Five Reasons Mother’s Day Was Pretty Okay

IMG_2445 I used to joke that Mother’s Day was not for mothers. If it were, I reasoned, moms would be able to slip away, guilt-free, and spend the day free from butt wiping and nugget baking or whatever was the urgent-need-du-jour.

But that never seemed to be the case. There were brunches to attend and pasta necklaces to wear.

I went to visit a college friend over Mother’s Day weekend a few years ago and my kids and their dad were, like, totally insulted. How could I choose a weekend of shopping, glasses of wine and catching up with a dear friend over them asking me, repeatedly, what I wanted to do on Mother’s Day?

If Mother’s Day was truly all about giving moms a break, we would just be able to switch our OFF DUTY lights on like yellow cab and ignore all those frantically waving arms trying to get our attention.

But somewhere along the way, Mother’s Day has started to seem a little more special to me. I look forward to seeing what the kids have up their sleeves. And I don’t know if it’s because they’re older or that their dad’s not around to pick up the holiday slack, but the kids have really stepped up their Mother’s Day game.

Or maybe it’s just that I’ve learned to keep my expectations low. That could be part of the equation, too.

But even with only two kids living at home this Mother’s Day, I felt loved and appreciated – if only for a day – by my people.

Forthwith, the top five reasons why my Mother’s Day was pretty okay this year:

IMG_2439REASON #5: My house did not catch fire.

He might have had to get up at 6:30 a.m. to pull it all together and in the meantime, put everyone in the house at risk while we slept, but my 10-year-old son can whip up a solid batch of scrambled eggs for breakfast in bed. They may have been served cold and arrived earlier than I planned on waking, but I could feel the love rising off the plate. And, he remembered I liked hot sauce.

IMG_2436REASON #4: Love and candy from miles away.

Although they weren’t home for the big day, my two college kids had the foresight and wherewithal to send me flowers and candy that arrived Saturday. Was the effort likely spearheaded by my daughter? Probably. Were the flowers ultimately bought with money I had deposited in their bank accounts? Of course. But could you ever put a price on the enclosed card that declared, “We miss you so much mom!”? No way.

IMG_2442REASON #3: I was a happy guest.

My sister hosted our family for lunch and it was lovely, filled with lots of siblings, our mom and steak. I even brought along a cake. But the party prep and cleanup were handled by my sister and her husband and for that, I was supremely grateful.

 

IMG_2443REASON #2:  The ultimate gift from a teenager.

The 15-year-old handed me a card with an envelope addressed “Mother Dearest” in kidnapper-style cut out letters (she knows I am a sucker for that form of correspondence).

Inside was a post-it note announcing I was about to embark upon a scavenger hunt, and off I went, searching for the next post it note marked with a clue and a letter. Once they were all collected, I unscrambled the letters and found they spelled: “Check your Facebook.”

525736_10151589668497173_1625768403_nI grabbed my phone and found a friend request from this daughter who had made it her mission to avoid being linked to me on social media, despite her two older siblings succumbing over the last few years. And while she also got me a gift card for a massage, don’t tell her that that was just icing on the cake. She had me at Facebook.

REASON #1: A crack in the wall.

My ex husband and I have had a less-than-ideal split. We married way too young and had different visions of what a committed relationship should look like but somewhere in between the arguing and long stretches of silence, we brought four children into this world. And he held my hand and fed me ice chips and loves those people as much as I do.

While we were married, he had to buy me flowers and have the kids make me a card. It was part of the deal. But now, with all that obligation long out the window, any gesture from him is seen in a different light.

So when I saw the text from him wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day first thing Sunday morning, I felt that maybe there was hope for us after all. Like Reagan and Gorbachev, maybe we could find a way to tear down that wall, if not for us, then for the good of our people. And that, would be the best gift of all.

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mommy math

images-3I have a confession to make: although I purport to be this harried mother-of-four – making a sandwich with one hand while blogging with the other — the truth is that over the last nine months two of those kiddos have been far away at school.

The brother and sister are back-to-back grade-wise so he graduated and left for college in 2011 and she followed suit the next year.

