Thirteen years ago this very night....

I sat by myself in my now "old" family room. Sat in a big forest green overstuffed armchair that Big Daddy and I had purchased with some of our wedding money just four years prior. It was past midnight, I remember, and I knew I should have been in bed already but I just wanted to sit there for a while. Sit there and eat popsicles and watch t.v. for a little bit in the dark, quiet family room.

Charlie was just a little over 3 years old, Molly about 18 months. I was going to give birth to my third baby, a boy, via c-section early the next morning. The doctor told me "no eating past midnight!" which is like someone telling Heidi Montag "no more plastic surgery!" so hence the popsicles (they don't count as food, right??). I told myself that I'd be sorry the next morning, sorry that I didn't get my big pregnant ass to bed earlier, but I wanted to just be alone for a while, alone with the swimming baby in my belly and a quiet house.

I knew it would be chaotic with three kids ages 3 and under, and I think I realized that this may have been my last chance to experience some absolute peace for a long time. So I grabbed the opportunity (and that box of popsicles) and sat there. Sat there and watched "The Net", starring Sandra Bullock and Dennis Miller, and now I think of them and that movie every year the night before Henry's birthday.

Thirteen years. In the blink of an eye. I remember back then, going to the parks with my babies and thinking that the 5 year olds looked like giants. The idea of having even one teenager, nevermind THREE of them, seemed like a hazy, far off crazy dream.

Henry made me a mommy for the third time, and was an absolute joy baby. He was the baby who actually had to be stirred awake in order to be fed. Yes, I had read about babies like this but always assumed they were birthed exclusively by smooth haired, tiny hipped yoga mamas, women who sang opera to their fetuses and had shabby chic feng shui nurseries. I remember thanking God, profusely, for giving me this sweet giant headed sleeping baby. Charlie had screamed non-stop for the first 13 months of his life, and Molly amazed and stunned me by having her very first flop-on-the-floor tantrum at the ripe old age of 12 months...so this silent, snoozing boy was the most pleasant of surprises.

He woke up with a vengeance some time later, quickly earning the moniker "Mr. Furious", but I will always remember his babyhood as a sweet and quiet time.

Just like I will always take some time, the night before his birthday, to remember that last quiet night he and I shared together with a box of popsicles and a big overstuffed chair.

Happy Birthday to my July baby boy. I love you, H.


Home Alone- not.

So, according to the kids, Big Daddy has been making references to me not being home when the kids are home. They first brought it up just this past Sunday. I wasn't home when he brought them back after his weekend. He said something to the kids like, "If she doesn't get back soon you call me." Like I was out taking Ecstasy and humping 20 year olds. You know where I was?

My friend is out of town, and I've been taking care of her cats. I had stopped over there to make sure the cats had food and water. So yes, I guess filling a bowl with Kitty Chow and cleaning out a litter box is kind of wild and crazy, but I did make it home before sunrise.

When they told me about that one, I thought to myself, "Asshat." and let it go.

But a couple of them came back home from a night with Big Daddy just this evening. And they again said that he made some reference to me not being here, and him gallantly offering up his "fatherly services" so my poor neglected babies wouldn't sit here, shivering in the dark until mommy stumbles home from her shift at the Chubby Chaser's Booby Bar. Except, I was here. Jersey Shore Season Two premiered tonight, where the hell else would I be?

So I was talking to one of my kids about it, and asked their opinion. Kid said, "Maybe he's trying to make you sound like a bad parent so he feels better." I said, "Do you think I am a bad parent? Do you think I leave you guys alone a lot?" Kid thought a second and then said, "No. You're always here. You should get out more."

Then the kid said something about bad parenting, kind of a "pot, meet kettle" reference, which I won't post here because I don't want anyone getting their feelings hurt.

But I guess my child's reasoning makes sense. Maybe Big Daddy needs to make himself feel better about the job of parenting that he's done thus far. Maybe he's starting to feel some guilt about not helping out more in the whole area of support. Maybe the fact that he's trying to make baby number 5 (God help us, one and all) is nudging him to try and be a better dad. Who knows. Who cares?

If this little act of passive-aggressiveness helps clear his muddled conscience, makes him feel like he's the King Shit of Dadland, then he can have it. I can take it. I've dealt with worse.

I know, and more importantly, my kids know the truth. I'm always here. And I'll stay here as long as they need me.


Real Housewives: Jersey

Upon the advice of a good friend (and by good friend I mean Andy Cohen....I need a life, pronto, people), I started watching Real Housewives of New Jersey one day. It was one of those marathon days that Bravo likes to run, I imagine the programming guys slumped in their chairs, headphones askew as they snore the day away. Meanwhile, hapless Jersey virgins like myself are drawn into this sick and wrong web, like a lowly fly is lured into a sparkling, shiny maze of silken strings.

First of all, we have Caroline. I love her, and I'm not saying that because she scares me. Really. I love her in the sick way that Don Corleone's henchmen loved him. Because if we don't, we'll wake up with the head of something next to us. And that's ok. Love is love, right? Seriously, I think I love her because she's the one with whom I can relate. Aside from the money thing (she has shitloads, I have none), the husband thing (she has one, I have none), she embodies some golden parenting cajones that make me love her.

She loves her kids, faults and all. She supports them and loves them and encourages them no matter what, and that one single thing about her makes me like her and feel good things for this bad ass broad.

Teresa. Please tell me that I'm not the only one with this thought: If you shaved one of the Geico cavemen, you'd have Teresa. Don't kill me. Please. She is Jersey, through and through, and just for that I have to love her. But girlfriend has money, there has to be an electrolysis person somewhere in New Jersey who can help with that one inch forehead.

Jaqcueline. Your name makes my spellcheck get jiggy. I feel kind of sorry for you, even though every night you go to sleep in a bed that for sure cost more than I make in a year. She seems kind of lost, like she's the girl who accidentally got swept into the cool crowd and now has no freaking idea what to do. She had the baby with the Jersey troll, now what? Her relationship with her daughter makes me sad. Sad for mom? Yes. Sad for daughter? For sure. It's just tragic.

Danielle? Ewww. Ewww, ewwww, and more ewwww. Like Lysol ewwww. I will readily admit to having just jumped on board the Jersey boat, but this one gives me a rash. Who is she? Does she work? Who is the creepy rodent guy she hangs out with, the one who repeats EVERYTHING he says (don't believe me? Watch an episode. Mighty Mouse repeats every.single.thing. he says. It's like a new drinking game I can play all by myself, ala' Newhart)

Blonde girl. I haven't watched enough to judge her yet. But I will. Trust me, I will.

I see they are starting a DC version of Real Housewives. I warily eye my DVR, wondering if both she and I have what it takes to tackle yet another show.

I think we do. This is the point where it would be really, really good for both me and my Comcast account if I started dating again.

Weight Up

No typo.

I like to give little weight updates for my thousands of curious fans. But as those of you who see me every day know, there is no need for an update on any weight loss.

Because there hasn't been any, dammit.

It's up. I think. Remember now, Cher and I are alike on many levels, especially the one where neither of us owns a scale. So I don't know for sure how much I've gained (or how much I had lost prior to this bloat-a-thon), but my "Summer of Loss" is turning into "Summer I try to not get any fatter".


I think I am the only person on the face of the earth who can actually find a way to gain weight during the hottest, most oppressive weather we get all year. When most people are stripped down to the flimsiest of garments, fanning themselves and soothing hunger pangs with cold lettuce leaves, I find myself ensconced in air conditioned nirvana, happily making huge dinners of curry chicken and eating lots of white rice.

The daily walks were put on the back burner, because it was so damn hot. My dog hates me. I see him looking at me, and in his dog-speak mind I'm sure he's lamenting the fact that out of all the people who trudged through the Humane Society that fateful day, he was chosen by the wuss who doesn't like to sweat.

I'm so sorry, Walter. Hopefully I'll still be mobile come fall and our walks will resume with enthusiasm.

I went out on Monday night, to a comedy club with two good friends. I had that "uh oh" moment when you realize that you have nothing to wear. Thank God I had my back up pants (every girl has them, right? The black pants that fit a few different sizes? Target always has a rack of them. Always.) and I did find an eccentric tunic from Chico's that I was going to sell on eBay but nabbed for myself. So I did manage to go out in something besides a gray t-shirt and my quick-dry big girl workout capri pants. But I felt icky, and uncomfortable. Maybe that had to do with the fact that I had squeezed into my Spanx camisole in a desperate effort to bind my expanding muffin top, maybe it was the fact that my ham hock arms are approaching Nell Carter territory...I dunno.

Whatever it was, it sent me into a funk. And I hate it!

So today I am going to force myself to get this fat ass out the door and onto a long, fast-paced waddle with my poor dog. Sweaty or not, I can't let myself get back into the fat rut. I WON'T let myself.

My next update will be good news. I hope. I am almost done with the 20 lb. bag of jasmine rice from Costco. No more, I promise.


Mad Men Always Leaves me wanting....

So they're back.

Those smooth operators clad in their skinny legged dark suits. Those short-haired oh-so-sexy boys and girls kidnapped from the sleeping 60's and transplanted into our bedrooms and living rooms.

Mad Men (and women). How I missed you.

But every single time I watch this show I am left with an almost insatiable desire for something....something more.

