Tag Archive | children

Spot the Creepy

My husband gently rouses me from sleep – although at 3:30 in the morning, no rousing is gentle.  At this hour,  even the birds look at you like you’re nuts for being awake.  Our bedroom is still black as pitch, and there isn’t a sound to be heard, aside from my own early morning expletives and complaints of inhumane wake-up calls.  My husband, probably anticipating my foul mood, has a mug of hot tea at the ready.  Smart guy…. I knew there was a reason I married him.

I have always been a night owl.  I sleepwalk through most mornings, functioning just enough to get my kids ready for school, and not crash my car into a tree getting them there.  Many morning people have tried to convert me, all with no success.  Here’s how the conversation usually goes between me and a typical early bird:

Annoying morning person:  I love early morning!  The entire neighborhood is still asleep and the only sound you hear is the birds singing.  It’s so peaceful!  *Sigh*

Me:  You know another time of day when the neighborhood is peaceful?  Eleven o’clock at night.  And what’s so great about birds?  All they do is crap on my car and repeat the same two notes over, and over again.  You call that singing?  If Beyonce did that, she’d be out of a job.

Annoying morning person:  But what about sunrises?   Sunrises are SOOOO beautiful!!

Me:  Yeah, I know.  I see them all the time in the cheesy chick flicks I watch at night.  *Exaggerated sigh*

Annoying morning person:  (With growing agitation) You don’t know what you’re missing out on.

Me: Well I know what I’m not missing out on – three extra hours of sleep.

That’s usually where the conversation ends.

But on this particular morning, I’ve got to set aside my natural night owl tendencies and rise with the damn birds.  We are on our way down to South Carolina to visit my in-laws – a twelve hour drive we try to make twice a year.

I chug my mug of tea in the hopes that the surge of caffeine will prevent me from crawling back underneath the covers.  But the caffeine barely makes a dent in my feeling of exhaustion, and the heated liquid is having an unexpected soporific effect on me, like I just drank warm milk.  My husband’s urging to get my butt in gear is ultimately what gets me moving – he wants to get on the road before rush hour traffic has the chance to clog up our only means of escape off Long Island.

I go into the bathroom and attempt to put in my contacts, but my eyes practically recoil to the back of my skull.  So, I decide to put it off until we are ready to leave the house (apparently my eyes need even more time to wake up than the rest of me).  Instead, I get dressed and pack the few remaining items that didn’t make it into the car the night before.

Around four o’clock, I wake up both my kids with kisses and apologies, and I promise them that they only need to stay awake long enough to go to the bathroom and crawl into the car.  Within an hour or so, we are all packed into the car, in various stages of alertness.  My seven-year old son, Aidan, the only natural morning person in the family, doesn’t seem to be too effected by the loss of sleep.  He is peering out the car windows, observing the world around him that is still cloaked in darkness.

We stop off at 7-11 for my second cup of tea.  Despite the fact that this will make me have to stop for a pee break much sooner than my husband would like, I don’t see how it can be helped because without more tea, I’ll be comatose before we reach New Jersey.  As I fill up the biggest paper cup I can get my hands on, I notice that I’m surrounded by a bunch of burly guys –  blue collar men that have more callouses on their hands than fingers.  I suddenly feel pathetically girlie making tea alongside these guys as they fill their thermoses with coffee.

Our second stop is a gas station so we can fill the tank before beginning our 750 mile trek down south.  I’m surprised to see the gas station buzzing with customers – I had no idea so many people were conscious at this ungodly hour of the morning.  Again I notice the abundance of scruffy, blue collar workers that surround us, all clad in their stained sweatshirts, jeans, and construction boots.  Most of the guys look as though a shower and shave isn’t a part of their morning routine.

As my husband pumps the gas, Aidan blurts out, “Mommy, why does everyone look so CREEPY?”

A surprised laugh escapes my mouth, and I realize he’s been people watching too.  I look over at the guy pumping gas next to us, the one  I’m guessing prompted Aidan’s non-politically correct question – he looks like Santa Claus’s much less jolly alter ego.  I start to pay closer attention to all the other patrons, and I suddenly I feel like I’ve slipped into the pages of a Stephen King novel.  Aidan’s right – these guys are creepy.

