Don’t Kiss Me (Unless You Want Some Action)

A few months ago my dear friend Liz and I were talking about the hug versus the kiss greeting and she said, “Yeah, so, Michael really doesn’t like to be kissed. And you always do that kiss on the cheek thing when you say hello and goodbye.”

I thought: Holy shit. Thank God she told me that. I adore Michael. I don’t want to torture him.

The funny thing is, I really hate being kissed, too, unless it is going to lead to, uh, sex. So why the hell was I molesting poor Michael?

After giving it some thought, I think it stems, largely, from my parents. My mom was a big kisser. A big, soft mushy kisser. Don’t get me wrong, I really loved my mom, but she had a big mushy face and a big, soft gushy kiss that made me feel like she was going to suck me down into her gullet.

Of course I kiss the kids

And, my mom always insisted on kissing me smack on the lips. Offering up a cheek to my mom, was like a battle cry. It was an affront to all of her Jewish motherly love.

Also, you must understand, my mother always, always, always wore lipstick.

(If she wasn’t wearing lipstick, it was like spotting an unusual animal in the wilds of suburbia: Shhhhh. If you keep very still you will see it! There, deep in the produce section is the rare pale lipped Brona. If you get closer, you will see it isn’t wearing lipliner, which makes this an even rarer pale lipped Brona sighting…)

My mom always wore a brand of lipstick that had a distinctly crotch like smelly aftertaste that lingered on my lips. And, it was one of those 24-hour impossible to remove long stay, long last colors that transferred onto my lips and turned them a strange orangish hue.

My dad is also an insistent kiss greeter. Saying hello or goodbye to my dad is sort of like going through a face car wash. He has the wettest kiss I have ever experienced. And really, you don’t want to own the title for receiving your wettest kiss from your father. After my dad kisses me (and really, it’s a quick peck), I feel like he’s just licked my entire face.

The kicker about kissing my dad is that he has some untreated issue that causes his nose to run all the time. Usually he’s good about mopping it up, but sometimes he leans in for the kiss and there’s a wet patch right above his lips. So you get his big fat wet lips and the big fat wet upper lip area headed right for your nice, dry mouth.

*Shiver*

There is yet another gross kisser in my life who must remain anonymous because I will get The Marital Look Of Disapproval Bordering On Disdain from my husband if I say who it is. I’ll call him The Obsessive Aftershave Splasher.

Each morning after TOAS shaves, he dunks his head in several ounces of aftershave. If I was to write the advertising copy for said aftershave I might describe it as, “Old-manish, cloying, nausea-inducing, something to spray the diaper pail with after your toddler takes a horrific dump.”

After this man kisses me, I smell like a dirty whore trying to cover up her skank stank with her cheap aftershave. It doesn’t wash off. Ever. So I smell like a dirty whore trying to cover up her skank stank with cheap aftershave all day long. It gets in my hair, on my clothes, on my children. It makes me want to yack. Imagine experiencing the morning sickness of three pregnancies while in a wake of The Obsessive Aftershave Splasher.

So, in this season of greeting friends, family, and strangers alike, let me be both your lesson (I’m so sorry, Michael!) and your reminder. Don’t torture other people with your wet, smelly, mushy, lippy business unless you want to get in their pants. And even then, it’s probably better to ask first, or at least brush your teeth in advance.

 

 

Hemorrhoids Are Good Luck Charms

I’ve always considered myself one who has variable luck. I’m not very lucky, but on the other hand I am very lucky.

I got to thinking about luck the other day when I won a contest on Mommy Shorts, which happens to be one of my favorite blogs. If you haven’t checked out Mommy Shorts, you should. It is packed full of humor and pathos.

Anyhow, I suggested a caption for this picture that included the word hemorrhoid in it. To my great delight, I won a gift card to the delicious Crumbs Bakeshop. This is highly fortuitous because I freaking love cupcakes. And I’m going to NYC in March. So I will not only be in my favorite city, but I will be stuffing myself with cupcakes!

Anyhow, all of this contest winning got me to thinking about luck, and about hemorrhoids. Why should one associate luck with hemorrhoids? After all, hemorrhoids are the trolls of the ass world.

Here’s why. For me, hemorrhoids have come to symbolize bad luck turning into good luck.

The first time I experienced a hemorrhoid was when I had cancer. Why should a person have to have hemorrhoids when they are bald, sickly and being pumped full of chemotherapy? Because. Just because.