Something besides a feverish urge to stalk Jon Hamm until restraining orders are written up and Child Protection Services are called to my house....

And yes, I do feel an undeniable craving to go out to every thrift store and estate sale for miles around just to amass a complete 60's wardrobe.

But that's not what I want most.

I want to smoke.

Every single time I watch this show, I am left feeling like a tweaker on Day One of treatment. While I watch it, I notice how they pull the packs out of their pockets, out of their desk drawers, out of their purses. So nonchalantly, almost like they are scratching an itch. Pull, light, puff.

I can taste the smoke in my mouth, smell it in my hair. See it in the air and feel it in my lungs.

I wonder if anyone has done a "study" on the sales of ciggies since this show first aired? Someone needs to get on that, pronto. Just so I know I'm not alone.

I used to smoke. A lot. I used to sneak them from my mom, hide them in the lame berets I used to wear, trying to make a statement that I was different and unique from the lemmings I went to school with (no offense, SLP peeps. Love ya.). Started out on Virginia Slim Menthol 100's, soft pack. After that I switched to Merit Menthol, hard pack.

In college I thought I'd try to keep up with my Skoal head boyfriend and his cronies, and switched to Camel Lights. Back then a pack of cigarettes was about $1.25, and I remember going through purses and jeans pockets trying to scrape up smoke money.

Late 80's and early 90's, I was the smoking flight attendant. We could smoke on international flights back then, and I clearly recall trips to Tokyo where the cabin was so hazy you couldn't see three rows ahead. I remember some of the healthier flight attendants bitching about the "hazardous working conditions" and laughing about them as I buckled into my jumpseat and lit up a smoke.

I smoked, and I loved it, right up until the second I found out I was pregnant with my Charlie.

I quit, that second. Cold turkey.

I didn't light up again for almost 12 years.

I had a little backslide, while going through my divorce. Stress makes you do silly things. Eat cream cheese with a spoon, buy wine by the box, bawl during your kid's conferences, pick up smoking again a decade after quitting. I'm not going to blame anyone or call anyone out for being a bad influence. I'm chronologically a grown up, I am the only one responsible for my actions.

Poverty and the fear of getting caught by my kids have nipped this awful habit in the bud. I haven't had one for a long, long time now, and up until Don and Betty and Joanie and all of their toking buddies showed up in my bedroom tonight, I hadn't even thought of them.

There is no bigger hypocrite than a former smoker. Those of us who have worshiped the tobacco stick are it's worst critics once we kiss it goodbye. We regard those who still puff away as weak, smelly slaves to the cig. We complain loudly and incessantly about having to walk through clouds of smoke at every office entryway. We like to announce to our smoking friends that we haven't had a puff in XXXX days and BOY DON'T WE FEEL GREAT.

All the while quelling an urge to rip the butt out of their hands and suck it down with the force of a Dyson.

Nicotine is a bitch to quit. And I, for one, believe that you really never lose the craving. Yeah, you may think you've kicked its ass. You may sit there, chewing on your Eclipse gum, pawing through your iPhone apps, eating your organic baby carrots and smugly reminisce about the days that you couldn't handle not having something to do with your mouth or hands, but you're a sucker.

And by you, I mean we. I was, and am, right there with you. I go to my mom's house and when I leave I tell the kids to smell their hair...that's right, it stinks, you know why? Cause Grammie smokes, and smoking is bad. It makes your hair smell! But if they looked closely they'd see that I smell my hair just a tad bit too long. And although it really does gross me out, I am also taunted by the smell. It's like a siren beckoning to me. "Hey there Jenny....you sure look stressed out. How about you put down those Skittles and take a long sweet drag off of me? I won't make you fat!".

But I can't. And I won't. I double talk to my kids about so much. I tell them not to worry about what other people think about them, all the while thinking about how frumpy and ugly I look in whatever I'm wearing at that moment. I tell them not to drink, while I excuse myself and have a glass of wine out on the deck. I tell them not to swear, and then I have a grand mal tantrum and find myself dropping f-bombs like Al Pacino in Scarface.

And here I am, it's after 1:00 in the morning and all I can think about (besides how agonizingly hot Jon Hamm is, with his dickhead smile and playah ways...and of course my oddball crush on bearded Kinsey) is how much fun it would be to just smoke the day away like they do.

I won't smoke, of course, that's not an option for New Jenny. Instead I sit here, finishing my Scrabble games and hammering out a long-winded rant about how much I miss smoking.

Because that's what it really boils down to, isn't it?

Things we miss. My mom watches Mad Men and she misses her days in the advertising biz, back before she had me. She tells me about parties they had, office parties like the ones they have there at Sterling Cooper. She longs for those days.

I miss the days when "the future" didn't loom so damn close. When it was like a far off destination, a thing that we'd maybe stumble upon a million years down the road. I miss the days when I could sit down on my pleather couch with my old roomies, puff away on our Marlboro Lights and get all googly eyed over Andrew Shue on Melrose Place. Smoke our lungs out and not worry about cancer, being busted or people judging us.

I miss smoking, some days. Not all days. In fact, if you run into me tomorrow, or later this week, and ask me about ciggies, I'll scoff and tell you that I was just feeling melancholy about life in general. There was a full moon, for God's sake. But tonight, I miss it. I don't miss the smelly fingers, the wrinkled butt mouth you get from wrapping your lips around a smooth white filter...but I miss the release, the first big exhale. Tapping the ashes off into the ashtray or pop bottle or onto the ground. Taking that last puff before snuffing it out and carrying on with your day.

And tonight, I am giving myself the go-ahead to miss it. As long as I don't actually do it, it's all good.

Just don't be surprised over the next few months if you wake up on Monday mornings to find that your facebook friend Jenny has started 42 or so new Scrabble games.

I need the distraction. Humor me.


My Odd Taste in Men

Yes, that could be the beginning of a very, very bad joke...but it's not.

I was just sitting here thinking about how there are several men (of course all some sort of quasi-celebrity/newsworthy person, because I have no life outside of my kids and t.v.) whom I think are absolutely delectable and totally trou-dropping.

Steve Buscemi. I know! But oh.my.god. I even hear his freaky voice and I get all happy.

Aaron Brown. Remember him, on CNN? He won my heart right after 9/11. Sexy Aaron.

John Goodman. Even really fat, sweaty John Goodman.

The cab driving guy on Cash Cab (he's the reason I started thinking about all of this...). He makes smart funnies while he's driving and quizzing. Love him. And I love the beginning of the show when he's wearing what is quite possibly the hottest look ever on my fantasy men: an oversized turtleneck sweater and jeans. Check it out. Or not. I bet you watch the whole show...it's that good.

John Larroquette. Remember him? Slimy lawyer Dan on the old show Night Court. Love him. I stalk him on Twitter.

John McCain. But not the old, current version, the one who looks like a Muppet with a hand shoved in his head making his mouth move. The young war prisoner John McCain.

James Hetfield. Lead singer of Metallica. I can trace this one back to the Spring Break trip to Cancun, the one where I played Metallica's Black Album on my Sony Walkman as I sat on the beach and stared at the ocean. That is still my happy place, and when I go there, guess what I hear?

Brian Dennehy. I know, he's what, 75 now? But even when he keeled over in Tommy Boy I loved him. And don't get me started with Cocoon.

And so on and so forth.

Of course, since our world is twisted and backwards and apparently so am I, my girl crushes are 100% red blooded and stereotypical.

Ali Larter...Dear God, the vodka commercials she's in now are like 40 second snippets of porn. Even for me! I watched Heroes all the way through the lame year just because of her.

Christina Aguilara. I had a really naughty dream about her a zillion years ago, while I was still married. To this day I feel dirty and ashamed when I hear her songs.

Any random girl chef on Top Chef. I loved the androgynous one last year. I forgot her name already, but I felt sad and empty when she got the boot. This season I like Kelly.

I know, I really need to get a hobby. Or maybe get back in the love saddle again (please don't Google "love saddle". Trust me.).

Here's the Cash Cab fellow in that sweater just in case you need a little send off. Sweet dreams!


Other People's Husbands

Sometimes they give us ladies something nice to look at during endless football, soccer and baseball games.

Sometimes they just give us the creeps.

Husbands of other women were never attractive to me, not even the truly hot ones. There's just something about that wedding band, something about the fact that they "belong" to another that sort of distorts them in my mind. Like an old school t.v. screen would get all wavy and wiggly while your brother fiddled with the antennae.

Even when I found myself as the token "Divorced Gal" at gatherings, I still felt that way. In fact, during the phase of my life when I actually sought out male companionship, I developed an irritating habit of quickly scanning the left hand of any male between the ages of 28 and 65 and over 5'5". Still do it to this day...see a ring, there's no schwing.

It's almost as if that shiny little band of gold or platinum essentially turns men into eunuchs in my eyes. Mostly sweet, friendly eunuchs, of course, but eunuchs nonetheless. (If there's any sort of record for using the word "eunuch" incessantly in a blathering blog post, please let me know. I may be on to something.)

99.9% of my friend's husbands were AWESOME to me after my divorce. They continue to be, to this day.

Some of them have helped me with stuff around the house. One of them offered up his law firm's assistance. Others have helped out indirectly by being strong male role models to my kids, showing them that some guys do stick around and put family first. Those guys are gold.

