Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Mommy Wars: A One-Woman, 2-Act Play

Act One - The Working Mommy

5:30 am The alarm rings. Jump out of bed (okay, more like stumble as my glasses are knocked to the floor in the flailing about to turn off the alarm.) Shower, dress and head downstairs for breakfast. Pass husband on stairs, exchange fleeting kiss, eat, pack lunch, back upstairs to brush teeth. Wake kids up. No dice. Play silly games to get kids out of bed then attempt to dress them. Soothe grumpy kindergartner. Everyone back downstairs for breakfast, packing of backpacks. Husband exits, stage left. Wrangle/cajole/threaten/scream to get kids back upstairs to brush teeth. Repeat 'Leave the cat alone' until insane. Back downstairs to put on shoes and coats. Herd children out the door into van; take kindergartner to school. Forcibly extract preschooler from the before school care room; wrestle him back into his car seat. Drive to preschool, disentangle legs from octopus arms and head to work.

8:15 am Walk into work and am immediately tossed into the lion's den even though I spent all Friday, came in on Saturday and logged into the network on Monday to cover the day off. Go through email; try not to throw monitor across the room. Draft and delete several dozen responses as sarcasm is not appreciated by anyone in the building. Prep samples, lug samples to technical building in rain because to move the van is to lose the parking space. Carry on one-sided conversation in head as to how to rein in the idiots. Conclude it can't be done - they'll just build a better idiot.

9:45 am Drink coffee.

10:00 am Begin sample evaluations, run reports, hide from co-workers.  Repeat as needed til the end of the day.

5:00 pm Pick up preschooler, drive home, make dinner, clean up after dinner, help kindergartner with homework, give baths, brush teeth, read stories and put kids to bed.

8:30 pm Finish cleaning up kitchen, help husband clean up family room. Think about cleaning floors and bathrooms; collapse on couch instead.

Act Two - The Stay at Home Mommy

7:00 am Kids wake up and come in bedroom. Got a blissful 8 hours of sleep so no big deal. Change pull-up on preschooler, turn on TV, set kindergartner up with orange juice and goldfish, preschooler gets milk. Boot up laptop and log into work. Repeatedly get up from computer to find playhouses, refill milk glasses, repeat 'leave the cat alone' until insane. Break up fight number 1 of the day; threaten to not take them to fun place.

8:00 am Still attempting to work; preschooler wants breakfast. Fix it so he can eat and watch Imagination Movers at the same time. Remember to make coffee. Drink coffee. Continue trying to work. Break up fight number 2 of the day.

9:30 am Fix breakfast for kindergartner, go take shower. Have preschooler join me in the bathroom so give up and let him stay. Talk to him about showers. Get dressed and dress kids. We're going to go have some fun but first, a couple of errands. Surprisingly, no groans. Tear room apart looking for credit card - realize that it's expired and make mental note to find the new one...somewhere in the basement. Throw in load of laundry

10:15 am Load kids into van, run the necessary errands than off to fun stuff. Break up fight number 3 of the day. Wonder if fun place serves beer and if so, is it too early to order it.

11:15 am Arrive at Chuck E. Cheese and kids proceed to lose their ever-loving minds. A great time is had by all.

12:45 pm Bigger kids coming out so head home; stop for one more errand. Get drinks and change preschooler's pull-up for nap time. Log back onto network to monitor situation, kindergartner asks to play Legos. Play Legos. Remember laundry and put in dryer.

2:15 pm Kindergartner asks to watch TV, tell her not until 4. Whining commences. Suggest coloring/painting/reading/homework. Decides on homework. Asks if it's 4 o'clock yet. Have impromptu lesson in telling time. Pull out homework assignment. Asks if it's 4 o'clock yet. Finishes weekend homework, Monday's homework and Wednesday's homework. Asks if it's 4 o'clock yet. (It isn't) Stare at clock longingly, says, 'It's taking forever.' Tempted to agree.

4:00 pm Finally! Turn on TV for kindergartner, start prepping dinner. Realize that I have everything except for the seasoning pack. Decide to make do with beef stew seasoning. Hope no one notices. Wake up preschooler. Put another load of laundry on. Apply tattoos to kids.

