Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Life Is a Series of That Moment Whens

You know the meme that’s been circulating for a while that starts with That Moment When…?  It’s a line on social media that people use to share those sad, funny, awkward or frustrating moments, or any other human experience that we can all relate to.

It always sounds like something that some clever person made up who would never be friends with me.

You know, like That moment when you hear a familiar beat and then you finally recognize what song it is.  Or That moment when you know that last shot of tequila was a bad idea OR That moment when you think to yourself, why did I just say that?

I just Googled those, and who can’t relate to any of them?  Kids?

Anyway, I have read so many That Moment Whens that I started thinking of life in terms of That Moment Whens.  Just in time for That Moment to be over.

Which incidentally, That moment when a 39-year-old at-home mom from the suburbs starts getting into something cool is the exact moment when it stops being cool.

So I decided to write out my day as a series of That Moment Whens because it always makes a person feel better to know that we all share such similar experiences.  I mean, that is what That Moment Whens were created to do, yes?

That moment when you get so frustrated with your hair straightener because you’ve spent the last ten minutes trying to straighten your hair and you’re all I can’t believe this stupid thing stopped working already, it’s only a few years old, jeez, they don’t make anything to last anymore and you realize that the thing isn’t even plugged in and you realize that only old people talk about when they remember when things were made better than they are today.

That moment when you drop something that is going to be a real pain to clean up and then it doesn’t make a mess and you’re so happy that it didn’t make a mess but then you sadly realize that you just spent some extreme happiness time on not having to clean up a mess.

That moment when you’re in yoga class and you remember that you are wearing the yoga pants with the hole in them and you wish you would have checked for more holes because obviously if there’s one hole there might be another hole and you’re trying to remember what color underwear you have on because at least if you have dark underwear on it won’t be as noticeable as if you had white ones on and aw jeez now we are doing the happy baby position which is really embarrassing and you remember when your kids were babies and how they held onto their feet over their heads when they were being changed and how cute they were and man I wish I was facing the other way because if someone walks by the window there I will be and at least at the guy next to me is facing the same way I am because I would hate for us to be facing each other disgusting and it kind of stinks in here.

That moment when you buy your kids some more Easter candy that nobody really needs least of all you because you spend the days after Easter going through their Easter baskets eating all their candy and maybe you should just go out and buy your own chocolate because it would be quicker than sneaking a few Hershey’s kisses every day for a week so they think they are eating them instead of you and then you find a Cadbury Creme Egg that you know neither one of your kids will eat and you eat it right then and there because you know that you bought it for yourself anyway even though they’re not really your favorite but you can only get them at Easter and so it’s kind of like your duty to buy and eat them, just like Peeps but Peeps are out for every holiday now so they’re not really that special and besides that they are kind of gross.

That moment when you decide that you no longer care about being cool and hip OR about having more space than your family can use because you just want someplace to put your purse in the car when you’re driving because every car has a stupid center console and aren’t there any female car designers out there and you want a minivan again after not having one for four years because they at least have a place to put your purse and then you go online to shop for one and when you bring it up to your husband he makes you feel like a huge nerd for wanting a minivan again but then you remember that most of your husband’s clothing advertises the college he went to a hundred years ago so who cares what he thinks.

That moment when you remember that you took twenty dollars from your son’s piggy bank about a year ago so you put the money back but then you realize that you need some change for a twenty so you take out four fives then later you spend all your cash and you still owe your son twenty dollars and you wonder when you will remember to put it back in and you say to yourself who cares most of that money in that bank is money that I gave him anyway but then you feel bad so you put an IOU in there to remind yourself the next time you take money from his bank and then you think about what a deadbeat mom you are not even bothering to pay back debts to your own child who didn’t even realize that you took money from him and then you feel like a failed parent because you have a kid who has so much money that he doesn’t even miss it when you steal money from him.

