Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On the Twelve Days of Motherhood...

I love Christmas, but I find it disconcerting that Christmas carols start playing in October and I find myself unconsciously humming these classic little ditties so often that by the time my favorite holiday arrives I can’t stand to hear them anymore. I’ve heard the “Twelve Days of Christmas” more than a few times already and began wondering — what kind of true love gives you fowl you don’t want and an ensemble cast of characters who are too happy for their own good? And furthermore, where are on earth is this proverbial recipient going to store them all? But then it occurred to me that I have a couple of miscreant true loves who’ve given me more than a few things I don’t need from the other foul category and decided this time-honored carol needed an update. To save time and space, I’ll begin with the last verse:

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Motherhood gave to me…

12 Thousand Sleepless Hours
11 Tubs of Vomit
10 Walls with Crayon
9 Tons of Clutter
8 Million Hours a’ Washin’
7 Years a’ Dateless
6 Tee Pounds a’ Lingering
5 Per-cent Brain Loss
4 Million Days of Whining
3 Years of Chaos (Is Cameron really only three?)
2 Saggy Mammaries

And a Man-da-tory Hysterec-to-Meeeeee!

I guess I could also write it like this:

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Motherhood gave to me…

12 Thousand Hugs and Kisses
11 Tons a’ Handmade Art
10 New Ways to Love
9 Hundred Hours a’ Dancing
8 Million Times a’ Cuddling
7 Years of “Love Yous”
6 Thousand Fits a’ Laughter
5 Beams of Pride
4 Little Feet
3 Times a Bigger Heart
2 New Reasons to Live

And the Most Precious Gifts That I Have Eeever Haaaad!

I could, but then people might think I’ve gone soft…

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Thanks-gaming...

I should love this time of year: the leaves embrace fall fashion, the sun is shining, the air is crisp, and everybody is gearing up for the magic of the holidays…and then there it is, the big crack in my personal paradise. Fall sports season. Almost any day of the week you can drive through a typical suburban neighborhood anywhere in America and see not-so-festive flickering lights in nearly every house on the street as someone lurks inside watching games, games and more games, while the kids exploit the lapse in supervision to put one of their Hot Wheels in the microwave. Picture-in-picture, dueling television sets, computer screens, cell phones – you name the multimedia device –they’re using it for sports numb. I’m not just complaining about the men either. I recently lost at least six ladies to a local college football game when I hosted a baby shower – and that included one of my co-hosts. I’m thankful for a lot of stuff, but the very dependable tradition of fall sports addiction is not one of them. I say, bah humbug to it all.

Last week my husband told me that I “didn’t understand.” That the fall sports season is the “perfect storm for sports fans.” Then he went into an energized rant as he rattled off all the pieces to the puzzle: pro football, college football, major league baseball playoffs, pre-season pro-basketball— even hockey season —all coming together to make him forget he has kids and a wife who is still struggling to rebuild brain cells from her two swings at pregnancy. In fact, I hadn’t seen him that animated since he rediscovered his whitewashed Guns & Roses jacket in the attic last winter.

I know I’m a girl, but I seriously don’t get it. I used to play sports so I technically get it, but assuming the couch position to watch other people making big bucks to play a game seems painful. Pretty soon it will be Thanksgiving Day, the mother of all spectator sports days, and a tradition that’s been in place since the 1920s. I know because I looked it up. I don’t even think people care what they’re watching after awhile — they’re just mesmerized by the flying pigskin and pretty lights on the big screen. And sitting in front of the TV means you won’t have to hear Aunt Ida talk about her latest colonoscopy results.

I asked my husband the other day if we could take the kids for a hike and enjoy the beautiful weather. His eyes were shifty as he so eloquently said, “uh, well…um…” to which I responded with an impatient, “What?” So he just came out with it. “Well, my game is on at 3:30.” “YOUR game?” I repeated. “I’m sorry, YOUR game? Really?? Are you getting any monetary benefit from wasting three to five hours of your life that you can NEVER get back sitting in front of the television getting an ulcer while you’re giving directives to people who can’t hear you, and furthermore don’t care? I sincerely hope so, because you’re going to need it for the marriage COUNSELORRRRRR!”

