Mommies Don’t Get Sick Days

I recently came down with some kind of virus or infection that made my tonsils so large I was actually rendered unable to speak normally for a few days. I guess science is the only thing that can truly shut me up.

This tonsillitis, as my doctor called it after shining a 100,000 megawatt light directly into my face and shoving a q-tip shaped yardstick down my horribly inflamed throat, pretty much put me out of commission for about four whole days. In mommy time, four days is more like a month. Stuck in the house with two very whiny young children who alternate between beating the crap out of each other and begging for fruit snacks every five minutes, with no other adult present, barely able to move from the couch and shaking uncontrollably with chills and a fever, while trying desperately to keep at least one eye open to make sure the kids don’t end up killing each other or themselves or possibly the dog, is a teeny tiny glimpse of hell on earth.

If you have kids, you’ve surely been there once or twice before. If you haven’t, don’t get all cocky. Your kids probably just haven’t yet begun attending that germ-infested virus party called “school” and have yet to wake up screaming their heads off at 2am with a 103 fever, dragging their little sick asses into bed next to you so that they can blow their noses directly into the freshly washed Egyptian cotton sheets you will no longer be getting any sleep on.

But anyway, back to me and my own ailments.

Here’s a little recount of how those marvelous four days went for me:

Thursday

Happy Birthday to me! Apparently the birthday karma police are mighty pissed that I dared to write a blog post declaring my disdain for birthdays, and have thus decided to give me the generous gift of feeling even shittier than I did the morning after that time in my early 20’s when I tossed back about 10-15 “birthday shots” of straight vodka. Well played, karma.

Every part of my body is throbbing, I’m hot and cold at the same time, I can’t even get my morning coffee down, and I pretty much feel like death. But I’m not worried. Big M is home, he’ll watch the kids and I’ll spend the day relaxing and sleeping this thing off. A whole day in bed actually sounds kind of awesome. Plus I’m sure I’ll be fine by tomorrow. It’s all good, yo!

Besides, who needs to have a drink on their birthday when they’ve got fever-induced delirium?

Friday

I wake up to Little D’s routine early morning love slap on the head, which, by the way, is still on fire and pounding. Big M is back to work today, so it’s just me, the rugrats, and my golf ball sized tonsils for the next eight hours. But I got this. I think. Little M can miss a day of camp, Little D’s doctor’s appointment can be postponed, and there are enough shows between Nickelodeon, Disney Junior and Sprout to keep them both occupied long enough to leave me alone and let me rest for at least a little while.

A half hour later I realize that the person who thought that television was enough to subdue my psychotic children was clearly not in her feverish, right mind. So far one kid has thrown a tantrum because he didn’t want blueberry toaster waffles for breakfast and the other one took off all her clothes, diaper included, and peed on the rug. Only 7.5 hours until Big M gets home….

Saturday

I’ve been popping Advil every four hours for three straight days now and it looks as though my body temperature is just going to stay at a scorching 101 forever. My tonsils are two giant globes in my throat, each with a growing, self-sustaining population of tiny tonsil people who wage war on any liquid or solid substance I attempt to sneak past them.

I think it’s time to see a f***king doctor.

Oh, and these kids? Are one fruit snack away from being shipped off to work in an Indonesian sneaker factory.

Big M is working again today, so I call him up and basically threaten divorce if he isn’t home by noon so I can go to the doctor before the office closes and before I drop dead right here on my Home Depot area rug. Thankfully for our marital status, he obliges.

Sunday

I’ve been on antibiotics for almost 24 hours and there is finally a light at the end of this wretched tonsillitis tunnel. I’ve been so out of it for the past three days that someone could have broken into my house and I would’ve just looked up from the pillow long enough to ask that they leave the air conditioner, take the kids, and go.

I climb out of bed and go inside to assess the damage. The children haven’t bathed since Thursday, and judging by the tower in my sink, neither have the dishes. The laundry is overflowing from the baskets, and the toys from the kid’s bedroom have spilled out into the kitchen and the living room floor.

