Momaical is a humorous look at trying not to raise a flock of assholes. Cursing & copious coffee involved.

Momaical: [mom-mahy-uh-kuhl] = (Hybrid of Mom and Maniacal.)


I Didn't Realize You Could Buy Egypt In Monopoly And Then Plummet to Death Off The Eiffel Tower

I really suck at playing with kids. I lack any imagination to play with Barbie dolls. I never know what the Barbie that works at the pizza place should say to the customer wearing no pants. Even when I think I’m following the dialogue that Lena has written in her mind, I’m admonished by her for saying the wrong thing. The baby babble that Emmeline spews is acceptable but my witty repartee is chastised? I never played Barbies well – even as a child. I was better at dressing them in some pink sequined atrocity and then cutting off their hair.They all ended up at a late night rave where they were stomped to death in a mosh pit. My mom stopped buying me Barbies – hmmm...weird.
I can’t play board games with my kids.The girls have decided they don’t like the traditional rules established by Parker Brothers – so they make up their own nonsensical rules. I never understand their rules and I always play incorrectly and end up in jail. I don’t mind not winning. It’s the rules that change mid-game once I've finally figured out how to play the latest version that make me crazy. For example: I am only allowed to land on the primary colors in Candyland. Lena gets to jump on the secondary colors until she lands on some magical square that turns her into a Pegasus and she flies to victory. Mid-flight to the winners circle, she stops off at some secret Candyland confection rest stop that causes me to die in a torrent of lava. Or get squished to death by an anaconda.  Or trampled by a herd of wayward turtles.  No matter what the game we are playing, I somehow die.  My demise is imminent and always macabre – even if we are playing Animal Peace Corps. “Oh no, Mommy!  Landslide!  Too bad I’m off being a veterinarian to the pygmy marmosets or I could have saved you!”  I believe she must stay up nights and dream up elaborate and violent methods of obliteration. 
And, there’s always a recurring theme of orphan being played in my house. The girls “find children” who have no parents and have been rescued by Ange-Lena Jolie. Or, my girls are on their own because their parents have perished after a tragic accident involving quicksand and cotton candy. They are now spending their day drinking tea and coloring while the "serving person" (me) takes care of their every desire. I’d like to blame this on Max and Ruby who are cartoon rabbits who live a grandiose life by themselves. They seem to have a stocked refrigerator, spotless floors and beautiful gardens with no parents to nag them about picking up their pajamas. Ruby gets to be soooo bossy with no repercussions (I’d also like to attribute Lena’s bossiness to Ruby. It has absolutely nothing to do with two type-A parents).  They make cupcakes for breakfast and no one nags them about fire safety or third degree burns if they get too close to the hot stove!!! How lucky for them. Come to think of it, I’d like that too. 
Although yesterday, I accidentally stumbled on to the best game EVER!  Spa day! I sat in a beach chair in the driveway while the girls fixed my hair with giant, sparkly Halloween barrettes. It came complete with a hand massage, leg massage and “lemonade with a special ingredient!” (Which always scares me – what is that special ingredient? Visine? Draino? Arsenic?) I discovered the special ingredient was Gatorade - phew!  

I believe I will dare to play this game again today. However, Lena has now had a night to dream up my annihilation so I'm sure this will not end well for me.  "Oops, you were so relaxed that you fell asleep in the hot tub and drowned!  We wanted to save you but the sauna was full of orphan baby wombats that needed us."  


Apples And Sticks Of Butter? Sounds Delicious!

The door slams open so hard that I thought it was going to shatter.  In flies a woman, running and speaking extremely rapidly to herself.
HiI’mhereIhaveanappointment.” She zips by the reception desk and over to the water cooler as I watch in fascination. She is the antithesis of most patients that enter our facility.  I’m trying to check her in for her appointment but she’s paying absolutely no attention to me.   She clearly has an imminent need for tea.  Tea.Imusthavetea.Ineedtea.Here’stea.”  Our patient services coordinator has called in sick for the day, so I take care of the admission of patients as well as my job as the director of this medical facility. 

She settles on a cup of chamomile (thank goodness, no caffeine for her) and thus begins my relationship with my favorite patient, Miss S.  She is so dynamic and fabulously interesting.  She is the type of patient that others in my group shudder at the thought of dealing with at their centers.  She was challenging rolled up with a little bit of crazy and sprinkled with a dash of hyper. 
She finishes her plethora of paperwork associated with new patients. I squint at the chicken scratch trying to decipher the code.   I get her squared away in her room and give a heads up to the doctor.  Thankfully, we have an amazing, brilliant doctor on our staff.  She is kind, calm and has a way of cutting through the toughest of issues by stating things like “I can’t help but notice that you smell like cat urine.  Why might that be?”  I love working with her. 
Dr. Brilliant finishes up with Miss S. and it is my turn again.  I speak to her about the center, the services we provide for future appointments and what the doctor has recommended for her in today’s visit.  She does not sit during this wrap up.  Instead, she runs in circles around the room.
Yup.Yup.Igotit.Iunderstand.Ihaveataxicoming.”  She runs out of the office mid-sentence (I believe to check for her taxi but with her you are never really sure) and then runs back in to continue our conversation as if she never left.  We wrap up the appointment and schedule her follow up.  Suddenly she turns from the front desk and flies straight into the glass doors like a bird.  She knocks herself to the ground.  I run from behind the desk to help her.  She springs up from prone position and starts to shake her head like a dog trying to dry off.  I’mok.I’mok.I’mok.” She grabs the handle of the door that she just practically ran through and shoots out to her waiting taxi. 
I happen to grab the phone when she calls a few days later. “HELLO???” HELLO??” Yes, Miss S., I’m here.  “HELLO? CAN YOU HEAR ME?” she screams into the phone.  She wishes to speak to the doctor. Apparently very loudly.  However, Dr. Brilliant is going to be in appointments for the entire day.  So I ask Miss S. what she wished me to convey to Dr. B.  She tells me that her “gallbladder is attacking her.”  She is calling Dr. B. to inform her that she is handling it by eating a diet of only apples and sticks of butter.  In my (not at all) expert medical opinion, I thought that consuming sticks of butter may in fact make your gallbladder explode – but kept that to myself.  I convey the message to Dr. B. who sighs, shakes her head and goes on her way to her next appointment. 
One time Miss S. is receiving a treatment in a room where several patients are receiving similar procedures.  Our RN is having a difficult time starting an IV on another patient.  Miss S. springs out of her recliner and offers to get it started for our RN – as “IusetodoalotofheroinandI’mreallygoodatfindingveins.”  Oh. My.  Well, that does explain quite a bit.  My kind RN politely declines and I leave the room before I giggle inappropriately.
She is high maintenance.  She has extremely strange ideas about how to self-treat her “symptoms” but I love her.  Every time she comes in I add a funny memory to my repertoire about some new epiphany. 
TracyI’vedecidedtoonlyeatcrackers.Imakethemathome.”  Crackers?  Really?  Who on earth bakes saltines?  When Dr. B. was apprised of whatever choices Miss S. had made, she would visibly collect herself, take a deep breath and walk in to face a woman wearing clothes pins all over her face.


