Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Picture Day

It's not every school day that the kids eat their breakfast shirtless (boys) and with my grandmother's apron on (Annie). Or devour their morning meal to the sound of me shrieking, "DON'T EAT A CHOCOLATE CHIP WAFFLE! YOU'LL GET IT ON YOUR SHIRT!" and "No no no NO NO NO -- no blueberry juice this morning!"

Yup, picture day at school.

All in all, they looked nice, but I realized going out the door that the four of them had wild striped shirts in different and not necessarily complementary colors that will look dizzingly weird in the picture frames that are on my nightstand. There wasn't much I could do with Annie's knotty, curly hair, so I shoved a headband in it and away she went. I wonder what she thought when she walked into school with all of the other preschool girls dressed up like freaking Nellie Olson, while she was wearing a hand-me-down rugby shirt (granted, it was from Talbot's and very cute, which is why I put her in it.)

Once I got everyone out the door in spotless condition and asked them to borrow a comb from the photographer before their final shot (Matt's response: "No way. We can't share combs or brushes. Remember? L-I-C-E?"), I headed to Dominick's for a my crack (oops, grande skim iced latte. Or is that iced grande nonfat latte. Whatever, all I know is that it's not the mocha with whip that I really want), where I couldn't help but remember this weekend.

On Sunday, at that same Starbucks location, I ran into an old high school friend (guy friend, not boyfriend. I married the boyfriend, 'member?) while he was waiting for his son's football game across the way. I had planned on running into him a couple of hours later, when I had makeup and a nice new Gap shirt on. I knew that my kids' school was playing my alma mater, where his kids go, and I wanted to look unlike my normal self to prove that I have not, indeed, gained 30 pounds in my midsection and lost 25 years in my face.

But nooooooo...I see him him right after I drop my boys at the field early and it's an unexpected encounter. This is a bad coincidence because a) I am wearing no makeup; b) I smell like a gym sock, because I actually woke up early that day to play tennis; c) I have donut frosting stains on my ratty tee shirt and sweats and d) am not wearing the Spanx that make me look five pounds thinner, which I need because I, um, eat donuts on Sundays. He is nice and hugs me, which makes me cringe because I am sweaty and gross and I'm supposed to be feeling all nice with a soundtrack of the Breakfast Club in my head.

I guess you can't really go back again. Which is why I try so hard on picture day to get the kids to look at least something like their normal selves. Someday, that freeze frame shot may be all I will remember of the 2008-2009 school year.

"Don't you forget about me...I'll be alone, dancing, you know it, baby."

Did I tell you that song was playing in the Dominick's on Sunday? Life sure ain't no John Hughes movie.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lice and jock straps

When it rains it pours, and that doesn't refer to this past weekend.

After starting my day finding a couple of wet jock straps and football pants in my office -- ewwww! -- and literally running up the stairs holding onto them with my pinky, the first day of the week actually went downhill from there.

I was looking forward to being lunch mom for the first time in Jack's first grade class, but I needed a drink afterward. Not just from the rowdy kids -- they weren't too bad - but because I was standing in the parkling lot keeping an eye on the students when I noticed the principal striding toward me. With a tight smile, not a "Oh, I need to talk to you about publicity for the school" smile. She informs me that she got five homework notices from Kevin's sixth grade teacher on her desk and she'll have to give him a detention. I start to plead his case that he has so many attention issues and organizational problems but has a good heart and is not purposely blowing off his work blah blah blah enabler blah blah blah enabler, and end up backing off because I sound like all of the other "not-me" parents.

Then, at the end of the lunch hour, Jack's teacher walks in and says she heard from another teacher that the room was "completely out of control" when she passed by. Um, I tell her, I just asked who was a Sox fan and who was a Cubs fan to liven things up a bit and yeah, they did end up kind of shouting and screaming but it was all in good fun. Thankfully, his teacher said that was fine but to probably avoid such sensitive topics in the future. Sticking to Hangman next time, so I don't feel like a first grader in trouble myself.

