Friday, April 29, 2011

396. Kate Doesn't Do Laundry

Like everyone else on the planet, I got up early and watched the Royal Wedding in action. I loved every second of it: the pomp, the circumstance, the majesty, the dress, the music. I especially loved the sweet and happy look on Kate’s face as she said her formal vows to William. Then I dared to look closer. I froze my TiVo and stared intently at her sparkly blue eyes and that huge Colgate grin. That wasn’t the look of love. That was the look of a woman who never has to do laundry again.

Oh, sure, she’s got her hunky prince. She’s got designers falling all over themselves left and right to create couture dresses just for her. She’s got staff at and her beck and call to do whatever she needs—run out to Rite Aid for cough medicine at two in the morning—but the most impressive thing is, she can say goodbye to the spin cycle and dryer lint for the rest of her life.

She won’t miss fluffing out her wrinkled t-shirt wondering if she should try to “get one more day’s use out of it,” like I do. She won’t miss saying to William, “Hey! Stop leaving your socks inside out, they’ll never get clean that way!”

Sweaters that have to be hand-washed? Won’t miss. Bras that can’t go in the dryer? Won’t miss. Sundress that needs the delicate cycle? Won’t miss.

I can see her on the plane to her honeymoon efficiently writing out her thank you notes to her wedding guests, but then pausing a moment to write a special note to a significant person that was not actually invited, but will become an intimate member of her circle: I’m talking of course about Lady Laundress.

“Dearest Lady Laundress,

I know I have not yet officially met you, as I have been so busy with planning my wedding and all. I just wanted to say thank you in advance as I know we will be seeing a lot of each other over the next several years, and I really really appreciate that you will wash all my clothes, like, forever. That will save me tons of time, time I could spend better by visiting people in hospitals and fundraising for orphanages and the like. (And shopping. I’m not going to lie: I do like to shop and I might potentially spend some of my new found free time doing that, too, so thank you.)

What I am trying to say is: thank you. A lot. Thank you! Best eternal thanks and gratitude to you! And here is 1000 pound advance bonus to put us on immediate good terms.

Thank you very, very much! 


Princess Kate”

Girlfriend knows how good she’s got it.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

395. The Thank You Mention

I read. A lot. I gobble up books like they were dainty French cookies, which they might as well be, except instead of giving me a dull sugar film across the enamel of my teeth, they randomly insert their sweet phrases into my brain in a melange that causes me to wonder if I read it in my new book this morning or the one I just finished two days ago. Since I’m an aspiring writer myself, I always make it a point to read the acknowledgement section of the book. I slog through the kiss-up reference to the agent, the obligatory nod to the spouse, the brief mention of the kind employees at the local Starbucks who allowed the author to work for hours with free latte refills … and then, inevitably, there it is: the fawning nanny mention.

“And to Josette, our dedicated nanny, we truly appreciate all you do, and I could not have written this book without you.”

Wait, wha??

All this time, I thought I needed a unabridged dictionary, a faster computer, and a “mute” button on my phone, and what I really needed was a nanny?

What, exactly, are these books I’m reading? They are time-management books and humor books and memoirs, all saying how “you can have it all” while Josette is in the next room entertaining the kids and microwaving some pizza.

Sure, I think bitterly, I would have PLENTY of time to write if I didn’t have to, oh, I don’t know, raise my own children!

I take a deep breath, force myself to calm down, and consider my future acknowledgement page:

“Thank you to my agent for taking a chance on a new writer …
Thank you to my husband for not divorcing me …
Thank you to Nespresso, for delivering those espresso capsules right to my door …
Thank you to the public school system, for taking my children for free several hours per day (with the exception of weekends and holidays) …
And a special thank you to the entire country of Napa, for producing such fine wines.”

(I’m just kidding on the last one! I know Napa is not a country.)


394. That Special Customer

She came in to the high-end kitchen store when I was working last night. I didn’t recognize her at first because she looked exactly like a normal customer. She asked me a couple questions about our one of our products, and that’s when I realized who she was: the Interrupter.

Interrupter: I’m interested in maybe buying a crock pot, wait do they even call them that anymore? I mean slow cooker. Can you please tell me the differences between the non-stick one and the one with the ceramic insert?

Me: Sure. There are several differences that I can tell you about. And if it were me, I would definitely buy the one with the cer—

Interrupter: (cutting me off) The white really matches my kitchen better, that’s why I like it. Can it go in the dishwasher?

Me: Uh, it’s not recommended to put—

Interrupter: So does the non-stick one cook better? It costs $100 more, so really what justifies the price jump on that?

Me: Great question. Well, the primary factor that sets it apart is—

Interrupter: We have to go to Macy’s. We might be back later.

Me: (tight smile) Do you want me to put one on hold?  They sell out fast.  I can check if we—

Interrupter: (abrupt) No, I said we’ll think about it.

Now, I have been known to interrupt a person or two from time to time (just ask The Husband, who adores going to parties with me to watch my advanced social skills in action), but I certainly would not repeatedly interrupt someone as they were giving me an answer to a question I just asked them!

Although, come to think of it, The Husband has done this to me from time to time if he doesn't like what I am about to say.

Him: What movie should we see?

Me: Well, I do love Reese Withersp—

Him: (to the ticket seller) Two tickets for Rambo Killer 8 please.

The Interrupter finally does go to Macy’s, but then she returns when we’re closing. She walks up to the counter, tells me she gave the issue some thought, and that she would like to buy the cer—

“Oh, right after you left, I sold it,” I tell her truthfully, “it was the very last one we had.”  Nothing can interrupt my smile.


393. Oh Get A Job Already

Before I had children, I was working as a flight attendant and had a remarkable amount of free time on my hands. Not to brag, but sometimes I might only fly 13 days a month, which left me with 17 days off to do whatever I wanted.

I started to paint ceramics as a fun little hobby. I had grand plans to paint bowls and picture frames and trays and vases. The trouble was, even though I thought I was a good painter, I was not a good painter.

I would spend hours on my “creations” only to have my then-boyfriend (now-husband) comment, “Is that green thing supposed to be a skyscraper or a tree?”

“It’s a cat,” I would correct him, “anyone can see it’s a cat.”

“Don’t quit United,” he would say under-his-breath, while I would think: That’s it! I am so not painting you a new car-themed tissue box holder now!

The lucky recipients of my painting treasures just marveled at the sheer volume I managed to produce. “Did you paint this dolphin figurine on a layover?” my sister, Oakley, would ask innocently after she finished unwrapping her birthday gift.

“No, no, I did it on my days off.” I would beam at her as she set the dolphin on the shelf next to the red and green tea kettle and matching Santa teacups I painted her for Christmas and the florescent jack-o’-lantern I painted her for Halloween and the ceramic “basket” I painted her for Easter.

“When do you fly? Do you ever fly?”

The Husband was beginning to wonder this himself. “Sweetie, is today the day you go to Boston?”

“Nope, I’m off until next Wednesday, so I think I might go paint something today. Do you need some Fourth of July candlesticks?”

Finally, I woke up one morning and got smart: I could get a part-time job at the ceramic studio when I wasn't flying and they would pay me to paint! Or at least give me a 10% discount.

I walked into a new local shop that had recently opened in our neighborhood. A young woman wearing faded jeans, an oversized Def Leppard t-shirt, and a tattered black baseball hat was painting a detailed circus scene on the side of pitcher. A seal was lifting a ball on its nose, while smiling elephants lined up with pink dancers cavorting around them; the colors were bright and eye-catching. It looked exactly like an ad campaign for Ringling Brothers; I was suddenly overcome with an irrationally strong craving for buttered popcorn and cotton candy.

The lady glanced up at me, “May I help you?”

“Hi!” I began overenthusiastically, in case she happened to be the owner or the manager of the shop. “My name is MOV, and I’m interested in working here!”

She looked me up and down. I was wearing my best navy blue interview suit, complete with pearls, black patent pumps, and nude opaque panty hose. My hair was pulled back in a tight bun, and I had a navy and white abstract print silk scarf tied neatly around my neck. I was ready to paint a platter, or at least serve some peanuts and evacuate an airplane.

“Uh, do you have any painting experience?” she began warily.

“Sure! Lots!” I responded eagerly. I handed her my single-spaced resume on linen paper, and a list of twenty references. I was clutching a mug I’d brought in to show her.

“Here’s one of a sample best of favorite my painting work for see you look at!” I said gleefully, tongue-tied as a foreign exchange student on his first day in America. I shoved the mug at her, waiting for the accolades to begin.

She gingerly took the mug out of my hand. It was a mug I had spent several hours on—my masterpiece: a swirl of yellow stars in a cloudy blue night sky. On the handle of the mug in thick loopy black letters it read, “MOV’s Hot Chocolate.”

She inspected the mug closely, flipped it over, set it on the counter, then laughed out loud. She pointed to the patches of white that were supposed to depict clouds. “We can show you how to fix that,” she said dismissively. “So, anyway, the owner’s name is Patty, and she’ll be in later today. You seem cheery, and I know she’ll like that, but as for the mug … uh, you might not want to show her that.”

Fast forward a week and the job was mine. Patty was a terrific (if absentee) boss, and the circus-painting Brittany was my new manager and ended up becoming a close friend. The discount was better than 10% off, it was 75% off. My previous hobby morphed into a full-blown obsession.

I gradually got better and better at painting, and now I cringe when I see remnants of my so-called painting prowess from the era before I worked in the shop. I visit my dad and he serves cheese and crackers on one of my plates. “Ack!” I scream out in embarrassment, “Please throw that plate away.”

“What?” he says, shocked, “I love it. You painted it for me, remember?”

But I am such a better painter now. Let me paint you a new one.”

“No. I like this one,” he insists. Then, pointing at the detail around the edge, he adds, “Just look at these cute camels.”

“Those are flowers,” I murmur, “but they do sort of look like camels now that you mention it.”

