Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why, yes, they are!

Some weird happenings over the last few weeks.

I was dizzy for a couple of days in a row for no apparent reason.

I've been nauseas on and off for two weeks, and moody as hell.

Last Wednesday night, while Jason was away, I was even more lonely and sad than I usually am when he's traveling for work. I just needed him, but he wasn't here.

I sobbed off and on for ten hours after Nathan did a new autistic-y thing (he flapped his hands) during his therapist's visit. And when he woke at 10:30pm, asking to be hugged and re-tucked, I went in and held him like my life depended on it - so not like me. Normally, we adhere to a strict "Good night, I won't see you 'til morning unless you barf or the house is on fire" policy.

I wanted a lot of bologna-and-potato chip sandwiches.

Last Thursday morning, I had the weirdest feeling that my boobs were a little bigger than usual. And that's when I decided to buy a pregnancy test.

You may remember that Mad was home sick with me at the end of last week - boy, does that make shopping for a pregnancy test interesting. ("Mom, what is that?") I bought a box of two just in case and went home, wondering how I was going to manage to pee in private. The first test gave me a plus sign. No way! I had to pee again almost immediately, so I took the second test. Also a plus sign. Gulp!

Later, after grabbing Annabelle from school, I brought the kids to buy another box of pregnancy tests, a different brand this time. Maybe EPT was pranking me, but First Response would be on the level. When we got home with my purchase, Jason was there - he'd returned early from his trip. I stealthily peed on the third stick while the kids surrounded him and regaled him with stories of the last 24 hours. Two pink lines.

Yup, I'm pregnant.

I told Jason, and the first thing he said was, "I thought so. I noticed that your boobs were a little bigger."

Monday, September 28, 2009

An interesting email

A few weeks ago I received an email from Autism.

How strange to receive a communique from an enigmatic developmental disability! I am a little afraid to open the email, and especially the attachment - I've heard of people receiving viruses via email, but this is ridiculous!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Follow-Up follow-up

Hi there! Just thought I'd let you know that Mad has strep throat.

I knew that you were all on pins and needles wondering about this, and I didn't want to ruin your weekends with worry and suspense. So, now you know!

She's doing fine, though - says her throat doesn't even really hurt and is watching more Barbie movies in a row than I want to acknowledge publicly.

Have a good weekend!

P.S. Know what I had for breakfast today? Two Oscar Mayer bologna and potato chip sandwiches on Wonder bread. With yellow mustard. Yum!

Friday Follow-Up

Hey, kids, gather 'round! It's Friday Follow-Up time!

As you can see, I'm in a weird mood. It's been a weird week. I got some unexpected feedback after writing about my inability to accept that life isn't fair. I thought I came off as a nutjob, obsessing about free pancakes and peewee football players, but I actually received quite a bit of support from all of you. Enablers!

I'm still waiting for my cookbooks to arrive. I ordered them all from different vendors through Amazon, so each book will arrive in a separate box, on a separate day. I'm so excited - next week will be like Hanukkah! (I've always envied Hanukkah...) I love having a project that doesn't involve any actual work. First, I'll put the books in order on the coffee table in the family room. Then, I'll grab my little Staples organizer that's filled with different colored flags and Post-Its. And with feet up on the couch and garbage TV on (Hi, Melrose Place 2.0!), I will pore through each book, marking every recipe that looks bland and uncomplicated enough with flags, following an as-yet-to-be-determined recipe organizing system. Then, I'll add the keepers to my Better Homes and Gardens Recipe Organizer Binder. I suppose at some point I should add another phase to my project: Cooking The Meals. But that's a ways off - I can't just start cooking recipes randomly! Must organize first. And lord knows how long that will take...

Oh, and speaking of my cookbook post, I got a comment that used an abbreviation: FTW. I had NO IDEA what that meant, and couldn't get it from the context of the comment, the way I might translate an unfamiliar word while reading a novel. Embarrassingly, I had to Google it. Turns out that it was a complimentary bunch of letters, meaning "for the win." What you're supposed to do is write something that's good or that you liked and then add FTW to the end. So Noodle Mom could message me something like, "You made boxed spaghetti for dinner tonight? Huh. I made spinach ravioli with homemade marinara. And hand-churned ice cream with berries FTW."

And finally, I want to let you know that Mad is still out of school, thanks to that party guest who won't take the hint that it's time to go home, Mystery Fever. We're heading to the pediatrician's office in about 10 minutes to see WTF is causing her to have a fever for three days. (See? I do know some acronyms all on my own!) She seems to be doing better today, which is great, but man, is it weird having a kid around the house during a time when you're not supposed to have a kid around the house. Even Nathan has these little programs that he goes to during the day, so I had been used to not having to answer to anyone for at least an hour on most days.

