Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Big Love

So the summer wasn't ALL THAT bad; we spent a couple of weeks at my parents' house in Connecticut with my sisters and all 8 cousins. Of course, after all my chatter to the girls about how cool it gets at night and how they needed to pack their fleeces, we arrived in the middle of the most oppressive heat wave I can remember in 27 summers there. "I thought you said it was going to be chilly." Sumner said to me wearing her new fleece in the 95 degree heat as sweat poured down her temples. When I suggested she remove her fleece she insisted on wearing it a.) because it was new b.) because I told her it was going to be chilly. At least she listened...

So here we are and for the first time it occurred to me on about my second day there as I walked in the house and paused as I glimpsed at a plaque that has always been hung by the back door that said, "On this site in 1897, nothing happened." Ha ha...except, at this house, there's always something happening. This house is the house where everyone with little kids loves to come and play because they know they will find the "Action." This house is the one that always has the yummy food, and there's generally a freshly baked cake from scratch sitting on the counter.

Within 24 hours of my arrival I had climbed a tree in pursuit of half the cousins, witnessed a mud fight, a pie eating contest, a ping pong tournament, watched a homemade Fashion show complete with towels strewn across the yard for a runway. Is there anything better than this? Where else would there be a pool party virtually every day, celebrations at the dinner table, and dance parties after dinner?

And it got me thinking that there's something to this "It takes a village" idea as my sisters and I traded off kids. I think maybe I need a wife...one of my kids is bugging me, so we trade. Meals are cooperative, with me generally distracting all the cousins so the other grown ups can have free reign in the kitchen to get the meal on the table. It's co-parenting at it's best. It helps that we have 4 big kids and 4 little kids, so they are usually divided between the bigs and littles or girls and boys. My stay at my parents' house got me thinking about how great it would be to live close to my sisters do...and I think that was why it was so hard when I got home. At the beach there was always someone to talk to..those people on Big Love might just have a good idea (except for the sharing a husband part.)

But isn't it amazing how we go home to our parents and immediately revert to our familial roles, no matter how old we are? So it was not surprising that about a week into the visit the sibling rivalry began. I had talked before about my parents asking us to make a list of 10 big things we want from their house in Connecticut so they can start giving us their paintings, furniture etc...so I make my list while I'm there, carefully considering what my sisters might want and trying not to be too demanding blah blah blah...

So at the top of my list was a painting that hangs in the foyer that I have loved for years. When I tell my Dad its on my list he responds with a quick, "Oh, Chis wants that..." Um, excuse me? My brother-in-law??? Yes, he is a true brother to and he's been in my life, listened to me and harassed me like an actual brother for almost 20 years...So I was furious (not truly, because I do realize these things are just things,..." but still. So I force my Dad away from his computer to help me get the painting off the wall when the house was empty and without another word said about it, I hid it in the attic.

It didn't take long for Chis to notice the missing painting and figure out what had happened. The next morning when I went to call Elliot, I realized that my cell phone was missing. I searched EVERYWHERE for the damn thing and as I storm through the house I hear my brother-in-law, not even looking away from the television, say, "I'll give you the phone back when the painting is back on the wall." And there you have it. So this went on for almost THREE days, until finally I could take it no longer and waved the white flag.

Well, whoever thinks our children don't watch and learn is sorely mistaken, as later that week, I woke before six one morning to Sumner standing over me, curly moustache drawn on her face; when I opened my eyes she said, "Who did this???" I gotta hand it to her, I generally expect her to not be a great sport, as she has a hard time laughing at herself, but she fought a smile because she knew just how funny it was. Her twin's punishment? She had to sit still as a stone while her sister drew a biker stache on her...

I guess I hadn't set the best example. I went in the girls bathroom recently and found that someone had written,"Marshall, you stink" ON the toilet paper roll. And so it goes on...but this kind of messing around seems harmless enough, right? Isn't it everyone's sisterly instinct to bug and pester 'till you hit your absolute limit. After your sister says, "Don't touch me." doesn't everyone get their finger as close to her arm as possible and say "I'm not touching you..." in a sing-songey voice even at age 35? Don't we all give extra bear hugs to our siblings who don't like to be touched and eat our corn on the cob extra loud next to those family members known to hate, "Eating noises." It could always be worse...at least they're keeping it interesting, and this rivalry seems to be universal...

So I came back to Charlotte and my house, which once seemed so crazy, was eerily quiet. That is, until the newness of being home wore off, and I went upstairs to find Goldfish crackers under CeCe's pillow and her piggy bank full of cheese- go figure...