(“Masterpieces Of Value”)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

392. Reminder Girl

Although I don't usually wear a red cape, I have a superhero role in life, and that role is: Reminder Girl. I am the one in my immediate family and in my circle of friends who ever-so-slightly nudges people to remember things. Some people might call this “nagging,” I prefer to see it in a more positive light.

Forget when your dentist appointment is? No problem, I remember. Do we have soccer practice on Tuesdays or Thursdays this season? Ask me. When should you turn in your special school project/ taxes/ mail a birthday card/ respond back to a party invitation? I know all this, and more.

When you wake up, I will remind you to write a check for the PTA fundraiser or your son’s school lunches. As you are walking out the door, I will let you know that the forecast is predicting storms, so you need a raincoat. Oh, and take the Netflix movie with you and drop it in the mailbox on your way to work. Did you put your homework in your folder or record your minutes on your reading log? No? That’s okay, I will prompt you.

All this reminding is wearing me out. No one reminds me of anything. I have to do enough reminding for three other people and a cat, plus myself. Self, remember to pick up Tall’s prescription. Self, the deadline for Short’s school registration forms is this week. Self, did you request off from work for the 26th? Better get on it.

My friends all know that when they schedule playdates with my children, they don’t even need to bother writing it on their calendar. Why would they? I will just email them a friendly note the night before:

Subject: Confirm Playdate Tomorrow.
Lisa, Short is so excited to come over and see Dylan tomorrow at 10 AM to play. See you then!

If I am going to the movies with a bunch of girlfriends, they’re all well aware that I will find out which theater, the start time, and coordinate carpooling. They can just sit back and relax, maybe take a quick nap while I figure everything out.

Is this a Virgo thing? Is this a mom thing? Is this a wife thing? What is this thing, this reminder thing, that has consumed my life? I am not being paid for it, although obviously I would make a damn fine office manager or personal assistant to a famous movie star, if only I could parlay this talent into a lucrative job.

That reminds me, I need to work on my resume.

(“Me: Obsessive Virgo”)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

391. Tipsy

I’ve always been confused about tipping. A dollar? 20%? Nothing? A five? Who knows. Entire libraries of books have been devoted to this very topic, and yet, even after reading all of them, I still have trouble getting it right.

I know I’m not the only one. One summer when I was in college, I hostessed at an elegant restaurant located on a lovely strip of beach in California. It was the type of place where men were expected to don a jacket and tie, and ladies felt compelled to wear lipstick, brand new stilettos, and outfits that most likely equated to a month’s rent for me. The dining room typically ran a wait of about two hours if you didn’t have the foresight to book a reservation eight weeks in advance.

Since I was the hostess, I was obviously the gatekeeper. If you tipped me $100, that pesky two hour wait evaporated into mere seconds while I quickly shuffled some papers around to miraculously find your “misplaced” reservation. I had your table for you, and that table was front and center on the window with the best view of surfers riding those movie-caliber waves.

Once, someone tried to tip me a dollar. One dollar. I glanced at the faded bill (which appeared to have gone through the dryer on the highest setting), looked at the gentleman, and politely gave the sad dollar back, saying, “Oh, thank you, sir, but we’re not allowed to accept tips.” Instead, he and his date waited patiently in the bar for the full two hours, and judging by his drunken demeanor when I finally awarded them their table, he had probably drunk $100 worth of alcohol while he waited. Perhaps that money would’ve been better spent on my tip.

I’m not saying that $100 was an appropriate tip for an 18-year-old hostess. It was excessive. I probably would’ve found him a very nice table for the bargain basement price of $50, maybe even $20. But $5? No. $10? Hope you enjoy sitting next to the restroom or busing station.

It’s easy enough to figure out the tip for the waitress when you’re at a restaurant and the bill comes to $50: good service merits 20%. But what if it’s a casual café where you order at the counter and then the girl brings it to you? In that case, 20% seems too high (and would I just leave the tip on the table? and if so, then isn’t a different person than the girl who took my order getting the money?).

What about hairdressers who charge $200? Is 20% okay? Is it too high? What if the person who does your hair is the owner of the shop? I’ve read that in that case, you should not tip. But I would feel embarrassed not to tip for fear of offending him.

And Starbucks?  Should I put a dollar in the tip jar for the clerk when my drink cost $3.85?  We had an interaction that was approximately 30 seconds long, and he's not even the one making my extra-hot grande triple latte with no foam.

I used to work at a paint-your-own pottery place.  I would work a child's birthday party and instruct 24 rambunctious five-year-olds on how to paint a ceramic giraffe or unicorn.  Then, I would paint the kids' initials on the pieces and glaze them while the rowdy wannabe Picassos bounced impatiently around the fragile shop.  Next, I would help the parents serve pizza and cake, and distribute goody bags.  Finally, I would clean everything up.  These birthday parties usually lasted two hours and cost $300.  And my normal tip for entertaining and instructing these little people I would never see again?  Zero.

That's right, the Starbucks cashier gets a dollar (or two!) for a time commitment of 30 seconds (Hello, may I take your order?) while I amuse two dozen kindergartners for two long hours for no tip, not even a piece of overly-sweet cake.

Apparently I am not the only one confused about tipping. 

Thank goodness I don’t live in New York, the capital of Tipping Wrong. Every time I go there, I get a complex within minutes of stepping off the plane. Everyone seems to have their hand out, and that hand is expecting crisp green dollars in double-digit denominations. The taxi driver who maneuvered you uptown through heavy traffic. The bell boy who carried your one small suitcase (but that you felt weird about saying No, I can carry it myself). The front desk clerk who just upgraded you to a suite with no extra charge. The concierge who scored you last-minute tickets to the theater. Everyone is waiting, and they are waiting for your tip, your gratitude, your mouth to open and the words pour out, “Thank you,” while you slip your hand quickly in your pocket and produce multiple pictures of a smiling Andrew Jackson.

You, yourself, however, are not smiling. You are worried you tipped too much. The bell boy practically does a back handspring when you hand him a ten, and you realize a five would’ve sufficed. The angry glare the doorman gives you tells you that maybe you should have upgraded that one dollar bill to a five when he hailed you a cab.

One day I woke up and realized I couldn’t handle it anymore. I am a bad tipper, I am an overly-generous tipper, I am a non-tipper. My life is one big swirl of dollar bills and they are all the wrong size.

I found an easy way out, a solution so I never have to tip again, ever:  I got married. Now, The Husband is in charge of tipping while I gather up our two sons and all their accoutrements and head to the car, turning to The Husband and saying loudly (in earshot of our beleaguered waiter), “Remember to tip well! They gave us great service!” That way, even if The Husband tips poorly—which I don’t think he would do—the waiter will say, “Well, at least his wife was nice. She told him to tip well.”

("Money Or Vexation?")

Sunday, April 24, 2011

390. Why I Will Never Own A Dog

So I’m at work at the high-end kitchen store, and talk (as often does) turns canine. My co-friend Gabriela and her family just returned from a little weekend getaway in the mountains, and they took their dog Monkey on his first ever vacation.

Vacation from what exactly, I’d like to know.  Monkey does not assist blind people or sniff out drugs or perform complicated tricks in the circus. He leads a posh collie life of being doted on alternately by Gabriela, her husband Brad, and their three kids, as well as various neighbors and friends who have fallen victim to Monkey’s spell of adorableness.  Gabriela spoils him shamelessly. He has a personalized collar, a special bed, myriad dog toys, a crystal water bowl, and his very own plastic mirror (“So he can see how cute he is!”).

So there they are, on the first morning of their holiday up in the mountains, and Brad wakes up early and decides to drive into town to get some coffee for Gabriela and hot chocolate for the kids. He helpfully decides to take Monkey with him, and this turns out to be a mistake.

After Brad has procured the beverages, he settles back in the car with Monkey and starts driving. He sees an attractive house for sale, and curious about local prices, decides to pull the car over to pick up a flier.  Brad then spends a few moments studying the flier.  (The house costs $899,000, which Brad thinks is too much for a vacation home.) 

While Brad is busy daydreaming about real estate investment opportunities, Monkey locks him out of the car. With the keys in the ignition. Turned on.

Luckily (or unluckily?) even though Monkey is talented enough to lock the car with little or no instruction, he does not know how to drive. He does, however, know how to panic. Monkey immediately picks up on Brad’s nervousness and sense of urgency as Brad is hopping around making faces through the glass at Monkey, and Monkey starts frantically hopping around himself.

This goes on, Gabriela informs us solemnly, for a very, very long time.

Somehow, Monkey accidentally manages to open the sunroof.

Brad realizes this is his chance, and begins to climb on the hood of the car to get up to the open sunroof (this is the part where Gabriela mentions the car is a rental). Monkey starts barking wildly and inadvertently steps again on the button that controls the sunroof, this time closing it.  

Poor Brad. Now, Gabriela tells us, Monkey becomes very stressed out and pees in the car. On the passenger seat. Where Gabriela will have to sit later when they drive back to Avis to return the car.

Brad is jumping around like, well, like someone whose dog just locked them out, and right then, a police car pulls up. The policewoman received a call from the owner of the house he is parked in front of.  The policewoman and the homeowner think that perhaps Brad is trying to steal the car. Brad tells Gabriela later that he felt like the hapless star of a bad movie.

After a brief conversation with the policewoman, she offers to call AAA to come and unlock the car. (Brad didn’t bring his cell phone as this was supposed to be a ten-minute jaunt to pick up Starbucks.) Brad agrees with the kind policewoman that this is a smart idea.

Triple A does not have a truck in the area, and the soonest someone can come and help him would be three hours later.  Brad has the brilliant idea that they should call Avis instead to see if someone there can run an extra key up.

