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.

Take the money and run

I don’t try to protect my kids from every little bad thing that may happen to them. Bad times build character and teach important life lessons. When something bad happens, my response is usually, “Yep, sometimes life’s like that.” Luckily, my kids have their own personal champion and defender: Grammy. When Boy One’s Pokemon cards were stolen in Kindergarten, she volunteered in his classroom just to get a moment alone with the boy that took them.

Teacher: Ok, lets split up into groups.

Grammy offered her sweetest grandmotherly smile to the thief boy and said: Here, honey, you can be in my group.

As soon as they hit the hallway, her face darkened, she leaned over and, using her best Wicked Witch of the West voice, she said, “You need to bring back his Pokemon cards. Those are not yours and you shouldn’t steal. Understand?”

The boy didn’t have much to say, just quietly nodded and agreed to return the cards

So most of you know that Boy One has been running a little scrap metal business this summer. He drags Granddad all around Wabash and the surrounding counties on his days off to collect cans and other metal items from people to cash them in. He had a partial load stored behind the garage and it was stolen. I thought it taught him several good business lessons: people aren’t always honest so gotta stay on your toes; keep your inventory safe, etc.  It happened a couple of days ago so I thought we had moved on, but I was wrong.

Yesterday, Grammy decided to post a public service announcement on Facebook admonishing the thief that victimized her precious boy and indicting his upbringing that clearly lacked lessons in morals and respect. In doing so, she taught Boy One an even more valuable lesson: play your cards right and you can turn an unfortunate situation into a profitable one. After her post, messages and comments poured in from sympathetic people also disgusted with the degenerate scrap thief, offering to let Boy One pick up scrap from them. When I last heard, he had five pick-ups scheduled for today with more coming in. Luckily, it’s Granddad’s weekend off because it sounds like he’s going to be putting in a twelve-hour day at his side job with Swan’s Scrap, LLC.

At times like this, I realize there are still parenting lessons to be learned from my mom.

We should take this back to my place

Kids are like large breed dogs. They need room to run and be free. They aren’t meant to be contained inside an enclosure or a small yard. If it weren’t illegal to just have your kids live outside like cave men, that’s what I would do. Because that’s where they belong. How’s that for free-range parenting?

Anyway, I have mad respect for the town moms. How can a mom maintain sanity when her children must always be within a half-acre of her? Without the option of banishing my kids to a big yard where the wind can carry their grating, obnoxious, screeching, tattling screams far away, it is unlikely that I would survive this.

My mom is a town mom and, between my kids and other random kids, there is an average of six children at her house at any given point. Her house sounds like a troop of 20 howler monkeys crammed into a cat carrier. She can send them outside, but that opens a whole new set of issues. It’s impossible to keep them  contained in her small patch of yard, which inevitably causes problems with neighbors in such close proximity. You may remember my previous post about my boys painting her neighbor’s shed. And when they aren’t committing vandalism, they can usually be found out on the town, socializing with folks – begging for food or scrap metal like a couple of impoverished orphans.

Today, there were 7 kids at Mom’s house and I was in charge for a few hours. After the 762nd time of rounding them up and forcing them back inside, and the 763rd time of them tearing the house completely apart, I decided this wasn’t working for me, so we loaded up to head out to my house. It’s a 20 minute drive to my house and they progressively got louder as we went  to the point where I actually would have dumped them on the side of the road like an unplanned litter of kittens if I had a cardboard box big enough.

We finally made it to the house and I opened the doors.

Get out of the car and don’t go in the house.

They leapt out of the car like a herd of gazelles being reintegrated to the savanna. As their shrieks became quieter I thought, “Well isn’t that a beautiful sight?

Enjoy your afternoon, children. May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face. Always. Or at least long enough for me to finish this brief episode of day drinking.

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.

Paint it Black

Sometimes I worry that I started this blog too late. The boys are 8 and nearly 7 and the craziest years are probably behind us. Sure, I have lots of old stories I can tell (poop in the jacuzzi, popcorn butter on The Husband’s face while he sleeps, blue paint covering the entire Walmart), but it seems like cheating to circle back and rehash ancient history. But what if they are past the point of doing ridiculous crap?

