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Monday, June 12, 2006

Open Letter to the Saleswomen Working at JJill

Hi. Remember me? I'm sure that you do. In fact I'd be willing to bet that you haven't stopped talking about me since I left.

This morning I went into your store to return a shirt I bought that had the hem ripped out of the bottom. You weren't as nice or apologetic as I felt you should be since I am the one who bought a defective shirt and had to come all the way back to the store to return it. But, whatever. I was willing to overlook that as I browsed through the store to see if I might like to exchange it for something else.

I browsed around, a little perplexed by the sheer volume of elastic waist clothing. Um, yuck. Are you a clothing store for old people and I just didn't know it?

So I walked through the store and found a different shirt. I was still looking when my husband popped into the store to see if I was done yet. He is frightened if I am in the store for too long.

You had to stop what you were doing and count my children out loud. I'm used to that. I don't understand it, but I am used to it. I'm willing to humor you and laugh when you do that, and correct you when you count incorrectly. Because seven is such huge number it is hard to count that high.

What I am not used to, nor will I ever make excuses for is blatant rude behavior to my children. When you stepped in front of my eldest son and said, "Can I help you, boys?" while blocking their way into the store, you crossed a line.

When you stared at them, with a look of horror on you face, which is how my 11 yr old described your expression by the way, you crossed a line. Then you looked down your nose at me as if I was a leper that you couldn't wait to leave your store. Who do you think you are?

I know the stereotypes about women who have lots of children. I have heard more than my fair share of rude and obnoxious comments ranging from, "Do they all have the same father?" to "Are you on welfare?" Both of which I won't even justify with a response. And the not so sublte glances to my ring finger to check out my wedding rings. And for the record, yes, they are real. Are yours? Because they looked fake to me. But shhhhh, I won't tell.

Giving birth seven times may have weakened my stomach muscles, and my bladder control has never been the same, but surprisingly my hearing is intact. That was why I turned to you and said, "Hi. I can hear you, you know."

Then you said to me, "What did you do pop one out every year?" and "I'd kill myself." Well you pissed me off, frankly.

Afterall, you are the one working in the store. Not me. You are there to wait on me. Not the other way around. I'm not sure that you could afford to shop in the store with what you must be making an hour, so your behavior confuses me. There is nothing I hate more than stuck up sales people. You work in a clothing store. Despite what you may think, that is just a tiny side step from being a cashier at Wal-mart.

And that is why I took a perverse amount of pleasure in saying, "It's too bad that nothing in this store comes in my size. It's all so.... big."


Waste Not...

Mir has begun a new blog about being frugal, Want Not.

When she first told me about it, she said it was going to be about living frugally for real people, who still like to have nice stuff. People who don't want to brew their own coffee in their used stockings and reuse their coffee grounds multiple times, so that they could save that $10 a year or go dumpster diving for discarded but still edible produce.

Okay, she didn't actually say these things, but that is what I thought. I read the Tightwad Gazette. Actually I bought it, which is telling in and of itself about how frugal I am.

I mean I like being frugal, in theory.

Then I read one of her posts about how frugality requires a separate freezer. And I screamed, "I have a freezer!" And I felt so good about my frugalness that I went to and browsed pretty shoes .

Already I have learned that sunblock expires and that I shouldn't stockpile it in my basement, no matter how good the sale or how close I think End Times might be. And I found out about a 10% off sale at Overstock that is perfect for Father's Day. And laundry, I love Mir's laundry tips. So go on over there and read, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll become frugal through osmosis. Okay I can't promise you that... but you will laugh. So go on and leave her a comment, today is the public unveiling.

Then she asked me about my grocery bills and I told her how much we spend. And she fainted. After a while she revived, but evidently was brain damaged in the fall because she told me what airline she was flying to Blogher next month. And I decided to fly on that airline too. But then... I found out I could get on the same plane, because every airline wants us New Englanders to crisscross the country, stopping at least three times, turning what could be a three hour tour into an all day long affair, for which we will have to bring our own snacks. Why aren't there any snacks, you ask?

We are flying the cheap airline, see already I am becoming frugal. There aren't even seat assignments, it is first come, first served and this is where Mir's training for her 60 mile walk will come in handy, as she runs, jumps over the defenseless, pushes down the elderly, and secures us two seats together. She has been instructed to grab the barf bag and moan should anyone try to sit next to her.

(The only exception to this is if a NORMAL single male who has all his teeth, is literate, and employed wants to sit next to her. But we have already determined that there are none of them left in the world, so no worries there.)

So hopefully more of her frugal living ideas will rub off on me. Though I do draw the line at fashioning attractive footwear out of the skytop magazines, or a fetching hat out of our personal flotation devices.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Curse of the Homerun

I don't think I will give up my day job just yet and become a motivational speaker. Not that I actually have a day job.