Talk to you Monday!

P.S. I craffed yesterday. For like an hour. I'm not telling you why, but thought you'd like to know that yes, I really do Craff Out Loud.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How I spent $50 on Amazon.com

I did this very grown-up thing the other day: I used my $50 Amazon birthday gift card to buy a bunch of cookbooks.

Yup, cookbooks. I haven't even told Jason yet - he'll go into hysterics when I tell him. And then he'll suggest some things I should have bought instead, things I'd actually use. You see, I am not a natural in the kitchen. I think it's mainly because I'm a picky eater who doesn't like things with too much flavor or too many ingredients. Oh, and I also hate being wet, which means that all of the veggie-handling, the washing and the slicing, is nearly intolerable to me. I hate to cook, and I stink at it.

Or do I? Come to find out, for the past four years that we've lived in this house, our oven has been broken. Some kind of heating element flake-out has been causing it to slowly lose its ability to heat properly. So all those times I tried to make the meatloaf recipe that was stuck to the ground beef package, the one that said it took 45 minutes to cook, maybe it wasn't still raw inside after 70 minutes because I Can't Cook. Maybe it was the oven's fault. (We don't need to get into why it took me FOUR YEARS to figure this out.)

Maybe, just maybe, now that Jason has fixed the oven, and now that I will be the proud owner of 9 new cookbooks in the next 10-14 business days, I can cook.

I told you that I bought a food processor. It's actually still disassembled because I couldn't figure out how to put it all together, even though they thoughtfully included a "How to Assemble Your Food Processor" diagram with labeled parts. But once I remember to ask Jason to put it together for me, I am totally going to start using it. I can't even imagine how, or to do what, but I promise you that I am going to use that thing. I bought a wide-mouth version because it says "Less pre-cutting!" in a large, jaunty font on the box. Sold!

The inspiration for that particular purchase was Noodle Mom. One night when I went over to her house for a beer, I was shocked and awed to see her nonchalantly moving zucchini muffin goop into muffin tins. Naturally I was impressed by her feat of from-scratch baking, which is the stuff of legend in my house, but then another thought occurred to me: how do you get from an oblong, whole zucchini to surprisingly unrepugnant zucchini muffin mix?

The question stuck with me, unanswered, until the day I was at Target, looking for ways to spend money in a way that could be disguised as Being A Good Wife and Mother, when I stumbled upon the wide-mouth food processor. In my mind I saw a zuccini moving in slow motion toward the plastic opening of the food processor...and it all suddenly started to make sense.

And soon I'll have the cookbooks to talk me through the finer points.

P.S. Get a load of some of the names of the books I bought - they are guaranteed to increase your heart rate and cause sweat to bead your forehead:

Desperation Dinners

The 5:30 Challenge: 5 Ingredients, 30 Minutes, Dinner on the Table

Quick Meals For Healthy Kids and Busy Families

Busy People's Super Simple 30-Minute Menus: 137 Complete Meals Timed For Success

The Frantic Woman's Guide To Life: A Year's Worth of Hints, Tips, and Tricks

Don't they make you feel like you've got to go change into running shoes? I didn't do much research on the books; I just interpreted the "busy and quick" theme as "lazy" and ran with it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sick, not scamming

Mad seemed fine all day, so I was feeling like maybe I'd gotten played by a six-year-old. I chided myself for keeping her home, and I even assigned her the chore of cleaning out and organizing her dress-up clothes (which she did, fabulously).

Then at dinnertime I picked up my "little scammer" to give her a giant hug, and I noticed that she felt warm. Sure enough, she's got a fever of 101.

Moms, always trust your first instinct! I was right to have kept her home, to have believed her initial claim of not feeling well, vague as it was.

I'm going to go point at myself in the mirror and say, "In your FACE, self-doubter!"

Sick or scamming?

I woke up this morning 45 minutes before the alarm went off. Usually this is a total bummer, right, because you can't fully relax and get back to sleep knowing that the alarm is coming for you real soon. But today I was filled with energy and optimism about the day ahead. I felt rested and ready to roll!

After getting Jason's clothes ready for work and doling out peanut butter bagels to the kids, I turned back to the ironing board and ironed my workout clothes. (Stop with the snickering - I have issues about wrinkles, okay?) Today is the day that my self-defense class meets, and I was so ready to go kick the crap out of those bags after missing last week's class. I even shaved my legs in the shower and remembered to apply deodorant.

