UPDATED: The wench is missing.

May 31 2012

Cai told me last night that Daddy’s wench is missing.

“Mommy?” Cai said. “Mah-mee. MommyMomMomMommyMom!”

“Yes, Cai?” I replied absentmindedly, eyes affixed to the seventeenth Stephanie Plum novel and rather not paying the kind of attention I should’ve been paying to my preschooler.

“Daddy lost his wench.”

I started paying attention.

“Daddy lost his wench,” Cai said, “and he’s very sad.”

Cai stood solemnly, pondering his father’s loss. We locked eyes, and I nodded sympathetically.

“Losing a wench sounds like a terrible thing, Cai Cai.”

“Yes, Mommy. It is. Daddy says he needs the wench sometimes to fix his plumbing. Daddy says a wench can fix a wot of things, and we need to be very careful about keeping wenches where we can find them. Daddy says we have to put the wenches right back in their place as soon as we’re done playing with them, so they don’t get lost.”

I really don’t…

That is, I…

I’m not sure what to…

I guess there’s nothing else to say, really.

I suppose I just wanted someone to know.



I posted a link to this post on Greg’s Facebook wall because I’m a loving wife and I think nothing says Loving Wifery like publicly announcing that my husband’s wench is missing.

Greg replied: Fortunately I find new ones all the time. I don’t care if they are well used already, they still get the job done.

And then my dad replied: Knowing him as I do I’m certain Greg didn’t lose it gamboling. Likely it is just miss-laid. And he must get his relaxed attitude from his Dad who has bragged to me for *years* about finding wayward ones in the back seats of cars.

And then Greg’s dad replied: Yes, and I found several just yesterday behind the seat of a Dodge pickup. Even better, I told Greg about the great find BEFORE I knew his wench had moved on!

These are the men in my life.

Who are examples to my sons.

And I love them

The end.


P.S. The comments below…. baha!

Where there’s smoke…

May 29 2012

“What are you DOING?” I screeched at her. “Do you not see the SMOKE?”

My first clue that I’d lost control of the situation was my teenager sitting on the couch, blithely chatting on Facebook while the room filled with billowing smoke.

“Well, yeah,” she replied. “I see it. But you’re fixing it, right? I mean, I can’t fix it.”

“OH MY GOSH,” I said calmly, my eyes not bulging out even a little. “I’m not asking you to help fix it. I’m trying to save your life. The house is full of smoke! Get. Out. GET OUT! GETOUTgetoutGETOUT!”

I chased her from the house, flapping my hen-like wings and clucking all the way to the front door. Zen and the Art of Child Maintenance; I am a master.

My second clue that I’d lost control of the situation was my five-year-old army crawling all over the kitchen.

“Check this out, Mom,” Cael said, wonder and awe in his voice. “It’s just like they taught us at school in fire safety class! You really can crawl under the smoke and still breathe.” He inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly to demonstrate. “Ah! Fresh air down here!”

“Cael! There is SMOKE IN OUR HOUSE. Get. OUT!”

He got out, but only out of the kitchen. He crawled into the hallway where he dallied under the smoke canopy, too enamored with his breathing experiment to be in any real rush.


On this week’s conversational agenda for my family? This topic: WHEN YOU SEE SMOKE, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. You needn’t wait to see the white of the fire’s eyes to MOVE, KIDS.

Five minutes before battling kitchen smoke and my children in equal measure, I was sitting on my front steps watching my little kids paint our house, our tree trunks, our sidewalks and each other with watercolor paints. You know all those leftover boxes of Prang and Crayola watercolors that come home from school all mixed together so that every color resembles a mud river? Except you’re sure that there’s usable paint under the jumbled mess of colors and so you can’t toss those messy trays because that’s like saying that you don’t even care that your great-grandchildren have to clean up your environmental mess someday? Yeah. Me, too. Well, here’s the solution: send all of the paint trays, some jumbo-sized wall painting brushes, and a bucket of water outside with two or more children, and those cupboard-cluttering paints will be gone in no time. It’s the best use-the-paint tip ever if, like me, you’ve totally given up on curb appeal and your neighbors already know you’re a disaster. (My neighbor hands me red wine over the fence whenever she thinks I look overwhelmed, which really only reinforces my negative behavior, so my kids are pretty much allowed to paint whatever they want.)


