I’m a little confused

My Mom: Do you remember me working when you were a kid?

Me: Yeah.  Even when you weren’t, you were always involved with the school.  You were always at school.  Doing things for teachers.  Running the parent association thingy.  Doing stuff for volleyball or softball or Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts.  You worked a lot.

My Mom: No.  Do you remember when I went back to work?

Me: Yeah.  I’m just saying that even when you weren’t working, you were still working.

My Mom: Fae, do you remember when I went back to work? 

Um, am I missing something here?

Me: Yes, Mom.  I remember when you went back to work.  You worked part-time for Sears catalogue.  Our carpool family sucked because they were always late.  The boys and I would fold laundry Tuesday afternoons.  (I went to a school that had half-days every Tuesday for the purpose of parents getting all appointments out-of-the-way.)  And Dad had to cook more, or we ate more frozen foods.  And I went shopping with you when you were buying a work wardrobe.  Before that you were going to school.  After that you did medical billing at home.  After that you got the job at Dr. B—‘s doing his medical billing.  So, yes, I remember you working.

My Mom: I was just wondering.  You were in fifth grade.  I didn’t go back until The Friendly Giant was in first.

So you mean most of my childhood was filled with you not working.  Which is what I said before.  Which was the path I planned to follow, you know, before I had to become a single mom.  Which proves that most mothers fluctuate between working and staying at home.  And what was the point of all this?

Me: So, if I was in fifth grade, then that would mean most of my young childhood, you were a stay-at-home mom?

My Mom: Yes, Fae.  But I went back to school when you were in second grade, and I was always doing something at the school. 

AH!  What was this whole conversation for?!

What are we talking about?

Mothers.  Damnit.

My First Black Friday

The day after my first Thanksgiving, my dad had off, which was truly amazing for a cop.  My mom had to work, which was much of the case for my first year.  They were able to fix their schedules so that someone would be home with me, and I didn’t need a sitter until after my first birthday.

Like any good husband, my dad decided to take advantage of the sales and start the Christmas shopping for my mom.  Besides this got him and his baby daughter out of the house.  Plus, plus, right?

Except Black Friday was always a mad house, always is a mad house, and always will be a mad house, for ever and ever.  Amen.

As my dad tried to push his way through the crowds at the mall with a baby stroller, my nearly-five-month-old self waved my fist in front of me trying to clear a path.  Because even then I didn’t like crowds.

Tonight at dinner, my dad will retell the story for everyone, imitating a baby waving her fist in front of her as everyone laughs at the antics.  Which is fine.  Because my dad, mom, grandma did not even think to invite me to their crazy, chaotic shopping trip at 4. In the morning.  And I thank them.  Because if there is one thing I hate more than crowds, it’s mornings.

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Project Womb: The Hope for Pink Booties

I would like to jinx myself in a public forum.  I’m announcing we’re going to go for another baby because I’ve just got this burning, crazy desire, and we’re hoping it’ll be a girl.  It’s not like I wouldn’t absolutely love another boy, but it would be awfully nice to have a girl in the mix.  With every added penis to the household, I become more girly to contradict the incoming waves of testosterone.  Soon I won’t be able to open a jelly jar.  This is all the research I’ve been doing to try and up the chances of a baby girl.

 

First we’ve ruled out help from science.  It just doesn’t sit right with me.  It’s like I’m pushing us towards Gattaca.  And that ain’t right.

I’ve also ruled out the Chinese birth calendar.  It worked for Evan.  It did not work for Sean.

I’m ruling out times for conceiving in the month.  One, it’s pretty complicated, mathy stuff, and I just don’t do mathy.  I also don’t count very well.  Actually I was sure I couldn’t conceive when we happened to make Sean.  Oops.  We were just beginning to talk about it.  I’m one of those you-know-we-should-have-a-oops-I’m-pregnant kind of girls.  I probably won’t have time to synchronize our watches, much less our calendars.