Unfortunately, there are also some tarnished ones.

I've only come across a couple, one was way back when I was married, in a time I call "B.S." (Before Secretary). There was a wedding Big Daddy and I attended, and without going into the drama and bore of that whole event I'll just say that one husband there crossed the line. But that was a million years ago, and no, sweet 18 readers, it's no one you know. I never even told Big Daddy about that one...chalked it up to the fact that I was brandishing my Big Breastfeeding Boobies back then, and the open bar.

The other one was more recent. It bothered me when it happened, still bothers me to this day. I told only a few close friends, three of them, I think. People whom I trust with this information, even if we were to part ways as friends.

This particular friend's husband has always been the huggy one, and really, there's nothing wrong with that. I'm a huggy touchy freak myself, but have learned to temper the urge to hug it out with anyone other than my bestest friends. But this one...his hugs last just a fraction of a second too long, and the hands move around a little too much. Too much to be taken as an accidental moment of awkwardness. In fact, a few of my friends and I had taken to calling him "Handsy", even before things took a turn towards the creepy. In his defense, I think all of us know/have known a Handsy or two in our lives, and they are usually harmless. Heebie-jeebie inducing, yes, but harmless.

So this one was just that. Harmless. Really, as far as I'm concerned, he still is. But Handsy was the first friend's husband to actually shock me.

Now, if you don't know me, you have to understand. I'm hard to shock. I'm the one who jokes with my friend's husbands about taking me on as their "second wife" (second in the polygamist way, not the divorce way), I constantly threaten to take their wives away and woo them into a steamy hot lesbian affair with me (this one happens after a few glasses of wine. Always.), the usual tip-toe up to the inappropriate line crap. I don't do this with people I've just met, by the way. That would be weird, even for me. This is the stuff that happens with the poor souls who have history with me.

So when I got the first text from Handsy, I was shocked.

It was late. Well, late for old farts like us. Maybe a bit past midnight. My kids were with Big Daddy, I'd had dinner and drinks with some friends and was just settling into bed when my phone chirped. At first I was confused, I didn't have Handsy's number programmed into my phone so all I saw was a phone number. And the short message beneath it:

"Are you alone? Need some company?"

Well crap. It could have been just about anybody. My list of victims was long, and my memory is not good. I have a hard time recalling my own damn cell number, for God's sake. So I shot back, "Who is this???".

This is what followed (Handsy in BOLD because that's what he is, dammit!):

"It's Handsy. So are you alone?"

"Well, define alone. There's a dog here. I'm just getting ready to watch some tv.. What are you guys doing?" (see?? YOU GUYS. I assumed he was up with HIS WIFE)

"Oh, thought you knew. I'm a bachelor this weekend. She's gone on business."

"Ahh I see, have you been enjoying the experience?"

"Well, I'm lonely. Thought I'd see if you needed anything. And I mean anything."

Here is when I realize that Handsy isn't just being silly. And you know what? As much as it kills me to admit this, for a second I was flattered. When you're a forty-something divorced chick who sleeps with a dog, and who spends the majority of her "alone time" watching DVDs from Netflix and trying to not eat every last pita chip in the bag, a little bit of attention can feel good.

But that only lasted a second. Then, I saw his wife's face, his child's face and I felt sick.

I answered back:

"Oh I think I'm good here. Thank you though." I know, right? Thank you, for offering to come over and butter my muffin while your wife, MY FRIEND, snores on some Comfort Inn pillow in some distant city. Some days I curse my Midwestern manners.

"You sure? I've never received any complaints about my services."

Now I was starting to feel a weird brew of anger and fear, and for some reason, guilt. I was angry, because of all the women in the world, why would he propose a tryst with one who was the victim of adultery? To try and help me out? To take away my frustrations? Because I'd be grateful for it? Was I really that pathetic? Or was he really just an asshole?

I wanted nothing more to do with this conversation. I already felt like I had peeked into someone's bedroom window, overheard someone's private conversation.

"I'm sure...I'm going to hit the hay. Have a good night."

He sent another one after that, just sort of verifying that no, I wasn't in need of his services. I slept crappy that night.

The next day I got an email from him, a very sheepish email full of apologies. He told me that he'd been out with some of "the guys" and had had too much to drink. I told him to forget about it, no biggie.

To be honest, I do understand allllll about doing dumb shit when you've had too much alcohol. Ask my old roommate about the time we were partying at a bar in Madison and I got a wild hair to walk home....to Minneapolis. They found me about 2 blocks away from the bar, apparently headed in the wrong direction. See, I get it. Drinks=dumb stuff.

But there's dumb stuff, and then there's really dumb stuff. Speaking as a woman who spent countless nights sitting up, waiting til 3 or 4 in the morning for my husband to get home, I know that there's a point where things cannot be cleared up with an "aw shucks" email the next day. Despite the fact that I told Handsy that it wasn't a big deal, that I understood, I was still pissed at him for dragging me into this mess. His mess. I had enough of my own, thank you very much. And I resented the hell out of being invited into this one.

One of the people in whom I confided asked me if I was going to tell the wife. I replied, simply, "No way in hell." She was surprised. She asked me if I had ever wished that someone had told me what Big Daddy was up to all those late nights.

You know what I told her?

No. Because it's not my place, not anyone's place to say anything. It's no one's business. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'll hear from someone who did find out and was grateful, but that's how I feel. If someone had shown up at my door all those years ago and warned me about my husband and that icky secretary, I would have for sure hated the message, and then in turn, hated the messenger.

I don't want to be that messenger. Ever.

Now, for the record, this particular friend and I were never super close. But we were friends. We are friends. I kept my distance after this episode, but still see them on occasion. Yes, them. They are together, and seem very happy. I'm glad.

Would things have been different if this was a best friend? I don't know. I hope to God that I never do know. This one brief foray into borderline extramarital muck was enough for me.

Made my dog-spooning, pita-chip eating, tv-watching self feel perfectly ok with my life and how I handled Handsy. If there's any good to be gleaned from this uncomfortable experience, I guess it's that.

Footnote: I have changed quite a few of the details here, but the gist of it hasn't been dramatically altered from the original event. The names of those characterized here will never, ever be revealed by me. So please don't try to guess, and please don't ask me who it is. Like poor Brittany Murphy in that one movie....."I'll never tell...."

TV Show Marathons, they look so harmless.

A couple of my kids have kept at least one television in the house tuned to an iCarly marathon today.

On the plus side, it's not Hannah Montana. On the minus...well, things can get kind of weird when Mommy is exposed to continuous episodes of one single show.

I am starting to have impure thoughts about iCarly's big brother.

Did we learn nothing from the Mythbusters marathon/Adam Savage debacle, my children?? That one ended with me actually trying to "friend" poor Adam on facebook. How about whole Top Chef/Stefan thing? Remember me Googling him and finding out where his restaurant is? Someone in this house, and I won't name any names, has some serious stalker potential.

Time to turn off the t.v., my angels.

It's my turn

Today is the day....please be a dear and go here to check out my post, and while you're there, peruse the other offerings. It's a great bunch of writers!

Thanks again for everyone's support.


I am rich.

No, not money-wise, silly. But if we were to value friends as much as we value cash in this society, I would be a freaking high-roller, fat-cat kind of gal.

You know why? Because I have some great people in my life. People I am honored to know, people who humble me with their ginormous hearts, people who have made my life and my kid's lives better just by being themselves.

I wasn't always this blessed in the friend department. In fact, I think it's safe to say that I used to be kind of a lonely, bitchy soul. In a way, I have Big Daddy to thank for making me drop my Debbie Downer personae and turn my frown upside down. It was after he left that I decided it was ok to reach out to the people around me. Not only was it ok, but for someone in my shoes, it was essential.

My friends have saved my life.

One did, quite literally. After the shock of being dumped wore off a little bit, there was a very bleak time in my life where I couldn't picture myself going on without a husband. The shame, the throbbing black spot of pain I had in my chest where my heart used to be, the thought of raising damaged kids, it was just too much for me to bear. I called her one sad afternoon, on one of the weekends the kids were with Big Daddy. I had what I realized later on was my first panic attack, or maybe anxiety attack, whatever. Point was, it felt like I couldn't take one more step into this sad, barren life. For a tiny bit of time, I felt like I didn't want to live. And so I called this certain friend of mine who dropped what she was doing, came over and talked me down off of the imaginary but still terrifying ledge I had been squatting on. She reminded me of what I would miss if I left, how cruel and unfair it would be to do this to my kids, etc. And then she reminded me of the last thing Big Daddy had said as he walked out the door for good. "You're not going to do something stupid like kill yourself, are you?" he had asked.

That did it. The panic passed, the fleeting thoughts of hurting myself over losing someone who would say those words to the mother of his kids as he left...those thoughts left my head that second and have never come back.

All thanks to a friend.

Since then my life has been filled to the brim with people who make me smile. And I keep meeting more. Some I have never even met in person (waving to a few of my eBay and facebook hens...love you!!!), some I have known for eons, some I just met this summer. But I am blessed to know each and every one of them.

What inspired this sappy little Golden Girls moment?

The kids and I just spent a magical, long weekend at my friend's cabin. She and her husband have a beautiful lake home about 2 hours from here. I've been there before, and so have my kids. But this time it was just a little different.