5:15 pm Husband home. Clean up kitchen, reload dishwasher, put laundry in dryer. Finish making dinner.

6:30 pm Eat dinner, clean up kitchen, husband plays with kids. Bath time! Take out trash, brush teeth, read stories, put kids to bed.

8:30 pm Finish cleaning up kitchen, help husband clean up family room. Think about cleaning floors and bathrooms; collapse on couch instead.


Conclusion: There are no winners. It's all hard. Now, where's my wine?

Friday, September 14, 2012

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Fridays man. Last time I checked they were supposed to be happy and upbeat, everyone jazzed for the weekend. My kids apparently missed that memo and decided to be right little shits this morning. Noelle was tired. Her hands were weak. She didn't like computers as they were 'too hard'. She didn't want to wear short sleeves. She was tired. Her stomach hurt. All this before she even got out of bed. Once out of bed I handed her the clothes she had selected and told her to carry them into the other room to get dressed.

"No, Mommy. You carry them."

Um, no. These are your clothes child and you will carry them. Now. She grabbed the clothes and back rigid in protest, marched into my and Dyl's room to get dressed for the day. She turned to me with her 'I'm going to cry now' face and burst into tears. Oh godfuckingdammit. I so don't do drama yet apparently birthed the biggest drama queen ever to dramz.

We managed to get through the remainder of the dressing, eating breakfast, brushing teeth and getting out the door without further hysterics from either one. Until the time came to drop Noelle off at the before/after school care program at her school. (Note: we really don't have a choice in this. School doesn't start until 9:15; car riders cannot arrive before 8:55 and the bus for our neighborhood picks up at 8:35ish. Neither Dylan nor I can wait until the bus comes as our jobs simply don't allow us the luxury of rolling in that late plus Noah still has to be dropped off at preschool/daycare. Am I justifying? Yes. Moving on.) So because of the delays getting started, we didn't leave the house until 7:30.

Because of logistics, Noelle is dropped at her program first. Now, Noah is 3 and the idea of locking him in the van while I take Noelle to the program is pretty untenable so he comes along too. And he loves it. He wants so desperately to go to the big school that when informed no, you are going to your school come on, we're late, pretty much all hell breaks loose.

He went limp then when I picked him up, went straight as a board (aside: how do they know to do this?). When I readjusted my grip on him, he squirmed around until he was facing me and started hitting at me and spitting. I ignored the histrionics until the time came to put him back in the van. Then full-on shrieking, hitting and spitting: NO! NO! I FIVE! I FIVEEEEEEEEE!

Then it happened. I snapped. Not hard but enough that I actually slapped his face. He stopped, stunned then started right back up with the hitting and spitting at me. So I slapped his hand. Neither was hard but it was sharp. I finally got him buckled in and stone-faced marched back to the driver's door. He's screaming and kicking and flailing in the back seat, shouting at me when I turned and and lashed out myself, "I don't like you very much right now. I will always love you forever but right now, I don't particularly like you." And I hated myself the moment the words were out. For my words, for my hands. What did I do wrong? How did it get to that point? I'm the adult, I know better. How do I teach not to hit and spit when pushed to the breaking point, I do the same? And the words. Oh god, the words. Those are what will stay with a child forever. I should have condemned the behavior, not make it sound like I was condemning him.

All the way into daycare he repeated my words back at me: I don't like you Mommy. I don't love you so much anymore. All I could do was stare straight ahead and not respond, tears streaming down my face. In the parking lot I turned to him and told him that I was sorry for getting mad. I managed to stop myself before the almost inevitable '...but...' I told him that I should have said that I didn't like his behavior, not him (even though in the heat of the moment it was true) and that I love him always and forever. We hugged and cuddled and the rest of drop off went as normal but the guilt, the second-guessing, that will never go away.

Then I get to work, remember that we are down parking spaces due to renovations and visitors will be here to see the engineering marvel underway so managers had to park in another lot that was not well marked so I parked where I thought was correct and prayed that I didn't get towed. Another manager in the department commented on a rejection notice I had written the previous day and said, oh, this has a repack. Add the other inspection lot to this rejection. The time it took for him to do that he could have done it his own damn self. Oversized boxes and containers were waiting to go up to technical which I couldn't do because, hey, my car was on the plant lot and while putting on my sunglasses to walk what I could up the technical, they snapped in half.

