Mom, You Are No Jennifer Aniston

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Sometimes cabinets need to be used to contain bulletin board spillover.

I have always had a penchant for collecting and pinning random things that caught my fancy to a bulletin board and later, as a grown up, on a refrigerator.

You’d think I’d be really into Pinterest because of this but if you’ve clicked on the cute little icon on my blog that urges you to follow me there, you’d be greeted by chirping crickets. I just can’t spend any more time on anything else right now (I have an acute case of Netflix Fever).

When I worked in an office out of college I took to collecting and cataloging strange hairs my coworkers and I would find around our cubicles and created a Hair Musem, pinned to the bulletin board above my desk alongside important memos and pictures of my dog.

It all sounds really weird now but at the time, this is what helped take the edge off of being low-level and underpaid workers at a women’s magazine trapped in a windowless space for 8 hours a day.

Then I became a mom and had the whole expanse of a refrigerator to work with and let me tell you, I had a lot of magnets and sometimes, even they were the star of the show. My favorite was a crying wooden baby sitting in a highchair with its little arms raised in the air. It perfectly captured that moment in my life.

The frig would be covered by photos that struck my fancy, invitations to weddings at first, then birth announcements and later, birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Then I’d add postcards the grandparents would send from their annual excursion overseas or a few-odd Baby Blues or Family Circus comics cut right out of the newspaper.

My frig canvas fell apart in 2005 when we redid our kitchen and got ourselves a big, fancy number sheathed in cabinetry to match the rest of the kitchen, which was beautiful but alas, not magnet friendly.

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This just makes perfect sense.

It wasn’t long though before I was Scotch taping crap onto the frig instead and now, there’s an ever-evolving collection of Honor Roll certificates, a panoramic image of the inside of the 10-year-old’s mouth (showing teeth trying to emerge at odd angles) and my favorite New Yorker cartoon.

Lately, I’ve also taken to taping photos of celebrities on the refrigerator, as if I was a teenaged girl. And I guess because I live with a few of that breed, I get confused sometimes.

Anyway, this is a very long-winded way of explaining why there are a bunch of Ryan Gosling pictures taped to a 47-year-old woman’s refrigerator.

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He is always being a creep and staring. Anywhere you go in the kitchen, the Gos is watching. I kind of like it.

He’s just become, like, this ongoing jokey love-interest around here, so when any one of us comes across a good Gos picture — or one of the kids makes me, say, a Valentine’s card featuring the young actor proclaiming his love for me — it is immediately taped to the frig.

There’s also one photo of Jennifer Aniston up there, she of the fabulous legs. It’s some red carpet shot and it is complimentary to both her upper arms and shapely gams. Traits I admire and envy.

So yesterday, it seems my 10-year-old son noticed the photo of Jen, who has been hanging there at his eye-level for about five months, for the first time.

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Does this photo have a 100% success rate in preventing me from grabbing the Ben & Jerry’s out of the freezer drawer? I’d say no. She does look fab, though.

We were standing in the kitchen and he asked me why I had hung the picture on our frig as he started reading the caption beneath the image, which included her age.

I said, “Well, I think she has amazing legs and I’d like to remind myself of what I’d like my legs to look like every time I go to the refrigerator to look for something to eat. You know, like, inspiration.”

“Whoa, she’s 44?” he said, obviously shocked that this woman was a mere three years younger than his own mother.

“She looks so young,” he continued, looking up at me. “You should use her, like, tips.”

Well, thank you, little boy. I’m so glad I spent all that time breastfeeding you and taking you to Disney World.

I could have been working on my legs instead.

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The kids know I am crazy for the handmade cards and ones that star the Gos need special attention.

 

 

 

My kids sleep all day and play all night.

Welcome to the Habitrail

habitrailThere was a period of time, while growing up in the Seventies, that I wanted nothing more than a pet hamster or two. But more than the critters themselves, what I really wanted to get my hands on was one of those elaborate Habitrail systems that allowed you to create this maze of interconnected plastic tubes and pods through which you could watch your pets scuttle.

I don’t know what the appeal was for me: Maybe it was my whole fascination with The Borrowers and little creatures living in a big world or I just loved all the nooks and crannies that the Habitrail offered. I probably had a distorted idea of what caring for a pet hamster would look like, believing we’d be bonding and that the fur balls would be anything more than frisky poop machines.