 

This leaves me with the most interesting of advice.

I’m changing my diet in hopes to make my womb less hospitable for Y sperm.  I’m to eat lots of diary (check), vegetables (check), fish (does sushi or fried count?), and a piece of chocolate (check, check, and check).  I’m to stay away from caffeine.  Yeah, I laughed too since I need that caffeine.  (What am I going to do when that test becomes positive.)  Supposedly this will make my womb more acidic, killing off the weaker but faster Y sperm.  Fun fact: Did you know women actually produce a type of spermicide?

We’re changing positions.  The advice for girls suggests missionary or woman-on-top positions in hopes that the Y sperm will tire out before the egg as the X sperm go for the gold as long distance swimmers.  Since I know for a fact that Evan and Sean were conceived missionary, we’ll have to go for the other one.

There’s also talk about the time of day having an effect, which I find laughable, but heck, I’ll try it.  Since I know what time of day the boys were conceived, I wonder if my parents will watch them for an afternoon or two every month.

My favorite: When making love, keep a frying pan under the bed.  It’s an old wives tale, but I won’t rule out anything.

The husband’s favorite: They suggest that when trying to conceive a girl to have the woman not orgasm.  The husband’s first reaction was for my well-being, which is touching, but since I’m willing to sleep with a frying pan under my bed, I think I can go without a few Os for the sake of a girl.  He was still chuckling for a day or two when I pointed out how many people we know who have daughters.  A whole round of laughter commenced for another few days.  When I mentioned it to my mom, she pointed out that she had a girl first, which showed my father’s improvement.  Then I tried to scrub my brain clean of that conversation.  That obviously did not work.

Now that you know too much about my sex life, you can laugh with me when that sonogram shows a little penis.

Don’t worry.  I can handle three boys.  It’s four that I can’t handle.

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Mom

I got a lot from my mother, but it was always tempered with a bit of my father.  I got her tactlessness, but I got my father’s storytelling to soothe over ruffled feathers.  I got her sense of humor, but I got my father’s as well.  I got her need for acceptance and a social circle, but I got my father’s independent lone wolf style.  I got her body type with long legs and hour-glass shape, but I got my slightly larger bone structure, my smile, my cheeks, my nose from my father.  I got my mom’s blonde hair, but I grew into my father’s curls.  I began with my father’s impatience with books, but I grew into my mom’s love for reading.  I had just enough of my mother to have us butt heads, and just enough of my father that she never understood where I was coming from.  We had turbulent times.

I grew up with the story of how much I looked like my father hanging over my head.  When my father’s dad beheld me for the first time, he looked over at my mother and jokingly asked, “Did you have anything to do with this?”  Learning to live with the sense of humor that made my father’s family notorious in two states, my mom answered, “I don’t know.  I had her c-section.  It could be his mistress’s down the hall.”  And I grew up leaning towards my father because I understood him.

In college, where people met me before my parents, they always would tell me how much I looked like my mother.  I was slowly getting rid of the childish resentment of how “cool” my mom was and how all my friends “loved” her.  People in college would say, “Wow.  You look just like your mom.  She’s so cool.  That’s where you get it.”  While I started liking her, I was shocked to here her say, “We’re friends now.”  I gave her a look of disbelief as she still gave me chores, a curfew, and her nagging.  She looked at my face, and said, “Well, maybe not just yet.”

Then I grew up some more.  I broke my heart; I fell in love again; I graduated; I faced the realities of life; and then I got pregnant.  I started calling two or three times a week.  Then when Tornado E was born, she stayed with me for three weeks, calming me when I couldn’t bring him home right away, holding me when I cried my baby blues, helping me with the new baby I was so terrified to ruin.  I remember crying as my parents drove away, leaving me with a three-week baby, crying like I cried when they drove away leaving me alone at college for the first time.

