Yesterday was supposed to be a Whole Day of No Obligation according to the orthodox Firepants Family calendar. Friday night, I informed the entire family, since they never pay attention to the Firepants Family calendar. I generously offered that all members were welcome to participate, but to keep in mind that, no matter what, I was not obligated to do a thing.
(I was telling one of my girlfriends about this sacred day, and she asked what it meant, and I said that I don’t have to clean or cook for my family, and she said, “Since when do you ever cook for your family?” which was a very good question, and made me think that I probably need to redefine this whole unHoly day.)
Everyone seemed on board with the idea. Cap’n Firepants was going to be out all day anyway, and Dimples was more than happy to accept a 24-hour respite from me nagging her about chores. There was only one problem…
According to our bulldog, every day is one of complete obligation – to him. No holidays allowed.
A WDoNO begins with me sleeping as late as I possibly want. Cap’n Firepants very quietly got ready for his meeting and left the house around 7:00 a.m. I sunk back into luxurious sleep.
A persistent moan started to interfere with my dreams. I opened one eye, and looked at the clock. 7:45.
I didn’t have to look far for the moaner. Wonderbutt was right next to the bed, staring me down. (I would like to point out that Wonderbutt does not whine. He moans. Like Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter. And really not less annoying.)
I tried to explain that he should have gotten up with Cap’n Firepants to eat breakfast, but Wonderbutt does not like to eat with Cap’n Firepants. In fact, when invited to eat by my husband, Wonderbutt gives Cap’n Firepants the same look that I was probably giving Wonderbutt at that moment. A not very nice look that anyone trying to coax me from my bed is very stupid.
But the pillow I placed over my head did not cancel out the moaning.
I got up, and fed the dog.
Then I went back to bed.
Wonderbutt returned. With his squeaky toy. I took it away, and threw it in the sink.
Wonderbutt moaned. But he finally gave up and decided to fall asleep on the floor next to the bed. And snore.
Snoring is easy to block out with a pillow.
Then the doorbell rang.
Wonderbutt woke up.
I couldn’t tell him to stop barking because then the person at the door would know that I was home. And I didn’t want the person at the door to know that I was home because then he or she would know that I am a very rude person who refuses to answer doorbells. And that I am very lazy to still be in bed at 9:00 on a Saturday morning. I forgot to put the sign up on the door that I was observing a Whole Day of No Obligation, which included not being obliged to answer the door.
The person at the door was very persistent, ringing the doorbell 4 times. I realized that he was a burglar trying to make certain that no one was home. I debated whether I would break my vow of a Whole Day of No Obligation to whack a burglar over the head with a baseball bat. Then I realized that was silly. We don’t even own a baseball bat.
I went back to bed.
My phone vibrated off the nightstand.
It was our neighbor.
“It’s National Margarita Day, and we are inviting you over tonight to celebrate!”
I panicked. Socializing with neighbors is an obligation. Drinking margaritas is not. Unless it’s actually a day that requires it. How could I have been so ignorant as to schedule a Whole Day of No Obligation on the same day as National Margarita Day?
Note to Self – Next year, schedule Whole Day of No Obligation for day after National Margarita Day.
And lock Wonderbutt in the pantry with his dog food.
The other day I got a lovely teaching award, and had some very nice things said about me. Which is even better than the Oscars when you think about it – because no one says nice things about you when you win the Oscar (they just read your name off a teleprompter), AND you’re expected to then get up and say nice things about other people. That’s kind of a raw deal and almost makes me feel sorry for Meryl Streep – even though the whole time I was watching August: Osage County, I was thinking, “I bet she gets an Oscar for this.”
Anyway, I missed half of the nice things that were said about me because I obsessed over the first one, which had been said by a student. “She is very patient.”
Even better than receiving an award is being proven right – especially when your husband and daughter, who both declare that you need to work on your patience, happen to be standing there and witnessing the right-proving of the woman they repeatedly malign with accusations of impatience.
“Did you hear that?” I asked my family after I received the award.
“To be honest, I didn’t hear very much,” my husband said.
I was somewhat prepared for that answer. Before joining my family, I asked the speech-writer if I could have a copy of the speech.
“Look!” I pointed to the line about patience. “See what they said about me? I’m patient!”