When I grow up...

Just before our MLK weekend trip to Florida, Sumner and Marshall were assigned a first grade project about what they want to be when they grow up. They were to research it, write a report, and then present it to their class this past week. I wasn't totally sure what Sumner would choose, she tends to surprise us because she has always been such a unique thinker. But Marshall, I just knew she would choose teacher because she is forever shutting herself in the playroom and playing school while wearing my highest heels, not sure why she thinks this is what teachers wear, she sees me go off to teach school in flat shoes every day, "Are those the kind of shes Mrs. Powell wears?" I tease, truthfully I kind of like the glamourous spin she gave to teaching with her sassy shoes.

So I should have seen it coming when I observed what they were watching on the airplane to Florida. They were so both enamored with having their own personal Jet Blue TV and we let them choose whatever they wanted to watch. Except for CeCe, who, when allowed to choose will select the MOST inappropriate things. She was sitting with Elliot (who was happily engaged with CNBC and paying no attention) in the row behind me and I turned around and saw her face glued to the television with eyes as big as saucers. When I tapped her and asked her what she was watching she said, "It's about babies," Then I realize that she had tuned into A Baby Story on TLC, a show on which they video actual births. NOOOOO, not yet, I mean she knows about it and everything but there was no need for her to truly witness it.

So back to When I Grow Up, Marshall chose to watch the Food Network the entire plane ride and Sumner tuned into Animal Planet. I could have guessed from this alone what they would choose as their professions. Sumner wanted to be a Pet Shop Owner, a natural choice as she has always been a gentle,sweet and attentive animal lover. No baby dolls EVER for this girl, she is strictly a stuffed animal kind of a kid. Elliot and I tried to explain that it takes a lot of money to start your own pet shop but she clearly was not thinking of the business side of it. She just wanted a shop where the pets wouldn't have to be caged up and could wander around, sort of like free range chicken but with dogs, cats, bunnies, whatever.

But Marshall? She dropped teaching in a heartbeat after watching a few episodes of Ace of Cakes. I don't usually like to abbreviate but so I don't totally shock my Mother I'll just say WTF? Hadn't I made teaching AND mothering look appealing? What happened to all of those hours she has spent playing school? All the checklists I have made so she can take the attendance of all her stuffed animals? Brown Bunny? Check. Nibbles? Check. Hop? Check. Bear Bear? Oh he must be sick today. Maybe she soured on the idea after she tried using CeCe and our neighbor's 4 year old as students recently, an endeavor that did not go so well. I was in the kitchen making dinner and heard her yelling at them from the playroom, "Would Mrs. Powell ever use a voice like that to you?" I asked as she shook her head, no, for she has the utmost respect and admiration for Mrs. Powell, and Marshall would do anything to please her AND be like her.

So Marshall gave this project considerable thought and then decided she wanted to be a baker like her Aunt Lesley. "You know it's a lot of hard work and being on your feet and getting up when it's still dark out." I said, not trying to discourage her, but getting over the shock that she had dropped my profession without thought after a couple of hours with the Food Network. "I know," she shrugged, and stuck with her decision. Fine by me, I tried not to be snippy about it, but still. I did get a little worried when she asked me if she would have to go to college to be a baker or if she could just go straight into baking. I tried not to put any pressure on her but said, "Well, Dad and I would like you to go to college, and you could take some art classes there and become and even better cake designer." This is code talk for "You're going to college and that's that."

I can't help but think that this whole When I Grow Up project is a rite of passage. Someone needs to do a study on what people choose as a kid and what they actually end up being. Elliot wanted to be a garbage man when he was little. When I called my parents to ask if they had any of my old projects about what I wanted to be they said, "We don't remember what you wanted to be, but your sister wanted to be a school cook." Ok, so I understand them remembering how hilarious it was that Tracy wanted to be a school cook, who in their right mind actually chooses this. Great, that is just so typical that no one saved the project of the third kid. They probably have my sister's when I grow up presentation on Betamax video and then no one even remembers what even I CHOSE.... I know, I know, I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back to the point. I'd bet $100 I will get a phone call from my Dad today to tease me about this, I can hear him now, "Oh, poor baby Caroline, your life was sooooo hard."

Even though my parents couldn't remember what I wanted to be, I didn't even need to ask them because I already knew what I would have chosen. I always wanted to be a Mother AND a Teacher, aspirations that have remained constant my entire life. It dawned on me how lucky I am to actually be doing both. Now, mother, wife, teacher, grad student extraordinaire? I think I am pushing the limits a little lately and spreading myself a little too thin.