That moment when you’re driving down the road from shopping at Target and you’re kind of regretting all the money you spent there because you just spent kind of a lot of money there the other day and then you rationalize it by going over all the stuff you bought and it was all stuff you needed anyway isn’t it always that you run out of everything at the same time like toilet paper and napkins and stuff and then an old song comes on that you really love and you try to remember the words and when you first heard it and then you realize that you’re going twenty five miles an hour and that you’re totally tailgating the car in front of you and you realize that person is probably slowing down to teach you a lesson because sometimes you do the same thing so you feel like you totally deserve it and then the person turns off into a driveway and you think no way that person was trying to be a jerk because now I totally know where they live and could get revenge on them for driving twenty five on the road but since you’re not that kind of person you think wow they’re really lucky that I’m not a road rager.

OK maybe That Moment Whens don’t really apply to me.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I’m a popper.

Chances are you might think you know what a popper is, such as a person who likes to pop pimples or pills, and you would be close because I am one of those kinds of people but not the other, but actually you don’t know at all what I mean by popper because I just made it up right now.

A popper is someone who pops food into her mouth before she knows for sure what she is eating.  And for the record, I think you have something on your face.  Come closer so I can touch it, and please hold still.

And now that you’re thoroughly grossed out because you are someone who gets grossed out easily, please step away from this blog, because it is about to get real up in here.

I come from a long line of poppers, and that means my dad, because he is the only other person I know in my family who will eat just about anything that is front of him.  The man lives for traveling to foreign places to see how many strange and wonderful (read: nauseating and revolting) edibles he can consume. 

His issue is more garbage disposaling and not exactly popping, but I have a little of that as well.


Being a popper means that sometimes you will try to eat something that should not be eaten.  It is a familiar problem, and babies corner the market on popping.  I have known a lot of babies, and not one of them will study something they grab and say, “No, this doesn’t look appetizing at all.  I think I’ll pass.”  Babies will put anything in their mouths because they are just learning about the world and how amazing it tastes, like paper and dirt and rocks and marbles and paper clips and buttons and fabric and their own toes, ohmygoodness isn’t it cute when babies chew their own toes?  It makes me want to eat them.  The babies AND their toes.

My problem is more compulsive.  I am both the chef and housecleaner here, so when I see a piece of something on the counter or table (and yes, the floor), my first instinct is to scoop it up and pop it into my mouth to get rid of the offending item.  I am banking that it is food and it is fresh, because this usually happens after meals.

So on any given day, I might pop a piece of chicken breast that I find on the counter after my lunch and learn that it is a crumb left over from the bagel that my daughter had for breakfast.

Or a red sprinkle from the cupcakes we recently had might be a piece of aluminum foil that came off a Hershey’s kiss that I snuck while the kids weren’t looking.  Or a piece of thread, or lint, or some other equally sinister non-food item.  A walnut that I thought I just dropped might be a bit of stale Cheerio that’s been there for who knows how long.  I’ve eaten a leaf that I thought was lettuce, a piece of dryer lint that I thought was a cookie crumb, and swiped some egg white that I thought was spilled water.

Popping extends to eating questionable food items that I do examine before eating, which is where garbage disposaling comes in.  I will even try something that I take a cursory glance at to see how gross it is.  Just today while I was eating yogurt I noticed that it had little bits in it that weren’t fruit pieces.  Hmmm, maybe it’s fruit covered with yogurt, I think to myself.  In it goes, and a few chews later I realize that I should probably check expiration dates more often.

Recently I ate a bowl of soup.  I saw dumplings, which weren’t expected but were welcomed.  Yum, dumplings.  Pop.  Oh, big ball of fat.

About the only thing I will draw the line at popping is brown stuff, due to having babies and knowing better and also due to an unfortunate incident that happened to me when I was very young, where I learned that brown does not always equal chocolate.

And I suppose I have alluded to it several times in past posts so I might as well lay it out for you.  After all, you’ve stayed with me this long.

When I was five we had a cat.  The cat, like all cats do, walked on the dining room table when we weren’t looking.  One day I spied a piece of chocolate on the table, and popped it into my mouth.  It was not chocolate.  Yes.  One of my earliest and most horrifying memories is eating a piece of cat poop.

Gah.  It is as disgusting as it sounds.

You might think that this would have turned me away from popping forever, but that is not the case.  It is in my genes, I tell you.

Plus I may be a little bit dumb.

This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

5) Write about something you ate...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Raising Kids: A Manifesto

This morning, right after the coffee kicked in and before the kids left for school, I had an attack of the Mondays.