I have never been so glad as to have a bottle of Mommy's Time Out waiting at home because I need it today. For multiple reasons.

I love you Doodlebug. Tomorrow will be better. I promise.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where I was when the world stopped turning

It began, as unspeakable tragedies are wont to do, like any other gloriously beautiful fall day. I was a graduate student in Food Science at the University of Maryland, College Park and working full time as a lab technician. That beautiful Tuesday was one of my long days, classes from 9:00 am to 12:15 pm then back to Baltimore to work until 8. For some reason, I felt compelled to bring my old Sony Walkman with me that day, learning perhaps that I needed a way to while away the time between classes. After my first class, we were gathered in the classroom waiting for our professor to reappear with the promised handouts that complemented the day's lesson. We waited...and waited...and waited.  We had just appointed someone to go find him when he appeared and in an apparent state of disbelief uttered the words that changed everything forever: "A plane just hit the World Trade Center."

Clamor arose and I dug furiously through my backpack for my Walkman and tried to remember the Washington area news radio station. CNN or WTOP, I don't remember now but finally picked up a tinny, static-filled transmission. I was relaying the updates to my classmates when the second tower was hit. Then the first tower fell. My feet wandered aimlessly around the campus, seeing young, laughing college students who had no idea what had happened. I ended up in front of a pay telephone; I had no cell phone and the only thing I could think was: Was my mother okay as by then the Pentagon had been hit and hysterical reports were surfacing regarding the FBI building. My mother worked in DC, my brother in law was an FBI analyst based at headquarters. My husband's aunt was also an FBI agent. My aunt had an office in the World Trade Center, the North tower I believe, or had at one point. When she flew to California for work, she would always take that United flight. Was she traveling this day or safe at the home office?

I dug out my calling card and somehow was able to connect with my father at home, before the circuits became too overloaded. All he could tell me was that my mom was fine and that she had been in contact with my aunt. Almost sobbing from relief, I called Dylan. Or I tried to. I don't remember now if I ever got through to him during the day that I was okay but I have to believe that I made contact. Not knowing how close the campus was to the points of attacks, not knowing if a university would have been a target. But we were fine. All of us. And I could breathe again.

News would leak out slowly across the campus and I watched, almost disassociated from myself, as the knowledge that this seeming tragedy was deliberate. I struggled with the decision but ultimately went to my next class where the students were buzzing and arguing if class should or would be cancelled. It wasn't and Biometrics went on as usual.

Crossing campus to my car and making the drive back up I-95 to Baltimore, I was struck by how eerily empty the highway was and watched the deceptively clear blue skies with trepidation. As I walked into the office, my friends essentially jumped me in their worry, knowing that I was in College Park, not knowing if anything had occurred there, hoping I was alive and unscathed. It hadn't even occurred to me to call the lab, to let them know.

That night at home, Dylan and I watched the coverage. I saw for the first time what I only heard described over the radio transmissions and it was ever worse than I could have imagined. I watched in silence, completely numb and empty inside, unanswerable questions ping-ponging around in my mind. How? How can anyone hold that much hatred to do that? What religion would ever advocate for such an action?

For me, these questions remain to this day. Though it's mostly associated with the holiday season, this seems to be just as fitting as we remember the tragedy of 9/11 and honor those who fell and those who helped as best they could: Peace on earth, goodwill towards men.

God bless us, every one.

Friday, September 7, 2012

I'm training my kids to hate Fridays

Poor Noah. He was unlucky enough to get caught in the vortex of Appointment Fridays. He was unlucky because he has a mother who schedules things like doctor and dentist visits as close to the actual birthday as possible or it might just not get done. (This is not called efficiency. This is called hedging your bets.) Two weeks ago (Friday), the day before his third birthday (pictures will come at some point as soon as someone sends me theirs. Mom.) he had his three year old check up where he actually kicked ass and it wasn't until after the check up when he was told he could not play with the doctor's knee-knocker thingy that he broke loose with an epic tantrum which included not only hitting and spitting but the fun new twist of running away and would not be placated by anything even though I loaded up the bag with snacks as it was so close to lunchtime but no, he was having none of that. God woman, JUST GIVE ME THE RUBBER KNEE KNOCKER THIS IS NOT COMPLICATED. (He was hungry. Very. Just...not for snacks. Lunch or bust baby.)

