I committed the unpardonable sin tonight.

I did the laundry.

This morning, one of my teenagers informed me that he had no pants to wear. I told him where I keep a secret stash of pants (the storage room) and, thus, he didn’t not have to attend church half-clad. (I kid. The storage room is a mutated closet where I hang their dressy clothes, like the black corduroy pants I bought each of the boys to wear for our Christmas photograph.)

This evening, I scooped up the discarded black corduroy pants off the laundry room floor and pushed them into the washing machine with other dirty duds. The laundry is a little backed up because over the weekend, that happens. I venture out of the house and in my absence the laundry copulates and gives birth to more dirty laundry.

About twenty minutes later, would-be-half-clad boy comes out (wearing pajama pants) and says, “Mom, did you wash my pants?” and I say, “I think they’re in the washer. Why?” and he informs me that his wallet was in the pocket.

“Bummer,” I said with characteristic care. “What was in it?” I’ve washed it a half dozen times before.

“Money!” he said

“Money can be washed. Anything else?”

“My YMCA card and two cards from Game Crazy.”

“Everything will be fine.”

And he exits.

Moments later, “MOM! MY iPOD IS IN MY POCKET!”

Me: “!!!!!”

Him: “MOM!”

I slide my feet back into my slippers, scurry to the laundry room and see that the machine has twenty-five minutes remaining in its cycle. It is a front-loading machine. I cannot open it mid-cycle or the water will rush out like a waterfall. So, I say, “Well, too bad. Maybe it’s not in there.” He is widely famous of his absentmindedness and often misplaces things. For all I know, the iPod is upstairs on the bathroom counter or in the living room under a couch. Why panic until the cycle ends?

Then the world collapses from the massive outrage of one 14-year old boy.

He simply could not believe that I had the nerve–THE NERVE!–to wash his iPod. I said, “Shane, I do not check pockets. All I did was my job. I do laundry.”

He said, ‘WELL! THANKS A LOT, MOM! THANKS A LOT!” He said some other things he doesn’t have the sense to regret.

Of course, I advised him that the responsibility for pocket-emptying is his. He raged on and on and I let him, only pointing my bony finger in his face to inform him that if he didn’t like the way I did laundry, he could do his own laundry. In fact, I may have said, “FINE! THEN FROM THIS SECOND ON, YOU WILL DO YOUR OWN LAUNDRY. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?!” He disappeared into his room, only to reappear a bit later.

He expressed incredulity that I never said I was sorry and I said, “SORRY!?! FOR DOING THE LAUNDRY? FOR WASHING DIRTY CLOTHES LEFT ON THE LAUNDRY ROOM FLOOR?”

I did finally interrupt his dramatic presentation of adolescent angst to let him in on the fact that I purchased replacement insurance for his iPod for such an occasion as this.

And I did a Google search with these terms: “washing machine iPod help.” There is some anecdotal evidence that an iPod may survive a ride through the washing machine.

However, I am fairly certain I will not survive the life cycle of the common household teenager.


My husband scheduled the cleaning lady for 9 a.m. Saturday morning. I left a list of things to clean from most important (kitchen!) to least (windows). I was dreaming up stuff to add to the list because I didn’t really want much done, just the kitchen and guest bathroom made presentable. Then I took off for the day. I shopped for bargains and then saw a movie (“Atonement”). (The movie was good, but make me want to read the book because I have a feeling the book is better. The book is always better!)

My cell phone battery was dead, so I dug up four quarters and found a pay-phone so I could check in with my husband and let him know what time the movie would be over. (I had to see a later show than I had hoped.)

“So, did the cleaning lady come?” I asked him.

“Well, she did, but she thought we just need a routine cleaning, so she couldn’t do it.”

“She couldn’t do it?”

“No,” he said, “She looked at your list and looked at the areas and said there was no way she could do that in four hours. She offered to get a co-worker and come back. She said it would take two of them at least four hours working together.”

“And how much would that cost?”

“Two hundred and fifty dollars.”

“WHAT?! Are you kidding? That’s crazy!”

“I told her you probably wouldn’t go for that.”

