Thursday, March 20, 2014

Best Pictures Ever!

Today is my birthday. It's my most favorite day of the year.

This year, Disgruntled Husband is away in the lap of luxury at a municipal judges meeting, so it's just me and the kiddos.

They insisted we go out for dinner. So, I bravely take them to our local Japanese hibachi restaurant. They had never been.

This was one of the spectacular fires our chef did to wow us:

And this was Hoover's reaction:

Happy birthday to me!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A box full of fleece

I haven't posted the worst news ever, because I hoped somehow it wouldn't happen. I found out in November, with an innocent text message from J-Dub that simply read:

          I might be moving.

I'm not ashamed to admit I cried real tears over the phone. I told her I wouldn't allow it. I told her she would be dead to me. I told her husband was on my shit list.

Then, it turned into a definite thing. Vitamin P got a job in Milwaukee, two hours away, and despite my many pleas, J-Dub insisted that she needed to be with him. But, she assured me, it would take time to sell the house and to find a new one, and it wouldn't be until the end of the school year at least.

We (J-Dub, Crunchy Granola, and I) went to Puerto Vallarta in January. While we were there, her house went on the market. A week later, it sold. I got another text message. It said:

        Sooo signed a purchase agreement and close on our house March 14.

And suddenly, the end of the school year became March 21, the day after my birthday.

Ever since I knew she was moving, I have given her a lot of grief about it. I've told her she was abandoning me. I have said it was nice knowing her. I have said we were holding auditions for New J-Dub for when she left. All of this, of course, is a defense mechanism. Oh, it's totally how I feel, don't get me wrong, but also, I'm going to miss the crap out of her.

"Shut-it DOWN."

It's hard to make friends as an adult. You don't have classes together; there are no after-school activities to bond over, and unless you are frequenting the local bar scene (which, as a mom, gets a little sketchy and questionable), you just don't know who is fun enough to include in your life. J-Dub and I met the way Lucy and Ethel met, when she backed her car into mine in a church parking lot. Hoover was 2, Mini-Me was 7 months old. It was at a MOPS playgroup, and it was the only one either of us ever attended.

Fate, folks, in the form of questionable parking jobs and sub-par mirror-checking.

That was over 6 years ago. We discovered we had a lot in common, such as the ages of our children, and our awful, horrible senses of humor. We discovered we had a lot more uncommon between us, like our culinary aptitude and desire to shuttle kids to activities. She introduced me to Crunchy Granola, who is somehow the middle child peacemaker between the three of us, and now J-Dub is dropping the mike and leaving us forever.

On vacation, after zip-lining through the Mexican jungle. 

I shared all of this with Jen Lancaster (yes, that Jen Lancaster, when we chatted her ear off in the Admiral's Club before our Mexican adventure), and she said, "Come on, it's only 2 hours. So you meet in the middle and go shopping."

She's right, to a point. I realize I'm being a tad dramatic about this, but also, I'm never shopping with J-Dub again for as long as I live. It's also a sentiment shared by her daughter OJ. (OJ and I have an unspoken agreement that when it comes time for her to get married, we're sending J-Dub out for a beer and I will take OJ wedding dress shopping.)

I hear they're new house is awesome and wonderful and grand, and there's even a Mean Jessica room for when I visit. There also happens to be FIVE ovens in the home because it was once owned by a family with a chain of bakeries. In their current house (the one they are leaving in mere hours), the oven still has the plastic wrap on the window and user manuals inside. What she will do with five ovens not to use, I just don't know. Though I have a theory some will be used to house out-of-season fleece.

Crunchy Granola and I are hosting her going away party tonight, and I was in charge of the treats. One phone call to Jamie (former guest blogger and one of my favorite fellow English majors) and the best idea ever for a J-Dub themed party was on it's way to me. They arrived yesterday.

Email me if you'd like contact information for Jamie. She rocks!

This afternoon, I bought two blank Wally World cakes and put my heartfelt sentiments into icing.

I stopped by J-Dub's empty house today, and this is all that's left:

That's coffee, X-rated alcohol, and generic 5-hour energy

It just explains so much.

Love you, J-Dub.

For more J-Dub related posts, go here and here and here and here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Some things just write themselves

For those that don't know Disgruntled Husband (or forgot what he's like), let me say this: he's forgetful. Think Absent-Minded Professor mixed with Mr. Short-Term Memory. At this point it's just par for the course around here.