They both shrugged. “I guess they don’t know you very well,” one of them said. I’m not sure who. Because steam blowing out of your ears tends to interfere with your understanding of the directionality of voices.
I did a bit of self-reflection to try to figure out how this could happen. I thought about the time I kept my cool with my daughter when she stayed in the shower for 30 minutes even after I told her to take a quick one because it was time for bed. I thought about the incident(s) when I stifled by huffs of exasperation when my husband changed his mind thirty times about the restaurant we were going to grace with our company for a rare date.
I thought about this exact moment when my family came to witness my award presentation and they didn’t listen to a word that was said.
I thought about the many times that I closed my eyes and counted to infinity when I really wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.
And it all became clear.
I deserve an Oscar way more than Meryl Streep.
So now that I’ve been on this new medication for awhile, it’s become clear to me that my occasional lapses of memory are probably not caused by terrorists poisoning my food. I mean, that’s pretty ridiculous when you think about it. It’s not like terrorists are that subtle. They bomb restaurants; they don’t sprinkle memory altering drugs on the filet mignon.
Clearly, I have Mad Cow Disease.
The problem with this is that I used to be a vegetarian. So, I only have myself to blame. I hate blaming myself. It’s really not healthy. Although I don’t think it’s quite as damaging as Mad Cow Disease.
Before you pooh pooh my occasional lapses of memory, you might want to hear about the most recent example.
I forgot to take my clothes out the washing machine.
Don’t worry, there is more to the story.
When I finally remembered, I opened the washing machine – only to find it empty.
This was perplexing, to say the least. Puzzlement turned into fury, however, when I opened the dryer to find all of my clothes. Very dry. And very small. Because they are not supposed to go in the dryer. But my loving husband, thinking he was doing me a favor by not pointing out that I forgot to transfer my clothing from one appliance to the next, did it for me.
“Fine, I guess I’ll do him a favor back,” I thought in a not very vengeful way. At that point I was actually feeling remorseful because between finding out my clothes would be better suited for a Barbie doll and thinking that I should do my husband a favor, I had already sent a slightly sarcastic and biting message to Cap’n Firepants not exactly thanking him for his “favor.”
On the slight chance he really did mean to do me a favor, I realized that I might have been somewhat rude.
Cap’n Firepants had a heap of jeans on his side of the closet, so I decided that I would apologize for my sarcasm by washing them.
Now, although we don’t actually take our clothes down to the riverbank and beat them, the procedurefor washing clothes in the Firepants household is nearly as labor intensive: 1. Turn on the washing machine, 2. Pour in detergent. 3. Put in the clothes. 4. Run around the house and grab more clothes from various nooks and crannies to make sure you do not waste water on a load that does not quite exceed the weight limit of a service elevator. 5. Add the bra that you extracted from the dog’s teeth. 6. Close the top of the machine. 7. Come back in 5 minutes and realize the machine stopped. 8. Open the top and let it drop hard in a very dramatic way to restart the cycle. 9. Kick the machine to show it who is boss.
I got the whole process rolling, and patted myself on the back for being the bigger person. Even though I was really not bigger; my clothes were just smaller.
Thirty minutes later, I passed by the laundry room, and realized it was awfully quiet. I looked in and, sure enough, I had forgotten to close the top. I closed it. I kicked it. Noise ensued.
Don’t you see? Total proof that I have Mad Cow Disease.
Oh, need more?
So, a couple of hours later, we returned to the house after having taken Dimples to and from piano lessons. I proudly remembered that I needed to put the jeans of Cap’n Firepants into the dryer.
I opened the washing machine. No clothes.
Now, Cap’n Firepants was still at work, as far as I knew. But, it seemed clear to me that he had driven twenty minutes home, put his clothes in the dryer, and then gone back to work. Obviously.
I looked in the dryer.
Oh. My. God! Someone stole Cap’n Firepants’ clothes. While we were gone, someone snuck in the house, stole 5 pairs of jeans and my bra, and left.
Nonsense, I realized – after a few minutes of complete panic.
Obviously, Cap’n Firepants came home, put his clothes in the dryer, waited for them to dry, put them away, and went back to work.
Easy to prove. I’ll just walk into the closet and there will be the freshly folded clothes.
I walked into the closet.
There was the heap of jeans.