I know there was a reason I married him, but just by looking at him now, you wouldn’t think he’s the smartest member of the fan base, or for that matter anyone who could have turned my head. All his goofy hats come out, previous championship t-shirts, and we don’t have any, but if we did, no doubt all the appropriate team flags and blow up sports paraphernalia would be garnishing our lawn and car. I ask him to tape the games so he won’t miss out on life, but he insists, again, that I “don’t understand.” He has to watch it live because it’s “history in the making” and if he’s not “there” apparently he can’t claim it as part of his own history. To which I say it is NOT part of your history, because if it were, I’d have a nanny, a gourmet chef, a personal trainer and be spending my holidays beachside living the dream on our shared profits.

Listen, I’d like to spend three and a half hours watching back-to-back Oprah makeover shows while Brad Pitt gives me a foot massage and George Clooney brings me dirty martinis, but there’s laundry to do, dishes to wash and sanity to reclaim. So honey, if you want to start making an investment in your future living conditions, which will happen sooner than you think, and be decided on by your children, I suggest you choose another team. Their jerseys usually sport a culinary roadmap from snack time to their evening chow, they’re not the most coordinated bunch and will often score points for the other team, but you will have ample opportunity to shout instructions that fall on deaf ears. And if you do choose the team of tiny people who share your DNA, I promise I’ll cancel that appointment I made with the therapist.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Potty Training and The Ugly Cry...

Whoever said “life is a marathon, not a sprint” obviously didn’t have a three-year-old who needed potty training before they’d let him into preschool. Two and a half hours three times a week alone? This is exactly the kind of deadline that a facetious Mother of the Year like myself would crawl through a cesspit of rat sludge to pull off. Unfortunately, potty training Cameron (said three-year-old) has turned out to be less of the sprint that I desperately need it to be and instead, a grueling marathon of embattled wills and soiled underwear. I mistakenly underestimated my competition and it’s clear that neither of us will make it over the finish line without permanent damage. If I ever get there, I will deserve a medal—and I just might make it into a necklace.

My first son Jack was potty trained in about a week. There were a few tears and even a little three-year-old Baby Ruth that ended up on the playroom floor, but he walked into preschool a proud big boy and ne’er an accident since. His little brother, on the other hand, is a stubbornly independent, free-spirited and notorious “poop disturber” who clearly has no interest in disturbing the poop routine he’s had going now for the last 40 months. We’ve got every book, including the modern classic Everybody Poops. We made a big deal of picking out a special potty. We’ve had big brother mentoring, reward charts, the M&M candy bribes and even Dr. Phil’s ridiculous Potty Party. My doctor said it’s a “control” issue. Yes. Now that we’ve established that infuriatingly obvious conclusion, what do I DO about it?”

Six months later, I still don’t know. But what I do know is that when potty training boys, it helps to have a little insight into their anthropological heritage and the male psyche. Boys can’t just embrace the fact that their castoffs have a place to go, they need to believe they’ve made a worthy contribution to mankind. I’m assuming this concept harkens back to their Stone Age ancestors. Man make fire. Boy make poop. For instance, potty training didn’t click for my nephew — a big Sesame Street fan at the time—until he pooped the letter of the day. Jack had his aha! poop when he managed to squeeze out a rocket ship headed for the moon. And while it’s yet to make a difference, the two times Cameron’s little Lincoln logs actually made it to the toilet bowl, he seemed genuinely pleased that they resembled a hot dog and a snake respectively.

