The Life I’m Living: Car Accidents, Job Descriptions and Making Turkey Meatballs

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I am wrist deep in raw eggs and ground turkey, basil, rosemary and thyme. The peach-colored meat squishes through my fingers as I mix it with the homemade breadcrumbs I just pulverized out of gluten-free pretzels. It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I am standing in my stinky morning workout clothes making turkey meatballs for dinner. I am telling you this because I do not like to cook. I do not enjoy the thinking up of a meal, the shopping for and prepping. I do not like managing the timeline of dinner, serving up various dishes nice and hot. I do not like begging my kids to please come to the table, not in a minute, but now. The day-long journey into dinner distracts me, pulling me away from a million other more important, more interesting, more pressing thoughts, endeavors and pursuits. It’s that annoying fly that won’t go away no matter how many times I swat at it.

Except somehow, today, it isn’t. Continue reading “The Life I’m Living: Car Accidents, Job Descriptions and Making Turkey Meatballs”

Letting Go, Creating Space and Wondering What’s For Dinner

Breakfast for dinner?

The clock creeps up on 5 p.m. The sky hangs gray and wintry outside the window. I’m sitting at my mirrored desk in the small alcove of my bedroom. When my older daughter needed her own room two years ago, I ceded my office to her, although it was never really an office. Work went on there, yes, but not officey work. More like creative and contemplative work, wondering work, the work of collecting and sifting and building; quiet work, whirling-words-in-my-head work and then when I needed and wanted, the fraught and delicious work of writing.

Now everything that is mine and meaningful from that room sits atop this desk, in the single drawer, pinned to the large cushioned board hanging on the wall. I am tap, tap, tapping on the keyboard, desperate to use my words, see them appear on the screen, before I have to go downstairs to make dinner. My three girls are endlessly hungry from 4 p.m. on. I have learned to serve dinner early, but that means a few minutes less for me, words flying. Continue reading “Letting Go, Creating Space and Wondering What’s For Dinner”

I Told My Kids They Suck

I swear, all ll I need is seven more minutes to finish cooking dinner. But it’s the witching hour so 2-year-old Lilah has me spinning. She eats the dog’s food then plays in the water bowl. She demands that I acknowledge all her animal sounds — “Yes, that’s right! The cow says moo!” — she rummages around in the junk drawer which is full of exciting items like purple duct tape, old batteries and pruning shears. This is when I wish I’d baby-proofed the kitchen but then remember what a pain in the ass it is and congratulate myself for not having fallen into that pitfall again.

I pull her away from the drawer and set her firmly on the floor, ply her with pretzels, crayons and paper, my iPhone, plead in my most soothing mama voice, anything so I can just finish making dinner. Nothing is working. It’s time to call on the back up.

I sling Lilah onto my hip and go into the TV room where Ella and Ruby are playing with the Barbie camper. Ken seems to be in the middle of dissing Barbie’s marshmallow roasting skills. “Girls,” I say. They don’t even look up. “Please keep an eye on Lilah for a couple minutes so I can finish with dinner.” My voice is high and tight. I reek of desperation and chopped onions.

“We don’t want her in here!” they wail. “She’ll mess up our game! She’s such a pain!” Eye-roll. “Why do we have to look after her?” Wah, wah. Double wah.

I’m definitely having a Sixteen Candles moment: it’s like I’m Samantha and I can’t believe everyone’s forgotten my 16th birthday except I’m me and I can’t believe my girls aren’t going to help me out.

I stand there with chewed up pretzel stuck to my t-shirt, my hair flung back into a messy ponytail. I am defeated.

“You guys suck,” I say, and walk out of the room.

And then I wince.

I curse plenty, believe me, especially when driving or having stubbed my toe but those invectives are mostly directed at strangers who can’t hear me or inanimate objects without the luxury of ears. If the kids hear me cursing, they usually say, “Mom, language!” which is what I told them to say to me when they hear me curse. Then I say, “Yeah, I know. I shouldn’t curse, but I’m a grown up and these are grown up words so sometimes I’m gonna say them. But YOU should NEVER say them.”