And do you know what I’ve learned in that time?

That basically I was a fucking asshole for carrying on the way I did way back when about NEEDING four children. Seriously, ask my former husband, I cried.

Having two kids is AMAZING. Seriously, hats off to all of you who had the good sense to stop at a pair. It’s easy street.

There’s just less of everything: laundry, shoes scattered in the mudroom, food crumbs in the pantry, plastic water bottles in the recycling and definitely a reduction in personalities. That right there is worth the cost of two college tuitions.

So I read with interest a newly-released survey by the geniuses at the Today Show this week reporting that parents with three children are seemingly more stressed out than parents with four or more children.

“Call it the Duggar effect,” the article on Today.com proclaims. “Once you get a certain critical mass of kids, life seems to get a bit easier.”

Please, somebody, help me do that math. Because as far as I’m concerned, it’s a numbers game, people. And even though I majored in English and couldn’t convert a fraction to decimals if you paid me, I clearly understand that 2 children + 2 children = more of everything.

Like, get in a cage with three monkeys and throw another one in and it just compounds the amount of poop, screaming and jumping around you have to put up with.

Here’s the kind of math I understand: Remember Schoolhouse Rock’s Four-Legged Zoo? Just like the animals in that cartoon zoo, all those feet (that need expensive sneakers), mouths (that need palate expanders and braces) and ears (that don’t hear a fucking word you say) just multiply with the more children that you add.

And things get dangerous (usually for the children) the more you have if,  like me, you tend to leave one behind every now and then.

Like once I drove off in our minivan and about 10 minutes into the drive told the oldest (probably 7 at that time) to sit up in his seat way in the back, only to hear his sister say, “He’s not here.”

Another time I took the two girls to Petco to stock up on dog food and we loaded the giant bag into the car and my older daughter and I got in and I started to drive away. We drove right past the other sister, who had gone to return the shopping cart. She just stood there, watching us drive.

“I was kidding!” I assured her as she climbed in the car teary-eyed. I could tell by her face she wasn’t buying it.

But the fourth kid is the one who always seems to be slipping through the cracks. To date, I have left him alone in a neighbor’s basement while we all went out to deliver Thanksgiving dinners to the needy (he said he alternated his time between watching television and going outside to bounce on the trampoline). And two years ago we dropped him off for baseball practice only to discover two hours later when I picked him up that there had been no practice (he spent some time at the playground, apparently).

So, do I regret having four children? Don’t be silly. Being their mom has made me a better person and my life feels full and blessed with them in it.

But do I enjoy only having to cook for two kids every night and clean up our little end of the kitchen island that we can now comfortably fit around?

Well, you know what they say: Three is a magic number.

 

 

 

 

too much information

It happened one day last week.

There I was, minding my own business in my kitchen while frittering away precious moments on Facebook, when I heard the ding of a text hit my cell.

I looked and saw my ex-husband’s name pop up and felt that familiar spark of adrenaline as a panic attack began to spread through my chest. He can be a serious text bully, and had spent a lot of time sending me venomous thoughts wirelessly during our divorce. To this day, I experience PTSD symptoms every time I see a text come in from him, even though nowadays most of our exchanges are benign and sometimes even pleasant.

But I’d been waiting for this one.

He  was wondering, via text, what our children must think of my newsletter “or whatever u call it.” He’d been hearing about it “week after week”  from others, asking him how he felt about his ex-wife writing about him and the kids.

That’s funny, I thought, my friends had been asking me the same thing. Well, now we know he’d at least heard about my blog.

“Thanks 4 that. I’m sure the kids will thank u 4 that some day too,” he finished, adding what time he’d pick up our youngest for baseball practice.

Here’s the funny part: My children are my blog’s biggest fans. They are usually the first ones  to like a post on Facebook. They always send encouraging notes after reading a post and get on me when it’s been a while since I’ve written something.

Yesterday, my oldest told me my most recent post had him “crying lol.”

“Great writing,” he texted.

When I wrote recently about my gift for getting pregnant and several subsequent miscarriages, he told me how “emotional” he felt reading it and was promoting my blog to all of his friends via Facebook.