Oh. My. God!
He came home, put his clothes in the dryer, waited for them to dry, put them away, got them all dirty, put them back on the floor, and then went back to work. In the space of 2 hours.
Or I forgot to put them in the washing machine.
Oh. My. God.
I just did a load of laundry with no clothes in it.
And that, my friends, is why you should not eat meat.
One of the many attributes that my daughter inherited from me was a love of reading. This can be good, but also has a bad side. We get addicted to books. We wallow in them. As a result, we both have the horrible habit of reading during meals. Since my husband is not a big reader, and it seems a bit rude to completely ignore him the few times a week he is able to join us for a meal, I established the “3-Person Rule.” When there are 3 or more people at the table, no one can be reading.
According to my daughter, this is the equivalent of being banished to Guantanomo. At least 3 times a week, it’s only the two of us at the table because I have to feed her before one of her extra-curricular events and my husband is not home, yet. So, she is happy. And I am happy. Because the book takes her mind off my bad cooking. And I get to read, too.
But when we have “family dinners”, she reads until I, the last one, finally sit down at the table, then glares at me, sighs dramatically, and pushes the book to the side.
That’s when it gets fun.
One of the many attributes that my daughter inherited from my husband was an aversion to small talk.
So, we sit in silence, the three of us, until my daughter says to me, “Don’t you have any stories to tell?” Not because she wants to hear them, but because she is bored. And she refuses to reveal anything about her personal life. And my husband just doesn’t really want to talk. So, it’s all on me – the woman forcing my family to socialize with each other.
And then I rack my brain for a story that I haven’t told a million times that’s appropriate to talk about at the dinner table.
My supply is being quickly depleted.
Today, I couldn’t think of anything. But, right when I ate my last bite (being a teacher who usually has 20 min. to eat, I’m always the first to finish), I remembered something. I regaled them with a true story from a book that I was reading. It involved someone who had been treated terribly as a child by his parents. Not exactly great table talk. But it was all I had.
“So, you see? You are so fortunate to have great parents like us!” I observed.
Without missing a beat, Dimples looked pointedly at my empty plate and said, in her best exasperated tone, “Who won’t leave the table even though they are done eating!”
Ah, the mistreatment that poor child has to endure.
Twenty years from now, she will show up for an appointment with some unsuspecting therapist who will be subjected to an hour of unrelenting anguished tales about the parents who abused her by forcing her to put down her book at the dinner table.
Oh, wait a second. No he won’t.
Because she’ll be too busy reading a book.
One of my depression-combatting strategies is to watch hours of sitcoms with my bulldog, Wonderbutt, snoring and farting in my lap. I’m not really sure if it’s the sitcoms, Wonderbutt, or the inhalation of gases that actually help, but I’ve been too lazy to change any of the variables in the attempt to conduct a scientific investigation. The most recent sitcom therapy has been “Modern Family” for the sole reason that one of the networks has been running “Modern Family” marathons during the past couple of weeks. However, they alternate them with “NCIS” marathons, which seem to have the opposite effect on my temperament. I tell you, this T.V. watching can be a real roller-coaster for the psyche.
The other problem with watching “Modern Family” is that I’m not sure it’s actually improving my mood, so much as altering my personality. After watching for a few hours, I have a keen desire to go to dinner with the gay brother that I don’t have or to call Claire and challenge her to a battle of the neurotic perfectionists. Even worse, I start speaking in a thick Colombian accent, saying things like, “Aiii! After all those years with Peg, who knew Al Bundy could be so sweet and charming?” I have a tendency to immerse myself in fictional worlds, in case you couldn’t tell.
These issues could be avoided, of course, if someone just decided to make a sitcom out of my own life. I already mentally explain things to a camera-man half the time, anyway, so putting an actual camera in front of me would not be a stretch. Then I would could watch my own show for hours with Wonderbutt snoring and farting on my lap, and become myself – which would be a welcome change.
Or I might become Wonderbutt.
Some might say that would be an improvement.
Lately, I have been the unfortunate target of Well-Meaning People.
One of my students begged to help me after school every day for two weeks. Once he got all of his late work turned in, I finally accepted his offer. I needed to update a bunch of iPads, and his help was greatly appreciated.
You can see where this is going, right?
