Sunday, February 11, 2018

Costumes: They're not just for Halloween and they should probably cover your fanny

I wish I could lie and say that everything's been peachy since we had our family-wide meltdown. It's been better, but it's also been kind of trippy. Like we hit rock bottom and everyone decided to change their costume for the ride back up, and when we got out of the elevator we didn't really recognize one another.

Except Chuck. He's still bald. And me. I'm still fighting the grays and wishing I got that nose ring 30 years ago. 

We've been working on creative ways for the older boys to handle Cam's tantrums. I asked them if they could try to make it game when Cam runs into the room and takes their toys. I reminded them that he's just trying to play with them.


I never thought they'd actually listen, but low and behold the other day Cam grabbed Junior's Lego jet and when Junior raced after him he yelled, "Hey Cam! I have a cooler, faster jet I want to give you!"

Cam stopped in his tracks and handed Junior the jet. He even accepted the "cooler" replacement jet — which was clearly 10,000,000 times inferior.

It doesn't work every time (the next time it happened, Cam dropped the jet and it broke into a million pieces and Junior raced to his bedroom in tears, muttering, "He ruins everything!" but hey, it's progress).

It was enough progress that I was feeling pretty damn good about my parenting skills — for like, oh, three minutes. Then Junior got invited to a friend's house, and Everett decided to immediately fill the vacant spot in the tantrum department.

How are children so adept at that?

It was yesterday. I had walked Junior out to the driveway so we could wait for his friend and his friend's father to pick him up. Everett came racing outside and demanded to know where Junior was going.

"To a friend's!" Junior said in a haughty voice.

"Don't leave me!" Everett cried. Cam stood at the door yelling, "I want to come outside too!" Chuck was inside pooping. I swear, it's how he manages to evade all the stressful moments.

Just then Junior's friend's father pulled up. Before Junior could take a step, Everett wrapped his arms and legs around Junior's leg.

"Get off me!" Junior shouted.

"I want you to stay!" Everett cried. It was raining. He was still in his pajamas, which were decorated in Christmas moose (meese?). I calmly asked Everett to please stop.

Junior started walking towards his friend's car, dragging Everett with him. Junior shouted, "Everett! You're making a scene. YOU HAVE TO LET ME GO." It was like something out of a romantic comedy. I swear, sad music started playing in the background and the wind picked up just enough to tousle their hair.





I saw it: Brothers. Changing. Growing up right before my eyes. Not toddlers. Not even little kids. But real people with genuine, big people feelings and emotions. Junior is leaving Everett behind, I thought. He wants to break away.

It hurt my heart. I tried not to get choked up. It was easy, given that the friend and the friend's father were gawking at us from their car, and Cam was still screaming at the door. I bent down (this detail will be important in a minute) and helped pry Everett off Junior's leg. I held Everett (all 60 pounds of him) and we waved goodbye. Because I no longer have standards, I used my clothing to wipe the snot and tears off his face.

"He needs to see his friends," I told Everett. "Everyone likes to see their friends from time to time."

When we got back inside, Cam was ecstatic to see Everett. "Will you play with me?" he asked. Everett grudgingly agreed. I said a silent thank you to the universe, hopeful that maybe Cam will help fill in the gaps when Junior is out of the house. Maybe this is the silver lining of being the middle brother. You always have options for playmates.

Chuck finally emerged from the bathroom three hours later. He wanted to know what all the drama had been about.

"Nothing," I lied.

"That's not true," Everett giggled. "Everyone saw Mom's butt."

"What?" I shrieked.

"You have a huge hole in your pants."

"Bend over," Chuck said.

I did. "You have a huge tear. I can see...crack..."

"Omigod," I said.

Moral of the story: I need a costume change too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Hulk Hogan's baby gate of choice. For real! I got the scoop!

We've gone through a lot of baby gates in our 10-year tenure as parents. With Junior, our first child, we bought the expensive gates and promptly installed them in every doorway—because that's what first-time parents do. I swear, until we chilled the eff out, Junior's safe walkable area was a hallway.

