a TV commercial. (It started when he was four. He saw an advertisement for the Perfect Pancake Maker and came sliding into the kitchen in his fuzzy slippers, eyes big as sauté pans and said, “Mom! Thereisthiscoolthingontvthatmakesperfectpancakeseverytimeand itonlycosts14.99canwegetit?!”)

Another time, more recently, as I searched my purse for my keys for about the tenth time in one day, he gave me his sales pitch for The Organizer.

“Mom, you need to get The Organizer. It has three zipper pockets on the outside and a large, dual-sided inner compartment with special pockets for a cell phone, clip-on key ring, pens and even a notepad,” he said, with all the earnestness of a late-night infomercial host who only has to sell one more widget before he retires to the Bahamas.

“What, no fresh produce compartment?” I queried, knowing he wouldn’t get it.

“Mom, why would you take fruit in your purse?”

I tilted my head back and laughed, swinging my formless, pocketless, bottomless sack of shit over my shoulder after finding my keys in the fridge.

Back to my brainstorm.

“Here, sign this,” I said to my ten year-old, as she shuffled into the kitchen one morning, with her chlorine-infused mass of hair that would have made Medusa proud.

“What is it?” she said, head cocked, peering with her one open eye at the sheet of paper I held out to her.

“Um, nothing really, just a little thingy releasing me from any liability as a mom.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I didn’t make you cry every day for no reason and I served vegetables almost every night.”

“But I’m only ten.”

Now it was my turn.

“What is that supposed to mean?” I shot back, wondering where she was going with this line of questioning.

“It means, I’m still a child. I’m barely half done. Maybe you’ll start making me cry every day next year,” was her retort, with all the negotiating prowess and bad hair of a pint-sized Donald Trump. I didn’t let on that I was impressed.

“Oh, for god’s sake. Fine. Here, sign this other one.”

“What’s this?”

“It’s a document stating that I encouraged you to keep your room clean, bathe regularly and not eat off the floor.”

“And why am I signing this?” she said, both eyes open now, with a look that told me I had missed my window.

“Because when people see how you live someday I’m not going to be held responsible. I tried.”

“Mom, are you crazy?”

“Probably, but I’m not stupid. Sign.”

“No. But if you make me some eggs we can talk.”

Thus began the stare down. She was Kruschev. I was Kennedy. The Cuban Missile Crisis had nothing on us. Between us lay my unsigned documents. I swiftly tried another approach.

“Remember the time when you were four, and you came and told me you washed the sliding glass door all by yourself and you were practically peeing your pants with excitement because you did it as a surprise for me right before Grandma and Grandpa were coming over for dinner?

“Yeah, I remember.”

“You used Pledge instead of Windex.”

“But you said it looked great!”

“It did look great.”

“The window?”

“No. The look on your face when you told me you were done.”

“I’ll sign.”


I’ll just keep my fingers crossed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Fantasy of One's Own

When it comes to the cultural phenomenon known as fantasy football, I’m a little conflicted. That’s not true. My tortured soul rebounds between moments of clarity one minute and utter confusion the next. It isn’t even a complex issue and this much I know: I don’t like football. My husband, on the other hand, thinks the word “football” actually belongs in a sentence containing the word “fantasy.”

Thankfully, he has most of the standard fantasies men have, like those involving Carol Brady, or teeter-totters, and he happily shares them with me. However, the fact remains that the fantasy he logs the most hours with on a weekly basis is football. Which leads me to my fundamental question: What is wrong with men? I mean, I get watching one game per week, or maybe even two. But the day I gather 11 of my friends and pick a fantasy Oprah line-up with which to win or lose points depending on what they say or do during the taping of a two-hour segment, three times a week for eleven weeks in a row, and then award an engraved trophy at the end of our “season” to the “winner,” is the day I decide to home school my four teenagers.

As I watch my husband study football stats in his spare time, or stay up late to do the fantasy football newsletter, as is his responsibility as “the league Commissioner,” I remind myself to use the word ‘passion’ instead of ‘obsession.’ When I notice myself growing irritated at the sound of one man clapping loudly for a bunch of players four states away, or yelling “pick-pick-pick-pick-pick-pick,” I begin to mentally check off all the considerate things my man did around the house that week: weeding and mowing, helping kids with homework, the dishes, and making lunches. 

When listing his weekly accomplishments doesn’t do the trick, I try a little fantasizing of my own. I tell myself that a forty-two year old man changing jerseys three times in one day in support of a pretend dream team is sexy. Sometimes I follow him up to our closet between games, and he lets me watch. Yeah, baby, the blue one. No, the other blue one. No, that other blue one, the one between your little league uniform and your high school letterman jacket. Oh, baby, these thirty-four jerseys taking up valuable real estate in our closet are hot! Yeah, that’s my fantasy.