Just What Kind of Restaurant Do You Think This Is?

I languidly turn my head up so I can feel the warmth of the sunshine bathe my face.  I am stretched out in an aluminum chair at my favorite restaurant.  It’s a gorgeous day in Madrid, and I am enjoying it with a group of new exchange students.  The head of the exchange program has asked me to take some people out to acclimatize them to the Spanish way of life.
We are people watching in the Plaza Mayor, while sitting at an outdoor café about to enjoy lunch.  I am answering all of their nervous questions about being an American surrounded by a group of xenophobic Spaniards.  I remember all too well how exciting and scary my first few weeks being alone in a foreign country were – and I’m trying to make them feel as comfortable as I can. 
I plan to take them to a few of the touristy sights, warn them about places to avoid and encourage them to try certain things.  I regale them with stories of my early adventures in Spain, making them laugh about embarrassing comments I accidentally made or getting lost while trying to navigate the foreign land.  I sip the delicious, strong café con leche that I have grown to love.  I am explaining many culinary differences between the cultures.  For example, one person has ordered "un bocadillo."  Sandwiches in Spain are a crunchy piece of French bread, sliced down the middle and a piece of meat is placed inside.  There are no vegetables included.  Rarely are condiments added.  This is not like a traditional American “sub.”  Wait staffs at restaurants are brusque in how they ask you what you would like to order; using ¿Qué quieres? (What do you want) instead of a more formal “What would you like?” Also, expect to be at a restaurant for a lot longer than you would in the United States.  The experience is to be savored, not rushed through and hurried to receive the bill. 

My stomach grumbles in excited anticipation of the tortilla española that I am eagerly awaiting.   The waitress adeptly balances multiple orders on her arm and shoulder.  Everyone is handed what they ordered.  There are a few puzzled looks as to what has arrived.  I am about to explain what jamón Serrano is and why there are olives everywhere.  I also neglected to mention that every meal (regardless of what you ordered) will also come with a huge helping of French fries.  The waitress asks the question “¿Algo más?" (anything more?) as she’s about to walk away from our table.  One of the few people under my tutelage asks the waitress “¿Kechupas?”  as he wishes to Americanize his lunch by drowning his fries in ketchup.
Her eyes open very wide. She looks as if she has been slapped.  She turns on her Zara high heels and stomps off.  The student thought he had just asked the waitress for ketchup had actually said “¿Qué chupas?” Which translates as “What do you suck?”

I was stifling a belly full of guffaws, thankful we had already received our meals.   I had to remind the confused group that although there are many English cognates in Spanish – simply adding an “o” or an “a” to the end of a word does not necessarily make it appropriate.  In fact, you may be inadvertently propositioning a waitress.  We did manage to finish the lunch without further incident - although the poor waitress couldn't look at any of us again.  We left a big tip (which is not customary in Spain) and went on our merry way.

The poor fool was hopeless at second language acquisition.  Later in the semester I learned he got stuck in the door of the metro (how does one even do that ???).  And, instead of asking for help (Ayuda) he yelled ¡Biblioteca! (library).  I feel it’s safe to assume no one from Biblioteca Nacional de España came rushing to assist him.  Perhaps he should have taken a few more Rosetta Stone lessons prior to his arrival and heeded my warnings about which sections of Madrid to avoid.  Then, he may have not been arrested when accepting what he believed to be candy from undercover federales. Who knew "chocolate" was slang for weed?


How Do You Say Montezuma's Revenge in Spanish, Señora?

I love to teach.  I made this discovery after the company where I was working had unexpectedly decided to close our branch.  My husband looked at me and said “Follow your dreams, beautiful.  For I am only truly happy when you are.”  (And anyone that knows my husband is laughing hysterically right now.  The more realistic sentiment was “Oh… $%&* - are you freakin' serious with this?”)  But, he did say that I should look into teaching because that’s all I ever talked about doing if money was not a factor in our lives.  Life was opening a new door for me - from business executive to teacher. 