Having cancer was unlucky. I had Ewings Sarcoma. Ewings is a childhood cancer. It most commonly strikes boys. Odd, and statistically odder, that a 30 year old woman about 30 days away from her wedding should get Ewings. Unlucky. Very unlucky.

The lucky part? I had the most kick-ass, funny, whip-smart oncologist ever, Dr. Anna Pavlick. The first time I met Dr. Pavlick, my parents had flown in from Florida to be with me and my then fiance (now husband).

We were all gathered in Dr. Pavlick’s little office and my dad opened up a tiny bottle of scotch he’d pilfered from the airplane. We passed around the bottle as the doc, or Pavy, as I came to call her, delivered the unlucky news.

What I loved about Pavy is that she gave it to me straight.

She said something like You have a shitty, aggressive cancer but it responds well to treatment so I’m going to hit you hard and you’re going to feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. For about a year. And you’ll probably be infertile by the end of treatment, so we need to get you to an infertility specialist right away.

But Pavy also had a soft side. When we went into the exam room and I was shaking from nerves, fear, anger, she put her hand on my leg and said softy Oh girl, how did you end up here?

I had an ally in Pavy. She didn’t see me as a diagnosis. And she didn’t gloss over my feelings.

Pavy was the best possible luck. She nicknamed me Chicken. She taught me everything I know about perseverance. And she cared about my hemorrhoids. Really. She did.

Pavy hooked me up with an excellent infertility specialist. In the month before chemo started and our wedding, my then fiance (now husband) shot me up with hella hormones, and we ended up with seven frozen embryos. Luck. Big time luck. We were parents before we were married.

Even luckier? After two surgeries, seven months of chemotherapy, a bald bride wedding, a deluxe honeymoon in the finest NYU hospital suite (compete with gold-plated bed pans, IV poles and generous helpings of anti-emetics) I was back on the road to health. And once I was healthy and had clear scans I was allowed to try to conceive naturally. And I did! Total luck in the form of three children, none of whom were ever frozen.

Which leads me back to hemorrhoids. Every time I’ve been pregnant I’ve had the most horrendous hemorrhoids. But being pregnant (under the right circumstances) is the best kind of luck. You see? Hemorrhoids + Pregnancy = Babies = Luck!

And let me tell you, hemorrhoids were the gold standard of my pregnancies. The size of my pregnancy hemorrhoids rivaled the size of a growing fetus.

At one point during one said pregnancy I had to go the E.R. to have a hemorrhoid lanced. Unlucky. And painful. But, I got the Hottest Intern Ever. Lucky. Or maybe not. At least I didn’t have to look at his gorgeous face when he was doing the, uh, lancing. But if it weren’t for that hemorrhoid I never would’ve met the Hottest Intern Ever. So there’s that.

I guess the fact is that when it comes to the big things, sometimes I am unlucky, but often the unluckyness turns to luck, which is awesome. And, more often than not, there is a hemorrhoid involved.

So, for me, when I won the cupcakes over at Mommy Shorts it was kind of momentous and amazing.

I have never, ever won anything in a contest or raffle before. And, now, I’ve actually won something without having huge hemorrhoids. (Though I did summon the word hemorrhoid for that contest, so clearly they are some sort of lucky charm for me.)

Some people have a lucky penny, I have a lucky hemorrhoid. And I’m okay with that. Especially when there are cupcakes involved.

I Am Swimming Beside You

My dear friend,

Fucking December. Everyone is so damn jolly with their Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas crap.

There is nothing little about Christmas, and for many of us it’s a real bitch to muster our merry.

I know this month has to be especially hard for you. There’s nothing as painful as feeling shitty in the midst of real and manufactured holiday cheer.

You have been on my mind because I know you are struggling. Struggling hard. I want to thank you for fighting. I want to thank you for digging in your heels and not giving up. It is a gift to everyone who loves you.

The undertow of depression is strong. It is a long, hard swim with no view of landfall. It is a sandbag on your chest, a chorus of unwanted voices in your head. It is the ultimate internal battle.

You do not fight this fight alone.

Tonight I was thinking about you and a vision came to me. First I saw you swimming for shore. You were gasping for air, struggling to keep from swallowing salt water. Your hair was wild. The tide was working against you and your legs were burning and shaking from exertion.

Then I saw you buoyed. You were buoyed by the sounds of your children laughing, playing, fighting, whining, whispering their secrets.