While all this plotting and planning and phoning is going on (and the overly-cautious homeowner is peering through the curtains at the would-be car thief), Monkey keeps barking and jumping, but miraculously does not spill any of the (by now cold) coffee. Ultimately, by the grace of God, Monkey steps on the window control button and opens the window. Brad is overjoyed, and Monkey squeezes out the window and runs off into the backyard of the house for sale.

Brad is despondent. Again, like a movie, the policewoman whistles loudly, yells out, “Hey, Pup!” and Monkey comes immediately running back to her as if she is his long-lost master and this Brad guy is a sorry impostor of an owner.

The policewoman inexplicably pulls a dog treat out of her pocket, and Monkey sits down next to her expectantly and wags his tail. She feeds him a treat, pats him on the head, and grabs Monkey by the collar.

“I have three dogs myself,” the Superhero Policewoman says to Brad, “but none have ever locked me out of the car.”


Thursday, April 21, 2011

389. Before and After

(Recently, my hilarious friend Happy Hour Mama posted a clever piece on her blog called “Then and Now: Not So Different,” about her life in the corporate world before she had kids. Her writing inspired me to do a similar piece about my previous job as a flight attendant.)

I was a flight attendant for a decade before I permanently zipped my empty black rollerbag suitcase closed and shoved it in the way back of the closet, next to the dusty rowing machine. I was hugely pregnant, and The Husband and I had decided for me to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.

Saturated by years of misleading media imagery, my expectations of impending motherhood were a little bit skewed from reality. I thought all my time would be spent cheerfully hugging a laughing baby, or conversely, putting him down for a nap. That’s it. That’s all I knew about my new job I chose.

Turns out, the media was not a good teacher. But United Airlines was.

Before: crew desk calls and wakes me up at 4 AM with assignment for 14-hour international flight
After: baby cries and wakes me up at 4 AM to have bottle and start 14-hour day

Before: go through a grueling training process where I evacuate a simulated burning airplane
After: go through a grueling on-the-job training process where I simulate knowing what I am doing

Before: eat junk food at the airport
After: eat junk food at the drive-thru

Before: complain to other flight attendants that I only got four hours of sleep last night
After: complain to other moms that I only got forty minutes of sleep last night

Before: read everything I could get my hands on to fill the long hours in the airport during delays
After: read everything I could get my hands on about how to get baby to sleep through the night

Before: roll my eyes at passengers with too many carry-on bags
After: carry too many baby bags into the doctor’s office, Starbucks, the park, basically everywhere

Before: clean up passenger vomit
After: clean up baby spit-up

Before: promise passenger I’ll be right back with a pillow, but then forget and do something else
After: promise husband I’ll pick up his dry cleaning, but then forget and do something else

Before: enjoy movies in my free time, especially academy-award winners
After: play movies to get some free time, especially movies starring Elmo or dolphins

Before: distribute passenger meals amidst much complaining about lack of quality or choice
After: feed toddler meals amidst much complaining about lack of quality or choice

Before: make friends with other flight attendants, who I will fly with once and most likely never see again
After: make friends with other moms at the park, who I will meet once and most likely never see again

Before: placate whiny passengers whose luggage was lost
After: placate whiny preschooler whose favorite Hot Wheels car was lost

Before: meticulously plan my month’s schedule of flying only to have it all change due to mechanical delays and snowstorms
After: meticulously plan my week’s schedule of activities only to have it all change due to ear infections and fever

Before: shop for unique items on layovers in exotic cities
After: shop for unique baby toys on excursions to the mall

Before: make announcements on the loudspeaker, announcements about turning off electronic devices or fastening seatbelts—announcements that are ignored
After: make announcements loudly, announcements about turning off the TV or fastening seatbelts—announcements that are ignored

Before: say “Thank you” sincerely while passengers hand me their trash
After: say “Thank you” enthusiastically while toddler hands me his trash

Before: fantasize about two weeks off at a beach in Tahiti
After: fantasize about two hours off while my sister plays with my child in the sandbox

Before: survive on coffee, lots of it
After: survive on coffee, lots of it

Thank you, United Airlines, you did much more than prepare me to be a good flight attendant: you trained me to be a good mom.

("Motherhood:  Overlooked Vocation")

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

388. Your Kryptonite

So you’re working and you’re mom-ing and you’re just trying to scrape by, and that’s when it happenssomeone shakes your life up. And that someone is: your husband.

He comes home from work one day and says, guess what, we’ve sold the house, and your first thought is: Damn realtor, why didn’t he call me instead? Why does the husband get to know before anyone else? Your second thought is: Yay—I don’t have to clean the bathroom for potential buyers every day anymore! That is your favorite thought.

Next thing you know, your life is a swirl of newspaper and cardboard boxes and bubble wrap and searching recycle bins outside of Starbucks for oversized boxes.  You score some good ones this way, ones that might even hold a small child or two. You pack and you wrap and you tape and you bubble and you order Domino’s (again) and you subsist on burnt cheese pizza and Chinese take-out.

And the kids? What kids? The television has become their new BFF, and when you call all the utility companies to suspend service, this is the last phone call you make: to the TV company. You politely ask the customer service rep on the phone if you can keep your cable going right up until the verylastsecond, and she laughs—a cheerful laugh (she’s heard it all before). And she says, “No problem,” and she seems like she is typing it in somewhere, somewhere important like the computer base, and before she gets off the phone you ask her what her name is and she says “Chantel.” Or something Chantel-like, maybe Channel or Charel, it’s a modern name, trendy, and definitely a sincere and helpful-sounding name.

So. Your life is in boxes. Your husband decides that it would save a lot of money to move everything into the storage facility yourselves. This is the moment where you are questioning your initial judgment in making a lifetime commitment to this man. But it is too late for that. Now you are wearing sweats and lifting objects three times your body weight, objects like queen-sized bed frames and antique dining-room tables. You are beginning to hate your dining-room table, and in fact, you seriously consider leaving it for the new owners or perhaps on the street corner. When your husband reminds you that dining-room tables are expensive and that you will “just have to buy a new one anyway” you attempt (weakly) to convince him that a folding card table is as good (if not better) than your old table. He sighs, and looks away.

You start searching for a temporary apartment for your family because the house you bid on has some “issues,” namely scary mold, that need to be addressed before occupancy is even an option. Plus your closing date keeps getting pushed back, and for a split second you wonder what this would have been like with your baby due dates:

Scene 1:  A doctor's office, day time

Doctor:  Ma’am, I know I initially told you December 4th, but honestly, it looks like you’re going to have to carry that baby a little bit longer than we anticipated … how about we adjust that due date to, say, February 19th? Is that doable for you?

You are snapped back to reality when your husband comes across a newspaper listing you left out for rental apartments (there is a post-it note you’ve stuck on there that reads: “Pool use included!”) and he tells you the bad news: you and he and the kids and the cat are all moving in with his parents.

Just for a month. Or two. Three at the most. Promise. Just until the mold/ loan/ dining-room table thing is all cleared up, four months tops.

You struggle for two hours on Thanksgiving to get along with your in-laws, so what the heck is two months going to be like? You do the only thing you can in this tense moment of stress and denial and angst: you run right out to get some much-needed help and moral support.

You drive there quickly, your car knows the way, your tire marks are probably permanently etched into the asphalt. You pull up and get the best parking spot, the one right next to the handicapped and near the door. You enter Target, your kryptonite, your Mecca, and you try to blink back tears—but it’s no use. You are searching, seeking out your happy place, and there it is: the magazine aisle. You start grabbing shelter magazines, like a deranged victim of an undecorated desert island. First Elle Décor, then House Beautiful, next Architectural Digest, and pretty soon you’re grabbing anything, even Dwell or Better Homes and Gardens. You are balancing a large slippy stack in your left arm, and you are lamenting the fact that you didn’t get a cart.

Your mind wanders and you start fantasizing for a moment about the selection of chocolates Target has by the check-out lane. Yes, you reassure yourself, KitKat bars are usually on the top shelf next to the batteries.

You are heading toward the main check-out area, arm collapsing from the weight of the multitude of design Bibles (you will soon know how to decorate that moldy house with the fold-up poker table in the dining room, dammit), and that’s when you spot it flashing your name in neon letters, like a welcoming beacon:  the wine aisle.

Since when does Target carry wine? You loved Target before, you have always been loyal and would never cheat on Target, and this has merely cemented your viewpoint: ah, yes, Target IS your kryptonite.

("Moving Or Vacationing?")

387. Cartoon Skills

So you are driving three small boys to the library. Your older son brings up a topic that he’s apparently been obsessing about: cartoon skills. As in, “If you could choose any cartoon skill, what would it be?”

Thrilled to be part of the conversation for a change, you hastily blurt out, “Drawing! My skill is cartoon drawing!”

Confused, your older son queries, “What are you talking about, Mom?”

“What are you talking about?” you throw right back at him.

“Drawing is not a cartoon skill!”

Just then, your younger son’s friend (who obviously understands what cartoon skills are) says, “My skill would be being invisible.”

Older son likes this answer. “Yes, that’s what I meant,” he confirms, “something like that.”

Younger son does not want to be left out: “I would like to fly.”

Even though it has taken longer than you are actually proud to admit, you now “get” the concept of cartoon skills too. You innocently ask, “May I choose more than one?”

Older son considers this request. “Yes.”

Now you will earn back their respect. “I would choose to fly AND I would choose to not be hurt in any way after being shot at or falling off the top of a building.”

You hear a small wave of murmured approval. “Oh, good one.” This is not a skill they saw coming.

Older son offers his perfect cocktail of cartoon skills: “I would be able to fly AND shoot fire or ice out of my hands.”

Your younger son definitely likes this novel idea. “I want to shoot fire and ice out of my hands!” he mimics excitedly.

Now the friend decides to amend his previously supplied skill. “Actually, my power would be ezaporation.” He smiles in your rearview mirror, pleased with his new improved answer.