Most of them looked like this guy.... only creepier.

Part of me felt bad for poking fun at hard-working guys who have to rise with the sun, and bust their ass all day to earn a living.  But the other part of me, (the part that could never run for political office), finds it funny when someone has the guts to say out loud what everyone else is thinking.  And when you catch me off guard the way Aidan did, I can do little to mask my amusement.

I already told you I barely function before noon – did you really expect me to be a good parent at five o’clock in the morning??  But don’t worry, I made a mental note to give the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ speech later on… once we stopped laughing.

By the time my husband, Kevin, got back in the car, my daughter (Meghan), Aidan, and I were still giggling.  Just so Kevin didn’t think we had slipped into some sort of exhaustion-fueled delirium, we filled him in on the details of Aidan’s new game –  officially named spot the creepy.

As we got back on the road, Aidan continued pointing out the window at the creepy looking drivers around us and exclaiming, “There’s another one!  Mommy, look at THAT guy!”, which was often met by another round of giggles from everyone in the car.

But along with the sunrise (which I have to say, was entirely overrated) came an infusion of clean-shaven guys in neck ties and smartly dressed women with up-dos, making the population appear decidedly less creepy.  It seemed our game was at an end…. at least until our return trip back home.

I Got Screwed By An Alien Named Paul

Before starting this blog, I made myself a promise that my material was going to be honest and uncensored.  I was going to use my little corner of cyberspace to creatively express myself without fear of reproach…. which was easy, until I did something worth reproaching – then I had to sit back and decide if I had the courage to follow through with the promise I had made to myself.

As it turns out, I do….

The school week ended and we were heading into the start of winter recess – ten glorious days of alarm clock free fun, where the only thing dictating the upcoming week’s schedule was our own whims and desires.  A mere two days into the break it became clear that this wasn’t going to be the flight of fancy we had hoped for.

My seven-year-old son, Aidan, got sick.  And in true Aidan style, he can’t just get a crappy cold; he’s got to contract something that adds a few more grey hairs to my head, and makes the worry lines on my forehead look positively cavernous.  He’s given me three or four really good medical scares, but always manages to bounce back right before I start looking like Betty White.

This time he was laid out with a 104-degree fever for four days.  And it wasn’t the fact that his body temperature was hot enough to keep a Jacuzzi bubbling that alarmed me, it was his lethargy.  When he contracted mono last year, he was running around the house like he had secretly paid off the doctor to write him a bogus sick note, just to get out of going to school.

But this time he lay on the couch like a warm sack of oatmeal – uninterested in eating, playing, or anything else that required him to sit vertically.  The only time I saw him stand up was when he needed to venture into the bathroom to set off a stunning display of stomach pyrotechnics.  I thought it was impossible to throw up when you stopped eating…. apparently I was wrong.

He existed on one yogurt a day, and wouldn’t drink anything besides water.  By the third day I had turned into my Italian grandmother, pacing the floor and perpetually asking him if he was hungry (seconds away from shouting, “Mangia!  Mangia!”)  The boy only weighs forty-eight pounds – I was panicked that he would disappear entirely by the week’s end.

But on day five he turned a corner, and was starting to look a bit more like himself.  His energy levels still weren’t up to par, so rather than trying to venture out, I thought it was a better idea to have a movie night in with the family.  I recorded the movie “Paul” – all I remembered about it (from the commercials) was the goofy-looking little alien; I thought the kids would get a kick out of him.  Boy was I right…. and very, very wrong.

The movie’s main characters, Clive and Graham, are two British sci-fi geeks with a serious passion for everything extraterrestrial.  They rented an RV so they could tour all the famous UFO hotspots in America, including Area 51.  While en route, they witness a horrendous car accident, pull off to the side of the road, and end up coming face-to-face with the driver of the wrecked vehicle:  Paul (the alien).

