Lessons from the Floor

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For the last several days, I have been sleeping on the floor of my kid’s bedroom. I know it sounds crazy, but I have a good reason.

My bedroom is upstairs, and the kids’ bedrooms are downstairs, which means that if a kid is sick or otherwise needs me during the night, I have to haul my 43-year-old body all the way down the staircase and back again–sometimes, multiple times in the same night. As you can imagine, this is not fun.

It is far better for me to find a place to sleep downstairs when someone is sick or otherwise needs me. However, it can’t be the couch in the living room because it is made of hard, slippery leather. It can’t be the loveseat because it isn’t big enough. It can’t be a trundle or similar bed because we don’t have the floor space, and it can’t be an air mattress because it is way too buoyant and I’m afraid of vertigo.

I should also mention that Cosmo, our one-year-old Shih Tzu puppy, will not even entertain a scenario that does not include him sleeping as close to me as possible, so whatever solution I come up with has to consider his needs as well.

Ultimately, I decided to purchase a cheap crib mattress on clearance at Babies R Us and combine it with an old toddler-size foam couch emblazoned with Dora the Explorer logos that I store under the basement stairs for such an occasion. This set-up is admittedly pretty awful, but at least it’s something.

Here is what I have learned from sleeping in this manner over the last several days:

  1. It is difficult to sleep on a shitty crib mattress/toddler-size Dora couch combo on the floor with a dog, but not impossible.
  2. I get really snippy when I am tired. And I am sorry.
  3. My skin breaks out when I don’t get enough sleep. See rosacea, or lupus.
  4. I am a selfish brat for complaining about sleeping on the floor temporarily, since there are millions of people around the world who happily sleep on the floor every single night. See Shanty Town.
  5. Dogs don’t care if there isn’t enough room for them in your “bed,” they will still find a spot.
  6. Husbands don’t care if you’ve been sleeping on the floor for several days; they still expect clean undershirts, hot meals, and other things. See 50 Shades of Are You Kidding Me?
  7. It’s funny to say “I’m going to floor” at the end of a long day.
  8. Since heat rises, it’s f**king cold on the floor.
  9. Despite my shitty crib mattress/toddler-size Dora couch combo, it’s still hard on the floor.
  10. Only J-Lo can dance the night away, live her life and stay young on the floor.
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How to send a card in 37 easy steps

My friend lost her aunt to lung cancer a few weeks ago, and I wanted to send a card to let her and her family know how sorry I was.

Most people I know can send a card without much trouble, but for me, sending a card is like sending a man to the moon. I’d like to blame it on the fact that I have three kids who take a lot of my time and attention away from such a task, but I have always found sending a card to be extremely challenging, even before I had kids.

Here are the steps I go through whenever I have to send a card:

1. Realize that I am going to have to buy a card because someone is having a birthday, is sick, going through something difficult or has died.

2. Forget to buy it at the store at least 2 or 3 times.

3. Buy the card.

4. Realize we are out of stamps and a trip to the post office is necessary.

5. Forget to go to the post office at least 2 or 3 times.

6. Go to the post office. It is closed.

7. Return to the post office when it is opened.

8. Realize in the case of a relative’s birthday that the kids are going to have to sign the card individually in their own handwriting.

9. Get one kid to sign the card.

10. Get the next kid to sign the card.

11. Get the last kid to sign the card.

12. Realize the address I have is out of date.

13. Forget to send an email for the new address at least 2 or 3 times.

14. Send the email requesting the new address.

15. Receive the new address.

16. Address the card.

17. Place the card on the table in the entryway.

18. Leave the card on the table in the entryway for several days.

19. Carry the card from the table in the entryway to the car.

20. Leave the card in the car for several days.

21. Completely lose the card in the car.

22. Find the card in the car.

23. Come to grips with the fact that the card is now in no condition to be sent.

24. Repeat steps 2, 3, 9-11, and 16-22

25. Put the card in the mailbox.

26. Promise to do better next time.

The Cubes

IMG_3143At some point this summer, my son became interested in the Rubik’s cube and begged us to buy him one. Happy that it wasn’t a video game, my husband went to our local toy store and bought him one, and while he was there, he bought two more because our children have trained us never to buy just one of something when there are three of them.