And then, just after Jason's car pulled out of the driveway, and just before I marched the kids out to the van for the ride to school, Madeleine broke down in tears. She was curled up in a ball on the hand-me-down chair in the living room with Puppy Dog, her stuffed friend, thumb in mouth, cheeks red, and eyes moist. Annabelle was exasperated - "What's her problem?" I, on the other hand, was moved to float over to her on mom wings and scoop her up close to me.

"What's the matter, honey?"

"I don't feel good," she replied in the tiniest voice.

"Aw, honey. I'm sorry to hear that. What is it?"

She shrugged, and then, when it became apparent to her that I needed more than nothing for an answer, she added, "It hurts here," and pointed vaguely to what could have been her chest or her stomach.

Hmmm. Mom, M.D. kept prodding for more details, but got nothing else out of her other than a faint claim of nausea and a request that I take her temperature.

Now I can almost see you right now, shaking your head in disapproval as you guess that I ended up keeping her home from school. (I did.) You think I've been scammed. I admit that it is a possibility. BUT! Mad did mention to me right away this morning that she didn't feel good, and she barely touched her breakfast, which was usually such a favorite that only a bowl of Princess Glitter Choco-Sugar Smacks could have topped it. (I can see the execs at General Mills right now - "Johnson - it's brilliant! Get this woman on the phone and buy her off. We'll start manufacturing in the morning!")

And then there's this: Mad loves school. If she loved her teacher any more, she'd be a Lifetime movie creep. She wakes up every morning with excitement and enthusiasm, brimming with compliments about her teacher and friends. Except for today.

So I bought into it and kept her home. In my defense, I had to make the call on my own - Jason had just left, remember - and in a flash because it was time to go to school right then.

And she is such a cute little peanut. I'm a sucker for a cute little peanut.

Maybe there was the teensiest little spring in her step when I suggested that she lay down on the couch and watch TV. Maybe I can hear her singing happily with Nathan right now as I type. Maybe I got scammed. But don't scorn me! I'll have to miss my kicking ass class again this week, and I got a wicked dirty look from Annabelle as I dropped only her off at school this morning. I'm already paying for my (possible) mistake.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A life lesson not yet learned

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of fair, and how stubbornly I have held onto it since I was a kid. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think that grown-ups are supposed to accept somewhere along the way that life just isn't fair. Maybe you learned it in college, when Idiot Jock "whizzed through" organic chem as Hard-Working You eeked out a B-. Or maybe you caught on in your early career when Idiot Co-Worker got the promotion and office while Hard-Working You toiled away in a cramped cube. Maybe some of you took a little longer to catch on but finally got it as you dismissed your children's concerns about who got more orange M&Ms after dinner.

So why has it been so hard for me to learn this lesson?

I get worked up over lots of teeny, tiny things because they trigger the "But that's not fair!" reflex in me. And it's driving me crazy because I really do have better things to do.

Case in point: I had two back-to-back awful experiences at the kids' favorite breakfast restaurant. (We'll call it "Schwinternational House of Pancakes" to protect their identity.) I was so incensed that I labored for two hours over a letter to the store manager, explaining exactly what happened and exactly how disappointed I was, blah, blah, blah. I couldn't believe that upon receipt of my letter the manager didn't immediately issue me a letter of regret and some kind of large-denomination gift card. Instead, she called me and after some brusque questioning, reluctantly offered to cover our check next time we came in, as long as I announced our presence upon entering. We did end up having breakfast there again, but I was too embarrassed/afraid to say, "Yes, hello, I'd like to see your store manager, please? I'm the lady who wrote about how much our last visit sucked."

That noise you hear in your head right now is the cooking staff hawking up a revenge loogie into my crepes.

So now I still carry around this bad feeling of, "Hey, I should get a free meal at S.H.O.P., but I can't because I fear the embarrassment of being identified as The Complainer in front of the staff who will cook and serve my food." And I wrote that letter a month-and-a-half ago.

You think I sound pathetic, huh? You ain't heard nothing yet. What about last weekend, when I was at an away-game with my 7-year-old cheerleader? I noticed that as the cheerleaders were cheering, three of the football players (also 7 years old) were standing a little to the side of them, mocking them. How the heat rushed to my face! How my hands curled into tight little fists of outrage! How dare those little boys make fun of the cheerleaders who were cheering for them? What kind of sportsmanship is that?