I step over a cabbage patch doll in the hallway and make my way to the bathroom to look in the mirror, then recoil in disgust at the bird’s nest piled high atop my head. There is no uglier sight than that infamous “sick hair,” the unattractive combination of not washing nor brushing for several days and the nappiness created by endless hours of sweating profusely and restless tossing and turning. Not pretty.

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I open the fridge and there are leftovers in there from a dinner I don’t even recall making. The bread is almost gone and the peanut butter jar is scraped totally clean, which leads me to believe that my kids won’t be in the mood for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches again for a very, very long time.

Little M looks up at me from his video game, a huge smile on his face.

“Hi mommy! Do you feel better yet?”

Aww. He’s so sweet. I look at him and Little D and suddenly a huge wave of guilt washes over me because these poor kids have been stuck in the house all this time too, their sad, little faces pressed against the windows wishing we could just go outside and have some summertime fun. All this time I’ve been bitching about them being so obnoxious to me, when really they were just being regular kids. If anyone was a total nightmare, it was me.

Now I feel like a whole new kind of shit.

And then he adds “if you feel better, can you clean up this mess now?”

………Does anyone know of any sneaker factories in Indonesia that are hiring?

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Hoarders: Toddler Edition

It’s official. I am never cleaning my kids’ room again. I’m leaving it like this forever:

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There is no point—it’s LITERALLY insane to continue doing it all the time. I read somewhere that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I’ve cleaned that godforsaken room almost every day for the past four years, always with the same hope that I will someday be able to still see at least SOME portion of the floor a day or two later, but it has yet to happen that way. Insanity.

Forget a day or two later; I can’t even keep the room clean WHILE I am cleaning it because I have a tiny gremlin who follows me around, gleefully emptying toy bins behind my back not ten seconds after I’ve finished filling them up and putting them away.

And those bins! Those stupid, useless, toy storage bins. Is anything else on earth more of a joke than ANY form of organization system for a child’s bedroom?

Ikea, you ignorant slut!

Whoever seriously believes that putting rows and columns of orderly, colorful, possibly even labeled (HA!) toy storage bins in their child’s room will actually keep it neat for any period of time must not have a child of his or her own. Or else perhaps this naïve person has never witnessed the mischievous joy on the face of a child while they pointlessly yank out a bin and heave it violently to the floor, not even bothering to play with any of the spilled-out toys after the mess has been made.

Whenever I tell Little M to clean up his room, you know what he does? Well, first he spends a good hour in tantrum mode, crying and bitching that he “doesn’t know how to clean a room.” But then he takes everything, EVERY single object in sight, and dumps it all into a gigantic heap inside Little D’s crib. Gee, how helpful. Thanks for putting the box of diapers at the very, very bottom of the pile–won’t be needing those anytime soon, I’m sure.

That crib, by the way, is no longer functioning as a crib but a halfway house for stuffed animals.

I’m starting to believe that the only way to keep a kid’s room neat is to lock them out of it altogether. I suppose it would also help if toys were confined to a playroom of some sort, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have one of those. Obviously I’m not one of those fortunate people. Are you? Yes? Well screw you, go watch an episode of Cribs or something.

You think I’m kidding, but I’m dead serious (about not cleaning the kids’ room, not about screwing yourself). I am taking a stand. I will no longer be a slave to their little toy lair; tirelessly separating Matchbox cars from action figures, LEGO’s from Lincoln Logs, princesses from superheroes, markers from crayons, and Leap Pads from iPads, all the while wondering if the random little plastic pieces I keep finding everywhere belong to a dollhouse or a Batcave or some shit I threw away two years ago.

I will never again spend an hour of valuable time assembling an elaborate race track, only to return barely twenty minutes later and find it already broken up and destroyed, pieces scattered all over the room– under beds, behind the toy chest, in upturned buckets and basically everywhere BUT where I just left it after sixty long minutes of meticulous labor spent putting the damn thing together.

