All the Rage

Yesterday, I enrolled my kids in a new playgroup. And by “enrolled,” I mean I scribbled their names down on index cards and marched their happy asses into the lions’ den of forced childhood socialization.

It went well, for about four minutes. Grace wasted no time in terrorizing the “Sensory Play” table by ruthlessly ripping play-doh away from the other participants and shoveling it into her mouth by the sticky fistful. The other mothers quickly advised me not to worry, as it was homemade with all natural ingredients (so is horse shit, but I don’t serve that at the dinner table). They were much less accommodating when she picked up an empty Tupperware container and began to use it as an implement of blunt force trauma, making frequent contact with the other children’s skulls. This was actually a welcome distraction from the pathological growling that Declan lapsed into every time another child came within a 5-foot radius.

My issue with the playgroup, however, was much less with my kids’ violent outbursts and much more with the other mothers’ reactions. Yes, I’m aware that my children are neurotic sociopaths. So are yours. Toddlers have the prefrontal cortex of a barn owl. They act like sociopaths because they literally have the same brain anatomy as a recently lobotomized mental patient.

Many people mistakenly assume I think my children are terrible and that I have created this blog solely to ridicule them. Not at all. I think my children are pretty awesome. All things considered, it’s surprising to me they don’t erupt into bloodthirsty rages more often.

But every toddler meltdown reaches a point of no return. Once that line is breached, no amount of rational explanation, however well-intentioned, will return the toddler to sanity. Think of your child as Kim Jong-Il in a candy store. One that sells nuclear missiles instead of chocolate. Diplomacy is of no value here.

If I had to listen to one more mother attempt to talk my kid off the proverbial ledge with four-syllable words, I was going to be the one hopelessly crying into my carpet square. And while I appreciate their efforts, sometimes my screeching offspring need to be forcefully removed from a situation before irreversibly melting into a pile of mucous and tears.

So yes, I occasionally have to scrape my child off the floor like a screaming piece of gum and walk out of the room with all three kids hanging off my limbs, limp with outrage. And yes, I generally do this without explaining myself to them or to others. This is not because I don’t believe in the power of communication, but because I’m saving my breath for a time when my child is physically capable of understanding language. Newsflash: When a 2-year-old is on the verge of asphyxiating on his own rage-powered snot, no combination of “feeling words” will magically bestow upon him a capacity for rational thought.

My “flee the scene” approach to child-rearing seems to fly in the face of common wisdom. We are taught from a young age to talk about our problems, to never go to bed angry, to share our innermost fears and emotions with others. But sometimes, life is a burning building and you just have to get your kids the heck out.

I'm out

It Wasn’t Me. It Was Like That When I Got Here.

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As I was putting the finishing touches on a gourmet dinner tonight, by which I mean boiling water for instant oatmeal and cutting up a mango that was clearly past its prime, Avery appeared at the table with a large, erratic slit cut into the knee of her size 4T hot pink pants.  She immediately brought this fashion atrocity to my attention by saying, “What a small little hole cut in my pants.  Only a small little person like Declan could cut such a hole.”

The gaping cavity in her legwear could neither be called a “hole” or “small,” but Avery was never one to let something as trivial as the blatant, obvious truth get in the way of her schemes.

Given the fact that Declan is 18 months old, and was currently preoccupied smashing grapes and Goldfish crackers into his Little People bus, I was more than skeptical.  Of course, Avery’s story would have been slightly more credible if she didn’t still have a pair of safety scissors firmly clutched in one hand, or if Declan actually possessed the fine motor skills to use a dull pair of safety blades that are specifically designed NOT to cut through anything remotely resembling flesh to attempt the crime in question.

I suppose this incident by itself shouldn’t alarm me, but it’s only the latest in a long chain of events that has led me to believe that Avery is a remorseless sociopath.  Yesterday, she drew all over Declan with her Magic Markers and told me he did it to himself.  The sick part is, I actually believed her, going so far as to scold Declan, until I realized that the drawing extended to the back of his neck and under his clothes in places that he couldn’t possibly reach.  The real tip-off was the multi-colored rainbow carefully outlined on his back, forming a perfect arc between his poor, unwitting shoulder blades.