My first clue that this wasn’t a children’s movie was when Paul lights a cigarette – okay so maybe he’s not the best role model, but I naively thought that it might lead to Clive and Graham educating him about the dangers of smoking.  Didn’t happen.  In fact, smoking would turn out to be Paul’s least offensive habit.

The real problem began when Paul hitched a ride in their RV (since he had just totaled his car) and began a conversation with Graham, who was astounded to finally be meeting up with the real life version of something he had only seen in the pages of his comic books.  The conversation went like this:

Paul:  “Doesn’t this thing go any faster?”

Graham:  “I’m sorry, the speed limit is seventy.”

Paul:  “Screw the speed limit. Actually, don’t screw it.  Yeah, that’s good thinking.  Stay inconspicuous.”

Graham:  “How come I can understand you?  Are you using some kind of neural language router?”

Paul:  “Actually, I’m speaking English, you fucking idiot.”

OH SHIT.

Both of my kids erupted into nearly uncontrollable laughter, so loud that they practically drowned out the next thirty seconds of movie dialog.  If I wasn’t so horrified, I probably would have laughed too – pretty funny to see a little green alien drop the f-bomb.  But how could a kid’s movie get away with have cursing in it?  My brain was blatantly refusing to connect the dots.  I immediately jumped on the Internet and googled “Paul” – the first hit dispelled my confusion.  I could practically hear Paul’s voice in my head, “Of course the movie is rated R, you fucking idiot.”

Ever the proponent of parental denial, I reasoned that one curse word wasn’t going to scar my children for life – hell, they had heard worse than that from me when I’m behind the wheel of my car.  So I snuggled back down with Aidan on the couch, and kept my fingers crossed that Paul wouldn’t do anything else I’d regret.

As the movie wore on, it became clear that the alien I expected to be like E.T.’s comical little brother, ended up being more like E.T.’s perverted uncle.  And yet I couldn’t bring myself to stop the movie.  Because this foul-mouthed alien had done something the Motrin couldn’t do – he brought Aidan back to life.  When I heard Aidan’s contagious giggles for the first time in a week, I actually breathed a sigh of relief.  I knew letting him watch this movie was wrong, but at that moment, it felt oddly right.

My only solace was that most of the crude humor and sexual innuendos flew so far over his head that the joke was long gone before he even had the chance to question it.  When Paul lit a joint (one more thing to flog myself for later), I looked over at my husband to see if he was struggling as hard as I was not to laugh out loud.  His smile and silent laughter assured me he was.  Both of us instinctively knew that one audible laugh out of either of us would prompt our kids to beg for an explanation we weren’t willing to give.

But even though Paul seemed to embody everything a parent tries to caution their child against, he also had a lot of redeeming qualities.  And despite my better judgment (which was pretty much shot to hell by this point anyway), I found the little green bastard endearing.

There was no tearful E.T. moment when Paul’s spaceship finally arrives to take him back home, but there was a surprising level of sentimentality.  Although, hearing E.T. say, “I’ll be right here” as he points to Elliot’s head definitely tugged at the heartstrings more than hearing Paul tell Clive and Graham, “Safe to say we’ve all learned something from this – be yourself, speak from your heart, some shit like that.”

Know what else I learned, Paul?  I learned to pay a hell of a lot more attention to the movie rating.

Assuming your childhood innocence is already lost, press play and catch a glimpse of my parental FAIL.

There Are French Fries in My Purse

There are concessions every parent must make when they decide to have a child:

You may begin the day with a clean shirt, but you won’t end it with one.  Your child views your shirt as a tissue, a napkin, a burp-cloth, or (on a really bad day) a roll of toilet paper.  I’d like to think that kids under the age of three are just trying to be eco-friendly and save some trees.  But I think the real reason is more a matter of convenience – mom is usually within wiping distance.

A full night’s sleep becomes a rare luxury.  During your child’s first couple years of life, you get into your bed every night with the knowledge that you won’t be staying there for long.  And in your bleary-eyed state of perpetual exhaustion, you begin to doubt that you will ever sleep through the night again.   Your days of previously uninterrupted sleep will take on an almost mythical quality when you look back on them – surely you must have hallucinated the whole thing.