Cut to 3:00 p.m. I pull another -- another! -- homework notice from Kevin's bag. The stress I'm feeling from the day -- not helped by frantic radio reports of a crashing Wall Street and words like "Second Great Depression" being thrown around -- explodes and I end up saying things to him I regret only a few hours later. Like, "Oh, have fun working at 7-11 when you get older because I'm not sure college is for you!" And "Do you want me to draw out the word 12 and 6 so you can see the difference between having to do 12 problems versus doing the six that you did?"

Sighing, I see another note in his take-home folder. A health notice with the four-letter word "L-I-C-E" at the top. I take a deep breath and ask Kevin who has been absent in his class lately. He tells me that so-and-so is out. "Where does she sit?" I ask, trying to be all nonchalant.

Oh, but of course. "Next to me."

Nothing like picking through a scalp and checking for flying creatures and nits to end a Monday. That even tops the soggy undergarments.

Let's see what tomorrow's backpacks bring.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Coming out of the closet

Part of it was my embarrassment over my now-confirmed lack of homemaking stills, part of it was the drenching downpour over the weekend that didn’t allow for many activity options. Whatever my motivation, I spent a good chunk of Saturday and Sunday – wait for it – purging junk from the kids’ closets and my laundry room.

It took about seven hours to just accomplish those two tasks, but in the meantime, I managed to find a lot of old and weird stuff. Turns out, when you pick up crap off the floor and go through the crap on the shelves, you can uncover even older and far-flung crap.

Like my daughter’s baptism shoes (should I really use that as a segway with the previous “crap”-filled sentence?) which were mixed up with her brother’s soccer shorts. And speaking of soccer shorts, my first grader is only in his third year of AYSO, but he has inexplicably amassed seven pair of black soccer shorts.

In the laundry room, I went through some bags of clothes my friend had given me a while back, filled with things her kids had outgrown. Kenneth Cole shoes for my first grader, Jack – not a scuff on them. A darling Nordstrom sweater for Annie, with cute little bows and dogs that is a definite step up from the Target stuff I buy her. Fleece pullovers for both of them, and a set of ski gloves, tags still on. A Christmas dress in her size – bonus!

Free shopping was way cool, and so was the shocked look on hubby’s face when he saw that I had bagged up four bags of our leftover clothes to donate to charity. He was even more thrilled that he was able to see the laundry room floor for the first time in years.

Oddest discovery? A box of food I had stored away in the linen closet. I tend to be a neurotic Nelly in times of global crises, and as such, have squirreled away rations in perilous moments, like after 9/11 and during the hysteria a couple years ago about a bird flu pandemic.

As it turns out, the box of food had cans of fruit and some baby food in there that expired in 2002. I remembered with a cringe that I bought it all in anticipation of Y2K. We’d sit in the cold, dark house eating pineapple and Ritz

I guess that explains why the case of canned fruit was black on the bottom, and left a black mark on the floor.

Of course, when I left the box of rancid food downstairs, the kids immediately descended. “Animal crackers! Cool! Can I have some?” They were ready to rip open the animal cracker box, which probably contained cookies with botulism levels greater than any terrorist could put into them, but I screamed and grabbed it away from them.

Now that’s Homeland Security. And tomorrow I’m going to Costco to replenish. I’ll just avoid the canned fruit.


Friday, September 12, 2008

What a Mess

I’ve never been known for my homemaking skills, but I think I underestimated the mess that my house really is.

I waited all day yesterday for the cleaning crew (“cleaning ladies” sounds so un-PC, doesn’t it?) who came to my house for the first time last week, but they never showed up.
I have succeeded in scaring them off after only one visit.

Simona and her two friends did look a bit horrified when they walked in last Thursday, especially when I gave them a room by room tour and told them they could just “clean around the piles.” And that’s after I spent a good hour and a half tossing other piles under beds, into drawers and under the sink. I thought it looked pretty good, but it became apparent quickly that the other homes in LaGrange that they clean must not look like mine.