What’s even sadder?  I don’t know what I’m more upset about, the fact that my daughter will go to such lengths to get other people in trouble, or that my son sat there and allowed her to use him as a human sketch pad.

Despite the fact that Declan was more than willing to serve as a dim-witted patsy in Avery’s evil plot, I remain convinced that he will pay it forward with the next one.  In about 5 weeks or so, he’ll have his own opportunity to torture and harass a little sibling.  And it’s no wonder the baby’s breech — if I were her, I wouldn’t want to come out either.  Understandably, she’s been more than content to spend the better half of the last month standing on my cervix, kneeing me in the colon every 5 minutes to make sure I don’t get any crazy ideas about uninterrupted sleep.

Babies are lucky they’re cute.  Because they’re also unrepentant jerks.

And as it turns out, we would’ve had to throw Avery’s leggings away today even if she hadn’t attacked them with a crusty pair of bright orange scissors.  Soon after the full details of what will now be referred to as PantsGate 2013 revealed themselves, the princess was blessed with an explosive case of leaky diarrhea that led to a long bath, a serious self-examination of my life choices, and a quick trip to the outside garbage bin with a Target bag full of her shit-stained clothes.

Karma’s a bitch, Avery.  Apparently, so is demanding overripe mangoes for dinner.

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Say Cheese! And then kill me.

Today I did something stupid.  Like lick a flagpole stupid.  I took my kids to get holiday pictures taken.  Merry fucking Christmas to me.

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Avery looks like the “Before” picture they show in documentaries about serial killers.  Like when they flash to the old lady across the street, who explains apologetically to the camera: “She was always such a nice girl.  I never guessed she was using battery acid to dissolve raccoon skulls behind the shed.”

I mean, she’s beautiful and everything, but there’s a lot of murder behind those eyes.  And then there’s Declan:

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What you see above is probably the best picture they got of him.  The rest didn’t even make it onto that shitty CD of bloopers you get for free after you spend more than a car payment for a bunch of 10″ x 13″ prints you’ll never bother hanging.  Declan’s opinion of my parenting throughout the photo shoot was on par with that of a Menendez brother.

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As if the pictures themselves aren’t bad enough, the true hell begins when it’s time to select which atrocious monstrosity you’d like to ambush your unsuspecting relatives with prints of.  It’s like choosing between pulling out your toenails and eating a shoe.  The decision-making process goes somewhat like this: “While I appreciate how the camera caught the intensity with which my son hates me on the first shot, I think the creepy dual-sibling rage stare of the second one would look better on Gramma’s bookshelf.”

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And keep in mind, all of these decisions have to be made rapid-fire, at a seizure-inducing kiosk of special effects and framing options.  The studio provides an overly enthusiastic “Photography Consultant” to assist you in making your selections while you’re still too dazed by the bright, flashing bulbs to realize you’ve completely depleted your children’s college funds by purchasing the “Deluxe Platinum Pageant Mom Starter Package.”  Which is probably fine, because based on the way my children were behaving in the waiting room, the only thing we need to be saving up for is a criminal defense lawyer.

As both kids continued to make a persuasive case for adoption, the chipper consultant, whose only apparent qualification was that he keep his current address on file with the State’s sex offender registry, happily forced me to pick out my “favorite” poses in front of all the happy, judge-y families still waiting to have their pictures taken.  As I sat sweating through my yoga pants, making the choice between a rotten egg and a shit sandwich, I could actually hear the other mothers shaking their perfectly coiffed heads as they tapped out clever Facebook status updates on their iPads, like “Looks like it’s trash day at Portrait Innovations!” and “smh LOL omgz some ppl shouldnt have kids :X.”

And guess what, bitches?  We’re having another one.