Which is why when I saw this on, I knew it had to be DH's Christmas present.

It's an alarm that links with his iPhone or iPad, that can help him locate something. And in this case, that something is his keys.

When the kids were little and learning to talk, I'd go through the animal noises like this:

Me: What does a cow say?
Kid: Moo!
Me: What does a kitty say?
Kid: Meow!
Me: What does Daddy say?
Kid: Where are my keys!?

I only wish I was kidding.

This was Christmas morning at our house:

DH had the flu, so if you can't hear what he's saying, it's loosely translated as him reading the gift tag on said phone. "To: [DH], From: Lady Gaga." And Larry Potter demonstrates why it's from Lady Gaga.

We sing this song a lot around here. Well, at least this part.

I thought for sure this would be the present to end all presents. I mean, this is the man that lives for a new app on his phone. This is the guy that left his phone on top of his car while getting Which Wich in Madison, finding it through the "Find my iPhone" app, and locating it with precise accuracy on the on-ramp of Highway 12. (He had a friend go get it for him. And it still worked.)

And yet, still it sits in it's original packaging, nearly 7 weeks after Christmas.

In the past 72 hours, DH has had missing his wallet, his debit card, and his car keys. The wallet was missing since I went to Mexico a month ago with J-Dub and Crunchy Granola. But, as he told me this when I came back, the bright side was his debit card wasn't lost because he didn't put it back in his wallet when he should have! ::sigh::

The debit card went missing two weeks later.

At this point, I'm considering signing up DH for either a reality show or a case study.

Friday night, we found the wallet. Hoover gave it DH. It is still unclear where he found it.

Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., DH found his debit card. It was under a towel in the laundry room.

I got a call at work at 4 yesterday. A panicked DH said he can't find his car keys. He just had them, he said. He picked up the boys from their music lessons, closed the garage door, and locked the car with his keys. Then, he shoveled the driveway. Shortly afterwards, he discovered his keys missing.

We searched all night. He was ready to pull the couch apart and rip down the plaster to the studs. I calmly pointed out that when he loses stuff, it's usually out in the open, and please for the Love of God, Do Not Tear This House Apart.

That last part was emphasized.

And, I got him to actually pick up things, instead of just move a pile and freak out that he couldn't find something. Seriously, I have found his keys under a tie, next to the stove, in random pockets. He freaks out the same every time.

Well, I hyper-cleaned to look for them. Nothing. I went outside (at 10 p.m., in pajamas) to look for them. Nothing. This morning, I cleaned out the coat room, and promised the kids whomever found the keys would get $20. (LP scarfed his breakfast down and went outside to look.) Still nothing.

I drove DH to work today. Someone is driving him home.

Why doesn't he just use an extra set of keys?

I'm so glad you asked.

He had one extra set and somehow broke the key. I mean, black-plastic-ripped-off-if-he-tries-to-use-it-it-will-get-stuck-forever-in-the-ignition broken. Only DH.

And so, now we have a 2700 pound paperweight in our garage. That we're making payments on.

Last night, during the frantic search, DH took a break and was attempting to buy designer sunglasses online.

Oh hell no. I put a stop to that.

(I hate that this reads like I'm his mother. I'm not. But come on, ladies, if this was your husband, you'd do the same, yes?)

I wish this story had a happy ending. And it still might. But not yet, I'm afraid.

And the Hipkey? The very device I purchased so that this would never happen again?

In the front hall, mocking me.

Reality TV, here we come.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Younger You Are When You Have Them...

My children like to tell me I'm old. Actually, Larry Potter and Mini Me like to tell me that, Hoover is always quick to defend me, which puts him ahead on the "who gets the extra tenth of a percentage point when my estate is split into 33.3% rations" someday." And though I know that 34 isn't exactly 17 any more, I know that I'm the youngest parent in LP's class, and that's good enough for me.


Tomorrow is the first day of school around here. (All of you who's kids have been in school since August 15, pipe down...I don't want to hear it.) MM is going into 1st grade, which I'm okay with, even though she's the baby. Hoover is in third, and while I can't believe it (he's considered a "big kid" now and will have a younger "buddy" to watch during weekly chapel services...which quite honestly makes the color drain from my face), I'm okay with that too. LP is now a sixth-grader, and herein lies the problem.

