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: ūüėź

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:

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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.

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:

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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.

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.

Don’t let me down

I break everything I touch – washers, vehicles, computers, vacuums. I break them all, and I can tell you why. It’s because I have three little kids, a house to clean, a full-time job, and I feel like I do the work of three women and I expect everything else around me to do the same.

Oh your recommended load is no more than 8 towels? Well I have 15, so let’s start there and see how you do.

You can’t sweep up an entire box of Cheerios? Let’s give it a go. I believe in you.

You’re not meant to grind enough food for an entire army? Right, if you were an ordinary garbage disposal, but you’re no ordinary garbage disposal.

You want me to rinse my plate for you before loading because you can’t digest the scraps? Then what do I need you for, Dishwasher? If I’m going to do all of that, I might as well wash the plate myself. Plus your buddy, the garbage disposal, is refusing to take these last few scraps so step up and do your part.¬†

I expect everything around me to do its personal best because that’s what I try to do, but appliances don’t give a damn about their job performance. They are lazy! Which is why I use and abuse every appliance that comes here. They mean nothing to me. When an appliance is purchased by the Swans, it knows it is going to live a brief and miserable life, full of toil and sadness.¬†

There are a¬†lot of things The Husband hates about me, but I’m pretty sure this is near the top. Luckily, he’s really handy because I would have bankrupted us years ago if he weren’t. He follows me around fixing everything in my path of devastation. Our house is like a real-life version of Wreck-it Ralph.¬†

Me: I’m gonna wreck it!

And then along comes Fix-it Felix to cheerfully fix it with his magic hammer. 

The Husband: I can fix it!

Except in this version, Felix doesn’t have a magic hammer so every repair takes hours and is expensive. And Felix cusses at Ralph through the whole thing. And Ralph just sits and watches Felix make the repair while sipping a glass of wine.¬†

So I hate telling The Husband when I’ve broken something.¬†Tonight,¬†I tried to incorporate a little playful humor in my confession/maintenance request:

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Of course his answer was to stick my hand down the garbage disposal to remove the blockage. I’m not sure why I asked how to fix it because I have no intention of doing so. I guess this gives the illusion that I did plan to fix it so maybe it will mitigate his anger. In fact, maybe I’ll even tell him I did try to fix it, but just couldn’t get the job done. Because I’m but a mere woman and I need a big, strong man to save the day and get this garbage disposal fixed…..because it will be a cold day in Hell before I stick my hand in that disgusting water. Who knows what’s in there!? I cleaned out the entire fridge. The last things I remember putting in there were broccoli, spaghetti, chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, and rotten chocolate milk from a sippy cup I found under The Girl’s bed. I think it quit working somewhere abound the beginning of the chicken and noodles, but I had faith it was going to rally. No such luck. So yeah, it’s a pretty disgusting combination of leftovers that is filling the entire kitchen with a peculiar smell, so I’m avoiding the area altogether until he gets home.¬†

I’m a loser, baby

The Girl no longer wants to sit in her high chair for meals, but I still want her to sit in it. If I’ve learned one thing from the boys, it’s that I have to stick to my guns, so I put her bowl of leftover macaroni on her tray and sit her in the chair. She politely declines and initiates an escape attempt. I sit her back down a few times then move to Phase II: placing her on the floor and saying, in a firm voice,¬†If you won’t eat in the chair, you won’t eat. You’re not carrying your dinner around the house.¬†Just like I learned on Super Nanny.

She looks at me in disgust and then does the only thing that would have bothered me, the exact opposite of the response I was trying to illicit: She turns around and walks away. She goes on with her evening on an empty stomach as if to say¬†I don’t need you or your crappy day-old macaroni.

I’m not going to give in because if I do, she will think that she never has to listen to me and she will become a defiant child that turns into an even more defiant teenager, with the end result being a depressed and unproductive adult that lives in my basement. I know this because I’ve already made it to step 2 of this progression with two other children, so she has to sit in the chair because I really don’t want three adult children living in my basement. My max is two.

