It’s a New Year and I Don’t Give a Shit

As we enter a new year, it seems only fitting that I give you an update/wrap-up of 2014. First, you may remember that one of my goals for ‘14 was to create a home office to act as MommyEnnui headquarters in a corner of our downstairs living room. I dove head first into research and organization, dreaming up big plans for the space.

office_post_flood_crop_0414

My “office” before

That was until a broken pipe flooded half of the downstairs and put the project on hold for months. Instead, I spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy dealing with the insurance company, water remediation company, contractors, painters, carpet installers, etc., etc. Throughout this process, I learned two very valuable lessons: 1) construction or renovation takes at least three times longer to complete than you expect it will; and 2) contractors are the flakiest, least reliable people you’ll ever deal with.

In light of these discoveries, it’s all the more miraculous that I now have a lovely, almost-finished, fairly well-functioning home office. I’ve included before-and-after photos in an attempt to convince myself that all the time and effort were worth it. In addition to creating the office space, we replaced all the carpeting and repainted all the rooms on the lower level so everything is fresh and new. I even managed to pick out all the paint colors in just a few days. This was quite a feat as, you may remember, it took Ad Man and I almost two years to decide on a paint color for our bedroom.

Office after

Office after, with Biggie’s sewing table

I just need to hang some shelves, organize my supplies and find a new place for all the crap Ad Man and the kids generally pile on my desk, and I’ll officially be done-done. I don’t love the ugly IKEA table I’m currently using as a desk but it’ll work for the near future. If anyone sees a fabulous mid-century desk on Craig’s List or eBay that costs virtually nothing, let me know and I’ll be your best friend.

In the meantime, we’ll be funneling our money into putting in a gate to enclose Birdie’s Backyard Oasis and a privacy fence to block our view from the hideous, vacant house next door. Which brings me to my next big update. You may recall my mentioning the falling-down house neighboring ours that’s been empty since we moved in more than seven years ago. (Here’s my original post in case you missed it.) Well, shortly after that post, I wrote a letter about the house to the Director of the Atlanta Office of Code Enforcement, cc’ed a couple political bigwigs and attached pages of photographs of the offending structure. In addition, Ad Man and I gathered two pages of signatures from neighbors and I included those and the photographs with my letter. It was an impressive document if I might say so myself.

I got an almost immediate response from the director’s assistant (admittedly, not the most powerful person in the office). She acknowledged his receipt of my letter, told me that they’d assigned an officer to the case and that the property would be inspected in two weeks. Now that was the kind of action I was looking for! Unfortunately, that’s where things stalled.

I never saw an inspector at the house on the date the inspection was scheduled to take place, but I was in and out, so I couldn’t be sure whether it had occurred or not. Online records regarding the many past complaints regarding the house mysteriously disappeared and the assistant (who I determined would only answer my emails when I cc’ed her boss) was unsuccessful in tracking down the information though she assured me that she’d made numerous requests for info from the assigned officer.

The hovel next door

The hovel next door

Just as I was planning to take a trip downtown to speak to the Director personally, something strange happened. One day, I came home to find that a yard crew had spread craploads of mulch in the yard next door. Why the owner’s daughter (let’s call her Lindy) would spend money on mulch to “spruce up” a crumbling house was a mystery to me. The other neighbors and I chewed on a few theories, but it wasn’t until I received an email from Lindy that it became clear that the city had, indeed, served her with a notice of zoning violations.

In her email, Lindy had the gall to ask Ad Man and me if she could use our water and electricity so workers could powerwash the house and paint the trim (remember, the utilities next door have been turned off for seven years). She assured us that she’d reimburse us for all costs. Upon reading her email, my brain short circuited and exploded into a million tiny bits. After reassembling my scattered gray matter (with the help of a large glass of wine), I drafted the email excerpted below and sent it off to Lindy…

“…I fail to see what good painting the house and doing yet more band-aid repair work will do. Are you planning to put the house on the market or just appease the Office of Code Enforcement? [Ad Man] and I, and all the neighbors for that matter, are beyond fed up having a dangerous vacant building on our block…

Your inaction is the ultimate insult to the neighborhood which you’ve mentioned having such fond memories of growing up in. If you still have a vague plan to rebuild and move into the neighborhood yourself, I’m afraid you’ll find that the people of [our neighborhood] will be far from welcoming.

I’m sorry it has come to this, but I’m done being patient and understanding and attempting to deal with the situation in an amicable manner. I’d really rather my children not have memories of growing up with an abandoned house next door. I cannot help you with the water and power issue. [Ad Man] and I will not assist you in continuing to put lipstick on this rat-infested pig.”

I sent a copy of Lindy’s email and my response to the neighbors and one immediately texted me, “You kind of scare me and I like you even more for that.” Best compliment I’ve gotten all year! A few hours later, I heard back from Lindy…

“We will be recovering items from the house this Winter. We are in the process of getting bids now to tear it down in March – we will notify you of the specific date. There will only be a lot that we will maintain with a landscaping company until we sell it to a builder. In the meantime we are addressing the items on the City of Atlanta complaint.”

After reading the above message, I let out an evil cackle, steepled my hands together a’la Mr. Burns and exclaimed to no one in particular, “Victory is mine!” Of course, the owners have never been ones to follow through on promises, so I shall remain cautiously optimistic. Fingers crossed that I’ll be able to post photos of the demolition come spring…preferably not including an exodus of rats marching toward my house.

I must mention one other accomplishment I achieved in 2014 because it’s the thing of which I am most proud (short pause while I pat myself on the back). This year, I was successful in giving much less of a shit, as they say. In the past, just the thought of sending a pointedly harsh letter to anyone would have caused me to break out into hives. I’ve always avoided confrontation and hated having anyone not like me. As you can imagine, that trait often made my job as a litigation attorney a little tricky.

The thing that has changed most about me since entering my 40s, it’s that I care far less what people think of me and I’m OK with the fact that I can’t make everyone happy. I will write nasty emails when they are warranted. I will wear my pajamas in the front yard while taking the dog out to pee. I will run all over town doing errands with no makeup on. I will take away my daughter’s TV privileges when she’s being a pain-in-the-ass and I will not waver. I simply don’t give a shit…and it feels fantastic!