“Writing too good for people not to see,” he wrote.

My heart swelled inside my chest, Grinch-style.

This, from the child who challenged me from Day 1. Who at times made me question myself as a mother and a person. But to be honest, he’s the oldest and had always been under my mommy microscope. Nonetheless,  I was thrilled.

But I admit, I am always nervous before posting something for all the world to see. I never want my children to feel like I’ve thrown them under the blogger bus. And though I know I have the propensity to overshare – to friends, family, complete strangers – I feel like I (usually) have a good sense of what really should stay private.

Things no one needs to read about online.

I went to hear Anna Quindlen speak at the 92Street Y a few months ago and someone in the audience asked her what her rules were for writing about her children. Quindlen said she was sensitive to it and as a rule has the subject review the piece before publication.

I, on the other hand, am not so democratic.

Of course, I have gotten a couple of texts from my college son complaining that I’d crossed the line (one time was valid and the other he completely misread). Even my post – complete with photos – about my daughter’s pigsty of a bedroom didn’t elicit any e-message to cease and desist. And that girl can be very intimidating when threatened.

My little guy walked by me while I was working on my laptop recently and spied the photo of his handywork mutilating the sheetrock in our garage as the picture accompanying one of my posts. He stopped, stared over my shoulder, and said, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

As for my former husband, well, therein lies the rub. On the one hand, the man has provided enough copy, as Nora Ephron would say, for a lifetime of blog posts. But we had a whole herd of children together and although our marriage didn’t last, I believe in my heart that he truly did the best that he could at the time.

I mean, don’t we all?

And I don’t want to speak badly about him for my kids’ sake, too. Who wants to be that ex-wife? But that doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t want to take a little swipe. Like, I’m not perfect.

I think I subscribe to what Epron wrote in Heartburn, “Because if I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me. Because if I tell the story I can get on with it.”

Interestingly, my 19-year-old daughter and I were chatting on Facebook yesterday after she read my most recent post and she started getting all Jan Brady and complained, “You only write about the boys.”

“Really?” I asked. “You really want me to write about you?”

“Of course,” she replied. “But only the good things.”

take the plunge

I know I’ve said in the past that one of the few times I missed having a man around the house was when it snowed.

That is not true.

I also wish there was somebody else around here (there doesn’t even need to be a penis involved) to help out when I see dead things floating in the pool and when a toilet starts to overflow.

Which seems to be happening around here a lot lately.

Now, I’ll take responsibility for failing to mention to my children that toilet bowls aren’t like really fancy trash cans. You can’t just put anything in there and flush without thinking there are going to be repercussions months, or sometimes even seconds, down the line.

I walked into my own bathroom last week (which now everyone uses because of the kitty litter box lurking in the kids’ bathroom) to find mounds of paper towels filling the bowl. One of the kids had cleaned something off the bathroom mirror and instead of tossing it into the trashcan literally one millimeter away, she opted to dispose of it in the toilet (yet failed to seal the deal with a flush).

Having grown up living with a temperamental septic tank, I was incredulous that anyone would even consider flushing anything but toilet paper.

“How was I supposed to know?” asked the culprit, rather nonplussed, and more than a little irritated that her mom was being such a freak about the toilet.

I also didn’t think I had to mention to the girls, in this day and age – what with all the signs posted in like every goddamn public restroom stall you sit down in – that only toilet paper should be disposed of in the toilet.

The girls were shocked to learn that feminine products, no matter how small and seemingly streamlined they may appear to be,  cannot be disposed of through the toilet. “Wait, what?” said one. “That’s stupid.”

Stupid, perhaps. But only until toilet water is starting to pour down the sides of the bowl. Then, as you are trying to remember where the fucking plunger is, it starts to make perfect sense.

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impulse control

My ex-husband used to tell the funniest story about the day his parents got new barstools when he was a kid.

This was the Seventies, when installing a bar in your basement and hanging a dartboard just steps away from your washing machine seemed not only relaxing, but logical.

My ex’s parents were teachers and careful about finances so the shiny new naugahyde stools that arrived that day were a big deal.