In a Family Theory class I took over the summer we watched a documentary in which the idea that the Mother's state of mind establishes a balance for the whole family. One would think that I would be pleased with such an important role, but this statement managed to strike a cord of irritation in me. Why does it all have to come down on the mother? Kid gets in trouble at school? Must be the mother. Preschooler bites on the playground? Bad mothering is the probable cause. Kids are picky eaters? Must be the mother's cooking style (or lack of).

I think I need to focus a little less though on what irritated me about this documentary and put into practice what was said next which is this: Mothers must find something they enjoy and do more of that. This sounds so simple and it got me thinking, "Hmmmmmm what do I like, what do I like," My conclusion is that I pretty much like what I am doing, I just wish there were a few more hours in the day to do it. To be a mother in the 21st century means doing the delicate dance of showing our kids how much we want to be home with them while also having a life ourselves and enjoy things that have nothing to do with our kids.

So I think this is what we tried to emphasize with the When I Grow Up projects. You have to ENJOY what you are doing or else you are not going to want to do it. I couldn't be as perky with all of my sweet students if I didn't actually WANT to be there each day. And the truth of it is, I really don't care what my kids decide to be. One of the things I so appreciate about Elliot as a father is that he feels the same way. "I don't care where they go to college, as long as they go." he has said. I LOVE this about him, because he adores these girls and wants them to feel fulfilled and confident about what they are doing, wherever they are and whatever they decide to do.

I truly don't care if Marshall is a teacher, it's the being a wife and mothering that I want to model well. I told the girls that my number one dream was to be a wife and mother, and if I can possibly show them how much I love doing this each day then I am really getting somewhere, regardless of where I went to school or what my other aspirations may be...or how annoyed I may get with them during the day, we mothers are only human, you know...

Born to be Wild

I realized today that I haven't blogged since Tuesday. My apologies if you have been waiting for a post, but my new schedule happens to be kicking my ass. Between grad school, preschool, getting my kids to elementary school and all of the other things in between like trying to be an attentive wife, mother, dog mother, sister, friend, daughter extraordinaire, I have been neglecting my blogging commitment. This doesn't, however, mean I am giving up on the blog, I have several semi written idea sheets on various mediums. Notebooks, clipboards, I even found a snippet on the inside of the school directory. So much for the pretty Mama journal, I write when I can and where I can these days.

So something happened this morning that got me thinking. We bumped into some old friends walking their dogs while we were at the dog park and we hadn't seen them in ages. As we got to chatting and the Mom reminded me that the last time they came over for dinner, when we tried to put the twins to bed, we had to put not one, but two baby gates at the doorway to their room to keep them from getting out. It was not unusual at that time to put them to bed and then hear screaming moments later as they climbed the gates and could get up but not down. They have always been climbers, hence the DOUBLE gate situation. At that point in my life, it was not unusual for me to leave the room for 1 minute and return to find both girls standing on the dining room table trying to hoist each other up onto the chandelier. I had to have two gates otherwise I would never have been able to sleep at night wondering who was getting out and wandering all over the house. So leave it to our two to figure out how to scale a 6 foot gate, and how mortifying that our old friends had remembered this years later. What kind of a nightmare are we?

I remember when the twins were toddlers and we would leave them, we had one of those gate/playpen things in our family room so that I could leave to answer the phone or go to the bathroom without being frantic that someone was going to get hurt. So Elliot called this thing "The Cage." I know, cruel right? But it so wasn't like the old playpens from the 70's all wooden with spread apart bars to stick your head through. "The Cage" was appealing and colorful and had toys all over it, very kid friendly. I remember having a new babysitter to the house and as Elliot and I were heading towards the door he turned around and said "Don't be afraid to use the cage." I think she was terrified about what she had gotten herself into. Babysitting for Sumner and Marshall back then was the ULTIMATE birth control for any teenage babysitter. We could have had their mothers and fathers pay US for the lessons they took away from babysitting for toddler twins. We even had one babysitter who had to call her mother to come over and help her. It's never a good sign when you call to check in and the sitter says, "Well, my Mom's here..." Enough said, you get the picture...

