Happy Birthday to Me!

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was also a Monday, so it was laundry day, grocery shopping day and Kid A had an interview in midtown at 7PM, so she and Sheepdog were not home for dinner.  Best birthday ever, you say?  Wait… it gets better.

The day started around 12:15AM when Kid E moseyed into our bedroom and asked to cuddle with me.  As I took him by the hand and led him back to his own room, I cursed him silently for waking me.  This back-and-forth routine continued over the next three hours.  The silent cursing did not last long.  Every time I would start to fall asleep again, Kid E would tap me on the shoulder.  By the hundredth time I felt like I was being tortured.  On one trip back to his bed I told him congratulations on giving me the worst birthday present ever.

His confused response was, “But I didn’t even get you a present.”

If somebody is up during the night I always try my best not to disturb Sheepdog, because he has to get up early and go to a real job.  By 3:45AM I was exhausted, infuriated, desperate, and on the verge of tears.  I no longer cared about Sheepdog and his stupid job.  So the next time Kid E came in I ignored him.  Sheepdog finally heard him (“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom…”  Seriously, how does the man NOT wake up?) and he jumped out of bed.

“WHAT?” whisper-yelled Sheepdog.

“I have to pee,” said Kid E, very matter-of-factly, with a hint of “What would you have me do…urinate in my bed?  I’m no savage!”  So Sheepdog took him to the bathroom and then back to his room.  At last, the kid was sleepy enough to stay in there.

“Happy Birthday, ” Sheepdog whispered to me when he came back.  “I’m sorry you’ve had a crappy night.”

“I’m thinking of moving out,” was my very serious response.  I don’t remember if I dreamed over the next three hours, but if I did it was probably about locking myself behind multiple doors with heavy deadbolts.

I wish for world peace. And for skinny thighs.

I woke up later to Kid D screaming that his stomach hurt as he was running past me into my bathroom.  “I don’t feel so good,” he sighed as he crawled in bed next to me.  I didn’t even care if he had washed his hands first.

As I was zombie-walking down the hall to put Kid C onto the elementary school bus, I realized that Kid B had overslept and she would need a ride to school.  This keeps getting better.

Actually, it did get better.  Kids A, B and C went off to school.  Kid D felt fine, so I dropped him off as well when I was taking Kid E to preschool.  Then I went home and collapsed until I decided to make my own birthday cupcakes for dinner.

Sleep is a funny thing.  I am a girl who needs a good nine hours, so I rarely hit my mark.  I make up for it by sleeping in on the weekends (Shout out! Sheepdog for helping me do that) and taking occasional naps.  You’d think I would be used to interrupted rest after having five babies, but I never adjusted.  The cumulative effect of sixteen years of sleep deprivation has left an indelible mark on my personality.  I’m meaner and even more sarcastic.  I have even been known to growl on occasion.  I have to use more under eye concealer.  It is not a good thing.

It is a good thing that Kid E has some sixth sense thing happening, because he was one more sleepless night away from being put up for auction on eBay.  Last night he went to bed without incident and then slept through the entire night.  I am a different person today than I was yesterday.

Today I feel like I can take on the world.  Today I feel like I am a Disney Princess and everyone around me is a singing animal.  Today I am She-Ra, Princess of Power.  Today I feel like Wonder Woman and Laura Croft and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all rolled into one, except not all fit and and wearing some sexy ass-kicking costume because I’ve just been too tired to work out lately.

But today I have the energy to fix that!  I’m gonna go work out right now.  Then I’ll probably take a nap, because who knows what tonight will hold.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Who’s The Boss?

I feel like I just gave birth.  I am disoriented and exhausted and a little bit sweaty, but I am on a crazy adrenaline high at the same time.  I haven’t slept in days.  I am excited and scared, confident and unsure.

But it is all for good reason… I had an actual writing deadline.  Yep.  Someone asked me to contribute to a local magazine and I just submitted my first article.

First, allow me point out a few things.  From the time I was fourteen and I got my first paying gig at Mister Donut (yes, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. for the 5 o’clock shift and I chanted “It’s time to make the doughnuts” as I put on my uniform and rode my 3-speed to work in the dark) until May 18, 2001, (the day that Kid C was born and the same day that I retired from my last job as a law office manager), I had legitimate bosses who told me what to do, reviewed and oversaw my productivity, and held me generally accountable in exchange for a paycheck.  Since that day more than ten years ago, I have been my own boss.  And while that means I bring home no bacon, it also means that I can pretty much do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it.