A cleaning lady refused to clean my house! (So, it is true. You really do have to clean your house before the cleaning lady arrives.) I would have happily paid her $100 for four hours worth of work, but she rejected me and my money. Furthermore, she cost herself a customer because I will never again call her and offer her work.

I am mortified and mystified that my kitchen and bathroom were deemed too big of a job for one person to handle in four hours.

So, I cleaned them myself. (It did not take four hours.)
If ever there was a time for you to drop by, that time is now. Come one, come all! By tomorrow at 11 a.m., my house will be the cleanest it has been in years (but please, do not open the door to the Boy Cave because I simply did not have enough time to tackle that job. And the cleaning lady probably would have charged me a thousand bucks to deal with that.)

Oh Look! I Just Coughed Up My Spleen.

I began to dream today. I imagined driving to Costco, alone. I saw myself leaving my three film canisters at the one-hour photo counter, shopping for an hour, and then picking up my pictures before returning home.

And my dream came true! I left home at 5:30 p.m., made a bank deposit, and drove straight to Costco. I dropped off my film and wandered up and down all the aisles at Costco, idling placing stuff in my cart: lightbulbs, swimming trunks, pot roast, printer paper, romaine lettuce, twenty-four packs of Maruchan Instant Lunch, the noodles of choice for 12-year old boys, three cans (19 oz each) of Lysol spray. I shopped and shopped and shopped, surprising myself with the sheer number of essential items I picked up. Socks, batteries, cat food, corned beef . . .

Then, at 7:22 p.m., I headed to the photo counter, eager to see my pictures. I handed the man my Costco card and then opened my wallet to retrieve my debit card.

“Um, just a second,” I said to the man. “I never leave home without it!”

My initial purse-search revealed a huge wad of receipts, tissues, tickets from an arcade, coupons and no debit card.

“Ha ha! Let me look. It’s here somewhere.”

More frantic digging. Beads of sweat spring up on my forehead. I wonder why my fleece jacket makes me so hot.

“Well. I guess I’m going to have to look some more over there. Just, uh, put that back.”

Three times, I emptied out my purse, section by section. My debit card did not magically appear. I frisked myself, checking pockets.

Then I pushed my full cart around the corner and telephoned my husband and announced, “Would you like to hear about my nightmare?” Costco does not accept credit cards. I never carry a checkbook nor cash.

He suggested my mom could bring me his debit card. I said, “No, uh, wait. The last time I left the house was . . . Saturday when I went to that movie. Will you check my black jacket?” And that’s where I’d left my debit card, safely zipped into the pocket of my black jacket.

The photo guy let me leave my stuff tucked into the corner of the photo station. I drove twenty minutes home, picked up my card, drove twenty minutes back to Costco and arrived in time for the door-guy to say, “You have seven minutes.” Plenty of time!

The moral of this story: Never leave your debit card in your coat pocket, even if it seems like the best solution to the hands-full-of-popcorn-and-medium-Diet-Coke-at-the-movies dilemma. And yes, I did enjoy “16 Blocks” and no, I’ve never done this before and yes, we are feeling better, but no, I haven’t stopped coughing, but yes, my daughter is giggling again and no, not on the brink of death.

Now, excuse me while I tuck my spleen back into place.

The end.

Note to Self: Eliminate Small Talk Attempts

An amazing thing happened today. I left Babygirl (and the boys, too) in the care of their grandmother for three hours. This may not seem remarkable to you, but today was the first day I’ve ever left Babygirl with anyone other than her daddy.

I intended to sneak out while she was napping and then, just at the time we needed to leave, the bedroom opened and Babygirl called out down the stairs, “I waked up early!”

She came down the stairs, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. I chatted with her for a moment, then suggested a video upstairs. She agreed and back up the stairs we went. I turned it on and said, “Hey, I’m going downstairs,” and she said (sensing something), “I go downstairs, too.” She followed me downstairs and so, I looked at her tousled blond curls and said, “Well, Grandma’s going to play with you. I have to go with Daddy for awhile. Bye!” And she said, “Bye!”

I called half an hour later to see if everyone had survived my sudden departure. They had. Wow. No tears at all.