So as we are laughing about the gates and the toddler mischief, Sumner and Marshall come up and report that they are cold, so Elliot gives them his keys so they can get their coats from the back of his car. "They were so naughty back then, but they're so grown up now. I really can't believe they're in First Grade..." Well, I realized as the words came out of my mouth that I basically just dared them to do something reminiscent of the old mischievous days. It's like how I said whenever I look at the Tylenol in the grocery store someone gets sick, I had just set myself up...it has happened many times before. And so, true to form, frick and frack come running up to report that in 30 seconds flat they had locked Elliot's keys in his car. They couldn't help but giggle but I feared for them. I know that Elliot is oh so patient but this kind of mishap can be his undoing. He handled it better than I thought and ran home to get his spare set of keys, but still, you knew we had it coming when I started talking about how mature they have become.

It sort of reminded me of one time when I was dropping of my friend Bridget's daughter and she was commenting about how well behaved my twins are. I had left the girls in the back of my Suburban (aaahhhh I miss that car...) and had gotten out to chat at the door. As she complimented my girls' behavior I beamed and thanked her and discussed how much hard work it had been but that I really felt that I had been sticking to my guns and they were learning the rules and listening soooo well. Then I glanced at the car and saw it was shaking back and forth. Rookie mistake. I NEVER should have said that, and just as it came out of my mouth, just like with our friends this morning, it was if I saw the words in a little conversation bubble when I exclaimed about how wonderful the girls are. When I got back to the car, I opened the door only to look in the backseat and see that they had escaped to the way back and were both completely naked and jumping up and down laughing. Oh, yes, they really are growing up to be fine and wise little ladies, Mom turns her back for one second and they're nude in public.

This is so my life. I was in such disbelief that I didn't even bother to dress them and we headed home as I cooled down. Just shows what being smug about your kid gets you...there is a surprise around every corner. This is just how parenthood goes. Once you think you've got a handle on things, along comes some new problem or phase that you need to tackle. Like our neighbor across the street says, "Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems." I am not so much worried about all of these little things as I am about them growing up and becoming normal functioning members of society. I can handle the little mishaps, but what happens if they start to grow up and still can't follow the rules?

The relief for me is that they are perfect angels at school, so I guess when they are out there in the world they are on their best behavior. I was such a goody two shoes, I wouldn't have even considered some of the shenanigans Sumner and Marshall stir up. According to Elliot's family, he acted up at times, and they hear stories about our kids and laugh that it is payback. What goes around comes around, and our kids locking his keys in his car makes up for the time he locked his mother and sister OUT of the car when he was in it and was tired of being dragged around on too many errands. They had to bribe him with a Chunky bar to get him to open the doors...I gotta give him credit, that takes guts.

So I guess my girls come by this naturally. A little naughty is good, in kids AND grown ups don't you think? It keeps life interesting, and we are never lacking for action around here...

Advanced Beginners

You know how when you take swimming lessons or skating or something and they group you according to ability? Some days I think parents rate themselves and each other this way. People with babies are novices, then come beginners, and we with young grade school aged children...advanced beginners. It's not until you get to puberty that a parent can call oneself an Intermediate. Once you get them past 18 you can graduate to Advanced.

CeCe got in trouble at school for talking too much last week, and when Elliot got home we took her up to our bedroom to sit her down privately and give her a talking to. So we discussed the importance of listening and following directions, and she nodded dutifully and assured us it wouldn't happen again. We ended the discussion by releasing her from our clenches to return to playing with her sisters. When she left the room Elliot and I looked at each other with disbelief, "I can't believe we're the parents." I said. Funny he was thinking the same thing. We just got started with this, we're beginners, well, maybe I guess advanced beginners, but still.

But the days are fast approaching when we have to think hard about these discussions. A friend pointed out this week that I am nearly halfway through the time period during which Sumner and Marshall will live at home. And while I have always thought dreamily about the days when all 3 will go to college, I am overcome with disbelief that we are already to this point. As I am trying hard to still keep them young, a lofty ambition in the year 2011, I don't want to have my head in the sand about the stage we are in.

But the signs are everywhere. The twins are creeping into this gray area where they are still little girls who talk to their stuffed animals and like to color, but at the same time, I catch glimpses of tweendom: an eye roll, no kiss on the way into school, extra time putting outfits together and working on hair, music blasting and door slamming. They're upon us, those fateful years when our parents will be chuckling as Elliot and I get ours after what we put them through during our teen years.

So along with all of this growth comes what every parent dreads: the talk. Even more painful than outing ourselves as Santa or the Easter Bunny. My girls basically know everything that's going to happen (because I'm a terrible liar) EXCEPT, as my friend Cindy would say, "Putting the thing in the thing." I just can't have that conversation yet. So being the informed advanced beginner mother that I am, I have begun to poll everyone I know about when to have, "THE TALK." The answers I have gotten have run the gamut of "I'm not telling them until they ask," to "I told my kids but they didn't believe me," to "Mine know everything and I have a vagina puppet I used to tell them." Ok, this last answer truly confirmed that we're not ready for this. I couldn't keep it together at the "V" word, much less a puppet shaped like one.