I was in the midst of negotiating with the kids on the use of our dog as a painting canvas – “OK, you can paint the fur on his back if you promise not to paint his eyeballs or his butthole because a) I don’t have money to pay the vet for bionic dog eyes and b) there are enough things in our house that smell like dog butt without adding paint brushes to the list…” – when my ten-year-old Aden-girl rushed from the house, shoved her face within centimeters of mine, and yelled, “CAI SHOULD NOT HAVE TOLD ME TO MICROWAVE PIZZA ROLLS FOR 25 MINUTES!” And then she turned, pointed furiously at 5-year-old Cai and yelled for emphasis, “YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TOLD ME THAT, CAI!”

Cai was too busy painting his naked belly and, on alternate strokes, the inside of his nose to pay a bit of attention to his irrational sister.

I found her harder to ignore, though, so, with admonishments to my children to stay on the sidewalk (“We know, Mom. You say that all the time.“), I put away the Kindle book I wasn’t reading, and I went inside to check the damage.

I found smoke.

Miles and thousands of miles of smoke and the accompanying smell of an electrical fire.

And a teenager sitting on the couch. And a preschooler practicing his belly crawl.

FYI, Ikea plastic plates that are fried in pizza roll grease on high in the microwave produce carcinogenic (I imagine) clouds of smoke but no actual fire.

Also FYI, telling children to “RUN AWAY FROM THE CANCER SMOKE” isn’t as effective a motivator as real, honest-to-God flames. Apparently, I need to work on my delivery. Or buy a torch to light in case of emergencies.

Also also FYI, this is why a) we don’t take cooking tips from 5-year-olds, and b) we always ASK MOM BEFORE we cook anything. RIGHT, KIDS?

And finally, thank you for your Facebook tips for getting this noxious smell out of my house. I plan to try your suggestions soon since my vanilla candle and cider spice sacrifice was a pathetic failure.


The End.



Greg used to work with a guy who’s the father of four, um, creative boys.

Sometimes, the guy’s wife would call him at work with updates, like the time she found their 7-year-old twins using bungee cords to climb on and off the roof. Or the time she forgot to put the house into full lockdown at naptime so their toddler, the social butterfly, snuck out to visit the neighbors.

Every story was a combination of the horrific and hilarious. Horrorious! And we who had fewer than four children giggled into our napkins and tried not to smirk when the guy walked by.

I’m just saying I can see you laughing behind your napkin.

I can see you.

You say tomato. I say that tomato is ruining my reputation.

May 27 2012

I don’t want to be dramatic or anything, but I found something in my kitchen window today that was terrifying.

I’m not talking about the four hollow dead fly husks that crunched as I gathered them into my thin, waxy paper napkin.

Or the dust that’s no longer dusty and, instead, is devolving with residual kitchen grease into some sort of sticky glue-like substance that’s likely to self-animate and smother us all in our sleep.


I’m talking about this:

It’s a…

(sorry – deep breath)

It’s a tom…

(slow and steady, Beth)

It’s a tomato plant, you guys, and I don’t know quite how to tell you this, so I’m just going to take the plunge and get it all out there…

it’s alive!

I know. I’m at a loss, too. I mean, obviously.

I got this plant – and another just like it – for Mother’s Day from my children.

I get plants for Mother’s Day every year from my children.

I’m starting to suspect that normal moms like plants. (Is that true? Do you like plants, moms?)

My mom likes plants.

My mom keeps plants alive, even.

And her plants produce food to nourish her body and blossoms to nourish her soul.

She’s, like, the Plant Whisperer.

I, on the other hand, am the Plant Killer.

As in, if the world ever needs a skilled Plant Assassin, then the world need look no further than me, for I am the Mad Scientist Plant Killing Super Ninja.

I kill plants in broad daylight and in the dead of night. I kill plants with malevolent neglect and solicitous, overzealous attention. I kill highly-placed political plants with legions of guards and top-notch protection details. And I kill brutal, back-alley, drug-dealing plants who’ve survived for years with their scrappy street savvy and networks of scuzzy informants.

I am the scary story that Plant Parents tell their sweet little Plant Children to frighten them into planty compliance. I am the Evil Stepmother – the Baba Yaga – of the plant world. Rigorously ruthless. Consistently cruel.

Plants shudder when they’re hauled, screaming and crying, into my killer’s den.

I’ve build my entire plant-killing empire on my unswerving reputation as plant poison, personified.

So now, perhaps, you’ll understand my dismay at being so publicly thwarted – humiliated – by this tomato plant that, for two whole weeks, has neither withered nor waned and then, in an in-your-face move that I can hardly ignore, audaciously blossomed.

As though it intends to do something really drastic like bear fruit.

It’s unconscionable. And I certainly can’t tolerate this kind of plant behavior in my house.

So, tell me. What’s a hard-as-nails Plant Killer to do now, huh?

I’m at an utter loss and open to ideas.