A week and a half ago, I noticed Cameron doing his potty dance, which incidentally has a striking resemblance to the beginning steps of The Hustle. In a panic I whisked him to the potty despite his demands to the contrary. I used my sweetest voice to again explain the fundamentals of potty etiquette, but he responded like a Mel Gibson voicemail minus the expletives. At some point during his tirade, I simply sunk to the floor, covered my eyes, and the sheer duress of the last six months including, but not limited to my failed attempts at potty training unleashed like The Great Flood. That’s right – the ugly cry. The one where your face contorts and snot appears out of nowhere to join the downward stream of mucous and you just don’t care. As I sat there fully embraced in my cathartic release Jack ran in the room and yelled, “You’re making Mommy cry – just squeeze it out!” And then, as if an angel were speaking to me, I heard the littlest voice in the din say, “Don’t cwy Mommy, I do it.” To which I looked up through the tears and snot and replied, “What?” And he said, “I do it. I go poop.” And he did, which just goes to prove that every man, no matter how old they are, will do just about anything so they don’t have to hear a woman cry.

It was a small victory to say the least. As I’m writing this column my husband arrived home with the kids and news that Cameron’s new, favorite WonderPets “Ming Ming” underwear had been defaced. So we double bagged the whole mess and made Cameron take the walk of shame to the big garbage can in the garage. I’ve never seen a walk of shame taken with more pride. If I could hear his thoughts, I think they might go something like this: Boy make poop. Boy make Mom and Dad really mad. Life is good. So here we are. Just when I falsely believe I’m going to win the race, he proves me wrong and our long-winded marathon continues. I’m not sure if I have the stamina to finish this thing, but maybe the next poop that makes its way into the bowl will be a little brown medal and we’ll both win.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I have two beautiful boys so I don’t want to totally diss my uterus, but while I was pregnant with said progeny, it was a little like I was James Caan in “Misery.” And if I’m being honest, I more than kind of wanted to crush all my fellow baby bumpers who “loooved being pregnant.” You know the ones…those women upon whom the rumored pregnancy glow is based. I had no glow. Not even an atom of a molecule who was a distant cousin of one of my cells had a glow, which is why these women could populate a small village and I barely made it across the finish line with two. As author Jim Cole once said, “Love is all fun and games until someone loses an eye or gets pregnant.”

Even so, I’m eternally grateful and do not take the gift of childbirth lightly. On the other hand, the admittedly freakish miracle of being able to grow humans in ten months or less and years of painful visits from my proverbial Aunt Flo had doomed my relationship with my uterus to be rocky at best. So when my doctor told me that I needed a hysterectomy at the tender age of 41, she may as well have told me I’d be getting a full-time nanny. Of course at the time I hadn’t considered the prospect of major surgery, the possibility of having hormone replacement therapy at least nine years prior to menopause, or the fact that I’d have to go under general anesthesia to arrive at the other side of this whole mess. I was merely focused on the fact that all misadventures with my uterus were soon to be over and that I would be more than happy to part ways with the ol’ girl.

So I diligently finished up my lab tests and necessary blood work, scheduled my surgery, and what’s that? Oh yes, somehow figured out what to do with my kids for a whole month of their summer vacation. (As a side note, the extended members of our respective families are all veritable saints and in the event that we had a chance in hell of ever having anything of value in our will to bequeath, every one of them would be on the list of recipients.) But then I had to tell people. When my fellow hyster-sisters heard the news, they all said, “Oh, you’ll love it! You’ll feel like you’re 20 again!” And all I could think was, ”Shoot, I was really hoping that I’d feel more like I was 10 because that was before my excruciatingly painful monthly bill reared its ugly mug, but I’ll still take it.” What I hadn’t anticipated was getting the signature head tilt/half wince with an “Oooh, I’m so sorry,” from the people who had NOT had a hysterectomy- men included. It was only then that I realized the general populace associated my uterus with my womanhood. Of course, being the resident smart aleck I’d usually respond with a, “Oh don’t worry, it’s not as if I’ll never be able to wear a dress or shop again…” (insert awkward laughter). But then I’d think to myself, “Does it?” After that, every time I said “hysterectomy” I would reflexively whisper it like I was saying “sex” or “vagina.” I was a living paradox: ecstatic to be ridding my life of the horrible pain I’d been enduring for decades and at the same time feeling like I should be wearing a scarlet H.