I also would have settled for SeaMonkeys.

But unlike me when I became a parent, my mom did not easily succumb to the pleas of pet-starved children and I never got my hands on a hamster, never mind the Habitrail. I think later, as we grew older, one of my brothers might have scored a slimy something and there might have been a bird or two but rodents never made the cut in our house.

Which, I’ve since been told, is a good thing. According to other moms I know who have caved to their children’s pestering and adopted hamsters, the rodents make a racket all night long. They apparently are nocturnal creatures, sleeping all day and then as the whole house settles in for the night, they come to life and start to play, scurry and eat.

But last night, after I powered down my Kindle around 10:00 and turned out my light, excited for a solid night’s sleep, I realized that, in an ironic twist, I was now living with creatures whose internal clocks mimicked those of hamsters.

I was living in my own goddamn Habitrail.

While my 10-year-old and I were calling it a day, the three older kids – teens and a 20-year-old – were just getting going.

Down the hallway from my room, my 16-year-old and her pal who lives across the street were hooting and hollering all gansta “yo yo”s and “what what”s. Something big must have been happening on Instagram.

My 19-year-old daughter saw 10 p.m. as the perfect time to take a bath and settled into the tub after turning the radio up as loud as it would go.

When I lumbered out to knock on the bathroom door and ask her to turn it down, it became a comical “Who’s on first?” routine.

Me: “Turn it down.”

Her: “I can’t hear you.”

Me. “Because you need to turn it down.”

Her: “I still can’t hear you.”

Sigh.

I got back into my bed and then heard the yelling and pounding of last night’s episode of True Blood playing out in the den, located right under my room. By then, too tired from the exchange with the bather, I simply rolled over and texted my 20-year-old to turn the volume down. Within minutes, I heard the crinkling of plastic bags as he foraged through the pantry searching for some late-night snack that I’m sure remnants of which will greet me – Tostito bits dribbled on the kitchen floor and a milk-coated glass stuck to the bottom of the sink – when I head downstairs today.

The house is quiet now, in the early morning hours, but I’m sure to be tiptoeing around until my little critters start to stir in their cages some time around noon.

So I say to any parent who has a child begging to bring a rodent into the house, simply tell your child that while they can’t have the furry variety now, some day, if they play their cards right and become parents themselves, they’ll be the proud owners of creatures who spring to life at night and sleep all day.

It’s in their nature.

hello muddah …

IMG_2154 Have you ever felt as though your heart was about to burst?

Like, legitimately explode?

I get that way some times watching a show on TV. Like recently I was watching the movie Juno and when she has the baby and was surrounded by her family and everyone has stepped up to be so solid for that baby and then she has to give it away in the end, I just can’t take it. I burst into tears every time.

Or the Pamper’s commercial that just shows like 20 different babies sleeping while “Silent Night” plays and they’re little mouths make tiny sucking movements and one baby gives a sudden jerky twitch and I’m reminded of all those nights I had a baby asleep in my house, sometimes curled up beside me in bed, and I wonder where that time went. Tears.

Last summer, my son went away to camp for a week and because he’s the youngest of the four kids, I wasn’t too worried about him. He’s never been given the impression that the world revolves around him so he’s pretty well-adjusted and highly adaptable. I always joke that you could drop him and kid #3 in the middle of a crowd in China and they’d be like, “Hey, hi, what’s going on?”

I felt a little tug at my heart when it was time to say good-bye and I started second guessing my decision to let a 9-year-old spend a week away at camp. Who would separate his dirty from his clean clothes? Would he remember to brush his teeth? What if he forgets to eat fruits and vegetables?

But he gave me a hug and then ran down the cabin’s porch steps and started to toss a football around with another camper.

So it came as a surprise later that week to find a postcard from him in my mailbox.

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And when I read that first line, that he felt so different without me, my heart swelled. I imagined him sitting on his bunk in the cabin, carefully crafting his note home using his best penmanship. And I remembered what it was like to be 9 and live in a microcosm surrounded by parents and siblings, friends and teachers and believe that that is the whole world. And it’s familiar and comfortable and you can never imagine anything different.

When he got home, he said that he was a little homesick but “you get pretty well-known to everyone so that makes it better.”

He’s there again this week and while I got held up during check-in, he went back to the car and dragged his suitcase and sleeping bag to his cabin and began to unpack long before I finally caught up with him.