Anyone at all…


Shooting Ducks

May 25 2012

You know how life is like shooting fish in a barrel? Like, it’s so easy you feel downright guilty?

Yeah. Me, neither.

Life is more like shooting ducks.

Really, really fast ducks with short attention spans, a penchant to dart rapidly in random directions, and bullet repellent.

And then, when you shoot ’em dead and think you’re done knocking ’em down so you can get on to the more important parts of life, the ducks rise again like Lazarus.

Apocalyptic zombie ducks with ragged clothing and limps that are coming for us.


As my friend recently said,

You know what we need?
We need more compliant ducks.

And I say, Amen.


So… that about sums up the way my week’s been.

What about you? (Type your response quietly so the ducks don’t hear you.)


P.S. No ducks were harmed in the writing of this post.

P.P.S. Unless you consider the glorification of duck-shooting “harm” since it desensitizes the culture at large to the plight of zombie ducks.

P.P.P.S. I had a duck egg for breakfast. Just thought you should know. Full disclosure and all that.

P.P.P.S. I plan to write and (finally!) respond to comments this weekend. But THANK YOU for keeping the lines of communication open. I love you for it. I do.


The Zippered Pocket

May 22 2012

I had the shakes. I was jittery. I kept biting the skin around my nails.  And it wasn’t just because of the excessive coffee I drank.

Although walking in sunshine and over-eating fresh pasta and flaky, buttery pastries are excellent, highly recommended coping mechanisms (which I assure you I employed to the very best of my ability), I still managed to pathologically miss my children on vacation last week.

I just… really missed them.

I know. I’m an embarrassment to exhausted mamas everywhere, and I should have my vacation credentials revoked.

The truth is I was gracious and kind last week except when I was pissy and unlivable. My emotions came in tsunami-like waves with crests that rose on rushes of exhilaration and troughs created by fear. I was deliriously happy at the freedom to sleep when I was tired, to stop for a cappuccino when the mood struck, and to pee in blessed solidarity. And I was terribly afraid that something awful would happen to my kids while I was irresponsibly away, because no matter how many times I try not to listen to the untruths, I’m entranced by the lie that my presence is required to avert catastrophe.

I think it’s fair to call it a roller coaster week.

Or maybe it was just a week.

After all, it was pretty typical for messy, complicated, mama me. Ups and downs. Triumphs and fears. Kindness and cruelty.

I’ve noticed that taking myself on vacation requires me to deal with myself there, much like I’m required to deal with myself every day and in real life. That feels, somehow, like a terribly unfair expectation for a vacation, but it is, nevertheless, true.

Of course, it helped soothe me that Greg was out of his mind last week, as well. I could tell by the way he kept saying ridiculous things like, “Beth. The kids are fine. They are not pining for us. I bet they’re even enjoying their time with others.”


Logic was lost on him, you guys! He was completely without reason.

Which is why it was probably silly of me to ask Greg to put my pen back in my purse for me.

I mean, of all the times to give someone an important task, in the midst of mutual insanity is not one of them. I should’ve known better, and, frankly, I’m pretty sure this exact situation was covered in our premarital counseling sessions when our counselor said that a) communication might be an ongoing challenge for us, and, specifically, b) to not ever ask Greg to put my pen away for me when I’m strung out on vacation and incapable of handling, oh, anything.

Our premarital counselor really knew his way around a crystal ball.

So I handed Greg my pen, and do you know what he did?

He put it in the only zippered pocket in my purse.


He did!

Like it’s not obvious that the only zippered pocket in my purse is exclusively reserved for important things like my phone and cash and chapstickand that pens are supposed to be tossed haphazardly into the abyss where I have to shuffle through pennies and matchbox cars and wads of my kids’ chewed gum that are poorly wrapped in old gas receipts. Doy.

I asked Greg why he did it. Why – oh, why – he so poorly used the single, solitary zippered pocket?

He looked at me like I was the crazy one, and he said he did it because – and I’m going to just go ahead and quote him here so I’m not projecting my feelings about the situation or misleading you in any way – “I thought you might want to find it again later.”

That’s what he said… he thought I might want to find it again later.

Oh yeah? Well, I didn’t want the pen in the zippered pocket even if it appeared to belong there. Even if it made more sense there. Even if it served a purpose there.

Good grief. I mean, if God intended my purse to be for finding things instead of losing things, I’m pretty sure that God would’ve made different decisions while working the line in the purse factory, perhaps creating mine with more than one pocket. Way to question God’s plan, ya know? I hope you’re watching out for lightening, Greg; I really do.