Now it’s the day before my surgery and I’m freaking out about going under general anesthesia even though my doctor is a literal rock star in the field of laparoscopic hysterectomy, the kids are safely at my in-laws without a care in the world and a life without Eve’s Curse is one I’d like to lead. On this day, I feel compelled to put my legal affairs in order with a mad dash to the notary and have a teary eyed talk with my husband, insisting that he find love again and build a life for he and the kids without me if I didn’t make it. And while I’m certain I was sincere at the time, you can’t imagine my relief when I saw my surgeon walking toward me in the recovery room. There were only two things on my mind: 1. “I’m ALLLLIIIIVE!!!” and 2. Thank God some other bitch won’t be raising my kids!”

Despite the fact that the OR nurse used me as a human voodoo doll during her utterly failed attempts to insert my IV during pre-op (I could only wonder why she hated me so much despite the fact that we’d only just met), and that I was forced to decline the handiwork of a handsome respiratory therapist who mistakenly had me queued up for a post-operative inhalation tube, I emerged from the experience generally without incident and best of all without pain. I even scored a bonus appendectomy as my free gift with purchase. More good news: I get to keep my ovaries which means I also get to keep my hormones; to which I’d suddenly become dreadfully attached when faced with the prospect of an involuntary break-up.

I’m not sure that I have more energy – i.e. feel like I’m 20–but maybe the gals who did feel like that afterward didn’t have kids under the age of seven. But what I know for sure? Laparoscopic hysterectomy must be the discovery of the century. My recovery was quick, I was in and out of the hospital in a day and a half and I have only four tiny scars exactly one centimeter in length to show for it. I have loads more storage where my tampons and those unwieldy pads with wings used to be and twelve weeks a year of my life back. I think I will use them to find a medically sound reason for a boob lift and tummy tuck. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On Celebrating Father's Day...

You can’t go anywhere this time of year without bumping into a chirpy Father’s Day gift guide organized by catchy phrases like “Grill Master,” “Gadget Guru,” and “Sports Fanatic.” All this for the gentleman responsible for those pint-sized miracles who spend their most productive hours sucking the life out of yours. For once I’d like to see another kind of guide that dices up the world’s dads according to the ugly truth. Here’s a stab for Father’s Day gift-givers living in the real world…

Traditional Dad aka Slacker: This is the dad who believes that child- rearing, and anything and everything having to do with the house is woman’s work. He figures that as long as he’s pulling down a paycheck he can do whatever he chooses with his free time. Essentially he’s the Sugar Daddy without the “Daddy” and more often than not, not enough “Sugar” either. Gift Idea: Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Clearly this guy celebrates Father’s Day every single day of his life.

Sports Dud: This is the dad who is only effective as long as “his game” is not on. And thanks to ESPN and the birth of cable, that’s pretty much all the time. In fact, your two-year-old could be dangling out of the second story window, but unless the Sox are down by two to the Yankees and it’s the bottom of the ninth, it’s not a crisis. Gift Idea: How about tickets to a local sporting event of his choice as long as he takes the kids. I think it’s high time he gets a dose of what it really means to sacrifice doing stuff you love so that your children can feel the love.

The “I do a lot” Dad: This is the guy who still thinks he babysits his own kids, and the sweet spot of the modern dad population. This dad thinks he does more than he actually does, and takes every opportunity to try and convince us of that by comparing himself to the closest Slacker Dad on the block in an attempt to prop up his own image. He will also incessantly refer back to that one bath that he gave the kids last week as if he’s just carried you out of a burning building. Gift Idea: The gift of relativity. A round-trip ticket for you and a friend so he can spend a good old-fashioned bonding weekend with his spawn and experience firsthand how much their mom really does.