I tossed out my resume and was so lucky to be immediately hired as a long term substitute teacher for a woman out on maternity leave.  I worked first in middle school (holy hormones – and for once I’m not talking about me).  Next I accepted a position to teach fourth grade in a Spanish Immersion Program.  Oh my goodness, did I love those people!  I was blessed with smart kids and wonderful parents (except for one psychopath mom…but at least everyone knew she was a handful).  However, my out-of-the-box teaching styles were too much for the principals of the school to comprehend.  They wanted worksheet teaching from me.  I am more of an in your face, make you laugh, get out of your seat and do things hands on kind of teacher.  I am loud and I teach with lots of humor.  I was told that I was “very dangerous” because I was so dynamic.  I hated having the stalking in my room constantly to make sure no students were (GASP) enjoying themselves! 

Off to teach high school Spanish I went!  This was my absolute favorite kind of teaching!  I worked with teenagers who had a sense of humor, intelligence and maturity – (except for the time I put an entire group of upper classmen in a time out because they were acting like babies).  I woke up happy every day to go to my job.  I wanted the students to feel excited about foreign languages and cultures. And, I wanted them to enjoy their 84 minutes every other day with me.  Foreign languages are considered an elective in many high schools.  So, if they’re choosing to give up an art or a gym to have to study and work hard – I believe they should have fun doing so. 

Most importantly, I loved cracking through the tough teenage exterior and getting them to come into themselves in my class.  And, for some unknown reason they actually DID the crazy stuff – like dancing the Chipi-Chipi in front of other classes, acting out soap opera scenes, or tasting unknown tapas.  My favorite activity was totally busting them on their beliefs that they don’t need to learn a foreign language because technology will save them.
I had them all choose groups that they would go on Spring Break with for this exercise.  They could use whatever they thought would help them to communicate: phones, dictionaries, list of vocabulary, Cha-cha, etc.  They were then given situations that occur in foreign countries and they had to get help from another teacher (and dear friend) Alicia and me.  However, Alicia and I professed to not understand a word of English.  They did a great job of trying to get assistance for friends that had: crashed on scooters, gotten robbed by gypsies and suffered the effects of Montezuma’s revenge. But, they walked away chastened by the knowledge that fluency beats Wikipedia any day of the week.
I love those kids and still communicate with many of them. Now, I'm not claiming to be teacher of the year by any stretch of the imagination. (As the administration of my former elementary school probably has a picture of me posted on a DO NOT HIRE billboard). Even though I am aware that not all of them will continue on in foreign language, I hope they will look back upon the experience as a happy one.  Oh, and they also learned never to give to money to gypsies - even ones that look like innocent high school Spanish teachers...


Applesauce...Spain's Victory Dance

I was informed by my friend Erica that I need to expand my blog past what my kids ate for breakfast.  I believe her in this commentary, because this is what she gets paid a lot of money to do for a very large company.  And, since I am brand spankin’ new to this endeavor – I am willing to listen to any critique that doesn’t make me cry, want to throw something or wave obscene gestures.  So, I am branching out beyond my four walls into a story that will helpfully make me sound “more worldly.”  Let me know if I have achieved…

When I was 20 years old, I lived in Madrid.  This was a wonderful, exhausting, frustrating, enlightening, amazing experience.  I had a headache for the first three months of living there – as trying to pay attention to every single word people say is very difficult.  As fluent as I believed myself to be in Spanish – I was in no way prepared for the adventure I was embarking upon.  I also became quite skilled in charades – since it becomes imperative to act out words you do not know (which in the beginning of my stay was many, many, many words).  Talk about looking like an ass when you're trying to act out the word "neigh" or "what the hell is this fried thing on my plate?"
I quickly grew tired of the experience of studying with other Americans abroad. Many of the students in the program just wanted to party.  They didn’t want to learn about Spain. They just wanted to hit every single bar/discotheque in Madrid (and, believe me, that’s a lot of drinking as there are more bars in Madrid then most of Europe combined).    I wanted new challenges.  I wanted to enmesh myself in the culture, become so fluent that I dreamed in Spanish and fix my accent so I wasn’t so obviously American (which is akin to having the plague in Spain).  I left the comforts of the Institute where I was studying and enrolled at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. 

I take the only open seat in the class – first row.  Hello, nerd!  And for the first week I just sat there in stunned silence.  I was trying to understand what was being taught.  I was trying to not stand out like a total idiot.  I was trying not to freak out because my honors GPA was now tied to these classes – and I was really only comprehending 1/1,000 of what was being said.  My notes reflect this ignorance well and extremely helpful as I studied for my final: “Well, no wonder there was this giant war…with that killer apple roaming the countryside scaring everyone.”  (Translation error: Matanza = massacre, butchery in the field of battle.  Manzana = apple. Oops.)

A month into the semester, I was finally feeling more comfortable in class.  But I needed to show everyone that I was actually learning, not just taking up precious nerd space. I finally muster up the courage to speak.  We were discussing the Spanish Inquisition in my history class.  Shaking like a leaf, I raise my hand and my classmates look like owls as they take in the shock of my movement.  She actually knows how to speak – not just smile and nod!

And, boy, did I bowl them over them with this profound statement: “I am amazed that there are more Americans in Madrid than there are green beans.” 

I breathe a sigh of relief. I did it!!!  I had spoken.  And clearly wowed them with my intelligence, perfect conjugation and…oh no.  Why are they all  staring at me like that?  And then it hits me - I used the wrong ending.  Spanish I rookie mistake. (Judios/judias – really what’s the difference? Turns out a lot).   I quickly addendum- ized  with “I mean Jews.”  Knowing nods embrace me – coupled with twitching mouths trying to hide smiles.  Thankfully they were kind – otherwise I may have crumpled over and died of embarrassment.  This opened up my courage to speak up more frequently.  And make some friends.  And learn way more Spanish than I ever thought possible. 
By the end of the term, I had classmates trying to cheat off me on the final exam.  Really, people?  Cheat off the only foreigner in the class?  I passed all my classes with flying colors and it didn’t destroy my overall GPA. (Geek sigh of relief).   So, I learned to stand up and speak – even if it has disastrous  (or embarrassing) results.  It is better to voice your opinion and be recognized for trying – as opposed to merely being eye candy.  Oh, and I also learned to arm myself with a corer at all times - because with those killer apples on the loose, you should always be prepared...