You were buoyed by their sweet breath and their silky hair. By their pages of homework and art projects.

All thoughts of what you should be or could be and what you aren’t and what you are trailed off behind you and dissipated into the ocean.

You were completely free to love and be loved.

Then I saw you buoyed by the perfect cup of coffee, by the melty goodness of your favorite chocolate, by the heady fruit of a glass of wine.

You were lifted by scenes in a movie, the words of a great writer, a girlfriend’s laughter. And the most soulful music filled you with light.

You were buoyed by the warmth of your mother’s smile, by the sound of your father’s voice, by the silky fur of your dog.

All thought of what you should be or could be or what you aren’t or what you are trailed off behind you and dissipated into the ocean.

You were completely free to love and be loved.

The weight of your despair trailed off behind you and in its place was peace. Your heart was buoyed by calm and surety.

I want to share this with you because I so badly want this peace for you and feel very deeply in my bones that you will have it and much, much more. It must be so. It will be so.

I will be swimming beside you.

I love you dear friend.

You Are My Favorite

I now know that my mom was a liar when she said she didn’t have a favorite. I know it was me.

Thankfully my kids don’t ask me very often about who my favorite child is, but I am prepared to lie with an answer.

You are all my favorites! (Cough, cough, bullshit, cough, cough.)

When there were just two kids in the family and I was pressed for an answer, I’d say, You are my favorite girl in the whole wide world, or You are the most special boy ever. Now that we have three (why couldn’t he have just come out as a unicorn?) it is more complicated.

Of course I love all of my kids equally. There is no question about that. I think of each of them and my heart, oh, my heart melts with love. It melts and glows. Like E.T. Like a Lullaby Glow Worm (Or maybe that’s the reflux?)

But getting back to the favorite kid thing…

I have written a lot about Big Sis and The Toddler, but not so much about Mr. Middle Guy. And that is because, friends, he makes me so freakishly melty that it is hard to put into words. He makes me think about that word f_vor_te.

You see, 14 months after the fireball colic crazed babyness that was Big Sis’ entre to the world, along came Mr. Middle Guy. He was like a glowing sun rising over a still lake. He was just super calm, super sweet, quick to smile and whip smart.

Mr. Middle Guy taught himself to read at three years old, he knows more about astronomy than some of the adults competing on Jeopardy (speaking of Jeopardy, one night he had a meltdown of epic proportions because he missed Alex Trebek announcing the opening categories), and he is emotionally intelligent.

Of course, he can’t put on his own socks without freaking out, can barely get on his own shoes, and is the primary suspect in my ongoing Toilet Seat Urination Investigation.

But if you want to talk about the universe scale or the nanoworld, look no further than that seven-year old boy sitting on the sofa sucking on his front fingers.

Mr. Middle Guy just kills me. In the best possible way.

The thing about parenthood is, you don’t know who you’re going to click with when you have kids. You will love each child fiercely, but your interpersonal dynamics may be challenging with some. No one really talks about this, but for me it is true. I think it’s a lot easier to parent a kid who doesn’t jangle your nerves. Or remind you of your crazy uncle.

I enjoy the challenges that parenting each different child poses, but I also really appreciate when things just click.

Mr. Middle Guy gets me, and I get him.

He’s not your typical boy. He has very little interest in sports. He likes to play with girls. He’s cuddly, snuggly, cozy. I know he would rather browse around the Hello Kitty store or the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry gift shop than Dick’s Sporting Goods.

I love that Mr. Middle Guy, this amazing boy, is just completely and unabashedly himself. I want him to be this way forever.

I want him feel confident enough to carry a Hello Kitty notebook or hunker down with a book about black holes or to play house with the girls. I hope that all of his life he will have the bravery, chutzpah, and confidence to do whatever makes him happy.

I hope that he will always feel loved and supported. And most of all I hope he will always feel pride in who he is and how he chooses to live his life.

I know he will always be someone’s f_v_r_te. He’s special like that.

Mama Llama Humping Papa

It’s Saturday night and Little Llama Llama’s mama is randy.

All week long Mama Llama has been schlepping Little Llama Llama and his whiny siblings wearing red pajamas all around the desert.

Mama Llama just wants her llamas to go the heck to sleep so she can have a beer and do the nasty with Papa Llama.