This time is different. This time I actually told my girls they suck! I wait for them to come tearing out into the hallway, indignant and accusing. But they don’t. I wait for a few more seconds then hear Barbie say, “I’m going to a hotel!” I slink back to the kitchen.

It’s not my proudest parenting moment, but somehow I’m not being called out on it by my usually quick-to-back-talk kids. Hmm. Suck is still a bad word, right? I know it has several different meanings — as in “You know what sucks? That I have to make dinner. Again.” — but in some basic sense, it’s still rather vulgar.

So I look it up on Urban Dictionary and find this break down:

“(For those under 30 years old) An intransitive verb indicating a negative state of affairs. Could be poor performance, bad weather, illness, general dislike, or any of innumerable negative thoughts.”

“(For those over 30 years old) Always a transitive verb. Colloquially used as a shorthand for suck d*ck with the noun d*ck understood. Used as an insult.”

Ugh.

Even though I am not under 30, I whole-heartedly intended the meaning of the first definition — I was definitely responding to the negative state of affairs. However, because I am over 30, I cannot pretend I don’t know that the word suck also implies a blow job.

The good news is, Ella (11) and Ruby (8) are both well under 30 and, as far as I know, have little or no idea what a blow job is (that’ll change soon enough; hello Middle School) or that when you tell someone they suck, not only are you saying that they’re bad at something but you could also mean that you think they do, in fact, suck on a physical appendage that belongs to one of the male persuasion. This explains their lack of outrage and utter disinterest in my retreat. Nothing nasty went down, as far as they know.

Still, I don’t like the way I felt after I’d said it. It didn’t feel empowering or intelligent or witty, because it isn’t. It felt wrong, even if the kids don’t know enough to think so. Plus, I certainly don’t want my kids running around telling me that I suck so I decide to set an example, or at least make the attempt: I hereby solemnly swear to try extra special hard to refrain from saying the word “suck” in reference to and around my kids.

Wait a minute, does this mean I have to stop saying “crap” too?

Diapers and Drama Queens

The other night at dinner I am the only one actually sitting at the table. Without warning, the 11-year-old runs off to “get something,” the 8-year-old gets up to go to the bathroom and the not yet 2-year-old goes feral, sliding around on the dirty kitchen floor barking. My husband is fed up in a Mad Men sort of way and tries to herd them all back to the table, brow furrowed, lecturing them about respect and permission, drink in hand.

I stare at the juicy grilled chicken on my plate, the steamed broccoli. I want them all to come back to the table, I really do, but I can’t seem to make it happen. Is it inertia? Hunger? Indecision? I am at a parenting impasse: poopy diapers on one hand; a tween with the beginnings of hairy armpits on the other; and a third grader who could go either way on any given day. How is my oldest supposed to take me seriously when I can’t stop the toddler from throwing peas at the dog? Sometimes I just want to give in. Not to the kids, but to motherhood. I want to know how to do it. Pick a path and follow it. My parents seemed to have some kind of plan; why can’t I? When I was a kid, I didn’t dare leave the dinner table without permission, but that’s because I was scared of the consequences — although I cannot for the life of me tell you what those consequences might have been.

My kids know nothing of consequences. They prance and laugh and scowl and opine and whine at will. I love that they are so present, so in touch with their emotions and desires; but I also really resent it. Their multiple winning personalities can suck the air right out of a room, which makes it kinda hard to breathe. I need a little air of my own. At 44, I’m no baby bunny, but no old cow either. I’m ready for it to be about me. Before the hot flashes set in. Before the river runs dry. Before the chicken goes cold.

They all eventually trickle back to the table: My husband with a sigh, the 11-year-old throwing daggers, the 8-year-old in a huff, the little one with peas in her hair. The food is eaten, the toddler bathed, the bigs tucked in for the night. Another day gone by. I fall asleep before my husband; he leaves in the morning before I wake up. Another day of diapers and drama queens begins.