7C

Say what?

Happy Birthday, Stinker Peanut

Four years ago today, I joined the ranks of the most formidable group of humans on the planet – mothers.

After 28 hours of contractions, Avery Jeanette blessed me with her presence at 1:58am, June 22nd, 2008.  My life has never been the same since.

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From that day forward, Avery has defied my expectations, tested my patience, and most importantly, cracked me up on a daily basis.  She is truly the butter to my bread.  I love her with every molecule of my being.

Which is not to say that she never crosses the line or that I never reach my wits’ end with her.  Avery is a veritable force to be reckoned with.  But at the end of the day, when she drifts softly into her angelic sleep — my heart, and my troubles, melt away with her.

Thank you, Avery, for making me the mom I am today.  And thank you for loving me, for seeking my shelter when you have bad dreams, for running towards me with open arms after a great day at school, for crying on my shoulder when you bloody a knee, and especially, for letting me hold you when my own world crumbles before me.

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Avery, you are my heart.  Happy birthday, my dear.

Top of the World

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Tonight, as I was quietly gathering my purse, phone, and wallet for a quick and hopefully unnoticed escape to the grocery store, Avery came bounding out from the family room, demanding to know where I was going.

“I just have a quick errand to run.  You stay here with Daddy,” I told her.

Using the word “errand” proved to be a rather unfortunate choice.  It led to a prolonged conversation about how similar Mommy’s name (Erin) and the name for my task at hand sounds to a three-year-old.  The discussion ended with the following conclusion:

“Well Mommy, I guess I’ll have to go with you.  Of course, we’ll have to call it ‘running an Avery’ if I’m coming too.”

So after I spent a considerable amount of time determining whether Avery was fit for public consumption, during which I ensured she had both her shoes on and was, in fact, wearing underwear, I belted her into her carseat and we headed on our way.

Along our ride, Avery noticed a rather decrepit house, white paint peeling away from its siding, and astutely asked, “Is that where Priz-dent Obama lives?”

“No, peanut,” I responded, anticipating her next question.  “The President’s White House is lots of miles away from here.”

“Lots of miles?” Avery asked.  “Like as far away as the North Pole?”

“Not quite that far,” I said, smiling to myself.

“Oh.”  Avery thought for a bit, before adding, “I really want to go to the North Pole.”

“Why’s that?”  Thinking I could put a damper on her plans with weather-based reasoning, I continued by explaining, “It’s really cold up there.”

Little did I know that her reply could melt glaciers.

“Because, Mommy.  I want to be on top of the world.”

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Oh Avery, in so many ways, you already are.

Sweet Dreams

After a series of late night/early morning conversations with Avery this week, I have decided that “Mommy” is my least favorite word in the English language before 7am.  Around that time, I switch gears and start focusing on my most favorite word in the English language: preschool.

My favorite thing about preschool is that it tires Avery out.  On school days, Avery will typically fall asleep on the couch for a few hours in the late afternoon.  Those hours are my happy place.

Yesterday, as Avery was blissfully snoozing away, I made lasagna, garlic bread, and poured a glass of wine.  Andrew came home from work, expressed a moderate amount of shock that I had actually made dinner instead of walked to Subway, and cuddled up with Avery on the couch.

That’s when things got weird.

“Was I painting something the last time I wore this shirt?”  Andrew asked me, revealing oily brown stains on the inside of his sleeve.

“Painting something?  It looks like you were shitting your pants the last time you wore that shirt.”  I responded, hoping that solving this mystery wasn’t going to interfere with my Wednesday night TV shows.  Or my glass of wine.

So you can imagine my horror when Avery climbed out of Andrew’s arms, looking like this:

Yes, my genius offspring fell asleep with a Hershey’s bar.  In her hair.

On a positive note, I am now too grossed out to sneak any Halloween candy.  My thighs will thank me.