I also move on with my evening, trying not to think about the fact that she hasn’t eaten which means she probably won’t sleep through the night. I clean up the kitchen which includes throwing away her untouched macaroni. As soon as it hits the trash can, she saunters over, glares at me, and holds up her arms to be returned to her chair for dinner. She’s apparently had a change of heart. I put her in the chair and start looking for another dinner option. Choices are slim. As I said, “A” line was recycled macaroni. I offer her a sandwich or some oatmeal but she just keeps pointing at the empty pink bowl that held her discarded macaroni. Like an idiot, I try to offer her a rational argument:

Well, you didn’t want to sit in your chair during dinner so I threw away your macaroni because I have OCD and I couldn’t stand to leave it sitting on the counter while you roamed the house. Plus it was already semi-rotten, soooo….it’s gone.

Then I remember she’s 1 so I just hand her a cup of chocolate pudding. Surely that will satisfy her. It doesn’t. Eating pudding in the chair was not part of the deal, ¬†only macaroni, so I sit her back on the floor. I try the whole “sticking to my guns” thing again and refuse to give her the pudding once she’s out of the chair – for about 30 seconds while she screams like a crazy fool. Then I give up and just hand her the stupid pudding. I don’t even care anymore. You win. But winning isn’t enough for her. She now thinks that perhaps she would prefer to enjoy this pudding outside on the deck in the fresh evening air so she points at the door.

Side. Let’s go.

Whatever. I’ve already been defeated. Does it really matter how badly I lose? So I follow her outside and sit with her on the deck while she finishes her pudding dinner. She even demands that I feed her some of it even though she’s more than capable of feeding herself. As I sit there, feeding her and furtively trying to swat flies before they touch her because it upsets her when they tickle her skin (which she could have avoided by eating inside, in her chair), I realize that I’ve been played. I’m pretty sure that after I took her out of the chair the first time, she just stood by, watching and waiting for me to throw away the macaroni so she could watch me scramble around to prepare¬†a more delicious dinner served in a more appealing setting as punishment for my ignorance. What started out as me laying down the law ended in me feeding this master manipulator chocolate pudding by moonlight. Well played, Punkie.

Hungry like the Wolf

So I don’t do church. It’s not that I don’t believe in God; I just don’t do the organized religion thing. I could go into the messy back story of how a church scarred me as a child and ruined my whole entire life, but that is outside the scope of this blog – plus, it would be difficult to spin it into a funny story.

So anyway, I don’t go to church, but the kids do. Mom is very involved with her church and it was important to her that her grandchildren experience church so they go with her every week. This means that every week I can count on two hours to enjoy any activity of my choosing. I’ve used this time in different ways over the years. When Boy One was a newborn and I was still trying to come to terms with the fact that I would never sleep again, I used it for sleeping. When I was taking classes, I used it for homework. I went through a long phase where it was used for a weekly angry cleaning ritual. During the Breaking Bad madness, it was used for binge watching TV. When we were trying to save money for our house and The Husband was working tons of overtime, I used it to “visit” with him. Some were noble causes – others were a little more shameful – but I can generally gauge the quality of my life at different points by how my Sunday mornings were used at that time.

The phase I’m in now is probably one of the most disgraceful. I currently spend my Sunday mornings devouring a huge, delicious meal alone.

One of the things I hate most about being a mom is that the kids are always begging for food from my plate. As soon as I ¬†sit down, it’s a feeding frenzy. They swarm me and beg for whatever is on my plate, even if I just served them the same thing 15 minutes earlier. I’m OK with hiding in the pantry to enjoy a piece of chocolate or a cupcake. I understand a kid wanting to go after something like that, but my kids go after every single thing I try to eat. I could be eating a sauteed rotten frog brain and they would be all over it. You hear about how prisoners eat quickly with their arms on the table surrounding their plate to protect their meal from the other prisoners, but even the best form of prisoner stance is no match for my kids.