But Llama Llama One wants to talk about earthquakes. Llama Llama Two wants to discuss the ramifications of infinity. And Littlest Llama Llama is exhausting all of Mama Llama’s teats.

By the time Mama Llama has all three little llamas fast asleep in their beds, Papa Llama is drooling on the sofa.

Mama Llama either has to wake Papa Llama or resort to her favorite vibrating llama toy.

Mama Llama decides to leave poor, exhausted Papa Llama to his sleep, but she soon discovers that her llama toy has dead batteries.

So, Mama Llama gets undressed and wakes Papa Llama. It takes a little convincing, but Papa Llama rises to the occasion.

Mama Llama is so happy. She’s old, but not dead. She is a horny llama in her forties. It is odd that lady llamas get so horny at a time in their life when little llamas are so darn exhausting.

Anywho…Mama Llama and Papa Llama are on their way to happily humping.

Papa Llama begins to feel around for Mama Llama’s happy place. Uh-oh, thinks Mama Llama. He’s about to get lost in the post c-section pudge that some llamas get after three c-sections.

But Papa Llama has done this before, and lucky llama that he is he navigates the c-section pudge fold without confusion.

Then Papa Llama seeks out Mama Llamas teats. Where could they be? OH! There they are, hanging over the sides of Mama Llama. Silly teats! Get back up where you belong. Stop slipping off of Mama, teats!

Before long Mama Llama and Papa Llama are making love, Llama Style.

Mama Llama suddenly feels a little spanking feeling. This is fantastic she thinks. Papa Llama is so naughty!

But before long she realizes that it is actually the slap of her own butt cheeks that is causing the spanking.

Papa Llama is getting winded. His back hurts from carrying the little llamas around. Papa Llama’s knees are creaking

Now that Mama Llama is a middle-aged llama it takes her longer to reach the Frosted Cookie.

Mama Llama changes position. Mama Llama and Papa Llama are working hard. They are making excited sounds. The Golden Cookie is just within reach!

Oh no! Suddenly Mama Llama’s thigh muscles begin to burn and twitch. She feels as though she’s at the 22nd mile of the Llama Marathon. Her toes curl in a painful cramp. What will she do?

Papa Llama is so close to getting his Golden Cookie that Mama Llama must persevere. She huffs and sweats and swears under her breath that she will start a yoga class as soon as possible.

And just as Papa Llama is about to get his Golden Cookie Mama Llama and Papa Llama hear the faint cry of Littlest Llama. Everything comes to a screeching halt.

Mama Llama and Papa Llama stop in mid-hump. They are very still. They listen to see if Littlest Llama will fall back to sleep Their hearts are beating very fast. Then Mama Llama’s burning thighs give out. She collapses on Papa Llama. Papa Llama groans.

Mama Llama and Papa Llama hear Littlest Llama cry again. He’s not falling back to sleep.

Oh fuck me says Mama Llama.

Maybe next week sighs Papa Llama. Maybe next week.

You Don’t Flush and Other Marital Surprises

I love my husband. I really do. I love his quirks and his silliness. I love how hard he works. I love his on-going joke with the kids about chickens. But, like most husbands, he has several interesting habits.

He flushes the toilet, but only during daylight hours.

He does this weird swishing gargle thing when he drinks Diet Coke.

He finds my hidden chocolate and eats it.

He breaks into dance at odd times. Like, in grocery lines. Or at the bank.

He is obsessed with Law & Order. Bong bong.

And, I’ve never seen my husband sit upright on the sofa. Even when the kids are at their most hyper and demanding, he gets up to help them but then immediately lays back down on the sofa.

Up, lays back down. Up, lays back down. It’s odd.

He is also the loudest whisperer I’ve ever known.

If we go to a restaurant and I try to surreptitiously point out someone interesting, he totally blows my cover by loudly whispering: “Who? Her? The one over there with the red hair? Is she wearing a blue scarf?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hidden under the table as the red-haired woman in the blue scarf gave my husband a What The Fuck’s With You look on her face.

This weekend we went to the movies to see Like Crazy. Movies are always interesting with my husband. His theatre-going behavior is a crap shoot.

Turns out that Like Crazy is a romance (not really a romantic comedy as we were led to believe). My husband hung in there for the first half of the movie. He had popcorn to keep him busy.

Then the whispering started:

Husband: Doesn’t he look like La la la go vaz?

Me: Shhhhh. What? Lady Gaga huh?