My mom confided in me a story that she hadn’t told anyone, when I was pregnant with Tornado E, believing I would have a little girl like my mother who willed a daughter over the protest that the eldest boy always had a son first in my father’s family.

The night of my birth, my mom held me, all alone as my dad had gone in search of food.  She looked down at the baby girl she had dreamed of for so many months, so many months before with the trying that seemed to take forever.  She started to cry.  As my mom sobbed, her heart was torn, forcing her thoughts out of her mouth.  “She’s going to hate me one day.”

No, Mom.  I never hated you, even when I was an angry, hurt teenager.  But I’m glad that we are finally friends.

Even though that means I know a little too much about Dad and your . . . um, personal life.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful moms!

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In the eye of the beholder

When I was a young kid, we went grocery shopping as a family, so that my dad could manage the kids, allowing my mom to accomplish grocery shopping under an hour.  As the eldest, it was my job to try to turn the cart over, demand sugary cereals, and completely ignore my baby brother as he was cursed to be born a boy.  My brothers helped me in my endeavors.  My dad’s main job was to keep us occupied as my mom checked out so that she didn’t have to say, “Don’t touch the candy, don’t touch the candy, don’t touch the candy, no candy, no, no, no.”

 

My dad would take us over to the magazines, pull one out with Bo Derek, Farah Fawcet, or some other starlet on the cover and ask us who it was.  The response was always the same.  “MOMMY!”  When my dad relates the story to others, he always adds that when he would pick up a picture of Tom Selleck, we would yell “Tom Selleck.”  Not quite true, but it makes a great story.

 

***

 

The other day the boys and I were outside playing in my parents’ backyard with my dad, the beloved Papi, when my dad went into his tool room to fix something.  Like little puppies, my boys followed their Papi into a room they aren’t allowed to go in, and I followed to keep them in line. 

On the walls of the tool room are a couple of girly calendars that my brothers and I love to give my dad to annoy my mom and tease my dad over his little “hobby” of taking pictures of women in bikinis when he’s at the beach.  He does this to annoy my mom and exasperate the other women in his life, especially my friends.  (Trust me; it’s his way of having fun and training to be a dirty old man, chasing nurses one day in the old folks’ home.)  One of these calendars is a “The Girls Next Door” calendar as my family rarely missed an episode, especially my brothers and my dad. 

Evan took one look at the picture of Bridget and announced with glee, “GRANDMA!”

Sometimes the apple falls too close to the tree.

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And the walls came down

She’s doing it again.

 

“You want to fold it like this.  If you hold it like this, it’ll go more smoothly.”

 

I CAN DO THIS.  I can do this WITHOUT your help.  WITHOUT your judging.  WITHOUT your criticisms.

 

And I remember. . . .

—–

 

She’s judging me again.  I can never remember seven times eight.  T always does, and he’s younger.  Now she’ll see I’m crying because I can’t remember and we went over this a hundred times.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.

 

—–

 

I know this.  I know this.  I know this.  C-O-N-S-I- That’s not right!  I can see it in her face.  I misspelled it AGAIN.  Why am I so stupid?  I’m tired.  I want to go to bed.  I don’t want to stand here and spell out the words AGAIN.  Stupid tears.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.

 

—–

 

Damnit.  Why does she have to judge me?  I did it right.  Sort of.  Why can’t she just let me do it my way?  I just want to finish it.  Stupid badge.  If she wasn’t the leader, it wouldn’t matter if it was perfect or not.  I’m listening.  Can’t you tell?  I thought I did it right.  I did it the way she told me to.  Don’t cry.  Don’t you dare cry.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.

 

—–

 

I’m trying!  I can’t get this.  I don’t care how I got the right answer.  I got it.  Stupid math.  I’m not like her.  I’m not good at math.  I’m not going to work during the school year like you.  I’ve got too much to do.  No, I don’t get it.  No, I don’t want to go to school early AGAIN because I need help.  Why do you care any way?  It’s late.  I’m tired.  I don’t get it.  It’s stupid.  Now, I need to wipe my eyes.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.

