What turns on your lights

The Husband planned an elaborate belated birthday date for me, which was supposed to take place today. We were going to ride the train to Chicago, have dinner at Giordano’s, and finish out the evening with a walk through Millennium Park. It was going to be great. We were going to laugh and enjoy each other’s company, walking hand-in-hand through the park. I was going to lay my head on his shoulder and fall asleep on the train ride home. A fellow passenger, probably a sweet elderly lady, was going to smile and ask if we were newlyweds. We were going to giggle and say, “It sure feels like it, but no. We’ve been married five years!” Like I said, it was going to be great. It was way out of character for The Husband to plan something so thoughtful. I should have made a big deal about it, went on the date, did the hand-holding and snuggling and giggling, but….I started thinking about all of the other things we could do with the money….and that’s how I ended up lightbulb shopping for my birthday date. Read on.

Last night:

Me: So I’m really excited about tomorrow. And I really want to do it. Seriously. And it’s totally up to you, but should we consider spending that money on some lumber to start framing the basement? Like either way is fine with me. Both would be fun. But I am really anxious to get started on the basement….
The Husband: 😐

Now some of you may be feeling bad for him right now. He planned this fantastic date and I’m just kind of politely declining, but you should know that the reason he wants to do the date instead of buy lumber is not because he wants to have a romantic evening with me. It’s because we’ve done enough home improvement projects together for him to know that taking me on an expensive date is one of the billion things he would rather do than start another project. Right next to hack off his own leg with a dull knife, sleep on a bed of scorpions…

When we do a home improvement project, I believe we’re like Carl and Ellie from the movie, Up, lovingly fixing up our dream house, writing our names in a heart on the mailbox. In his head, it’s probably something more like a scene from Roots:

The Husband: *sweating, dirty, breathing heavily, grabs a glass of ice water and collapses in the chair while reaching for the remote*
Me: Oh, you already got it all done?
The Husband makes up some obscure tool that he needs so that I can’t force him back to work: I need a fligeradoo before I can do anything else.
Me: Well can’t you do another step until we get the fligeradoo? Like start hanging the drywall?
The Husband: No. I can’t hang the drywall before the studs are up to hang it on. Unless you want me to hang it on air.
Me: Fine. Just watch TV then, I guess.

I’m awful, I know. Anyway, we went back and forth on whether or not to go through with Chicago date night, but because he loves me:


Soon enough, we’ll have the extra bedroom done and I can stop listening to the boys complain about sharing a room, I thought. Chicago would have been great, but this will be really great.

The Husband had made a shockingly long list of light bulbs we needed (27 bulbs to be exact) and we decided to grab those first. An hour and a half and nearly $100 later, we left Lowe’s with nothing more than 27 light bulbs and a new broom. Who knew that so many light bulbs would be so ridiculously expensive!? And how in the world did we need 27 light bulbs!? Had I just gone along with the original plan, we would have been leisurely strolling through the park right now. Instead, we’re at home changing light bulbs while all three kids scream their fool heads off. Sometimes I’m disgusted by my own practicality. But the good news is that the security lights that I didn’t even know we had are now functional. Happy birthday to me.

I can’t complain because it’s my own fault, and I must add that he did insist that we at least eat at Cracker Barrel, where he talked me into buying a few swan trinkets that he knew I wanted, but was too cheap to buy without the extra encouragement.

So thanks for planning a fantastic birthday date AND for actually taking me on a mediocre one, dear. Sometimes it really is the thought that counts.

Forever young

So I hit a milestone birthday today – 30. I think I’m on target for a thirty-year-old: married, three kids, stable job, nice house. I grocery shop regularly, match socks, and drink Chardonnay (also regularly), just like a real mom, but so far I hate thirty. Here is why:

Every other year, on my birthday, I think about all of the big things that will happen to me that year: my wedding, a baby, college, a new job, a new house… If something big like that happens this year, it is probably the result of a mid-life crisis. All of my big excitement is over and now all I have to look forward to is the secondhand excitement of my kids. When they start actually doing things like getting married and making grandkids, that will be exciting, but right now we’re at potty-training and multiplication tables. Not very thrilling.

So I’m sitting here, thinking about how depressing thirty is, when I have an idea: Wait a minute! This is easily fixed. I just need to have another baby! 

The Husband: No.

No discussion or explanation. Just “no.”

Responsible Me: Umm, yeah, he’s right. I’m pretty sure that the cost of delivery, another five years of childcare, formula, diapers, stronger anxiety meds…would be enough to cause you to end up homeless and/or divorced. Then you get a new baby, a new (dilapidated rental) house, and maybe a new husband (if you make a quick turnaround) this year. Cue that midlife crisis you mentioned above.