This particular friend of mine has been by my side for the past couple of years, cheering me on when I needed it, handing me a glass of wine when I needed that, holding me up when I couldn't make it on my own (not from the wine, smartass...from the STRESS). She's seen me at my worst and never once judged, never once gave up on me. Even when going through her own life crap, she has been a constant brightness in my life, like a dependable little porch light that is always left on. Something that you look for when you're trying to find your way home in the dark.

She knows that I have, even on my best days, extremely limited financial resources. Isn't that a nice way to say that I'm poor? I thought so.

Anyway. This friend and her husband are comfortable. Very, very comfortable. And I am truly, deeply happy for both of them. I love it when my friends do well, even when I'm not...it's good to know that not all of the people in this world who live the good life are like Paris Hilton. Not that this friend and her hubby are Hilton-rich, but you get the idea. So, they have a lovely, lovely lake home where they spend a good part of the summer. And my friend knew that I didn't have the means to provide my kids with any sort of vacation this summer. I can't even drive us anywhere too far, because my truck is not trustworthy anymore.

So she drove me, and my four kids, up to her cabin late last week. Her husband met us there with their own brood of three.

We have spent the last four days laughing, playing in the water, going tubing, wakeboarding, going on turtle-hunting expeditions, watching a kick ass thunderstorm rumble across a lake, eating like kings (aside from being a friend, she's also the best cook I know), sleeping in, toasting marshmallows over a campfire...she even signed us up for golf lessons. My friend and her husband wouldn't even consider taking a dime from me. I tried, believe me. They refused.

We have had a little vacation. It's past midnight right now, and I should be going to bed. The kids have all passed out, cheeks and foreheads tan and smooth. My face is burned and I have bruises on my ass cheeks from tubing (that water slaps hard, ladies). My friend and her husband and I stayed up late last night watching an old Harrison Ford movie (Presumed Innocent, which has remained extremely watchable after all these years) and after her husband retired for the evening, she and I stayed up way too late and cackled and ate and drank. I'm tired.

But it's finally a good tired. Thanks to a good friend.



No, I'm not referencing George Michael and the finger-snapping ditty sung to us when we were naive, innocent, big-haired teens. I'm talking Bugs. That give you the Jitters.

Our kids aren't the only ones who can send off short, cryptic texts that say it all with one little acronym or word. Mommies can do it too. Sometimes I will get one that says "Hugs" after a hard day. Or one that says "Beer?" from a friend who desperately needs to get out. But the one that sends chills down my spine, the one that almost makes me drop my phone as I physically recoil from the horror of the message...?

One word. "LICE!!!". Sometimes it's followed by a frowny emoticon. Sometimes a garbled "aughggghhhh". Usually it's just that tiny four letter word. And you know what? Enough said.

Have you escaped the wrath of the creepy crawlies? I was one of those confident ladies, one of the untouchables. The kids would come home with the pink sheet of paper from the school nurse, warning us of another outbreak, and to check our angel's heads, tell them again to not wear other people's hats or use their brushes. I'd read them, look at the pure, unscathed scalps of my bug-free brood and send that ominous pink sheet into recycling. "Not in this house, nurse" I'd say to myself.

I work at the school, and therefore would get a "heads up" (woe is the reader who hates puns) of which kid/family was embroiled in the war against louse at any given time. I'd look at the kids with a sick curiosity. Part of me wanted to hug them and let them know that they were still lovable, despite the fact that they had bugs living, breeding and crawling through their hair shafts. But part of me also wanted to invest in a hazmat suit and walk around like Dustin Hoffman in "Outbreak".

But all of that changed. It all changed during what I now like to call "Battle of the Bugs December '08". Or, if I was going to give it a proper title:

"Nits Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" or "All I Want For Christmas Is A Fine-Toothed Comb".

We got 'em.

December, 2008. We were a few months into what we also call "The Year Big Daddy Quit Supporting His Kids", so I was already in a fragile mental state.

The pink slips were coming fast and furiously that winter, but like always, I just tossed them aside. "Like God would allow that to happen" I'd think to myself. Until one day, I was standing over William as he finished a spelling worksheet. For some reason I happened to look down at his head.

And saw something move.

I blinked. Blinked again. And saw it move again. With the lightning fast speed and Ninja-like skill that only a disbelieving, stressed out mom possesses, I nabbed the moving thing between two fingers. Opened them up and saw a tiny, squirming, LIVE bug. On my baby's head. I squished it on a paper towel and instantly fished one of the pink sheets out of recycling.

Dear God. It was an adult louse.

Bile rose in the back of my throat. I tried to remain calm as I stood over William's head again, this time focusing on his scalp instead of his spelling. "Hold still" I told him. And began what would soon become a daily ritual that continues to this day. The checking of the head.

That day I found a few more bugs, scurrying from my view through my son's baby-soft hair. I think I started crying. No, I'm sure I did. Still weeping, I went over to Henry and of course found a few of the six legged bastards. Molly and Charlie were already at school at this point, which left one head to inspect. Mine.

I asked the boys to look through my hair, but that's kind of like asking a husband to find a matching pair of black dress socks on his own. It probably didn't help that at that time, I had hair down to the middle of my back. Thick, wavy hair. Dark, dark brown hair. It was like trying to find Waldo except there was no thrill of victory when you did find him.

Anyhoo. They didn't have any luck in my locks, thank God. So I called the school to let them know that we had fallen. I quickly contacted my friends who had been through this horror, got my shopping list and headed out to a drugstore in the next city over, where the chances of being caught by anyone I knew while I perused the lice shampoo aisle were slim. It was while standing in the aisle of a far, far away Walgreens when I felt something on my head. Again, the Ninja fingers darted in and again, came back with a sickening, squiggling bounty. And that's how I found out that I had been infested, too. That's also when I broke down and started sobbing in the middle of a drugstore.

This is one of those times when you find out who your friends are. Or, to be fair, you find out which friends have a strong constitution and a high threshold for panic and fear. Two of mine came through like latex-glove wearing angels at this time. One came over after I had shampooed myself and the boys. Wearing her gloves and her own beautiful curly long brown hair up in a tight bun, she stood over our noggins and proceeded to spend a good three hours going through each strand of hair. She showed me how to pull the nits off of the hair, how to tell if what you were seeing is really a bug or just a flake or random bit of dirt.

She went through my hair, strand by strand, talking to me in a soothing, calm voice, like the voice the nurses use when stabilizing mental cases in the E.R. She was awesome.

Charlie and Molly didn't get it. I figured out that either William or Henry picked it up at school, and thanks to me being an enabling spineless woman who lets her kids bunk with her, they brought it into my bed. Where I got it.

One of the most difficult tasks during this time was letting Big Daddy know. I had already heard how he and Secretary mocked my parenting/housekeeping/living/breathing in general, I could only imagine the fun they'd have with this one. But he had to know, in order to do the pillow tossing, vacuuming, spraying, etc. The kids also had to be re-inspected over and over to make sure the bugs were gone. So the news was shared.

And we conquered.

Or so I thought.

They came back, not once, but twice. At this point I had stripped all of our beds, thrown away all of our pillows and sprayed every single surface in the house and car with a giant can of RID spray. One night, in desperation, I went out on the patio with my kitchen shears and cut off 8" of my hair. My other "friend in need", a hair stylist, came over and gave the boys crewcuts. We tried the mayo treatment, the saran wrap/olive oil treatment (this was on Christmas Eve...I joked with my friends that my head was the appetizer..just bring bread!).

Finally I called our pediatrician's office and begged for a prescription shampoo. I had heard rumors of this magical potion. I was desperate.

So we got the magic lice killing elixir. It was $140.00 a bottle. Yes, $140.00. I got two of them and split them up among the five of us in the house. Charlie and Molly were still insect-free but I made them apply it as well...just in case.

It was a foul, strong smelling liquid. It smelled like the air smells after a neighbor gets their lawn treated by one of those icky poison spraying companies. I imagined the chemical seeping into my sweet little boy's bloodstreams and damaging their tiny babymaking equipment. I imagined 3-headed grandbabies. But I had to get rid of the lice.

It worked.

But we didn't come out of this war without scars. My boys still succumb to me poring over their heads like a giant baboon, always searching, looking for nits. My head instantly starts to itch at the mere mention of these head-infesting demons. I have nightmares about bugs springing off of our heads.

Yesterday and the day before that, I got two separate text messages from two separate friends. Both texts were short, and both contained the word "LICE". My hands flew to my head and started scratching, and I texted back messages of support and sympathy. Offered up my services as a Class A Nit Picker.

What I don't tell them? I hoarded half a bottle of the super secret powerful shampoo. I have it in a cool, dry place. I keep it "just in case". I think I may go look at it now, hold it, just to comfort myself. Kind of like wearing a St. Christopher medallion or eating a diet rich in anti-oxidants, it's a safekeeping measure for me.

Just in case.


I'm so glad we had this time together.....

Our house will be auctioned off next month.

I received notice from the powers that be. In my imagination, I picture a throng of people standing in the front yard while a silver-tongued auctioneer stands at a pulpit on the front steps and does his thing. I know that's not how it really works, but that's how I picture it.