It’s not like he doesn’t snap right out of it at the end of the evening each Sunday, because he does. Well, right after he does the stats and sends out the newsletter, complete with hilarious football quips, while watching Sports Center. Then, he snaps right back to being the guy I fell in love with, the guy who made me believe in love again, and the guy who continues to hold me after the regular hug has ended. He is this guy six days a week (save for a couple of hours Monday evening), and seven days a week for half the year. Why, then, do I find myself rolling my eyes when I overhear him on the phone with one of his fantasy league "owners," sounding like Jerry McGuire trying to work a last minute trade with Bob Sugar? Show me the vodka.

Right now, you might be thinking that I am that spouse – male or female – for which nothing is ever good enough. Well, the truth is, nearly everything is always good enough, and my husband would be the first to say that I never complain. That is because my husband, ironically, is a fantasy husband. He is my best friend. He is the guy who never leaves me hanging, if you know what I mean. He brings it. He is the guy who sees a pile of clean towels in the laundry room and puts them away. Hell, this is the guy who even knows where the laundry room is! (I know a woman who once hired a hooker to hang out in her laundry room, just to see if her husband could find it. Three days later she sent the lonely whore home.)

Maybe it has nothing to do with my husband. Maybe it’s my dad’s fault for punishing me with the same weekly clapping and yelling for my entire childhood – back when fantasy leaguers didn’t have computers. My dad and his friends had fifteen sheets of binder paper taped together that they scribbled their points down on as they happened. Our living room was filled with grown men screaming and jumping up and down. And that was just when my mom brought out the dips. 

Perhaps what I need on Sundays is something that gets me out of the house and away from the mental triggers. Just so that I can fully relate to my husband, to see things from his perspective, it will be something that never gets boring, and that I won’t know the outcome of until it’s completely finished. It’ll chew up hours and hours of my time.

Interestingly enough, it rhymes with “ball.”

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The reality of New Year’s Resolutions

I never have been much for resolutions. At best, they’re excuses for putting off for some number of months things that a person ought to stop doing today; at worst, they’re opportunities for self-loathing and guilt when cast aside.

Instead, I’m a fan of Ongoing Adjustments. These are things that occur to me I should stop, or start doing. Eventually, I get to them. Just thinking about them is sort of a mini-resolution.

Ongoing Adjustments really do work. The key is being mindful of them. (There’s an Ongoing Adjustment right there – be mindful of what you’re doing at all times.) One of my Ongoing Adjustments is to raise my voice less frequently. Walk softly, carry a big stick, etc. I think it was Abraham Lincoln, or maybe Dr. Phil who said, “The problem with yelling is that you have to yell louder and louder, more and more frequently, to get the same result.” I hate raising my voice; it’s unpleasant for everyone, including me. If it’s unpleasant for me, how do the kids feel? Sure, it may shock someone into behaving for a moment, but that’s because it frightens and demeans the person on the receiving end. Ugh.

So, my goal is to stay mindful of the landmines that a busy household can produce, and adjust how I deal with them.

The problem with calling something a “New Year’s Resolution” is that the minute we screw up, we see it as a green light to abandon the project all together. With Ongoing Adjustments, we get a second chance, a third chance, etc. Progress, not perfection.

Mostly, I’m just very careful about making proclamations. Seems like the second I decide to do something, and then say it aloud, I don’t want to do it anymore because I feel like I have to do it, all because I told someone else I would do it. Quickest way to kill the joy is to make something public. The worst transgressors in this department? Celebrities. Perhaps if they kept just a few more things to themselves, they wouldn’t look like the biggest F-ups of all time – because they’re not. They’re no worse than anyone else walking around on two feet – they just have a microphone and cameras (and Twitter and Facebook and publicists) documenting their every move.

I’m also a huge fan of ongoing adjustments by default. These are what I call “back door adjustments.” Here’s how they work: you realize there is something you want to achieve, and you face facts.

Example: I really like getting into my favorite jeans. I also love putting on a bathing suit and going swimming without hating the whole experience. Therefore, I enjoy running and eating healthy most of the time. When I have a choice to make, I think about the feeling of liking what I see in the mirror. I let myself really feel it for a moment. I think about it when I’m heading out to run at 6 a.m. and would rather stay in and snuggle; I think about it when I’m reaching for water instead of a Pepsi. The more I like what I see in the mirror, the more I like brown rice, veggies and running. The decisions and practices become easier and easier.

I like the look on my kids’ faces when I walk over, remove the remote control from their hands, turn off the TV, and leave the room, instead of yelling at them from the other room to stop yelling at each other.

What we’re really talking about here is Reality. If you don’t like the way pizza looks on your butt, stop eating it. If you don’t like the sound of your voice as it hits maximum volume, shut up.

So, if you absolutely insist on making a resolution for 2011, how about this one: Resolve to keep it real. In your relationships, in your closet, in the mirror, wherever it is there might be just a little room for an ongoing adjustment. Don’t forget – you’re human. Most of us mere mortals have ongoing adjustments to make no matter what the calendar says.