Because big boy is now three, it's high time (all right, all right, way past time) that he got his first dental cleaning/check up. Also on a Friday. And because I am obsessive about documenting every big moment except for the ones where we go to visit people because hello wine, I captured his preshusness for everyone to see and to embarrass him later. Let's see how things went, shall we?

I'm in the chair muthafuckers! (With special guest stars Buzz Lightyear and Mommy Mickey.

Hey Doc, whatchya got there? I am intrigued and unleash Blue Steel.

I...wait....whoa. Back the truck up. What in the name of pants is this?

I'm sorry, you are going to what? With what? And where pray tell?


You win this time Mother but vengeance will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.
I gave him this week off to forget so there's another whole week to dream up new ways to screw with him. Who said parenting can't be fun?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Are you ready kindergarten? Here comes Noelle!

She's been in school for 4 full days now:

No hesitation, no nerves, just an unswerving BRING IT attitude.

Confidence oozed from almost every inch of her.

With sprinkles leaking out everywhere else.

We are locked and loaded for action.

Yeah, we got this.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Old patterns die hard

Noelle started kindergarten at the local public school this year (yes, pictures are coming, I swear!) and last night was her back to school night. Dyl and I had attended every single back to school night and parent-teacher conference offered at her daycare-preschool because we are concerned and involved parents who really just wanted to hear (again) how awesome our daughter was (and she is. Awesome.) so we figured, 'ain't no thang', just roll on in and that will be that.  What neither of us suspected was that long buried insecurities would raise their heads upon treading those hallowed halls of glue sticks and crayons.

As I had been the one to take Noelle to her orientation(s), it made sense for me to attend seeing as I (theoretically) would have a better idea of where to go. After scarfing down my dinner of roasted garlic hummus with crackers (foreshadowing!) and shotgunning a Pepsi, into the elementary school I strolled. Fortunately I did remember to change out of my work-clothes as khakis and a name-emblazoned polo shirt would just be too much fierceness for the community to handle. What I didn't allow time for was a shower because of course yesterday I would have been around the worst-smelling products that we could use. (Always. ALWAYS when I have to be around people.) Think sour roasted coffee deep fried with extra garlic (dun dun DUN) in an unconditioned school gym packed with people and an evening temperature of the balmy 85 degree variety and I cannot imagine why the other parents gave me such a wide berth. Which is to say that I was very much alone.

I can smell myself at the end of a particularly stankariffic day so I just assume that others can too. Maybe not but that thought was what I clung to as I perched on my seat, watching the other parents locate friends and neighbors from previous years. As the sea of jocularity and familiarity swirled around me, I felt so very very isolated but in a way, I do it to myself. I didn't make eye contact but continuously swept the crowd with my eyes, not looking for anyone or anything but to be aware. I busied myself reading the agenda and the other papers I picked up, looking busy, hoping no one smelled me and bellowed into the gym, 'My GAWD, what is that SMELL?!' (It's me by the way. Hey, you wanna be friends?) No one did because I have the ability to become pretty much invisible and when I am noticed, I'd rather it be for my wit and general awesomeness and not for my gift of making a landfill envious.

So there it was, the dichotomy: I'm not at my best, so please, no one take notice juxtaposed with the wanting of someone, anyone to make contact in a sea of strangers. I was being ridiculous of course; my child is in kindergarten and doesn't really interact with any of the neighborhood kids as her preschool/daycare was across the county. Relationships aren't built overnight, it takes time. I know that. I also know that it wasn't about me; that it won't be about me again but about her. And helping her achieve her best not only in school but also socially so I swallowed my fear and insecurities and...volunteered. To join the PTA, to help with her class, anything to help ease her transition into this bright, scary, wonderful new world.

Huh. Well, what do you know? Those old habits may not have died but sure are on the ropes. I think that we'll do okay at this school thing Noelle; you and me both.