My husband and I were guests at a luncheon. A parishoner who is a doctor and his wife invited us to hear a man lecture, so there I sat in a cozy room with about twenty or thirty doctors. I think there may have been a few other members of clergy, but mostly, doctors, all wearing khakis and cell-phones.

I sat next to the doctor’s wife. I don’t know her well, so I began with an innocuous question: “Did you grow up in this area?” She did, in the rough side of town. She mentioned how grateful she was for her house now with its view of the sun setting over the Puget Sound. She explained that her mother’s grave was near our town, too, which was a comfort to her. Her mother died when she was thirteen and whoever chose the gravesite at that time picked a place far across town from where they lived. Now, though, twenty years later, the grave is near her home.

I said, “What did your mother die from?” I am always curious about these things (I scour obituaries for information, too, about complete strangers)–probably because my own dad died when he was 47.

She said, “My mother committed suicide when I was thirteen.”

Please stop me from asking questions which seem innocuous to me but which elicit a painful, awkward response! I obviously need a new set of “small talk questions.”

I apologized and extended my sympathy. She said it was no problem, that she’s actually going to share her story at a women’s meeting soon. God really cared for her and kept her in His palm, she said. She truly is living happily ever after.

As for the lecture, when the man began to speak, my brain stirred from its long nap, sat up, stretched and I scribbed notes to try to keep up. He spoke with a cultured British accent and he talked about morality and philosophy and lofty ideas I seldom probe during my days as a nose-wiper, floor-cleaner, baby-rocker, schooler-of-kids-at-home. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience which made me long for an academic life full of ideas and languid conversation over iced tea.

And then I came home to Babygirl with her crooked grin and my mother with her mint green shoes. I have a mother. I have a daughter. I am thankful.

(I ask too many questions. Beware, should you ever have lunch with me.)

The Zoo

I feel so much pressure this week to do something fun with the kids. My husband left early Monday morning and returns Friday afternoon and while he’s gone, I have the car. And the kids. Normally, I only have the kids, so I wanted to take advantage of the situation and seize the day.

Only two things stand in my way. Okay, three things. The first obstacle is DaycareKid. It’s tough to go anywhere with a toddler, but add an additional toddler and truly, you have double the trouble. Or triple the trouble. For instance, there is no way I’d take him to the ocean or up to Mount Rainier. I just couldn’t. The second obstacle is nap-time. Nap-time is sacred around here. So, we can’t be gone for longer than three hours. We must return home by noon. We can’t go after nap-time, either, because that’s when DaycareKid’s mom comes to pick him up. These two obstacles alone leave me pretty well boxed in.

And then, admittedly, the last obstacle is one of my own making. The last obstacle is my inertia. An object at rest stays at rest, right? That’s me. It’s just easier to stay put than it is to muster up the momentum to get us all moving forward in the appropriate direction. It’s easier to just watch The Wiggles, then go outside to play, then watch Sesame Street while playing in the family room, then having lunch, then watching more Wiggles before nap-time. Taking a toddler anywhere is like plopping a live grenade in your purse and just hoping no one jostles you. Too many things can nudge a toddler into a full-blown tantrum. It’s a chance I am loathe to take.

But this morning, I propelled us out of our normal orbit and off we went to the zoo. We left before 9:30 a.m., which seems like a minor miracle since I didn’t decide we should go until 8:30 a.m.

The zoo is on the smallish side. They’ve just redone a habitat featuring tigers, but my kids loved watching the elephants eat hay and spray dirt all over themselves. We spent a good deal of time watching sharks swimming by in the South Pacific aquarium. The bigger kids loved the dark tanks full of jellyfish and mysterious unfamiliar fish in the lower aquarium, but Babygirl was not so fond of those eery, spooky places, so we hurried through that part.

Half-way through our adventure, Babygirl decided she would no longer ride in her stroller. She wanted to walk and push her stroller herself. So, she did. Fortunately, the zoo wasn’t crowded or she’d have been bashing into people every two minutes. Thus, we entirely missed the polar bears and the penguins and scarcely glanced at the beluga whales and–my favorite–the grotesque, pinkish, gigantic walrus. He floated between two submerged stones, as still as a stone himself, but for the flaring of his nostrils and the flickering of his whiskers. Normally, he does a ballet around and around his tank.