For a normal person that might indicate a return to bed and pulling the covers over your head Garfield-style, but for me Monday morning is a joyful time, full of promise and hope, a new beginning to the week and endless possibilities of how to make it a successful one.

That, and everyone leaves the house, and I get it ALL TO MYSELF.  This phenomenon is well-established here on this blog.  If you care not to read any more about it, just know that I am in love with Monday mornings for this one reason only.

So anyway, I was high on life and decided to treat my children to a little Chicago-themed solo song and dance party.  By Chicago I mean the band and not the racy musical about women killing their husbands. They loved it, and by loved it I mean that they were embarrassed for me and tried their best to ignore the travesty that was happening right in front of them.

So off they went to school, and all was quiet.  With the quiet came the reflection, and with the reflection came the guilt over the fact that I may quite possibly be overdoing my naked delight of staying home without my family.  That I may be giving them, and everyone else, fuel to doubt my love for them.

It’s a precarious balance, keeping a part of yourself while at the same time sacrificing all that you are for your family.  For the past twelve years I have adapted a new identity of Mom into my current identity of Wife and Sister and Daughter and Friend.  My Self has morphed around these other people I call Family.

I am protective of my Self, I admit.  Maybe because of that I was not Mommy to my kids for long; I do not forbid them to grow up.  I am protective of them too, but not overly.  I do not hover.  I allow them to make mistakes, and tell them they deserve it if they get rightfully disciplined at school.  I admit that sometimes I don’t know what’s best for them.  I accept they will leave me someday, and truthfully there are times I wish that it was sooner rather than later.

There’s the fuel.  Fuel that causes people to ask me why I ever had kids in the first place, since I don’t seem to enjoy them very much.  Fuel that may cause scorn for not helping out much in my kids’ schools because I don’t like dealing with groups of kids, for being realistic about not handing my kids every opportunity just because it’s there.  These people are puzzled about why I would work in a church nursery and as a substitute preschool teacher.

The truth is that I love kids; they make me laugh, and there’s not much sweeter to me than a smiling baby or a well-timed toddler phrase.  Older kids amaze me with their beyond-their-years intellect, and the maturity of even the youngest teens astounds me.  I love my kids the most of course, and I want what’s best for them.  We planned to have them.  I cried when they were born because I didn’t know how else to express the love that I felt for them.  Not many people can make me laugh like my kids.  Over the years I have loved them through doing and teaching, through hugs and kisses and special times spent, through gifts and generosities that I never knew I could provide.

But I don’t think my kids are the brightest and the best.  I expect them to earn any accolades, and while I may be cheering the loudest for them, I am not working behind the scenes to manipulate their getting them.  I love my kids enough to not do everything for them, to watch them fail, to tell them that I will not help them with their homework for the fifth night in a row because they need to tell their teacher why they don’t get it.  I love my kids enough to show them how to do laundry, mow the lawn, and prepare a meal.  I expect them to make their beds every single day.  Because someday they will have to do all of these things for themselves, and I prefer not to let people out in the world who can’t or won’t do any of it because they were waited on their whole lives, or because they weren’t taught that certain things are important.

Like the confidence that comes after accomplishing something difficult.  And the interpersonal skills and the humility you need to communicate that you are having trouble understanding.  And the patience to know that even though some things in life are boring and tedious, it is the same for everybody and you just have to do them.  And the awareness that you are not all things to everyone, and that the world does not revolve around you.

To me, being Mom is not just doing for my kids.  It’s teaching them, sure, but it’s also stepping back and allowing them to fall.  In my eyes, pushing them out the door into the world with a little dancing and laughing does more for them than keeping them cocooned in our little house where they only experience what these four walls and my own limited experience can bring them.

But I do admit that I could probably tone it down a little when they’re leaving on a Monday morning.  Maybe the dance party could include a slow ballad or two next time.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The C Word

My daughter and I were on our way to a school board meeting where the elementary school band was the entertainment.  She sat in the back with her instrument, looking out the window and bobbing her head along to the song on the radio.

It was a new hip-hop song that we both like, so I turned it up and we sang along to the parts that we knew, and pretended not to notice that half the words were bleeped out. 