So when we venture out on one of our favorite post breakfast weekend spots, Barnes and Noble, I am generally pretty wary of the sex education section. But the girls and I love to browse and could kill an entire morning there, each in a separate aisle. A couple of weeks ago we were there and I was watching a friend's one year old for the day and lost track of one of the twins. When I found her, she was comfortably settled into the "Facts of life" section thumbing through one of the books. Usually the calm parent with an answer for everything, I tensed up, then took a deep breath. When she asked me if we could buy the book, I thought I was doing her a favor and preserving her precious childhood by telling her I thought we should wait a little before getting into all of that. She shrugged her shoulders and said OK before trotting off to look for some Harry Potter stuff.

Well, my regret set in almost immediately. I missed a great opportunity because of MY hang ups, not hers. When I relayed the whole episode to my sister, she scolded me saying, "You're holed up in your room on the phone with me, and she's probably downstairs getting her period." Easy for her to say, she has only boys, she'll never have to deal with some of these details. She'll tell her son anything and he'll just go right back to playing with his Star Wars paraphernalia.

While generally SO honest with whatever question the girls throw my way, I have trouble reconciling why the whole sex thing is giving me a nervous breakdown. It's not explaining the actual ACT, but the questions that I know will result about MY experience, and I just don't think I can lie about some of the details. So I struggle between being an advanced beginner, and getting in touch with my former self. How much of ourselves do we reveal to our kids? Sometimes as parents we paint ourselves the picture of perfection, when in reality our kids might benefit from learning about some of our flaws.

Tonight I got in the car, after being the responsible adult/wife/mother, making dinner, getting homework done, and was just scooting up to Rite Aid to pick up a prescription (as any conscientious grown-up will do). I sat down, started the car, and Elliot was obviously blasting the radio in attempt to unwind on his way home from work. The song that was on immediately took me back to the mid 90's;Pearl Jam at its best, and almost instantly conjured up the feelings that related to that time period in my life. I cruised around the neighborhood, not thinking about anything but the lyrics, and felt for just a brief moment that I was that young person again.

Isn't it amazing how a song or smell can take you back so quickly in a way that an actual memory cannot? I thought of graduation parties, the uncertainty of ending college and where my life was going to head, all with that one song. The smell Purell hand sanitizer takes me immediately back to the Intensive care nursery where Sumner and Marshall spent their first days. I guess this is why food is so important with family traditions, because your senses are so much more keen than your actual memories.

So when I get small glimpses or minutes of being my former self, I wonder about what I will tell my kids when they ask me about my younger days. "Anything about experimenting with sex or drugs....lie." said Elliot emphatically when I posed this question to him. "But I'm the worst liar in the world, they'll know." I answered. A couple of weeks ago, we got into a discussion about smoking, Marshall and Sumner (with a friend in the car) asked me if I ever smoked. "Yes, before I had you guys." I said truthfully. Well, honesty NOT appreciated, the reaction I got from them was totally unexpected. It was as if I told them they were adopted or something. "WHAT, YOU DID THAT??" one of them yelled from the far back seat of the car. I thought I was going to get points for full disclosure, when I actually was persecuted by my 8 year olds for revealing my less than perfect former self. Go figure. I'm still figuring out how to handle the heavy stuff.

So I will continue to teeter back and forth between responsible mother and real person who is flawed and the consummate lady, making advanced beginner decisions and having close to intermediate talks with th

Yer Buggin Me

During all of this wonderful quality time with my kids I have noticed that they have acquired a routine that Elliot and I have established that comes from being together for 15 years. I am sure many married couples do this, although per usual Broadfoot style, we tend to take it to the umpteenth degree. There are certain things I say that I just innately know are going to irritate Elliot or provoke some sort of a reaction out of him...try this, ladies, it's a really good way to test if he's actually listening to you. Of course, two can play that game, and Elliot is almost always ready and willing to play.

Why is it that in relationships we get to know each other and identify each others’ hot spots and then trigger them for no reason, or in our case, deliberately, for amusement? Elliot does this, I know I do this, and all of a sudden I have noticed that, oh yes, we have 3 more buggers in the house who have learned this soooo from their parents that they are perfecting it on each other.