This City

Needless to say, holidays are very different as a parent.  Eight years ago, I dressed as the hot “Tool Time” girl from Home Improvement and did keg-stands all night.  Today I breastfed a lobster and had a 20-minute conversation with a princess to convince her that yes, she should wear underpants underneath her shiny pink costume.

On most holidays, I feel like I am simply going through the motions.  I don’t decorate the house, I don’t sing the songs, and I just barely get my shit together in time for family gatherings.  But tonight I realized, my first Halloween memory is being three years old, dressing up as Snow White, and trick-or-treating at the Mall of America.  Since it was already snowing in October in St. Paul, my dad dutifully escorted me on an indoors quest for candy, holding me tighter whenever an overly enthusiastic employee approached me dressed as a witch or monster, while my mom stayed home with her newborn and one-year-old (Save the Irish Catholic jokes, we get it.  And yes, she was probably already pregnant with Mark).

My filmmaker father videotaped the whole thing, prompting me to exclaim “I was scared to DEAF!” and “I’m a knucklehead” for his audience in Cleveland.  And here I am, twenty-five years later, lucky enough to spend another holiday in this city, oft-scorned but drastically underrated.

I’ll take the cold winters, the crushing unemployment, and the heart-breakingly bad sports teams.  Cleveland is where my heart is.  And if tonight ends up being Avery’s first Halloween memory, I can rest easy.

 

Because I simply can’t imagine living anywhere else.

So this isn’t working. Literally.

Today marks one full week of unemployment.  So far, and pardon my French, it’s been driving me fucking nuts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids.  I really, really do.  And I enjoy staying home with them.  Most of the time.

Staying home this past week allowed me to catch up on some reading that I had put off for a few months since 2008.  I finished “The Nine” by Jeffrey Toobin, which is an inside look at the Supreme Court Justices of the United States.  It was absolutely phenomenal.  I would highly recommend.

However, I wouldn’t suggest reading it during a period of unemployment.  I mean, how can you read about the Supreme Court Justices and not feel like an epic failure in comparison?  When John Roberts was my age, he wasn’t changing diapers.  He was clerking for Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

I know I’m no John Roberts.  For one, his children probably don’t have conversations that go like this:

Me: “Avery, what do you want on your sandwich?”
Avery:  “Lettuce and popcorn.”

Lacking the energy to argue with her and her questionable lunchtime choices, I got the lettuce out of the fridge and tossed a bag of popcorn in the microwave.  (Calm down, I served the popcorn separately.)

As the kernels popped away, I noticed Avery dancing around like a hyperactive epileptic.  I quickly ushered her upstairs to the bathroom, not wanting to repeat last week’s episode of peeing on the kitchen floor.

Avery reappeared minutes later, pants around her ankles and an empty toilet paper roll in her hand.  Something told me I should start asking questions, but some things I’d just rather not know.

“Mommy, I pooped in the toilet!”  Always good news in my house.
“But I peed on the rug.”  Excellent.

My eyes then traveled to the empty toilet paper roll that Avery was still clutching in her sticky fingers.  The conversation took a weird turn when she promptly stuffed it down the back of her purple polka-dot underpants.

“Mommy, I am being a pirate,” Avery helpfully explained.  “My butt is going to be the telescope.”

Yep, pretty sure “My butt is going to be the telescope” is a sentiment not often uttered in the John G. Roberts household.

But my kids are more fun.  And John Roberts can suck it.

Neighborhood Watch, Part 2

I’d be lying if I said I have no idea where Avery got her hyper-competitive nature from.  My behavior during heated games of Trivial Pursuit has almost led to divorce.  And nobody in their right mind would play Taboo with me.

So it’s no surprise that every time we come down stairs (or up stairs, or walk to the car, or from the car), Avery has to make an official race out of it.  I have little patience for this new tendency of hers.  Mostly because I have to let her win, and she runs like a retarded pony.

This morning, I had other things on my mind, and I went downstairs without waiting for her painfully slow legs to catch up with me.