Then, because I’m that mom, I turned it up all the way and we put on our gangster faces and threw our arms and hands around like rappers do, you know, like part interpretive dance/intimidation tactic.

The song ended and I smiled at her in the rearview mirror.  She blurted, “I can’t rap.”

She was surprised, and more than a little bit exasperated.  She was disgusted with herself for not having this gift the way I get disgusted when I see people spit on the ground.  She was disgusted with herself, a young girl born and raised in the suburbs who was on her way to play the French horn at her school’s board meeting, wearing a band T-shirt tucked into black dress slacks. 

I wanted to say, Dude.  Look at you.  Look at me.  You are obviously not born of rapper stock. 

But instead I said, “I can’t either.” 

Despite years of hearing “Can’t is a four letter word” and “Remove Can’t from your vocabulary” from well-intentioned but ultra-idealistic educators, I have learned as an adult that “I Can’t” is a valid declaration.  I have learned that, unless I am willing to throw myself into intense study and practice, there are many things that I just can’t do naturally.  This discovery comes after a lifetime of doing things that I love and finding out that I suck at them.

And I’ve learned to give up those things, or at least own my sucktitude.   After all, we can’t all be perfect at everything.  What would BeyoncĂ© do?

For one thing, I used to sing in high school and in church choirs, but I am just not good at it.  I have a decent level of musicality, but I have a thin, reedy voice that dies if I spend too much time talking at a normal level, let alone belting out songs. 

Then there's dancing.  I took dance classes for 10 years.  Ten.  Plus a few years of adult classes.  And no one's coming around to pay me to dance for them.  Ahem.  I’m okay keeping up with a beat, but watch out if I get into producing a complicated movement or series of steps.  And by watch out I mean stand back because you are about to get hurt.

As for playing sports, I can't.  I'm just so awkward.  I can’t even run down the street in a straight line.

I can't bake either.  Every batch of cookies is questionable.  I can’t quite figure it out, nor can I predict what kind of disaster is lurking within each ball of dough or bowl of batter.

Landscaping and gardening are not my strengths.  I can’t get our yard to look nice no matter what I try.  It is a conglomeration of ugly shrubbery and trees.  Some are dead and others haven’t grown in years.  Once I pitifully tried to grow peppers and tomatoes.  We used to have an Easter lily that only bloomed in July.  Each year I spend hundreds on flowers, only to watch them struggle under my terroristic black thumb.

My ironing skills?  Laughable.  Most of the clothing I iron looks worse after I had my hands on it than if I had just let it stay wrinkled.  As an aside, do you know that there are about ten different ways to get scorch marks off of clothing?

There are other things I can't do, but I can’t remember them right now.  Remembering things that I should is just one more thing I can’t do.

It’s okay.  Like I said before, I've learned to own my weaknesses, and not let them get to me.  I've found that I enjoy watching others do the things I can't more than I ever loved doing them.  What's more, I know what I can do, and do those things happily, like love my family, provide a comfortable home, laugh at myself, and write a decent blog post.

Okay, that last one is hit and miss.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Let’s Talk About Me for a Change

Do you guys remember when you first got on Facebook and everyone was doing those meme lists and quizzes about themselves so all their Facebook friends would know all the details about them, like if you were any color crayon, what color would you be, and tell us 25 things about you that no one knows about, and how many of these 100 most important books have you read, because that tells us how smart you really are despite all the annoying bragging you do about what college you went to thirty years ago?

Those were the days, weren’t they?

Well, today I learned in one of my favorite blogger’s blogs that these lists were making a comeback, and I’m all in, because I’m a narcissist and obviously love to talk about myself.  Hello, two blogs.  Oh, you didn’t know that I have another blog?  Well, I DO.  Go over there and comment, because my mom and brother clearly aren’t pulling their weight.

So, because I love to talk about myself to a captive audience, and truthfully because I really didn’t plan on writing anything today because Friday is my lazy day (along with Sunday and Monday and sometimes Wednesday), I’m going to help the internets along by resurrecting this list meme.  Isn’t it cute that meme uses my favorite word twice?

What were you doing ten years ago?