Husband: (Louder whisper) Doesn’t that actor look like Lyle Lovett? You know, the foreskin?

Me: Shhhhh. Lyle Lovett’s (giggle) foreskin?

Husband: No, Lyle Lovett’s forehead!

Me: Will you shut it?

Husband: (Pokes my arm.)

Husband: (Loud whisper) Pshhhhht.

Me: Shhhhhhh! 

Husband: (Makes horse face.)

Me: What are you doing?

Husband: That actress, she has a horse face, right? (He whinnies.)

Lady two seats down leans forward in her seat, stares at us. I slump down in my seat.

I guess this is all a small price to pay for a great partner. After all, how many guys will gobble like a turkey in public to keep a toddler from throwing a shit fit?

How many guys will forgive his wife’s poor housekeeping abilities even if it means his pant legs are frequently hemmed by dog hair?

I think he’s a keeper. (Whinny.)

You Are Covered In Kitty Litter and Other Thoughts About Family Life

This past weekend deserves an honorable mention in the Our Life Is Crazy Hall of Fame.

Back story: I’ve been sick for a week. Thus, my poor housekeeping skills are at an all time low. It looks like a bunch of sticky crap has exploded on all of the surfaces and walls of the kitchen.

The two-year old launched an entire bowl of Fuse Beads off the kitchen table. So there’s that. You can never completely clean up a Fuse Bead incident of that magnitude.

And let’s not forget the three loads of clean laundry waiting to be folded and the wet clothes in the washer that are starting to smell suspect. How many times can one wash the same load of clothing? Apparently many, many times.

I’m not even sure that the clean laundry should be considered clean at this juncture. Every time I open the laundry room door our dog bum rushes the laundry baskets, jumps in and kicks everything out. He does this weird snorting and circling thing in the clothes once his stubby legs have landed him in said baskets. I suspect he may be urinating on the clean clothes.

If the dog has been pissing on the clothes I will only be able to whisper obscenities because I’ve lost my voice. This has thrown my daughter (who is on the Autism Spectrum) for a complete loop.

She keeps growling: Stop. Whispering. At. Me. Stop. Whispering. At. ME. I guess this a welcome change from Stop. Yelling. At. Me. Really, I’m not one who yells a lot, but any tone of frustration in my voice causes her to think that I’m going to lose my shit.

Granted, I am generally going out of my mind, but I really do try to keep that masked by a tone of kindness and understanding. Bah ha ha ha ha grinding teeth while entertaining ideations of drinking an entire bottle of wine.

So as I mentioned in an earlier post we decided to appease my daughter’s soul-crushing reaction to finding out that there is no tooth fairy (You are the worst mother ever and you’ve ruined my entire life), and put an end to her three-year long Adopting a cat will mean that all of my dreams have come true campaign by getting her a kitten.

If you have ever spent any length of time with a kid who has autism you will learn that they tend to obsess, and obsess hard.

So, for the last week Ruby has been talking non-stop about getting the kitten. She brought a whole pile of cat care books home from the library and explained to me at great length how to read a cat’s body language.

She made lists of things we need to purchase for the cat. She chewed over a slew of names (Blackberry? Dina? Dingleberry?). She could barely sleep.

When the big day arrived we all went to the Cat Adoption Team shelter together. Ruby’s excitement was at a fevered pitch. She hopped from cage to cage extolling the virtues of each cat.

This one is so friendly! (The cat was cowering in the corner of a cage, eyes dilated, fur on end.) This one is so playful! (The cat was clawing at the cage as if gunning for blood). This one is very sleepy! (The cat was geriatric, sleeping, or dead, would not rouse even with poking).

Meanwhile the two-year old had eaten about ten of the complimentary double stuffed cookies offered at reception. Geeked up on sugar and arms filled with cat toys he ran up and down the aisles yelling: Kitty! Kitty! Kitty! Kitty! I touch! I see! Give me kitty!

We ended up chosing an adorable, sweet, feisty black fuzzy three-month old kitten that was recommended by Extreme Cat Lady Volunteer on Duty. Before we could leave, Extreme Cat Lady adoption counselor insisted on giving me thirty minutes of instruction about kitten care. And kitten food. And kitten poop.

We finally got the kitten home, got her set up in the bathroom, assured Ruby fifteen times that the kitten would indeed always be hers. The kitten, now known as Alice, was pleased as pie about her new digs.