Our first child, the oldest, must have heard how impossible the Rubik’s cube was to solve because she decided that she was never, ever going to mix hers up and leave it forever as she received it, treating it more like an abstract piece of art to display in her bedroom. This was a good plan; there was no other place in the house that was safer because she had trained her brothers a long time ago to never EVER enter her bedroom for any reason whatsoever.

Our last child, the youngest, watched his older brother for clues on what he should do with his Rubik’s cube. Together, they each twisted and turned their cubes until they had them really mixed up, and then put dots with Sharpie markers in one of the center cubes to tell the difference between the two of them.

After about an hour, our youngest child no longer had any interest in his cube, and ran down the street to play outside with our neighbors. But our second child got serious, consulting YouTube for visual instructions on how to solve it. That didn’t work; the videos were either too complicated, too vague, or too fast. One video recommended we lubricate the cube with some WD-40 to make it spin faster so that the solution would be more obvious. That didn’t work either.

Still, he kept at it. He took the cube with him everywhere: the pool, basketball camp, restaurants, etc., but he still couldn’t solve it. At the end of his rope, he asked us for help but was amazed to find that we were as dumbfounded as he was; usually we were able to solve complex problems and provide answers to difficult questions, but this time was different. I imagine he started to feel vulnerable; “If my parents don’t know how to do this seemingly easy thing, what else do they not know?”

It was around this time that he started to consider “borrowing” his sister’s Rubik’s cube on display in her bedroom that is never to be entered under any circumstances. His thinking was, “If I mix it up only a little, I will be able to solve it pretty easily and apply what I have learned to my cube and will then be able to solve any Rubik’s cube on earth no matter how mixed up it is.”

And so, my second child stole his sister’s Rubik’s cube, mixed it up only a little, but was unable to get it back. Scared out of his mind, he wept to my husband, who decided the best course of action for his son was to approach his sister honestly and with sincere regret. She of course was very angry until my husband diffused the situation by mentioning that he could simply peel off some stickers, artificially returning the cube to its original state. That made me and my OCD crazy but it impressed the children and made my husband look like a genius.

A few days later, my son asked us to buy him another, more sophisticated cube, a Newisland cube he found on Amazon. The Newisland cube spun faster than the Rubik’s Cube without having to add any additional lubricant and it didn’t have any stickers to peel. It was for serious cubers. It arrived by courier, and he was ecstatic, spinning it and manipulating it in the same way over and over again but never getting it truly mixed up, until his brother inadvertently bumped his arm and caused him to make a wrong turn. He tried to correct it but it was too late – the cube was forever mixed up and this time there were no stickers to peel.

My son broke down into sobs once again. I could not take the stress anymore and wished for a simpler life, before the cubes. I gave him the speech of a lifetime:

“The Rubik’s cube is a lie in the same way the claw from the arcade at the beach is a lie. Even though it appears from YouTube that anyone can solve it, only a very small percentage of the population can solve it. If it turns out that you can’t ever solve it, I don’t want you to think you aren’t smart because you are! Also, the inventor of the Rubik’s cube never meant for it to sit perfectly on a shelf in a bedroom. It is supposed to capture your imagination and dare you to dream, to reach for the impossible. It’s not supposed to be perfect, and that is what makes it great.”

I was pretty proud of myself for being so philosophical on my feet and thought maybe I was going to emerge the ultimate hero, until my husband announced from the kitchen that he had pried open the mixed up Newisland cube with a screwdriver and was able to gently pop it back together again perfectly. With a quiet awe, we all gathered around him as he showed us how he did it. It is because of him that we live peacefully among the cubes today.

Mommy Paranoia

Ebola has found its way to the United States, as I knew it would, and so now my Mommy Paranoia is on full alert.