I will no longer be victim to cuts, bumps, bruises, scrapes, ankle twists, stubbed toes or possible concussions whilst attempting to clear a path through a dangerous toy-laden battlefield. I refuse to trip over train tracks, slip on coloring books, nor step directly on top of any awkwardly shaped dinosaurs with sharp, pointy tails pointed up toward the ceiling.

I will not be tempted to back my car over any more freakish, talking, stuffed dogs with no “off” button who randomly belt out the ABC’s or count to ten on maximum volume whenever something nearby has breathed or moved a pinkie. I will replace nary a single battery on anything that walks, talks, roars, jumps, hisses, barks, or urinates.

I will never again gag upon the unsettling discovery of some misplaced, putrid-smelling, half-empty baby bottle of rancid, clumpy milk hidden in a dark corner somewhere behind a dresser or bed for God only knows how long.

I will never again waste a whole afternoon folding, sorting, organizing, rearranging, and vacuuming every inch of my children’s disastrous bedroom, then watch in horror as they stampede through it and undo all of my hard work within milliseconds like two insane little Tasmanian Devils on crack.

I don’t even care if I can no longer FIND my children when they are playing in their room. All the better! Out of sight, out of mind, I say.

I swear I am never even touching a toy again.

Anyone else with me?

Not A Happy Camper

Last month, Little M received the “most enthusiastic” award from his pre-k teacher at his preschool graduation ceremony. She said he brought “an energy and special sparkle” to their classroom every day. I was beaming with pride.

However, of the words I would use to describe my son’s disposition when leaving for his second week of day camp this morning, neither “enthusiastic” nor “special sparkle” come to mind.

Not only did he cry hysterically the whole way there, he then refused to go inside the building and begged me to take him home.

I almost gave in and took him back home after about ten minutes of tears and protests but then his camp teacher came along and promised to let him play with the iPad during free play time. He reluctantly decided to give in, since he’s kind of obsessed with video games of any kind. Thanks for passing that on, Big M!

Please don’t think I’m a monster for making him go to camp during his summer vacation, even though right now I feel like one. While I admit I did it partially because I feared that having both kids up my ass nonstop for 75 straight days would drive me clinically depressed and/or insane (again), I honestly thought he would get used to it quickly and be loving camp by the second week.

Boy, was I wrong.

After I dropped him off, my heart was heavy with the guilt of having talked him into doing something he didn’t want to do partially for my own benefit. So a little while later I decided to risk looking like a pedophile in stealth-mode and creep super-slowly past the camp’s playground with my windows up to see if the kids were playing outside– if I could catch a glimpse of Little M on the monkey bars or playing tag with some new friends then perhaps I could liberate my conscience and reassure myself that I’d done the right thing by leaving him there. Sure enough, the kids were all outside, running through the sprinklers, playing hopscotch, and having a total blast. Well, most of the kids were.

Little M was sitting on a bench in the corner all by himself, looking like his puppy just died.

What’s that sound you hear? Oh, that’s just my heart breaking into 40 billion pieces.

I learned a new interpretation for the word “restraint” today, because it took every ounce of restraint in my entire body not to immediately throw the car in park, snatch my baby off that wretched playground and never look back.

Why didn’t I just do that, you ask? Well, when Little M started school two years ago, he was also miserable at first. Crying, bargaining, refusing to go, the works. That smart little mofo even used to lie and say his stomach was hurting so that they would have no choice but to call and make me pick him up.

But eventually, as expected, he began to enjoy going to school. He actually started to look forward to going and seeing his friends every day. Added bonus for me? I got to enjoy doing my grocery shopping in the morning without being tempted to leave my children alone in the candy section until I finished checking out.