Happy 2015, y’all!

Calculating Your Whine to Wine Ratio

grocery_store_tantrumAs an avid childhood fan of ‘The Brady Bunch,’ many of the story lines and lessons learned on the show have stuck with me through the years. I truly believe there are few experiences in life that can’t be related back to a Brady Bunch episode. But, as far as the delightfully terrible Brady sequels go, I remember only two things. First, Cindy carried her lisp into adulthood. (I’m not sure why Carol and Mike never sent her to a speech specialist. I mean, they had a live-in maid; it’s not like they couldn’t afford it.)

The second thing that stuck in my consciousness from the short-lived series, ‘The Bradys,’ was poor Marsha’s fate. When Marsha gave up her career to become a stay-at-home mom, her ego sustained quite a blow (sound familiar?) and she turned to alcohol for solace. She eventually dried out in rehab after getting in an alcohol-related accident with her kids in the car…a true Brady-style happy ending (Marsha’s recovery, not the car accident). To this day, I still think of Marsha when I pour a glass of wine at 4 pm hoping it will sustain me through the long hours until bedtime.

I know I’m not the only mother who, at least occasionally, reaches for a wine glass for emotional strength. As a matter of fact, just this morning I just ran across this quote from Her Majesty, Duchess of London and New York, Gwyneth Paltrow: “I drank like crazy [when the kids were babies]. How else could I get through my day?” See ladies? We’re in good company. If Gwynnie, with her team of nannies, chefs and personal assistants can’t get through the day without a little vino, is there any hope for the rest of us?

In an effort to keep us all out of rehab, I have developed this handy list of parenting situations in which you may find yourself, along with the corresponding amount of alcohol that would be appropriate in each circumstance. I must stress though, never drive when you’ve been drinking, especially with your children in the car. We owe it to Marsha to learn from her mistakes.

Example #1: Your son needs help on his math homework, but it appears to be written in another language. “How many rectangular arrays can you make of these twenty-four crayons?” Wait…is this math or art homework? Your kid, of course, has no clue what a “rectangular array” is despite having spent thirty minutes on it in class that very day. You text a friend who has a child in the same class. She is no help and neither is her kid. Your son moans, lays his head on the kitchen table and makes a point of sighing dramatically.

Appropriate response: Pour a glass of wine. Sip it over the course of the evening.

Example #2: You wake before dawn to your preschooler crying because “Blue Mousie” is just out of reach at the foot of her bed. Rather than moving an additional two inches, she yells to you to retrieve the matted, stuffed mouse. She refuses to wear her favorite dress (the one she wore twice to school and once to bed last week) complaining that it’s “too itchy.” After extended negotiations, you agree to send her to school in pajama bottoms, a Snow White costume and rain boots.

When you arrive to pick her up, she throws a fit and makes you peel her, one finger at a time, from the swing to which she’s clinging with a death grip. She’s still doing her best spawn-of-Satan impression when you get home. Maybe she’s just hungry (…said every hopeful parent since the dawn of time). Take a deep breath and make her a snack. It should preferably be a snack containing some sort of fruit, vegetable or protein, but if things continue to go south, swallow your pride and bust into the hidden Halloween candy. You still have hours to go before bedtime. If the snack fails to remedy the situation, sit her in front of the television, and wallow in feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

Appropriate response: Drink one glass of wine. Yearn for another, but realize that you never made it to the grocery store today because you were combing the town for a pair of yellow tights for tomorrow’s preschool performance.

Example #3: It’s your daughter’s “busy day.” As soon as she gets off the bus, you rush her into the house to don her soccer gear and stuff a granola bar in her mouth. Remind her to bring her backpack and a pencil so she can do homework in the car. You’re ten minutes away from the house when your daughter realizes she’s missing her homework folder and one shin guard. Screw it. Let her have one bruised leg and do homework during dinner. Sit in the minivan during soccer practice so your younger kid can knock out his one sheet of homework. Unfortunately, you’ve failed to stock the car with safety scissors and a glue stick.

You return home after soccer only to discover that the dog has diarrhea. Disinfect every surface, then attempt to simultaneously make a passable meal while overseeing both children’s homework. Your husband calls to say there’s a crisis at work and he won’t be home until after bedtime. Your son gets gluestick on the shitty dog and your daughter throws herself on the floor whining that she’s “toooooo tiiiiiirred to do homework!” Realize that, next year, you’ll likely have two children playing sports and moaning about homework and one husband still working late.

Appropriate response: Drink one glass of wine and don’t bother putting the bottle away. Drink another glass while eating leftover mac ‘n cheese from the pan.

Example #4: In a moment of weakness, you volunteered to chaperone your son’s second grade class field trip to the zoo. You’re running late because, well, you have kids. You drop your daughter off at her school, then try to determine whether you have time to pick up a much-needed cup of coffee since you left your to-go cup on the counter at home. As you pull into the Starbucks parking lot, your son starts whining, “Nooooooo, don’t stop heeeerre…I’m gonna get the last seat on the bus and have to sit next to someone stupid!” Remind your dear child that we don’t call people stupid and promise him chocolate milk if he’ll shut the fuck up (in much more sweet and motherly words of course). Get to the drive-thru, take one look at the line and acknowledge that you’ll never make it to school on time if you stop. Abort the mission and head for school. Your son now starts wailing because he wants chocolate milk and continues until you screech into the parking lot at school and drag him onto the bus by his elbow.

In the ape house, the boys loudly discuss daddy ape’s “wiener” while every mom within earshot glares at you in disgust. Three of the five kids entrusted to you run off (your son leading the pack) and disappear into the reptile house while you’re standing guard by the men’s room waiting for the other two to emerge. Despite these incidents, you’re successful in returning all the children safely back to the designated meeting spot outside the zoo gates. You now have a splitting headache from caffeine withdrawal and the incessant boy chatter (and burps and fart jokes) still ringing in your ears. At this point, your son realizes that you didn’t make a stop at the gift shop before exiting and throws an epic fit. The entire episode is witnessed, of course, by the class room mom. You know…the one with the perfect highlights and angelic children? Repeat after me…”I will never volunteer to chaperone a field trip again. I will sell things, I will make cupcakes, I will help grade homework, but dear lord, NOT another field trip!”