But all my ex could think of as he saw them sitting in his basement was what it would be like to slice through the seats with the Exacto knife he saw laying nearby.

So, he’s like 8 or 9, something like that, and he figures, “What’s a few quick nips with the blade?” and before he knows it, he’s cut through a few of the chairs.

He comes out of the destructive daze long enough to assess the situation and think, “I’m fucked,” and decides to wait it out in the bathtub.

Now, his dad could be intimidating back in the day. He was a high school basketball coach and gym teacher, a former Marine, and he pretty much insisted that you toe the line or he’ll reach down and break it off your foot.

So my ex is nervously bathing when he hears his father come home from work and head straight for the basement to see the new stools. He hears the footsteps reach the bottom of the stairs, pause and  a few beats later his father is screaming my former mother-in-law’s name.

I guess the list of suspects was pretty short because in no time, my ex’s dad was barreling into the bathroom and pulling his wet body out of the tub by the arm for retribution.

Remember, this was the Seventies – long before timeouts and quiet chairs – when violence was an often-used implement in the parenting tool belt.

We used to laugh our asses off at that story. I am actually laughing now thinking about it. My ex would shake his head and say, “I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking. I just couldn’t control myself.”

Now, in hindsight, I have chalked that story up to the guy’s impulse-control issues. It seems that sometimes, he couldn’t stop himself. Perhaps a red flag.

But yesterday, I started to consider that maybe it’s a universal issue, the unstoppable urge to commit a forbidden act.

While making dinner last night, I heard loud banging coming from the garage. I opened the door to find my 10-year-old son standing holding a bat in mid-swing surrounded by a pile of white chips all over the floor.

“I didn’t mean to do it,” he blurted about one second after I opened the door and assessed that he had been banging the shit out of the sheetrock in a corner of the garage right by the kitchen door.

I freaked out, screaming for him to get a dustpan and clean it up and wondering out loud what he was thinking about, because he is so NOT impulsive. He’s cautious and careful and incredibly thoughtful.

But maybe, like Hannah in the season finale of Girls who just had to shove those Qtips in her eardrums (seriously, what the fuck), some urges are impossible to resist.

I mentioned this theory to my girlfriend Joanie and she started laughing, remembering how she and her siblings burned holes into the interior door of the new car her dad had brought home when they were kids. They had found the cigarette lighter and sat in the back seat and pressed circles into the nylon of the two back doors, much to their parents’ chagrin.

And then I was reminded of a time I discovered the lighter in the back of my grandfather’s car. I had pressed it in, not knowing what it was and when it eventually popped out, I pulled it out for inspection. Somehow I remember knowing I probably shouldn’t press my pointer finger inside to touch the glowing red coils. But I couldn’t resist. I remember trying to hide the pain from my dad and the white-callused tip of my finger that had just sustained a first-degree burn shoved between my knees.

And I’d like to tell you about the time I found a razor blade lying around my grandparents’ house when I was eight, but I’ve got to go return a bunch of things I bought online late one night last week.

 

 

 

 

dear sheryl

Dear Sheryl,

OMG, I totally love Tina, too!

I read Bossypants once and listened to it, like, three times on long drives. I even let my then-9-year-old son listen along, which I’m aware is incredibly inappropriate, but I can’t help but hope that some of Tina’s funny, feminist wisdom seeped into his budding male psyche.

And I know you’ve got a couple of kids, so I’m wondering if it was Tina’s “A Mother’s Prayer for Her Daughter” that moved you, as it did me. Did this wish of hers resonate with you, too?: “And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.”

Amen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixHpLjumkCw

And, wait, you love Anna Quindlen? I love Anna Quindlen. I’ve followed her since my mom introduced me to her “Life in the Thirties” column in the Times and lapped up everything she’s written since. In a pivotal moment of the fantasy Lifetime Movie of my life that loops through my head, I actually got to meet Ms. Quindlen while in the throes of my divorce. Afterwards, when faced with the challenge of a bullying ex-partner or out-of-control teen, I would actually think, “What would Anna do?” And 9 times out of 10, I’d think, “She would not be putting up with this bullshit,” and react accordingly.