As I write this, I have tears streaming down my cheeks, but I'm having trouble figuring out what they're for. Are they tears of sadness? Certainly. They say home is where the heart is, and my heart resided in that little house for many years. My heart and the hearts of my kids. It was the first and only home that 3 of them knew. It was where they took their first steps, ate their first meals, got ready for their first days of school. It was home.

Are my tears those of anger? Absolutely. I am still angry about a lot of what has transpired over the past few years. I'm mad that I have to face this on my own. I'm extremely pissed that I was forced into this situation by circumstances that were way beyond my control. I was left high and dry, and I just didn't have the resources to make things work. But, what's done is done. Like Kenny Rogers, I knew when to fold 'em. Maybe I waited a little bit too long to bow out of the game, but you can't fault me for fighting til the bitter end. And fight I did.

Maybe my tears are a response to remorse over what could have been. My marriage was a happy one while we lived in that house, at least for a little bit. Big Daddy and I had such big plans and hopes for that rundown little abode. Could I have done anything to save the marriage? Save our hopes and dreams? I don't know. I'll never know. That house has watched me weep over a doomed marriage twice, first my parent's, and then mine. Maybe the tears I am shedding are those of relief, that no one else in my family will have to console a sobbing child under that ramshackle roof.

And maybe, just maybe, these are tears of happiness. There is joy mixed into this emotional porridge. The past and all of the hurt are left in that house. I have been given a rare and special opportunity to start from scratch. And as terrifying as it is, it's also liberating and strengthening. I feel like a butterfly clawing my way out of a cocoon. To use what is quite possibly the lamest analogy available for this situation, I am so totally a phoenix rising up from the ashes.

Life isn't suddenly easy. It's not like Ed McMahon showed up on my doorstep with a big old cardboard check and a map to easy street. I am still struggling, still trying to pick up the jagged broken pieces of my life without cutting myself. Still watching my kids work through their own private grief.

When we talk about the "old house", I am warmed by the happy recollections they still have. They own all of the sepia-toned childhood memories that I had hoped they would. They talk about impromptu car washes in the driveway, with the Cozy Coupe, the Radio Flyer and the trikes all lined up. They talk about the big backyard with the hand-me-down trampoline, and the swingset that had the one swing where if you pumped just hard enough, your toes would touch the reaching branches of the apple tree. "Push me harder, Mommy!!!" they'd cry out, their tiny feet pointed with all of their might towards that one beckoning branch. I am grateful that we have these shared memories. Maybe these are tears of gratitude for that.

When I walk through that dark, empty place now, I try to block out the awfulness. The sounds of muffled crying, the horrible soundbites of a husband and wife lashing out at each other. The sounds of kids trying to express how much it hurt to be part of a crumbling family.

Instead I listen closely, carefully, and I can hear the good things. I hear the squeals of delight on Christmas morning. I hear the cackling of my good old hens as we ogle Pampered Chef gadgets and watch a Jim Gaffigan DVD for the very first time. I hear a young man and a young woman declare their love for each other and toast to the future.

I hear good things as I close this door. And those good things will comfort me.


When Mom Gets Angry- Really, Really Angry

This was one of our favorite books when the kids were little. We read it aloud at night, especially after a day when one or more of the angels pitched a fit, threw a tantrum or did some other lobbing of emotions.

Last night, I needed someone to tuck me in, get me a glass of water (yeah, right, water) and read this to me.

I lost it yesterday. I went apeshit. I turned into Hulk Mom. And it wasn't pretty.

There wasn't a single straw that broke this big sweaty camel's back. More like a little fluttery flow of straws that just kept raining down during the day. Actually, one of those straws happened to weigh a little more than the others, and I think that was the one that pushed the needle into the red. I do know I said a silent prayer of thanks to the weather gods who ensured that the a/c was cranked and the windows were closed. But this tantrum was a loud one, I'm sure those neighbors who live within hearing distance at least got a muffled version of Mommy Goes Berserk, Act One.

Looking back at the day, now that my blood pressure has reverted to a normal level and the inmates are all still snoring, I think it was like a Perfect Storm of sorts.

It's been hot and muggy, and I do believe statistics prove that criminal behavior increases during heat waves.

This was technically Big Daddy's weekend but he's "out of town" (no snarky comment here, feel free to insert one yourself) so maybe my internal calendar was thrown off by the schedule change.

My two teenagers are grating on my last nerves this summer. The 16 year old has been trying to get a job, but so far has been unsuccessful. Therefore his days are spent sleeping until noon, eating everything that isn't expired or too hard to prepare, and leaving trails of clothing and dishes throughout the house like a giant, hormonal Hansel minus Gretel. The 14 year old is me at that age. She has a small group of friends, most of whom are scheduled up the wazoo with camps during the summer. My daughter is not one of those girls who will hop on her bike and just tool around, looking for something to do. She instead will bury her nose in a book only to surface for food and bathroom breaks. And to stand behind me and tell me she's bored. Or hungry.

I don't know if it's the fact that I was working my ass off at 16 (getting my butt poked with a serving fork by the biggest pig boss in the world, Mr. Weatherman at Bishop's Buffet. Real name, you bet. Hope he has a daughter now who has a boss just like him.) that is causing this growing frustration towards my 16 year old. I know it's a different world, I know he's been through more in his young life than a lot of people will ever go through, but this teen cave-man act is starting to lose its shine. This may be the week I start kicking his sleepy hiney just a little bit harder.

And my daughter...I know all too well what it's like to be a shy, bookish, big boned girl in a world full of thin, giggling social butterflies. Sometimes it sucks. And my heart aches for her some days. But then other days, like yesterday, I wanted to throw all of her books out on the front lawn and her with them. And I wanted to yell out at her, "GO DO SOMETHING!!!!!". She's in that awful limbo...too old to be signed up for the summer arts and crafts stuff, too young to go out and work even a few hours a week. But she's at the perfect age for being Mean Older Sister. And that's what she chose to do yesterday. Actually, she's been playing the part for the past month, but yesterday she put a little extra effort into it.

The two little boys: Henry (who will be a teenager in just a couple of weeks) told me on Saturday that this was going to be a "chill weekend". I guess "chill weekend" means one in which a boy will not change out of his South Park lounge pants for two days and will spend 90% of the time horizontal on a couch with one hand on the remote and one hand stuffed in a bag of pretzels. Which I get, truly, I get it. But why the t.v. in the living room? And why, for the love of God and all other holy entities and beings, why a Hannah Montana marathon? Enough said.

That leaves William. William is getting his horns. They started coming up a little this past year, way later than I expected. He's the baby. Maybe the babies of the family sprout the horns later, who knows. But William is perfecting the art of being annoying to his siblings. Nothing awful, nothing that makes me want to run to a child therapist, just little things that he does for the sole purpose of grating on older sibling's senses. Like throwing a ball at a wall over and over and over again. Standing in front of a t.v. screen for just a second longer than he should. Repeating a nonsensical phrase in an annoying voice over and over and over again. You get it.

So we'd have patches of calm quiet time, during which I tried to get some work done. Yes, work. I try to put about 25 or so hours into my eBay work every week during the summer. We have one computer. It's a Dell that is so old sometimes I think if I look under the desk I'll see a Flintstone-era creature running on a treadmill to keep it powered up. So it's slow. And having one computer means that I am competing for screen time with the aforementioned Hansel, who has to check facebook at least 342 times a day, with Henry, who needs to watch videos of other people playing video games on YouTube and with William, who likes to find games that make loud repetitive noises and also slow the computer down to molasses speed. So when it's my turn, IT'S MY TURN and I try to get as much done as possible. Which I was doing during the quiet times yesterday.

And that's when they start. It's almost like watching a huge summer storm building up. The birds start chirping a little more frantically. The wind stops. You feel a little charge in the air. And then it starts: "STOP IT!!!" "what am I doing?" "YOU KNOW, JUST FREAKING STOP IT!!!"...followed by a little silence and then another ball throw at the wall. Just one. And then, it's hammer time.

Their fights are stuff of legend, at least for me they are. I grew up with just one brother, and while we had our squabbles, I can say with complete certainty that we never had smackdowns of this proportion. Screaming, pacing, shelves and tables swept clean with an angry arm, pushing, shoving, taking of remotes...it gets ugly. And yes, I do step in when it gets really bad. In my defense, I am one person in a sea of children. There really are times when the inmates are running things. I'm trying to work on that, but some days, I just wait for it to burn out. Yesterday was different, though. Something of mine was broken (and it wasn't just my spirit this time).

One child, and I won't call them out on it here, somehow managed to break a picture. A little picture, a snapshot in a small brass frame that I've had for almost 15 years. It's a picture of Charlie and Molly. I used to let them nap in my bed when they were really little, like 3 and 1. One day, I took a camera into the room to get a picture of them snoozing together. And right as I stood above them to snap the photo, Molly's eyes fluttered open. And I took the picture. So it's a picture of my sweet toddler Charlie, curled up on his side, passy in his mouth, and baby Molly looking up at me with her beautiful blue eyes and the very beginnings of a smile on her face. It's my favorite picture, ever. And one of them threw it. Yes, I know I can replace the frame, but somehow that one act of random madness pushed me over the edge. And chaos ensued.