Mommy Paranoia is the feeling that no matter how good things are right now, they have a chance of going downhill at any time. And so you worry. It’s really no surprise that I suffer from Mommy Paranoia, given that I’ve always been a worry wart. In the eighth grade, I was voted “Most Likely to Breathe into a Paper Bag Before Taking a Test in High School.” But honestly, it’s not just me. Mommy Paranoia is very prevalent among most Moms I know.

Back when Ebola was only in Africa, Moms were having panic attacks over the usual nightmare scenarios: kid getting kidnapped, kid spending too much time playing Minecraft and growing up to be a parasitic slacker, and my personal favorite: kid getting lice.

For the uninitiated, lice are bugs so small you can’t really see them that attach themselves to the hair shafts of your sweet, innocent child and won’t let go until the school nurse physically pulls them out and calls you to come pick up your child who is no longer welcome in school until the bugs (and the even smaller eggs they have left behind) are gone. Oh, and make sure your other two kids don’t have them hiding out in their hair either. Have a nice weekend!

There is a line from the American Revolution, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Lice is without a doubt one of those times. Luckily, there is a nurse who is doing the Lord’s work nearby in Short Hills, NJ who will pull every last one of those f**kers out of your child’s hair for the bargain price of $1,000 per head and give you an extremely comprehensive and very rational set of instructions for making sure that they don’t come back. Her demeanor is casual, her voice calm, and as a result she will snap you back to the reality that lice is not leukemia.

But most Moms will not–cannot–be satisfied. Their paranoia is now forever on overdrive, and they will take to the Internet to learn all kinds of things they should never know about lice mostly because they are largely false. And even though they know these things to be false, they will believe them, just to be on the safe side. Mother Lice herself has assured these Moms that the bugs cannot live off the human head for more than 24 hours, but they will still make their children wear hooded sweatshirts at the movie theater even when it is 95 degrees, drill it into their kids that they should never EVER borrow someone else’s baseball helmet, and spray their kids with rosemary oil every time they leave the house because they know that LICE IS PROBABLY ALL AROUND THEM.

Another thing I have found Moms to be really paranoid of (pre-United States Ebola) is looking like a Mom. A long time ago, the people who made jeans decided to help us out by providing a little more coverage in the belly area to help hold the skin that has been stretched by one, two or more pregnancies. They were doing us a favor, and we knew it too because we started buying them by the truckload. As soon as we figured this out, though, that only Moms were wearing these super high-waisted jeans, we began to resist them and started squeezing our damaged bodies back into jeans (and all other pants too) that are much better suited for 16 year olds.

Also, we refuse to wear shoes that suggest we are running after our toddlers or up and down the stairs doing laundry. At a recent Back to School night, for example, I could not believe the amount of strappy high-heeled sandals I saw clip-clopping up and down all of the stairs. Newsflash: you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t a mother!

We also torture ourselves with the amount of calories we consume, downloading apps called “Eat Slower” and taking up ballet again in an effort not to be fat, supposedly the most common side effect of motherhood. Even those Moms who have somehow stayed thin feel compelled to stop eating red meat and start eating an unpronounceable grain humans haven’t eaten since ancient times–just to be on the safe side.

Unfortunately, the safe side doesn’t exist, or I would have built a four bedroom center hall colonial with a central vacuum and laundry chute there a long time ago. Danger lurks around every corner when you are a Mom, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. It sucks but at least we are all in the same boat. Now we just have to hope it doesn’t sink.

Fuzzy

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My second child, a boy, turned eight in April and decided that he wanted to grow his hair long, except his is really curly and growing it is going to be more complicated than he realizes. I should know because I too have really curly hair.

This is a very sensitive topic for me. Throughout the entire fourth grade, my “friends” called me Fuzzy. They thought my hair was HILARIOUS, and in all honesty, it was. Bullying isn’t right, but my hair was wrong. My mother would struggle to get a comb through my frizzy curls, telling anyone who would listen that my hair didn’t grow DOWN, but OUT. I’m a grown woman now and with the help of a talented stylist, hours of research on the Internet, and a late-night infomercial genius by the name of Chaz Dean, my hair looks much better now. Unless of course it rains.