And as much as I hope he’s having the time of his life and not even thinking about home, there is a part of me that will be looking again for a postcard in my mailbox with the tell-tale script of a boy who misses his mom.

 

 

 

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What makes your heart burst? Have you dealt with a child’s homesickness (or your own)? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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there will be blood

IMG_1647I didn’t go into parenting with the intention of becoming the breaker of hearts. To be the dasher of young dreams.

But it seems it’s a role I am destined to play.

Take yesterday for example: I was lying on my bed working Grey Gardens-style — with my laptop, assorted papers, reading glasses and Kindle strewn about – when I heard the kitchen phone ring.

Now, I don’t know who’s calling your landline, but for the past year or two those callers here seem to consist mainly of robocalls coming from “Unavailable” or Gap credit services to tell me my payment is late. Again. (Listen, why can’t those Old Navy people set up some type of autopay plan so I can make timely payments AND receive my $10 coupons?)

Anyway, I hear the phone ringing and even though I can also hear a number of my children’s voices coming from downstairs, I wonder if anyone is even going to lower themselves to the level of the wall phone and answer it. It’s so beneath them.

But someone does and then I hear footsteps running quickly up the stairs.

“Mom, it’s for you,” says my youngest child, slightly breathless and looking a little excited. I’m about to tell him to tell whomever it is to take us off their calling list, when he adds, “It’s Jack F’s mom.”

I had heard through the fourth grade grapevine that Jack F’s mom has a number of slimy, jumpy reptilian things to farm out before her family packs up and moves across the country this summer (boohoo), so I had a good idea why she was calling.

Apparently, our boys had already discussed this dilemma and my guy was first-in-line to take their bearded dragon off their hands.

Let’s back up right here.

At this stage of my life, I no longer wish to be tasked with keeping anything alive. Even if it’s small enough to fit inside a shoebox.

I’ve kept four kids alive for over 20 years, and I’ll have you know that all of their fingers and toes remain intact. I hate to mess with that track record.

Isn’t it enough that I got guilted into harboring a half-dead cat in when it appeared in our garage during a snowstorm a few years ago, who is now under the impression that she is second-in-line for the crown and has become clinically obese?

 

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I am also trying to minimize the number of creatures whom I need to clean up after, and by that I specifically referring to their poop and barf.

And finally, I really haven’t bounced back since our dog Rudy, a truly glorious Golden Retriever and the finest and truest sidekick a girl could ask for, died suddenly one day last year. My heart is still sore from that loss.

I really don’t know how people can withstand the heartache of losing a pet, and just keep getting new ones. (Interestingly, I also seem to have suffered the same PTSD after losing a spouse.)

Okay, I’m pretty sure that I won’t get attached to the bearded dragon the way I did to Rudy. The thing probably won’t go for walks with me in the woods, lie under my desk while I’m working or try to trick me into petting it all the time. It might have similarly bad breath, though.

We’ve had an assortment of critters over the years: First, there were Bonnie and Buster, the hermit crabs that we brought home from the boardwalk when the kids were little and who briefly lived in a world dominated by pink sand and a beautiful purple castle. I would routinely forget about the two of them, though, between the potty training, half days at nursery school and trips to the playground, so Bonnie and Buster just kind of slowly shriveled up and eventually kerplunked out of their bedazzled shells onto the soft, pretty sand.

Then there was Huck the Frog, who lived about a week and then promptly died while he was placed under our friends’ care when we went out-of-town (He was already looking a little peaked when we dropped him off and then our pals were stuck with wrapping Huck up and keeping him in their freezer until our return. How do you say “thank you” for that sad timing?).

Then there was Chester the Guinea Pig – aka Dodo – routinely ignored by his caretakers, and then doomed when I banished him (her?) to live in the basement, where he/she quickly passed on and fossilized until I came upon the grisly scene one day. We did have a beautiful ceremony, though, commemorating Dodo’s life here on earth and he/she is now shaded for eternity by a gorgeous hydrangea bush.

Then there were the two white mice, whose names I never knew and who, I recently learned, were given the run of the girls’ dollhouse for their daily workout.

Shiver.

I don’t even remember how those two died.

Obviously, the takeaway from all of these experiences is that kids can’t take care of their own pets and I’m not much better. I should stick to killing houseplants.