Yesterday was baseball from 8:00 in the morning until about 4:30 in the afternoon.

I often think it is some sort of divine retribution that I, who despise sports so fully, would end up with boys who love nothing more than participating in sports, any sports.

That I, who think a good time in the sun involves laying down, moving only my eyes to read and my lips to suck my fruity drink, would end up with sons who need me to run, jump, cheer, and not lay down at all in the sun.

That I, who cringe and cover my face when a ball is tossed near me, would have to watch balls thrown 70 miles per hour perilously close to my sons' faces.

That I, who hate to get dirty and sweat, would be faced daily with more stinky laundry than a frat house.

There is a God, I say. And he is vindictive.

So we had four baseball games back to back at different locations. The locations did have something in common though, they were all muddy and freezing cold, with a wind that chapped our faces and caused us all to collectively wonder if it was really March.

My oldest son, of the-hit-an-out-of-the-park-homerun-and-now-has-a-head-so-large-we-had- to-put-extenders-on-the-back-of-his-baseball-cap-fame, he had a double header yesterday. He got up to bat 7 times. He struck out five of those times. FIVE. It was painful to watch. The other two times he grounded out. His little feet, or huge flippers if we are striving for accuracy, never touched first base.

He cried. This is permissible according to The Code of Boys (ages 11-12) which allows for crying when you miss important plays. The Code of Boys (ages 11-12) allows you to cry from physical pain only if there is lots of blood or requires a trip to the hospital in an ambulance. At least this is what I can make out from my vantage point as an outsider.

On the positive side, his baseball cap now fits again and he no longer resembles a bobble-head.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Don't Mess With Chris

We recently discovered that someone is stealing stones off of our stone wall, as well as that of our next door neighbor. This person is coming into our yard several yards up our driveway to take these stones.

Coincidentally, another neighbor a few houses away is building a new stone wall. Hmmmm. Not accusing anyone, but what a coinky-dink.

This is a huge problem here in our area of the country where there are numerous old stone walls and the price of building new ones is cost prohibitive.

In any event I am really mad. It takes a special sort of brazen asshole to come up someone else's driveway and steal their wall away under the veil of darkness.

So I have made some signs that I am going to post out in my yard, if my husband will let me.


To be alternated with this one:


So if you don't hear from me for a few days, it is because I have built one of those deer stands high up in a tree and am just waiting silently, biding my time for the thief to reappear.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

How I Plant A Tree, With Children and a Husband

  1. Tree we transplanted last year doesn't make it through the winter
  2. Decide we need a new tree
  3. Go to nursery and pick out a large tree
  4. Realize it can't fit into any vehicle we own and arrange for shipping
  5. Find out the price for having them dig and plant the tree
  6. Decide that we can dig the hole ourselves
  7. Because I am stupid frugal
  8. 36"x 30" deep doesn't sound very big at all
  9. We own shovels
  10. I have children who like to dig
  11. Arrange for tree to be delivered on Wednesday
  12. Ignore digging the hole for an entire week
  13. Realize Tuesday that hole has to be dug today
  14. Organize a digging party with children
  15. Hand out the shovels
  16. Children act like they have never seen, much less used a shovel, before
  17. Spend the time asking children to get their shovel out of the way
  18. Get their heads out of the way
  19. To stop dueling with the shovels
  20. Ask children to stop jumping in the hole
  21. Inform children that there is no treasure buried in our yard
  22. or corpses
  23. or dinosaur bones
  24. or anything worth diving into the hole in front of my shovel
  25. Get hit in face with shovel handle
  26. over
  27. and over
  28. and over again
  29. Take a break when 7yr old gets hit in the eye
  30. and scratches his cornea
  31. get out eye injury supplies
  32. Doesn't everyone have an eye injury kit?
  33. You would if you had six sons.
  34. Patch up his eye
  35. Continue digging
  36. At 26" hit a huge rock with the shovel
  37. Decide to raise the level of the yard 4"
  38. Try unsuccessfully to keep small children out of the hole
  39. Planting A Toddler
  40. Rain for next 24 hours
  41. Yard is a slippery mud pit
  42. with a mud pool in the center
  43. Crew arrive to deliver tree in the pouring rain
  44. Delivering the Tree
  45. Realize that the tree looks much much larger when not surrounded by other trees
  46. Thankful that they will plant it
  47. Three Men and a Tree
  48. Crew inform me that the hole is too deep
  49. But it isn't wide enough
  50. They drop the tree NEXT to the hole
  51. Did I mention the pouring rain?
  52. And the mud?
  53. The Tree Waiting to be Planted
  54. Stand on the porch shocked
  55. Wonder how I will get the tree into the hole
  56. Realize too late that I should have cried
  57. Told them about the surgery
  58. And the sad story of my husband's thumblessness
  59. Offered them cash, the great motivator
  60. Instead I say bad words.
  61. Wait until afternoon, hoping against hope for sunshine
  62. Resign self to plant tree in pouring rain
  63. begin the shovelling, again
  64. Am joined by helpful children
  65. Who enjoy the mud more than I want them to
  66. I feel like I am in a Tide commercial
  67. Except I am not smiling and happy about my laundry situation
  68. Husband who has his arm in a sling "helps" by giving instructions
  69. Until he can take it no longer
  70. Then he helps us lift the tree with his one good arm
  71. It was much more of an ordeal than it sounds
  72. All the twisting, lifting, turning, straightening
  73. Backfill the hole
  74. Stake the tree with the wire and stakes provided
  75. Tell children to stay away from the tree
  76. Stand back near the road to admire tree
  77. Pose for photo lest we forget the fun
  78. Victorious in the Pouring Rain