Alright, alright. Settle down, veteran parents that made it through the teen years. I can hear you laughing at me. And I know you’re right because this just happened last week:

IMG_0352

which helped to remind me that there will be plenty of material forthcoming although it’s not always as funny when it involves actually criminal behavior. 

Yes, that is my mom’s neighbor’s shed. Not my shed. Not even my mom’s shed, but my mom’s neighbor’s shed. This happened while the boys were on Auntie’s watch. Here is the story, as I understand it:

They hatch a plan to do some spray painting. Like any well-meaning child, Boy Two asks Auntie for permission. He doesn’t get the answer he wants, but that’s easy to fix:

Boy Two (to Boy One): Yeah, she said it’s fine.

I’m just glad they only decorated the shed with messages of love rather than phallic symbols and cuss words. It could have been much worse. 

I got the call from Auntie at work. 

*crying* You won’t believe what your freaking kids did. *more crying* They freaking spray painted the neighbor’s shed.  *crying*

I hang up and call my mom to complain that Auntie let this happen. I know it’s not her fault my kids are unruly criminals, but it helps if you know Auntie. She’s 10 years younger than me. She’s smart (a sophomore in Purdue’s nursing program), beautiful, and always well put-together. She goes the extra mile to make sure her outfit, hair, and makeup are on point, which is what she was doing while this vandalism occurred. And while they dug up Mom’s backyard with their Power Wheels excavator. And while they shoved my cat down a vent in my house causing it to fall three stories and forcing The Husband to leave work to come home and dismantle the heating system to save its life. So yeah, I’m not saying it’s her fault because it’s not. I’m sure the same thing would have happened on my watch. All I’m saying is: I can’t wait until she has kids. 

Sure, I can watch them! No problem! I’ll be right over. No, you don’t need to bring them, I can come to your house. I’ll be right over. 

Twenty-nine and life to go

My mom is my best friend, but we have vastly different ideas of fun. She always wants to go on these grand family outings (theme parks, bowling, movies), and I prefer not to take my children in public because there are three of them and it always turns out to be a stress fest. And yes, I said “fest” instead of “test.” Because if it were a test, I would fail every time. I inevitably end up irritated beyond measure, struggling to keep myself from breaking into tears and/or spontaneously cussing at a children’s museum or miniature golf course or similar venue inappropriate for mental breakdowns and cussing. I prefer to call it a stress fest. It makes it sounds less stressful. Almost fun.

Anyway, today her grand idea is to go to the zoo. I almost broke out in hives just thinking about it, so I managed to par it down to lunch at my house and a trip to the ice cream store. I should have known that mom’s idea of a trip to the ice cream store would involve going to a special, world-renowned ice cream store more than a half-hour away that people flock to in order to try every one of their 100 types of sundaes. It’s apparently a destination ice cream store. Guess what. That was everyone else’s idea too.

We waited in line for a life sentence. Without parole. Waiting in line forever with kids always sucks for the usual reasons, but it was especially bad at this particular place because, as I mentioned, they have 100 types of sundaes. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to get a seven-year-old to decide between vanilla, chocolate, or chocolate swirl, but even that decision is a whole process. This was that scenario times 33 1/3, for over an hour before we finally made it to the register. They changed their minds thousands of times, and the only thing  that Boy One knew for sure that he wanted was a banana split, which only came in a size bigger than his head and I would have had to sell one of the other children to purchase it. I refused at first, but after standing in line for most of my adult life, I decided I no longer wanted ice cream so I bought him the stupid banana split with the money I saved.

By the time I finally placed our order, Mom could tell I was getting stressed so she told me to go wait outside and she would bring the ice cream out.

Thank you. Since it’s your fault we’re in this mess.

The boys and I went outside to wait and I realized that it wasn’t just me. The fellow ice cream masochists seemed to be on edge and very touchy. If you bumped into someone, they glared at you. No one returned a friendly smile if you made eye contact. Boy Two was jumping up around near a parked car and I reminded him to be careful not to touch others’ cars. Then a nearby man snarled and pressed the lock button on his key fob to “re-lock” his car, causing it to honk.