Appropriate response: When you return home, polish off a bottle of wine by yourself. Fall asleep on the couch at 8:43 pm while watching an episode of ‘Castle’ you’ve had on the DVR for the last two years.

Example #5: Your daughter is in rare form. Nothing is going right for her today and it’s all your fault. This morning, she is devastated to find out that you washed her black skinny jeans with the gold pattern on the pockets instead of her black skinny jeans with the studs on the pockets which are OBVIOUSLY the ones she NEEDS to wear today. Are you TRYING to ruin her life?! She, of course, misses the bus because she has LITERALLY NOTHING to wear! Your formerly sweet daughter silently mopes the entire ride to school. You drop her off and briefly consider just continuing to drive until you run out of gas in a small town where you’ll start a new life under an assumed name. You shelve that thought, though, when you think about your younger daughter who’s not a teenage asshat yet and still needs you.

That afternoon, your left eye starts to twitch when you hear the middle-school bus lumbering down the street. You hold your breath wondering which of your daughter’s personalities will be returning home today. Unfortunately, it’s the evil one again. You make the mistake of asking about her homework. She grunts something unintelligible, pulls textbooks and notebooks out of her backpack and dramatically drops them one-by-one on the table. You ignore her theatrics and encourage her to head to her room and get started so she’s not doing homework all night.

Not two minutes pass when you hear her screech, “Get OUT of my room! Mooooooommm…I can’t do homework with this BRAT in my room!” Your younger daughter manages to gasp through her sobs, “I. Just. Wanted. To. Show. Her. My. Wiggly. Tooooooooooth!” You calm her down and suggest she stays as far from her hormonal sister as possible. You poke your head in the demon-child’s room and remind her that she needs to be kind to her sister or she won’t be going to her best friend’s sleepover next weekend. She responds by wailing, “Mooooooommm…you DON’T understand! She ALWAYS comes into my room and I can’t do my homework. It’s NOT FAIR! Why do I have soooooo much homework and she has like four math problems? And, I can’t even think because I’m LITERALLY starving!” You back out of her room quietly in hopes that she’ll be so busy ranting, she won’t even know you’ve left.

Your younger daughter spots you in the hall, tiptoes over to you and says, “Um, Mommy? You know that project I told you about yesterday where we’re supposed to do a report on a book and then dress up as the writer and give a speech about the book and the author’s life? Well, it’s due tomorrow.”

Appropriate response: Screw wine. Grab the tequila.

A Day in the Life of a Stay-at-Home Mommy Blogger

When I was an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles my life was pretty glamorous, at least on paper. I was married, without kids, Ad Man and I had plenty of time and money on our hands. I wore the finest in lady-lawyer pantsuits. I spent time on movie studio lots, went to premieres and loaned my bathroom key to celebrities in my office. I never could have foreseen what my days would be like 10 years, 2 cities and 2 kids later. I’ve recorded one average day in the life of MommyEnnui below. Brace yourself for the excitement and please keep your hands and arms inside the ride at all times.

another_day_in_paradiseThe alarm on my iPhone goes off at 7:30 am because Biggie and Smalls have gymnastics camp this week. Feel the pain of having to get out of bed before I’m damn good and ready and making sure the kids leave the house looking somewhat presentable. Seriously dread the start of the school year which is coming in 2 short weeks. Curse the Atlanta Public School District. Curse my friends in Los Angeles whose children don’t go back to school until after Labor Day. Curse Ad Man just for fun.

Jump in the shower and ignore the fact that my legs are less than silky smooth. No time to shave today. Figure no one’s checking out my legs these days anyway. Quickly blowdry the front of my hair and hope no one notices that the back is still dripping. Contemplate yet again whether I should get my bangs cut or keep growing them out? Bangs or Botox…bangs or Botox? Realize I have to make a decision before my hair appointment first thing tomorrow morning. Know I’ll never actually decide and will let my stylist make the call.

Things I can count on to happen every single day…Smalls throws a fit and cries when getting her hair brushed and I threaten cut her hair short. Biggie realizes she’s forgotten something vital just as we’re pulling out of the driveway. The girls complain that their car seats are too hot, they stage a sit-in under the tree and refuse to enter the car. (I have no doubt they would do this if we lived in Canada.) Envision myself tying them to the bumper and dragging them to gymnastics.

xanax_better_momPick up their neighborhood friend for carpool to camp. Chat with my friend, her mother, who’s rocking a similar “disheveled mom” look as me. Notice that my friend is at least dressed in workout wear. Feel bad for not even pretending today. She mentions her fear of the start of school but remains fairly calm (or at least well-medicated). Full-on freakout mode shouldn’t hit for at least another week at which time we’ll support each other with beer on on the porch and offers to share Xanax. Feel deeply grateful to have found friends who are as neurotic as I am.

On the way to camp, realize that I’ve put my bra on twisted not once, but twice. Hope this isn’t a bad omen for the day.

Go home to blow dry the rest of my hair and brush my teeth. Watch a stupid segment on the ‘Today Show’ with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. Feel offended on Tim Gunn’s behalf for this clear waste of his time and talent. Count the days until the new ‘Project Runway’ season starts. Changing of the ‘Today Show’ guard. Think about how much I love Hoda and and would really like for her to find a good man. Wonder how she manages to restrain herself from slapping Kathie Lee Gifford.

heidi_montag_manipediConsider folding clothes and cleaning up the kitchen. Decide to get my nails done and write instead. Hop into our crappy, 8 year-old Passat station wagon and drive to the nail salon. Count the numerous very fit, very blonde, stay-at-home moms in workout gear, getting mani/pedis. Think about how no one in this place has any true understanding of the reality of everyday life for 90% of the people in our country. Realize I should hardly be one to judge. Defend myself in my own mind, pointing out to a nonexistent other person that I spent time on Skid Row and produced a documentary on homelessness in LA. Know that nonexistent person would say that doing a documentary about something is nothing like living that experience. Make myself stop having an imaginary conversation with no one.