Ten years ago, in 2003, I was pregnant, and had just begun a ten-month long leave from my full-time work-from-home job as a research analyst for a marketing research company to spend more time with our son, who was almost two, before I had our daughter.  I was relieved to not have to work every day and it was the start of an 18-month transition into full-time stay-at-home mom.  I was fat and hugely pregnant, had my hair cut ridiculously short which was so not flattering at all, why didn't anyone tell me this? I spent my days at Gymboree and watching Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer, feeling my brain cells melt.

What are five things on your to-do list?

This is actually on the to-do list I keep on my desk, dated January 20, 2013: Go through receipts.  Go through files. File paperwork. Organize recipes. Go through pictures. 

None of those things has even been attempted, as I sit amid piles of papers.  Procrastinator, I am.

What are five snacks you enjoy?

Potato chips with onion dip, and a Coke.  Veggies and ranch dip.  Hershey’s kisses.  Good ‘n’ Plenty.  Crunch ‘n’ Munch.  Red Vines licorice.  Mixed nuts.  Vanilla ice cream.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Sugar cookies.  Peanut butter cookies.  Whipped cream.  Creme horn pastries.  Chocolate croissants.  Oh, that’s more than five snacks?  I could go on forever.  That list took me about 2 seconds to think about, and I didn't even get to the cakes yet.  

Name some things you would do if you were a millionaire.

If I was a millionaire, I’d donate to our church, pay off our mortgage, purchase everything with cash, enroll my kids in private school, and never worry about the price of college or how much money we need to save for retirement.  And I would buy 20 Longchamp bags.

Name some places you have lived.

Pennsylvania.  Arizona.  Virginia.  North Carolina.  Wow.  What a boring question.  Do better, internet.

Name some bad habits that you have.

Drinking too much coffee, eating until I’m stuffed, criticizing my husband, yelling at my kids, speaking without thinking, not staying in touch, expecting others to do everything my way, especially my family OMG WHY CAN’T THEY DO EVERYTHING MY WAY?   A serious Princess complex.

Name some jobs you’ve had.

Other than the aforementioned research analyst, and the obvious wife and mother titles (those are real jobs that are grossly overlooked and we should get paid for them, hello, is there anyone reading who can help me with this problem?), I have worked as an ice cream scooper AND a  frozen yogurt shop employee (best. jobs. ever.).  Bank teller. College ID card maker.  Accounts payable clerk.  Assistant Manager at a record store.  Executive assistant.  Teaching Assistant.  Word processor.  If you’re wondering what this last one is, I typed up documents in MS Word for my boss, who wrote in longhand.  I prided myself on deciphering his handwriting better than anyone else.  Yeah.  It was a long time ago, OK?

So that’s my list.  Read this list, commit it to memory, and I promise you will be a better person for it.  Or maybe just make one of your own and link up (using the Old School Blogging button below, or find it here at Miss Elaine-ous Life), because other than talking about myself, learning about other people’s lives is my favorite thing of all.  Yay internet.

Today is all about me.  Did you get the memo?

Linked with:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cereal Memories

I sat in the kitchen dressed in my nightgown, plastic placemat on the table in front of me.  The ceiling light gave off a yellowish glow and illuminated the little room.  My bare feet swung under the vinyl padded chair; it was winter, but I knew if I placed my feet on the linoleum floor it would be warm.  Their house was always toasty.

It was late, almost time for bed, and pitch black outside.  As I sat at the table on Granddad’s right, we watched Grandma busy herself getting the bowls and spoons ready.

It was one of many sleepovers I had at my grandparents’ house, nights away from home that either I requested or my parents desired.  I loved those nights because Grandma let me sleep on the couch in the living room, steps away from the bedroom she and Granddad shared.  She always kept a light on, and the sheets and blankets she used to make my bed were extra soft, as they most likely covered the beds and sleeping forms of my mother and her four brothers when they were children.

I don’t know why the box of Corn Flakes has a rooster on it.  What do roosters have to do with cereal anyway?  Back then I never questioned it too much; it was just the way things were, and most things were good, familiar.  Especially at Grandma and Granddad’s house, where they wrapped me in their loving arms and easily found a place for me in their regularly scheduled lives once or even twice a week.