For the rest of the game, I was all pins and needles, that feeling that you have on oral report day when you are not sure when the teacher will call you up to the front of the room to deliver your hastily-written oration on the Teapot Dome scandal. I wanted to say something to the football coaches so that they could tell their players to be respectful of their comrades in the pleated skirts. I envisioned the coach thanking me for bringing this matter to his attention and then having a meaningful talk with his team. Then, at halftime, after the girls went out to do their special cheer and dance routine, the football players would run out onto the field and do a synchronized routine, spelling out "THANK YOU, CHEERLEADERS" with their bodies.

But none of that happened. (I know - surprising, right?) I was too embarrassed and too nervous to mention the incident to the coaches - they all looked so busy, so intense, calling out plays and yelling at players who missed the block or didn't hold the line. So I left the game with a sense of, "That's not fair! Those players should appreciate that these girls came here to work hard as a team, too!"

The end result in both of these scenarios is that I am both overreacting and feeling like a sucker at the same time. When something stupid happens that isn't fair, I should either let it go and really, truly fuhgeddaboutit, or I should own my immature complaining-ness and bitch to high heaven until I get the resolution I want.

Speaking of which, who do I write to at FOX with my concerns about that godawful season premiere of House last night?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Inspirational music

This summer, while the girls were at day camp, they started learning some popular songs from the counselors and other kids. I never listen to the radio myself, unless it's the news on NPR, so I had no idea What The Kids Are Listening To These Days. (I learn my "new" songs by playing Guitar Hero - so what if they're so ten years ago?) One song they came home all excited about was "Right Round" by Flo Rida. I pulled up the sample on iTunes and, getting a kick out of hearing a re-working of an old favorite, "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" by Dead or Alive, I purchased the song and added it to the family playlist.

A couple of weeks later, I was picking up the kids from a sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and Grandma asked, "What's that X-rated song that Nathan's singing?" Apparently Nathan had spent his entire visit singing, "You spin my head right round, right round when you go down, when you go down, down..."

Now, get your minds out of the gutter, you pervs. AS IF I would let my 7-, 6-, and 2-year-olds listen to a song about oral sex. No, it's actually a touching account of Flo's experience at the strip club, drinking with his friends and spending all of his hundreds on this one bewitching woman sliding up and down the stripper pole.

See? Family-friendly!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Follow-Up

Hey! I have some updates to report in a new feature that I'll call Friday Follow-Up (read with jazz hands). It'll be kind of like the annual Christmas letter that you see families sending in movies and TV shows but never in real life. Only weekly. And in real life.

My very first post, Kiss me...Like this...On the mouth! talked about the ritual bedtime smooch that I share with Nathan each night. You may remember that only dramatic, drawn-out kisses on the lips were acceptable to my little boy, and you may also have read in my biography that Nathan has an autism spectrum disorder that makes him pretty, uh, how do I put this? Inflexible. So you can imagine the sheer panic that hit me at bedtime a couple of weeks ago when I felt like I was coming down with something. I didn't want to pass my germs along, but good lord, how could I deny Nathan his big smooch on the mouth? Well, the kid surprised me. After running through the rest of the lengthy bedtime routine as he expected, I nervously mentioned that I'd be giving him a "big kiss...like this" on the cheek that night. Eyes locked, we stared each other down for about 120 seconds before he decided, "No. You can kiss me...like this...on this cheek AND on this cheek." So, we made it through the ordeal just fine, with mom being charged one penalty kiss. Phew!

I got a lot of creative advice from my Facebook friends after writing I'm so glad you shared...now what's your name again? - apparently I am not the only mom who has been in this awkward situation. But you know what? I didn't have to use any of your ideas - I cheated instead. At the start of our very next parent meeting, the moderator of the group addressed the mom-to-be by name. Score! For the rest of the meeting, I cockily tossed that girl her name so many times she probably thought I was trying to initiate a drinking game.

Remember how I mentioned that Nathan substitutes "juice box" for "juke box" when he sings "I Love Rock and Roll" by Joan Jett? Well, now I have to sing it that way whenever I hear it (usually while playing Guitar Hero) - and it makes me sound like a slurry Courtney Love. This, combined with the automatic hiccups that humiliate me every time I drink half a beer, makes me seem much drunker than I (usually) am.

The response that I've gotten from my angst-ridden post about changing schools has been overwhelming. I couldn't believe the outpouring of welcome from Heights parents and the wistful understanding and well-wishing from Alt School parents. At the new school, I've seen so many moms I know from MOMS Club and around town, and I feel totally at ease and like a part of the Heights community. Oh, yeah, and the girls are loving their new school, which I guess is kind of important, too. The agita of being part of an always-on-the-chopping-block school is gone, and the agita of changing schools faded quickly. Now if someone could give me a Tums for the kids-have-to-read-to-me-for-20-minutes-each-night agita...