You will pack bags for an afternoon outing the way you used to pack for a two-week vacation.  As a parent, you feel compelled to be prepared for every need or possible scenario that may crop up in the span of a couple of hours.  Should a natural disaster occur while you’re at the grocery store, you’ll be ready.  Your diaper bag becomes your child’s bathroom, bedroom, playroom, and kitchen all rolled into one.  A new mother may not remember to shower or brush her hair in the morning, but she will have twelve changes of clothes for her baby on hand at any given moment.

Barring furniture, nothing in your house will ever be where it’s supposed to be.  “How did that get there?” will become your new mantra.  Cleaning your house is redefined – it used to mean dusting and vacuuming, now it just means that you managed to successfully return all of the items in your house back to their original locations before the kids had the chance to mess it up again.  The victory will usually be short lived – only a few precious hours of détente before you’re once again tripping over couch cushions and coats.  It’s like living with a pack of mischievous leprechauns and everyday is St. Patrick’s Day.

Now to be fair, and to ensure that I don’t strike fear into the heart of future procreators everywhere, I will say that having a baby may change everything, but it doesn’t change everything forever.  I don’t care what the Johnson & Johnson commercials try to tell you.  You will gain back several pre-parenthood perks….

By the time your youngest child enters pre-school, your clothes will no longer be treated as though they were made by the Kleenex Corporation.  Your child will realize there is something even more convenient for wiping than your shirt – their shirt.  Hey, it’s a step in the right direction.  Every booger stain on their sleeve is one less on yours.

You will once again enjoy the immense pleasure of an uninterrupted night’s sleep.  The first time it happens, you wake with a start because something doesn’t feel right – actually, something feels too right.  You’re well rested!!  Fear grips your heart because you know there is no way the scream machine that has kept you up for the past three months has allowed you to sleep for eight solid hours without needing to ingest or excrete anything.  Assuming the worst, you run to the crib to make sure the kid is still breathing.  And as you watch them peacefully slumber, you’re torn between feelings of overwhelming relief and wanting to kill them for scaring the crap out of you.

When you’re child no longer needs bottles or diapers, you will be able to leave the luggage home during short afternoon excursions.  The first few trips you make without a fully stocked diaper bag may feel a bit unnerving.  You were the Inspector Gadget of the parent world, and without your go-go-gadget-diaper-bag, how will you cope?  I promise you’ll be just fine.  And there are bonuses:  you no longer have to shoulder the fifty-pound bag responsible for many a trip to the chiropractor’s office, and you will feel as weightless as an astronaut on the moon.  Unfortunately, once your body adjusts to its new unencumbered existence, this feeling will subside.   But for a few days you will be able to walk around shouting, “Screw you, Jenny Craig!  I just lost fifty pounds in thirty seconds!!!”

But be warned neat-freaks, unless you plan on following behind your children with a shovel the way they do elephants at a circus, your house will always have shit on the floor.  And you will also find normal household items in totally abnormal locations.  The other day, I found a pair of dice wedged in the door handle of my refrigerator – I can’t even begin to surmise how they got there.  Was one of my kids in the middle of a yahtzee roll when they suddenly decided to get a drink of milk?  I’d also love to know why my TV remote has to make a weekly pilgrimage to the bathroom.  Or why my daughter has to store all of her personal items and electronics inside the couch cushions instead of using the $50 purse I bought her.  These are all questions only the leprechauns can answer.

I try to be a responsible parent and make my children clean up after themselves.  I want to show them that the magical house cleaning fairies of their babyhood no longer exist, and if they make a mess before they go to sleep at night, it will still be there in the morning when they wake up.  Maybe if I keep demonstrating how much cleaning sucks, they will eventually learn to put stuff back where it belongs when they’re done with it – I can dream, cant I?  But after the 4,000th time through my “if you would just pick up after yourself, you would never have to clean again!” speech, I must admit that I’m starting to lose hope.