 

—–

 

I KNOW!!!  I went yesterday and today!  I don’t know why I can’t get a job!  There are no more openings. Why are you so mad?  I’m trying! I failed!  I know I did.  I know I can’t stay in school if I don’t get a job.  Yes.  I mean no I don’t want to come home.  Don’t you realize yet, woman, that I miss you and you’re wasting our twenty minutes yelling at me.  Yes, I called them twice.  I don’t know why I call.  I don’t know why I have to cry every time we talk.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.

 

—–

 

Before I got defensive, before I raised my walls, before I stopped listening, I noticed how my mom held the blanket I was trying to hem.  I listened to her voice.  I really listened and realized she wasn’t judging or criticizing.  She was trying to show me the best way.  I’m not a kid any more, so I swallowed my pride and laughed at my mistake.

 

“Thanks, Mom.  I think I got it now.”

 

 

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God’s Story

GODDAMNIT!

 

Said my husband when he noticed the stain on the white shirt he was ironing so he could wear it for work.  It was said in front of the boys, and I held my breath because if Evan remembered that phrase, I was getting my mouth washed out with soap this Christmas . . . again.  My father (as he is not my dad when he disciplines) hates that phrase, and the last time I said it in front of him, at eighteen, fresh from my first semester away at college,  I was astonished as I was marched into the bathroom and told to open my mouth.  Now I know for sure my father would not hesitate to wash out my mouth again.  If it had happened three months ago, my father would be right to do so but not when I’ve been so good.

 

But God was merciful.

 

Evan: Daddy!  God means church!  God means we’re going to church!  God wants us to be quiet in church!  If we’re quiet in church, we go out to eat breakfast!  Then we go home!  The end!  That was a good story, Daddy!

 

I think we better go to church this Sunday to thank God.

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Look, Do You Want a Happy God or a Vengeful God?

My mom believes in a vengefully happy God.  We would call it karma.

 

God was able to peer into our souls over the pettiest of things and bring about justice.  He would reward good behavior with a surprised treat and punish us with some hurt or twist of bad luck.  Lost items that were placed on the dresser in a messy room; cookies magically appearing from a bake sale when we actually had finished our homework and didn’t manage to fight.  Really, it was like living with classic fae or brownies, magical helpers in a clean houses and vengeful sprites in a messy houses.

 

God punished us if my mom didn’t get to us first.  It never failed that when someone got out of the fighting punishment because someone said “s/he started it” ( a cue that means Mom is going to lecture you about not fighting and turning the other check) the person sneaking off would run smack into a door, a wall, a coffee table.  My mom would turn and say “God just got you back.”  A tickling fight gone too far could leave someone with a sprained finger.  A lie would be found out in the most innocent and ridiculous circumstances.  A taunt could skin a knee.  My brother ditched school to go play in the snow with friends and was returning with plenty of time and no one being wiser when his truck skid on a patch of ice, denting it and totaling the car in front of him, another high school ditcher.  The one time I ditched in college, the professor surprised the class with a movie and popcorn.  Damnit.

 

Of course, God also rewarded us.  As a child I happily gave my quarter to the church, going to mass with my family and church with my Dad; then one day I found a five dollar bill in the church parking lot, which at six must have meant that God was rewarding me.  My mom often told my brothers that it was a reward for going to church without complaining.  The child who decided to go keep my parents company on an errand would return home with some random freebee give away from a store.  On days when my brothers were especially sweet, they would unwrap their baseball cards and receive the players they were hoping for.  It seemed magical.

 

But my childhood was dominated with the phrase “God just got you back.”  Not that I believed my teenage acne was a plague from God because I refused to give my brother and his friends a ride to the movies or that my brother’s finger got crushed in the door closed by the very hand of God right after coming in my room and taking my doll.  It was more of an understanding of basic karma what comes around, goes around.  When you have three children actively trying to assassinate each other, karma seems to smack them on the ass quite a bit.

