I’m Not Done, I’m Just Fixing My Underwear

Our bedtime rituals of bathroom prep, mismatched pajama choosing, general dawdling, and book selection are done. Sprite joins me on my bed for some storytelling and sympathy. She is nursing a cold/cough/whooping situation that has just begun. She wonders aloud, several times, when it will go away.

“My throat feels scratchy like there are scratches in it. My eyes are getting tears. I don’t want to have a cold anymore.”

Her cold is about two hours in. We have a ways to go.

Sprite snuggles into the comforter and we commence to read a really poor synopsis of The Little Mermaid and two rip roaring Elephant and Piggie stories. We take turns doing the dialogue. I am always Gerald (the elephant). Sprite is always Piggie (the pig). Because Piggie is a girl pig. And girls rule.

Downstairs I hear Mr. Snark arrive home early from Red Bull’s indoor soccer practice.  Have they been unable to gain entry to the labyrinthine school/high security prison in which pre-season practices are being held for the second week in a row? Last week the coach’s son literally had to commit a felony break in to gain access to the airtight facility. Hopefully, the incident has been stricken from the record in the name of good clean fun. No one waited outside the barbed wire fence for late arrivals. So, last week, after a thorough sweep of the grounds yielded no sign of life, no practice for Red Bull. There is no swearing downstairs, so I can only assume Red Bull got into tonight’s practice without breaking the law. Time will tell.

Back to the bedroom. Story time is done and the ceremonial hair detangling begins. I take my turn working through the nest of knots in Sprite’s ever-growing curly mop. Soon it is time for Sprite’s revenge turn. She takes the brush and digs in with a good amount of vigor for an ailing child battling a lung condition as evidenced by her increasingly dramatic coughing fits. She brushes around in circles, ignoring my part, my pain receptors, my ears and eyelids.

“I’m like a real barber, Mommy.”

After my part is suitably obliterated and an angry twister of dreadlocks has begun to form over my left ear, Sprite artfully gathers six strands of my hair with a butterfly clip and perches it atop the highest point of my skull. Then there is a lengthy pause. I wait expectantly with my back to her, wondering if she is about to cough, sneeze, cut off three inches of my hair with a concealed weapon, or vomit. I hope for the first or second. Not the third. Please, not the fourth. There is some rustling behind me. Then it all becomes clear.

“I’m not done. I’m just fixing my underwear.”

Well that makes perfect sense. My barber says that all the time. I would imagine it’s a job related hazard, being on your feet all day.

Now Sprite is tucked in. I am tucked in too and am secretly enjoying a private screening of Nanny Mcphee Returns. Mr. Snark comes upstairs to check on the hacking cough episode going on across the hall. Then he pokes his head in to see me.

“Nice hair.”

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There is a Cello on My Dining Room Table

Evidence that I am no longer the compulsive neatnik I was before I had three kids:

  • There is a cello on my dining room table.
  • The only one in the house who thinks the litter box should be cleaned more than twice a week is the cat.
  •  There are three black plastic trays for foul weather boot runoff on the floor by the kitchen door. Pairs of boots in my kitchen: zero.
  •  There is sand on my car mats from last summer.
  •  I actually purchased spray-on dry shampoo at CVS in case of…What? What could possibly go so terribly wrong in my world that I would resort to using spray-on dry shampoo?  Does CVS take returns?
  • We change to fresh towels when the used ones smell funny.
  • I am not perturbed by the apparently rampant chipmunk population living in the outdoor crawlspace under the family room addition in the back of the house. I’m sure the apparently rampant coyote population will keep them under control.
  •  Every bit of playdo in our crafts box is the consistency of a milk bone dog biscuit.
  •  My dishwasher is full of clean dishes. My sink is full of dirty dishes.
  •  You know how they say there are more weird germs on your kitchen sponge than there are on your toilet? They haven’t seen my toilet. And I don’t even want to talk about the kitchen sponge.
  •  The five second rule is good for at least 30 minutes if the food in question is relatively non-perishable, non-porous, and hasn’t yet been swatted under the couch by the cat. With my approval, Sprite ate a large chunk of abandoned Oreo off of the kitchen floor yesterday. It was the only way I could get her to pick it up.
  • House rule: every pair of jeans is to be worn twice before you even think about putting it in the laundry. Even if you dropped your chocolate pudding in your lap because Dweezil leaned on you at lunch while you were entirely minding your own business. The washing machine is recuperating from a stress fracture and the dryer is on strike.
  • Welcome to the annual parent-sponsored treasure hunt under the couch for lost valuables, missing game pieces and overdue library books. Everyone gets a golf club, a flashlight and a surgical mask and goes for the gold. Prizes are awarded for anything found that can be resold on Craig’s List. It’s a really big couch.
  • Work files, to do files, school files, unpaid bills, receipts, catalogs, assignments, and notices are allowed to pile up indefinitely as long and they are stacked neatly so they look organized. But one day I will suddenly snap and all piles will be shredded and recycled without warning. Try me. Even I have my limits.