Oh No You Didn't...

"Mumma!  Mumma!"  I crack open my eyes and attempt to focus (which is extremely difficult since I have 20/475 vision).  I cast my legs out from under the wonderful cocoon of warmth, trying to propel myself in the direction of the fire, catastrophe or impending disaster – whatever is going on in Emmeline’s room to make her scream in such a wretched way.  I stumble down the hallway (still legally blind, as in my dazed state I neglected to grab the spectacles), cursing silently as I step on a block.  “Just. Don’t. Wake. Your. Sister!!!!!!!” I hiss between clenched teeth.   I finally arrive, just in time to save Emmeline from her prison.  She is so grateful that she hugs me for dear life and offers up a binky for my efforts.  I pass on the tribute – as I have given up binkies for Lent.  We walk back to my room, trying to sneak in a few more minutes of tranquility before the calamities of the morning beckon.  Emmeline is babbling on about “dweams” of ponies and tigers – about nine decibels louder than necessary.  Perhaps she is trying to relay her story to the neighbors without having to repeat herself?   “Shhhh, Honey!” I whisper, trying to get her to diminish the cacophony.
I plunk her into the middle of my oasis, and crawl in for a few more blissful minutes.  She snuggles in, cuddling close and hugging me so tightly.  These are some of my absolute favorite moments in the entire world.  They are so sweet, so precious, and so short-lived – they are what make being a mom all worth it.  My husband tries to say good morning to us, which is cataclysmic.  Shouts of “NO!  MY MOMMY!” echo down the hallway.  Oh. No.  She’s done it.  The calm before the storm is now over.  Batten down the hatches everyone. 
Lena emerges, very disheveled. She has channeled Ke$ha during the middle of the night.  Her hair; a nest of asps. She apparently slept in a pile of glitter.  She somehow changed out of her feety-pajamas and into some nightgown that she outgrew two years ago – not even sure where she found it.  Perhaps she was sleep-foraging in the garage?  In a very subdued voice she answers the threat with her own retaliation: “No.  She’s my mommy.” 
Well, that just about pushes Emmeline over the edge.  The gloves are off.  The gauntlet has been thrown.  Full blown argument emerges as the bed morphs into a king sized ring.  My husband and I try to referee – but it’s really hard to see beneath the covers and with all the appendages flying.   Shouts of “Not yours, mine!” bounce off the walls.  Threats of expulsion from the bed, from the family, from Earth are expounded. At one point, someone tries to bite my ear off.    Finally, after several bells and some smelling salts, both collapse in a sweaty, heavy-breathing heap on top of the comforter. 

The joke's on them: It turns out I am both of their mothers.  And I want them to get dressed. 

This is the anti-venom that should have been pulled from the arsenal before Fight Club broke out.  Rule #1 about Fight Club is it doesn't exist.  Rule #2 about Fight Club is make everything a nightmare for Mommy when she wants us to get ready for the day.  The two scatter like mercury off the bed and run off into the distance shouting "I'm wearing a gymnastics leotard and my cowboy boots to school today and you can't stop me because you get what you get and you don't get upset. Bahahahaha!"  "Yeah!  I wearin' stwipes! Yots of stwipes."   I guess the jokes on me.  I gave birth to kids who don't know how to dress without looking like they just crawled out of an institution for the criminally insane. 


Are You Rhea Still Standing There?

Dealing with my kids is challenging.  Dealing with my kids when I’m ready to drop from exhaustion at the end of the day is corporal punishment.  Lena likes to push my buttons when I’m feeling this way. She likes to jump on the couch. She tries to undo things that I tell Emmeline by saying “You don’t have to do that, honey. You can listen to me, not Mommy. ” which makes me soooo furious! To add insult to injury, she tortures me with questions that I have to dig down deep into my cerebellum to remember the answers to – even if I’m fully caffeinated and alert. 
It’s 8:00 pm.  Our house is winding down for the evening.  I can barely keep my eyes open and am trying to keep my exhaustion in check for one more hour so I can slink off to bed without glowering from my husband.  This is when she strikes – when she knows I’m weak.
Lena: “Mom, what’s another name for a Rhea?”

Me: “A what?”

Lena: “A rhea.”
Me: “As in diarrhea?”

Lena: Dramatic eye roll.  “Mom.  Duh.  No. Rhea.” 
Me: “Lena. Sigh.  I don’t know honey.  I’m really too tired to think too deeply about this. Please don’t make me guess.”

Lena: “Fiiiiiinnnne.  It’s an ostrich.  They’re herbivores.  I’m not sure if they’re nocturnal or diurnal.  Do you know?”
I blink.  And blink.  And then blink again.  Maybe if I keep blinking she'll go away.

Lena: “Um.  Hello?” 
Me: “Yeah.  Still here.  I’m trying to come up with an answer for you.  But I can barely remember my own name.”

Lena: “It’s Tracy.  And you still haven’t answered my question.”

Me: “Isn’t it time for you to go to bed?”

It’s at this point that I should be proud.  Proud that my 5 year old is so smart.  Proud that she asks really thoughtful questions that challenge me to brush off ancient cobwebs and think back to my formative years.  But, mostly I’m too tired. Blinking is about all I have for her at this point.  My prayers are answered as she screeches (like a Rhea) up the stairs “Daddy!  Can I use the iPad?  I need some answers and mommy is crazy.” His response: "Tell me something I don't already know."  I should be angry.  But, I'm too busy blinking. 