So, when my oldest child, who I truly love but is maybe not the most thoughtful of people, got a bee in his bonnet last summer that he needed a lizard, I was adamant that the thing was not coming into my house. Aside from the obvious issue that I would be constantly worried that it would slither out of its tank and make its way into my bed, I just couldn’t have any more blood on my hands.

I relented when I saw how the cause united the four children.

“You never let us have pets,” they shouted in unison and then drove off and shortly returned smugly bearing a cardboard PetCo box carrying a bright yellow gekko named Gordon.

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And since then, my eldest has been trying to make his lizard my problem.

By the end of last summer, he decided maybe Gordon should stay here and not head off to college with him, but I made sure that the Gekko and his tank were firmly packed in our SUV when we moved my son into his apartment off-campus in August.

My son has since discovered that keeping something alive takes work, and he has to keep hauling the thing and its accoutrements back and forth for school breaks. He has also learned that some college girls get weirded-out when they end up in some guy’s room late at night featuring a dimly-lit tank littered with frightened crickets. It’s creepy.

So I headed downstairs with my little guy hot on my heels to talk to Jack F’s mom and tell her that it was really nice but I just don’t want to take care of anything else right now.

I watched his face crumple a little, but when I hung up, I suggested that maybe he adopt his brother’s reptile instead. An olive branch, to be sure.

“Mom,” he cried, “This is, like, my only chance to have a bearded dragon. Do you know how cool they are?”

And frankly, I don’t. I just know there’s the word “dragon” is involved and I’m nervous.

My workaround was to try to get his father to take in the soon-to-be-homeless critter, but he wisely texted back, “No thank u.”

And now I’m wondering if I made the right call. If any one of my children is responsible, it’s this guy – even at 10. And while he won’t be able to drive to Petco to buy the crickets and mealworms or whatever disgusting thing a bearded dragon needs to stay alive, he probably would be more on top of its care than some of his siblings were of their pets.

I mean, really, doesn’t he deserve the chance to kill something like the rest of us?

 

 

 

 

 

Tradition

IMG_2597I ran out to the CVS in town around dinnertime last week to pick up some graduation cards and on the way home, I drove past the middle school and immediately began to cry.

Sloping up the school’s lawn, in front of the big white gazebo and under a perfect June sky, were the familiar blue plastic folding chairs that are hauled out of storage annually to set the stage for what has become one of my favorite nights of the year.

In short time, those seats would be filled by moms, dads, siblings and grandparents of the graduating eighth grade class. They’d be flanked by teachers, friends and well-wishers standing along the sides to witness yet another generation of kids move on from our school community. This year I even noticed one couple sitting off to the side in beach chairs like they were at a soccer game, just taking it in.

I went with two of my kids to cheer on our neighbor and we stood watching the graduates slowly walk in pairs from the red brick school across the lawn where they gathered in front of the gazebo.

We clapped and hooted for younger siblings of kids my older children had graduated with and we pointed out dresses we liked or how grown up some of the boys looked, all spiffy in their jackets and ties. Between the three of us, we knew who a lot of the kids were.

In our small town, which graduates around 85 kids a year, the graduation dress code dictates that the girls wear long white or pastel dresses and the boys wear white dinner jackets.

Before any of my own children had graduated, I thought the notion of little boys wearing rented tuxedos was ludicrous, and considered starting a campaign to change the dress code to a navy jacket and khakis.

But then my own son walked across the lawn looking smart in his fancy white jacket, joining the legion of young men who had graduated from our middle school and carrying on the tradition, and I was hooked.

Before the ceremony, they gather the kids together to take a photo of the graduating class lined up in front of the school, capturing one of the last moments of their childhood. That iconic picture will soon hang in the school’s hallway, just past the main entrance, joining a long line of graduating classes dating well over 50 years. Rows and rows of young girls with their hair just so and the boys with red roses pinned to their lapels have smiled for the camera.

So far three of my children have taken part in that tradition and their pictures are among the collection lining the school’s main entrance, where they will remain, frozen in time, with thousands of other children, many of whom eventually move back to town and continue the cycle with their own children.

And I’d like to be frozen too. I want to remain in that sweet slice of time.

So when my eyes filled with tears at the sight of all those blue chairs, it wasn’t for my children that I cried.

It was for me.