Sunday’s To-Do List

Today’s To-Do list in no particular order:

  1. Put down the angel food cake that I am eating by the fistful directly from the plastic tube pan it came in. Did you know there are legitimately ONLY FOUR servings in a full size angel food cake according to the nutrition label on the side of the package. Is that a misprint? Who cares? I’m all in for a 25% slab.
  2. Wash hands. They are very sticky now.
  3. Decide whether or not to order Fifty Shades of Grey on Amazon. Recommended by a blushing friend who implied it was tres risqué.  Do I want that to appear on my account history indefinitely? Should I just wait for it to come out in paperback next month and skulk off to Barnes and Noble for a copy like the other chicken hearts?
  4. Brush the cat. Or strap him down and vacuum him with the Shark handheld pet vacuum. That’s what it’s for, no?
  5. Enforce “No Wii for a week” penalty decreed against Red Bull who was still clutching a remote, in his pajamas, parents screaming in unison, as Sunday School commenced three miles away without him.
  6. Weed out winter clothes from this year that nobody will ever wear again. Weed out summer clothes from last year that nobody will ever wear again. Package all discards and ready them for donation drop off. Decide where the hell to put both winter and summer “keeper” wardrobes for all, as it was both winter and summer simultaneously last week. Tomorrow is a toss up. We’ll have turtlenecks and flip flops on deck and take it as it comes.
  7. Think about removing chicken breasts for chicken chili from freezer now, so they will defrost, but don’t actually do it until I remember again at 4:00 and it’s way too late. Order takeout.
  8. Finish filling out camp enrollment forms. Reduce checkbook to a worn out nub of nothingness in the wake of endless deposits, payments, frivolity and bribes.
  9. Send 14 inch thick sheaf of medical forms to pediatrician to notarize and confirm that the children do not have any (severe) pre-existing forms of mental, physical, emotional, nutritional, literal, imagined, or contagious illness or incapacity so that they may joyously attend 11 different camps each for no more than one week at a stretch. There is an online service to deliver my customized grocery list with recommendations, favorites and specials ingeniously and magically integrated. (Not that I use said service. That would be too easy and convenient.) Shouldn’t there be an online service to fill out my kids’ emergency information and medical forms? Over. And over. And over again.
  10. Drive to the jeweler four towns over to get my snappy new watch sized to fit. Mr. Snark generously gifted a sparkly new timepiece in honor of our 15th anniversary. And likely in honor of the fact that I have jauntily sported a children’s plastic Timex digital watch for the past 6 years to any and all occasions. Including formal events and fancy anniversaries.
  11. Purchase deeply thoughtful and moving belated anniversary gift for Mr. Snark.
  12. Recycle plastic tube pan, former home of angel food cake. All gone.

Lilly’s First Birthday

Last weekend we celebrated Lilly’s first birthday. We made cupcakes. The neighbor’s kids came over to help frost and decorate them and to sing happy birthday. Lilly wore her special party dress. Where did the time go? One year old already? You are wondering, no doubt, why has Lilly not been introduced as one of the lovely Snark children before today. Well, because Lilly is an American Girl Doll. Who was roundly ignored and neglected by her mistress for about six months up until this Saturday when Sprite (6) gussied her all up and proclaimed “Today is Lilly’s first birthday!” I’m also pretty sure she had gone by the name “Red” up until that day. Clearly, this was a spontaneously conceived, yet noteworthy milestone.