A-pink-olypse 2012

I’m trying to raise my girls to go with the flow.  Life doesn’t always go as planned – so if you’re not so rigid about your expectations of what’s “supposed” to happen, you may be less disappointed when you have to shift midway through.  Play dates cancel, meal desires cannot be accommodated, not everyone can have the swirly bendy straw.   So, we go about our day, trying to readjust, refocus and move on.
However, my weekly life still needs to revolve around routine.  Get up, school, lunch, nap…these are constants in our ever changing world.  Without these things our life gets into tumult and my mommy fortitude weakens.  And it doesn’t take much to throw off the schedule. An “I aunt a pink” episode that will only be solved by a pink strawberry smoothie from Jamba Juice.  This small action can change the course of an entire day. 
Last week post “nastics” Emmeline had an “I aunt a pink” meltdown. (This is her new thing – everything has to be pink.  I blame my best friend Beth who is a pink-a-holic).   So, we went to Jamba Juice and indulged in a cup full of fabulous pinkitude.  Then it was time to pick up Lena from school.  Emmeline insists on sitting in Lena’s car seat because there’s a cup holder coupled with “I big” demands of sitting in the big girl seat.   Ok, what harm can come of this? 

We pick up Lena at school.  She’s chatting away about her day telling me how George hugged her and she’s positive that he probably wants to marry her but she’s already going to marry Brice (yes, it starts early…).  She takes a microsecond to breathe and notices the coagulating cup of pink sludge in her cup holder.  “WAIT. A. SECOND.  DID YOU GO TO JAMBA WITHOUT ME?”  All of the sudden I’m propelled back to feeling like I’m about to get yelled at for getting a poor grade in school.  I cringe, knowing what’s coming next – a full blown Lena meltdown.  This is not for the weak of heart – which I am.  Seal Team 6 quivers in fear of the storm that is Lena.  
The tempest arrives.  You think you’re prepared.  But you’re never really ready for Lenageddon. I am wondering if I should open the windows to reduce some of the atmospheric pressure that is increasing in our car – or will they simply explode?   

There are three stages of Lenageddon: 
  • Stage 1: Denial/Anger.  This includes: Screams.  Arms flailing.  Threats on life and various body parts.  Blaming people for this incident.  Blaming people for past indiscretions. Blaming people for things that have never occurred. 
  • Stage 2: Self-Pity. Includes: Copious amounts of tears.  Gasping, sobbing, shaking.  And, slinging around a little more “It’s not fair” and “Emmeline is the root of all that is wrong in the world. and tales of how I’m the “meanest, worstest, Mommy in the entire world” and how I am no longer welcome to be her mommy.
  • Stage 3:  Acceptance.  After the shaking, gasping and threats of puking subside (which can take up to an hour) she finally comes to terms that once and a while, people may actually exist outside of the epicenter of the world of Lena.   
Apocalypse has been survived (barely).  But, she’s still bitter. Thankfully this occurred in the confines of our car and not in a public location.  Which is an entirely worse vortex of hideous. 
Going with the flow?  Not so much in this house!  The rest of the day is spent on eggshells, praying that everything happening around her isn’t the one thing that detonates another chain reaction of napalm.  Naps are tossed aside.  Afternoon plans scrapped.  Alliances of small nations screech to a halt.  The clock tortures me making minutes stretch into millennia as we crawl toward nirvana of bedtime.  Thankfully, the day comes to an end.  The finish line is within sight.  Lena is finally in bed. The house breathes a collective sigh of relief.   And then we hear a little voice yelling from the room across from Lena’s: “Mommy!  I aunt a pink!” Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

 As a side note:  I would have gotten Lena a smoothie from Jamba Juice.  If she liked them. Which she does not.  Especially the pink one. 


Hold the ketchup...for the love of God!!!!

Ugh.  I really hate the smell of ketchup.  Especially ketchup that’s been sitting out for a while – such as with the remnants of last night’s hot dog that somehow mysteriously ended up tucked in some random closet.  I never use to have such animosity toward ketchup.  After all, it’s high in lycopene.  It’s red.  It’s good on French fries and cheeseburgers.  The bottle generally makes a sound that the children laugh at and my husband blames on me in public places.  Ketchup and I were ok in each other’s company.  Not soul mates, but not mortal enemies.  Until Lena.  And then the nails were hammered in to the bin of revulsion with Emmeline.  

Why, yes.  I'll have a ketchup with a side of ketchup.

My father-in-law introduced ketchup to Lena.  I was trying to keep her away from condiments as long as possible for a few reasons: 1. I wanted my kids to taste what food should taste like (otherwise why bother cooking? Just slap some ketchup on a bun and call it a meal). 2.  Lena seems to think eating involves smashing whatever she is eating pretty much over all 36” of her skinny, blonde self.  Adding condiments is simply adding a bath to the conclusion of every meal.  3.  My nephews put many, many condiments on food and it just seemed like too much work to remember that “hot dogs need ranch, Tracy, not relish (duh, eye roll)”.   
Then, Grampy stepped in and introduced Lena to the red siren and she can no longer resist its call.  Our condiment free lifestyle quickly went out the window as Lena began to insist on ketchup with eggs.  And, if you look up "Monkey See, Monkey Do" in Wikipedia, you will see a picture of Emmeline. So, now I have two lovelies destroying wonderful meals with ketchup.  Ketchup on crêpes. Sacrebleu! Crêpes avec ketchup???  Napoleon is still rolling over in his tiny grave from this.    Really, at this point you would think I weigh 37 pounds from the mere thought of this delicious food genocide being committed in my home.  But, worry not.  Somehow I power through to consume my decadent breakfast.   I drown my revulsion in extra helpings of whipped cream and strawberries.  I mean, it would be wrong to not enjoy crêpes.  And, we wouldn’t want to insult the French, or anything.  They may come after us with a baguette.  And, me with no brie?  For shame.