I don't snap like this very often. But when I do, it's bad. I swear. Oh, wipe that judgy look off of your face, I know for a fact some of you do, too. And those of you who don't, go down to your basement right this second and look for either a halo or a big, adult-sized pod. Because you are either a saint or an alien. Or maybe you just have a better filter than I do. Or kids who don't conduct themselves like drunken longshoremen during last call at a brothel/bar. Either way, there you have it.

I screamed, I swore, I said things that mommies shouldn't say. I bemoaned my very existence and wondered, aloud, what life would have been like if I had chosen to remain single and childless. I looked at Walter (the dog) and said to him, "If it was just you and me, we'd have a clean house and I'd have a flat stomach." I told Molly to pack her shit up and get ready to move in with Big Daddy and Secretary. I threw Legos and started furiously filling up the dishwasher. It was epic.

And then it ended. I apologized for the crap I said, which I know is like putting a Band Aid on a compound fracture, but it's all I had. We made Rice Krispie bars and ate a few and then got ready for bed.

This morning, Molly is still not speaking to me, which I expected. She has learned how to hold a grudge from a black belt. This too shall pass.

Anger like this is something that no one tells you about when you first become a mom. This is the kind of anger that surprises even the most well-prepared among us. The kind that rises from some ancient, primal spot in our souls. This is the kind of anger you experience and then get some sick little glimmer of what happens when those few mommies snap and end up in the news. I'm not condoning or excusing or trying to make light of child abuse, but when you become a mom and go through this kind of anger, you realize that it's just a few strands of sanity that separate "us" from "them"...the moms who get pissed, vent and then get over it vs. the moms who get pissed and then hurt their kids. It's a fine line, one that I have never, ever crossed but one I have seen up in the not-too-distant horizon. I thank God every time that I have the tools to handle it. I may not handle it like Stepford Mom or SuperNanny would suggest, but it gets handled. My kids don't.

So today is a new day. The humidity has dropped, the sun is shining and the kids are starting to wake up. The past is that...passed. I won't beat myself up for being human yesterday, but I will try to learn something from what went down. Maybe I need to be more proactive in finding things for the kids to do. Maybe I need to re-read my Good Cop/Bad Cop post again.

Maybe what I really need to do is find our beat up, dog-eared copy of "When Sophie Gets Angry" and read it out loud. For old time's sake.


I did a bad, bad thing.

Yesterday, I did something that I haven't done in a long time.

When it was over, I felt instant shame, guilt, regret and of course, my usual self loathing.

I thought to myself, "What a loser you are. What kind of mom does this, especially when her kids are home?" I wanted to find my rewind button and hit that sucker with all of my might.

This is something that I used to do, back in the day. Way back in the day, when my choices lingered on the bad side of right and wrong more often than not.

I used to do it a lot in my teens. I'd do it during the afternoon and then go out til the wee hours of the morning...and then do it all over again the next day. The habit continued in college, getting so out of hand at one point that I'd miss classes. I remember roommates walking in on my boyfriend and I doing it together, and seeing the look of disgust on their faces.

Then, when I had kids, I stopped. Oh, don't get me wrong...I may have slipped a few times and tried it again, but never got back into the habit full-strength. It just seemed wrong, somehow. Seemed irresponsible. I still craved it, still thought about doing it way more than I should have, but for the most part, I abstained.

After joining the ranks of "Single Parenthood", it didn't even present itself as an option. My wingman was gone, I had no one to provide a buffer between me and the kids if the urge became too strong to resist. I couldn't do it with them around. I didn't want them to see Mommy in that state. I thought, "What if there's an emergency?? I'd be incapacitated..I would be in no state of mind to help my kids." Then I thought, "And how bad would that look on a police report?? How could I look a cop in the eye and tell him what I was doing when the fire broke out or the creepy dude knocked on the door and tried to grab one of my babies or one kid decided to try making tattoos on the other kids in the kitchen using a paring knife and Sharpies?".

But yesterday, for some reason, I gave in.

It wasn't a particularly harrowing or stressful day. It was beastly hot, and I ran around doing a bazillion errands and chauffeuring duties. Walked the dog, did some grocery shopping, the usual laundry. Nothing awful, though. Par for the course as far as days are concerned. But something in me snapped.

I went into my bedroom. I closed the door. I got everything arranged just the way I like it.

And I took a nap. A two hour nap, with a couple brief interruptions by mouth-breathing kids who pulled open my eyelids to tell me "I was playing Orgeon Trail on your phone and William just grabbed it from me, tell him to give it baaaaaaaaack" and one telling me "Guess what Henry did now, mom. Just guess. " I remember shushing them and putting the pillow back over my eyes. And then I woke up.

Woke up, groggy and awash with Mommy Guilt.

Why?? It was two hours. No one died, no one set fire to anything, no one juggled dirty used hypodermic needles, no one left the fridge door open. Nothing happened.

Then why did I feel so bad? Even now, THE DAY AFTER, I am feeling shameful about this.

I have friends who regularly partake in the ritual of napping. One of my oldest friends actually has a "nap time" that is set in stone and her kids have been trained since they were in utero to not disturb Mama at that time. She's normal. She's a good mom. I don't recall Child Protection Services being called to investigate any neglect charges at her house.

Will the day ever come that I can do even the smallest, stupidest act of self-indulgence and not feel the little tingles of mommy guilt creeping up into my head? Or is that a kind of scar from motherhood, like a stretch mark or c-section line, a scar that may fade over time but will always be there, reminding me of this part of my life?

I think I need to sleep on this one.


Character Building Times....otherwise known as Times That Really Suck

You hear it a lot, when you are struggling. "This is going to be a huge character building experience for you!". "Hard times make us who we are!!!". "It's in the struggle where we find the light".....

Yes, yes, and yes. So true. I believe that to my very core.

But, enough already. Seriously.

By the time the kids and I get through this "patch of roughness" we will collectively have more character than a DisneyWorld parade.

I think we're full up on character now, thankyouverymuch.

And the sad thing is, the stuff we have gone through/are going through isn't even that awful. For every episode of "Life With Jenny" that sends me into a rocking back and forth, Rainman/Jeopardy coma (except instead of Rainman/Jeopardy it's Jenny/Real Housewives Marathon) I know that there are a plethora of worse situations to be mired in. I know that there are things I could be experiencing that would make the past 2 years of my life look like a trip through Willy Wonka's factory (the part before the acid trip boat ride). There are women out there who have faced demons who make my personal demons look like newborn babies. I've never had a Katrina, an earthquake, cancer or an Ike Turner.

And I thank God every day that MY worst isn't that bad. But I am human, and like all other humans, I can only speak of what I've dealt with. So that's what you're stuck with, sweet readers.

This particularly grueling time is once again the product of being poor. I'm beginning to sound like a broken record when I talk to the kids, and it sucks. For them, and for me. Last night I did add a new phrase into my list of "things we have to watch for the next couple of weeks". Last night I actually told the kids that we have to keep an eye on how far we drive. We, being me. Gas is freaking expensive, and it's something that I don't get to purchase more than a couple times a month. Add that to the fact that my gas-snorting truck gets approximately 10 miles per gallon (I kid you not) and you get the idea (cue the violins, please).

But here's the inspirational part of my woe is me weepfest this morning: Nothing lights a fire under my ass like desperation. My friends in the late 80's saw this, when the lights at the bar started flickering for closing time and I was the only one sans fellow. Big Daddy saw this during the Willy Loman phase of his employment...I went out to garage sales every single Saturday, bought baby/kids items as cheaply as I could and then took them into Once Upon A Child. That's how we ate for a few months. That's also how I learned to buy low and sell high, which, ironically enough, is how I keep the boat afloat now via eBay. So there's the proof in this poverty pudding: hard times really do teach you a thing or two.

I guess it's also proof that what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. And I am strong, baby. I've been pumped up to the max and as much as it bites the big one, it's my life and I'm going to make the best of it.

Sure, I have my weak moments. The sad scene yesterday when I balanced my checking account and saw the final numbers...I cried a little. But only for a minute. Because I know that it's been that awful before, hell, it's been negative numbers before and here we are, living and breathing and watching Bravo. So it's not so bad. We may not be the family you see at Costco, pushing a steroid-big cart overflowing with Z Bars and cases of Izze Sparkling Juice, but like Sister Sledge, we are family. And we are going to be ok. We have a roof over our heads, air conditioning and 89 cent slushies at Super America. We have Red Box free codes, William's All Star games (Little League is quite possibly the best free entertainment out there, by the way) and bikes.

You've heard of the Little Engine that Could?

I am the Big Mama that not only Could, but Did and Will Keep Doing.


Branching Out

Today, a new website is launching. It's a "writer's collaborative" website that features one essay-style post a day from a fabulous group of keyboard pounders located all around the US of A. And I am one of those writers.

It's called "Smartly" and they are located right here.

Pinch me.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't fancy myself the next Ernest Hemingway, sitting here at my computer in my loud Nick and Nora pajamas, sucking down my first cup of coffee. Writing is just something that I have always done, ever since I was a little girl. It's been my way of venting, expressing myself, my main form of communication. I used to keep diaries and journals. Back when I was in 5th or 6th grade, I even became a published writer of sorts. Our local newspaper had a little supplement called "The Smile Factory" and I was part of the paid writing staff...five bucks per article, poem or story. I still remember the rush I'd feel seeing my stuff in print. It left a mark.