Your older son scoffs. “There is no such thing as ezaporation! That isn’t even a word!”

“Of course there is,” corrects the friend, “it is like evaporation, but instead of water rising up, I can ZAP people up! and they won’t even know it’s me who did it!”

You sense a future criminal in your midst.

Your mind wanders and you conjure up all sorts of fabulous cartoon skills: being invisible, flying, time traveling … maybe there could be a practical twist on these powers? How about an “I Dream of Jeannie” version: blink, and the laundry is done! blink, and your hair is done and your outfit is new! blink, and you are in Tahiti!

You laugh out loud at the idea, and then you realize: Spiderman’s got nothing on Barbara Eden.

("Meet Original Virgo")

386. The Time Traveler

So last night, courtesy of Netflix and their uber-speedy delivery system, The Husband and I curled up and enjoyed the movie “The Time Traveler’s Wife” starring Rachel McAdams. It was a really good movie (albeit it a sad one), and it got me thinking: what if I was a Time Traveler? I’m pretty sure I would avoid seventh grade, but other than that, where would I go?

Surprisingly, I would zip back to the time my children were teeny tiny babies. The reason this is surprising: babies are a lot of work. But now that I have lived through it with two babies, I know that phase is only temporary, so I would love to squeeze their tiny toes, see their toothless grins, and smooth their baby chick-fluff hair once again.

I would go back to the evening I met The Husband for the first time, not because it was the most romantic meeting or anything saccharine like that: no. I would go back so I had a chance to wash my hair and dry it instead of having a frizzy mess for that first impression.

I would revisit The Great Wall of China, not because I met The Husband there or because Tall and Short were tiny babies there, but just because: WOW—The Great Wall of China! How cool is that! I went during high school for a family vacation, and have not had the opportunity to go back since, so time travel would fix that.

Another happy vacation memory: Switzerland. My mom took us one Christmas when I was growing up. It was all snow and castles and trains and strudel and sledding and skiing and postcards come to life. Who doesn’t like Switzerland? (People who hate chocolate, that’s who.)

Maybe I would fix a few mistakes along the way. The moment that large truck swerved in front of me on the highway and a giant rock flipped out of his storage area and smashed the windshield of my new car? Perhaps Time Traveler MOV would’ve recommended I linger at Starbucks for a second or third latte that morning. How about the time Short and I went for a walk and he tripped on the cement sidewalk and broke his collarbone? Hey, watching TV never caused any broken bones, so we could’ve stayed home and watched cartoons in our safe cocoon instead of “getting some fresh air” and “healthy exercise.” Ha—healthy exercise is overrated!

One clever thing the movie’s central character does is buy a lottery ticket. Yes, that would be a tempting idea, and one I confess I would do too. If you know the correct numbers ahead of time, why not?

Time Traveler MOV would hit all the milestones: graduations, weddings, babies’ first steps. However, the foodie in me is embarrassed to admit I would revisit a couple choice food experiences: the ideal pesto fettuccine in Florence, Italy; the strawberry milkshakes my grandmother used to make; scones and clotted cream in London; eggs Benedict from my favorite café in San Diego; any cake I’ve ever eaten to celebrate any occasion.

Ah, yes: Time Traveler MOV has put on a few pounds. But that’s okay, so have I.


Monday, April 18, 2011

385. Us On Vacation

So this week, my sons are on Spring Break. Since The Husband and I do not want to go into debt, we are forgoing any type of vacation this year. Instead, we are opting for a budget-friendly staycation (where we sit at home and flip through travel magazines fantasizing about dream destinations).

Today, instead of swimming in the Aegean Sea, I took the boys to paint ceramics—which they love to do. Tall painted a gecko, and Short chose a penguin. I noticed several other families in the art studio engaged in painting—staycations must be the new trend.

Next, we returned home and made brownies—delicious! My homemade brownies are equal to, if not far superior to, any vacation food I have ever encountered.

After that, I washed a sinkful of dishes and did about 12 loads of laundry. Club Med, to my knowledge, does not make guests do their own dishes and laundry.

I plan to ask for a full refund from the Staycation Committee.

(“Mom’s Only Vacation”)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

384. Say Cheese

I FORGOT MY CAMERA. I feel unnerved about how things are going to go tonight with Tall’s First Grade Musical, and me—without a camera.

The Husband is well aware of my dilemma. For a second, I contemplate sending him home to retrieve it, but the performance is starting in five minutes.

“Don't you have your phone with you?” asks The Husband helpfully.  “Take a couple photos with that.”

I give him a bewildered look, the same look I would give him if he'd just suggested I fly to Jupiter—on a bicycle.

“You know I don’t know how to do that,” I sigh. “Plus, I'm really not convinced that my particular phone has photo capability …”

“MOV, do we have to go through this again?” he whispers. “Your. Phone. Takes. Pictures.  Here, I'll show you.”  He puts his hand out: “Give it to me.”

I pass him the offending device. He opens it up, presses a few buttons, then chuckles.

“Battery’s dead.” He leans over and gives me a sympathetic kiss on the cheek. “Oh, well.”

The theater is darkening. The play is about to begin. I look up at the stage, and a strange thing happens: I relax. The children are in their places, and they start singing. I am watching them, searching for Tall, who I know to be on the left side of the stage. I spot him in the last row and I instinctively fumble around with my purse, hands again forgetting that the camera is at home on the coffee table, right where I left it.

Oh, well.

I breathe and listen. The seven-year-olds sing off-key, and I am transported. This is one of those moments, those delicate moments, where you bask in the voice of your child and his peers and forget everything else.

Including your camera.

Apparently, I am the only (terrible) parent to have overlooked such a necessity. All around me are a swirl of camcorders, Flips, digital cameras, and yes—cell phones. The theater is glowing with the ambient light of these splinters of technology.

Why do we live our lives through a view-finder? My mind drifts to my grandmother’s small album of European postcards. During one of my many childhood summers visiting her, I came across it and asked her what it was.

“Oh, that?” she shrugged, “That’s my honeymoon.”

The faded album holds no actual photos, only mass-produced images. There’s Big Ben.  Now Buckingham Palace.  Look, it’s the Eiffel Tower!  Ah, a sherbet-hued sunset over the Mediterranean.

“But there’s no pictures of you.”

She laughed.  “Your grandfather wanted to live his life in 3-D; he said he didn’t want to spend our vacation looking through a camera lens. Besides, he felt like the professional photographers did a better job …”

I considered her words. Isn’t it the highest compliment when a friend peruses your photos album of your trip to Hawaii and says, “Wow—great photos! They look just like postcards!”

Where was my postcard of Tall right now, singing on the stage?

My friend Gina happens to be sitting directly in front of me. I tap her on the shoulder and lean close to her ear. “Gina, can you please take a photo of Tall? I forgot my camera.”

“Sure,” she nods agreeably. “No problem.”

The show goes by in a blur of costume changes and mangled verses.  After the performance, we go backstage and locate Tall with the rest of his class.

"You were fantastic!" I cheer.

He blushes and looks around, gauging his friends' potential reactions to my impulsive outburst of unbeckoned parental pride.  "You didn't take tons of photos this time, did you, Mom?" he murmurs tentatively.

"No, uh, well actually ... no," I offer sheepishly.  "Did you want me to?"

He grins wide, showing off spaces where teeth should be.  "I was hoping you didn't, because when you take pictures it really embarrasses me."

"Right.  Right, I know that.  So I didn't."

He leans in for a genuine hug.  The memory may not be preserved on film, but the pixels in my brain have recorded it.     

("Momentary Other Vision")

Saturday, April 16, 2011

383. Reunion

An Open Letter to My High School Reunion Planning Committee

Dear Committee,

I was planning on coming to the reunion this year, especially since it is a big reunion with one of those milestone-sounding numbers. However, it turns out that due to your late notification of the event, I won’t be able to make it after all.

How dare you send out the invitations a mere six weeks before the event?! What were you thinking? Six weeks is not enough time for me to lose 20 pounds, get a great haircut, purchase a whole new wardrobe, go to med school, become a doctor, and buy a fancy car. Well, it might be enough time to get the haircut, but that is about it.

While you are there reminiscing about finals and proms and track meets, I will be slaving away at the high-end kitchen store. While you are sipping your third glass of wine (most likely from your own personal vineyard that you opened in Napa, natch), I might be forced to sample some chocolate cupcakes if we are making them for a baking class. While you are laughing at some clever joke someone just told, I will be laughing at the lady who is trying to return her espresso machine she bought eight years ago (without a receipt).

So, no, I won’t be able to make it this year. But I will definitely come to the one in ten years. I’ll be the one wearing scrubs.



Thursday, April 14, 2011

382. The Shower Gift

Back in the spring of 2003, when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I ran right out and bought some cute outfits. For the baby. Some pink, some blue. I wanted to be Prepared.

I also bought some cute little plates with nursery rhymes on them and matching spoons. And embroidered bibs. And a red wagon. And a ceramic piggy bank with stars on it. And some books with singing alphabet letters.

My friends and family threw me a delightful baby shower. They purchased all sorts of lovely things for me and baby, such as charming little white outfits with lots of buttons, Jacadi Paris stuffed animals, an electronic baby monitor, Sterling silver picture frames, Pottery Barn Kids hooded towels, baby blankets (I received many of these, some handmade by dedicated aunts), and colorful BPA-safe plastic toys.

Now I stare at the dusty photos of me and all my loved ones at my precious shower, oohing and ahhing appropriately over the adorable presents. One snapshot captures my interest:  while I eat my fifth piece of rainbow cake and gaze longingly at my girlfriend’s wine rack, The Husband sweetly holds up a doll-sized wool sweater with a penguin on the front of it and coordinating leather booties.

These were exactly the right gifts for me and my fat belly at the time. I heard myself saying (often), “The nursery theme is farmyard animals and the colors are sage green and ecru,” as I waltzed around in a la-la land of frogs and sheep and smiling cows.  My perfect first baby would have everything he needed to live a sage green and ecru happy life.