So, ketchup is not my battle to fight with my kids.  You want ketchup for your goldfish crackers? Fine.  Ketchup on salad and pizza?  Sure, it just blends in with the preexisting tomatoes.  Ketchup on fresh blueberries…ok. I draw the line there because that is just disgusting.  But, overall, ketchup is not my fight in my home, especially since I am living in a world where my little Spartacus is planning an uprising to overthrow the Romans Republic on a daily basis. 
The rule at the end of a meal at my house is that the girls may not be excused until they put their dishes away.  All of the sudden – my burden of responsibilities has been lightened (even if it requires Emmeline throwing out several pieces of silverware and breaking a few dishes like we’re at some kind of Greek rave).  I thought that I was making progress in increasing their responsibilities, taking an active part in the chores and teaching them some basic rules about working as a team.  I felt like I was doing something right – since I seem to be skating through this Momaical life of mine by the seat of my Seven for all Mankinds trying to figure out how not to raise a flock of assholes.  Wow.  There really is so much less to do after dinner.  So. Much. Less…. It’s almost too easy.  Clearly – something is not right.

Apparently my tiny people have figured out how to beat the system, again.  She says we have to clear the table.  But she didn’t say we had to put the dishes in the sink!  Ha! Caveat venditor!   Random things were missing; several sippy cups , the Holy Grail of plates (the one with the monkey on it), several pink spoons.  I again blamed it on the fact that only sometimes do my smattering of brain cells manage to bang together to spark a memory.  I probably put it somewhere – but where?  Until one afternoon, right after lunch, I spy Emmeline sneak off around the couch with a pink paper plate in her hand.  Since she gets her nice, gentle ways from me, she opened a cabinet door and slammed it shut so hard that the pictures on the mantel shook.  I waited another second to see if there were any aftershocks (we are in California, after all) and then walked over to the television stand, unprepared for what I was about to unveil. 
For the love of all that is holy.  I had opened the doors to Pandora’s Cabinet of Hideous.  I sat there, mouth agape for what felt like an eternity as I looked at my own private episode of Hoarders.  There, tucked among the unused VHS cassettes were many, many missing items.  Dishes, cups, baby dolls, binkies, toothbrushes, hair brushes, the coveted purple baby doll shirt, stuffed animals, rotten sippy cups, a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter (Kidding about the last three – Sesame street flashbacks).
Lena: “Ooooooooh Emmeline.  You are in SO MUCH TROUBLE!  Mommy is probably going to give you away to another family now!   Like all the three thousand Chinese people in the house next door!  You’ll have to live with them FOREVER and then I will get to play with all your toys and you will be so sad.  See ya!” 

I am beginning to recover slightly from the shock of this pig sty.  “Emmeline.  What’s up with this?”  “I cweanin’ Mommy.” “I see.  Is this where these things belong?”  “Yeah.  It away.”

Mommy lesson #6,748: Kids are literal.  Remember to give them explicit instructions even when they roll their eyes at you and say OKAAAAAY!  I GET IT!

I begin to pull the remains of a few meals - all adorned in a sheen of curling ketchup remains.  I am trying to gag down my revulsion as Lena yells - "She didn't finish her lunch, Mommy!  For like a year!  She shouldn't get any frozen yogurt today."  And, for once I agree.  Because she'll probably put ketchup on it.  And then store it, in my undergarment drawer. 


Should Hobbies Have To Potentially Kill You To Be Legit?

My husband is always trying to get me to “find a hobby.”  When I tell him that I have several hobbies – writing, reading, gardening, knitting – I am quickly informed that these things are not hobbies.  These are things that people do right before they die of old age or more likely die of boredom from their lame hobbies.

I look around at the amazing people I know and so many are doing all these unbelievable things. One dear friend has published several novels.  Some golf, some fish, some give birth to entire basketball teams.  I have several friends who run marathons or are triathletes.  And, I would totally be a triathlete – except for all that running and swimming and stuff.  Mostly I hate those things – which kind of gets in the way of my triathlon career.  Wait! There's still biking...

I inherited a Trek from my husband when he upgraded to a better bike so we could find a hobby to do as a family.  There are so many walking trails and bike paths here – we might as well take advantage of them!   I totally rocked a bike in high school (since I had no car coupled with a strong desire to get the hell out of Dodge).  Plus, there has to be a reason for the adage “It’s just like riding a bicycle,” right? I strapped my baby into her seat complete with helmet that looks like a watermelon (and totally matches our outfits!).  I mean, one must look chic and stylish while gallivanting around the countryside.  I put my hair in a cute side ponytail that fell perfectly below the helmet onto my shoulder to wave in the breeze as my personal hello to those I pedaled past.  Pink capris, pink plaid sneakers, a jaunty shirt complete the ensemble. Maybe I'll even bike to the farmer's market the next town over and buy fresh cut tulips!   I'll put them in a basket and whistle songs from the Sound of Music while handing strawberries back to Emmeline.  Our cheeks will be pink from the breeze and lungs exuberant from the fresh air.

So excited to have finally found my new husband approved hobby, I threw one capri’d leg over the bicycle and began pedaling.  And wobbling.  And shaking.  And panicking that I was going to tip over with my Fabergé Egg daughter in the seat behind me which is making me wobble even more which makes me panic even more.   My husband zips by at about 1,000 mph with Lena on a Trail-a-bike pedaling behind him and singing some Lady GaGa song on the top of her lungs. 