Sheryl, I also couldn’t help but notice that you are familiar with the Shel Silverstein lexicon. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent curled up on a twin bed with a few bodies tucked alongside me reading our favorite Where the Sidewalk Ends poems over and over. “One Sister For Sale” was always a favorite, but I liked to go back to “Jimmy Jet and His TV Set” from time to time as a cautionary tale for my little ones (sometimes I’d check their bottoms to see if cords were starting to sprout).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And when the kids were just old enough, I made sure our “Free to Be, You and Me” CD was on heavy rotation in the car as we drove around town to remind the kids that a penis, or lack thereof, does not dictate who you are or what you are to become. Oh, and that “Parents Are People,” too.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0_qbtLnsVI

And YOU want to meet JK Rowling? I want to meet her, too! But whereas there is a very good chance that you will actually meet Harry Potter’s creator, I had to settle for a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando a few years back.

So, it’s weird. When I read the interview with you in the Times’ “By the Book” feature last weekend and noticed all these similarities, I was like, “Holy crap. Sheryl Sandberg and I are, like, practically the same person.”

It leaves me asking this: How is it that you ended up the COO of Facebook and I became a New Jersey housewife?

Just wondering,

Confused in the Garden State

knocked up

Everybody’s good at something. For instance, my neighbor Susan makes delicious cupcakes, my friend Kathy is a really fast runner and my ex-husband shovels snow like, well, nobody’s business.

I am really good at getting pregnant. Seriously, it just comes naturally to me. My ex just had to give me a sexy look and nine months later we’d be drowning in dirty diapers and tears (often our own).

So, this natural talent of mine really jibed with the overwhelming urge I had as a young married woman to have a lot of babies. In retrospect, it’s clear that I was trying to work through some earlier conflicts, which was mixed with a desire to create the family I always wanted. But at the time, I just thought I had a bad case of baby lust.

Had I been left to my own devices and perhaps had a better marriage, who knows how many kids I would have ended up with. But after a while, my ex finally took matters into his own hands and with a quick snip, shut me down at four.

Had he had his way, we would have stopped at two children. We had a boy and a girl, my ex reasoned, and they were both healthy — arriving with the requisite number of fingers and toes. Why tempt fate?

Probably most other couples would have already had the “How many children do you want?” conversation well before they were saddled with two kids already in diapers. But he and I were never really ones for planning, or important conversations, so it came as a shock to me to hear he wanted to shut my baby factory down when it was just getting going.

It’s hard to say what drove my insatiable thirst for more and more children. Maybe I liked growing up with a lot of siblings and wanted that for my own children. Maybe there was an innate desire to feel special as the mother of a large brood. Or maybe I just found something I was really good at.

My oldest two kids were only 17 months apart, so I bided my time before I began my campaign for #3. But when my ex appeared to be holding his ground, I steamrolled right over him and got knocked up anyway.

But the universe has a way of reminding you just who is in control, and I ended up miscarrying that pregnancy. I wallowed in that loss until my ex finally succumbed and gave me baby number three — like a sympathy pregnancy. I did, however, have to guarantee that the child would grow up to receive the Heisman Trophy, which is going to be tricky since she’s terrible at football.

Now, you would think at this point, with three kids in four years and not more than 30 years old,  I’d have been crying uncle. My life was a never-ending loop of Barney, baths and chicken nuggets.

But I have never been very good at finding my “off” button when I’m doing something that I liked, and craved just one more child to feel complete.  I actually told my ex that a fourth child would complete me, like I was goddamn Jerry Maguire.

When reason failed, I had no option but to once again put my baby making plan into covert operation. But, seriously, how my ex really believed that I was all of a sudden really into getting it on all the time, makes me wonder whether dudes employ thought or reason in that department. And that’s where the guy didn’t even stand a chance.

Boom! I got pregnant. And then, Boom! I had a miscarriage. And then Boom! I got pregnant and once again Boom! Lost that baby, too.