Let it be known that my dear, sweet husband who I am sure everyone thinks is such a saint for putting up with me and all of my kookiness has quite the pesky streak. One might not suspect this because he generally appears to be, "All business." But some of this he does come by naturally (I once threatened to slip a "Places to go, People to annoy" bumper sticker on his car) but some of it he works at, and hard…. It is always great for him when he has an audience, like two weeks ago when we were on vacation in the mountains with his family. He pinpoints certain words known to bug me and then tries his darndest to slip them in casual conversation. "Has anyone seen the sun cream?" He would ask, and then minutes later at the lunch table asked me to pass him the "Salad cream…" now this was what salad dressing was called when we lived in England and it always undid me…why cream? Doesn’t this almost ruin salad for you?

So it’s not only certain words, but the smug sideways glance he gives when he uses them. On vacation I was sitting on the couch reading my book when I hear him in the kitchen asking his mother what was for dinner. She told him we were planning on having some leftovers and making a salad, you know, just whatever is in the fridge…, “So it’s just a catch as catch can…” he says, and I glance at him peering over at me from the kitchen to make sure I heard the expression he had used, knowing it would bug the crap out of me.Oh, and lest we not forget his talent for doing the robot, or when he pretends to be a birdwatcher and threatens to go buy a feathered bird suit and hide in the backyard to do some of his “Watching…” Oh yes, so these are the games we play, deliberately bugging for Elliot and me is just so darn fun. It’s not in a, “She’s annoying I have to get away from her” kind of a way, but more of a “I’m going to tease and see if I can get a laugh” type of bugging…The most fun of all is when Elliot and I are able to join forces and do this with (or should I say against) the girls. It’s not mean, it’s more a breaking in process, so they won’t be too wussy or the type of person who can dish it out but can’t take it….these really are lessons we are teaching them while having a little fun doing it. Marshall seems to be the easiest target for this, as she embarrasses easily and can sometimes have a low threshold for annoyance, so getting a reaction from her is simple.

And the girls now do this to each other. CeCe knew how much it annoyed her sisters the week she went to dance camp when she called it "Hip Hop Camp." This somehow to them made her seem older and it provoked them all week long. "CeCe, It's Camp Tutu..." They would shout every morning from the back of the car when she mused to herself, "I wonder if I'll do hip hop or jazz at camp today..."

And yes, I do it too, sometimes purposefully, sometimes forgetfully or out of habit. I can't help leaving the top to the peanut butter all lopsided when I half screw it back on after eating a spoonful. It's partly because I'm in a rush and partly because it has sort of become my calling card. Now I hate to be so cliche, but if I didn't describe this I wouldn't be completely honest: I can't use the remote to our television. It has become sort of a thing for us. You know, one of those things that bugs but sort of half-joking bugs...I realized this when I went to watch T.V. last week and found that Elliot had put a label on the remote.

Does this strike anyone else as a bit, um, unfriendly? A friend called later that day and asked if I had seen Oprah, "I'm not supposed to touch the remote," I answered...

So the label maker has become a vehicle for communication for several family members, it was also last week that Sumner had been bugged SO much by her family members that she stuck this doozy on her forehead. In case you don't have your reading glasses, the label says, "Can not talk to me." Geez, point taken, we get it...

But then I go in the laundry room to fold my 6 millionth load of clothes and on the shelf Elliot has put a label that says "Love." So I remember, while bugged, the reason why I do it all in the first place...

Shame on me...

So I took a little break; it was one of those intentional things that I didn't really know the reason for at the time. Then last week I was out for drinks with two writer friends who bullied me, oops, I mean lovingly encouraged me to discuss the sudden disappearance of the blog.

So here's what happened: Mother's Day. At the end of the day I wrote a horrible, ungrateful, and spiteful post that made me ashamed for being such a brat when I went back to edit it. Granted my family was a little, um, unprepared for the "Holiday," I can understand as well as anyone how a day that is very special to someone else can somehow creep up on you, but still. I can picture Elliot and the girls in the kitchen going, "Shit, it's Mother's Day. Did you get a card? Go make one real quick..." all the while I am upstairs pretending to sleep in. But it wasn't the lack of cards, flowers, or breakfast in bed that got to me, rather, the unbalance that Mother's Day creates in our household. The fact that I was not there to jump happily to every one's passing need threw my family off and it was like the blind leading the blind.