And one more update. After my post Enough, already, a lot of people rushed to my defense and accused Noodle Mom of being a holier-than-thou show-off. Because she's actually a close friend and an all-around good egg, I defended her. Then, last week, she messaged me about how she was preparing homemade fruit leather and making hand-cranked noodles in the same day. So you know what? You can feel free to let those barbs fly! ;-)

Jonesin' for some Street Hoops,

P.S. I'm typing this at Starbucks while the girls are in school and the boy is at a drop-off program at the Y. (Ooooh yeah!) And a mother just came in with her teenage daughter and used the coolest mom line, which I am totally going to steal. The daughter picked up a mug that she wanted and quoted the price. Unflappable Mom said calmly over her shoulder as she approached the barista, "I'm only here for coffee." The mug was replaced and the girl never made a peep of protest. Next time we're at the store and the girls start frothing at the mouth over gum at the checkout, I'll say, "We're only here for beer."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Suburban Housewife

You guys have to watch this. But not in front of the boss, whether "the boss" is your employer or your kids. Seriously - you don't want your kids singing this one on the playground.

Thanks to Kelly for sending it!

The nightmare...

I had a horrible nightmare on Saturday night - three days ago! - and it's still affecting my sleep.

Now this was not your typical mom nightmare, where you can't find your kid at a crowded carnival fairground, or your husband leaves you for the teenaged check-out girl at the supermarket. This was a full-blown horror movie with gore galore. So here's what happened: Hannibal Lechter was on the loose and, for some reason, it was common knowledge that he was coming for me and my family. He was way scarier than he was in The Silence of the Lambs, though - in my dream, he had superhuman strength and could do magic tricks like make locks on doors and windows disappear. And he didn't dine on people in pinky-extended nibbles, either. No, in my dream, he went berserk on his victims, leaving them short limbs and heads. The most vivid image from the dream was of a super-pale bald man who had lost the entire bottom three-quarters of his body. He had only enough torso so that he could still have arms attached, but he did somehow manage to maintain his glasses in all of the bedlam. He was hovering around on the street among the other victims, evangelizing to me that Hannibal was coming and that I, too, could lose over 100 pounds on the Dismemberment Diet! ("Actual results may vary," he disclaimed.)

Okay, so you're thinking this doesn't sound that scary, right? Well, wait 'til you hear the worst part...

I woke up from this dream gripped by an absolute terror that was so powerful I could not move a muscle for about 10-15 minutes. (Great - now I know how I'll react in an actual terrifying situation. Better sign the kids up for track so they'll be able to run themselves away from danger while mom goes catatonic in fear.) I finally calmed myself enough to reach over and grab my book light and Soap Opera Digest, which I read for an hour. The reading worked - I got so immersed in the soapy goodness that I forgot all about Hannibal and fell back asleep.

And then I was back in the same dream again.

Holy crap! I had been under the impression that this kind of thing did not happen. It's certainly what I've told my girls whenever they've woken up from a bad dream in the night. "Shhh, it's okay. That dream is all over now."

When the alarm woke me up at 6 to bring Annabelle to her Pop Warner game (yes, you read me right - I had to get up at 6 on a Sunday for my child's activity), I was actually relieved to get the hell out of bed. And the dream haunted me all day. Later that night, when Jason and I were watching football and I was falling asleep on the couch, he suggested that I go to bed. What was he, crazy? Like I was going to go to the other end of the house and get in bed all by myself so that Hannibal could get to me with less resistance? Yeah, sure. Instead, I set up a blanket and pillows on the floor in my family room and slept there until the game was over and Jason was ready to come to bed with me. Yes, I am 5 years old.

And last night, after the Patriots played, I was uncharacteristically eager to watch the Raiders game just to avoid going to sleep. And when I did go to bed, I could only fell asleep with my Soap Opera Digest and booklight on the bed right next to my head so that I'd be able to grab them that much quicker in the event of a Hannibal redux.

Wait, wasn't I just writing about how I'm trying to be all grown-up now? (nervous laugh)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Movin' on up

Hello! You may have noticed that I haven't posted in almost a week, and I do apologize for that. To be honest, I was feeling kind of down-in-the-dumps last week and just couldn't get up the gumption to write much of anything. I started a few posts, but they all ended up sounding like they'd been written by Eeyore, so I opted not to publish them.