And that, my friends, is when I decided to shut the factory down myself. The loss was too overwhelming, I just couldn’t live through it again. So I gave away all the strollers and bouncy seats and baby clothes and all that baby shit in my crawl space and focused instead on the three babies I already had.

And, of course, you probably guessed what came next. I got pregnant and this one stuck. My youngest child was born almost six years after I had baby #3.

And you know what? I’ve never felt the baby itch again. My guess it that teenagers will do that to a person.

deal with it. period.

There are a lot of hormones pulsing through my house right now.

Between the pimples, bad moods and sweating (okay, maybe that’s just me), this place is a powder keg.

Now that I’ve moved into the land of perimenopause – a hormonal carnival ride whose dips and spins just won’t relent – and my youngest guy, at 10, is starting to feel his oats, we join the other feisty threesome who have been battling the hormone demons for years.

Since their dad moved out a few years ago, my two boys are now outnumbered by the ladies. We used to joke and say our dog Rudy would help balance the gender scales but now that he’s gone, too, the hormone levels have shifted around here.

The two boys, who are 10 years apart, have adjusted very differently.

My oldest son, who’s 20, is irritated by all the signs around the house that he is surrounded by women. He is freaked out by all the long hair that gets tangled in the shower drain, the tampon wrappers in the trash and the never ending loop of Vampire Diaries and Full House playing on our family room television.

While he was home a few weekends ago, he emerged from his den in the basement to discover the kitchen filled with women – me and his sisters and a few of their friends. He turned around in disgust, heading back down the stairs and grumbling about all the “estrogen around here.”

My prediction, I can feel it in my bones, is that the guy is going to grow up and have all daughters.  And then I shall laugh.

My younger son, however, has adapted quite well to often being the only dude around here. He knows all about periods and can quote the movie Pitch Perfect, and when I suddenly start taking off my top in the kitchen, he asks, “What’s wrong mom? Another hot flash?”

But that’s what I admire about him, he’s okay with all of the girl-stuff because he’s grown up surrounded by it. There are no mysteries here.

My youngest son is completely in touch, and okay with, his feminine side.

But my girlfriend recently said that she didn’t want to install the iPeriod app – that helps track Aunt Blood’s visits – on her iPhone because her three young boys often use her cell to play games.

She said she worried that if they discovered it, one of the boys would feel the need run into school and announce his mom was bleeding from her butt. Sound the alarm.

But I think if it’s just a part of your life, something your mom has to deal with every month, minus the gory details (because you don’t need to scar the fellas), it would be significantly less traumatizing.

Another friend just posted on Facebook that her son got dragged along for Spanx shopping with her, and while shopping anywhere is generally torture for boys, it’s good for them to see all the shit we women go through: Smoothing our lumps and bumps, waxing our mustaches and bleeding out our butts.

Being a girl is a pain in the ass.

But the sooner they know it, the better off all our boys will be.

Grrrr.

Ladies man.

the messy, messy girl

When I was a kid, my mom gave me a picture book that told the story of a little girl with a super messy bedroom – like banana peel-on–the-floor messy room – and how she had to come to terms with giving into her mother and cleaning it until it sparkled at the end.

I always thought it was weird my mom gave this particular book to me because there were no banana peels on my bedroom floor. Are you crazy? My siblings and I weren’t allowed to eat food anywhere but the kitchen and making your bed every morning was the norm.

I grew up with a mother that would wake long before dawn each day to clean our house.  I have no idea what she was doing those few hours while the rest of us were in our beds, all I know is that I would come down and find her showered, dressed and ready for the day.

But there were eight of us, plus pets, and I had spent enough time at a girlfriend’s house growing up to see six children’s worth of laundry pile up on their basement floor to know what happens when you don’t stay on top of things.

At some point, part of the daily routine for at least some of us kids, was to not only make our beds before school, but to give our bedroom floor a one-over with the vacuum. As I said, no banana peels here.

So of course, now that I’m a mom with kids and lots of beds that need to be made and rugs that could use some vacuuming, I’ve had to come to terms with my own level of cleanliness and decide what I can live with.