They were here for nearly four hours, literally running around to do different tasks and asking me four times for another roll of paper towels. I heard murmuring upstairs, followed by some laughter, and although I didn’t understand the Russian language, I had a suspicion it had something to do with the weeks-old (months old?) Pull-Up and cloudy juice cup that they found under my daughter’s mattress. Or maybe they were talking about the ramen noodles they pulled off the arm of the chair in the TV room. Or the quick glimpse they caught of my home office, the only space I told them to not go into.

So, a week later, on the day that was supposed to be my regular day with Simona’s crew, not only didn’t get a ring at my doorbell, I didn’t even get a phone call. Nothing.

Now I’m wondering what they’ve told my friends in the neighborhood, who apparently have houses nice enough to return to for a weekly bit of spit and polish. Did they tell them I seem to be living in squalor? That they wouldn’t be surprised to find me alone and with 22 cats in a few years, surrounded by vintage Polly Pocket heads and arms?

Or am I somewhat normal, in having four busy kids, a husband and a 20-hour-a-week, work-at home job and pushing housework to the back – albeit spaghetti-sauce-covered -- burner?

Please make me feel better about the crap pile in which I am apparently living. Anyone?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


At night, after the kids are all snug in bed -- at least after I've gone 'round the second time to shush the older boys, still talking at 9:45, and to put the three-year-old back in her bed after she padded across the hall to our room -- I like to go online and catch up on the day's news.

So last night, after I'm flipping around stories about the latest hurricane and stuff about Obama-Palin (not quite bored of that whole thing yet...fascinating election season. WAKE UP. I AM FINISHED TALKING ABOUT POLITICS.), a headline catches my eye. "Doomsday Scenario Worries Some." I'm always up for a good doomsday piece, so I read further and, while my brain turns to fuzz whenever I see the words "atom" and "collider," the gist of the story is that some scientists in Europe are experimenting with a process that could...end up....destroying the Earth.

Like on Wednesday.

Apparently, there is a chance that we can all get sucked into some kind of black hole this week. (I am not heartened by the fact that "several" scientists say not to worry about it. Okay, so what do the other ones think? Even one scientist who is like "Hey, maybe not the BEST idea," is reason to be concerned in my book.)

At any rate, thinking about Doomsday, um, tomorrow, got me wondering what I'd be doing if I, and the rest of the world, was suddenly sucked into a vortex thing-y.

So, as I went about my business today, I took stock once and a while, to gauge what my last day on Earth would be like.

In typical Mom's Bad Day fashion, it wasn't exactly an uneventful one.

More like this:

* Despite all my efforts to get an early start to avoid screaming fits and a countertop littered with early morning shrapnel, like bread crusts ripped from school lunch sandwiches, I am still running late. GETYOURSHOESON! WHEREISYOURBELT? CANYOUMOVEALITTLEFASTER? I am shrieking already and it's not even 8. I end up literally shoving the fifth and sixth grader out the door and try to get some exercise in by riding my daughter on the back of my bike to preschool. I catch a glimpse of my roly poly stomach hunched over the bike in someone's picture window and I vow to not go home and eat those leftover peanut butter crusts.
* I get to school and, in front of my good friend at the bike rack, my second son comes up and tells me that his older brother ran his bike into him on purpose. I give him the Eye, like DO NOT break rank in front of people we know, but he keeps going. "He told me that's what I deserved, after I told on him to you." By now, I can't remember who told on who and what about, but I shut him down with another dirty look and send him on his way. Then I ask the accused older bike-rammer if the story is true when he ambles away from the bike rack and he denies it. Until I remind him that we are steps away from a church and from his Catholic school. It's not even 8:15 and I am using up the Catholic Guilt Card.
* After I blow off my work deadlines to go to Target (hey, who doesn't?). I pick up my daughter from school. I go to the school office to pay our ungodly monthly tuition bill, and she busies herself by begging the person at the desk for some candy. When I tell her that the office doesn't have the candy dish anymore because it's not a healthy snack (damn the food police! Bet they don't eat leftover crust!), she flips her head at me and snaps, "I don't care what you say. I don't care what you say. I don't care what you say." All of this within earshot of The Principal.
* Because she is such a sweetie (HA), I take my girl to lunch. Actually, I just need to go to the post office and bank and I don't have time to get back home before her second preschool starts, so I bribe her with a promised hot dog. The restaurant is a popular one among moms in town, most of whom are in full makeup, beautiful ly coiffed anchorwoman-worthy hair and matchy matchy belts and shirts with skinny jeans and skinny shoes that just seem to accentuate how round both my shoes and my body are. In front of a load of these perfect belt-matching mommies, as we are eating our lunch, my daughter admonishes me in her loudest possible voice to "STOP LOOKING AT MY PENIS." Seeing my horrifed reaction, she repeats it for good measure. "I SAID, STOP LOOKING AT MY PENIS." No, the chilli doesn't have beans, I tell her sweetly through gnashed teeth as I drag her out the door and into our toy-and-food littered minivan that is parked in between the mommies' Range Rovers and Land Cruisers.
* I run home after dropping off the Penis-less Princess at preschool (now there's something to practice phonix!), because the dishwasher guy is supposed to be there at 1 to fix our dang dishwasher that has broken four times in the past 2 years. He's not there, but I find a note from our village that all the trucks on the block that I just passed are there working on an emergency water main break. Our water is turned off from 11 to 4 today and we have to boil it for 48 hours once it comes back on.
* The dishwasher guy calls and says he's on his way. I tell him that we have no water. He informs me that he will have to reschedule. Seems he can't fix the dishwasher without running it. But he can come back in, oh, six days from now. So, I have no water, no dishwasher, and the timing for both just happened to fall within the same five-hour span. Lucky me.
* My preschooler and first grader have friends over after school. I tell them several times not to touch the faucets and not, absolutely not, to drink the water. When I check on Princess and her two little three-year-old girlfriends, they are in the bathroom, with the water running. Of course, the village turned on the water -- the putrid water that we are not supposed to drink or bathe in -- right when they decided to use a washcloth on their face and hair. I see a wet Dixie Cup and ask if anyone has had a sip of water. They all look at me with those wide little girl eyes. So I say it in a rather shrill manner -- DID ANYONE DRINK THIS WATER? TELL ME NOW. IT"S POISON." Then, of course, all three start to cry. But at least they all agree that no one drank it.
* Once all of the friends are gone, I pick up the house and vacuum, so it doesn't like the disaster it really is all day when my husband comes home. By the time he does come home, there is a small trail of popcorn leading from the kitchen to the TV room, which is sprinkled with smashed kernels on the carpet that I vacuumed not 20 minutes before. To top it off, they ate MY low-fat bagged popcorn from Trader Joe's, the one I shoved in the back of the pantry to keep it all to myself.
* By now, I have decided I have no interest in cooking dinner, because I don't want to wash the dishes using my dirty water and I'm crabby about the popcorn thieves who were all Hansel and Gretal-ish with their crumbs. I ask my husband if we can go out, and SHOCKINGLY, he agrees.
* We end up at the Chinese restaurant a few towns over. We have our moments, like when Annie keeps yelling "I am Chinese girl! I am Chinese girl" while putting chopsticks in her hair and when I accidentally knock my tea over three times, but all in all, it's a scene that reminds me of one of the last moments in the movie classic, "A Christmas Story." The high point of that film, to me, is when the family heads to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner after the neighbor dogs ate their turkey. We read our fortunes, and they're pretty spot-on. Mine says that I like to believe in the goodness in people, which I do, while my husband's says that he's going on a business trip soon, which he is. My oldest's fortune says that he has great ideas, my second son's fortune says that he has a great imagine, my third son's fortune says that he'll always be blessed by true friends and my daugher's says something about being popular with Cow Workers. Or at least that's how my fifth grader read it to her. She was happy that she will have Cow Workers, whatever that means.