Go to Starbucks to write. Lunch is an energy bar and an iced green tea. For the 5,000th time, think about how annoying lunch is, occurring in the middle of the day when I’m trying to get stuff done. Such an imposition.

Sit outside to enjoy the gorgeous weather. Take in the blue skies, temperature in the low 80s, and lovely breezes. Realize that not one part of my body is sweating…a rare state indeed. A 50-something year-old woman sits down to share my table and we can’t help overhearing the couple at the next table, who are obviously freshly divorced, argue about who’s going to pay for their kids’ private school. The woman and I eye each other nervously. The bitter couple leaves and my table mate says cheerily, “Man am I glad I’m single!” We chat about the pros and cons of marriage for a bit and she goes on her way. Acknowledge that I’ve had an amusing chance encounter with a stranger. I usually try to avoid those.

Check email. Check Facebook. Start to look at sandals on sale, but stop myself, recognizing the classic signs of a writer procrastinating. Peruse my extensive list of topics to blog about and reject all of them. My brain is too fried to actually craft an essay of any quality, so I decide to spew out a stream-of-consciousness, day-in-the-life kind of thing. Doubt anyone will read it. Write it anyway.

I know it’s time to stop writing when I have to pee. Head to Target because I need a couple things and because the bathroom there is fairly clean and smells like Froot Loops. Feel happy that Target has finally decided to ban guns in its stores so I can discontinue my boycott. Three weeks without Target was a serious sacrifice. That alone should show my dedication to the cause. Spend $96 on nothing. Forget to pee.

Get back in the car and consider the fact that I never once forgot to pee or eat a meal before I had children. Blame them.

Inhale a banana and peanut butter and greet the girls when they’re returned to me from camp. Ask how their day was and get vague and unsatisfying responses. They do, however, insist that I watch them do cartwheels and bridges in the front yard for the next half hour. Suggest they come inside for a snack and watch a TV show. Acknowledge that a better mother would stand outside all day cheering on their impressive gymnastics skills. I am not that mother.

bath_salts_0714Spend the rest of the afternoon alternately listening to squabbles over whose turn it is to choose a show, reminding Smalls to go to the bathroom, thinking about the fact that I have no plans for dinner and doing nothing about the situation. Pry the girls away from the television and attempt to entice them into taking an early bath in order to avoid an evening drama. Fail in that attempt. Instead, the girls busy themselves by planting land mines of tiny toys with sharp edges all over the house.

Text Ad Man to ask when he’s planning to leave the office. An hour and a half later, when I’ve given up on him and started cooking the girls an inspired meal of macaroni and cheese, raisins, and almonds, finally receive a text back saying he’s going to be late. Think, “No shit” but do not reply. Pour a sizable glass of wine.

Biggie and Smalls beg to take a bath together then spend the entire time fighting over tub toys and who’s taking up more space. Smalls cries and complains during hair washing, because the child apparently has the world’s most sensitive scalp. Plan to call the Guinness people if we all survive this bathtime. Listen to yet more high-pitched arguing and threaten to take away their reading time before bed. Plan what I’m going to wear to the ceremony when I receive my parenting award.

Supervise the drying off, hair brushing, donning pajamas and brushing teeth process. Just as the last preparations for bedtime are complete, Ad Man walks in. The girls squeal, “Daddy!!!” and run to hug and kiss him like they hadn’t seen him just this morning. Give Ad Man a dirty look, say, “They’re all yours,” go refill my wine glass, and take off my bra. Consider my job complete. Spend the rest of the night zoning out in front of the TV with a computer on my lap, thinking about how I really should be working out instead.

Lather, rinse and repeat tomorrow.

Five Telltale Signs that I’m a Mother

You know that old cliché about the married man who takes off his wedding ring before going out to a bar? Well, I might be able to take off my rings and claim to be single, but the stench of motherhood is not quite so easy to shake. I suppose I could try to flat out deny the existence of my children, but here are some telltale signs that would give me away every single time:

enormous_purse1. My purse is freaking enormous! I yearn to be the kind of chic woman who goes out for the evening with a sparkling minaudiere that fits in the palm of my hand and contains only a credit card, a tube of lipstick and a little cash for tips, but that just ain’t gonna happen. First of all, who the hell has time to switch out her purse on a daily, or even weekly, basis? I can just see myself heading out for a night on the town. Ad Man would be standing at the door, glaring at me because I’m running late, as usual, and he simply cannot abide tardiness. I’d be shouting instructions to the babysitter while trying to apply mascara, hopping on one leg to buckle a sandal and reminding the kids to pee before getting in bed, all the while leaving behind a trail of all the crap in my “daytime handbag.”

In order to dig down to the few essentials I’d need in my miniscule “evening bag,” I’d first have to remove the following: an extra pair of underwear for Smalls (just in case), two water bottles, an extensive selection of snacks to keep the kids from getting hungry and turning evil, a pair of socks from that one time we went to the bouncy place, sunscreen, four special rocks, a dead flower, a wadded up piece of gum wrapped in a Target receipt, twenty other Target receipts, seven old grocery shopping lists and one to-do list with not a damn thing crossed off. The chances of doing that without forgetting something imperative, like my ID or an industrial strength concealer, are pretty slim.

bingo_arms2. My body is a veritable roadmap of motherhood. I generally have the c-section scar tucked neatly away, but other things are harder to hide, like my poochy mid-section, the one bulging vein I blame on Biggie, the permanent dark undereye circles and the crevasse that bisects my forehead. And then there are the things I just don’t have time to deal with, like the constant five o’clock shadow on my legs and the floppy “bingo arms” that would be easy enough to firm up if I could just get my ass to yoga on a regular basis. You’ll be relieved to know that I’ve had my bikini line lasered. I find that a permanent solution is always worth the time and money. I’ll be the first one in line, with a grocery bag full of cash, when permanent Botox is invented!

Since birthing two children, I’ve learned to “dress for my body” as women’s magazines have been imploring me to do for years. This means I generally try to stick with A-line everything. I used to love me a good empire waist top or dress, but since pregnancy left me two full sizes bigger in the boobage area, an empire silhouette now makes me look like a 45 year-old carrying in-vitro induced triplets.