But I'm back and feeling super-energized this week! I'm starting a campaign to be a legitimate grown-up, and I'm starting with my house. Now, Jason and I bought this place, our first house, exactly 4 years ago this month, and for the last 4 years we have been living like college kids in a dormitory. We own hardly any furniture, and what we do have is one funky mismatched hand-me-down piece after another, just a small step above milk crates and a ping-pong dining table. We've never even owned a full, matching set of dishes! I am so ready to make our house feel like people live in it, to buy some bona fide furniture-store furniture and maybe even - gasp! - some artwork.

And curtains. Good lord, do we need curtains the way we all strut around eating cereal in our underwear.

So, on Friday I bought some dishes. Dinner plates. Salad plates. Coordinating bowls and mugs. Yes! And today I bought some wine glasses, a corkscrew, and a food processor. I don't know how to use any of them, but it sure does make me sound sound grown up, doesn't it?

I also took Nathan on a stroll through Jordan's Furniture to get some ideas about couches and chairs and such. Wow. You know you're in a big freakin' store when the areas are labeled like, "Building 2, Room 43." It was quite overwhelming to see all the shit that you have to buy to be a grown-up. Console tables! Ottomans! Area rugs! Coordinating lamps and decorative dishes for your coffee table! (Cha-ching! Cha-ching! Double cha-ching!)

But it is exciting to start movin' on up, adding some color and fabric and texture to these rooms. Our house may be small, but it's got the potential to be a place that makes us happy. When I asked my mom about her recent birthday plans, she mentioned that they hadn't ended up going out. "That's okay," she'd said, "We love our castle." That got me thinking about how I feel about my house, and let me tell you, I am not a fan. I look forward to getting an oil change just so that I can go sit somewhere else for an hour. And you can forget about getting invited over here - I'll just have a heart attack in anticipation of your visit, which will most likely result in a cancellation on account of my being resuscitated in the ER and all.


So, I'm making an attempt to cozy up this bitch. My goal is to buy furniture for our family room by the end of September. And the whole house is to be curtained by Christmas. And I'd like to have one arty thing on display somewhere in the house by Valentine's Day. I like my chances of reaching these goals; I have a few things working in my favor. For one thing, Jason will not care what I get, so I can just go ahead and buy stuff without having to tussle with him over throw pillows. Also, I am highly motivated to get this done - if I don't make this house feel like my homey, cozy castle very soon, I am going to go all The Shining on your ass.

All work and no curtains makes Kelley a dull girl...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Date Night, or You'll Never Believe How Stupid My Husband Thinks I Am

On Saturday night Jason and I got the idea of having a nice seafood/sushi dinner at Skipjack's, so we dropped the kids for a sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa's house and headed over to Patriot Place in Foxboro. Man, is that place user-unfriendly! They have shops and restaurants galore, but navigating your way through that parking lot is a challenge for even the most brilliant minds. So we parked in the waaay-wrong place (next to a parking space with a pool of big, chunky vomit in it - ah, romance!) and walked all around, trying to find the way into the large building with the Skipjack's logo on it. We walked this way, and then back that way, and then back this way again, and I was getting crankier and crankier by the minute.

We noticed animal poop all over the sidewalks and imagined what kind of animal was there at the luxury shopping and dining center taking a crap everywhere. "Disgruntled customers?" I wondered.

Finally, we found our way to a large (and I mean large as in, halfway up you are gasping for air as the outdoor-terrace diners at CBS Scene snigger at you) stairway that led to the restaurant. We walked in, giddy with hunger and relief, and put our names in for a table. The wait was going to be about 40 minutes, so we headed over to the bar. Because it was a busy Saturday night, there were no seats, and we ended up doing that awkward, creepy hover behind some other patrons who had been fortunate enough to snag chairs.

About halfway through my Oktoberfest, I noticed the hostess ushering a couple away from the bar to their table. I nudged Jason excitedly and bossed, "Go! Go! There are seats opening up over there!" He didn't move, murmuring something about waiting to get his change from the bartender. I was flabbergasted. I wanted to give him a huge shove and yell, "MOVE! GO! NOW! WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU? WHY AREN'T YOU MOVING?" but I worried that such an outburst might be considered gauche. Instead, I shoved past him and made my way toward those seats as fast as I could.

Just as I got there, of course, an elderly couple had edged me out. I stomped back over to Jason, fuming that his hesitation had cost us those seats. Didn't he realize that I was carrying a 35-pound bag on my shoulder? (No, we hadn't done any shopping beforehand - it was just my giant mom-purse, filled with diapers and wipes and snacks and magazines and Kleenex packets and bug spray and ChapStick and maxi pads.) I was so annoyed that he actually noticed that I was annoyed. He bravely asked, "What's wrong?" and I whined, "I wanted to go sit down, but you wouldn't move, and now we've missed out, and now we'll never get a seat." I was making a pouty face, and I may have even stamped my foot. He kind of shrugged and looked back at the baseball game on the TV.