Sprite really deserves to have her whims addressed every once in a while. In the scheme of life, the third child has to put up with a lot of crap and generally keeps in shape by  jumping to reach the constantly rising bar set by older siblings. For better or worse, she has been more independent since birth. She learned to use the stairs and open the fridge way earlier than MelloYello and Red Bull. She was also out of the bassinet, out of the crib, out of the high chair and out of the stroller  ahead of the sibling curve. She is endlessly asked to put down her toys, put on her shoes and buckle up her seat belt so she can be schlepped along to big kid commitments, sports, parties, lessons, practices, playdates, and performances. Sprite discovered the age-inappropriate thrills of Harry Potter and Phineas and Ferb well before her fourth birthday, while MelloYello and Red Bull were still on a vanilla daily diet of Blue’s Clues and Elmo’s World until they were at least five. She no longer gets juice boxes and pretzels in the car, just lame assurances that “we’ll be home soon and then we’ll have dinner right away”. And dinner is invariably macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers from the grocery store hot bar. But that’s not really a con in the eyes of a six year old, so I’m not losing sleep over that one.

It was apparent that, though ridiculous, it was completely necessary to celebrate Lilly’s birthday. Fortunately, Lilly didn’t want any presents. She didn’t have the nerve to ask. She already owns every shoe, thematic ensemble, furnishing, piece of eyewear and athletic equipment, pet, and personal care item in that idiotic, overpriced store. Just cupcakes and a little singing, thank you very much. So, full disclosure, I totally got caught up in the other 46 things we were supposed to be doing that day, and dissed Lilly completely. She was put to bed with Sprite, cupcake-less and neglected. Sprite cried. Lilly was stoic, yet appeared somewhat stiff, her smile lacking animation (yet she was still lovely in a chic nightgown with matching robe and slippers). I am certain that God signed off on my express ticket to Mom Hell immediately thereafter.

I resolved to rectify the situation the next day. Sunday almost passed with nary a mention of the issue. Was Sprite old enough to harbor a grudge? Was she unwilling to forgive my lack of concern for a major milestone in her doll’s life? Well, it turns out, not really. She just kind of forgot about it. When I asked, “what kind of cupcakes does Lilly want?” Sprite couldn’t have been less interested. “What? We’re making her cupcakes?”

So I made my doll bed and I had to lie in it. I strong armed Sprite into hosting a damn cupcake party for her siblings and neighbors, and of course, for Lilly. At least I feel better. And making cupcakes provided Lilly with a fine opportunity to wear her chef’s outfit (including a fetching hat and apron) and wield her miniature wooden spoon with some authority. I think she had a pretty good time. She told me she wants a pony for her second birthday.

There is No “I” in Youth Sports

There is no “I” in youth sports. There is only “we”. Or, in some cases, there is only “the coach”.

Today was the last Youth Basketball game of the season for both Red Bull (12) and MelloYello (10). They are both fortunate to have had the same talented, patient and, dare I say, attractive coach. That would be my beloved ball and chain, Mr. Snark.

So what have we learned from playing youth basketball? Let’s discuss.

The players show up, play hard, and try to do their best. The learning curve is visible from week to week as their skills improve and their work as a team becomes apparent. They pass, they block, they defend, they shoot. They travel, they foul, they occasionally run the wrong way, they forget whom to cover, and they fling Hail Mary passes to no one in particular for no apparent reason. It’s all good.

The coaches generally do a fantastic job. They teach skills needed to move each player ahead to the next level. They encourage teamwork and self sacrifice to get the job done. Everyone is required to be a good sport and join the high five line up at the end of the game, no matter what the outcome. Yay, team! That’s why we showed up at 9:00 on a Saturday when we could have been home in bed watching Joan Rivers sell very demure yet gigantic costume jewelry on HSN.

There are those coaches, however, who coach their kids to become winners rather than teammates. I’m talking about coaching ten year-old girls and twelve year-old boys to go in for the kill. Coach Hannibal overplays his strongest players while others dawdle on the bench for the first three quarters. Coach Zithromax recruited the entire travel team (read: more highly trained and talented players) to play in the recreation league so they could decimate their opponents every single week. This is what we signed our kids up for? Good times. Yeah.

Today we played a group of tween girls who could shoot really well. But they had instead been instructed By Coach Norovirus to grab onto the ball with both hands whenever (every 15 seconds, no lie) it was within arms reach, wrapping themselves around it, sometimes literally hanging from it with their feet off of the ground. When one player wasn’t enough, several continued to pile onto the offensive player en masse until they pried it from her clenched fingers. They don’t call many fouls in this league, so the girls were left to defend themselves as best they could, hoping for a whistle in their favor. Or for a concerned mom to leap onto the court in their defense.  I showed great restraint and just limited myself to giving Coach Norovirus my “I’m very disappointed in you” mom stare from the bleachers. He continued to laugh blithely at each whistle while the patient and kind referee repeatedly explained to his players that it is not okay to physically wrap oneself around another player like a koala on crack.