His pre-k teachers were not at all kidding about Little M’s enthusiasm; he really is a silly, fun, happy, energetic, sweet, crazy little boy. But the problem is that he just doesn’t do well in new places or around new people, a characteristic he admittedly gets from me. When I was a child and my parents put me in camp, I used to cry so much that they usually broke the rules and put me in the older groups with my sister and brother just to shut me the hell up. I refused to eat, to make friends, or to participate in any activities at all. I was a camp counselor’s total nightmare. Come to think of it, I’m surprised someone even bothered to jump in and save me that time I fell into the deep end of the pool….

Luckily for Little M, he and my introverted younger self differ in that sooner or later he WILL warm up to camp and his true, amazing personality can emerge and help him make some new camp buddies. I just don’t know how many more tearful mornings we have to endure until that occurs, and this guilt I feel may drive me to give in before it does. It also may drive me to drink before noon, but that I can live with.

Is it just me, or is this whole “parenting” thing getting harder and harder every day?

Go Shawty, It’s Ya Birthday!

Birthdays. They used to be so awesome. When you were a kid, you got new toys and games. When you were a teenager you got new clothes and maybe a new cell phone. When you were in your twenties you got free shots at the bar.

But in your thirties (and beyond), all you really get is the sudden appearance of crow’s feet, frown lines, and grey hairs.

I’m coming upon the 10th anniversary of my 21st birthday and to say I’m not thrilled about it would be a pretty big understatement. Basically, I’d rather undergo a root canal without novocain while floating on a tiny raft in the middle of the Pacific ocean, surrounded by bloodthirsty great white sharks, than turn another year older.

To add insult to injury, my son has just turned five and he’s lost all signs of his mushy-faced, chubby-bellied, lispy-speeched toddler-ness. He’s just like this regular school-aged kid now. That means I can no longer claim to be the young, cool, new(ish) mom whose kids are way too young to make her anywhere even remotely near middle aged– and who totally looks like she may have even been on an episode of Teen Mom.

Mark Twain once said “age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” He’s definitely got a cleverly worded point that offers some reassurance, but people sometimes take it a little too far. Case in point:

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Oh, Tan Mom. You might not mind but the rest of the world kinda does.

Another year older or not, birthdays pretty much always suck—sometimes even before family life comes along. They’re like New Year’s Eve, when there are all these high expectations and you feel like you have to be doing something spectacularly awesome and thrilling or else you should just go find a very tall bridge and jump off it. So you think ahead and make a plan, and you’re all dressed up and ready to go out and have fun, but then something goes wrong and you drink too much and next thing you know you are waking up on your bathroom floor with tile marks on your face, and you can’t find your purse or your left shoe and the last thing you remember was flirting with a guy who makes erotic balloon animals for a living at a restaurant where the waitresses are all Asian transvestites.

Or something like that.

My point is, part of growing up is realizing that birthdays are just going to get worse every year. Even more so if you have kids, in which case the only birthdays that even matter anymore are the ones with expensive cartoon character-covered birthday cakes, twenty screaming kids on a sugar high and a clown/face-painter/magician who charges more per hour than your shrink will after the whole traumatizing experience is over.

Unless you’re married to someone with some imagination who genuinely gives a shit about your “special day” (like if, say, your husband wished you a Happy 30th Birthday on the jumbotron at Madison Square Garden, which actually happened to one lucky friend of mine), then chances are your birthday is going to bite the big one. You’ll eat some fattening cake that you’ll regret later at the gym, get a gift card or two from any family members still kind enough to buy you a gift even though now you have kids that they’re stuck buying gifts for too, you’ll gush over the adorable homemade card that your kids made for you even though when you opened it a gallon of glitter fell out and divided itself between the living room rug and the dog’s fur, you’ll hit “like” on the 75 mildly sincere birthday wishes on your facebook wall, then you’ll slap on an extra coat of wrinkle cream and call it a night.

And I’m cool with all of that. Really, I am.