Super Dad: Yes, girls, this category actually exists. This is the most highly evolved of the dad pool – and this dad does it all. Sometimes he’s a full-time, stay-at-home dad, and sometimes he’s busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest, but either way, he makes meals, taxis the kids all over town and never misses their games. While this dad’s numbers have increased over the years, he’s still quite rare and if found should be snatched up immediately if not already taken. Gift idea: Whatever the heck he wants.

The Executive Assistant Dad: This dad stands just a tick or two below Super Dad and definitely where my own husband falls – which is lucky for me – but to be fair, I did study his resume before bringing him on board. This is the dad who totally understands that he was a willing participant in the initial decision to bring the little rug rats into the world, and as such has equal responsibility in raising them. He’s ready, willing and able; he just requires a painstakingly specific road map. This is the guy who agrees to put the kids to bed, but unless you head up traffic control they won’t get there until midnight. He’s also the guy who, on his watch, won’t feed them unless their hunger pains can be heard above his own thoughts. Gift Idea: This guy deserves a big giant “A” for effort and really a day to do exactly as he pleases. That being said you may actually need to schedule it, otherwise he’ll likely spend the afternoon on the couch.

This list, of course, barely scratches the surface of what we moms are working with out there. There’s still the “I Gave At the Office” dad, the “Up in the Air” dad and “The What Have You Done for Me Lately” dad. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the “I’m not even sure if he’s my kid” dad. On top of all that, your Baby Daddy is more likely a combo of some or all of the above. I realize that I’m having a little fun at their expense. I’m not saying they don’t deserve their own day. Without them, we moms would have a lot less to talk about, marriage counseling wouldn’t be a thriving industry, and Moms Night Out wouldn’t feel so darn cathartic. So a sincere thanks to all you Dads for bringing us the little people who guzzle up all that annoying extra time we used to have for self-improvement and a full nights sleep— your homemade ashtray is on its way.

Friday, April 30, 2010

On Understanding my Mother

One of my most vivid memories from childhood happened when I was about seven. That fateful Saturday morning, my siblings and I found ourselves crisscross applesauce on our lovely green linoleum floor, sitting too close to the television and spellbound by the misadventures of “Tom and Jerry,” despite the fact that none of our chores had been done. I say spellbound because somehow we missed the urgent warning of the most reliable look-out we ever had — a squeaky floorboard conveniently located just to the left of our Mom’s side of the bed. Faster than we could hit the “off” button and dash to our respective stations pre-equipped with cleaning props so we could feign being perfect children at a moment’s notice, Mom appeared in the family room. She took a split-second look around at the disheveled house and back at all three of us – the seemingly carefree perpetrators of the chaos— and began a ten minute tirade about how much she hated the television, how dare we watch it before our chores were done, and why weren’t we bothered by the fact that we had to clear a spot to sit down in the mess, and so on. In short, the woman lost it— but no one could have predicted what came next.

Because it was then that she stopped yelling, and her face changed from a frustrated, angry woman on the edge to that of an inspired artist just before she stops staring at her canvas and creates a masterpiece. With an eerie calm and purposeful determination she walked to the sliding glass door leading to our backyard and slid it open. Then she danced through the minefield of toys with the agility of an Olympic athlete to get to the old-school television we owned at the time, complete with side consoled speakers and heavy green picture tube. And with what I can only conclude to be the super human, adrenaline surge of urban legends describing mothers lifting automobiles off of their children, my petite mother picked up our huge television, limped with it over to the door and handily threw it out onto our concrete patio while we watched it smash into a million pieces. At the time I remember thinking, “My mom’s a nutjob.”

Now that I’ve been married for nearly 14 years and have two boys under the age of seven, I finally understand. The poor woman was experiencing the only time in her life when the “temporary insanity” defense would hold up in court. I am that woman. Okay – so I haven’t totaled any household appliances, (although somehow I think hucking the flat panel would be a little less cathartic) but I’ve had my share of retreats to the car for a scream that would put most Freddy Krueger films to shame. I’ve slammed doors, I’ve yelled, and I’ve definitely cried. And then there are those days when the man I blame for my suffering walks through the door and finds me with my keys and purse already in hand and I have little more strength than it takes to squeeze his shoulder and whisper, “movie,” before I screech down the driveway.