Alas, basketball season is over. Soccer season is next on deck. Since basketball ended at 10:00 today, we have had plenty of time to rest up before our first soccer practice. Our first preseason practice (a MONTH preseason, which is more like pre-preseason if you asked me) was at 10:30 this morning. Which left a full 30 minutes for MelloYello to run home from basketball, put on some long underwear, fleece, cleats and mittens and run off to the soccer field. Her team has been bumped up to a more competitive bracket which equals more/longer/colder preseason practices. My son’s team managed to snag those coveted turf fields for both their practices and home games, so they will NEVER, EVER be cancelled. Not even in the event of sleet, driving rain, or a volcanic eruption. That is, after all, why God made turf. Isn’t it?

It all begins again. Go team.

Whose Life is it Anyway?

Whose life is it anyway? Well, to answer my own question, it sure as heck isn’t mine. Another Friday has come and almost gone. I have been suffering from an identity crisis from start to finish. What do I do first? Am I really responsible for that? Where are my kids? Why is my mother in law sitting on my couch? Did my cat do something to befoul the boiler room again? Because, man, it really smells down there.

Early this morning, it was a struggle to rally. I didn’t squeeze in my rigorous (not) DVD workout until about 9:30 last night. The resulting adrenaline rush and lack of will to live led to an uncharacteristic endeavor. I was burning the midnight oil while updating my Facebook profile. There’s the tipoff right there that I was not quite feeling like myself. I don’t believe in Facebook. Never have. Yet, there I was, rounding out my Favorites list for all to see. Is anyone even out there? Why do I bother? Is Mark Zuckerberg really a billionaire? There is no justice.

I wake up and begin my most elaborate charade. I pretend to be the Mom. I pack lunches for me and for Sprite (6). Red Bull (12) and MelloYello (10) are on their own for lunch today since it is pizza Friday in the cafeteria. It is a house rule that I will take a reprieve from lunchbox prep on Pizza Friday. Can I have an Amen for Pizza Friday? I then fill the front loading, large capacity Electrolux a la Kelly Ripa (my virtual twin, around the ears anyway) and pop by the dishwasher to find my travel mug. Along the way I ignore that the toilet paper roller in the downstairs bathroom is looking right at me, naked as the day she was born. All shiny and bare. Shocking. In a dither, I leave the unfolded laundry from yesterday on the kitchen island. It will wait.

So, put I Mom on the shelf and leave for school to cover for my lovely and talented boss lady teacher, Ms. Promise. Ms. Promise was sadly (I’m being serious now) injured while sitting still in her car last weekend. She was rear ended by a young driver who was TEXTING while cruising along a suburban back road doing 45mph. So that truly sucks. For real. All affected parties were fortunate to walk away from the twisted burning wreck (also serious), but Ms. Promise was chagrined to discover, later that day, that something was seriously wrong with her neck. So she has been out of commission, relearning to swallow and speak and support her own noggin for the past week. I feel nothing but love and concern for her. At school I am happy to pretend to be half as competent as she is. And so off I go to pretend to be Ms. Promise.

I pretend to be Ms. Promise for half of the day and then who should show up but, you guessed it, Ms. Promise herself! I actually knew she was coming to make a special cameo appearance and to get her sea legs before jumping in full throttle next week. Or at least as full throttle as one can be without turning, bending, lifting, or moving in any direction, with any speed or force. So I am no longer Ms. Promise, but am now Mrs. Snark, her trusty sidekick, once again. We muddle through the rest of the day consumed by warnings to the children to please remember her delicate condition and make several admonitions against coming within 4 feet of her. People line up at the door to pay their respects and bow at her feet. It is really very nice. The kids treat her as they always have. One comes within a breath of taking her down in a heap as she (the student) runs, full speed through the classroom. Ah, kids.

School’s over. Who am I now? See if you can guess. I arrive home an hour later than usual after collecting Red Bull and Sprite at their school playground. They have toughed it out, waiting around with the after hours crowd, while I’ve put in extra time at work to get Ms. Promise up to speed on the triumphs and tragedies of the week while gingerly spotting her from behind should she suddenly sneeze or begin to look like a bobble head in any way. Red Bull, Sprite and I bounce by the bakery to secure a thank you (payoff) selection of heavily frosted treats for their patience and obedience. Big thumbs up to Red Bull who kept his sister alive all by himself for an hour. So now, I’m still not me. I’m just channeling a real housewife of New York, barely qualified to call myself a mother.