“Mommy, you beat me!” Avery screamed, totally oblivious to the open windows and what the neighbors must think.  “I hate when you beat me, Mommy!  Please don’t beat me ever again!”

However, I don’t give a flying asscrack what my neighbors think anymore.  My neighborhood has gone to hell in a foreclosure handbasket.

To one side, the previous owners stopped paying their mortgage in 2007, and moved out in the middle of the night last summer.  Unfortunately, the bank wasn’t the only one looking to take the house.  Stray cats got in and predictably, shit and pissed everywhere.  The stench was so bad that the wallpaper peeled off the walls, and the city of Lakewood had to buy the house because no one else would.  It sold for $40,000.  Which did wonders for our home value.

To the other side of us, you will find a real life “Hoarders: Buried Alive” situation.  The owner of the house died inside, amid piles of rotted food, cat shit, and dead, flattened rats.  And what did that gem of a property go for?  $21,000.  And the house has been condemned. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Who wouldn’t want to live here?

But oh wait, it gets worse.  The neighbors across the street are in the process of painting their house.  Purple.  Not a rich, or even a modest purple.  It’s like My Little Pony purple.  As if the Easter Bunny threw up on their porch.

Yummy.

And yes, my neighbor saw me take this picture.  We are no longer friends.

New Kid on the Block

Every morning, I have the same thought: “Today, I will write.”  Okay, I have two thoughts.  First, the writing one.  Then: “I hate breastfeeding.”

My last thought before bed is always the same, too.  “Too tired today.  I will write tomorrow.”  Quickly followed by, “And I still hate breastfeeding.”

So, today I am writing.  It’s been a few months, and a lot has changed.  I’m thirty pounds lighter (okay, so I don’t hate breastfeeding), but my heart has grown twice as big.

Meet Declan.  I call him Beefcake.

I was inspired to write today by my children’s grandmothers.  Both of them.

We spent the weekend at Andrew’s parents’ house in Tiffin for his tenth class reunion.  Avery loved every minute with her Grandpa and Grandma Greene.  When we were getting ready to leave, she said: “But I want to be at Tiffin.”

And I don’t blame her.  While Avery was snuggled up between her grandparents on the couch, and I was yes, breastfeeding for the millionth time that day, my mother-in-law asked me if I had any time to write lately.  Ashamed, I told her no.

I realized later that I lied to her.  I have time to write.  And yet I don’t.  Her simple question brought to mind the best advice that I’ve ever been given: “Writers write. If you want to be a writer, write.”  So I’m writing.

And I’m going to write about my mother.  Avery’s other grandma.  Whom she’s never met, but as I found out today, still loves.

Avery enjoys nothing more than to look through a scrapbook that my sister made for her first birthday.  She calls it, “Pictures when I was a baby.”  She gets it out whenever Declan is demanding my full attention.  Something that he does a lot.  You know, because of all the breastfeeding.

Tonight, Avery turned to the page of her scrapbook called “Angels in Heaven.”  She pointed to pictures of my mom and dad holding me as a child.

“Mommy, who are these ones?”

I haven’t told her the nasty truth yet.  I learned what the word “cancer” meant at a very young age, and I don’t want her little brain to have to process all the terrible, terrible things that cancer does to a human body.  I debated for a few seconds about how to proceed.  I decided to keep it simple.

“That’s my mom and dad, honey.”

Avery’s eyes lit up as if she finally found the last piece of a puzzle.  Her face bursting with joy, she stood up and took my hand.

“I wish I could meet them tomorrow!  I love these guys.”

I’m not much of a crier these days, but that one got me.  From the mouth of babes, I guess.  Before I turned into a blubbery mess of tears and snot, I quietly told Avery the only thing I could think to say.

“I wish you could, too.”

When I think about how much fun my parents would have with Avery, I can’t help but be sad.  And with another baby around to love, it hurts twice as much.  But I’m done moping about it.

Because my mother wouldn’t want me to.  She would tell me to write.

And to quit whining about breastfeeding.