The other day that same man and I caught the tail end of a sitcom called “In the Middle.” As the husband is putting his arm around his wife he says, “Honey, for such a small woman, you pack a lot of crazy.” I’ll just ignore the fact that my husband stopped laughing long after I did. Because when I’ve spent a day listening to my six and a half year old speak only in the third person, or hours putting tiny chewed-up Operation board game organs back into their respective slots, or being forced to walk into a grocery store with a Cameron-induced yogurt stain the size of a scaled down map of Europe, I think of that day when I was seven and it makes me feel a little less crazy. And while I know I’m doomed to listen to my children regaling stories of my temporary trips to the “left of center” at family reunions for the rest of my life, I’m finally ready to give my mother the gift she’s surely been waiting for since I had my firstborn.

So Mom, here it is: I get it. I’m sorry. I take back all the under-my-breath curses I uttered when I found that you’d stacked dirty cereal bowls on my dresser after repeatedly asking me to wash them. I’m no longer mad that you didn’t replace that poor TV of ours for three years. And I’m sorry I cut the hair and ripped off the head of the original Barbie you’d had since your childhood – you know, the one that would have had you and Dad living “la vida loca” somewhere tropical and fabulous right about now.

Thank you for teaching me that it’s okay to lose it once in awhile as long as you fill in the rest of the blanks with big love, unending cuddles and “president of the fan club” levels of cheerleading. Thank you for allowing me to survive my childhood. And most of all, thanks for taking it out on the major appliances. (Fist bump) Respect.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On Surviving the Flu Season...

Last night my husband and I were awakened at exactly 2:37am by the miserable whimpering of our feverish six year old. It was then that I realized what those poor actors on “Lost” must feel like as they’re relentlessly dragged back and forth to that ill-fated island after having already narrowly escaped with their lives. Unfortunately I’m not pulling in a big fat paycheck and enjoying luxury accommodations at the Hawaiian Four Seasons to soothe my pain. Despite sincere compassion for my sweet little boy, I couldn’t shake the narrative script running through my head, which sounded a bit like the captain of a doomed flight to Déjà vu. It went something like this:

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to thank you for flying Little American Germ Buckets, and welcome you to the never ending flight of the flu season. You may as well sit back and relax because your life is about to come to an excruciating halt, and your to-do list as well as any progress you’ve made at starting an exercise routine will just have to wait. I assure you, there are no premium seats on this flight.

Please stow all your good pillows and expensive bedding in an overhead compartment, otherwise they’re sure to be damaged by flying phlegm and related debris. We also ask that you turn off all electronic devices until such time as it is necessary to research any strange rashes and other unsavory side effects resulting from the various medications your little travelers will be taking. During this flight, we will not be handing out any sleeping supplies, because while I hate to point out the obvious, we all know that you won’t be needing them where we’re headed. If necessary, your seat cushions can be used as vomit protection devices or as something to beat your head against during the mind-numbing in-flight entertainment marathon starring the ever-chirpy Dora the Explorer and those perky Little Einsteins.

On this trip, you’ll have only two options for your in-flight beverage service: Pedialyte and a steady flow of caffeine in all its essential forms. Folding trays and seat backs should remain in their upright positions throughout the flight, because let’s face it – it’s your best chance of getting the puke into the double-bagged garbage bins. We’d like to ask those who still have a fever to sit toward the rear of the cabin —not to be confused with the “angry” rear of your infant after a heavy dose of antibiotic. Those passengers will be given special face masks with a steady flow of oxygen to be used before, during and after the diaper changing portion of the flight. Speaking of masks, I think it’s safe to say that you can totally disregard putting on your own protective masks before any minors seated with you, because we all know you’ll be taking this same flight on your own in about a week.