Just please don’t tell my husband I am, because birthdays are rarely a big deal for adults in his family (see his mom’s delightful partially melted 49th birthday Carvel cake below) and so he’s always super clueless whenever mine rolls around. I’m usually okay with that, as annoying as it might be. But I’m expecting a little more from him this year after he recently told me on Mother’s Day “I really hope this breakfast I made for you justifies my lack of a gift. Or card. Oh and did you get my mom anything yet?”

He’s really not a big fan of sleeping on the couch and I can scramble my own eggs, so if you see him, tell him kick it up a notch this time? Thanks.

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In Memory of a Kind Neighbor

I was saddened to learn of the untimely passing of a neighbor’s son today.  I’ll call him J. J was only 38 years old.

I didn’t know J very well. Until I read his obituary just now, I didn’t even know I’d been calling him by his nickname all this time. Our exchanges were mostly pleasantries,  but he was a very nice guy and a good neighbor– the kind who kept to himself but still helped me clean off my car when he saw me struggling through the snow with two young children or who offered to carry grocery bags in for me when he saw my hands were full.

My son, in particular, took quite a liking to him.

One day, the fence we shared was being replaced, and J was helping to taking it down. My inquisitive son sat in our temporarily shared backyard and asked him at least a million questions, as little boys do, and he was very patient and sweet and answered all of my son’s inquiries with a kind smile while he continued to do his work.

After that day, Little M would ask about him often. He would see J’s mom in her backyard and ask where he was.  In the morning when we left for school,  he would always excitedly wave and yell hello as J passed by to start his truck for work.

As I mentioned, I didn’t know him very well.  But they say children are the best judges of a person’s true character.

Today I’m not sure what to say the next time Little M asks for him. How do I explain that his buddy is gone and not ever coming back?  Furthermore, how on earth will I keep him from asking our poor grieving neighbor where her son is every day when our paths cross?

It’s suddenly occurred to me that, for the very first time (as we’ve been quite fortunate so far) I might have to talk to my five-year-old son about death.

I considered just saying that J moved very far away and we won’t be seeing him again, and that his mommy is sad that he left so we can’t ask her about him anymore.

But what if he asks why he left, or where he went, or why he made his mommy sad? What do I say then?

I am not one of those people who has trouble lying to my child if it is necessary (and sometimes even when it isn’t). I can’t count how many times I’ve threatened a call in to Santa in December or claimed that our dinner was “just chicken” when it was really Nemo’s second cousin on everyone’s plate.

But it isn’t merely about lying this time. I just have this overwhelming urge to shield him from the pain and confusion that death brings upon us, to keep the floodgates locked away from the river of sorrow that a first encounter with death inevitably unleashes on all of us. I want to let him continue to live in his happy little bubble where death exists only in video games and PG-13 movies, and the people you care about only leave sometimes but always come back. There’s an innocence I don’t yet want to steal from him. It makes my heart bleed for the children who have had someone very close taken away too soon—leaving behind tiny little broken hearts that never fully heal.

As hard as it will be to break the news to my son, however I choose to do so, I just want to say I’m grateful to J for always being kind to him. For whatever the reason, his very presence unfailingly made my son’s face light up every day.  He was a good guy, a nice man who always took a moment to say hello to my little boy.  That’s all I could really ever ask for in a neighbor—all I can ask from anyone, really.

May he rest peacefully, and may his family heal someday from the wounds that his sudden absence has left behind.

The Baby Wipe: Mom’s Best Friend

Today, we pay homage to mom’s best friend: The Baby Wipe.  The Baby Wipe is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest inventions in the history of the world (sorry, lighbulb, get over it).  Before I had kids I sadly did not know the sheer convenience of having a stack of these damp little problem-solvers in my bag at all times.  I had NO IDEA just how far beyond their intended use of shit-scrubbing they could go.  So to celebrate how much easier this nifty necessity makes our lives, I’ve conjured up 29 different ways to use a baby wipe, all of which were used by me (and probably you) at one time or another.