Several people have told me that the thirties are the best, but I find that hard to believe:

  • I’m too old to pull off a messy bun without actually looking like I just forgot that I have hair altogether. It’s not the hair so much as it’s the combination of the forgotten hair with the eyebrows that I forgot needed waxed, the nails that I forgot needed trimmed…I have three freaking kids, okay? I consider myself lucky if they all make it out of the house fully clothed and free of hazardous debris like feces. My personal grooming takes a backseat. It’s fine, I can’t pull my hair up anyway because the sides are a nice shade of Dorothy Zbornak gray.
  • I have to practice bad habits, like tanning and drinking energy drinks, in secret. Thirty-year-olds worry about skin health and they drink black coffee, or some type of vitamin concoction, or perhaps some type of direct sales fad system like Thrive or It Works. Maybe that is why thirty-year-olds are so tired. Stick with what works, people. Come back to the Monsters. Anything that comes in a metallic black can and contains a million times the caffeine of a can of pop is going to be the right choice to give you energy.
  • My main objective in life is my futile effort to keep the house clean. Not pursuing higher education or a career aspiration. Not finding my soul mate or dream house. My long-term goal right now is simply to be able to pee without first having to check the seat for dribbles. I’m most proud of myself when guests ask if they need to remove their shoes in my house. The answer is no, but the fact that I somehow got the house to a state where it appears that they should ask makes me happy. This has only actually happened once.
  • The Husband is getting old too. He’s tired and hairy and the sexiest thing you’ll hear during an encounter between us is “Put your glasses on.”

Thirty has all of the worst parts of being old without any of the benefits, like Medicare and a mortgage-free home.

So, for all of these reasons and many more, you don’t impress me so far, Thirty, but it’s only been one day. You have 9 years and 3 months to change my mind. If I still feel old, sad, and bored by then – baby it is.

Oh what a birthday surprise

Two years ago at this time I was just hanging out, being pregnant. I wasn’t due for a couple more weeks so I had no clue that I was actually in my last few hours as a mother of two. Had I known this, I might have used those hours a little differently – catching up laundry, sleeping, finishing the crocheted dress that she was supposed to wear on her birthday. I had no idea that I would be in labor in just a few hours and, judging by the length of my labor with Colt, I certainly had no idea that The Girl would be in my arms before morning.

All moms treasure that photo that was snapped in the delivery room the very first moment their baby was placed in their arms. They are at their worst in that photo: no makeup, exhausted, sweaty, disheveled, and sporting a huge floppy hospital gown that, despite the fact that the inspiration for its design seems to have been a circus tent, still does very little to hide the fact that the poor woman’s body is now the thing that nightmares are made of. Every mom looks terrible in that photo, but it’s still her favorite photo of herself. They all have that same look of complete, unadulterated joy and love as they stare into their precious new baby’s unfocused, beady little eyes.

Well guess what? I didn’t get that photo with The Girl. No, ma’am. I got this one:


You can tell exactly what I was thinking from looking at this photo: Well, crap, I guess we’re starting this already. I completely blame her early and quick arrival for ruining our first mother/daughter photo.

As you can see, I did finish the dress. Once I realized she was on the way, I panicked and got right to work, still figuring I had another 20 hours of labor to finish it. I actually had to stop crocheting in the middle of a contraction and hand it to my mom to attach the bows and buttons.

Anyway, she came when she felt like it, she wore the dress, she got her picture taken with her mom, and even though none of it went according to my plan, it all worked out and this girl has given me joy every single one of the 730 days since. Happy birthday, Punky.

Cut my life into pieces

As you may have figured out, Boy Two sometimes has a bit of a problem with impulse control (or lack thereof). He sees a button, he’s going to push it. He sees a ledge, he’s going to jump off of it. This natural inquisitiveness could translate into several productive careers – inventor, detective – but in elementary school, it’s somewhat of an issue.

I always cringe as I make the annual purchase of the “Fiskars student scissors.” I’m sure you can figure out where I’m going with this post. If Boy Two has a pair of scissors, he’s going to cut.

The teachers mandate that the scissors be Fiskars because they are safe for students but still nice and sharp. Nearly every article of clothing Boy Two owns has at least one v-shaped snip mark in it. I got mad the first 20 times. Now I don’t even care.