It turns out, that for as much as we sometimes question and rebel against earlier generations’ ways, I don’t like living in a pigsty. I make my bed every morning, take out the trash and run my dishwasher every night and like to keep the pillows on my couch zhoozhed (think Carson Kressley on Queer Eye).

Okay, I do have hoarding tendencies when it comes to paperwork and reading material and if you went into my bedroom right now, you’d fine a few piles of such on tabletops and maybe a couple on the floor (it’s tax time, people!).  But I try to keep it in control and not let it bleed into other parts of the house.

Enter: The Messy, Messy Girl.

I have a teenage daughter who’s lovely. She’s pleasant, will help out making dinner and can wield a drill and level with mad skill. She gets good grades, babysits often and works a few days a week in a local store.

But man, she’s a slob.

On her floor right this minute is a giant plastic bag stuffed with bedding used on a ski trip in January; two brown paper lunch bags containing Tupperware containers from school lunches last week; inside out sweaters, jeans, underwear and socks, socks, socks, all scattered in piles across the room.

It’s a fucking shit show, and while I support an individual’s right to live as he or she pleases, I am drawing the line at squalor in my own home.

We’ve been down this road before – where I’ve taken away her laptop and/or cellphone – and she does a big clean up. Then a few days later, it will be hoardersville again.

This morning, I peeked into my 10-year-old son’s room and found he’d taken a page from his sister’s messy book. There are clothes scattered all over the floor, his bed is unmade and there’s an empty can of silly string lying alongside an elbow pad and some USB cords.

But no banana peels. Definitely no banana peels.

No, I am Not Winking at You

tumblr_nlwm21V2YY1u8ntcpo1_500

Whoa. Is mine this crazy?

In the last 24 hours, I have Googled the following terms: “impetigo,” “hard cat poop” and “mesothelioma.”

It goes without saying that the visual horror unleashed by the first two terms is something that will stay seared in my memory banks for the rest of my life.

But it’s clear that I’ve got a lot of weird stuff on my mind and it’s beginning to manifest itself outwardly. Again.

Once or twice a year I get an eye twitch.

The first time it happened was about 10 years ago as I began packing up to move to a new house while pretty pregnant with my fourth child and serving a term as PTO president.

The new house was probably more than we could afford at the time and the packing up of every last teaspoon and Lego and hauling boxes filled with books and skillets inspired the sciatic nerve running down the left side of my body to revolt. That combination of stress and crazy pain made sleep impossible and resulted in a tremor in my right eye that persisted for months.

Five years later, and despite spending a fair amount of time upside down in a yoga studio, the wink was back as I navigated through the legal and emotional tumult of ending my marriage of 18 years.

And now as a full-time working single mom (I’m like the suburban Ann Romano with more kids and no Schneider), I find the twitch appears more frequently but for less-extended periods of time.

Last week, the eyeball earthquake was back, but it’s hard to say just what triggered it.

Was it having to pony-up the balance for the new pool cover I had to buy when a giant tree smashed through my backyard during Hurricane Sandy? Or maybe the remains of said giant tree, all 40 or 50 feet of it, cracked and hovering close by in the neighbor’s yard?

Maybe the mountains that needed to be moved last week to get my college son home to have a wisdom tooth removed caused just enough stress. Or how about the big fight he and I had later that night?

It could have been my mom’s recent knee-replacement surgery that took a brief turn to the scary when she spiked a high fever and had my seven siblings and I spinning in circles for about a day. Then everyone started fighting.

Or maybe it’s the increasing demands of my big, corporate employer that has become as insatiable as the flesh-eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors, minus the show-stopping numbers.

Dump all this on top of all the regular activities on my to-do list, like making sure there are school-approved snacks for fourth grade, cat food and endless dinners, eyebrow waxing appointments, reeds for my son’s saxophone and toothpaste.

And then there are my worries. Why is my cat so fat? Will my 19-year old find a major? Will I ever find a good man/read Dickens/lose weight?  Is there life after death?

This, my friends, might also explain why I drink a lot of wine, but even that is starting to grow old.

I’d like to lie down and forget about it all, but I can’t, because my eye is twitching.

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