Food? Purr! Litter box? Purr! Small toddler holding her by the neck? Purr! Toys? Purr. Two children fighting over her? Purr. Small toddler freaking out that older siblings are petting her? Purr.

Awesome, I thought. This kitten is bullet proof.

Then we unleashed the dog. The dog sensed something was awry and ran to bathroom door. He went pug style crazy. Snort, snort, snort, snort, cough, cough, snort. The kitten, having heard the monstrous pug noises blew up like a little puffer fish and began hissing and growling at the sound of the dog.

I decided I had to escape the madness for a couple of hours. As I drove back home to pick up my husband for date night, I got a call. He sounded unhappy. Very unhappy. He had just experienced a Major Toddler-Kitten Incident.

The Major Toddler-Kitten Incident went like this:

In a moment of total insanity, my husband left the two-year old alone with the kitten and a full box of kitty litter. He returned a few minutes later to find the entire bathroom, toddler, and kitten covered in kitty litter, kitty litter dust, and kitty poop clumps.

He then stripped toddler down to a diaper, disposed of kitty litter covered clothing, and left the half-naked toddler with our older kids so he could quickly walk the dog (who had just eaten and is a ticking fecal time bomb after food ingestion).

While husband was walking the dog, the toddler freaked out. The freak out caused him to take a huge poop that blew out the diaper. Meanwhile the babysitter arrived to complete chaos and no husband in the house.

What I thought as my husband told me the story:
Seriously? You left the toddler alone with a kitten and a box of kitty litter? And, You left the toddler alone with the older kids who don’t know their asses from their elbows? 

What I said: Oh man. I’m so sorry.

By the time I pulled into the driveway everything appeared to be in control. My husband warned me to stay in the car so the two-year old wouldn’t flip out again. The babysitter had everything in control.

My husband finally joined me in the car, ready for date night. He smelled like a cloud of kitty litter and toddler poop. He had the look of a lunatic. We stared at each other, laughed, and nodded in silent agreement. Yes, this is our life. Kitty litter. Toddler poop. Dog pee. Chaos. Love.

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You Smell Weird or The Art of Sibling Warfare

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A few days ago my daughter asked me if we could get rid of her younger brother. She looked up at me with her big hazel eyes and said with all the sincerity an eight-year old can muster: “Can we just send Lucas somewhere? He just really messes up my life.”

Then I got a book of Thanksgiving thoughts from Lucas. It perfectly illustrates his relationship with his big sister, Ruby.

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And so it begins, the long journey of sibling rivalry.

I call it the he’s looking at me funny, she touched me, he’s in my personal space, she’s hogging the French fries, he smells weird, she’s making strange mouth noises, his toes are gross, I hate her, I hate him, why can’t I be any only child phase.

Sibling rivalry really freaks my husband out. He has a younger, disabled brother. There was no sibling rivalry between them. I, on the other hand, am a veteran.

My brother was very creative with nicknames for me, his younger sister of four years. Jenneraderfart is the one that comes to the top of my head and actually endures to this day.

Sistard is another sweet moniker bestowed upon me by my giant brother. It is much harder to come up with unique slams on the name Marc. Marctard just doesn’t have quite the same ring that sistard does. Yesterday he called me Jennubladder. Or was it Jennurectum? I’m not sure, it’s different every day.

When we were kids and my brother would call me Gaylord or one of the many other politically inappropriate names that children were unwittingly calling each other in the late seventies, it would send me into a tizzy. My brother had the power to completely unravel me.

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I have a memory of my parents leaving me with my brother and my cousin Billy (who is around the same age as my bro). All I know is that my brother said or did something that caused me to lock myself in my room, screaming like a banshee and throwing books at the wall like a crazy person. Yes, I was prone to the dramatic outburst and he knew exactly how to get me going.

My brother is a full foot taller than me. We are like Mutt & Jeff. Marc being Mutt, of course. (According to Wikipedia: Augustus Mutt is a tall, dimwitted racetrack character. The half-pint Jeff, an inmate of an insane asylum who shares his passion for horseracing.) Marc is very tall, but not at all dimwitted–though I fervently wished he was when I was a kid so I could outsmart him. I am short and a little insane. But not asylum insane.

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Anyhow, my dad was been wondering why I haven’t thrown my brother under the bus here on my blog. After all, this would be the perfect place to retaliate for all of our childhood misadventures.