When Tall arrived on December 4th, two days early, I was not searching for the hooded towels and stuffed horse. I needed nipple cream, and I needed it now. I also needed nursing pads (to prevent me from leaking milk nonstop) and pacifiers.

The baby monitor turned out to be superfluous, as anyone within a five mile radius could hear our well-dressed crying baby. The monitor only served to amplify the sound (not a good thing for a mommy who was already sleep-deprived and would wake up at the sound of a faucet being turned on).

The silver picture frames were surprisingly inept at mopping up baby spit-up. The Husband made an emergency trip to Babies-Spend-A-Lot to get some cloth diapers to use for this purpose instead.

I suddenly remembered the mom friend (who had a toddler) helpfully suggesting that I should register for a “Boppy” pillow. I had no idea what a Boppy was at the time, but just by the name I could tell I didn’t like it. Toddler Mom had said I could use this to prop up the baby while I fed him. My silent reaction to her advice is forever screen-saved on my brain: “That is the stupidest and laziest and most wastefulest thing I have ever heard of, registering for a special pillow to hold up baby! Why not use a regular pillow or two?”

After unsuccessfully manipulating 12 "regular" pillows in a pathetic attempt to prop up the baby each and every feeding, I made a desperate plea to The Husband to zip back out for yet another emergency trip to Babies-Spend-A-Lot to buy the previously-detested-but-now-coveted Boppy pillow and two extra covers (he was not real happy when I called him on the cell phone and mentioned he should probably buy an extra Boppy for the living room too).

Why had I not registered for any of these things? Where was the bottle brush? The night light (so I don’t trip over the stupid wagon in the middle of the night)? The infant tub (“I’ll just hold him while you wash him,” I recall saying in earnest to The Husband when I was eight months pregnant)? Where were the damn ear plugs? Where were the baby outfits that just zipped on with one motion across his midsection instead of 128 buttons and forcing the outfit over his non-compliant floppy head?

Were the items I really needed buried under the farmyard of stuffed pigs, horses, goats, chickens, cows, and ducks? They stared at me sympathetically from their home on the darling Pottery Barn bookcase, but I know the llama mocked me (“Shoulda asked for some diaper cream, dummy!”).

I had registered for the Barbie-Dream Misguided Fantasy Version of what I needed. As a novice, I didn’t know what was essential, so I registered for what the helpful Babies-Spend-A-Lot brochure told me to. Plus, tell me what grandparent wishes to spend their money on a Boppy pillow when what they truly want is a photo of their grandchild wearing the linen sailor suit and matching hat while holding the stuffed turtle?

I gradually figured out what I needed, but it took some time. However, there is one initial purchase I am grateful I made after all: the ceramic piggy bank with the stars on it. We broke it open to buy a crate of diapers.

(“Meltdown Over Vanity”)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

381. One-Upsmomship

I have worked a variety of jobs, starting from the age of 13 (I'm talking to you, Babysitting!). I've worked in retail, restaurants, hotels, airlines, and banks. No matter what type of job I applied for, there was always a giant stack of resumes from my overqualified competitors sitting on the interviewer’s desk, messing with my pre-interview Zen state. I would see the stack and think, “I’ll bet he has his Master’s degree,” or “She must have five years of experience.” I would freak myself out, comparing myself to these (unknown) people who were vying for my same job.

What a relief to become a mom and say good-bye to competition forever!


Scene 1, daytime, crowded park with lots of moms and babies in strollers.

Me: Your baby is so cute! Is he rolling over yet?

Random mom: Are you kidding? He's three months old! Of course he rolls over. He also crawls, pulls up, cruises, and just took his first steps.


Random mom: Why? How old is your daughter?

Me: Son. He’s also three months.

Random mom: Oh, sorry, honest mistake. He looks very, uh, kinda feminine. I’ll bet people make that mistake a lot.


Random mom: So, is he rolling over yet?

Me: Well, if we give him a little push, then he’ll roll over. But then he just cries because he can’t go back.

Random mom: Oh, we went through that phase with my daughter. No big deal.

Me: Where is your daughter? Is she the one on the monkey bars over there?

Random mom: Oh, no. My husband took her to gymnastics. She’s training for the Olympics. In fact, we hired the same coach who worked with Shawn Johnson. Oh, my, what’s that smell? I think you might need to change your son’s diaper.

Me: Uh, okay, thanks. I’ll do that. Umm, can I borrow an extra diaper?  I seem to have forgotten the diaper bag.    

Dare I say that the doctor’s office, preschool, grocery store, and local swimming pool were no better? I would constantly meet moms with a secret hidden agenda, and that agenda was to make me feel bad about my parenting skills (or lack thereof). Just when I finally felt good about buying the baby organic applesauce, along comes a mom who makes her own applesauce and grows her own apples on her own organic orchard.

I was not mentally prepared for this kind of daily drama and angst. Honestly, I am merely trying to get through the day without forgetting to put a stamp on the electric bill or accidentally dropping my toothbrush in the toilet (again). I don’t need other people (especially other moms! I thought we were all in this together?) giving me a complex because I don’t bake my own bread, teach my kids piano, sew all their clothes, use “green” cleaner, tutor my kids in French, and post Facebook updates daily complete with professionally-shot portraits or at least artistic candids.

For this reason, I am writing an open letter to one-upsmomship moms everywhere to let them know about me and my standards:

Dear Stepford Moms,

I applaud you. Somehow you manage to do what you do on, what—four hours of sleep per night?—and still look beautiful, skinny, and Nordstromed. Your house looks like an ad for Pottery Barn, you never have dirty dishes piled in your sink, and your yard was featured on the cover of “Landscaper Monthly.” Your husband is gorgeous and utterly devoted to you, your kids speak five languages and have been pre-accepted into Harvard (who knew that they accept eight-year-olds?); and even your dog does a variety of impressive tricks.

Maybe you could come to my house sometime and teach me some impressive tricks. My repertoire consists of getting a room-temperature bottle of Chardonnay really cold really fast by sticking it in the freezer and checking on it every 30 seconds. Wait, that’s not true—the last time I forgot about it and it exploded.

How do you do it? How are you so perfect, while the rest of us mere mortals hobble along, working at the high-end kitchen store and pretending we know about espresso machines (hint: We don’t)? I want to be perfect, I really do, it’s just … well, I’m tired. I was perfect for about 11 minutes back in 2008, but that was when the kids were at my mother-in-law’s for the day. As soon as I do the laundry, it’s dirty again. As soon as I make the bed, it’s time to go to bed. As soon as I wash the dishes, it’s time to make (yet another) dinner. I can never seem to get ahead.

But for now, I will go ahead and meet you at the park. I’ll be the one with the two little boys slinging mud at each other and screaming, while I calmly sip my latte and hope you don't detect the hint of Kahlua on my breath. Because I finally resign myself to the mud and the noise.  (And I carry breath mints.  Lots of them.)  


380. The 5 Stages

I have noticed an amusing trend: when I dole out some sort of punishment for whatever latest infraction my seven-year-old has committed, he bounces around like a ping-pong ball through the 5 Stages of Grief.

First is Denial. “I didn’t hit him!” he cries out, indignant.

Once I inform him that I saw the whole thing, the next stage sets in: Anger/ Resentment. “Well, he started it!”

“It doesn’t matter,” I reply calmly, having been through this a few million times before, “I am taking away his Pokemon cards, and you have lost your computer time.”

Abruptly, we switch to Bargaining. “Mom, I promise I will never hit him again, if I can just have my half hour of computer time back. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeze?”


Once that little plea has been rebuffed, we maneuver on over to Depression. “All my friends get to play on the computer! Waaaaaaaaaaaah!” Then I hear a door slam. He is off to mope by himself.

A few minutes later, eyes red and puffy, he reappears. I’m hoping we have reached the final stage: Acceptance. “Okay, Mom. Can we go to the library later? I want to get a couple new books to read, since I can’t play on the computer today.”

Then, in a warped form of postponed retaliation, the four-year-old hits him. And we start the cycle all over again.

(“Monitor Of Vindication”)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

379. Dr. MOV

I should’ve gone to med school. I tell myself this often, sometimes daily. Never mind that I almost failed out of 11th grade Chemistry and that I had to re-take my Biology final (twice); I know I have the inherent skill set to be a doctor, and I wonder exactly how I ended up becoming a flight attendant instead.

Flight Attendant questionnaire: Do you like to fly?

Me: No, not really.

FA questionnaire: How do you deal with turbulence?

Me: Throw up. Or pass out.

FA questionnaire: Are you good at making clear announcements on a loud speaker?

Me: Nope.

FA questionnaire: Do you enjoy serving people food?

Me: No way!

FA questionnaire: Is your idea of a good time hanging around an airport for five hours when your flight is cancelled and not being paid for it?

Me: Absolutely not!

FA questionnaire: Do you look good in navy blue?

Me: Actually, I do.

Now, since I did clock in ten years as a flight attendant, you must be speculating why I think I am so qualified to have become a doctor instead. Let’s examine the facts. (See? “Examine”—I am already using the lingo!)

I am very good at writing messy. Just ask The Husband when he attempts to decipher my grocery lists (“Oops, I thought it said ‘dog food.’ I know we don’t have a dog. You can’t tell me that says ‘mint ice-cream.’ You’re crazy.”) I would be a natural for writing those crucial illegible prescriptions.

Next, doctors make lots of money, and (coincidentally) I am inherently talented at spending lots of money! This would be an excellent fit for me. Plus, I would adore going to the drive-thru line at the bank to make a small deposit and hearing the teller say to me, “Yes, Dr. MOV, your current balance is $82,366. But that is before this newest deposit of $11,904.”