  79. Collect shovels laying around the yard
  80. Trip over the wire securing the tree
  81. Fall in the mud
  82. While laying there glance up at flowers
  83. The drought resistant flowers
  84. the heat tolerant flowers
  85. that could withstand the unrelenting summer sun
  86. and me never remembering to water them
  87. the flowers are now drowning and cold

A New Project

I am involved in a new website called Larger Families. From the website: is the site dedicated to parents raising the modern larger family! We strive to be a source of ideas, resources, entertainment and inspiration by and for moms with more than the "average" number of kids. We'll keep you entertained, informed, and inspired with a daily blog written by over a dozen moms with between four and eleven kids, an advice column, links, resources, articles and interviews.

I am writing the advice column, called Advice from the Trenches, where I answer questions from poor, unsuspecting souls people. I will also periodically be interviewing other mothers to see their personal takes on raising a large a family in a world designed for two kids, as well as doing the occasional book review.

I'll have a link up in my sidebar as soon as I get around to it. And my new blog home should be up and running soon, unless my blog designer shoots herself or finds me and shoots me for my incredible pickiness and unrelenting idea changes.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tying Your Shoes, Typing, Washing the Dishes, Squeezing the Toothpaste Tube

What are things that are difficult to do with a huge bandage on your half missing thumb.

This is a picture of the built-in benches that cost Rob his thumb. They turned out really nice and were totally worth sacrificing a finger, that wasn't mine.

Banquet seats

Rob is in surgery as I type this, having his thumb repaired. He sent me this email yesterday afternoon:

She told me to be sure to where a very roomy shirt, as my dressing will be quite bulky and may not fit in a normal shirt.. Excuse me....! Uhm.. What exactly do you think this surgery is for? A heart transfer or a damn thumb??!! Too bulky?? Just how much dressing are they expecting to put on one hand? There is just so much wrapping they can do.. Am I supposed to wear this roomy shirt for the next two weeks too? Should I go shop at the big and tall shop to outfit myself to accommodate my "dressing"..?

In case it isn't clear from the email he was also told that he would have to leave the bandages on for two weeks without having them removed. If his hand can't fit inside a regular shirt, what is he supposed to do for wearing clothing to work. He is also traveling for business next week and part of the trip is going to Universal Studios in Orlando. I can't figure out exactly how that is business related either, so don't ask me.

I joked to him this morning that I half expect to pick him up from the surgery center and find him in a apparatus like this:


with one of those dog cones around his neck for good measure.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What Did We Do Before Google?

Today I am third in this google search:

what did the trenches look like?

In an effort to be helpful, here is the answer:

In The Hole

I Used To Be Perfect

Remember my motivational speech to my children that I wrote about in my last post?

My oldest son hit his first homerun last night. He was thrilled. And I was $20 poorer.

The night before my 10 year old hit two doubles and a single. And I was $5 lighter in the wallet.

I'd like to think it was my incredibly motivating and inspirational talk with my sons, and not the lure of cold hard cash.

It's funny, before I had children I though I would be one of those parents who didn't bribe or punish. I strongly felt that the intrinsic value of doing something would be lost if I put an outside motivator on it. But my children were also going to be perfect and want to learn their multiplication tables for fun and spend their spare time composing original violin concertos to play on their weekly visits to the elderly. They would self discipline!

Before I had children, I was the perfect mother.

And so the other night after my motivational speech, when my 10 yr old asked, will you give me something if I hit the ball into the outfield? After negotiating we decided on $1 for a single, $2 for a double, etc. The kids has the best game of his short little life, probably because he was too busy mentally calculating his newly acquired cash and what he would buy with it,than feeling anxious.

The 11 yr old said, "That's not fair."

I answered, "Welcome to my life, dear."

"What if I hit a homerun? Like out of the ballpark homerun? Will you give me $20?" he pressed on.