And then, gasp! Two more seats opened up, and again, I nudged Jason to start walking so that I could deposit my 50-pound bag on the back of a chair and sit down like a regular paying customer instead of doing the vagrant-hover near the end of the bar. And again, he wouldn't budge. I started to sputter, mind blown that he wouldn't start walking. He looked uncomfortable and said quietly in a patient teacher voice, "There's a managed queue." It took me a few minutes to process what he was talking about, and then it dawned on me.

He thought that I was trying to grab seats at a table. That was used for dining. That people, including us, were on a waiting list for.

Take a minute to absorb it.

This is what my husband thinks of me after 8 years of marriage. It's one of two things, and I'm not sure which one I'm routing for. Maybe he thinks that I am really stupid and I thought the hostess was just asking our name to be super-friendly, and that she wrote it down on that paper because she's so bad at remembering the names of new friends she meets. Or maybe he thinks that I am really rude and that I was just going to jump into a booth, giggling conspiritorially with him as I flipped off the hostess and customers waiting in line to put their names in. (In that case, he must have thought I was showing great restraint by sipping my beer from a glass rather than just hopping over the bar and sucking Sam Adams right from the tap.)

Once I explained that I am, in fact, both aware and respectful of restaurant seating law, we had a good laugh over that one. While we were sitting in those bar seats I nabbed for us.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How Kelley got her groove back

I woke up this morning feeling like crap. I've got a little bit of a cold, and I hadn't slept well, and when I woke up the kids were all over me, showing me stuff and asking for stuff. I felt like crawling under the covers with Kleenex (actually Stop & Shop brand tissues, to be honest) up each nostril to save myself the trouble of getting up. But as I (half-heartedly) ironed Jason's clothes and (reluctantly) poured the kids' cereal into bowls, I gave myself a little pep talk and determined to make something better out of this day.

After my shower, I blew my hair dry and put on a little makeup. This is not customary for me - there's a 50/50 shot of me taking a shower on any given morning, let alone remembering to put on deodorant. Makeup is usually reserved for parties, funerals, and clothes-shopping. Annabelle walked in to pee, stopped dead in her tracks when she saw me gawking at myself in the mirror, and gasped, "Mom! You look dramatically gorgeous!"

Things were starting to turn around.

The girls inexplicably have the day off from school today, so we knew we'd have some special girl time this morning while Nathan was at his drop-off gym program. Still feeling half-crappy, half-cautiously-optimistic, I decided that we'd do something tried-and-true (read: minimum-effort) for fun - Chuck E. Cheese's. Yes, I realize that today is a beautiful summer's day, and We Should Be Outside, but after the way I woke up this morning, throwing death looks at anyone coming near me, I'm just proud to have made it out of the house at all.

When we arrived at Chuck E.'s, there was only one other car in the lot, probably on account of it being such a heavenly day and all. We walked in, and immediately I felt a sense of calm wash over me. It was a bit (I'd imagine) like the feeling a drug addict gets when he scores: sweet relief in the knowledge that fun would be had for the next couple of hours with no interference from that pesky outside world.

The girls filled their fists with tokens and made a beeline for the photo and drawing machines - they love to commemorate our trips to Chuck E.'s with these little portraits of themselves having fun. I looked on happily and realized that we had the whole place to ourselves. I sauntered around the place, checking out the salad bar, the air hockey table, the mini-carousel with exaggerated interest. I waited as long as I could, probably a good three or four minutes - you know, so I wouldn't look like an addict - and then I nonchalantly walked over to the Street Hoops game, all, "Oh, hello! What have we here? Maybe I'll try my hand at this little game," as though I hadn't been playing once a week for the past four weeks, desperately trying to beat the high score.

I glanced over my shoulder, locating the girls. Yup, they were still right behind me, having a blast on some Win Lots of Tickets! game, and yup, we were still the only customers in the joint. It was safe to play. Hands shaking, I placed my first token into the slot. The familiar "street" music came on, and the deep-throated voice told me that it was time to shoot. I leaned forward, hustled the black basketballs closer to me, and then aimed each one toward the chain-link hoop.

"Ooooooh," I shuddered as I sank ball after ball, "This is goooood."