  1. Baby snot on the couch – This occurs more than I care to admit to the people who regularly sit on my couch.
  2. Random gunk on the cell phone screen – Don’t even text a single word until you clean that shit off.
  3. Crayon scribble on the wall – Really, who needs coloring books?
  4. Milk on the floor – Sorry baby Picasso, but your milk bottle masterpiece has gotta go.
  5. Sticky steering wheels – Unless you’re like Big M, who drives around with an entire car-detailing kit in his trunk at all times, this is the most efficient way to clean your car and go.  Ugh, men.
  6. Ketchup face –As long as your kid will eat anything doused in ketchup, you’ll happily deal with the mess later.
  7. Makeup remover – A.K.A. raccoon-face prevention.
  8. Greasy doorknobs – A regular occurrence in my house on pizza night.
  9. Marker face – You turned around for literally ten seconds.
  10. Boogers – Enough said.
  11. Anything involving waffle syrup of any kind.
  12. Last minute removal of visible dust before company arrives – Now pray that no one looks up at the ceiling fan.
  13. Spit-up – My kids were never big spitter-uppers, although my daughter once threw up in my mouth (I don’t even want to talk about it).  Still, this is an obvious one and thus makes the list.
  14. Baby food on the wall – A tip: baby food stains are unfortunately best wiped up immediately.  I learned the hard way that if you wait too long to clean mashed peas off the ceiling, your only option will be to eventually repaint.  To be fair, “too long” in this case was over two years later.  Any kind of cleaning that requires a ten-foot ladder gets automatically moved to the very bottom of my to-do list.
  15. Boo-boo disinfectant – for the times when Super Awesome Always Prepared for Anything Mom has lost her mind and left the first-aid kit home.
  16. Kitchen table funk – The sponge is ALL THE WAY OVER THERE in the sink, but these baby wipes are RIGHT HERE on the table.  Plus that sponge might be funkier than what I’m planning to clean with it.
  17. Post-poop doggy buttholes – If you ignore it, it only ends up on the rug.
  18. Bath time substitute – Sometimes, after a particularly long day, a quick wipe-down will do just fine (here’s looking at you, pregnant mothers with toddlers).
  19.  Insect killer – Thicker than a regular tissue for less bug-to-finger contact.
  20. The highchair tray – I love how it says “dishwasher safe.”  Who is taking up the WHOLE top rack of the dishwasher just to avoid wiping that thing down?  Even I’m not that lazy.  Usually.
  21. Questionable stain on floor – Don’t know what it is or where it came from, but maybe it’s better that way.  Scrub it up and move on.
  22. Questionable stain on baby – Again, don’t know what it is or where it came from.  It’s definitely better that way.
  23. Fridge handle – Hey, at least now you’re sort of trying.
  24. Post-floor-washing footwear for walking across the wet floor.
  25. Buffalo wing and spare rib lovers – Whip out a package of baby wipes for someone covered in barbecue sauce up to their elbows and you’ll be an instant hero.
  26. Side-view mirror defogger – Big M says our SUV has some kind of fancy heated mirrors, but who has time to learn what ALL of those little buttons on the dashboard are for?
  27. Toothpaste on the shirt – Next time maybe you’ll look in the mirror BEFORE you leave the house.
  28. Pacifier and bottle nipple cleaner – For those of you who refuse to recognize the five-second rule when it applies to young children (i.e. first time parents).
  29. Mouth cleaner – Here’s a new one as of a minute ago: I just found Little D splashing around in our dog’s water bowl and then licking the water off her hands.  I quickly grabbed a wipe and swished it around her mouth.  I doubt that it really did much good but I feel a little better about the whole thing.  Maybe I better go get her something to drink…

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This is Little M with an empty box of our favorite affordable baby wipe brand on his head.  If I had the time I’d write another blog post listing 29 ways to keep a child busy for at least a half hour with a box.  Hell, if I had the time I would have actually made it to 30 uses for baby wipes like I’d originally intended.  But right now my kids need baths and to get to bed.

And more importantly, The Bachelorette is on soon.  Don’t you dare judge me.