In the case of an emergency landing at a hospital or doctors office, passengers can purchase a special survival kit including several bottles of hand sanitizer to help avoid the myriad other unwanted maladies waiting for you in all medical lobbies, and a brand new package of “Fake Barf” to be placed just beyond your seating area to discourage other patients from trying to play with your children.

I would like to remind you that you are not allowed to tamper with or disable lavatory smoke detectors, unless you can’t take the cabin pressure and are forced to return to the smoking habit you successfully gave up ten years ago for your health. Emergency exiting is not an option regardless of how unhinged you may feel, and we do have US Marshalls on board to ensure no one escapes the aircraft mid-flight.

(3-5 maddening days later…)
Good news. We’re now beginning our descent and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for choosing this flight, even if you didn’t have a choice… wait…I’m sorry, this just in— apparently we’re experiencing technical difficulties in the form of five full snow days ahead. I realize that your children are feeling better and have untold levels of cabin fever, your house is in shambles, your pantries are bare and the piles of laundry are starting to look like furniture, but it looks like you’ll have to ignore all that and figure out how you’re going to keep the lil’ buggers entertained for the foreseeable future. Our flight attendants will be coming through the cabin shortly to provide alcohol and extra large boxes of Kleenex. Thank you and we sincerely hope you don’t get “Lost” again.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On Valentine Daze...

I can barely remember those carefree days of marriage past when I distinctly recall playfully making it clear to my husband that flowers for Valentine’s Day would never be considered extra credit. But somewhere along the way, those same overpriced petals started to look less like symbols of love and more like tiny little $10 bills that wouldn’t survive the week. Thirteen and a half years, two young kids and too many dashed date nights later, there’s just too much child rearing and marital reality under the bridge to cling to the romantic notions of my adolescence. Today I look at Valentine’s Day with new eyes – the bleary, sleep deprived, aging and macular degenerative kind– and they’ve definitely witnessed a change in perspective.

Early in our relationship my husband sent me on a treasure hunt. At the time, it was my dearest hope that the last clue would lead to my still favorite watch. If, by some miracle, he orchestrated a repeat performance of that romantic gesture, I’d probably just pray the path eventually lead to an escape hatch for those days when I feel like sticking my head in the oven. Instead of chocolates, I’d love one measly hour to work out and not worry that my kids would be sick and out of school the next week because they’d picked up something nasty at the gym day care. In lieu of a surprise trip to somewhere fabulous, I’d really just like a surprise trip to the esthetician for a wax and then maybe the dentist for a teeth cleaning to make it feel really decadent.

I don’t remember the last time we spent a romantic Valentine’s Day having dinner for two, but I do know that if we spent the required effort and money necessary to make it happen, the punishment wouldn’t fit the crime. Mostly because it would mean that I would spend a month tracking down a sitter, a minimum of three weeks looking for those “in- between” hours necessary to clean every room in the house, even more days preparing kid-friendly dinners, stocking the house with snacks and ultimately being the one to decide on—and make—the reservations at a restaurant that doesn’t have a coloring crayon and coordinating activity sheet in sight. And that’s all before I’d somehow figure out how to sneak in a shower, whip my hair into some version of what it looked like the last time I left a salon, apply some war paint, pick out an outfit that required heels (add in extra time to relearn how to walk in heels) and go to the ATM to withdraw the $400 ransom it would take to pay for dinner and secure the release of our children. Once we’d arrived at said fantasy restaurant, I’d be so spent from the groundwork that I could promise my husband little more than a staring contest from across the table. (Right now he’s probably thinking, “Honey, why did we stop celebrating Valentine’s Day again?”)

I know, all you young lovers out there will find my Valentine’s Day revelations depressing. And in a way they are. Especially since I spent so many years convincing my husband that using the free greeting cards we get from the charities we support in place of making a trip to an actual store was not winning him any points. Never fear, I’m still a typical girl—all mushy inside and victim to even trivial romance—I’ve just stopped being a slave to Cupid’s annual cash cow.