I'm certainly not old enough to have a middle schooler

We switched to private school last year, and they go up through sixth grade, even though the local public middle school starts in sixth grade. We had a choice in what to do, and we thought that one more year delaying the muddied waters of adolescence could only work to LP's favor. 

But damn it if it isn't happening anyway. He's joined the middle school band, which had band camp at 8 am for two weeks in August. He recently got contacts.  He's showering more and brushing his hair without being asked. He does his chores, and pretty much anything else I ask of him, without complaining. The other night, he cooked dinner. (It was Hamburger Helper, and if memory serves, that was my first dinner made, too.) This year, he will walk home from school two days a week and stay at home for 90 minutes by himself.

He's certainly growing up, and I while I know this has always been the final outcome in the grand plan of his life, I wasn't aware that so much of it happens at once. 

I'm not ready for this. 

Now, don't get me wrong, he's still a little boy in many respects, and some sides of budding adolescence truly the mouthiness, the drama, and the fact that he already knows it all and I couldn't possibly be right about anything. He fights with MM like it's his job, and when I tell him I expect him to be five years more mature than his little sister, he just doesn't get it. There are still days where I look back at that 23 year-old new mother and want to warn her. But those days aren't as numerous as they used to be.

I recently had a conversation with my stepsister about kids growing up. Her kids are almost exactly the same amount of years apart as mine, only 9 years older. My little niece, who is the youngest in her family and was the flower girl at my wedding, recently finished her driver's training and is now just waiting to turn 16 so she can get her license. And I gasp. I look to the future when it's MM getting her license, and that's when Disgruntled Husband has to get the smelling salts out for me.

I'm not ready, and doubt I ever will be. Which, ironically enough, is what I thought when I had that first positive pregnancy test. 

LP is my first baby, the practice kid, the child of two very young and stupid (at the time) newlyweds. The last time he grew up and learned so much in a short amount of time was that first year, and that went so fast. I've been so ready for the maturity train to get to the station, I may have overlooked having a plan once it happened. And that train is pulling into the station, even as we speak. 

Middle school happens.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Haters Gunna Hate; Potatoes Gunna Po-Tate

Last week while talking with my friend Christina, she mentioned how cool it was I was going to be on NPR, but also how brave I was.


Being brave was something I hadn't considered before. But Christina knew, and I'm glad she said it to me, because as happy as I am with the way my piece turned out, there were people a little...less happy...with it. And I needed to consider that it may not please everyone.

And for a people-pleaser like myself, that's tough to deal with.

My piece ran tonight, with a link to this blog on the written story, and a comment section. I only read a few comments before I was in tears. As tough as I try to pretend I am, I'm really not. I'm not thick-skinned by any stretch of the imagination, and strangers were passing judgement on my life after hearing an 8 minute interview.

I wanted to get in the mix, but I know enough about myself that it wouldn't be good for me personally. I stopped reading the comments, but what I saw can never be unseen. Like the lady who said because I was married to a lawyer, I obviously can't relate to having to stretch a dollar and go without. If she only knew about my life before NPR, when I was working full-time, Disgruntled Husband was working full-time, and we barely had enough to pay the sitter so we could continue to work, to pay the sitter. Or the guy that started his comment out by saying something to the effect of, "How can she claim she's so close with her kids..."

Here's the thing, folks. I'm a real person. I'm real with feelings and a life and family, I'm real just like all of you. But I let you in my kitchen tonight. I flew my freak flag (JDub hates it when I use that term) for everyone to see. Aside from a few editing things, that's pretty much what my life is like, and if you don't agree with how I live it, then don't live with me.

And as my friend Michele (and then later Em) pointed out, " are famous enough to have haters. Awesome." It was just what I needed to put it all in perspective.

I put it out there. I was happy with the result. That's going to be what I get out of the experience. And given the opportunity, I would gladly do it again. My kids are good kids; I'm a good mom, and as they get older, there will be more time for dinner table conversations and more leisurely dining experiences. But I know what I can expect out of them at this point in their lives, and I'm not going to feel badly about that.

Back to your regularly-scheduled programming.

Monday, February 25, 2013

NPR and The Snarky Mom

Back in the day, I worked for WVIK, the NPR station in the Quad Cities where I went to college. I saw an ad to work at a radio station and had visions of Loni Anderson and David Silver (90210...remember, he had a gig playing tunes at West Beverly) dance in my head.