I love love love when people think I know things and ask my opinion. When customers come in to shop at the high-end kitchen store and ask me a simple question about an espresso machine, I can go on and on for about twenty minutes boring them with every last detail that I have just made up off the top of my head. Then I shove a bunch of pamphlets and brochures at them, and maybe even offer them a free shot of espresso. This is exactly like doctors handing out literature about icky skin diseases (“You and Rosacea”) and then giving you a tiny sample of some sort of cream you will never remember the name of.

I am very fond of impressing random strangers. If I overhear anyone at a party discussing the merits of New Zealand and debating what time of year they should visit and which hotels they should stay at, I am over there like a laser giving unsolicited advice (“I was a flight attendant. I can tell you everything about New Zealand because I flew there several times.”) Likewise, if I was a doctor, I would insert this valuable tidbit every time I needed to make a dinner reservation or buy theater tickets over the phone (“Actually, it is Doctor MOV. That’s okay, you didn’t know; just don’t do it again.”)

However, there is the pesky little job requirement of being able to tolerate blood and gore. That might not be my strongest trait. Yesterday, when The Husband needed assistance after he accidentally got his post-surgery bandage on his shoulder wet while taking a shower (with plastic taped over it), my initial reply might not have been what you would call “helpful” (“Ugh! Get Tall to do it. Your stitches might be oozy, and that would make me feel nauseous,”).

But really, that's what nurses are for, right?

(“Medical Obstacles Vanished”)

Monday, April 11, 2011

378. Covert Mom Skills

I never set out to be a mom. I never said, “You know what might be fun? To drive short people to sporting events and birthday parties, wash dishes constantly, fold skyscrapers made of laundry, and not get paid for it.” Yet somehow, that is where my life is now.

Don’t get me wrong, Momship membership has its rewards. The day I discovered I was pregnant with my first son, Covert Mom Skills started developing.

First, it was little things, like a sense of smell to rival a drug-sniffing U.S. customs dog at the airport. I could smell a barbeque six blocks away. Afraid some yogurt’s gone bad? Give me a whiff and we’ll have your answer. Need to know if the cantaloupe is ripe, or if there’s a fire in the next city? I’m your gal. The downside was pretty much all my favorite foods (I’m talking to you, strawberry ice-cream!) suddenly made me nauseous. Very soon I realized why God bestows this skill to new mothers: to make us aware of imminent diaper change emergencies.

Another skill that appeared involuntarily was the completely unnecessary talent of knowing the exact age of any child under the age of ten. I see a baby at the high-end kitchen store, perform a quick assessment of estimated height, weight, and number of teeth, and instantaneously announce, “Is your baby, what, 13 months old?” Parents are always impressed and amazed with this simple trick. I find it to be a superfluous skill, sort of like owning an assortment of 22 oven mitts (do I really need 22 in varying shades of blue and gray and tan? And yet, take a look in my pantry at home and there they are).

I could suddenly catch things. After a lifetime of fumbling with and clumsily dropping balls, groceries, boxes, books, keys, sunglasses, I could now—even with my eyes closed—actually catch any of these items when they were tossed to me (sometimes simultaneously) and hold onto them with an unbidden Velcro grip.

Shortly after giving birth, the sympathy skill showed up. I would find myself waiting to pay at Target, listening to a screaming infant (not my own) behind me, and instead of wanting to strangle the mother, I would turn around and say with genuine compassion and kindness in my voice, “Poor thing! Is he colicky? And is he, what, four months old?”

The patience skill arrived right on schedule. Me, previously known to hang-up on someone if they dared put me on hold for 10 seconds, morphed into the most patient person in the universe. I could now wait in the bank drive-up line for twenty minutes without batting an eye. I’d pull up to the teller window and say, “No problem on the wait time! Didn’t even notice! And by the way, I think the cream in your coffee’s gone bad.”

Another Covert Mom Skill that I did not expect was the ability to withstand being punched in the face by a toddler, or vomited on by a newborn. Bruises on my eyes, smelly stained shirt, who cares? I was immune to pain or embarrassment. I would find out later that these were valuable traits to have, especially as the teen years draw closer.

Social ease is a Mom Skill I acquired effortlessly. Even if the previously childless me would have thought I had zero in common with a lady at the park who had 17 tattoos, was wearing skin-tight bike shorts, and had her neon blue hair tucked neatly under a baseball cap with the words “Pro-Wrestlers, We Hold On Tight All Night” emblazoned on the front, now I could easily strike up a conversation about our children’s antics. We might even become BFF.

I became very very good at fixing things. Broken Hot Wheels cars, stuck Legos, dried out markers, stuffed animals with rips in their “fur,”—if my kids could break it, I could repair it. Sometimes I think I should start a side business to at least get paid for this talent.

I was leaving my corner drug store the other day when I realized I have another skill that I hadn’t bargained for: locating items. A random woman mistook me for an employee, asked me where something was—and I knew! I started to think about all the other times that had happened in recent years: thousands. I can walk into a mall I’ve never been in before, and like some sort of deranged victim of reverse amnesia, I can tell you where the closest restroom, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, and Macy’s is. This is a new one, even for me. I can enter a grocery store and in less than two minutes, find animal cookies, overnight diapers, and Tylenol. I am a walking GPS.

There is a dark side to this new skill set: invisibility. I walked into the dry cleaners the other day to drop off some of The Husband’s suit jackets. The attractive man at the counter called “Next!” and looked right past me. I turned around and noticed a beautiful woman, probably in her early 20’s smiling at him. Ah, she had her own covert skill: youth.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

377. The World as We Know It Is Coming to an End

So yesterday afternoon, I walked over to my local Rite Aid to fill The Husband’s prescription for pain medication (he just had minor surgery—he’s fine now). I stood around near the pharmacy area, trying not to be too intrusive, while I waited. I examined all the various items stacked neatly around, such as do-it-yourself blood pressure kits, diabetes tests, and hair removal devices. After a few more minutes, the pharmacist called my name; I paid and gratefully took the small bag and headed to the front of the store.

That’s when it happened. A customer walking in the main door said, “Excuse me, ma’am, can you please tell me where the greeting cards are?”

I froze. I did not know how to respond. The lady stood there, waiting for her answer. What kind of rude employee was I, ignoring customers? A non-employed employee, that’s what kind.

I was outraged. Do I look like I work at a drug store? I went to school for architecture! I spent a decade as a flight attendant for an international carrier! I don’t work at a drug store! I wasn’t even wearing polyester today, for goshsakes.

My brain flashed around like a camera at the Oscars. Rite Aid! Me! An employee! No!

With a mixture of sympathy, kindness, confusion, and a dash of indignation, I said to the woman, “I don’t work here.”

She looked at my outfit (my wardrobe selection of the day consisted of gray pants, a black print top, and a black wool cardigan sweater) and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, you just looked so … official.”

I tried not to be too insulted. Official was good, wasn’t it?

As she turned around to find a “real” employee (not just some pill-grabbing impostor), I said, “Uh, ma’am? I think I did see greeting cards on Aisle 16.”

Now I was really troubled. I didn’t work here, and yet I knew exactly where greeting cards were kept. I was like one of those tour guides in Hollywood who knows where all the stars live. How pathetic! How did I know where everything was located? Was this a covert Mom Skill?

Bleh. Rite Aid. For a moment, I fantasized about places I could work where I really would fit in, places like: Target. I already owned khaki pants and a red polo shirt (their understated yet endearing uniform). And not only did I know where things were located at Target, I had literally give directions to their employees.

Target Employee #1: Regina, where should I stock these paper towels?

Target Employee #2: Let me radio to Mario, and I’ll let you know.

Me: Excuse me? I just overheard your conversation and, uh, I saw the paper towel feature on Aisle #2 by the front door, right next to the seasonal candy on that endcap.

Employee #1 and #2: (in unison) Thank you!

So you see, Target would be a good fit for me. There is one near my house, only a 10-minute drive away.

I walked up to the Rite Aid cashier to ask a quick question. I noticed she was wearing a blue polyester vest and a florescent yellow name tag.

“Excuse me,” I began, “may I please have a job application?”

I realized I might as well get paid for my expertise. Plus I’d be able to walk to work.


376. You Got All Week!

I am a huge book whore. Which is why when my local bankrupt Borders posted a “Going Out of Business” sign last week, I zipped right over with a crisp hundred dollar bill in my hand. I walked out loaded up with dozens of great treasures: travel books, kids’ books, business books, novels. I am all set for at least the next day or so.

One book that reached out and grabbed me is called, “You Got All Week!” and is about successful time management (but apparently not about successful grammar). As a busy mom, I was eager to hook that revolutionary book up to my thirsty brain and let all the words drip in, like an IV. I vaguely remembered hearing about this book before (it has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for 16 weeks) and it took every fiber of my self-control to not start reading it on the car-ride home.

Once home, I cracked that spine and got to work. It turns out, according to the author (who has her PhD in “Time Physics” from Harvard—who knew there were such classes?), the key to success is printing out a weekly schedule with all the hours in blocks and then filling in the blocks for your maximum benefit. I immediately went to the “You Got All Week!” website and downloaded her sample chart, which is the identical chart she has in Chapter 1. It looks like a blank Sudoku puzzle.

The author has kindly already filled in the hours of 11 PM—5 AM for sleep. (A tad presumptuous in my opinion … what if you are a night nurse?) She says this leaves you the “generous” amount of 126 hours to do whatever you want. I immediately started filling in my chart with meals and snacks, and suddenly realized I could save a lot of time if I just gave up eating.

Next up were my work hours at the high-end kitchen store. I was troubled with how I should fill these blocks in. Should I write “Work” or would it truly be more accurate to write “Shop while being paid to pretend to work”? I decided to go with just “K.S.” (Kitchen Store) for simplicity sake.

I agonized over which blocks should represent exercise. Since this was a fantasy chart, should I write “Work-out” from 5 AM—8 AM or 1 PM—4 PM? Did I really want to work-out three hours per day?