Effie_Trinket3. My makeup routine has been pared down to the bare minimum. I haven’t really been a big makeup person since I stopped applying it with a spatula in high school. And, I never got the whole eyeshadow thing. In my mind, it’s a fine line between painting one’s eyelids iridescent green and going full-on Effie Trinket. In fact, I recently decided that, at my ripe old age, I should at least know how to properly apply eye makeup. So, I dug through my makeup “reject pile” only to find the MAC eyeshadow I bought for my wedding sixteen years ago. Something tells me it’s time to just write that skill off permanently. (See? You gotta love a permanent solution.)

Despite the fact that my maquillage has always been at the natural end of the L’oreal spectrum, pre-children I was reluctant to ever leave the house without the basics: concealer (always concealer!), blush, powder, lipstick and mascara. My routine these days really depends on where I’m going. I no longer care about looking “done” around school moms and other women my age, so I’ve designated an “I-Don’t-Give-a-Shit Zone” that extends from the carpool line, to the grocery store, to Target, to the girls’ dance studio and home. Occasionally, I gerrymander the IDGAS Zone beyond the usual boundaries to places like IKEA or the gynecologist’s office. Seriously, who has the time and energy for constant faux beauty?

4. My brain is now merely a repository for random details like my kids’ friends’ summer camp and travel schedules, which of the natural, crunchy peanut butters is the yucky one and the twelve items I’ve promised to add to the girls’ Amazon wish lists in the last two days. My short-term memory is now completely shot. The kids have to ask me over and over for a glass of milk or to change the outfit on the Polly Pocket doll that one of them is wagging in my face. By the way, whoever invented those dolls and is now rolling around in the Polly Pocket fortune, needs to come to my house and change those goddamn dolls’ clothes every three minutes! He or she owes me at least that much.

Wait. What was I going to say? Ah yes, it must have been the fact that, even if I did manage to shake the kids, slip off my wedding rings and meet someone in a sleazy bar, I’d never be able to remember his name or whether this roofie was in my drink before I left for the bathroom or not. I guess I’d have to hope any mystery men I ran across found “bumbling” an attractive trait.

5. My body clock has been forever changed. Long ago, when I was a married, but childless, career woman, Ad Man and I would often work late into the evening at our respective offices in Santa Monica, California (mere blocks from the ocean, I might add). We’d eventually meet at home and end up eating dinner around 9 pm or so. On a weekend night, it wasn’t unheard of for us to head out at 11 pm to go see a band play or connect with some friends at a bar. Now if you called me at 11 pm, I would first freak out and assume that someone was dead. If that weren’t the case, I’d be more than a little pissed that you interrupted my blissful REM sleep.

mom_in_pajamasI am no longer eating dinner at 9 pm or leaving the house to go out in the wee hours of the night. These days, if you want to spring some spontaneous evening plans on me, I’d better receive notice no later than 4 pm. If you wait until 4:30, there’s a very good chance I’ll already in pajamas with a glass of wine in my hand, counting the hours until the kids are in bed and I can kick back with a month-old episode of Project Runway. Just off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything that would be enticing enough to make me put my bra back on once I’ve retired it for the night.

So, you see? There’s no going back to my pre-kid days even on a lark for one evening. I am a far, far different person than I was a mere eight years ago. And, really, let’s be honest…who’s going to be fooled by a woman sitting in a bar at 4 pm, wearing jeans, a well worn t-shirt and sensible flats, her face free of makeup except for a swipe of borrowed ‘princess pink’ Lip Smacker, surreptitiously stuffing handfuls of stale Goldfish crackers into her mouth from a purse the size of a Volkswagen Beetle?

The Effect of Snow Days on Otherwise Sane(ish) Mothers

grown_up_snow_dayThe madness of yet another major snow and ice storm in Atlanta has rendered my brain just about completely useless. You’ll be relieved to know that my autonomic nervous system is functioning as usual. My heartbeat, breathing and digestive systems are still on autopilot. However, complex functioning required to make plans, follow directions, make decisions or reason through any sort of cause-and-effect analysis is completely out of the question.

According to my own extensive research, the evidence conclusively shows that snow days are terrible for your health. My hypothesis, that proximity to one’s children and spouse/partner for extended periods of time with no option for escape can interfere with brain function has proven scientifically accurate. Moreover, my research has undergone stringent testing through the peer review process which turned up identical results. Subjects across the country were observed and polled. Local subjects participated in numerous round table discussions generally while imbibing copious amounts of wine. Other peers who responded remotely from across the country via Facebook and Twitter also reported similar results.

To be clear, I use the umbrella term “snow day” to mean any day in which weather conditions have caused the closing of schools, daycare centers or offices. As we’ve learned this winter, a “snow day” may include actual snowfall or, merely, excessive cold that makes standing on a bus stop a life-threatening activity. Because of global climate change, in the future, the term “snow day” may be extended to include drought, famine, floods, earthquakes, plagues of locusts and other potentially disastrous acts of nature. The following is a brief summary of my research notes after observing one subject who has chosen to remain anonymous.

The subject is a 44 year old, female in generally good physical health with the exception of a noticeable layer around her midsection that in no way resembles muscle. Subject is a stay-at-home mother of two elementary school aged daughters.  Subject has been married for, what she reports, “feels like two lifetimes…maybe more.” Her spouse is a 43 year old advertising executive with a high-level position in a global advertising company. During the observation period, subject’s husband was often observed being grumpy and lacking patience with the subject and their children.  This behavior tended to become more frequent in direct correlation with the number of snow days that kept him from the safe haven of his office.

During the observation period, there were two extended stretches of time in which the subject was exposed to the effects of snow days. In my report, I refer to these stretches of time as “Snow Week 1” and “Snow Week 2.” As with her spouse, negative impacts on subject’s mental and physical health became measurably more pronounced with each snow day. I will outline the subject’s changes in behavior and mental/emotional status separately for each Snow Week.