So instead of reacting positively and thinking to myself, "Awww, they need me, they are lost without me, they are really going to appreciate me after a day of doing everything themselves." Bratty, ungrateful princess that I was in desperate need of some perspective wrote a scathing, angry blog post entitled, "Damn you, Mother's Day" in which the opening sentence was, "Mother's Day is the biggest cluster fuck of the century." Ugggh, I am remorseful thinking about it now, but at the time it was therapeutic. So I was mad. And resentful. And tearful, so instead of going to the pool with my 4 greatest people, I chose to stay home, be spiteful, and capture my whole mood on paper, er cyberspace.

So when I cooled off and began to proofread the next day, I couldn't stand the words on the page. 'Who is this disgusting, selfish person?' I thought, because I always hoped I would write the blog and imagined someday the girls would read it. There was no way they could have read "Damn You Mother's Day" and not have hurt feelings. So I stopped writing. Period. Not even a journal entry. Because my Mother's Day manifesto freaked me out. I totally get writing to vent our frustrations, don't we all need an outlet like that? But it made me wonder if I actually harbored the kind of deep resentment that could be hurtful. Not to mention how typical it is that I should feel so under appreciated on Mother's Day; it was almost like how when you were in high school and your boyfriend didn't do enough for you on Valentine's day and then you had a big fit about it. Like that...but 20 years later when I should be a whole lot more mature.

So the Mother's Day tantrum happened, and I decided to take a break and change my attitude. No more bitchy blogs. Cheerful supportive parenting...well, sort of, most of the time. But I was still a little iffy on the fast approach of summer. 13 weeks of total togetherness were ahead of me and it was making me sweat. Until something happened that literally took my breath away. I lost CeCe at Wal Mart. Now if you are a Mother and this has never happened to you, thank your lucky stars. If it has, well, you know this kind of terror.

All 3 girls and I were wandering through the aisles, and I was looking for some kitchen something-or-other and I turned around and she was gone. Sure she was on the next aisle I called, then the next, and the next until I abandoned my cart, my purse, and was running through the store calling her. Finally I stopped a sales person who asked me to describe what she was wearing and I could barely contain my emotions as we searched. It took probably 10 minutes, though it seemed like 50 times that long until I spotted her wandering; when she saw me we both came unraveled and I don't think I let go of her sweaty, chubby little hand for the rest of the day.

And so my sense of deep gratitude for the many gifts was renewed. But isn't it sad that it took something like that to make me figure it out? That said, I also realize that one can't help but be overwhelmed by the consistency required of parents. For every second of this child's life I knew where she was...playing in the backyard, at the pool with Elliot, down the street at the neighbor's house, with the babysitter of our choice. So for 9 years I have been keeping track of these girls...no wonder it's scary.

A few weeks ago I was downstairs and I saw something fall from the sky out the family room window at the same time I realized I didn't know where the twins were. I go upstairs to see what they are up to. Now I generally lay down a few simple rules in our house: No hitting, no name calling, no T.V. on school days, things of that nature. So when I send them off to play one would assume, "No going on the roof," would be a given. Well, a couple of lessons were learned that day: 1. I need to be more specific when I lay down the law, 2. Parenting is fraught with such intense obligation to care for our offspring that one must be on our toes at all times. I mean, geez, wouldn't you think I had covered my bases, did I really have to be say,"No going on the roof?" No wonder we parents are submerged in responsibilities, as there times when it feels that getting them through the day safely is a Herculean Task.

But we all know what happened to me last summer, feeling like parenting was an albatross, oh woe is me, this is so hard, blah blah blah...but this summer? I had the kick in the ass I needed to get me to turn around my attitude just as school was getting out. I had a little more patience for all of the things that normally would have undone me, like CeCe picking Amelia Bedelia as her story every night and asking the same questions about each double entendre like "Dust the furniture," or "Draw the drapes," were all about. Or the Karaoke machine that we thought was such a good idea...yes, I came at it with a higher level of tolerance and gratitude.

Now here we are a week into the beginning of school and I am actually a little remorseful about the end of summer...um, kind of...because there is nothing more annoying than the smug mother on the playground who acts all sad to see her children go to school. It's kind of like those who claim that their kids never fight, or that they only buy vegetables at the Farmer's Market, or that they don't watch T.V. I may be filled with a new sense of gratitude, but with it comes a renewed INability to bullshit. This summer may have been better, but September...I LOVE you.

Gimme some Candy...