About 10 horrifying minutes later I made it to the end of the road (about 250 feet from our house).  My cute pony tail now a nest of dreadlocks, the helmet askew on the side of my ear.  My pink capris covered with chain grease from getting on and off the bike seat – trying to avoid plummeting us to our certain deaths off the ginormous ledge on the side of the road (also known as the sidewalk). My hands have tattooed their death grip permanently on the handle bars.  The shade of green I am wearing on my face does not even match my cute plaid sneakers - talk about embarrassing! 

I get off the bike in front of my husband and daughter (who barely notice because they’re doing jumps off the sidewalk and trying to do burnouts with the tires).   I am shaking so hard that I can barely lift my leg over the bike to get off.  I catch pink plaid polo on something and almost knock us all to the ground. I somehow manage to turn the bike back around and walk towards the safety of home.   My husband and daughter speed away, waving and yelling about going to get a bell so they can avoid hitting hazards in the road (like me.) 

Tour de France - out. 

I do enjoy going to the gym.  But, it’s not for the euphoria of working out that some people feel.  Mostly I feel very ugly, embarrassingly sweaty and like Wheezy on Toy Story 2.  But, I like those feelings WAY more than feeling like I need to stuff my muffin top into Spanx, covered by a tank top and a billowy shirt then hidden behind a lobster bib.  And possibly a life vest.  

The gym is the best people watching place ever.  Not the people actually putting in time and effort for a good work out.  They are motivating and all – but they mostly make me feel bad about the fact that I cannot untie the knot in my shoelaces with my teeth while still wearing the shoes, in my Lululemon tiny spandex outfit, after I just got back from a brisk jog to Nova Scotia. 

There are some of the most amazing sights to behold at the gym. Like the woman who dresses in a white wool coat, mittens and scarf to take Zumba.  I believe my abs get a great workout just holding in my obnoxious laughter at watching this.  Until I get my God smack for being petty and trip over air and knock over the I Heart Zumba lady shaking her corpulent rump trying to out dirty dance Jennifer Grey.  (Or maybe it’s her God smack.  Not sure).  Oh…so many wonderful, shockingly disturbing things go on at the gym.
My brother shoots amazing photography while he hikes and camps.  The most “outdoorsy” I get is when I have to creep into the bushes in the backyard to collect a wayward toy.  And, for that entire 30 seconds of retrieval I’m pretty positive that a poisonous spider or  rattlesnake lies waiting in the California aster – calculating, fangs dripping in anticipation for the perfect moment to sink its teeth into my thigh (which would be soooo much stronger and probably deflect poisonous weapons if I were a triathlete or even a cyclist – which I am not).   I’m always a little amazed when I survive such a dance with the devil.  And, it’s only in total desperation that I take the death defying risk – because I would rather take my chances tangling with a black widow than listen to the meltdowns of a toddler who cannot live another second without the plastic spatula that she threw back there while apparently embracing her inner Swedish Chef.   

Yeah - El Capitan in Yosemite never gonna happen. 

And camping…do not get me started.  I do not believe there is enough bandwidth in this blog site to hold my ranting about camping.  Which I was tortured with for many years of my life and will never, ever do again.  With bugs.  And rocks.  So many rocks.  I mean, what am I – the Princess and the Pea?  I can assure you no royal title came to me by sleeping on boulders (although my stepmother often told me to stop acting like a Queen Bitch…).

So, I finally decide to ask my husband what constitutes a hobby in his mind.  He looks at me like I have just informed him I have decided to breed alpaca in our garage. 

“Motorcycles, dirt bikes, four wheelers.  You know, fun stuff?” 

Oh.  So, if the potential for death during an outing is not present, then it is clearly not a viable hobby.   But, I've tried his style of hobbies.  I really wanted to like being on a motorcycle.  But, I quickly learned that I cannot wear cute shoes, cute coats and it hurt my butt.  Dirt bikes and four wheelers - way too dirty (I mean, hello!  It's called a DIRT bike). 

I've decided that with my considerable lack of grace, endurance and bubble wrap - a more sedentary hobby is really more up my alley (speaking of alley - bowling is out too, broke my finger bowling in high school).  I'm back to reading.  And writing.  And with the beautiful California weather, gardening.   When I inform my husband of this hobby ephiphany he tells me that I'm "a woman on the edge. The edge of Wuss Cliff."  Yup.  And that's why I married him.  Every day is like living in a Hallmark card.  And he's all mine ladies...


You Clearly Know Nothing About Horses

After years of dating Mr. Right at the Wrong Time, Mr. Not Really Right, Mr. All Kinds of Wrong and Mr. Not Right For Anything but Prison, I had given in to the notion that I was going to be a crazy cat lady.  Seriously.  Every Christmas I asked my family for stuff that normal people register for because I was convinced that I was never, ever getting married.

However, I still had prayers on my side.   God, please send me someone who is driven, smart, handsome, and blond with an accent.  I was starting a Pinterest folder dedicated to crocheting Kleenex box covers when I was introduced to my future husband.  God sent me exactly what I wished for: a blond, handsome, successful, smart, driven executive with an amazing sense of humor that makes me laugh constantly.  By accent, I meant British or Australian, but God has a sense of humor too and delivered my future husband with a very heavy Boston accent. 

My husband is amazing and so many things that I am not.  We were paired up by friends of ours who thought we’d be great together because we’re “both high maintenance pains in the ass.”  Um, thanks? Turns out they were right about the great together thing.  And, I guess about the high maintenance thing.  But pains in the ass?  Anyway… Being married to my husband is like being a VIP at a Narcissists Anonymous Convention - because you don't get to being who he is today without confidence, swagger and strong sense of self. 
“Hello. My name is not to be revealed at this time – in case you want to research me.   So I will be like a ninja.  Everywhere and nowhere… And you will only know what I want you to know when I want you to know it.  And, I will confuse the daylights out of you so that you will begin to question your last shred of sanity. 