We bought metal gates with fancy screws. We bought wooden gates that were supposed to be pet friendly. We bought plastic, snapping gates that could bend into neat geometric shapes in the yard. Look! We're such great parents! Junior's playing in an octagon!

When we had Everett, we went into the basement to retrieve all of the old gates and realized we'd lost the hardware, so we bought all new gates. We were more relaxed about cordoning him off. We only had three gates: at the top and bottom of the stairs and into one of the living rooms.

Before I get to where we are now with our third child and baby gates, let's pause a moment and talk about gates. Frankly, they suck—for every age group.

Babies and toddlers hate them. Once they understand that gates are used to contain them, they'll kick and scream. They'll flail themselves against the gate. They'll learn how to climb them and undo them.

Parents also hate gates. If you ever see a picture of a smiling parent standing next to a baby gate it's an outright lie. Because we are so overloaded with responsibility and so short on time, we will do anything to get past a gate without actually unlatching it. I have performed Olympic-level gymnastic feats by climbing over baby gates while balancing laundry, sippy cups and then some. Chuck has tried to jump over gates, only to fall into the front door. But we won! We didn't have to unlatch it!

Pets hate gates. If you have a dog or cat that follows you from room to room, your pet will stare at you sadly every time you catapult over a baby gate and leave them behind. Every.Time.

Finally, let's talk about grandparents. If the hardware is hard to unscrew, grandparents with arthritis and questionable mental faculties will get trapped behind baby gates, just like Bowser and Fluffy. They will stand there, helplessly calling for you. Or they'll start swearing at the gates, which is never good for toddler ears.

Now that we're all well-versed on what a pain in the ass baby gates are for everyone and their uncle, I'd like to show you this:

It's the last remaining gate in our home on what has been a 10-year-long baby gate journey. Gone are the fancy gates and snapping gates. We're down to this beauty, which we put at the bottom of the stairs when I work from home and don't want Cam running upstairs and busting into conference calls.

I love this gate for the mere reason that we all beat the SNOT out of it, and it only cost $19.99. It's been abused by every member of the family—because we are all so sick of gates. We kick it. We call it names. Sometimes, if I trip over it, I throw it against a wall. And it likes it. When it locks into place it sounds like it's going to crack into a million pieces and when it finally succumbs it's such a good fit even Hulk Hogan* couldn't get it to budge. (Seriously, it emits a loud crickety, crackety !!SNAP!! that is so satisfying to hear. If you're a fan of onomatopoeia, you might need new panties.)

My point in sharing all of this is that if you are on your last child and about to say good-bye forever to baby gates, I highly recommend getting a piece of shit gate as your final gate so you can recklessly abuse it, as they've abused you and your family (and pets) for so many years.

You're welcome!

*Sadly, Hulk Hogan would not come to my house to confirm this. But I bet he'd like the gate!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Bad Mom in Toddler Town: A wake-up call

I've been reading up on toddlers in hopes of better understanding my soon-to-be three year old, Cameron. He's our third son, but he's so unlike the others that I feel like a first-timer (hence my brilliant plan to escape to a teepee). He's sensitive, dramatic and fiercely independent.


Like most toddlers, he's also prone to meltdowns.

Instead of having a game plan, I've been shooting from the hip with him—and failing miserably. I've gone to that gross Bad Mom spot way too often. Not the cute, funny spot where you drink wine and chuckle with other moms and say, "I'm such a bad mom because I let him wear his pants backwards," but the real, brutally honest Bad Mom spot where you stare at your tear-stained face in the mirror and question your motives for procreating.

The one where you say to yourself, "I HAVE to do better." And even more important, "WE as a family have to do better."

Junior is 10 and Everett is seven. The age range is a tough one. Every time Cam comes running to play with them, they put up their arms and yell, "I'm playing! Don't touch!"

He cries.