Aaaah Halloween…how could I not write about this holiday which includes simultaneous joy and anguish at our house. It has been especially important this year, as I feel I have a lot to make up for considering last year I THREW AWAY all three children’s costumes during the crazed and furious (and thorough) lice clean out of 2009; this was a mistake I didn’t discover until, um, an HOUR before it was time to get dressed for our Halloween party. Then a complete downpour of both rain and tears ensued at our house as trick-or-treating was all but ruined...it wasn't a great time to point out that this might be the year to miss trick or treating, since everyone's costume was crappy anyway...

So this year, we began planning in August. One can never be too prepared when it comes to this dreaded holiday which most likely includes a hair breakdown, wardrobe malfunction, and yes…barfing. My children tend to eat themselves sick, so I am fully prepared with the towel trail to the bathroom from each child’s room.

CeCe is generally prone to costume changes at the last minute, “I want to be an Indian this year,” she said, “I’m gonna wear the costume Mimi brought me from India with a bindi dot and my feathered headdress and moccasins.” Ok, clearly we had some explaining to do with her that her costume idea could result in the most offensive politically incorrect blunder in the history of the Biltmore Drive Halloween parade. “Noooo, being a Native American is not the same thing as dressing like someone from India,” I clarified. How was she to know, she is only 5…and in truth, I think it might have been sort of funny, she could have won the contest with that one...

But here’s the thing, I used to love Halloween; the crisp fall weather, the candy, the pumpkins…not so much the dressing up part but all of the other stuff. Now, every year, Halloween seems like this super fun day that I look forward to so much, and then when it arrives it’s kind of a nightmare. There's just so much pressure around it now. As I write I’m sitting on our porch handing out candy to every little brat in Charlotte-Mecklenberg County. And it’s not that I am trying to be a stick in the mud, I just can’t get excited about older kids, barely in costume who don’t even say “Trick-or-treat” anymore… don’t care if our house will probably be egged or toilet papered later tonight, I am the bitch on Biltmore Drive who makes every little turd ask for candy by saying "Trick-or-treat" and demands a thorough description of costumes. Kid doesn’t say thank you...he gets called on it….No costume? You're in for an interrogation. I also raise my eyebrows at some pubescent teenagers who in my opinion were too old to be trick-or-treating.

I did happen to encounter two lovely boys (in Harry Potter garb, which gives you an indication as to their high school social status) who were asking me what I was doing on my computer. “Are you a writer?” they asked eagerly. “Yes, I am a writer, I’m working on an article that will be part of a book…” Oh, like scary stories?” one of them said, as if I am Stephen King or something. I thought for a second and then answered frankly, “Parts of it are pretty scary, actually…” What? I’m not talking about the kids, I was just being honest about parenthood… hee hee.

Why the witchy Halloween attitude? Well for one, I just didn’t feel like freezing my ass off on the porch while Elliot gets to walk around and have all the fun. But also, I don’t understand when it all got so complicated. Your costume has to be clever, your house has to be decorated and your candy had better be good. Halloween seemed like the only holiday that didn’t have the potential to get all messed up by modern day extravagances, but this seems to be the year when I realize that it has begun to change. Costumes are more expensive than ever, and it’s not just candy anymore…it’s stickers and flashlights and whatnot…you know, all the crap that clutters your junk drawer. You can’t just carve a face on your pumpkin, its got to be some impressive design that you printed off the Internet. “Well, I’m not doing that,” I said to the girls this morning when we were deciding what kind of jack o’lantern to make. I know, I’m old fashioned, but I just really used to love the days when you would make your costume or come up with something that was in your closet already… and remember the thrill I used to get when my mom would put Halloween candy in my lunch. Now you can ‘t even do that , you’ve gotta trade it with the Switch Witch the day after and she brings you a toy if you give her your candy. That totally sux….

But I know I need to drop the attitude because really it’s all about the little moments and the excitement the kids feel when they get to dress up, and I’m sure one day I will forget all about the hassle of it all and think about the door CeCe knocked on and said, “Trick or Treat, I have to poop…” Yes, that really happened, and yes, the kind neighbor let her leave the downstairs powder room virtually unusable after using it….But really, I know, it’s about appreciating it all, and the joy that comes from getting to do it all over again with our kids. I guess I sort of become even a little more childish than usual too as the most fun I have had this Halloween was sneaking a "Gimmie Some Candy" temporary tattoo where the sun don't shine...we all need to have a little fun right?

And so begins the season one of my former coworkers used to call, "HalloThankMas..." when the kids are wild, the grownups are edgy and there's not enough time to do anything...but I am determined to attack it with a new resolve. I have done my complaining about Halloween, let's see if I can get through the next two holidays without too much whining...yeah right.