The thing my dad doesn’t realize is that my brother is now one of my best friends. If you had told me this would be the case on that sunny California afternoon when I was eight and scrubbing the toilet with my brother’s toothbrush I never would have believed it. After all, he is the one who tickled me until I peed in my pants. He is the one who would get me in a scissors hold and squeeze with all his might. He is the one who would hold me back by the forehead as I swung wildly at him.

The tides began to shift when my brother went off to college. Suddenly he was cool. He could buy me alcohol. He taught me how to take shots of Southern Comfort. And how to handle the subsequent spins. He drummed into my head: “No glove, no love.” And when I was going through my first heart breaks he told me something that I lived by for years thereafter: “If he’s not meeting your needs, get out. Simple.”

Through my relationship with Marc I’ve learned resiliency, how to fight my own battles, how to have a sense of humor. Also, how to hold my bladder. How to keep my eyes open longest in a staring contest.

When our mother was at the end of her long battle with breast cancer I often thought who is going to worry about me now? I mean, I know my husband worries and cares, but that’s different from the worry and care of a mother. As our mother declined, my brother and I grew closer. I saw a different side to my brother. He was the one who spent hours painstakingly going through all of our family photos. I saw that he was actually a lot more like my mother than I’d ever realized.

Turns out, my brother worries about me. He calls. He emails. We text. And Skype. He thinks I’m crazy to get a kitten. “Don’t you have enough on your plate?” he asked me last night. He wants to hear the funny stories about the kids. He is an amazing uncle. And he still calls me Jenneraderfart.

Next week my brother will fly to Portland to spend a week with my family and our dad and we will be together to mark the one year anniversary of our mother’s passing. I can’t wait to see him. I just hope he doesn’t hide his toothbrush.

You Feel Blah and Other Consequences Of Childrearing

“Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Services, what is your member ID number?”

“I’m having a crisis.”

“What is your address?”

“I am having a crisis. Do you really need my address right now? I gave it to the intake nurse dude.”

“What is your phone number?”

“I. Am. Having. A. Crisis.”

“What seems to be the problem?”

“I feel totally meh, shmeh, like…all the time.”

“Meh? Shmeh? Can you tell me more about that?”

“It’s just that, well, I’m not exactly depressed but I’m not exactly happy. I think I need a break.”

“What I’m hearing is that you feel, um, meh, and shmeh, and you need a break.”

“Yes. This morning I had to do the Charleston at my kid’s Music Together class and it pretty much pushed me over the edge.”

“The Charleston?”

“Yeah, you know, that dance the flappers did in the the early 1920′s. The arms swing forward and backwards, with the right arm coming forward as the left leg ‘steps’ forward..”

“And this made you feel, meh?”

“Well, the other moms seemed happy, and I felt like an asshole pretending to be a flapper when I feel meh.”

“Are you suicidal, homicidal, hallucinating, psychotic, amniotic?”

“No, I just feel meh. Shouldn’t I feel better than meh? I mean, my life’s not that bad, right?”

“I really couldn’t say either way, Ms. um, Weenberger.”

“Weinberg.”

“Ms. Weinberg. How can we help you with this problem?”

“Well, one of my kids eats only Tyson brand chicken nuggets and the other only eats macaroni & cheese, but it has to be Annie’s, the Annie’s with pasta shaped like peace signs, which is ironic because she is not peace-loving at all. She’s a little jerk a lot of the time. I mean, yeah, she’s got her great moments, and I love her, but I’m not sure how she’s going to function in the world. (Pause) Do you know if I used the word ‘ironic’ correctly, because I’m not sure that was the correct application of the term irony?”

“Ma’am?”

“Oh, and my sex life. How are you supposed to have sex with three kids in the house? Is it supposed to feel like a Bikram yoga class every single time? Because I don’t feel stretchier at all. And then there’s the two-year old. He did start pooping on the potty, but he can’t manage to keep food on a fork. And he ran in circles during the entire Music Together class. For an hour. He ran in circles.”

“Would you like to speak to the pediatric advice nurse?”

“No, I just want to feel better than meh.”

“I could prequalify you for two sessions with a counselor.”

“Two?”

“Two.”

“But I promised my daughter a kitten. And I’m allergic to cats. And having an animal crapping in a box in my house kind of freaks me out. I guess I just need a win right now. And to feel better than meh”

“A win?”

“You don’t have children, do you?”

“I can’t disclose that, ma’am.”