I have been the best for as long as I can remember - which is a really long time, because I remember everything.  I am superior, smarter, faster and better looking than you.  If you would like to challenge me about this, we can step outside where I will kick my foot so far up your ass you’ll be choking on Johnson and Murphy’s for a week.  Now, please hold my motorcycle helmet because your wife clearly wants to have her picture taken with a real man. 

He constantly challenges me to pursue my dreams, stand up for what is mine and not put up with anyone’s crap. Unless it’s his crap.  Which he dishes out in droves.  He loves to mess with my mind, which is already like an MC Escher picture.  He makes things up and then is so confident with what he says that you begin to doubt what you know is true.  Here is an actual conversation:
Lena: What is a baby horse called?
Tracy: Baby horses are foals. If it’s a baby boy horse it's a colt or a filly if it’s a baby girl horse.
Ninja: It’s a pony.
Tracy: No, ponies are a breed of horse, not an age of a horse.  Foals are baby horses.
Ninja: Ponies are toddler horses. 
Tracy:  Ponies are NOT toddler horses.  They are a breed just like Clydesdales or Burros. 
Ninja: Burros are retarded horses.  You clearly know nothing about horses. 

There’s no googling to win an argument in this house either.  Because whatever I can prove on the Internet, he can disprove on the Internet.    And, even worse, is he is BREEDING HIS OWN ARMY OF THESE PAIN IN THE ASSES RIGHT UNDER MY NOSE!  As soon as she could talk,  Lena began disputing everything.  And this is more than the "You have to go to bed in 5 minutes.  How about 10 minutes" challenges (which we do still suffer). This is calling people out and making them feel crazy - much like she witnesses from her father.
Lena:  Ok, just close the door Emmeline and we can use the makeup that mommy said we can’t use right now.
Tracy:  Do not touch that makeup girls.  We are going out and I don’t have time to give you both baths. 
Lena:  Makeup is Spanish for coloring books mommy! 
Tracy:  Lena, please at least pick a language that I'm not fluent in.
Lena: Do you know every single word in Spanish?
Tracy:  No. Nor do I know every single word in English.
Lena:  Well, this is just a word that you don’t know yet.  
Tracy:  There is not enough coffee in the world for me to deal with this. 
It's bad enough when I'm the recipient because I lost my mind somewhere between “I do” and "Congratulations on your second baby!”. This just adds another layer to my delirium. 

Lena does it to other people too – and it’s SO EMBARRASSING THAT I WANT TO CRAWL UNDER SOMETHING STATIONARY AND DIE.  We were at the Mystic Aquarium when Lena was two.  The puffin exhibit was up ahead of us.  It was an unfortunate day for the woman with the bad dye job and shoes that were more suitable for pole dancing than perusing the aquatic life.  Just when I thought she had made enough bad choices for the day, she made the crucial error of asking a stupid question around my loquacious smart ass.  I mean daughter. 

Street Walker Sally asks the guy she’s with: "Puffin?  What the hell’s a puffin?"

Bad Comb-Over Billy replies: "I don’t know. Some kinda bird I guess. Maybe a penguin?"

Lena: "Excuse me.  It is not just some kind of bird.  It is a short bird with a short tail and a brightly colored beak.  It can live in the ocean or in the dirt.  It looks a little like a penguin, but is not." 

SWS:  "Is she serious?"

BCB:  "How do I freakin’ know?"

I was somewhere between laughing like a hyena and sticking my head into the puffin pond to hide like an ostrich.  Which is also not a penguin.  Let's not confuse the two lest we risk suffering the wrath of Lena.  My husband is high-fiving Lena because he is the yin to her yang. Or,  pain to her ass.  Whatever you call it - they are carbon copies of each other.
I thought for a little (blissful) while that I had given birth to someone slightly more akin to me. She looked exactly like her father and sister but she slept more.   She could play by herself and didn't need habitual attention.  She didn't constantly correct me and others around us.  And....that little nirvana was quickly extinguished when Emmeline began to speak.

Friend from next door:  "Can I use the crunches?  My baby doll can’t walk."
Emmeline:  "They are cwutches.  Not cwunches.  Cwutches.  Sheesh."

She can't pronounce the word either but still has no issue correcting a 5-year-old.  But, at the end of the day as much as they give me migraines,  I know they'll be ok in the real world.  Because they don't accept status quo.  They don't simply take what people say as law. They're smart and can turn a person on their axis (I have friends that won't play games with Lena because she asks questions that they don't know the answers to).   They challenge and push and prod.  Which makes them rob them of your will to live when you're their mother. But, part of my job of raising them is to make sure they think and make good choices when I release them unto the world (God help us all).  Best part of all is when I get to witness the battle of wills between Ninja and Ninjette.  And it's hilarious.

Daddy: "Why are you lying on the floor and not getting ready to go to breakfast?"
Lena: "Why are you asking me questions instead of getting ready yourself?  You're not dressed yet either."
Daddy: "Don't worry about me.  Just worry about yourself."
Lena:  "I am worrying about myself. And myself doesn't feel like getting dressed yet. How about you worry about yourself and we'll meet in the middle."
Emmeline busts out from her bedroom where she had just undressed herself:  "I nakey!  No cwothes!  Stweaker!" 

Both ninjas skulk off in opposite directions.  The streaker runs in circles.  I giggle.  Silently of course because otherwise they all gang up on me.  Is anyone still wondering why I named this blog a hybrid of mom and maniacal?

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