I cried because I don’t ever want this tradition to end for us. I want to spend one day every June feeling utterly entrenched in a community watching a beloved tradition unfold. I want to know who the girl is giving the speech or the boy who’s playing the piano and know exactly who their parents are and what street they live on.

I’ve loved raising my children in a small town and being immersed in my community. It’s been so satisfying being a part of something so much greater than me and taking part in so many traditions.

When my parents split up the summer between sixth and seventh grades, everything I knew, any traditions we had, came to a screeching halt. I left the tiny Catholic school that I had attended since first grade and we moved to anther part of the state and my mom got remarried. It was like the rug had been pulled out from under me and it took me years to regain my footing.

So when my own marriage came undone five years ago, I didn’t want our four children to feel as untethered as I had at 12. So utterly disconnected from everything I had known.

And for the most part, we kept it together. We stayed in our house and the kids still went to the same schools with the same friends and could count on third grade violin recitals and Civil War Day in the seventh grade.

I cried a second time earlier that day last week, when I went to the elementary school in town one last time to see my youngest child “graduate” from the fourth grade in anticipation of moving over to the middle school in September.

My two teenage daughters and their dad joined me for the ceremony that morning and the girls and I linked arms and walked down the school’s hallways to the gym one last time. I started to tear up at the sight of the artwork hanging along the walls and the little backpacks lined up outside the classroom doors and thought of the thousands of times I must have walked those halls over the last 15 years on my way to conferences or to help the kids celebrate a holiday or the end of school.

At the end of the ceremony, we all moved outside the school’s entrance to “clap” the class out. Another new tradition, the fourth grade walks through the school one last time en masse while the younger grades applaud as they file by.

My 16-year-old and I stood with the crowd waiting outside for the class to emerge and stared up at the school. We agreed it had been a great place for singing in countless concerts, dressing up like pilgrims or counting pumpkin seeds and making homemade applesauce, and she put her head on my shoulder and we cried that it was over.

“We had a good run,” I said and she nodded and we looked up to see the kids come out the front door and the crowd began to clap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

less-than-stellar moments in parenting

IMG_1721Today was my final drop off at the elementary school my four children have attended since 1998 and the era ended just as I imagined, with me shouting at my 10-year-old right before he exited the vehicle.

Awesome.

He was just trying to be festive on this second-to-last-day-of-school, plugging a cord into my iPhone to play his go-to song, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” And he wanted it loud. Really loud.

So the whole five-minute ride to school we went back-and-forth, turning the music up and then down, but as we approached a guard crossing a little girl running alongside her bike in front of our car, I snapped.

“Turn it down!” I barked, and he did, but I saw his face redden and eyes get glassy when he shot me a what-is-your-prolem kind of look.

We drove the last quarter-mile to school in uncomfortable silence, our two young neighbors  sitting quietly in the back, and when they got out of the car, no one said anything.

Usually we joke as they all scramble out, dragging bulky backpacks and instruments over the seats, and I always say “Good-bye” and wish them a good day.

Not today. Today they got out quickly and quietly, my son giving me one last glare before he slammed the passenger door and started walking towards the school.

So what haven’t I learned in all these years living with young children? That they can be slow and get easily distracted? That staying on schedule is not a priority? That sometimes they just want to open the windows and play the music really loud?

You’d think, given the number of children I have and the amount of time I’ve spent with them, that I’d be more chill by now. That I’d recognize a kid just being a kid when he’s sitting right next to me.

I am reminded that being a mom never gets easier. You never get to the point where you know how to behave in any given situation with your kid and screw ups can occur when you least expect them.

I only hope that I avoid being a diva on their graduation and wedding days. That seems like a reasonable goal.

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fuck fear

My girlfriend emailed me this video yesterday and had written “Fuck Fear” in the subject line and I was inspired not just by the whole “Lean In” thing but by the sentiment of those two words combined.

I’m tired of being afraid. Of not feeling good enough. And I have to keep reminding myself, “If not now, when?”

Luckily, just looking at myself in the mirror nowadays is a reminder that I am not the girl I used to be, when I see the slight sag in my belly while I’m sitting drying my hair or the deep wrinkle creating a slash down the side of my cheek.

And I will be very disappointed with myself if I don’t at least TRY to live the life I want to live before it’s too late.