And, anyway, what good is it to find my pen the first time I look? That makes no sense. I need to search and sigh and grumble and dump out handfuls of trash and say things like, “I know I have a pen in here somewhere.” It’s the struggle that makes it worthwhile. You can’t just expect things to be easy, you know.

Greg said that things aren’t always easy, but that I make things more difficult than they need to be.






My important, philosophical point is this – purses are like life:

  • I dump things in them in haphazard fashion.
  • It takes way longer than I’d like to figure out what I need to carry for myself, what I need to carry for others, and where to fit all the pieces.
  • And it turns out that, sometimes, things I don’t expect find their way into my inner sanctum, my cherished space, my zippered pocket.

I was both more and less than I wanted to be last week. Better and worse. Gentler and more biting.

And I missed my kids. A lot. Which is something that keeps showing up in my zippered pocket, even though I didn’t put it there on purpose.

Perhaps, rather than trying to dump Missing My Kids out every time I see it taking up space in the inner sanctum, or complain about not wanting it there, I can think of my longing for my children like the pen…

… something I discover much more quickly than I intend

… something that makes me uncomfortable when I find it right there in the middle of the most important places

….but also something to recognize that I need to touch frequently

because, like it or not, that’s who I am, and that’s what belongs tucked carefully inside my zippered pocket.


What about you? What’s in your zippered pocket?


More Soon

May 21 2012

I took a big ol’ break from writing while on vacation last week. There were days and days of not writing; like, four of them in a row.

I thought not writing for a little bit was a good idea.

I thought I’d use my time to go for a walk or fourteen in the sun. To spend dedicated time with Greg. To eat pizza from a brick oven and fresh pasta with pesto sauce.

I thought I’d unplug and rest.

I thought wrong.

Truth be told, I didn’t much like not writing. It kind of sucked. And, in combination with missing my kids, it made me a teensy, tiny bit crazy. Like, nuts. Like, out of my head. Like irritable and grouchy and short-tempered like I often am, but without my writing pressure-release valve. Like, Greg didn’t ship me across the ocean on the first available sea barge but only because he’s nice to me in ways I don’t earn (and also probably a little bit because I offer him seven fabulous minutes every now and then).

It turns out, I need to write to dislodge the clogs that build up in my head. Like a chimney sweep with a big, bristly brush, I need to push through the dark toward the light, even those I know something messy will undoubtedly fall out.

I also missed writing because of all of you who admit you’re traveling the Crazy Road with me. I missed having you in my head to remind me that the insanity is normal so we can debunk the pressure of perfection together. I realize now that I’m home that I find my most authentic Village in the land of confessed imperfection, and I miss this home when I’m away.

So I wrote today in between bouts of caring for a sick kid. The writing felt good. The sick kid is getting better. And I have new posts coming soon. Tomorrow, I think.

Bear with me for a little bit longer while I poke around in my head. And thanks for hanging in there with me.

More soon.



P.S. You can thank me later for changing my chimney analogy from a zit analogy. I did it because I like you. And because I didn’t want you to ralph on your computer.

I give and I give.


The Measure of My Success

May 17 2012

I started vacation with a partially empty emotional bucket, rather eager to refill it. And now that I’m on vacation, I’m splashing relaxation frantically towards the bucket, hoping some of it will land inside and I’ll be magically refilled. I like to be realistic; it’s one of my best things.

But vacation is like sleep. Incredibly awesome. In shorter supply than I would like. And very challenging to do successfully with a limited amount of time.

Sleep, I tell myself every night. Just go to SLEEP. Beth. Seriously. Sleep now. Now now. Now now now now.

And because putting pressure on myself to succeed always results in unparalleled success, I thought I’d do it on vacation, too.

Enjoy yourself, I tell myself. Just enjoy every single moment of rest and relaxation. Rest! RELAX. Beth. Seriously. Rest now. Now now. Now now now now.

Not to be dramatic or anything, but being a mother is like being deranged; logic has a hard time finding its footing here.

So today, I’m going to work on challenging my broken record and the measure of my success.

I’m going to work on redefining rest success. And relaxation success. And sleep success. And, well, being a mama success. Because I’m starting to suspect this…

In order to be a success – as a mama, as a woman, as a flawed human being – I must discard the idea of a wasted day. And a wasted experience. And a wasted opportunity.

To watch moments flutter by is not a waste; it is life.

Instead, I will embrace the idea that successes are little, that they come in ones… and that just one little success is enough.

If, today, I
discovered something new
thought of someone else
was kinder than I wanted to be…

If, today, I
went for a walk
enjoyed my coffee
managed to breathe…

If, today, I
managed just one thing…

not all of them
or most of them
or many of them
or some,

that is the measure of my success,
and it is enough.