I’ll spare you the excruciating story. And I will tell you that iPads with cracked screens work surprisingly well – until someone complains about getting glass on her fingertips every time she swipes. Picky, picky.
Interestingly enough, the next incident also involved iTechnology. In this second story, my daughter is the well-meaning person. I’m not sure she was directing her well-meaning toward me or herself, but I guess that is not the point. Yesterday afternoon, she suddenly felt the extreme urge to clean something out. Instead of applying this new desire for minimalism to her closet or dresser drawers, she decided that she was going to clean out the Contacts on her iPod Touch.
“I got rid of all the people I don’t know,” she told me proudly.
It took a minute for me to recall that our devices are actually registered to the same account. And that the reason she had people she didn’t know under her Contacts was because I had added them to my Contacts at some point. And that the same Cloud that divvies out all of these names and numbers and addresses to all of my various pieces of technology just got a whole lot lighter when my daughter dumped all of the people who mean absolutely nothing to her, completely oblivious to the fact that they were there in the first place because they meant something to me.
And that. was. not. a. good. thing.
So, now, I can FaceTime whenever I like with the girl who sits next to her on the bus.
But I can’t call the doctor whose name I could never remember, which resulted in him being filed under “Stomach Guy.”
I hope the bus girl doesn’t charge for phone consultations about bloating and colonoscopies.
What does it mean if you promise yourself to blog regularly to hone your writing skills, and then you skip the writing part of the process? It means Wonderbutt kindly presented some blurry photos right when your week hit its busy peak…
Then Dimples tried to put a Halloween headband on him, and that was the end of Wonderbutt pretending to be helpful.
I don’t know how I came to be so fortunate, but our Tennessee Family Reunion happened to coincide with the exact dates of the The World’s Longest Yard Sale.
I mean, what are the odds? Especially when I had no knowledge that such a sale existed?!!!!!!!
Here’s how we found out: Once Cap’n Firepants and I stopped yelling at each other about where we should each go, we noticed an inordinate amount of traffic on our route to Chuckles Entertainment Center, and mentioned this to the man kind enough to take our money for our round of Bible Verse Miniature Golf.
“Oh, yeah, that happens every year when we have The World’s Longest Yard Sale,” he said.
So, of course, I thought this was some kind of hyperbole. But it turned out it wasn’t. There really is such an event and we just happened to be smack, dab in the middle of it. The sale, I kid you not, goes 690 miles from Michigan to Alabama.
And we almost missed it.
I could not allow such a momentous event to take place under our noses without attending it, ourselves. So, all Family Reunion plans were completely readjusted in order to make room in the schedule for a visit to The World’s Longest Yard Sale. And, just to make things interesting, I threw down the gauntlet.
“We all put in a dollar, and whoever takes the picture of the tackiest, ugliest item at the sale wins the pool,” I challenged.
And so, folks, I give you some of the entries in the Firepants Rummage Sale Contest. It is only some because some people (I won’t name any names, Crash, even though all you did the entire week of our Family Reunion was take pictures) did not send me an entry.
Now, we actually already determined a winner. And it’s no coincidence that he happens to be the patriarch of this fine family;) But I’m going to let you decide who the rightful champion should be…
So, once we made the rare sighting of the Pedal Tavern during our photo safari of downtown Nashville, we hopped in the car and drove for two hours to a place in the country where our family reunion was taking place.
I like to think of myself as an adventurous person, but I am much more comfortable with taking my life into my hands by jay-running between speeding cars in the city than I am with hiking through poison-ivy infested woods.
My daughter’s first priority for vacation was to go horseback riding. I’ve done this several times, so I know the basics: wear close-toed shoes, put your left foot in the stirrup first so you don’t end up facing the horse’s rear end, and don’t let yourself fall off. Despite the fact that my horse, Maverick, emulated his Top Gun namesake by showing no regard for anyone but himself and nearly decapitating me on low-hanging branches several times, I did pretty well.
It wasn’t until that evening that I realized my wardrobe mistake. Major chafage pain in the posterior region informed me that I should be less concerned about panty lines the next time I go trotting through the forest. I know this is TMI, but I feel it is my duty to warn my fashion-minded readers about the consequences of improper undergarments when riding a horse. No one thinks to tell you these things. Sure, they will give you a helmet to keep you from cracking your head open, but no one mentions the importance of protecting your crack.