Now I could go off on the tangent about stay-at-home moms and the work it takes to run a household and raise a family and the shopping and cooking and cleaning and laundry and child care and shuttling kids around and how much you would have to pay if you hired someone for each of those jobs.  I read somewhere once that the figure was more than $500,000 a year when you calculate it like that.  I mean no disrespect to my fellow stay-at-home moms, but that’s whacked.  It’s definitely some fuzzy math and does not account for the fact that some days I could still be in my pajamas at 3:38 in the afternoon, but as long as I got the kids off the bus and I finally folded the load of whites that has been sitting in the dryer for days and I whipped up something that maybe resembles “dinner,” I did my work for the day.  Now, I don’t do it like that every day.  My point is that it is really nice to be able to slack off every once in a while and not have The Man looking over my shoulder all the time.  And Sheepdog knows better than to complain when I occasionally phone it in.

So, back to the writing thing.  I was asked to write something for a publication that goes out to wealthier neighborhoods in the Atlanta suburbs six times a year.  They don’t have a budget to pay me, but they can give my blog a shout out.  I was/ am extremely excited about it.  After a few e-mails back and forth I learned that I had a week to put together my first article.  It was a little fast, but I was convinced it would be no problem.  Man, was I wrong.

It just sits there blank, taunting me.

I have been writing this blog since March and I enjoy it very much.  In the beginning I forced myself to write every weekday because I had a compulsion to do so.  When the family schedule revved up I chose to write less often, even though I always had ideas whirling around in my head.  I had stories coming out of me that would almost write themselves.  I didn’t always have the spare time to write, but if I didn’t post it was no big deal.  This magazine thing is different.  I have actual deadlines.  For the blog I always had something to write about.  For the article I could think of nothing.  I must have started more than ten different stories and wasn’t happy with any of them.

Plus, I get an editor.  Somebody who is telling me to write in complete sentences, use proper grammar and spell check.  Someone who is not only going to read my writing, but review it and then critique it.  A “boss,” if you will.  No, I’m not handling it well at all.

What if I am no good at it?  What if I can’t find my voice?  What if people don’t like me or my writing?  Sheepdog keeps laughing at me.  He says it is good for me as a writer to have feedback (so true) and good for me as a person to be held accountable (also true).  He reminded me that it would take time to make the adjustments but I would probably figure it all out and have conquered my fears and uncertainty by the third article, maybe sooner.

On the day of the deadline I sat down at my computer and I cleared my head (as much as I can clear my head when all of the kids are home from school for a teacher workday) and opened my blog software program.  And the funny thing was that I just started to type, and it felt good.

Now I am still waiting for the editor to get back to me with notes and I’m sure I’ll struggle with getting back on the horse of accepting constructive criticism, but I look forward to learning and growing and listening to what my new boss has to say about my work.

But I’ll tell you right now – Sheepdog and the kids had better not complain about what I’m serving for dinner tonight.  I don’t get paid enough for that.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Winning!

I am the all-time Champion in my house of the most useless game in the world.  Hey, at least I am winning at something.  I have seen so many movies and so much television that I can identify actors and actresses on a movie or show and then link them to a part that they played in a much older movie or show.  The farther back you go and the less they resemble the former, the more street cred you get for the call.  And thanks to the site http://www.imdb.com (the International Movie Database) there is a go-to fact checker that can confirm just how awesome I am almost immediately.

Sheepdog tries to claim superiority sometimes (his IDs always come from completely irrelevant movies or shows that nobody except him ever saw, so I don’t count those… I know that George Clooney was on “Facts of Life,” but I wasn’t watching it live; I was out having fun in high school), but even he can not deny how incredible my latest call was.  Last night we were catching up on a couple of Raising Hope (FOX, Tuesdays @9:30/ 8:30c) episodes.  When we got to the one called “Kidnapped” they had an actor playing a police officer in a gas station convenience store.

After less than ten seconds of his screen time I screamed, “Press pause!”  Then I threw down the gauntlet by claiming that I knew who the actor was and a universally identifiable role that I can link him to.  Could Sheepdog say the same?