So I started this year off by announcing to my therapist early in January (thus going on the record) that I was no longer fucking around and had three goals for my year:

  1. To concentrate on my writing.
  2. To go on an adventure.
  3.  To to be open to love.

And while, as noted previously, I haven’t been super-proactive in the love department, I’ve actually followed through on the other two.

Obviously, at long last I got it together and launched the blog and while I don’t post as often as I’d like to, I’ve been pretty regular with my writing. And now that I’ve conquered that part of the equation, I’ve decided to throw my hat into the official blogger ring and attend the BlogHer conference in Chicago and hobnob with fellow over-sharers in July.

(Sidebar: I knew it was a sign I should attend when BlogHer announced that Sheryl Sandberg would be their keynote speaker.)

And in August, right before I say hello to 47, I will spend a week sailing around the Dodocanese Islands on a small boat surrounded by strangers on what I hope is the adventure I’ve been longing for yet tired of waiting to find someone to share it with.

So, I say, “Fuck you” to fear (or try to, at least) and not only do I encourage my daughters to take risks and believe in themselves, but my boys as well.

My youngest son, who’s 10, learned that this morning when we found ourselves scrambling, once again, to get him out the door to an early saxophone lesson. It’s been the bane of our existence the entire school year, getting him to the weekly lesson and practicing at home a few times a week. It’s all led to him feeling inadequate as the other kids have improved and he continues to struggle with the instrument.

So I looked into his big eyes this morning as we sat parked in front of the school, — and really, you’ve never seen such bright blue eyes — just brimming with tears, and I assured him that he could be just as good as those other kids, he just needed to get serious and practice hard before next week’s concert.

And then I told him what I named this essay  and to dry his tears and get out there and give it his all.

Because life is an equal opportunity challenger, as we are reminded is this quote that I’ve been loving by Teddy Roosevelt delivered over 100 years ago:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

My little guy got out of the car and walked towards the school’s front entrance, weighed down by the instrument case in one hand and a backpack stuffed with about 20 pounds of text books and pretzels, hanging from his back. About 10 steps from the front door he turned around and gave me a little wave and then opened the door and entered the arena.

stinky way to start the day

IMG_2483I found it in the refrigerator yesterday as I was digging out the half and half for my early-morning coffee.

There it was, sitting quietly next to the pancake mix and Frank’s buffalo sauce, like a time bomb waiting to explode.

I had sent my son to the market the day before to pick up something we needed for dinner and told him he should also buy sandwich fixings for lunch this week. He’s starting his summer job working for a landscaper and I knew he could barely afford the gas to drive to work each day, much less buying lunch.

“Get some of their good ham,” I suggested. “Or maybe a container of pulled pork.”

And while he did take my advice and get the pork, he also bought something that is banned from my house. Like, even my ex-husband, who was not great with boundaries, knew it was off limits.

It’s fucking tunafish. There’s a big, oozing tub of it on the lower shelf of my fridge and I can’t stop thinking about it.

It freaks me out.

If I ever got, like, a piece of it on my hand, I’d have to chop it off.  It is my mortal enemy.

I worked in a deli in college and had made it clear that I did not get involved with the freaky vat of tuna for subs (or egg salad, for that matter). If you were working with me, you just knew that when an order for tuna-anything came in, you would be slathering the stuff on a roll and not me.

I found myself working with a friend one weekend afternoon our senior year, and although we were sorority sisters and had lived together the year before, she was having none of my tuna-bullshit.

An order came in for a tuna sub and she turned to me and asked me to make it. I balked.

“Make the fucking sub,” she instructed, and I knew I was being difficult and irrational, but I was actually afraid of the stuff.

In the end, it turns out I was even more afraid of her, and found myself scooping the smelly brown glop from a tub and smearing it on a sub roll.

Traumatizing.

On a recent flight to San Francisco with the kids, a family seated a few rows behind us – reluctant, it seemed, to pony-up the cash for inflight dining snackboxes – cracked open their lunches from home and the smell of tuna immediately filled the cabin.

It was all I could do not to turn around and give them the hairy eyeball for subjecting 20 rows of passengers to their lunch stench. Selfish.

And now it’s living in my house.

I’ve seen my son make a sandwich. I’ve witnessed the aftermath of debris all over the counter and sandwich matter caught in the teeth of a serrated knife lying in the sink. I don’t know if I could handle bits of tuna lying on my granite counter or perhaps dripping down the side of the container and threatening to infect the innocent pint of strawberries sitting nearby in the frig.