So when I happened to stumble upon an invitation to submit my scribblings to this new website, I sheepishly filled out the application and gave them a link to this blog, my public clothesline filled with all sorts of dirty laundry.

And they liked me. They really, really liked me. Knock me over with a feather.

I feel all cool now, I have deadlines and "editors" and all sorts of other writery accessories.

No, it's not a paying gig. I'm not going to quit selling gently used garments on eBay, or stop herding kids around the school for nine months out of the year, or cast aside my pursuit of past due child support. But I am going to look at this as one of the first steps of what I hope is to become a long and fulfilling journey. A writing journey.

And I'm so glad you are here to take it with me.


Craigslist, continued.

So Craig and I went back to his place. It was a cute cottage style house, in the heart of one of our adorable little lake towns. He had bought it after his divorce was finalized, and was in the process of fixing it up. We had a couple of margaritas (combined with the Bourne movie, God help me) on his deck and then decided to see if this little plan of ours was going to work.

And it did. Surprisingly, very very well. Craig was great. Nothing freaky, nothing scary, just plain old good times. He said, "Thank you, craigslist" at the end, and for some reason that struck me as hilarious. Thank you craigslist, indeed.

So Craig and I had the beginnings of a mutually beneficial summer romance on our hands. We ended up talking and texting a little more than you'd think two people with a strict "no relationship" policy would do, but other than that, it was just the low-key diversion I was looking for.

This was back in the day when all of the kids would go to Big Daddy's house on his weekends, and stay there. These days it's rare if all four go, and if they do, chances are really good that one or more will end up standing in my kitchen telling me our food sucks. I don't mind..for real. But back then, I did have the luxury of guaranteed time off. Time to do bad things. Time to try and get my groove back and exhale and all that other "I steal phrases from established authors" stuff.

But I digress. So Craig had called me and let me know that he'd planned an all day thing on one of "our" weekends...and wanted to know if that was ok with me. I was starting to worry that this was headed in the direction of Full Blown Relationship, and as much as I was enjoying Craig and his benefit, I was starting to feel...cagey? I don't know if that's the right word to describe it, but I was getting that old familiar trapped feeling.

I said that an all day thing sounded great, and since it was a total surprise (he said to wear something "comfortable", that's it) I was actually starting to get excited. No one had ever planned a surprise date for me. This was nice.

The big day rolled up, and we met at a Park and Ride station near my house. We decided to drive together, in his mini-van. When we got into the van, he had a little gift for me. He had made me a mix tape, bless his heart. Actually a mix cd, but mix tape sounds so sweet and old school. We both had a mutual love for the band Wilco, and Craig had put down several of their tracks that we liked. Damn you, Craig. You're not supposed to be this nice. I like my victims to give me a reason to shun them. This was going to be hard.

So...we were on our way to the All Day Date. We ended up at the heart of the riverside district here in our city, a super charming little section of town where the city meets a small town, with the mighty Mississippi roaring in the background. And then we walked into a strange little shop, a place I had never seen before. A place where they offered up unique tours of this darling stretch of city....

On Segways. Yes, I had never seen one up close before. But that day, not only did I get to see one up close, I rode on one. For a few hours. Helmet and all.

Craig had signed us up for a Segway tour of the quaint riverside neighborhood. Just like Gilligan's doomed group, it was a three hour tour. Repeat after me: a three hour tour.

I was terrified. Why? I don't know, maybe it was the fact that we had to sign a waiver in case we died, maybe it was the fact that any activity which requires a helmet automatically strikes fear in a mother's heart. And maybe, just maybe, it was due to the fact that for all of my "mellow mama" vibes I try to give off, at heart I am a tightly-wound control freak. And standing atop a motorized, two-wheeled death machine didn't exactly mesh with this freak's way of doing things.

I survived. But I did learn a couple things. Thing one: It's impossible to look anywhere near cute or hot whilst riding a Segway. There's the helmet, for one thing. Granted, some women can look adorable in helmets. Not me. My head is big to begin with...put a helmet on this melon and I look like a fat Nancy Reagan. Thing two: While riding a Segway, it's impossible to unclench your butt. Seriously. And if you haven't ever noticed this before, a clenched butt is not attractive. I don't care what kind of Charmin ass you're sporting. Go ahead, try it in a mirror. I'll wait.

This was one of those experiences where you quite literally count the seconds until it's over. When our tour finally ended (and buns unclenched), I wanted to jump down and kiss the ground. Frazzled is what I was. Luckily for me, Craig had planned the rest of the day, and it included dinner, drinks and listening to a jazz band play on a patio. By the time we walked back to his van I had regained the feeling in my ass and was starting to look forward to his big bed, the sweet lake breeze and giving my thanks to the craisglist gods all over again.

Later that night, after the magic happened, we were laying there on his big comfy bed, warm wind blowing through the room, just talking. Craig starting giving me a back rub, which was nice, even though I have issues with back rubs. Don't get me started...I am like a giant crazy onion, with layer upon layer of psycho.

Anyway. So he's rubbing my back, and moving farther down than most back-rubbers go. Like down to my hiney. Nothing weird yet, just sort of loitering in the general area. And then he asked me the $64,000.00 question.

Again with the anal. I protested mightily, gave my reasons for not humming along to that particular tune. Told him all of my issues with it. And he backed off. But told me, "I'm going to change your mind." And just like that, I felt the cockles of my heart start to chill up again.

What is the big deal? Why is this such a deal breaker for me? Who knows. Freud would have a field day with me, no doubt. Maybe I put up obstacles in the road to happiness on purpose...maybe I'm still convinced that I don't deserve to find Mr. Right. Or maybe I am just that scared of turning into a shart machine. I don't know yet. I do know that despite our unconventional beginning, Craig and I did have potential. I liked this one, and sometimes I wonder if I intentionally sabotage everything with promise when it comes to my love life.

A question for the ages, no doubt. There are just a few more victims of mine to reminisce about...The Mullet Man, Le Artiste' and last but not least, John McCain. One of those three came dangerously close to becoming Mr. Happy Hausfrau.

Pins and needles, right? Humor me.

Craigslist, Segways, and Again with the Anal.

So sometimes, when the kids are gone, I get bored. Like the "I'M BOOOORRREEED" kind of bored. The kind of bored where you have exhausted all possible ways to entertain yourself. The shows have been watched, old boyfriends stalked looked up online, divorce decree read over and memorized, highlighted and wept over...done.

All that's left is the drinkin'.

And craigslist.

I will say this, before I begin to tell the tale of this smidgen of horror from my life, that I think the premise of craigslist is awesome. It's a great way to get rid of "stuff". I unloaded lots of Big Daddy's stuff via craigslist after he left. Yeah, if you're still reading, Big Daddy, for your information what you left was legally considered mine, so boo hoo. I would have sold your soul too, if you'd left that in the garage with the tools. Your kids were hungry.

Anyway. One thing I always get a kick out of reading is the Rants and Raves section on craigslist. It's just a place where people can vent or spout off or babble on about whatever. There's always the political crap, lots of people bitching about how everyone else drives...it's basically like standing around at a neighborhood party after the beer has been flowing for several hours. And it's sometimes freaking hilarious.

So, I don't know what got into me (ha ha to my smart ass friends saying, "Umm..a bottle of wine?"), but I wrote a brief rant about online dating. More specifically, I wrote about how sick I was of going through the motions over and over again, doing the same old getting to know you song and dance only to end up less-than-thrilled (or worse yet, ending up with someone else being less than thrilled). I wondered, in this little essay of mine, what would happen if I put it out there that I wasn't really looking for a "relationship" per se, that I was totally not into meeting anyone's parents, or being anyone's stepmom. I was looking for a friend-with-benefits, basically. A booty call with a couple of strings attached. Someone to maybe have dinner with, perhaps go see a movie, and then go home and knock boots. Someone with whom I could hang out with every once in a while, but not have to worry about maintaining anything. Sort of like a pre-screened, no-blackouts-required several-nights-stand. Make sense? It did to me at the time, but of course, I had Mr. Merlot sitting next to the keyboard telling me what to type. Bastard.

So, I hit send. And the replies flew in faster than kids running down the stairs on Christmas morning.

There were the expected replies, the ones that were all sweaty and smelly even through e-mail: I'll give ya what ya want, baby. I'm packing some serious manhood heat and it sounds like that's just what you need. Umm, ok. Delete. Lots of angry guys read craigslist, too. Got a few of these : Bitches like you think your shit don't stink, you pass up lots of great guys like me. Sure thing, buddy. Angry Steve? Is that you? Pass.

And so on and so forth. Then I got one that I actually read through to the end. It was well written (he used punctuation and paragraphs). It was actually funny and poignant at the same time....his way with words actually started melting the icy cockles of my heart. He talked about how he was fed up with the games, too, and that if I wanted to check out his profile at Match, go ahead. He was a divorced dad of three, had a good job (sent me a link to his company's website, this was like a booty call invitation from a Boy Scout. Dude was prepared).

We corresponded via email for several days afterward. I'll call him Craig here, because it will make me laugh to refer to him as that. So Craig and I slowly learned more about each other. Turns out his wife cheated on him, too, and left him. For a chick. They shared custody of their three kids, and were kind of in the same boat as Big Daddy and I. Things with Big Daddy, at this point, were semi-amicable but on their way to being crappy again. It's how the divorce cookie crumbles, I tell you. Always good times.