“Give me a minute!” he barked back as he squinted his eyes and waited for something to connect in his memory.  Nothing did and I got impatient because I thought I might just explode from my own awesomeness.

“Jurassic Park!  Somewhere near the Badlands, Montana!  Dinosaur dig!  The kid that says to Dr. Grant, “That’s not very scary.  More like a six-foot turkey,” I yelled excitedly as I made slashing motions across my chest and belly.  “Kids smell!  Babies smell!”

Sheepdog looked skeptically at the screen and shook his head in denial.

“No way.  I don’t see it,” he claims.

“Challenge accepted,” I said.  “Go check the database.”  I had so much adrenaline pumping that I was vibrating.

I’m sure you can already guess by now that I won.  Same kid.  There was something in his eyes.  I didn’t even need to hear his voice or watch the nuances in his mannerisms.  It really was a most excellent get, if I do say so myself.  It was almost as good as the time I was watching High School Musical (don’t get me started… it was under complete duress, I swear!) and I identified Ms. Darbus, the director of the school play, as the character Cassie from A Chorus Line  (1985), starring Michael Douglas.  BAM!  That was amazing!  But it was completely wasted on my kids and Sheepdog, who had never seen A Chorus Line.  I surely made them watch it after that.

Whatever… I am still the all-time Champion in my house.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Boo!

It is that time of year again.  The air is cooler and the sky is darker but somehow more colorful at the same time.  Things are shutting down in preparation for the cold weeks of winter… swimming pools, outdoor activities, trees.  Orange and red and brown and yellow gold are the colors that line our streets and yards and front porches.  Sometimes autumn sneaks in gradually, but other times it comes crashing upon us with very little warning.  I can’t believe it is October already!

And along with the first signs of autumn come Halloween things.  Pumpkins and costumes and candy corn.  Apple cannons and corn mazes and hayrides.  “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and gourds and black plastic spider rings.  These things are everywhere I go… the grocery store, a neighbor’s yard, Yahoo’s home page. (No, I don’t get out much).

So it is not much wonder that I have been thinking again lately that our house might be haunted.

Boo!

Okay, how does a (relatively) normal person come to the conclusion that she is living with Casper?  Seriously, go and poll your friends.  Asking “Do you believe in ghosts?  Because I do.” makes people question your sanity, and they might even stop letting their kids play over at your house.  Unless your friends are all kooks or they already know you’re a little different and they have come to expect these kinds of things from you at random intervals.

So I’ve got that going for me.

Maybe I don’t actually believe that I have a ghost in my house.  But I am serious when I say that I think there is still some residual negative energy floating around in here.  We bought this house from a man who had just gone through an icky, nasty, angry divorce (his own words) and there was definitely a bad feeling inside this house that Sheepdog and I both commented upon when we walked through.  I can’t really describe it any other way.  But we loved the house and the neighborhood so we bought it anyway.  Oh, and sometimes when I fold laundry on my bed upstairs I often see something in my peripheral vision moving around near the stairs.  Did I forget to mention that?  Now I sound like the kook.

So say I choose to believe that there is some paranormal activity going on here or even just an excess of yin.  Being a girl who likes to take care of business instead of ruminating, I decided to do some research.  I googled “getting rid of negative energy in my home” and came upon an article that advised the following steps:

1.  Clear stale energies.  Open everything that is closed (doors, closets, windows, etc.).  Then, walking from the front door in a clockwise pattern, circle each room and go into the next while ringing a bell.
2.  Use salt to cleanse.  Sprinkle it everywhere.  Be sure to sweep up the salt and throw it into the trash outside of your house.
3.  Feed your ghosts rice.  Sprinkle it around the perimeter of your home, beginning at the front door and walking in a clockwise fashion until you come to the door again. 
4.  Scent the air.  Use smoke from incense or from herbs, such as lavender for transcending problems, eucalyptus for healing, or mint for prosperity. 
5.  Use light and sound.  Tinkling wind chimes and bright crystal rainbows or lit chandeliers are both excellent ways to introduce beneficial and cleansing energy to your space.
6.  Take a salt bath yourself.  Salt will purify you and remove negative energies from your body. 
 