The way I see it, there are only two ways to get the clutter under control:  I strip them of all their worldly possessions and make them live like Buddhist monks.  Or I kick them out of the house and change all the locks.  Given their options, I think they would both rather risk life on the streets than surrender their cellphone or iPod.  But their ability to speed text and play angry birds is hardly a defense against all the druggies and child molesters out there waiting to prey on them.  And I love them too much to leave them totally helpless on the mean streets of New York. So I discovered there’s an app for that –  iFightBack!  I will sleep much better at night knowing that they will know how to defend themselves in case of an elevator jacking or trouble with crack heads….

The Birth of a Blog

I’m not starting this blog because of a New Year’s resolution, which is good because most of mine don’t live much past the month of January.  And it’s not the product of some epic brainchild or epiphany – years of being a stay-at-home mom have dulled my ambition to ponder ideas too grandiose in nature.  In fact, after thirteen years of parenting, my only dream of grandeur is finding a single moment of blissful silence where I don’t have to listen to my children fighting or hear myself repeating the same phrases over and over again like a demented parrot.

This blog is strictly a means of quieting the voices in my head, or at the very least pacifying them.  Not the kind of voices that will get you put on medication or committed to an insane asylum, but the kind that just won’t shut the hell up about life’s little observations, experiences, or pet peeves.  Every time something happens that evokes an emotional reaction, good or bad, my brain begins to mentally write lines of descriptive prose as if that one thought will be the start of the great American novel.  Often times, whatever kicked my brain into typewriter mode will wear itself out in a paragraph or two, and since there’s no such thing as the great American paragraph, my thoughts have often gone unwritten….until now.

After making two separate attempts to write a novel, I realized a couple things about myself.  First, I have the attention span of a squirrel.  So, anything that can’t be accomplished within an afternoon will often be put on my future ‘to do’ list… which is where most of my good ideas and intentions go to die.  Secondly, I have commitment issues.  I can stay married to the same man for over fifteen years, but apparently I can’t stick with the same idea for more than a month.  How can my heart be so devoted and my brain be such a slut?   It wants to jump around from idea to idea like it’s residing in the mental equivalent of the red light district. Thank God there’s no such thing as MTDs (mentally transmitted diseases), otherwise my brain would be a veritable Petri dish of infections.  Perhaps I took that metaphor one step too far….

So, what can you expect to find in my future blog entries?  Little snippets and observations that will hopefully entertain you for the ten to fifteen minutes it takes to read it… if you can’t devote that kind of time to me, I understand, my fellow squirrel.  But if you can, I will make you a couple of promises:

I will not use this blog as a forum to ramble on about my entire life story, mostly because of the aforementioned commitment issues, but also because it would potentially bore you into a coma (and coma patients don’t make for a solid foundation on which to build a successful blog).  Besides, my life simply isn’t tragic or inspirational enough to write about in its entirety.  Readers either want to hear life stories about how some poor girl spent her entire childhood forced to live inside a shoebox or about how the lower half of some guy’s body was eaten away by piranhas, but (after a short stint in physical therapy) he managed to run the New York City marathon.  Train wrecks or triumphs, right?  The same compulsion that makes us want to read those kinds of stories is the same one that makes us rubberneck at roadside accidents and cheer on the sidelines for the athletic underdogs.  It’s an inexplicable part of the human condition – we love drama.  We feast on it… kind of like the piranha on the lower half of that guy’s body.  But I stopped being a drama queen sometime after high school, and without the fuel of hormone-induced rage that my tumultuous teen years provided, I seem to have lost my flair for the dramatic.  So, I’ll save the drama for the pros, like Oprah and the Kardashians.

The other promise I will make you is that I won’t preach about religion or politics – not because I don’t care about those issues… well, yeah actually it is because I don’t care….but more because I don’t presume to hold enough influence to sway anyone on those issues one way or the other.  Either you believe the same things I do, or you’re wrong, no further discussion necessary.

So, sit down with me before you have to fight the road-ragers during your morning commute, or in that moment you’re debating whether or not to strangle one of your kids, and I’ll see if I can talk you out of committing homicide.  Because that’s what I’m all about here at Get Write Down To It –  saving lives, one blog entry at a time.