In the end, I decided yes, I do want to work out three hours per day (maybe five on the weekends, just like Hollywood starlets). The whole point of me buying this book was to improve my life. Sorry, kids, not sure who’s going to take you to the school bus in the morning or pick you up in the afternoon! We’ll work out those pesky details later, maybe in Chapter 5!

This was going to be a breeze. I had plenty of time left over even after sleeping, eating, work, and working out. Now it was time to really prioritize what it was I wanted to do with my time.

I started feeling a bit impatient about how I was going to squeeze in the time for necessary household chores like grocery shopping, cooking, washing dishes, basic cleaning, and laundry. Laundry was like a competitive sport in our household, and in a typical week I would spend a grueling 10 hours devoted to my training, lest I fall behind and face a mountain of wrinkled dirty clothes that attract bugs and mice.

I started skimming “You Got All Week!” to discover the author’s advice on when to accomplish the more mundane aspects of my life. Where was the coveted information?  Chapter 2? No, those were here success stories. Chapter 3? Nope, this was a compare and contrast of how people lived a hundred years ago and actually got more done. How about Chapter 4? Not even close. This was where the author’s tone morphed from mere Know-It-All to over-the-top Preachy. She goes on and on and on about what a waste of time TV is (really? and what would I do without Top Chef to inspire me and give me the idea to make strawberry smoothies with kiwi and vodka, hmm?).

I zipped ahead to read the rest of the “Time Wasters” chapter, and lo and behold, she finally addresses household duties. Yay! I can’t wait to see the secret to my new life!

There is was in black and white in the next sentence. Three little words (they were not “Kill me now,” although they may as well have been): Hire a maid.

WOW—why didn’t I think of that? “Hire a maid.” Brilliant! The new maid can come to my house every day (maybe while I am working out?) and cook and clean and do all the laundry and put everything away. Fabulous! This book is right—I will have plenty of time left over to do all the “fun” things that really matter to me!

This was the part where I hurled the book across the room and scared the cat. I was so angry that little Miss I’m-a-Harvard-doctor-and-I-know-everything was telling me, little Miss I-am-broke-and-don’t-have-money-for-a-maid that I should hire a maid.

The author went on to explain about what she calls “Core Capabilities and Talents.” According to her, we all have things we are good at and like to do (in my case, reading magazines and shopping), and we should exploit those talents and not “waste time” (her words) on things that we find unfulfilling and tedious. Amen to that, sister! So, in her perfect world that she has mapped out for me on my personalized “You Got All Week!” chart, there is more than enough time for me to read and go shopping, and even eat chocolate cupcakes. What there is no time for is laundry. (I have been trying to tell The Husband this for years.)

In truth, I can’t cope with this kind of stupid “advice.” I want to hire a maid, I really do, but I am not rich enough to afford one. I did the only thing I could: zipped right back out to Borders before they close for good and bought another book: “How To Get Rich.”

I scheduled my new maid to start next week.

(“Mentally On Vacation”)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

375. Motherhood is Raw

raw (ra) adj. orig. German 1. not cooked 2. in its natural condition; not processed (raw silk) 3. inexperienced (a raw recruit) 4. abraded and sore 5. uncomfortably cold and damp (a raw wind) 6. brutal, coarse, indecent, etc. 7. (Colloq.) harsh or unfair (a raw deal) —in the raw 1. in the natural state 2. naked —raw’ness n.

At first glance, Webster’s seems wrong about the not cooked part. I know what you’re thinking: But I’m cooking for my kids all the time—I never leave the stove! However, in my house, I feed my sons raw food (carrots, broccoli, green beans, apples). If you happened to be standing in my kitchen witnessing our lunch or snack time, you’d (wrongly) assume MOV is a "great" parent, she obviously cares about her kids’ nutritional intake. Ha! The reality is: I’m pressed for time, with a dash of laziness thrown in. Plus I don’t know how to cook. This adds up to rinse and go, not cook and burn.

A Virgo’s natural condition is clean, organized, put away, and appealing. My house is the exact opposite of the Virgo definition. I have had to modify my thinking and learn a child’s natural condition: messy, messy, and messy. (Similar to the old real estate mantra of location, location, location.) My life is a perpetual battle: Virgo vs. Boys. Usually the boys are winning, but every once in a while, Virgo takes the lead (don’t cheer yet, it’s always just temporary).

Inexperienced. Is this the understatement of the decade? Can you imagine any other job on the planet where someone gives you a live human being to care for without bothering to check your references? Teachers have earned Master’s degrees in their field and attend continued education seminars. Nannies go through rigorous training (including state-mandated infant CPR), and withstand detailed background checks. Even potential dog owners are thoroughly investigated and often rejected. But when hospital personnel send new moms home with their babies, they don’t seem dismayed by minor details like lack of training, education, experience, references, and pesky qualifications (“Ever held a baby? Nope? Well, that’s okay, here you go! Try not to drop her!”).

My entire body has been abraded and sore from the moment I gave birth, and has never been the same since. My back hurts from lifting small children. My head hurts from lack of sleep. My ears hurt from listening to crying (sometimes it’s the children’s crying, but often it’s my own). Motherhood is one long endurance race, and I’m losing.

Motherhood is uncomfortably cold and damp. Breast milk oozing, babies spitting up, diapers, leaking—it is one big festival of wet. As my sons got older, I thought I would be immune from the cold and damp. Standing in the rain at the school bus stop, attending soccer games in the mud, and endless swimming lessons proved me wrong. My best advice to prospective parents? Invest in some nice towels—you’ll be getting a lot of use out of them.

The hours of motherhood are brutal, coarse, and indecent. Before I was a mom, I’d overhear mothers at my local Starbucks whisper conspiratorially, “Parenthood is a 24/7 job,” and then they’d all nod solemnly to each other as if they’d cracked some secret code. I remember thinking that they were exaggerating. I mean, come on, you big bunch of whiners! Babies are always taking naps. Moms must get a lot of free time.

Oh, how wrong I was. Midnight feedings, colic, teething, wet diapers, growing pains, hunger, thirst, boredom, injuries, fever … it’s a wonder my babies ever slept at all. And if I was able to pry myself away from my (needy) baby, I had a (needy) house to attend to: dirty dishes, dirty laundry, dirty bathrooms, unmade beds. My life was an endless loop of feed baby/ clean up/ feed baby/ clean up. I could never get ahead, let alone find time for unnecessary luxuries like sleep.

I look in the mirror and am shocked to see not the Hollywood ideal of a mom (cute, perky, Kate Hudson), but instead the reality of my unvarnished mommy life (old, getting older, when did I get so old?). This is indeed harsh and unfair. Hospitals should be required by law to provide new mothers with their own MGM make-up artists, who should accompany them everywhere.

I am living in the natural state, and that state is exhaustion. I’m not naked though, and for that we can all be thankful.


374. Motherhood is Un

Unacceptable, unintentional, uninspiring, unfashionable. This is not the vocabulary of a childless single person. But these are the letters that spell mommy.

My life is a swirl of things left undone. Time eludes me as I attempt to accomplish everything on my unglamorous and unrelenting “To Do” list. Items remain unwritten because the same nagging task will still be there tomorrow, and the day after that, and (who are we kidding?) until next September.

Unmade beds, unwashed dishes, undone laundry, unclean bathrooms—for starters. My house will, unfortunately, never be mistaken for an advertisement for Comet or Windex (unless it is the cringe-inducing “Before” photo). Our front entry is littered with unopened mail and unreturned library books. As I type this, unanswered emails flash at me, begging for attention. I trip over un-put-away toys when I walk to the bathroom to look in the unpolished mirror. I try to assess exactly how bad my un-showered self looks (with un-brushed hair, natch). Bad. Un-good.

I go around the house, doing the necessary chores and pretending that the house won’t morph back into this unkempt, unruly state in approximately 24 hours. I’m making unprecedented strides and the house is reacting uncertainly to my unleashed zeal (I overhear the kitchen door mumble to the stove, “I don’t understand; this is so unusual … has she come unglued?”). And the bonus of the unexpected: I’m no longer unhappy, because my uncontainable enthusiasm is undeniable!

Just now, my freighbor brings Tall and Short home from a playdate. Both boys simultaneously lean in toward me to give a big bear hug, almost tipping me over.

Ah, my favorite “un.” Unconditional love.


373. Motherhood is a Blanket

Blankets are warm, toasty, and enveloping. They make you feel safe, protected, and happy. But they can also suffocate you.

My particular familial blanket was carefully planned and prayed for. Twice. I love my sons, I love being a stay-at-home mom, but I admit it can get a little stuffy and claustrophobic under this heavy wool blanket of motherhood.

Who I was before Tall and Short arrived on the scene: wife, friend, daughter, flight attendant, artist, writer, athlete, college grad. I was well-read, well-traveled, and well-liked. I remember being interesting, strong, creative, driven, meticulous (where has that word gone in my life?), goal-oriented, witty, energetic (ahh, “meticulous” is cozying up to “energetic” is some faraway galaxy), helpful, opinionated (well, at least that part is still the same), and dare I say—pretty.

Now, I might best be described as: messy. My hair is messy (why do I always come back to my hair? I could write an entire blog post about my non-cooperative hair), my outfit is messy, my brain feels messy, my house is messy … there is no part of my life that isn’t messy (this is difficult for my alter-ego, ultra-neat-freak Miss Virgo, to reconcile). Where did the messy come from? Why do I allow it?

It’s just … my life is different now. The focus is off of me. Instead of “I think I’ll trade my Chicago trip for a Maui layover instead,” or “Should I buy that cute Nordstrom top in black or red—oh, what the heck, I’ll get both,” or “I’m excited to try that popular new restaurant this Saturday night,” now my life is, “Should we go to Disney or Lego Land for vacation,” and “Tall needs new soccer cleats,” and “Who wants to order pizza?” The only part of the equation that involves MOV is: who is paying and who is driving.