 

Along these lines my mom cursed us with “God will give you a child just like you, only the opposite sex so that you won’t know what to do.”  I guess it was along the lines that we will receive a child that will make us miserable just as we had to our parents.  After listening to Bill Cosby, I think that’s every child.  But my mom was really thrown for a loop when she had a popular, cute, smart, sneaky, manipulative middle-child teenager that just happened to be a boy.  Sure, I still believe he was her favorite, only because she could identify with the plight of having an older sister, but my brother really ran my parents ragged, flaunting his bad behavior in front of them.  (Granted it could have been a lot worse.)  Of course, I wonder what my goody-two shoes dad did to ever deserve to get my brother or, I guess, me.  But lately I’ve been watching my boys, and I think I feel the hand of God moving around in here.

 

Take last night as Evan harassed Sean with enough gusto for me to yell “knock it off” but not enough to throw him in time out.  Evan tripped on a toy that he left out and knocked his chin hard on the floor.  Wow, impressive two for one God deal.  I had to clamp my mouth close from saying “God just got you back.”  This nearly a daily occurrence as Evan messes with Sean, who ignores him, and then Evan falls or runs into something.  Now maybe he’s clumsy, but he isn’t.  The kid could be a gymnast or a ballet performer (if I could convince his dad).  It’s just weird.

 

What of the “I’ll have a kid just like me only the opposite sex” theory in my house? 

 

Exhibit A.  I’m quite talkative.  Talking too much and talking someone’s ear off are just many of the special talents I have.  Family legend holds that on a car trip at the age of five, I talked for eight hours, taking a break to nap, and never repeated a story.  Now Evan talks all the time and comes up with the cleverest of stories.  I guess that answers what a five year old could talk about for six hours.

 

Exhibit B. As a toddler, I would politely ask for something; upon refusal, I would stomp my foot and command, “But said please!”  Now Sean says please for everything.  “Peeease!!!!”  It’s really adorable, but it won’t cut mustard when it comes to getting candy for breakfast, marshmallows for snack, or a quarter to play with.  Then when I tell him no, he dissolves into tears, and I swear I can hear “but said please” behind the wails.

 

My boys are still young, so they can’t really cause too much trouble.  But I see the potential.  Of course, if my mother’s theory holds water, I will have a little hellion daughter coming soon to punish my husband for all his fast, slutty, partying days, and then I won’t know who to blame as I lock her in a convent.

 

 

 

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Men’s chores: A Conversation

I bet you think it will be between my husband and I, and you would be wrong.  During my daily conversation with my mom, I mentioned how I asked my husband to fill up my SUV that he was borrowing.  Amazingly enough he didn’t forget, and I was very glad.  (Which in a way is kind of pathetic that I get excited that my husband does something I asked)  Any ways, the conversation:

Me: . . . So he actually filled the tank.

Mom: You know, Pauline’s (a friend of my mom’s) husband always fills up her tank. 

Me: I know, Mom.  (Can we feel a lecture coming on?)

Mom: And your dad fills up the Mustang about 95% of the time.

(And here I thought he did that just to get away and be on his own for a little bit.  My dad’s a lone wolf.)

Me: I know, Mom.  It’s just I feel that who ever is driving the car, when it hits an eighth of a tank, can go fill it up or at least replace the gas they use.  My problem is he has left the car on empty when I’ve had the kids.  So it’s nice that he filled up the tank.

Mom: Well, we just think it’s a husband’s chore.  (silence)  What are you thinking?  (Is it that obvious?)

Me: I was thinking that you raised me to believe that there were no men’s chores or women’s chores.  They were just chores that needed to be done.  If the dishes needed to be done, then someone would do it.  If the garbage needs to be taken out, someone will have to do it.  You taught me to do “guy” chores.

Mom: (pause) I was a good mother, wasn’t I?

Me: Yes.