Every time Cam is too rough with the cat or dog, they yell, "STOP IT!"

He cries.

Every time Cam is too rough with Junior or Everett, Chuck and I yell, "STOP IT!"

He cries.

It sounds like this:




The low point came this weekend. Everett was playing with cars. He told Cam not to bug him. Cam got upset and threw a car at him. Everett screamed bloody murder. Junior chimed in with his LOUD re-enactment: "Everett was minding his own business! This kid's a monster!" Chuck bellowed, "What is WRONG with this kid?!" And I was left standing there, swallowed up in a sea of tears and screams.

I put Cam in a time-out in his bed. In my loud, castrating, yelling Bad Mom voice I explained that hitting/throwing/punching/hurting is wrong. WRONG!

As I was leaving his room he whispered, "I just want to be alone." He rolled over and faced the wall.

I swear, everything went silent.

His back was so little. His hear was rumpled. His stuffed bear (his beloved "bee-ah") was under his arm. How could someone so small say something so big?

I went downstairs—a woman on a mission—and said, "We need to change. Cam isn't even three. He is trying to figure out his place in this family. And he just told me he wants to be alone." I looked at everyone pointedly. "He would rather be ALONE than be with any of us."

Chuck said, "Wow, that makes me really sad."

I looked at Junior. "From now on, you need to treat Cam like a person and not a bad pet. He's hitting you to get your attention. Redirect him. Talk to him."

I looked at Everett. "From now on, you need to include your brother in some of your activities. He's throwing cars at you to get your attention. Redirect him. Let him join you."

I looked at Chuck. "From now on, if you see me losing my cool you need to step in and give me five."

I told them, like I've told myself, No more yelling. We can all do better. 

I went upstairs and got Cam out of bed. I calmly reminded him that we need to be gentle with people, like we are with the cat and dog.

"Ok," he sniffled. "We do gentle."

"I'm sorry I yelled at you," I said.

"I'm sorry for fwowin' da cah."

I hugged him. "Let's go tell Everett you're sorry."

Yesterday and today were better days. I've starting shutting down the yelling as soon as it starts. I get down on Cam's level and try to see things from his perspective. Was it simply fresh or was there a provocation? How can we help him participate in more constructive ways?

I've dug deeper than I ever have to a pool of patience I didn't even know I had. Seriously, it's so deep (that's actual footage of it) that it's in my fucking toenails. Someday I'll probably have to borrow someone else's body because my patience pools will have runneth day.

I can be Zombie Mom. Body snatcher. Pool drinker.

She's better than Bad Mom.

Any day.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

I should be writing promo copy for the Gap, right?

If you are like me and have a little mom belly...

If you are like me and are feeling dull and washed out complexion-wise because of winter...

If you are like me and want to wear something that can be dressed up or down... need to buy this top from the Gap.

I know from this photo it doesn't look like much to cheerlead about, but it is. I've worn this top with a jean jacket, a black velvet jacket, a dressy black cardigan and a red cardigan and I've gotten a million compliments every time. The top has a flattering bustline. It doesn't cling to your gut (after having three kids that's kind of important), and you can tuck it in loosely if you want to show off your waistline (aren't you all that).

Bonus: The gold sparkle is just enough to make the shirt pop without making you feel like a fan shat kid glitter all over your bosom.

That's all. Just a happy tip from the -10 degree, snow covered corner of Connecticut I affectionately call Mulletville Lite.  You can go back to your exciting life now.

Monday, January 1, 2018

At least we made it to one function together in 2017

Happy New Year!

The entire family has been sick on and off since Thanksgiving. You know how it goes. One kid brings some vile germ into the house and it makes the rounds and by the time the last person recovers someone else brings something new into the house and the damn cycle happens all over again.

Why this isn't a factor in family planning is beyond me. The question isn't "Do I really want another baby?" it's "Do I really want another head cold?"