Do people even look at me anymore? Probably not. I have evolved into a hybrid robot mom—part child’s social planner, part cook, part homework helper. I blend in with the dozens of other moms at the “Back to School Night” meeting: blonde hair pulled back in a sloppy ponytail, wrinkled khakis (most likely covered with clumps of fluffy white cat fur), navy blue sweater (may or may not have a small ketchup stain on the sleeve), a turquoise necklace (my pathetic nod to fashion), and as an afterthought, a smear of burgundy lipstick hastily applied at the stoplight.

The teacher does not recognize me (that’s ok, I don’t recognize myself) because I am virtually interchangeable with any of the other chameleon moms here. We all form an unremarkable beige backdrop to the abundant primary colors and giant alphabet letters plastered around the classrooms. Oh, sure, Lisa is still in her scrubs (is she showing off that she is a doctor? or was she simply rushed like the rest of us mortals?) and Dan and Dave (being the sole gay parents in the room) stereotypically wear freshly dry-cleaned slacks and checkered shirts and striped ties (looking like they just stepped off the pages of a J. Crew catalog, and Dan very well may have, as he’s a set stylist for a living), making the rest of us look bad even as we pretend otherwise.

As I glance around the room, I spot clues that these people are real. I notice gray roots in Jennifer’s hair, dried-on baby spit-up on Denise’s shoulder, un-Botoxed wrinkles around Cheryl’s eyes. I witness Melanie covertly chewing her nails, and Brenda trying to chip caked-on mud off her rain boots with a broken pencil. Like ice that has melted in a forgotten glass of lemonade on the patio during an August heat wave, motherhood has made us watered-down blurry versions of our former selves.

Who are we trying to impress now? People who are 45 inches tall and like to watch cartoons?

I dwell for a moment on yesterday morning. Short had a nightmare and wanted to get in bed with us around 5 AM. As he cuddled up to me, I inhaled his sweet preschooler scent, a mix of soft skin, fruity toothpaste, and baby shampoo.

“Mommy, please share the blanket,” he whispered. And I did.


372. Motherhood is Lost and Found

Lost and Found is a place where you go to retrieve items that you have misplaced in the (vain?) hope that someone turned in your wallet/ car keys/ camera/ favorite sweater. Nine times out of ten, your item is gone forever (probably to the exact same place that the missing socks go in the laundry). But every once in a while, luck winks at you and says, “Okay, you look cold. Here’s your sweater back.”

After I had children, I found myself looking for random chunks of me, pieces that I had just seen two minutes ago. Some missing items: my sanity, my memory, my looks, my money (I did not misplace the wallet, only the money stashed inside). My figure was also lost, although I halfheartedly tried once or twice to find it at the gym—the front desk girl told me no one had turned it in.

I remember the exact moment my sanity disappeared. It was at the hospital, mere hours after giving birth. The kind nurse had taken the baby away to weigh him/ inject him/ test his cognitive ability (choose one), and I started to get panicky. So panicky, in fact, that I irrationally thought I was the victim of a vicious plot to steal healthy babies and sell them to corrupt adoption agencies in distant baby-deprived countries. When The Husband calmly carried my blonde, blue-eyed mini-clone back into the room, I was convinced that this was a mere actor hired to temporarily distract and fool me, and that my “real” baby was on a non-stop plane to Guam.

When I got home from the hospital, I no longer remembered this crazy anecdote, even though The Husband liked to share the amusing tale of MOV’s Vicodin-induced breakdown with any visiting relatives and well-meaning neighbors. Yep, goodbye, memory! Nice knowing you!

The Husband complained that he’d lost a few items as well, although he was much more suspicious that they were actually stolen. He lost his hair. I tried to reason with him, that parenthood was not a thief of hair, and that the true culprit was most likely time. He laughed at me, then pointed (cruelly?) at my gray roots (oh, how I fondly remember my former blonde days) and said, “Kids cause that, not time! All our single friends still have their hair, and it ain’t gray!”

Speaking of friends, I’d lost a couple of those as well. Apparently, baby poop, baby spit-up, baby developmental milestones, baby toys, and baby food were not the favored topics of conversation with my single, childless (and fluffy-haired) peers. If I had a few girlfriends over for lunch and I happened to bring up, say, Tall’s incredible budding musical talent, my friend Tonya might ask, “Are you referring to how he’s been banging on those pots and pans with his shoe for half an hour?” Or Janice might comment, “I don’t think it’s healthy for him to keep whistling through his nose like that.”

See? Not the most supportive friends.

For the next several months, I would glance in the mirror, hoping to find my looks (that is the last place I saw them) to no avail. Tired eyes, lackluster hair, and bloated tummy. I had not only lost my looks, but someone had obviously switched them with these inferior ones. I was outraged!

My money was lost a little while later, most likely at places like Babies ‘R Us, Janie and Jack, Gymboree, and The Lego Store. When I would go back to hunt for it once a week, methodically going up and down every row (including, of course, the well-marked SALE aisles), I inadvertently lost even more money. (Coincidentally, although I’d perpetually lose cash in these retail spots, when I’d abandon my futile quest to eventually leave, the clerks would overload me with huge shopping bags full of treasures. I sensed that the salesgirls felt sorry for me.)

I again mentioned all the things I’d lost to The Husband, hoping that perhaps he could tell me where I’d put them. He shrugged, then picked up a comb and attempted to fix his (thinning) hair; he was absolutely no help at all.

I went to the computer to Google “sanity, memory, looks, money” … maybe other people had had this problem? Before I could even click the mouse, my main screensaver popped up with a striking image of Tall and Short perched on a low branch in the majestic weeping willow in our backyard. They were smiling broadly and holding onto each other and balancing in the tree.

Ah. I may have lost a few things, but what I found was better.

(“Mom’s On Vicodin”)

371. Motherhood is Monday

Mondays are the beginning of the week, a time of fresh starts and untapped potential. When the calendar says Monday, you know the entire week stretches ahead of you, brimming with possibilities. You have plenty of time to get everything done. However, Mondays also maintain an unappealing distance from the relaxing weekends. Mondays laugh mockingly at you as if to say, “Ha, I hope you’re rested now because you have a lot of work ahead of you!”

When my first son, Tall, was born, I looked at his innocent doll-sized face, and I knew his life would be perfect: he would clearly be smart, good-looking, popular, and talented. I would have plenty of opportunities to teach him Russian, lacrosse, piano, calculus, and gourmet cooking, even though I myself know how to do none of those things. He could learn! He was brand new here!

When he wasn’t fluent in Russian at the age of one week, I did not panic. I knew we still had plenty of time, and I’d been told it was a fairly easy language to learn anyway. I decided to add cello and water polo to baby’s “To Do” list.

At five months, he began to crawl. We were way behind schedule. How was he ever going to master those complicated calculus equations or become proficient in dicing cucumbers at this rate?

At ten months, he walked. I was despondent. He had never even sat at a piano keyboard, let alone played a symphony. Like that earring that you stupidly put on over the bathroom sink, my dreams for him slipped out of my grasp and went sliding down the drain.

At one year old, he gave me a tight hug at bedtime and sweetly murmured his first word: “Nigh-nigh.” Great, the only thing this kid cares about is sleeping. You can’t practice your lacrosse maneuvers with your eyes closed!

When Tall turned two, I had all but given up on his child prodigy status. Sure, he could carry on complex conversations using his vocabulary of 500 words or so, but only in English. The pediatrician kept insisting how advanced he was. I scrutinized the waiting room, witnessing all the babies drooling and throwing plastic toys. They were probably what our doctor considered “advanced,” too. This did not bode well.

Soon after this, I discovered I was pregnant with my second son. It was Monday all over again.

After Short was born, The Husband and I opted not to push him with Russian, lacrosse, and piano. No, after the dismal results with our older son, we’d learned our lesson. We focused on art instead.

We bought our new baby non-toxic paints, wooden brushes, large easels, and special paper. He yawned and acted like he didn’t care. If we handed him a paintbrush, he tried to eat it. He cried when I got out the sculpting clay. At six months old, he was following in his brother’s (unimpressive) size 3 footsteps. He had yet to paint a single canvas, let alone a museum-worthy masterpiece.

My sons are now four and a half and seven. They produce four and a half times seven their body weight in laundry on a weekly basis. The only algebraic equations around here involve how many loads of clothes we can wash before we run out of detergent.

I look at the calendar, not to fantasize how much fun I’ll have on the weekend, but to calculate how many hours I’ll have to spend in the laundry room on my own perpetual cycle of clean-rinse-repeat-spin. Where do all these clothes come from? Do they multiply during the night? I have sons, for goshsakes! I would expect this magnitude of wardrobe options from fashion-obsessed girls, but non-lacrosse-playing boys? Can’t they just wear jeans and a t-shirt and call it a day?

In between all the quality time I will be spending with my Maytag, The Husband and I must coordinate a complex series of driving plans (pick-up, drop-off, who, when, where) to chauffeur the boys individually to various birthday parties and endless activities (God forbid one of our cars is having the oil changed). Our sons’ social lives rival any Hollywood starlet, and far exceed ours (which consists of us graciously inviting the elderly neighbors over for a friendly glass of wine—and being rejected yet again). Parenthood is not restful, not on Saturday, not ever.

I query some of my mom friends, experienced parents with college-age children, to find out when things will get easier for me. “Are you kidding?” asks my friend Michelle, shaking her head in utter disbelief at the absurdity of my question. “Alexandra still lives at home! Plus she drives! Now I get to worry about her going out with her friends and being a careless driver and causing an accident. It’s like every night is Friday night. I’m a nervous breakdown waiting to happen.”

Hence, my new motto: “Embrace the Monday.”

(“Mondays Of Valor”)