My first instinct when I saw the tub yesterday was to quickly wrap it up in a Target bag and throw it out in the trash in the garage.

“Don’t do that,” advised my daughter, who was almost as freaked out as I was by the discovery, but definitely more pragmatic. “It would be such a waste.”

And I know the tuna-buyer would certainly tell me I’m being a baby (which I’m sure he will after he reads this) and that’s possibly true, but he’s got his own list of of phobias (used Band Aids and hair in the drain, come to mind).

So maybe he should understand how bugged I am.

In the time it took for me to write this, I’ve heard him banging around downstairs making lunch and getting ready for another day working in the hot sun. I hope his sandwich is especially delicious when he eats it in a few hours.

And if he ever were to ask me how much I loved him, I wouldn’t say, “I love you from here to the moon and back.”

I’ll tell him, “I love you so much, I let you keep tunafish in my refrigerator.”

Because that is truly love.

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winter is coming (and it’s only memorial day)

P1000028I was lying on a bed in a hotel room in the-middle-of-nowhere Virginia last week, waiting for my daughter to finish her final exam for the semester, when I posted the following on my Facebook wall: “Winter is coming.”

And I know that Memorial Day is here, and maybe I’ve been watching way too much Game of Thrones lately (hello, Khal Drogo), but I just couldn’t shake that imminent sense of doom.

Because like the good people of the House of Stark living in the north on the HBO series, I know that hard times are coming. On the show, they’re always ending conversations with the ominous, “Winter is coming,” tagline. Only now I totally get what it’s like to see the shadows quickly creeping towards you. I might start guzzling wine like Cersei before too long.

The summer months have always been challenging for me and now I fear the seasonal shift will be even more pronounced as I go from tending to the day-to-day needs of only two children back to the full load of four.

It’s like someone lifted a giant weight off my shoulders only to sneak it back on while I was folding laundry.

I don’t want to assume I’m doing what’s expected of me, just minding my own business while working on my laptop or turning ground turkey into one magical thing or another, only to turn around and get my head lopped off, Ned Stark-style, by some terrible enfant.

And so far, it hasn’t been terrible. My oldest son, at 20, seems to have come to terms with many of the conditions for living with his family and has been seen clearing dinner dishes and wiping counters and I’ve heard he might have even pet the cat once or twice. And his sister, who’s 19, has come in handy picking up and dropping off her younger siblings to work or baseball or sometimes she even drives me if I want to have a cocktail or two. I have also hired the older two to handle the cleaning of our pool,which  currently resembles the Black Lagoon, a task that has always fallen under my purview. It’s time to pass that time-consuming baton to those who actually have time.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Things aren’t like all rainbows and puppy dogs over here. I came down this morning to find a number of shoes lying around the family room floor and a pair of bunched up socks stuffed behind an ottoman. There’s generally a few bowls sitting in the sink, the remnants of a late night snack of ice cream or spaghetti and sauce caking the surface and much of our stainless steel sink, to greet me each morning.

And I hesitate to mention the big dent that recently appeared in the rear of our car.

It could be worse though, according to a girlfriend, whose two college kids brought home ants and mumps, respectively.

And I know it pissed the older kids off when I wrote about this before, and although they are the divas of the brood (NOTE: If you are reading this, my loves, don’t even pretend this isn’t true. It’s part of your charm.), it’s not really the specific people. It’s quantity over quality in this matter.

There have been some bright spots. I looked out the kitchen window one day earlier this week and saw the two older kids sitting in beach chairs in the backyard with their noses buried in books, and for some reason, I was not annoyed. If they were sprawled on the couch in the middle of the afternoon watching Vampire Diaries or Adventure Time, I think I would screamed the way I did when I found a certain someone still asleep at 12:30 yesterday afternoon.

But it was nice to see that all those nights of reading to them when they were young, learning for the thousandth time what happens when you give a moose a muffin or put a sister up for sale, weren’t for nothing.

So I’ll put up with the shoes scattered all over the mudroom and the daily “What’s for dinner?” because it’s a part of the package of being their mom. And aside from the fantasy of shipping all, maybe a few, okay just one of them off to the proverbial Wall, Nights Watch-style, what are my options?

Oh, the things I do for love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaB4-kZgNoc