For Doomsday Eve, I guess today was a pretty good reflection of our life. At least our fortune didn't tell us to enjoy it because it will all be over tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to School!

Let's see...it's quiet, it's 10:11 a.m. All I feel is the breeze blowing through my office window.

Must be back to school time! No one banging on my door because someone hit him with a Wii controller...no one barking for me to wipe her behind while I'm the phone with a, say, CEO.

That said, I will miss summer...mostly because of this.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Not So Silent Night. Or Morning.

So, today was Jack's kindergarten Christmas sing-a-long at school Mass today. The kind that parents and kids alike dress up for and the kind that have as many camera flashes popping off as Club LAX in L.A. when Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears tries to sneak out the back door. I suppose I should not mention Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan in the same sentence as Mass, should I?

I digress.

I had to bring Annie along, since her schools are all out and there are no sitters to be had. Despite the fact that I brought along tons of crayons, paper, princesses, snacks, etc., she STILL had the much-anticipated meltdown, right after Communion. Turns out she wanted one of those "white circle things" which, as Catholics know, is the sacred host that is generally not considered a snack food akin to, say, a Goldfish cracker.

So the wailing begins. "I want the white circle thing."

Me: "Here, have a princess."

Annie: "I WANT the white circle thing."

Me, putting my arm around her and whispering in a firm voice: "Here. Have a crayon. We are in church, quiet voice please."


Me: "Do not yell in church. There are no more white circle things."

Uh-oh, bad choice of words. She now begins her trademark flailing and, accordingly, heads begin to turn, like the ripple effect of tossing a small rock into a pond. You know, when first graders look at you like, "Can't you control that kid, lady?" you have a problem.

I take her out of church, well, I lug her out of church and whisper a nasty "You ruined this for Jack and me" into her ear. We walk around the back of the church and by now, Jack's little series of songs is beginning and I realize I will not be able to see any of it or be able to show him I am there for him. I plop her by the Nativity scene and say, "Oooh, lambies," but she is not fooled for a second. "IWANTAWHITECIRCLETHING."

Other parents try to be sympathetic but you know they are thinking the same thing that first grader is thinking when they shoot me the Look.

As it turns out, I don't get to see more than a few seconds of Jack's angelic singing and I actually have to take her to the potty in between all of her crying and fit-throwing. She still is crying during the parent picture-taking session, which I, of course, can't participate in because I FORGOT my camera this morning, in the rush of getting everyone and their teacher gifts out the door and in one piece.

I bring her home to our house so Grandma can watch her and I go back to Jack's party, thinking this will be quiet and uneventfully sweet.

I am Bozo Bucket mom and that sounds like something cute, right? Well, one little girl knocks over the Legos, which sends two of the kids in my group looking over at her just at the moment where their heads are within centimeters. CRASH. Head to head. I look down, and one of the injured is my son, bleeding slightly but still bleeding from the mouth. The other child, my son's friend, is now really sobbing and, again, all eyes in the room are on me. Except now, the kindergartners look like they are thinking, "Man, don't you have any control over ANYTHING?", mirroring the expressions on the adults' faces.

Sometimes, I wonder why it's always me and mine. Actually, I wonder that every day.

The only bright spot in this cruddy day, the one that also happens to be the shortest day of the year and feels like the longest, is the fact that Jack and Kevin both hug me later on (Kevin says, first thing when he gets into the car, "Wow, that was embarrassing this morning, wasn't it? Everyone was asking if the screaming kid was my sister!") and tell me that it'll be all right and that they love me. And Annie keeps giving me the sideways look for the rest of the day. "You nice now?" she says. "You nice now?" I shoot back. "I always nice," she responds, then gives me a soft kiss on the cheek.

Cute and all, but that doesn't mean I'm taking her to Christmas Mass!