So, Craig and I decided that we'd give this thing a go. We set up an initial meeting, at a little Italian restaurant not far from both of us (we were about 15 miles apart from each other, he lived on one of our beautiful lakes, which was a point in the "yes" column. Because I'm shallow like that.). We decided to have dinner and then go see a movie. A Jason Bourne movie, I believe, which was good planning on Craig's part. Little known fact: action movies, particularly action/espionage movies, are like roofies to me. Now you know.

He was pleasant, cute, articulate, and funny. I was shocked, actually, at how great this guy was. We had what was possibly the best "first date" conversations I've ever had. We talked about the pain of being dumped, how hard it was on the kids, everything. We even talked about mundane stuff like how much more cathartic it is to FILL the dishwasher than it is to EMPTY it. Craig...you had me at "fill the dishwasher".

I was putty in his hands.

To be continued...this is a longer story than I thought.


Sometimes, hard isn't good.

There are many things in life which we expect to be hard: math tests. Granite countertops. Lemon drops. Your lovah at "go time".

But then there are things which we expect to be easy, to be natural, and they turn out to be hard: for some women, getting pregnant. Parenting. Getting all the tiny pieces of cork out of your wine when you stupidly break it off in the bottle.

There's one thing, though, that I never thought would be hard. Getting the father of my children to help me take care of them.

Big Daddy, for all of my bitching and moaning, was once a swell guy. Even when he first ditched, he was pretty good about writing checks. All of that changed, of course, when he stopped paying alimony and child support and the shit really started hitting the fan. Since then, I have managed. Barely. I watched as my pretty, shiny credit rating tarnished and then turned to ash. Had to give up the luxuries in life, like getting my hair colored every 6 weeks (God I miss the hand massages at Aveda) and health insurance. Watched as my kids went without a lot of things they used to enjoy, things like summer camp, new clothes for school, orange juice. You know, things that you can afford when life is good.

And for a long time, I've been patient. I've been quiet. I have asked him, on several occasions, to help out a little. Give me a hand with their lunch money, sports fees, new shoes. Sometimes he would do it, more and more often lately, he gives me a brief sob story about how poor he is. So I let it go. I find the money, somehow, and we manage.

But my patience has run out.

I got an email from him last week, saying that he's going on a trip in the near future and won't be able to have the kids on his scheduled weekend and a couple of his weeknights. I won't get into how obscene I think it is that he has the freedom of just shooting out an email to ensure that his parenting runway is cleared for take off. That's a whole 'nother post. This email came after he turned down our 16 year old's request for help with lacrosse camp fees. Turned him down flat, without a modicum of regret or explanation. Just a flat "No." Oh, wait. I forgot. He did add, "You should have a job. If you had a job, paying for this wouldn't be a problem."

I wanted to drive over to his house, sit down with him and ask him if he remembers this same kid laying almost lifeless in the emergency room. This kid who was so depressed that he thought drowning in a bottle of whiskey was a better alternative to life. This kid who now has a passion for a sport, a passion that, in my humble opinion, we had better support and encourage with all of our might and at least a small bit of our means. But I was silent, yet again. And I found the money, and I paid the fee.

July 1st marked a special one year anniversary. July 1st, it was exactly one year ago that the family courts in our fair city deemed him responsible for a rather large amount of past-due child support and alimony. And that amount has been increasing every single day since then. Sometimes I think about what could have been different for the kids and I if Big Daddy had paid even half of the amount he owes. Maybe I wouldn't have lost my house. Maybe I could afford to get the braces for Molly that she needs. Maybe I could get my truck repaired and made safe enough so we could drive to friend's cabins for a little break.

And yes, I know...no matter what he pays (if he ever does), I won't get my house back. My credit rating will be still be barf-worthy and the gods of new cars won't be swooping down into my driveway with a safe, clean new ride. But maybe just once in a while I could say "Yes" to them instead of always having to say "No". Maybe I could go grocery shopping without having to stand there for ten minutes, trying to decide if we really, really need yogurt that week or if maybe we can get away with just 4 gallons of milk instead of the usual 6.

So, yeah, I am done being the silent doormat, letting him walk all over me with his big dumb shoes. Letting his kids go without things that they should, by all rights, be able to have and enjoy. Little things that aren't essential to survival, but sure would make surviving a bit more pleasant. I don't think a man should be able to not contribute, at least financially, to the insanely expensive task of upbringing his four kids. I believe that his first concerns in life should be those four kids and what they need to have in order to become healthy, happy, well-adjusted adults. Not getting his pool repaired or keeping his fridge stocked with beer and wine.

My pro-bono attorney and I had a chat the other day, and we are going to pursue things with a bit more aggressiveness than before. It's time to take off the kid gloves, and put on the big girl panties.

It's time to go medieval on someone's ass. Wish me luck.


There's a fine line.....

Between wanting to be the Mother Teresa of the neighborhood, and wanting to throw tube socks stuffed with bars of soap at everyone.

When I was a young, fresh mommy, I had dreams of my future. I wanted to be the house where the kids would gather, after school or on sunny summer days. I wanted to be the house that you'd walk by and be greeted with a pot-pourri of Bounce scented dryer exhaust, Pine-Sol and fresh-out-of-the-oven brownies.

I imagined myself dispensing Band Aids, water bottles and advice to the rivers of children who would pass through my front door.

And you know what? It all came true. On any given day (mostly during the summer, but surprisingly enough, it also happens during the school year) you can find a sort of mish mash of kids here. Of course, I generously supply the first four children, but anything over that is above and beyond my normal load. It's not uncommon for me to wake up, stumble/trip into the kitchen and see several pairs of shoes that I don't recognize lined up by the back door. I've found teenage boys snoring out on the porch, which would freak some people out but it doesn't faze me in the least. I will shake them awake, ask if their moms know they're here, and then let them snooze.

I have cautiously entered the man-cave when it has been taken over by my daughter and her group of hens...being careful so I don't step on heads, legs or hands as I go through and pick up the 7,000 candy wrappers and half-eaten pies. Yes, I said pies. We live within walking distance of a Perkins, and the girls like pie. Don't judge.

I have made waffles, pancakes, oatmeal and bacon for the masses, and done so with a smile on my face. Because, after all, this was my DREAM. Washed clothes, offered up showers and Axe deodorant and spare socks...just keepin' the dream alive.

Of course, I never counted on being single and poor while living the dream, but hey. Forrest Gump's Mama was so right. You really never do know what you're gonna get. So, you just keep chuggin' along.

Before I go on, and you know I will, let me state one thing: I won't trash kids. There are very few things in life that I believe in strongly, like pit-bull strong, and not dissing kids is one of them. Want to earn a spot on my shit-list? Bad mouth a kid. Yes, I know that some of them really are devil spawn, and you know which ones they are almost right from the start. But even Satan himself was once a kid, and I'd like to believe that maybe, just maybe, if someone had been nicer to him he wouldn't be so....evil. Not saying that I think I could have single handedly changed Jeffrey Dahmer into Gandhi, but it never hurts to be kind.

Anyhoo. So as I was saying, I love having a houseful. But, as most moms know, there is an unwritten rule in the Mother Handbook regarding reciprocity. Kind of a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" philosophy except it's more like, "you feed my kids, I'll feed yours". I know very few of us who keep track of who's fed who, who drove which herd where, etc., but it really is a kind of give and take deal. Sometimes you go on a long streak of supplying the chicken nuggets, strawberries and Babybel cheese, but it all evens out in the end.

Usually. But this summer has already proven to be one of uneven proportions. There is a child who has befriended one of my kids. Sweet kid, he is, and I truly enjoy having him here. I recently learned that he lives in the neighborhood with his dad (yes, Single Dad, and that used to send my love-antennae into a quivering salute...but this is SUMMER and I don't have the time or energy to play with myself, let alone entertain the thought of showering or putting on lipstick and doing the Do-Si-Do with a new prospect). Dad leaves said kid home alone during the day while he goes to work.

I'm not judging. Not a bit, seriously. You do what you have to do, I know this. My brother and I were latchkey kids, and we survived. And it's not like this kid is in diapers or anything, he's at an age where theoretically he can get by on his own for a day. But I am, to my core, a Mommy. And just like George Bush, I believe in No Child Left Behind. Or I guess in my case it's No Child Left Alone. So we have kind of taken him in.

What's my point? Whom, exactly, is my tube sock full o'soap aimed at? No one in particular, I guess. Maybe myself for feeling a wee bit of resentment when the doorbell rings at 8:00 a.m. and our little adoptee is standing there in his bike helmet, waiting to be let in. Not resentment towards him of course...he's a kid. This is a house with kids and a mom and food. I'd be here too.

Maybe I'm feeling it towards the dad...but just a tiny bit. I don't know. I understand that men are somewhat oblivious to the minutiae of this childcare thing so I will cut him some slack. But I already have one man in my life who expects me to raise his kids for free, do I really need to open the door to another?

And then just this morning, I overheard my son and this child having one of their funny, earnest conversations. Our guest said to my child: "You are so lucky. Your mom is really nice."

I am going to wipe the tears from eyes and go make a butt-load of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches now. The tube socks are going back into their holsters.

Carry on, mommies.
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