He’s also given himself a few haircuts during school with the Fiskars. I’m just waiting for the day that he has scissors in hand when he spies that long pony tail on the girl sitting in front of him.There is absolutely no chance he’ll pass up that opportunity.

Last year, his teacher sent home a sandwich bag holding his shoe strings with a note:

I’m sorry, but he cut his shoe strings off during reading. By the time I saw what he was doing, it was too late.

SHE apologized to ME for my crazy kid cutting his shoe strings off. If I were her, this is how my note would have read:

Your psycho kid cut his shoe strings off during class today. Who does that?! What is wrong with this kid!?

And that’s why I’m not a teacher.

Anyway, Fiskars is a solid brand of scissors. They will cut through any type of fabric – even denim. That no longer surprises me but this does:

Mom: Did you pop that big pimple he had on his forehead?

Me: No, I didn’t see it.

Boy Two: Oh, I took care of it. I cut it with my scissors at school.

I would not have guessed that Fiskars scissors would be useful in a pimple extraction, but he got it done. Way to go, Edward Scissorhands. Always a good idea to start cutting up your face with scissors.

Hey Good Lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?

The last couple of times I’ve cooked, one or both of the boys has thanked me. I suppose I could twist this around and say that I’m a great mom because I’ve taught my kids gratitude to the point where they even thank me for providing for their basic needs, but…..

I’m pretty sure that the fact that my kids thank me for completing a task that the majority of moms do regularly, just because that’s what moms do, is hard evidence that I’m failing as a mother. I cook so infrequently that they actually feel compelled to thank me when I do. I’m a pathetic excuse for a woman. I know. But I’ve been doing better:

Since the boys have been back in school, I’ve been making delicious breakfasts for them every morning. You probably think I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not. I’m talking farm fresh eggs, toast with jelly made from fresh raspberries from our backyard, orange juice, sausage. Real breakfast. My mom didn’t believe in breakfast (smart woman) so I’m not a big breakfast person, but the boys are loving it. They gobble it up and rush out the door to meet the bus. Then they ride on the bus for one hour and, during that time, they forget the delicious, filling, wholesome breakfast that they JUST ATE and they pay $1.50/boy to eat breakfast at school.

Me: So I see you ate breakfast at school when I already made you breakfast at home. Must have been something really good to make you want to eat again.

Boy Two: Oh yeah. It was a fruit frudel. It was delicious. 

What is a fruit frudel, you ask? I had the same question. Like I said, it must have been something good for both of them to buy one when they had just eaten. This is what Google says a fruit frudel is:


I’m not sure if this is exactly what they serve, but how many things could there be called a fruit frudel? So yeah, they spent $3.00 on “heat and serve” fruit frudels when I just served them eggs so fresh that I literally picked them out of a pile of actual chicken crap less than five minutes before cooking. But they would rather eat a generic, processed, preservative-filled fruit frudel.

I wonder if they thanked the lunch lady for the fruit frudel? I’m sure they did. It probably went something like this:

Thank you so much for this heat and serve fruit frudel. We’re starving. Our mom never cooks so when she does try, it sucks and we  have to sneakily hide it so we can come partake of your delicious fruit frudel. 

Whatever. After only seven short days, Mother Swan’s Kitchen is no longer open for breakfast.

All work and no play makes me a dull boy

I forgot how much I love the school year. I hesitate to say that because I’ve seen a few posts bashing moms that are glad school has started. Yeah, that’s a thing now. People say things like:

They grow up so fast, you should want to spend every moment you can with them.

or even things as extreme as:

Why did you have kids if you didn’t want to be around them?

Well, that’s crap. I’m not ashamed to say that I was excited for school to start, but it has nothing to do with how much I enjoy or loathe my children’s company. As a mom working a 9-5, I see my kids the same amount whether school is in session or not. It is of no consequence to me if they spend their day at school, at home, or on the moon. It doesn’t matter, because I’m at my desk and they definitely aren’t there.

So yeah, I don’t hate my kids, but I do love it when they go to school – not because they are gone, but because….

1. It gets us back on a routine. My kids probably took less than five showers all summer. They slept until noon every day and stayed up until who knows when. They ate nothing but junk food all day long, which costs a fortune. When school is in session, we have a nightly routine: homework, dinner, bath, bed. They know what’s coming and they are well-rested, well-fed, and at least slightly more hygienic than farm animals.
2. They get bored. Halfway through the summer, we’ve run out of new and exciting ways to dazzle them. We did Great Wolf Lodge, Indiana Beach, campouts, parties, the fair, the movies, the pool. After all of that, there were still about 1,300 hours in the summer and only so many of those can be filled with new and exciting activities to enrich your life and engage your senses. My kids were ready to get back to their friends and school activities.
3. Along the same lines, it takes less to entertain kids that are exhausted from a long school day. During the summer, after working all day, I come home and they expect something like one of the adventures described above. They’ve spent all day relaxing, preparing for whatever exciting quest I have planned. I, however, did not. Because I was at work. Working. Now that school is in session, this is their preferred activity for this evening:


Yeah, that’s a makeup tutorial on how to make yourself look like the Elf on the Shelf. That’s the kind of activity I don’t mind participating in after a long workday.