We proceed homeward and enter the kitchen/familyroom/laundry sorting headquarters of our palatial estate (funny how all those “rooms” can fit into 300 square feet of space) and see that all of the laundry is miraculously folded and sitting in piles on the kitchen counter. Hmmm. Are we being robbed by very neat bandits who were appalled by my shoddy housekeeping? No, we are not. Ten feet away sits my mother-in-law, Powerade, comfortably nestled in the couch. Holy Crap. It’s all coming back to me now. Mom’s coming to town today. Egads.

Now, I am Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry after he has been shot in the head by John Leguizamo and suffers memory loss so severe he needs to relearn how to speak, read and recognize his family. So this is what it’s come to. Honestly, for me, it’s just another Friday. Tomorrow I get to be mom again. And hopefully, Mr. Snark gets to be the Plumber and snake that nasty hairball out of the sink.

A Lousy Situation. I’m Nit Kidding.

For years, as a young teacher, then as an old teacher, and for all the years in between, I lived in mortal fear of one thing. No, not global warming. Not taco day in the cafeteria. Not even the dreaded Back to School Night Open House, come see what we’re going to do this year, give the teacher the once over in a very judgey way and then monopolize her time with an impromptu conference about your kid. Nope, not even that.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, can compare to the insanity that takes over one’s entire life after being overcome with a raging case of lice.

They don’t cover lice in grad school. They don’t even really cover how to deal with a classroom full of non-infested kids in grad school. But I digress. Let me be clear that I understand that lice carry an unfortunate, undeserved stigma associated with lack of hygiene. I know that getting lice has nothing to do with keeping clean. Getting rid of lice and their little eggy nits, however, has everything to do with keeping clean.

Nits. Never want to hear that word again. You’ve got to pry those little suckers off of every hair root, one by one, while your bleary eyes are fogged with tears of exhaustion and a film of deadly chemicals that the pharmacist has warned you are “neurotoxins”. I’m no pharmacist, but neuro and toxin are two words I never want to hear in the same sentence when I am about to vigorously apply them to my scalp, wherein my brain coincidentally resides. That crazy brew will kill every morsel of vermin within a two mile radius. Now get in there and lather, rinse, repeat!

So once the combing and picking and inspecting and shampooing and swearing and contemplating a pixie cut because it looks really cute on Emma Watson are done, what’s left of your hair is left to wither and throb at the roots for the next four days. Turbans are an oft overlooked fashion option. Go for it. Meanwhile, it’s time to wash everything you’ve worn, touched, sat upon, brushed against, leaned next to, or passed by for the last fortnight. So strip that bed, burn those pillows, vacuum that couch (then replace the really old bag in there that you never, ever replace), and thank God that you have leather seats in your car. If you don’t, just never lean your head on the headrest again. Ever. You’ll be fine.

So now you are free of the pox. And right back into the hornet’s nest you go. Your paycheck is in there. You have no choice. “Hi Kids! Let’s all play put anything that looks remotely like a textile in these giant plastic trash bags!” It’s fun. Really. There’s nothing like the vision of industrial size trash bags dangling from every coat hook in the hall. There is no safe zone. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

So, rocking the granny bun is one way to go. Slathering olive oil all over your head is another. Those little buggers reportedly can’t breathe in an oil slick. Or dislike salad dressing. I’m not sure which. Some say stinky rosemary oil scented spray is a good repellent. But if your hair-type and length makes you a “good host” (my hair is the only part of me to ever earn that distinction), just run and hide. Because if you have kids or teach kids or even look at a kid at Baby Gap, you are vulnerable.

Eventually, you will begin to recover. Physically. The psychological wounds are permanent.  You will forever absentmindedly reach up to scratch your head (and strangely, your eyebrows) when anyone even mentions the word lice. Pavlov originally found that to be true, but people were too skeeved out by that, so he moved on to achieve great success with the whole salivating dog thing.

So I am still in recovery. But I’m really fine now. Even when that notice from the nurse, announcing that lice has made a special guest appearance in my kid’s bunk at camp, arrives in the backpack. When this happens, I only require that my children strip down to the skin in the driveway and just leave their towels in the trash outside. In the neighbor’s trash barrel. Just to be safe.