Snow Week 1

  • When the subject was presented with meteorological evidence indicating an impending snow day, she began a period of sharply increased activity during which she was observed hoarding food and drink, focusing mainly on gathering various alcoholic beverages.
  • The subject became notably more agitated as snowfall began and her spouse and children remained away from the family home. The subject reported having entertained a number of doomsday predictions during this time period.
  • Upon the return of subject’s offspring and spouse, her panic response reportedly lessened significantly.
  • Subject’s relief was short-lived however.  Realizing that she would be stranded in the house with her spouse and offspring for the foreseeable future, the subject’s panic response quickly returned to dangerous levels.
  • Subject reported becoming increasingly sensitive to various sounds during Snow Week 1. These sounds included, but were not limited to, her offspring’s whining, the theme songs to children’s television shows and cartoons, news reports incessantly repeating details of the snow event, and her husband’s low-level grumbling in response to any and all stimuli.
  • Subject’s activity level sharply decreased during this time period and her intake of sugar and alcohol markedly increased.
  • Subject became more and more sensitive to the taunts of peers living in the West who continued enjoying beautiful weather.

Following Snow Week 1, when the weather regulated and subject’s spouse and children returned to their usual work and school schedules, the subject demonstrated an increased level of optimism, bordering on inappropriate giddiness. Subject did, however, show evidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In one incident, the subject thought she spied a snowflake and was halfway to a panic attack before realizing that the offending item was merely a leaf. It appears this Snow Week will have ongoing emotional repercussions for the subject.

Snow Week 2

  • When the subject became aware of another predicted Snow Week, subject showed evidence of a serious break with reality. When she realized that denial was having no effect on the weather, she again entered a period of increased activity, seeking out and gathering children’s activity books, Nerf guns and an increased supply of alcoholic beverages.
  • As subject’s spouse and children were safely at home at the onset of Snow Week 2, her panic response was muted. Instead, subject’s behavior indicated evidence of sad resignation bordering on depression.
  • The subject’s physical activity slowed to sloth-like levels. She began baking and ingesting sugar and fat-laden comfort foods at an alarming rate.
  • On a handful of occasions, the subject was observed vocalizing in expletive-laden tirades apparently aimed at ice crystals raining down from the sky.
  • The subject was later observed eating Xanax like candy.
  • The subject’s parenting skills deteriorated to dangerously low levels. The subject reported having to repeatedly fight the overwhelming urge to eat her young.
  • The subject is catatonic, curled up in the fetal position. Her last words were, “Who are these people and what are they doing in my house?!”

I fear the subject may not survive another snow day. In fact, snow should be avoided at all costs. My recommendation is that the subject get on an airplane bound for a tropical island immediately…ALONE!

Is a Birkin Too Much to Ask?

hermes_boxes_xmasGrowing up, my Christmas lists were legendary. I truly embraced the concept of a ‘wish list.’  My mom would always have a gentle conversation with me prior to Santa’s scheduled arrival in an attempt to lower my expectations. (Ad Man has now taken up the tradition, much to my chagrin.) She explained that Santa had so many toys to make for so many children, he couldn’t possibly afford to give a Barbie Dream House and a pony to every girl who asked for them.

As I got older, I added things like diamond earrings, an Hermes Birkin bag, Johnny Depp and various luxury automobiles to my annual lists. Did I expect to receive them from my parents? Of course not. I wasn’t stupid, but a girl can dream, can’t she? To this day, I still include a few shoot-for-the-stars items on my wish list every year. Below are my humble requests for 2013. While I won’t be holding my breath, I’m still hoping for a Christmas miracle!

  • A cashmere Snuggie
  • A live-in IT guy (No, unfortunately Ad Man does not fit the bill.)
  • A French Bulldog puppy guaranteed not to chew, pee or poop on anything and never to wake me up before 8 am
  • Butt implants
  • A television that automatically mutes Christina Aguilera whenever she speaks on The Voice
  • The back and neck of a 20 year old…oh, and what the hell…throw in the boobs too while you’re at it
  • A teleportation device so I never have to spend more than 20 minutes in a car with my children ever again
  • Self-cleaning toilets
  • A self-emptying dishwasher
  • A new car just fancy enough so that I don’t continue to surprise valets when I tip them
  • Botox that never wears off…one Groupon and I’d be forehead-crease-free forever!
  • A beach house, a mountain house and someone other than me to clean them (This item is dependent on the teleportation device. I’d like the complete set or nothing, please.)
  • A cabana boy with bad eyesight who’s a good listener, gives amazing backrubs, makes a mean Dirty Martini and never, ever calls me ma’am
  • Sets of dishes, glassware and towels that all match and have no chips or stringy bits
  • If I can’t get a teleportation device, my second choice would be a high-speed rail system between Atlanta and Los Angeles
  • Some goddamn peace and quiet
  • Zero calorie wine that doesn’t taste like ass
  • A new HVAC system (Remember, I’m shooting high here.)
  • Oops!  I almost forgot…peace on Earth
  • My pre-pregnancy memory back

What are you hoping for this holiday season?

I Am Not Worthy

bandaid_handsI want to thank my dear friend Kanye West for filling in for me last Friday.  I hope you found his parenting advice helpful. I must apologize for being a bit of a slacker this week. I’ve been (gasp!) working. Yes, I’m engaged in some seasonal labor. No, I’m not the mall Santa’s new grumpy middle-aged elf. I can barely manage my own children let alone hundreds of kids who are up past their naptime, wearing their itchiest Sunday best, and wired from a steady diet of candy canes and goldfish crackers.

Actually, my friends K and G own an amazing gourmet sweet bread company and cafe here in Atlanta called Breadwinner. I can’t help but boast…their bread was named one of Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things in 2011. And you know Oprah is the world’s foremost expert on Things. Anyway, they do a ton of business at the holidays, shipping thousands of breads across the country. So, I’ve been doing some pretty serious packaging and shipping these days. As I sit here, I have a heating pad on my neck and shoulders and band-aids on the bloody stumps that used to be my fingers.

This little trial run as a working mother has been eye-opening. Thus far, I’ve worked a total of three, five-hour days. I’m still getting home in time to meet Biggie and Smalls when they get off the bus, but I am completely exhausted! Granted, as I mentioned, it is fairly physical work (I mean, those bows don’t just tie themselves!), but you’d think I could handle a few measly five-hour days. Instead, until now, I have not managed to write one word for this blog, do a moment of exercise or wash one piece of laundry. The house is in shambles and our dinners this week have been, shall we say, uninspired. As far as experiments go, I wouldn’t exactly call this one a rousing success.