4. The start of school signals a new wave of exciting things to come: new classes, new teachers, new friends, a new season. And you have to get through the first day of school to make it to Christmas. And who would want to deprive their kid of Christmas? You tell me who the crappy mom is.

So yeah, summer is great, spending time with kids, doing so many activities, yadda, yadda, yadda, but the school year is (much) better. My kids and I are on the same page during the school year.

You’re tired? I’m right there with ya, man. Let’s crack open the ice cream (and wine) and see if we can find a gnome makeup tutorial next.

The road to nowhere leads to me

When we lived in town, we were only a few blocks away from my parents. It wasn’t uncommon for Mom, Dad or my sister to unexpectedly drop in for a visit. And by “it wasn’t uncommon” I mean it happened every day, sometimes multiple times per day. The Husband was never a fan of the impromptu visits from my family which, I believe, played a large part in him agreeing to my first pick when we were house shopping – because it is a twenty minute drive from my mother.

I actually fell asleep on the way here the first time we drove by to check it out. The Husband woke me up with a big smile as we went by:

There’s your house, Mom!

I thought he was just excited because he knew I was going to love it. I was mistaken. He was excited because he knew how long it had taken to get there and he knew I had no idea since I’d been asleep. New rule: if it’s a long enough drive to fall asleep, it’s too far to be home.

Anyway, living out here in Siberia, I’ve learned how to improvise and do without:

We’re out of diapers
Town Mother Swan: I’ll run over to Walmart and pick some up.
Country Mother Swan: Guess we’re doing the dish towel thing until tomorrow. Take it easy on the milk, kid.

I don’t feel like making dinner
Town Mother Swan: McDonald’s it is.
Country Mother Swan: If I’m too lazy to make dinner I’m also too lazy to make the voyage to town. Here’s some ravioli, kids. I’ll eat some other day.

The internet is slow and Grey’s is buffering
Town Mother Swan: This is an outrage! What the heck is the problem!? Why is this happening!?
Country Mother Swan: It happens. Guess it’s time for bed.

Six inches of snow fell last night
Town Mother Swan: Ugh I guess I have to shovel this square of sidewalk for the mailman. (alright, I’ll be honest: I hope the mailman has his snow shoes on because I’m too lazy to get out in the cold to shovel that square)
Country Mother Swan: I’ll never make it out of here alive.

Gas is $2.50 per gallon
Town Mother Swan: So?
Country Mother Swan: We are on lockdown. Only essential travel permitted.

The water bill comes
Town Mother Swan: I can’t wait until we move to the country and the water is free.
Country Mother Swan: This free water smells like rotten eggs and it’s yellow and there is no pressure. We need fifteen different filtration systems and now we’re spending more for water than we did in town.

Mom wants to know if I want to come over for dinner
Town Mother Swan: Sure! (as I hop in her car to head there because she asked me in person since she was already at my house as usual)
Country Mother Swan: No thanks, I’m not coming to town today.

Who says that? “I’m not coming to town today.” Like we would have to hop in our wagon and hook up the oxen to make the trip and it’s just not worth the trouble.

All that is fine and we’re making it work, but the worst part is that our house is located in the Bermuda Triangle created where three counties meet. Our road is a county line road and it doesn’t extend any further north than our mile. People really need directions to get here but no one listens to directions anymore.

What’s your address?
Well, it’s….but you just need to come down State Road 15 then turn left at….

Oh I’ll just put it in my GPS.

Well, sometimes GPS has trouble so….

I finish my directions. I can tell the other person isn’t listening because they are still just planning on relying on that trusty GPS. Alright, Smarty-Pants, see ya soon. It actually gives me a little bit of joy when they call ten minutes after they are supposed to be at my house.

Ok, I’m lost. How do I find your house?
Yeah, that’s what I thought, punk.

Truth be told though, I complain about the inconvenience, but anyone that knows me knows that my corner of the world out here in No Man’s Land is on the short list of things that bring me the most joy in life.