“This ice cream hell is really doing a number on everyone’s nerves,” I thought to myself.  “I’m right there with ya, folks.”

Our group enjoyed the ice cream and we headed home. It wasn’t until later that I learned that the others at the store were not actually on edge because of the chaotic atmosphere, like I was. They were angry because we had apparently accidentally cut in front of an entire loop of the waiting line. It really wasn’t marked very well. I had no idea, and I felt bad when Mom told me…..but, really though, thank God we did or I wouldn’t be writing this post right now because I would be in a padded cell and straight jacket waiting for the Ativan to kick in.

So if you are one of the people we cut in front of at the ice cream store today (and there’s bound to be at least one of them reading this since everyone in Indiana was there), I’m sorry, but you did a great service by allowing me to preserve one small shred of my sanity.

Anything you can do, I can do better…almost

We’re going to a water park next week.  I hate water parks for a number of reasons too extensive to list in this post, but the top of the list is that they require wearing a swimsuit. This year, however, I’m changing my attitude on swimsuits.  Read on.

Did anyone else feel like a Victoria’s Secret model immediately after giving birth? Yes, you read that correctly.  I’m not talking about the dark, depressing weeks that follow birth where you grow to hate every aspect of your ruined body (engorgement, stretch marks, excess skin, dark circles, poor bladder control). I’m talking about the first time you stood up after giving birth when everything shifted and you suddenly realized you were no longer carrying eight pounds of baby and a million tons of amniotic fluid, placenta and other miscellaneous rubbish. I felt fantastic after Boy One was born. My mom warned me:

Now, don’t expect your tummy to just go right back down.  You’re still going to look about six months pregnant after you have him.

Wrong! I looked great and I told her so.

Look at me! I’m practically back to normal already!

She just raised her eyebrows, looked up and down at the pile of fat and skin that used to be my body, and gave me the silent nod and fake smile.  I was right about one thing: The fact that she was wrong.  She said I would look six months pregnant and it was probably closer to eight. I may have felt light and airy like a pixie, but I was not. I realized this a few days later when I got out my pre-pregnancy jeans that I was sure would fit. And then the tears came. I cried and cried. This was not postpartum depression. It was just devastation that this was the body I now had to live in. Forever.  And also devastation that I was wrong. I hate being wrong.

Anyway, that reality check stayed with me for eight years, through a second pregnancy, and while I’m still largely put off by most aspects of my body, I’m pleased to report that this year I will be donning a two-piece swimsuit for the first time post-pregnancy.  This is because I have worked so very hard, exercising 10 times per week, cutting out all alcohol and sweets, eating only nuts and berries….

Ok, ok….I credit my decision completely to the condescending, self-righteous attitude that can only come from eight grueling years of parenting. Eight years ago, I would have looked at a tan, tight little 19-year-old in a bikini and felt sad and inadequate.  Now I just feel superior.

Sure, you can put on a minuscule amount of cloth and look fantastic and my husband is going to ogle you in a way that’s slightly more than extremely creepy – kind of similar to the way he looks at those gigantic steaks they keep behind the glass counter at Texas Roadhouse.  You got me there. But I’m willing to bet that there are a number of things that I could do better than you:

Can you go for eight years on less than five hours of sleep per night?

Can you get yourself and three other people dressed, fed, and out the door in 30 minutes flat?

Can you live covered in puke and poop for years at a time?

Can you carry a purse, a diaper bag, $75 worth of groceries, and a baby up a stairway, in the rain (without dropping any of them) while talking on your cell phone and barking orders at two other unruly, disobedient people?

Can you even say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you could keep three irresponsible, clumsy, accident-prone people alive for eight years?

Oh, girly, you have no idea the terrible things that are going to befall you over the next 20 years.  I haven’t seen it all yet, but I hear that it gets worse. Enjoy that meat-ogling gaze while you still can.  I’ll be over here shoving this pale, Play-doh-esque body into a two-piece swimsuit and the creepy, pudgy dads at this hot miserable hell of a water park can look in awe, curiosity, horror…and I can honestly say that I don’t care one bit.