“Well, my daughter hates me most of the time and I needed to do something…like promising her a kitten…and it made her so happy…so that could be categorized as a win for me.”

“Would you like me to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician?”

“Have you met my primary care physician? De-press-ing. I’m going to go now. I’m going to go eat a bag of Oreos. And maybe some potato chips. Yeah, Oreos and potato chips. And then I’m going to lay down on my dog-hair covered sofa and stare at the wall until the baby wakes up.”

You Are The Worst Mother In The World and Other Unexpected Joys of Parenthood

Yesterday when my naked two-year old escaped from my futile attempts to diaper him and unceremoniously crapped right in front of the fireplace I began to wonder how anyone survives parenthood intact. I mean, come on, a small person just took a shit in my house. On my stuff. And he has no remorse. He’ll do it again as soon as he gets the opportunity.

Then later, when said two-year old produced a crap in the toilet and I danced around him Mariachi style chanting, “Poopy in the potty! Hey! Poopy on the potty! Hey!” and proceeded to drag my older kids in to look at the crap and praise their little brother I began to doubt my ability to function in the adult world.

I might have known from the get-go that motherhood wasn’t going to be all talcum powder (don’t use it, you’ll kill the baby!) and roses. My first-born, my daughter, was a teeny tiny beautiful baby hand grenade. She had colic. She screamed constantly. She could only tolerate the most expensive, stinkiest formula on the market which she barfed all over me at regular intervals.

I didn’t leave our tiny 400 square foot apartment for the first three months of her life. I lived with her attached to my body. She had the look of someone who was gunning for a fight. Her squishy red face read: I’ll fuck you up. I loved her madly, of course, but I was afraid, very afraid. My husband was too. We walked around her as if in a mine field. She could blow at any time we whispered to each other. At times we considered her as an animal expert might a wild animal: Shhhh, be very quiet–there, in that motorized swing is a young example of Homo sapiens, subspecies Terribilicus Infantus. 

My daughter and I have had our tender moments over the years, but she has always kept me on my toes, always kept me doubting my abilities to parent correctly. She did all sorts of “atypical” stuff as a toddler: licking walls, licking doorknobs, not making eye contact, facing out of the circle when all the other kiddies were facing in the circle, repeating the same word so many times the most patient person would poke their eyeballs out, lining all of her toys up in rows over and over like a little anal-retentive accountant.

After her preschool teachers raised a big red flag, we had our girl checked out by a bunch of experts and she was declared somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. Spectrum sounds so nice and rainbow-y, as if your child is a unicorn leaping over all the pretty colors, right? It’s not. It’s occupational therapy, speech therapy, IEPs, social skills training, and huge bottles of Advil.

Now that my daughter is eight, in a classroom full of “typical” peers she has entered into a new phase. She is enraged with me and her life about 98% of the time. She claims that I ruin her “best day ever” almost every day when I greet her at the bus stop.

My daughter thinks I smell funny, have bad breath, pay too much attention to her, pay no attention to her at all, never give her any candy or treats or puppies or kittens. She wants me to fix everything immediately, though she is often not able to articulate what is broken. She has the most amazing grasp of language and imagination. But most human behavior is totally confusing to her. She watches me all the time, befuddled.

Yesterday, as we were carting our way through Target, my daughter stopped dead in her tracks and apropos of no immediate incident said, “I’m driving you insane, right?” and I said, “No, why would you say that?” (while thinking, not insane, love, it’s bat shit, you drive me bat shit.) I want so badly for my daughter to know how much I love her angry, brilliant, dorky, confused, artistic self. I want her to see how much I admire her spunk, her piss and vinegar, her drive to connect.

Sometimes I do agree with my girl that I am, indeed, the worst mother in the world. After all, I did cave when she relentlessly questioned me about the tooth fairy. Me: Fine! She’s not real, okay! She’s not real. It’s been me all along. Daughter: How could you ruin my fantasy? How could you destroy everything I’ve believed in for my whole life? Me: But there’s still Hanukkah Harry! I’ve told you about Hanukkah Harry, right?

Motherhood, parenthood, it’s a bitch, a punch in the crotch, sometimes amazing, usually exhausting. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have a license for raising humans. I’m barely holding on to a learner’s permit, and by the time I get it figured out (if I ever do), my three kids are going to be out in the world seeking therapists with whom to examine it all. (Shiver.)