Figuring I’ve got nothing but the previous homeowner’s lingering divorce energy and maybe even a ghost to lose, I tried to follow the directions with at least a modicum of seriousness and (temporary) conviction.  Because otherwise what would be the point, right?  But I couldn’t bring myself to actually go and buy herbs to burn or special sea salts for sprinkling or bathing.  And after opening every cabinet, window and door and ringing the only bell I could find (an old bike bell… whatever, it dinged just fine) and then sprinkling freshly ground table salt then brown rice (it was what I had in the pantry) in each and every corner and cleaning it with the dustbuster , I sprayed lavender Febreze and waved around some Vicks VapoRub (eucalyptus) and splashed a little soft mint-flavored Listerine.  Then I lightly blew a whistle and clicked a flashlight on and off on all of the rooms.  Afterwards I took a shower and rubbed some epsom salts on my elbows and feet while I sang the new LMFAO song, “Sexy and I Know It.”

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah.

Following my makeshift space cleansing I have to say that I felt a little silly but also a little lighter and happier.  Plus, my heels and elbows were super-smooth!  I think my the kooks might be onto something here and I just may have restored the yang in our home.  I actually recommend the process if you too have some unidentifiable icky floating around in your space.  I also recommend skipping the rice part, as it is almost impossible to clean it all up afterwards.  Damn you, Uncle Ben.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

What’s Scarier Than One Teenage Girl?

Why two teenage girls, of course.  And that’s just what we got a few weekends ago when Kid B turned 13, joining her older sister in the official years of life-affecting decisions, crazy, unpredictable hormones, and angst.  Lots of angst.  Oh, and the texting while they are doing just about everything else.  Don’t forget that.  Maybe some eye rolling, door slamming and foot stomping too.  But it does not all have to be bad.  I think that teenagers have gotten some bad press because some of them can be really cool.

In fact, most of Kid A’s teenage years to date have not been horrible.  I would even go so far as to say that they have been quite pleasant.  She is still talking to me and we rarely fight.  She is sometimes sullen and moody, but I always ask her what is going on and we usually talk about what is bothering her.  Some things get resolved and others go on festering, but I don’t do better than that now with my own mother and I’m forty.  My teenager teaches me all kinds of teenage things so I can continue to stay in touch with the youth of America.  We talk openly and often about relationships and sex.  She’s already smarter than me in math, but she doesn’t make fun of me for it.  She teaches me how to navigate Prezi and Spotify, and I teach her what dirty slang words mean when she asks about them.  So I can only hope that Kid B’s teen years are half as good as her sister’s have been so far.

A few weeks prior to Kid B turning 13, she presented Sheepdog and me with a packet of sorts.  It was an “All I Want for My Birthday” kind of thing.  So I laughed out loud, but she said it was serious so I read through it with an open mind.  She asked for a new purse from zappos.com, some posters for her bedroom, a neon soccer ball, an Angry Birds iTouch cover, and a week off from making school lunches.  But in lieu of all of these presents what she really wanted was a weekend trip to Atlantic City.

Seriously… Kid B wished to go to Atlantic City for her 13th birthday.

You have got to be kidding me.

Now you have to understand that her favorite person in the world (her Pop Pop, who is my dad) lives there, so her big draw to Atlantic City is (hopefully) not lucky craps tables at the Borgatta or even my cousin’s 70% manager’s discount at Lacoste.  She wanted to spend time with her Pop Pop and her Nanny and just chill with no sisters or brothers and no scheduled activities.  She wanted to sleep in every day, walk down to the docks to get some breakfast, then wander over to the boardwalks to maybe play a round of mini golf (in Ocean City) and get her tarot cards read by a gypsy (in Atlantic City).  As a bonus she got my undivided attention, a visit with 3 Pops at the VA Home, Primo pizza for lunch one day, and both a t-shirt and a sweatshirt as souvenirs.  It was a fantastic weekend.

Most importantly, we got to spend time together.  We were adding to an already strong foundation just by having this shared experience.  Then we watched “Bridesmaids” together, and we laughed until we almost peed our pants.  I reminded her that I am her mother first and her friend second.  Teenagers can get caught up in their own heads pretty easily.  It is my job to make sure that mine don’t get lost inside there.

For now I’m just going to continue winging it with my teenagers.  With communication and a lot of luck I hope we can make it through these years with more laughter than tears.  I’ll continue to remind them that they are not perfect and neither am I.  And even when they do stupid teenage things I will love them unconditionally, for ever and ever.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…