As Granddad poured his cereal, Grandma put the milk and sugar bowl down between us.  I watched as he spooned teaspoon after teaspoon of sugar over his corn flakes, and then I watched the milk melt the sugar as he poured.  I tried to repeat his ritual, sometimes taking one more teaspoon of sugar than he did.

We sat and crunched the cereal that we didn’t have at our house.  It didn’t matter; even if my mother would have bought them, I wouldn’t have eaten them anyway, as children infuriatingly do sometimes.  Corn flakes were Granddad’s thing, and mine too only when I was sleeping over.

Sometimes I listened as Granddad and Grandma told stories or asked me about school or just talked about how Granddad eats corn flakes every night.  I wondered how many boxes with the rooster on it he had eaten over the years.  Sometimes we were quiet; our mouths were full and conversation didn’t always go that late.  After we finished, Grandma took our bowls and rinsed the remnants of our late-night snack into the sink.  Granddad turned out the light and we walked into the living room.

I helped Grandma set up my couch-bed; she shook the sheets and I fluffed the pillow.  Granddad settled in his chair and turned on the TV, and Grandma settled into hers as they waited for me to go to sleep.  I was allowed to stay up to watch the news at eleven o’clock if I could keep my eyes open, which almost never happened.  My belly full of corn flakes, I dozed off, snuggled on the couch in their nice warm house, safe and loved.

Those nights at the kitchen table with Granddad will never be forgotten; surprisingly, I hardly ever buy corn flakes these days, unless I need them for a recipe.  They have never changed, much like the memories I have.  They are still Granddad's thing, and even though I still don't know why the rooster is on the box, they always remind me of those cherished sleepovers at my grandparents' house.

This post was inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #4:  Thursday, March 7th is National Cereal Day.  Write about your favorite cereal when you were a child.  How has it changed?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Peace and Pancakes

My kids are off from school today and although I like my Monday mornings nice and quiet, it just wasn’t meant to be when my children rose at exactly the same time that they do every other school day and I found myself at the kitchen table trying to glide into the day with coffee and the paper while two small people watched a television show about the strange wonder of parasitic twins.

This isn’t how I wanted to spend my glorious Monday morning, a day most often protected by my own selfish delight in having the entire house to myself after a weekend jammed with crackling overstimulation.

I banished them to the basement so I could sip coffee and read about busted cocaine dealers in relative quiet.  At once I remembered the one thing that would threaten to dissolve my morning cocoon: pancakes.

When my kids are home in the morning, their brains fix upon this one treat that can’t quickly be prepared on a usual weekday morning during the school year.  Sleepovers, summer mornings, the occasional open Saturday, days off from school: these days almost always warrant the question:  Mom, can you make pancakes?

I tiptoed around the kitchen and stole upstairs to accumulate and separate the dirty clothes that my family amasses at a jaw-dropping volume over the weekends.  Stealthily I loaded the washer with one load of laundry, turned it on, and sat down at my computer, where I had also piled the morning’s work of bills, unopened mail, and school papers that demand my attention at an alarming rate at this moment in the school year.

Then I heard it: the thump-thumping of four feet making their way up the stairs from the basement.  As I sat at my computer, mouse poised to click on the next email destined for deletion, I heard from the first floor:  Mom, could you possibly make your most famous and delicious pancakes for our breakfast this morning?

My shoulders slumped a little as my oldest child poured on the sweetness like the syrup that I would most certainly be wiping off the table later today.  How can I resist such a compliment from my angelic and polite child?  I sighed.  My sacred Monday would be interrupted.  Of course, I replied.

Thanks Mom.  You’re the best, they both said as they skipped back to their dungeon to play demolition derby while watching a show that most likely has something to do with ghosts, infested homes, or Sasquatch.

I will make them pancakes this morning.  As I read another email, I can hear them coming closer.  The basement door has been opened a crack so they can hear me call them when the pancakes are ready.  They will be ready soon.  Monday morning will be over soon, and with it, my time for just me.

It’s okay.  In a few minutes I will be hearing ooohs and ahhhs, This is so goods and These are the best pancakes ever, thanks moms.  My kids are free with compliments and mostly appreciative of the little things.  Losing this Monday morning will be worth it.  I will have another Monday to myself.

Plus, I will have a little leverage to use when I ask, later today:  Can you two clean your bathroom?