I did get advice later on that day about the ramifications of picking up toads. The kids seemed so enamored with one that was hanging out by the sidewalk that I swept it up in my hands to give them a better look.
“Ewww. It’s going to pee on you!” approximately 10 people shouted to me at the same time.
Now, I’ve had held lots of strange animals – hedgehogs, snakes, tarantulas, hissing cockroaches, etc… And, a few of them have peed on me. It’s no big deal. You set the animal down, go wash off the tiny drop of urine and all is good. So, I wasn’t too intimidated by this warning.
Toad pee, though, is a bit different than hedgehog pee. Apparently, a toad’s bladder holds an unprecedented volume of pee. Picture yourself holding a water balloon that is the size of the palm of your hand, and a dime-sized hole suddenly opens in the bottom of the balloon. Oh, and to this picture, add a bunch of kids of various ages watching you closely to see if you are going to screech and pitch the poor toad 10 feet into the air as soon as it dumps urine all over you.
Ironically, my efforts to encourage the kids to observe nature more closely ended up with them observing me intently for signs of a freak out.
I will tell you , quite proudly, that I did not toss the toad. Nor did I freak out. In fact, I calmly held the toad for another couple of minutes – until it released another gallon of pee all over my fingers. Then I prudently set it down and said, “Well, that’s enough for now. Why don’t you go chase fireflies?” (to the kids, not the toad. Although I guess the toad might be interested in eating fireflies, too, but I was a bit too ticked off at him to be giving him meal or entertainment suggestions) and walked quickly to the bathroom to wash my hands.
Well, as quickly as one can walk when your butt cheeks are on fire.
I often wake up in the middle of the night, panicked that I still have a googlemillion things left to teach my daughter, and only 8 more years until she goes to college where everything I have taught her will be turned into a Bucket List of Things I Should Do to Freak Out my Mom. For example, I keep forgetting to tell her to, “always check for toilet paper before you pull your pants down.” Of course, I know this is important, and I am 44 years old – and I still forget to check.
In fact, I think I’ve had to ask my own daughter if she can “spare a square” a couple of times.
So, this not only means that I need to teach her a googlemillion things, but I need to repeat each thing a googlemillion times so it will finally sink in and she will make it to 44 years old without ever having found herself in a bathroom stall at Dairy Queen begging for toilet paper from her daughter.
My ineptitude as a mother reveals itself daily, but even I was horrified by my own failings a couple of nights ago when reading to 10-year-old Dimples from The Fire Chronicle before she went to bed.
“The universe is a mass of constantly expanding energy, and one day it will collapse upon itself. Like a cake left too long in the oven.”
“Why would you put a cake in the oven?” she derisively interrupted.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked. Then I thought, maybe she means after it’s already frosted and ready to eat. “Not after it’s made. You know, when you’re baking it.”
Oh. My. God. My 10-year-old child does not know that cakes are made by baking them in the oven. *
I started hyperventilating.
“Where did you think cakes came from?” I managed to splurt out.
I think I blacked out.
Later that evening, as I surfed the net in search for some excerpts from Mommy Dearest to make myself feel better, I realized that I actually have made cakes with her before. It’s been awhile, but we did it together for a couple of her birthdays.
Okay. They were 5 and 6 years ago. But still.
This led me to the conclusion that it is a complete waste of time to try to be a good mother to your child before the age of 6. They remember none of it, show absolutely no gratitude, and by the time they develop any kind of memory retention, you will be too burned out to continue in the vein in which you started.
A better plan is to keep a notebook of important advice, which you can bestow upon them the first day they realize you have taught them absolutely nothing.
Here’s a list to get you started:
#1. Always check for toilet paper before you pull down your pants. Because one day your momma won’t be there to bring you some more.
Deuce. Cakes do not grow on trees.
III. When backing out of a Kroger’s parking spot, do not keep looking behind you, or your front end will dent your neighbor’s car, and you will then be faced with the dilemma of either leaving a note or driving away in shame and having that guilt on your conscience for the rest of your life.
This is just a suggested list. You can write whatever you want. But you might have to pay the price if you don’t include number III. Insurance for teenagers is expensive. I’m just sayin’.