People — mostly my family, neighbors and close circle of friends — have started recoiling when they see us. They act like we walk around licking random people's hands or grocery shop carts or just lack hygiene in general.

"Again??" they ask. Incredulous. While they sneeze and snivel into their own little tissues.

"Have you heard of hand sanitizer?" a fellow mom asked. Why no! What's that? Is that something I smoke after I've let the children run their toothbrushes along the trays at the food court?

Give me a break. The two older boys are exposed to school germs. Chuck and I are both exposed to office germs. Families and friends have germs. Because we don't live in a bubble, there are all the germs around town. At after school sports. Movie theaters. ATM machines. The gas pump. Just one wrong encounter with a germ and bam, we're on the ride again.

And what a lackluster ride. Chuck and I both had the week after Christmas off. We slept together — in the same bed — once in 11 days. One.Time. He was either on the couch with a cold or I was in the bed with the puke bug or we were tending to a child's vomit pan and switching shifts, like zombies in the night.

The only holiday event we made it to, as a family, was Christmas Day at my aunt and uncle's house.

Aunt Candice and Uncle Dick bought and refurbished an old barn in a remote Connecticut town and they were hot to show off their handy work. It was nice, yes but we had to swear under oath we weren't harboring any germs before they'd let us into the house.


Ah, the barn-house. Sounds delightful doesn't it? It wasn't.

It was a long, narrow rectangle with a living room at one end, a kitchen in the middle, and another living room at the other end; each living room had a tree bearing gifts. If you wanted to talk to someone who was in the other living room you had to make your way through the kitchen, where Candice and her sister were cooking, and through the crowd of people clumped up in the narrow halls.

We have young children. Other people had young children. The knee-height children navigated the living room - kitchen - living room walk like it was a racetrack, while the adults bottle-necked and called to each other:

"Have you seen Cam?"

"No, but Bobby just went that way. No, wait, he's coming back around."

I should also mention that Candice and Dick like lighting for ambiance and not actually for seeing. There were lots of pretty glass domes hanging from the ceilings lit with .05 watt bulbs.

After a few drinks it became more of:

"Hey, have you seen Cam?"

"No, but the vodka is on that table, I think. Or is that the turkey? God I hope it's the turkey. It's eight o'clock!"

Candice was stressed because people kept bumping into her. Inebriated people started walking into walls, claiming they thought they were doors. Candice's sister burned the sweet potatoes. Dinner was fast and could barely be seen, even with added candlelight.

Then, gift unwrapping. No one knew which living room to stand in; neither could accommodate everyone. People called down the hall, "Is my gift for Uncle Fred in there? Because Uncle Fred is in here."

That turned into, "Can you just open Uncle Fred's present and hold it up so he can see it?"

Someone from each living room was nominated to be the gift holder upper, a la Vanna White. Again, the lack of lighting was an issue.

"What the hell is that? Is that a fishing line? Uncle Fred doesn't want that."

In the end, gift unwrapping was abandoned for more drinks. People went home with wrong presents (alcohol + dim lights + who knows where the receiver is =  random gifts hastily shoved into shopping bags).

We made a speedy exit at 10 p.m. Even though we declined leftovers, we ended up with someone's aluminum foil-wrapped turkey leg by our gas pedal. We took home two gifts we brought, plus a cat calendar, but at least we had the right children.

Riiight. I wouldn't have wanted to leave them behind. They had so much more to give us. That night, in fact.

Cam barfed on the ride home.

And tonight, Junior finished barfing around 6 p.m. We haven't left the house much all week. We haven't brought the gifts in from the car. Tomorrow morning, when Chuck goes back to work he'll have gone through three boxes of tissues, held three puke pans, not gotten any loving ... and we still won't know who the hell the calendar or turkey leg belonged to.

And we'll be walking into a brand new year of germs.

Hold me.*

*It's fine. I know you don't really want to because, you know, you'll probably catch something.