I bow down to working mothers everywhere. I am clearly not worthy to stand in their shoes. When I was first out of law school and working as an associate at a law firm, that there were weeks on end when I didn’t get a day off. I always worked at least one day each weekend and rarely left the office before 7 pm. Twelve-hour days were typical. I’m not saying it was fun, but I managed to keep up that pace for a few years without falling apart physically or losing my mind, which I’d say is a win. So I have to question whether I am a weenie now because I’m old or just because I’m out of practice.

Don’t get me wrong, there have also been some very positive aspects to working outside the little fiefdom of my house. I don’t fall into the Today Show/Facebook black hole in the morning while drinking my tea, failing to emerge for hours. I actually get up and shower every day. I’m eating an actual lunch instead of scarfing an energy bar and a handful of nuts between errands. I’m having contact with human beings other than the person working the Starbucks drive-thru. I take pride in my work. My ribbons are tied and trimmed beautifully, my breads are carefully packaged and I only occasionally find a crucial enclosure card left on the table and have to unpack 50 boxes to figure out which one is missing a card.

Most importantly, I get a real sense of accomplishment from the work. You can’t wrap and pack 300 loaves of bread for a corporate order without feeling a certain satisfaction. That is one thing I’ve sorely missed from my days of working full-time. Being a stay-at-home parent is a marathon rather than a sprint, and you rarely even see the finish line on the horizon, let alone cross it. Most of the things you do accomplish in a day…cleaning the house, doing laundry, cooking, helping the kids with homework…just need to be done again tomorrow. I really miss the finish line.

Luckily, in the next few weeks I have, among other things, a birthday slumber party to throw for Biggie, Christmas presents to buy, wrap and either ship out or hide, stockings to stuff, cookies to bake, a holiday party to throw for Ad Man’s employees and a blog to write. Maybe it would help me to visualize all those tasks lined up before a finish line beyond which lies copious amounts of wine, a pint of ice cream and a nice, warm bed. If not, I’ll just take the wine and a few Xanax-laced Christmas cookies, thankyouverymuch!

Stick a Fork in Me

lunatics_blog_pic

These people are lunatics. I blame them.

That’s it…I’ve had it!  I give up!  I would like to be admitted to the hospital, preferably Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.  I am suffering from exhaustion.  It may be a questionable diagnosis, but if it’s good enough for movie stars and rock stars, it’s good enough for me, dammit!  In fact, my condition is so dire, I’d like the Beyonce Suite, please.  Didn’t Jay Z pimp out like a whole floor of the hospital for her when she squeezed out Blue Ivy?  Yeah, that’s the one I want.  (I can assure you, I saw no gold plated birthing tubs when I had Biggie there 7 years ago.)

Since this is a self-diagnosis, I suspect the doctors and my insurance company will require some empirical data before they’ll check me into my suite and begin the massage treatments and bonbon deliveries. So, in the interest of science, I am providing the following documentation of my day thus far.

It began as does every other day at our house…with the morning meltdown.  Alarms went off obscenely early, as always, so we would have ample time to get Biggie and Smalls ready to hop on the bus by 7 am.  Unfortunately, we were not up early enough to provide a sufficient cushion for this morning’s super-sized meltdown.  Today’s drama was due to my utter inability to choose the correct socks for Biggie and Ad Man’s ridiculous choice of breakfast foods for Smalls.  Approximately 30 seconds before the scheduled departure time, we were dragging Smalls out from her favorite tantrum spot under the bed, attempting to brush her teeth through her cries of injustice and stuffing Biggie’s feet into whatever socks were closest to the door…quite possibly the dirty ones she dropped there yesterday.

With two kids successfully deposited on the bus and Ad Man off to work, I began the most pleasant part of my day, the sweet, sweet hours in which no one is whining at me.  As much as I wanted to crawl back into my still warm bed, I had many things to accomplish before the beginning of the afternoon’s homework meltdown.  I ran to the gym for a pathetic attempt at a workout.  I thoroughly researched and bought a new flat iron to replace the one that crapped out this morning leaving my hip-mom shag looking more Carol Brady than Sally Hershberger.  I stalked Goodwill for missing elements of the girls’ Halloween costumes and then headed to the grocery store to purchase the items necessary to make a healthy and delicious minestrone soup for dinner.

I was hurrying home from the grocery store so I would arrive before the school bus when I got a call from Smalls’s teacher.  It seems I’d totally forgotten I’d planned to pick up Smalls in carpool instead of having her take the bus since Biggie had an after-school activity at the other campus.  Instead of unloading the groceries from the car, I immediately turned around and headed to school.  Visions swirled in my head of my poor, abandoned child sobbing alone on the sidewalk as the last car pulled up to the carpool pick-up area and she saw that her mother was not inside.

As it turned out, Smalls was unaffected by being abandoned and was happily coloring in the front office when I arrived at school.  I, on the other hand, slunk in with my head bowed in shame hoping that none of the upper echelon of PTA moms would spot me claiming my forgotten child…in a Carol Brady shag no less.

Milking my guilt for all it was worth, Smalls requested that we stop at the park for King of Pops chocolate sea salt popsicles before retrieving her sister.  So, we went to the park, grabbed our pops and sat down at a picnic table so Smalls could do homework. She, of course, dripped chocolate all over herself and her homework and spent half an hour denying that the dance she was doing was in any way related to the fullness of her bladder.  I checked my phone and saw that we were going to be late if we didn’t leave to pick up Biggie just as Smalls began chanting, “I have to pee, I have to pee, I have to pee!” No shit, kid!  Really?!

diagnosis_kidsWe jumped back in the car, headed over to Biggie’s school, ran into the building and located the closest bathroom where Smalls flat out refused to sit on the potty because the door to the stall wouldn’t latch to her satisfaction.  Because, you know, heaven forbid a stray 2nd grade girl should wander in and see a sliver of her sitting on the toilet through the ever-so-slightly open door.  At this point I was pulling my hair out, biting my tongue to keep from yelling all kinds of naughty words in an elementary school and wishing I had a handful of Xanax to munch on.