It wasn’t until we left the zoo and I buckled Babygirl into her carseat–overriding her wishes to do it herself–that she screamed and cried. I thought that was pretty lucky since I had five kids with me and anything–literally anything–could have gone wrong at any step along the way. My big kids were very, very cooperative and helpful. Some days they are like that. I should fall on my knees and thank God.

We went through a McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home, thus accomplishing two goals: feeding the kids and keeping the little ones awake. When we got home, it was just about nap-time.

And during nap-time today, I was a responsible grown-up and I balanced the checkbook. I know. I should get a medal of some sort. Or a brownie. Or a day off.

Can I Have a Do-Over, Please?

I need a do-over. Yeah. Really. I think I should never have married or had children. I would like to have a second chance and if I were that same 20 year old girl, I would go to medical school and then disappear into some needy country to devote my life to serving others.

That would be easier than where I ended up. Okay, right, so that would be my hormones talking. Or maybe my sore throat and aching head. So what?

My husband was gone most of yesterday and the day before and the week before that and the weekend before that and the week before that. Turns out that I am a horrible single parent. The kids drive me crazy with their incessant arguing. TwinBoyB, in particular, seemed to be on a mission to make my head pop off my neck. I’d tell him to do something (like “stop hitting you brother and come here”) and he would slide his body half-way off the couch at glacier-speed. I gave him a thwap with my foot under his thigh and he shrieked as if he was burned with a hot poker in the eye.

Of course, his dad came downstairs just then and got his wailing report of how I kicked him. Which, technically speaking, it was a kick. It wasn’t intended to be a kick, but a . . . well, a reminder-thwack. My husband scolded me and said I should use time-outs. Yes, I heard that loud and clear: You are the worst mother in the world and a rotten human being as well.

That was Saturday. Sunday, I decided I would use time-outs. So the first time TwinBoyB disobeyed me, I told him to go sit on his bed for ten minutes. He said, “No.” I said, “Okay. You just earned yourself an early bedtime.” He launched himself into a wildly dramatic performance, flopping around on the ground. Then he went and sat on his bed and screamed, “Mommmmmmmm! Mommmmmmmmm! Mommmmmmmmmmm!” He wanted to argue with me about his punishment. I told him to stop immediately or he’d get an additional ten minutes.

He got the additional ten minutes.

This kind of thing wears me out.

Last night, he expected not to go to bed early. He thought he “earned it back.” I said, “No, there is no earning back your punishment. Otherwise, it won’t count.” He sobbed and cried and carried on so much that I said, “Just go now.” It was 7:40 p.m. He laid on his bed and shouted and cried. When I’d go in and check on him, he’d argue with me more and complain more. This child is not a quick learner.

My husband came home, of course, after TwinBoyB had been sent to bed, but before he had finished throwing his fit. TwinBoyB tattled on me, trying to make his behavior my fault.

Husband tells me I should go in and comfort him. I do so, but of course, get even more aggravated with him. Now it’s not about his behavior but about his brothers and school and why he’s going to fail math. I told him it’s all about choices. You choose how to behave, you choose how to do in school.

Then TwinBoyB comes out to report to his dad that he does not have a particular item he needs. I already know this, but TwinBoyB is telling his dad anyway. I say, “Hey, if people would tell me when they use the last one, I would buy more!” (Early in the day, I find out that we have no more trash compactor bags. I did not use the last one and I did not know we were out.)

My husband rebukes me and says that it’s my job to know these things and not the job of a 10 year old boy.

With that, I went upstairs and ironed Husband’s clothes and fumed and stewed and then crawled into bed at 9 p.m., watched a show until 10 p.m. and turned off the lights. I never, ever go to bed at that hour, but I was tired, sick and emotionally drained.

I decided just as I fell to sleep that I am a complete failure as a wife, mother and homemaker. The worst part is that being a wife, mother and homemaker is all I do. So, at least I would win “Best All Around,” if Anti-Mother of the Year Awards were given out.

Of course, that’s completely irrational, but it still sounds true to me today.