The scavenging particularly bothers me because I like spicy food so when a kid comes begging for food from my plate, it’s most likely covered in red pepper, jalapenos, hot sauce, etc.

Can I have a bite of yours?

No, it’s hot.

I don’t care.

Fine, eat it then.

They take a bite and then run off, eyes watering, scraping their tongue with their fingernails, and crying.

MOM!!! IT’S HOT!!

You don’t say?

I don’t feel bad because they had their warning, but the problem is The Girl. I can’t, in good conscience, feed a baby something that I know is going to cause her pain. Especially when I’m the one that has to figure out how to quiet her after it happens. So, during the week, I wait until she goes to bed and then grab something quick before bed and I’m OK with that because I know that Sunday morning is just around the corner.

I drop them off at church at 9 a.m. and then, Hallelujah!, it’s chow time. By 9:45, I’m sitting down to a five-course meal. This week it was pasta, garlic bread, salad, ice cream and (not) wine (ok, maybe wine but only one small glass). Yes, that’s what I had at 9:45 a.m. I ate at my own pace, in complete silence, without fear of being forced to share. It was heavenly. In a roundabout way, it’s kind of like I am getting a little religion because enjoying that meal confirms for me that there is a god.

I would have never guessed that mothering would degrade my quality of life to the point where simply enjoying a meal alone is such an event, but it has. Someday, when my kids are grown and I’m sitting in my empty nest, whining about how lonely I am, I’m going to go back and read this post and then treat myself to a huge delicious meal at an odd hour for old times’ sake. I’m sure, when that time comes, I’ll probably feel sad that there is no little mouth there to scorch with my jalapeno pasta.

Sweet Surrender

When it comes to furnishing snacks for the team, there are two types of parents:

The Health Conscious Parent: This is the one that brings the individually prepared baggies of organic carrots grown in their backyard, a souffle cup of hummus, a handful of granola/nuts/berries/leaves etc. And a bottle of water.

And then there’s this parent:

The Parent Who Cares a Little Less: This is the one that shows up with bags of Doritos, cookies, candy, and “juice” pouches that basically contain the syrup substance that comes with canned fruit, which can shoot up to 50 yards if the pouch is even slightly squeezed. The kids scream and yell and clamber over for their delicious snack while The Health Conscious Parents grimace and remind the kids that they will need to eat dinner before having their snack.

Here, let me put it in my purse. I’ll give it to you after dinner.

Yeah, don’t kid yourself, buddy. You won’t be seeing that snack again.

Anyway, guess which one I am.

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And before you start thinking that I went above and beyond by decorating these cookies like baseballs, you should know that the cookies came from a box and they actually taste like (and have the consistency of) sand dollars. But who cares about the cookie? The only important part is the icing.

Anyway, baseball season isn’t bad because we’ve played with the same kids for several years and the other parents seem pretty laid back although I did notice that I was only drafted for one round of snacks despite having two kids on the team….

I totally get it. Kids need a healthy, wholesome diet. After athletic activity, they probably need certain vitamins and nutrients to replenish their electrolytes and restore balance to their bodies. Lucky for me, my kids just sat in the outfield picking grass and filled their hats with dirt for the last hour so their electrolytes should be good.

It’s not that I don’t care if they eat healthy. I just don’t care enough to continue fighting the good fight. For years, I argued with them about what they would eat and when they would eat it. If you only knew how many times I said the phrase, “Well this is dinner so if you don’t eat, you’re not getting anything later.” A few hours later, they are¬†gorging themselves on a midnight buffet that would rival most Vegas casinos.

So, yeah, I give up. Have all the sweets you want, kids. Until I find out that they are laced with something a little more illicit than sugar, calories and carbs, I’m probably not going to say a word about it.