I wish I could take everything I have learned in this area and teach it to my children who have inherited my frizz, but I can’t. As you may have figured out by now, my kids will not be told what to do. My son proudly walks around like Albert Einstein had a scuffle with Don King in the middle of an electrical storm, and my daughter will not let me flat iron her hair while we talk and bond about One Direction and their upcoming album (OMG, I can’t wait! Niall said it was going to be more edgy this time around). She just doesn’t have the patience, but she has no idea how GORGEOUS her hair could be.

This morning, after I begged him to do SOMETHING with his hair, my son indulged me by spraying his hair with a little water and running the palm of his hand down one side of his head. The other side was left completely untouched. He desperately needed more spritzing, some finger combing and a spray gel, but he wouldn’t let me near him. I felt so helpless. Why can’t my kid put his trust in me? I wanted to write his teacher a note apologizing for the distraction his wild hair would cause in the classroom today, but I didn’t have time because my daughter was having her own crisis trying to use this stupid donut thing while her buddies were ringing the doorbell. If only she would let me do what I want, WHAT I KNOW, she wouldn’t need the damn donut!

It’s hard, because on the one hand, despite everything I have written on this blog to the contrary, they are perfect just the way they are and I don’t want to give them something silly to worry about. On the other hand (the one that keeps it real), good personal hygiene is important, which means that teeth need to be brushed, clothes need to be clean, and uncontrollable hair must be controlled. It’s a fact that neat and clean wins the race, and it’s a lesson best learned early. Plus I really don’t want anyone to call them Fuzzy. It totally sucked.

How to Embarrass Your Tween

I sank to a new low last week. My first, an 11 year old girl no longer in elementary school, left for junior high the earliest she had yet, allowing her to walk at a relaxed pace that does not cause sweating and casually chat with friends before the daily grind of science, orchestra and social studies. It was a great way to start the day and I was so glad I didn’t have to nag her about getting out the door on time.

The boys got up, I prepared their breakfast, and then I saw it – the audition form. My daughter was trying out for the musical after school and I had very carefully filled out all of her acting experience, knowing full well that none of it really mattered because she was going to get ensemble anyway. I had put the important (not really) form in my daughter’s backpack the night before, but remembered at the last minute that she had to sign it, so I took it out and neither one of us bothered to put it back.

I glanced at the clock. I had 10 minutes before the first bell. Plenty of time. I accepted the challenge. I called her on her cell. She answered.

“You forgot your form!”

“What??”

“You forgot your audition form!”

“Oh!”

“Where are you?”

“In front.”

“OK, I will meet you in front…WAIT!…there’s not enough time. Go to the back.”

“OK, I’ll meet you in the parking lot. But leave now!”

“Yes, I’m already in the car.”

During our conversation, I grabbed and put on the closest pair of shoes I could find: my black rubber rain boots. It wasn’t raining. I got in the car with the cordless, not the cell, and peeled out of the driveway. In my pajamas.

I turned the corner and then it hit me, they won’t let me in the parking lot. Good God Almighty. They are not going to let me.

I stopped at the intersection and let a car go by.

Maybe they will let me just this once? Surely there is a grace period that will slowly wean helicopter elementary school Moms from babying their children who are now old enough to remember their own things.

I rolled up to the entrance of the parking lot and quickly realized that there was no grace period. There were like armed guards blocking the entrance who eat Moms like me for breakfast. I could see my daughter in the distance but I could not communicate with her because the cordless was now out of range.

Oh my God, I am going to have to get out of the car. I am wearing rubber rain boots with no rain and pajama bottoms and my hair looks like a Unicorn Zombie Apocalypse.

It is amazing how many things your brain can process in three to five seconds but it won’t remember to put an important (not really) form back into a backpack. I considered just sitting there to see if she would come to me, but then she would be late. I considered leaving and maybe faxing the form from home but what if she came to me and I wasn’t even there?

There was no choice, I had to get out of the car.

I got out of the car and starting running in my rubber rain boots with no rain and pajama bottoms which I could now see were tucked into the boots like Aladdin. When I finally got to her, I tried to apologize, but I was laughing too hard. And she tried to be embarrassed but she was laughing too hard, too.