I calculated the odds of that happening. He has never hit a homerun. I figured my money was safe.

So under the guise of being magnanimous I answered, "Sure. Why not."

At 8:00 pm last night I got a phone call from him on his father's cell phone. He hit that homerun.
I wasn't there.

"I wish you had seen it, Mom."

I think I may have died a little.

He came home with the ball. A dirty, smudged ball, that someone had dug out of the woods and given it to him. He held it up proudly, for all of us to gaze upon it's magnificence. He wanted me to write the date on it so he could save it.

I pulled out my trusted Sharpie, asked him to verify the date on the calendar, took a deep breath to steady my hand, and proceeded to write the wrong date. The wrong freaking date.

He cried. I scrubbed the little spot on the ball trying to get the marker off. In the end I was able to "fix" it in a way that was acceptable to him, and if you didn't know any better you wouldn't even notice. But you'll always be able to see that little clean spot, where I tried to fix my mistake.

Every time I look at that little ball sitting on his shelf, I'll remember this night, and my woefully inadequate self.

My kids might not be perfect, but I love them just the way they are. I hope they think the same about me.

$20 should buy a little forgiveness... right? right?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Baseball is a metaphor for everything

A few nights ago I was talking to my two oldest sons about the power of positive thinking and the self fulfilling power of negative thoughts. Of course this was all in relation to baseball, because aside from Legos their thoughts are consumed with little else.

One of them has been having a lot of trouble at bat during games. At the pitching machine... he hits everything beautifully. When the coach is pitching, or during practices, the same.

But put him up at bat during a game and it is like looking at a different kid. There is no explanation for it, other than the negative self speak. The coaches come up to us, privately, and say that he should be the best on the team. That is what all the evidence during practice would suggest. And yet, time after time, in a game situation he fails to come through.

So I began this conversation telling them both that I wanted them to think positive thoughts when they got up to bat. I gave them a little mantra to say when they got up at home plate. "I am a hitter. I can do it. I can hit a homerun. I can do it." They looked at me like I had lost my mind.

"I'm not saying that," my ten year old protested.

"You don't have to go up to there and shout it, though maybe that would scare everyone else away from you. No, you say it in your head."

From the way they protested you would think I had suggested they go up to bat naked.


A few days ago I got an "opportunity" to get paid for some writing. If we use the word "opportunity" to mean "lay down while we run you over with a steam roller to extract every last ounce of your soul from your body and then pay you a pittance". I don't want to get into details because it seems as though they could be a particularly litigious club group. But suffice it to say that the offer was insulting. And not just insulting to me, because I am sitting on some sort of high horse, just plain old insulting to writers everywhere ( imagine my sweeping arm gesture which encompasses all of you)

As I said to the person offering the job, if I accept this sort of job I am basically saying that what I do has no value. That my writing and the writing of other women and mothers (not to exclude men out there, but this offer was a mom thing) is worth nothing. And I don't believe that. I can't believe that.

I told the person offering the job that I hoped no one accepts this job under these terms. But I know someone will. I know someone will believe the lie that we have been collectively fed, that mothering, and the writing about mothering, has no value, that you should be happy for a little pat on your head. Now go sit in the corner, fiddle with your pearls, and look pretty.

Writing about being in the trenches of motherhood is revolutionary. Our mothers didn't have this outlet. Being able to write honestly about all facets of our lives is freeing. Finding out that other women feel like an outcast from the "perfect mother" club is comforting.

I seethed over it for days, and a wise friend told me I needed to let it go, and I have. Or rather will after I write this. She also asked what I was going to do about it. Do? Isn't my outrage enough.

And as I began to hem and haw she said, well you have a safety net I have kids to feed, that's the difference. No, it's more than a safety net I had said. I couldn't think of what it really was. Safety net implies that you are doing something, but what will be caught if you fall. No, I have been treating my life as a crutch.

Have I worked on my book at all in the past few months? No.

Why not? Oh the reasons I could give are numerous and varied. With seven kids people don't expect much of you. If my shoes match and my shirt is buttoned correctly, people are impressed. The world is my enabler. But, if I have time for this I have time to do writing that will pay me.

In the end though it comes down to the negative self talk. My own reluctance to step up to the plate and claim the title of writer, lest some one slap me down. My life long pattern of giving up, so that I don't have to fail.

'Tis easier to stand motionless at homeplate, ostensibly waiting for the perfect pitch, blaming the pitcher for lousy throws, blaming the umpire for bad calls, than it is to claim the game as your own, to swing with all you heart, all your strength, and strike out.

Old habits are hard to change, the negative self talk even harder.

So now it is my turn up at the plate. I understand fully the protests of my sons. I feel naked.

"I am a writer. I can do it."