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Christmas outfit from that OTHER Victoria's Secret

Thanks, honey. We can finally fulfill that furries fantasy I've been daydreaming about. Also, we are one step closer to becoming them:

The silver lining? (I told you, there's always a silver lining), I know already what to get Chuck next year for Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Toothbrush to the crotch? Bunny in your potty? Must be toddler time

Where does the time go?

No really, I want to know.

Immediately after I hit publish on my last post — the one in praise of adoration of children and toddlers — my toddler Cam began a downward spiral in behavior. Granted, he had a cold but even after the cold ended his "challenging" behavior continued.

If there's one thing I've learned since having kids it's that euphemisms abound for the toddler years. Challenging. Independent. Strong willed. Hardy. They all mean the same thing: your kid's kicking your ass. 

Cam has never been an easy going child. And forget what anyone says about your third kid being low-key because he or she has to be. It's a crock of shit.

This last month it's been the typical toddler extra, extra fun stuff like tantrums and freak outs. Shouting no. Throwing toys. Whacking Everett. Sucker punching Junior. Grabbing the cat's tail. Shutting doors on people. Ripping paper. This kid is so lucky he has the older brothers he does and that I keep a careful eye on all three or the older two would have leveled him months ago.

Chuck has taken the brunt of it. Cam started telling him he doesn't like him. That he doesn't want him to kiss him or hug him. The lowest point was a few nights ago when Chuck tried to help Cam put toothpaste on his toothbrush and Cam threw himself on the floor and screamed. Chuck gave him the option of standing up or going straight to bed. After a minute or so Cam was still screaming so Chuck scooped him up — and that's when Cam kicked Chuck (unfortunately in the crotch) and flailed his arms, knocking Chuck's glasses off of his face.

But Chuck. He's no newbie. After his voice went down an octave, he calmly put Cam into his crib and explained that he cannot hit or kick. Junior and Everett ran upstairs to see if Chuck was ok, and I came out of the bedroom, where I'd been in bed with a cold, and the four of us towered over Cam in his crib and explained again that Cam cannot hit or kick.

That's a lot of people commenting on one person's behavior. Cam looked small; we seemed like giants. Reprimanding giants. I'm not excusing Cam's behavior, but his life is run by a gaggle of people. Lately it feels as if Cam is a mini tornado and we're a houseful of admonishing forecasters.

After everyone went back downstairs I went in to see Cam. He was still sniffling. I asked him if he was ok and he said, "I just wanted my toothbrush. I just want to brush my teeth."

I took him into the bathroom and let him brush his teeth. I told him again that he shouldn't hurt Chuck and he said, "I'm sorry." We walked downstairs and he apologized to Chuck and gave him a kiss. Then he kissed Everett and Junior and said goodnight to the cat and the dog and we went back upstairs.

There was a day a few weeks ago when Cam pooped on the potty. He ran out of the bathroom and shouted, "I pooped!" And everyone — Chuck, me, Junior and Everett, maybe even the cat and dog—went running into the bathroom and marveled at his feat. He jumped up and down. All the accolades! The fanfare! I thought, he is lucky to be so loved.

That night as I watched Cam lie in bed I thought that same thought again. Yes, we are a chorus of people when he needs direction. He hears a stampede when he takes someone's toy. Nothing he does goes unnoticed because there are so many of us in this little house. But there is proof of vested love in his every action. Four people reminded him to be kind. Four people marveled at poop.

Don't forget the cat and dog.

As someone who spent the first eight years of my life as an only child—and someone whose parents took my pets for rides when they didn't want them anymore — that to me is pretty fucking amazing.

So that's my high note for this challenging month with this hardy child. There is a silver lining. Always.

I hope you have a fabulous holiday. I hope you eat cake with frosting and wear nice slippers and get to wash your hair and maybe get that bunny you've always wanted. I hope 2018 is better for all of us. Merry Christmas!

Costumes: They're not just for Halloween and they should probably cover your fanny

I wish I could lie and say that everything's been peachy since we had our family-wide meltdown . It's been better, but it's also...