I arrive there and find out it's an NPR station. Being raised by conservatives, I had never heard of NPR my entire life. It was apparent my first day that I was actually going to do work. A lot of work. Involving writing and interviewing and other smart-people things. (My first day, I had to compile a brief biography of John Denver, as he had just died a few days before.) I lasted about about a week there.

Looking back, I wish I had stuck around that job, because it was (retroactively) fascinating and cool, and I probably could have raised a few IQ points over the years.

Why tell that seemingly random and unflattering story? Well, yours truly will be on NPR tomorrow afternoon, and not because I called in for 1D tickets. Here, let me boldface that for you:

Tuesday, February 26 during All Things Considered (3-6 p.m.) an interview with me, Mean Jessica, will air to a nation of unsuspecting smart people.

I responded to something NPR posted on Facebook, and the next day, Allison Aubrey called me. I'm still amazed that she chose my response. It's for a series called "Crunch Time" and it's about what happens with families between the hours between when the kids get home from school and go to bed.

Oh honey. I could write you a novel.

(When I posted this on my Facebook page, a smart friend of mine from college asked what the subject was. I laughed at myself when I responded "My thoughts on Benghazi." I quickly posted underneath that what it really was.)

I don't want to give too much away about the interview; just know that you get to hear my thoughts on modern day parenting, pop culture references, and the chaos of my kids at dinner time.

I just hope I haven't embarrassed myself by broadcasting all of this. I mean, more than I embarrass myself by writing these posts, anyway.

So tune in tomorrow to Smart People Radio (what I called it to my nephew last year, when he asked what it was), and hear me attempt to be smart for a little bit.

And maybe a Simpsons' reference or two.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Winter is Never Going to End

It's snowing right now. Again. I woke up to the sound of snow plows scraping the roads. Again. My kids are home from school. Again. (Though it was already on the calendar for them to have off; although if they didn't, they'd be home for a snow day.) My black van is white and gray from salt and snow. Again.

I get it. I live in Wisconsin, right? This is winter in all its messed up glory. Normally, I have a much cheerier attitude about winter, going all Pollyanna and spouting, "But if it wasn't for the dreariness of winter, we wouldn't appreciate the spring!"

Yeah, F that shit.

It's never going to end. It's going to be February forever.

At first, I thought my awful attitude was a result of being in the basement all winter last year. (See here for a refresher as to why.) Like maybe missing last winter has made me soft somehow, and I lost my ability to cope with it. Well, then I heard similar sentiments from my friends and family, all of whom weren't stuck in a dungeon for early 2012, and they have the same feelings.

(My friend C. is a features editor for the local newspaper. He was trying to get ideas for some feature stories for this month, and the best idea he could think of was "The Top 10 Places to Get Drunk In the Area." I heard his wife came up with it. I'm totally on board with that idea.)

This is my backyard when it's not covered with snow and ice and despair. It's never going to look like this again, so I'm glad I took a picture last year.

I'm trying to improve my attitude, really. My birthday is next month, and I'm trying to remind myself that it's generally warmed up by then. The days aren't as long any more, and it's actually still light out at 5 p.m. when Disgruntled Husband comes home. The stores all have Easter candy out right now, with cute pastel decorations involving green grass and bright yellow chicks. But then my inner cynic comes out in the middle of Walgreens and shouts, "You can't promise me Easter Egg hunts when you have Ice Melt on the end cap of an aisle with Peeps!"

So again I say, F that shit. It's never going to end.

The sky is the same color as the ground, and has been since Thanksgiving. The beautiful white fluffy snow of Christmastime has iced over to the crusty, dirty piles of crap along the curb. Even my kids, who love playing in the snow, are sick of it. "Is it ever going to spring, Mommy?" Mini Me asked.

No. It's not. Ever.

I'd admit to some sort of Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder if I had one, but I'm not depressed. I'm just pissed. I have a bad attitude, and much to Disgruntled Husband's dismay, they just don't make a pill for Asshole.

 I feel like I'm waking up everyday and it's the same day. Suddenly, Groundhog's Day (filmed in Woodstock, Ill., near where I grew up) doesn't seem so funny. I tip my soggy knit woolen hat to you, Phil Conners. You were a severely misunderstood man.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a pity party waiting in my bed, under my covers. I'd say "Wake me when spring comes," but like I said before, that's never going to happen.

February is never going to end.