I played a couple of games, advancing each time past overtime, double-overtime, and into the playoffs. My only goal in life for those two hours this morning was to beat the high score of 150. Oh, and to look like someone who a) has never played this game before and doesn't really care about the outcome, and b) knows where her kids are.

I made a deal with myself that I would play just three games and then I would hang out with the girls. With surprising willpower, I followed through and met up with the girls after a few quick games. We had fun together, playing that game where we'd race to shoot water into a little target and then shaking and lurching through the simulated roller coaster ride. But often the two of them would run off, "Anna, look! We can climb in the tunnel!" and I'd be left alone and defenseless against the siren song of Street Hoops.

Once, when I had broken the record for the first time with my 163 points, I looked over to my left and saw Madeleine staring at me with an expression of either surprise or terror - I couldn't tell which. I looked behind me to where she was staring, and there was Chuck E. Cheese himself, purposely standing about 3 inches away to scare the crap out of me. I jumped a mile with a loud gasp, and everyone thought it was a hoot. "Ah-ha-ha!" I fake-laughed, a good sport.

I was really thinking, "Get out of my way, Rat - I'm in the zone here."

After the girls said their hellos to Chuck E., they started in on this game that lets you win coupons for ice cream and cotton candy. It was right next to the Street Hoops game, so what could I do but play some more? As I hit my first six shots in a row, I knew that this was going to be my best game ever. I was so focused that it took me a minute to realize that not all of the "street" music and DJ-scratching sounds were coming from my terminal - someone else was playing next to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Chuck E., grabbing the street balls with his giant rat hands (paws??) and making shot after shot.

Oh, it was on.

I have to say that the rat put up a good fight, but who could have had a chance against my outrageous 173 points? As our game ended, I looked over toward Chuck E., flushed and ready to start trash-talking. Then I noticed a little boy standing nearby (Yay! There was another mom who flipped this beautiful summer's day the bird!), and I decided that I would be setting a better example for the kiddies if I just smiled demurely and said, "That was fun. Good game!" I politely left out the rest: "Now you're my bitch, Chuck."

I wasn't the only one with a major victory today. Annabelle won a free ice cream coupon for herself and a free cotton candy coupon for her little sister. She felt like the big hero, and boy, did they relish those treats, especially because I never would have let them eat that shit at home.

As our morning came to a close, we traded in our tickets and picked out some worthwhile prizes: a High School Musical diary for Mad and a big package of colored clay for Annabelle. My prize? Happy kids, bragging rights over a costumed rat, and a sunnier disposition that has lasted me the rest of the day.

Disclaimer: Please take note of my repeated mention that Chuck E. Cheese's was virtually empty while we were there. I would not have played and played that game if there were little kids waiting for a turn. I might be an addict, but I'm not a total jerk.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Enough, already

Sigh. I'm getting a little tired of bumping into people who expose my incompetence (inmompetence???) by either a) having their shit together so much better than I do, or b) asking questions to which I don't, but definitely should, know the answers.

Example #1: I'm at a birthday party this weekend, having a nice relaxing time watching Mad run around with her mates, when out of nowhere my consistently awe-inspiring mom friend asks me what I'm making for dinner. "Dunno," I shrug with complete distaste and disinterest. "Oh," she grins, "Well, I'm making noodles."

I stare at her blankly, a little relieved, because, well, she's only making pasta. Even I can do that.

But wait - she's looking a little too smug, and what's with that grin? Something's wrong. I run her words back in my head,"...making noodles," as in making the noodles? From dough?? She mimes the action of cranking the pasta out of her little pasta-making machine, delighted by my disbelief as I catch on.


(I ended up ordering pizza that night.)

Example #2: I'm out shopping with the girls this morning, enjoying our last morning together before school starts back up, when an impeccably-dressed sales clerk asks the kids when they start school. "Tomorrow," they groan. "Oh!" she exclaims perkily, "So, do you already have your outfits all picked out and ready to go?" They look over at me, uncertain.

No, I don't know what they're going to wear yet. I mumble something about not knowing what the weather's supposed to be like, as though that's really why I haven't got anything sorted. Hell, I don't even know what time the school day starts or where exactly to drop them off, now that they've switched to the neighborhood school.

Example #3: I'm sitting at my computer, typing a blog post, when Nathan comes up and asks sweetly, "What are we gonna have?" As in, for dinner. Ah, yes, look - it's 5:21 pm, and the law says something about taking care of these little people who live in my home. I should probably have started making something for dinner by now.

Have you ever had a moment like these? Please share if so. In the meantime, I've got to run - I have hungry children closing in around me like zombies in the Thriller video...