We managed to track down Biggie who was the second of my two children to wander around looking for her missing mother today and raced home with Smalls’s overextended bladder threatening to blow at any minute.  We skidded into the driveway, unlocked the front door and Smalls ran to the bathroom just narrowly avoiding a pee disaster.  I unloaded the melted groceries from the trunk of the car and thought, “Aaahhhhh…finally, things are starting to look up!”

I was settling in to start overseeing homework and chopping vegetables for tonight’s dinner when it became clear, after a frantic search, that Smalls’s backpack was no longer in our possession.  FUUUUUUCCKKK!!!  Rather than herding the girls back into the car and schlepping them to every location we’d just been to, I called my friend A, sent the kids over to her house and told her to be ready to drink with me upon my return.  I then texted Ad Man and asked him to bring home Mexican food because there’s was no way in hell I was going to cook dinner tonight!

Really, the only bright spot in this day was when I found the backpack sitting right there in the park where Smalls and I left it earlier.  And now finally, after a glass of wine with A, I’m again able to form a complete sentence.  So, here it is…I’m done!  Stick a fork in me. Beyonce Suite, here I come!  I’ll have my driver drop me off at the secret back hospital entrance usually used for whisking in overdosing celebrities.  Make sure that bed is made with 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and get my bourbon I.V. ready to go!

We’ll Be in Touch

My mom uniformThere are number of intimidating aspects of a job search for moms (and dads…but mostly moms, let’s just be honest here) who have been out of the employment market for an extended time while raising children. For example, trying to find an appropriate outfit when meeting a potential employer may be difficult.  Digging through my extensive collection of skinny jeans, boyfriend jeans and high-waisted flare jeans (friend to many a muffin-topped mom, myself included), I find not one pair of appropriate pants.  As for tops, I own just about every available color of this v-neck t-shirt from Everlane, but nothing “blousy” or even “shirty” that looks professional and doesn’t showcase my tattoos.  And my shoe stash consists mainly of flip-flops, Vans slip-ons, boots and sexy sandals for going out to fancy events, like preschool fundraisers.

But the single most frightening part of the job search has got to be the interviewing process.  Think about it.  You’re completely out of your element and not exactly set up for success.  The interview itself consists mainly of sitting in a room with another adult and having a conversation that does not revolve around your children, your children’s school, the neighbors or the irritating thing your husband does that’s driving you bat-shit crazy.  You’re meeting with someone who is already reluctant to even consider you as a potential candidate for the job because of the glaringly obvious Grand Canyon-sized hole in your resume and is probably just doing a favor for a friend-of-a-friend (a testament to your stellar networking skills at the kids’ weekend soccer games).

Little Biggie in Mom's shoesSince just forming a complete sentence is a challenge at times for a stay-at-home mom, coming up with intelligent, witty, informed and mostly truthful answers to interview questions is likely the biggest stumbling block there is when attempting to return to the job market.  So, I have done some preparation to work through my responses to some commonly asked interview questions and help give a leg up to other readers who may find themselves in the same predicament.  Please note that, while I suspect your answers to the following questions would be strikingly similar to mine, you really should alter them a bit to fit your specific situation.

A Stay-at-Home Mom’s Responses to Commonly Asked Job Interview Questions:

Q:  Tell me a little about yourself.
A:  Well, I am a graduate of X University where I studied art (just an example of my largely useless undergraduate degree. Yours may be something like marine biology or philosophy or Russian literature.)  From there, I went on to X University School of Law (or medicine or business…you get the drill now) where I graduated with honors (or at least in the top half of my class).  That led to an offer at a somewhat prestigious law firm in X world-class city (where I no longer live because I wanted to be able to afford a house and send my children to a decent school).  Blah, blah, blah, job successes, promotions, raises, etc.,…and then I had a kid and threw it all away.  (OK, maybe not in those exact words.)  I am now looking to reenter the job market.

Q:  What is your greatest strength?
A:  I am a very strong leader and have led teams of varying sizes with a number of successful projects.

Q:  Can you point to a recent example of when you displayed your leadership skills?
A:  Absolutely.  Just last year, I managed an unruly team of 20 preschoolers to develop a project that was sold at a hefty profit at the yearly school fundraiser.  I managed to get my group to act as a unified team despite a number of obstacles including needing to use the potty, a disagreement over who got the last of the pink glitter and a tantrum over having to take the blueberry Go-Gurt when all the strawberries were previously claimed.

Q:  How do you evaluate success?
A:  At the end of the day, I ask myself, are the children all still alive?  Has my husband officially filed for divorce?  If I can answer those two questions with a yes and no, respectively, I call it a success and pour myself a glass of wine.

Q:  Why are you leaving your current position?
A:  Because my employers are tyrants, the pay sucks, the working conditions are abominable and I haven’t had a vacation in 7 years.

Q:  Give me some other examples of times you used your strengths to solve problems at your current job.
A:  Well, more than once, I’ve used my chest or my cupped hands to catch flying vomit from an ill child in order to avoid having to try to scrub puke out of a white flokati rug.  I believe this shows my creative problem solving skills as well as my ability to sacrifice my personal comfort for the greater good of the organization, or at least its interior design.  Also, I have found food on the floor on various occasions when I’ve been in a rush to complete another project and I’ve just eaten the abandoned food rather than taking the time to walk to the trash can.  This demonstrates my impressive time management skills.  Lastly, when faced with an epic exploding poopy diaper situation, rather than pulling the soiled onesie over the head of a screaming child which would have smeared feces into every orifice on the child’s face further angering her, I quickly grabbed a pair of scissors, carefully cut the putrid article of clothing off the child, yelled “Fuck it!” to no one in particular, threw the onesie in the trash and dumped the kid in the tub.  Again, creative problem solving and, um, maybe multitasking?

Q:  How do you handle stress and pressure?
A:  A daily cocktail, varying somewhat, but generally consisting of Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Xanax and alcohol.

“Fantastic, thanks for coming in.  We’ll be in touch.”