I wish I could say that I miss it, but in actuality, it’s been pretty liberating. I remember a day when I thought my husband had the most gorgeous, lush head of hair. Now it’s hard for me to run my fingers through it without remembering those same locks covered in vomit the last time Cameron ate a hotdog that didn’t agree with him. And I’m not naïve enough to think there’s much out there can resuscitate the unspoiled fantasy of your young bride after you’ve witnessed that same girl and all her parts giving birth. These days, a burnt piece of meat on his plate and a few runs of the vacuum cleaner through the carpet when he gets home is about all the “sexy” he needs. And this year, honey, even though I no longer own lingerie, I will make absolutely sure my sweats are clean, the DVR is queued and the mouth guard spends the night in its own dish. Happy Valentines Day to us!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Karatehood...

My son takes karate and loves it. He loves it so much, in fact, that it is the only reason I’m willing to drag my hyped up two-year-old to his class twice a week and dejectedly trail after him as he both entertains and annoys other parents attempting to watch their own children in peace. Last week, I’d made perhaps my twelfth apologetic lap through the building when I noticed several black belt hopefuls doing their usual subconscious survey of the other belts in the room. In karate, colored belts ranging from white to black and a few primary colors in between indicate hours logged, skill-level and overall expertise. Determining rank: it’s a well-documented social dance. We all do it. It’s just that in life we have access to less definitive factors when formulating a final opinion. So there I was, suddenly thankful we moms weren’t made to wear our own color-coordinated belt to indicate our level of progress as a student in the school of motherhood.

I can only imagine having to sprint through the grocery store to avoid another mom finding out that I’d been at this for six and a half years and still hadn’t made it past entry level white. Because if she did, she’d inevitably have an inner dialogue with herself to the tune of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, “No play date for you!”

Oh sure, I’ve had my moments, and I think maybe even days when I thought I’d actually move up a level, but then I end up doing something that reminds me, I’m one Britney Spears second away from failing the test. It’s not that I don’t have aspirations in that area or fear the work. I’m just too busy trying to get my kids excited about smoothies for dinner, and digging their soccer uniforms out of the dirty clothes pile so I can spray it with Super Odor Eliminator and pop it in the dryer for 15 minutes before practice. Judge me if you will, but there will come a day when you’re desperate enough to consider it.

Ironically, I seem to know quite a few black belt moms. They’re easy to spot because they’re basically those parenting magazine ad models in Technicolor. Black belt moms don’t have two-year-olds performing “the Batman smells” version of Jingle Bells in the aisles of Walmart. And I’m also pretty sure their two-year-olds don’t accidentally knock heads with a fellow classmate at their Christian-based Mom’s Day Out program and tell him he’s going to “crush” him. (Thanks honey—and by honey I mean my husband) Okay so it came out a little closer to “cuhsh him,” but I think we were all clear.

These are the ladies who have baby books to my baby boxes and perfectly timed growth interval pictures to my “he looks about six months in that one.” Essentially, these are the mothers who can bring home the FDA-approved, food pyramid groceries and sauté them up in their stainless steel, non-teflon pan. God help me if they reapply their lip-gloss before their husbands get home. Who knows? Maybe they cry into their pillows at night like the rest of us, but at least they put on a better show.

I wonder what the level-to-level progress tests would look like. Maybe somewhere between yellow and orange you’d have to master chocolate chip cookies and homemade Rice Krispy treats without looking at the recipe. Or to get from brown to red, you’d have to lead an age-appropriate craft project, cook a well-balanced meal and get in your daily workout all at the same time. I shudder to think what it would take to make it all the way up to black. If I had to guess, I’d bet it’s being able to get those pop-up play tents back into the deceiving little round discs they come in so you don’t have to shove them behind your couch and eliminate the whole reason you felt compelled to buy them in the first place.

Regardless, if we had to live in a society that forced us to wear our Mom “chops” on our sleeves, I’d probably be doomed to wear my entry-level motherhood belt for the rest of this gig, but at least everything goes with white. Come to think of it, so does black. Whatever.