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Trust me…

When you own a front loading washer with easy-to-push control buttons just above the door and you have small children you should never, ever put a load of towels and underwear in to wash at bedtime.

What happens when you have little kids and start a load of towels and underwear at bedtime is that you congratulate yourself for getting a jump on the morning.  You smuggly tell yourself that because of your forethought you’ll finish the 8-foot pile of laundry still waiting on the floor by dinner the next day.  You know you’re not being terribly honest.  You know it will really take until Wednesday but you still feel good.

In the morning you take your bad self to the laundry room and remove the clothes from the dryer because in addition to putting that one last load in to wash before bed you actually completed about four loads of clothes and diapers the day before.   Afterwards you turn to the washing machine.  That’s when the real fun begins.

You open the washer and stare for a moment of incomprehension.  Being old and pregnant (Don’t tell me it’s not true.  In medical circles I’m referred to as “geriatric OB”) and partially lobotomized from the raising of brain-sucker-outers you notice right away that something’s not right.  You just can’t put your finger on it.

Then you see the puddle of dingy, greasy water coming up to the edge of the washer door. 

Then the odor hits.

Then you know.

One of your precious little cherubs used one of their sweet, sticky fingers to press the power button mid-wash.  After allowing it to fill with hot water and spin around just enough to mix all the stuff leaky diapers left on the onesies, all the junk from the underpants belonging to pre-schoolers who haven’t mastered the fine art of wiping, all the flotsam and jetsam from kitchen rags that were used to clean things like milk spills and puddles of chicken juice, he or she shut it off.  Then, because you put it in and went to bed, it sat there souring for over twelve hours.

In a moment of homemaking insanity you turn the machine back on and choose all the same settings you picked for this particular load of laundry the night before–stain cycle, hot water, heavy soil, extra rinse.  You press the start button and take the opportunity to panic because NOTHING HAPPENS.  You press it a couple times more.  You stand there and wonder how much it’s going to cost to fix it and if you’re supposed to deal with the fetid pile of fabric and bacteria inside before someone can repair it or if that’s part of the fee.  You are surprised when it suddenly starts working.  You realize that you’re not the only confused one.   The machine also took a minute to comprehend being full of water before being powered-up.  As a result it just starts washing your laundry in The Stinkiest Water Ever ™.

Having had a few electrical impulses burst through your brain by now you’re quicker on the draw.  Without even walking away in confusion first you realize you can’t allow your intimates or the towels you’ll wipe your face with to be washed in pure bacteria.  You turn the whole thing off again and reset it to a 20-minute rinse and spin cycle to eliminate as much gross as possible.

At this point you think you’re approaching the end of this problem when you realize that draining the water causes the odor to permeate your entire house.  It was sealed in the machine when you woke up.  Now it’s being spit from a hose to a semi-open drain pipe and it’s lovely.  It lasts for hours

Finally, it’s time to start the wash load from scratch again.  You program the settings, add  the maximum amount of detergent and a half cup of Borax just to be SURE you won’t smell anything next time you open the washer door.  And you don’t, thank goodness, because if you did you’d be about to start your third hour-and-a-half cycle for this one stinking (literally) load of laundry.

You will not reach the bottom of the eight-foot laundry pile today but there is a bright side–and believe me, I’m the master of finding a bright side.  Instead of the usual three, you will only have to fold and put away one load of laundry this day.  Now tomorrow, that’s another story.

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I got a cool new camera (which I picked out myself and, hey, Nugents who can read, SSSSHHHH! We’re keeping up the illusion that Dad picked out an absolutely perfect gift for me.)

I also got an appletini and I have to ask, what the heck did Todd make this thing with, absinthe? I’ve been sipping it on and off for hours and I’m definitely feeling it. I think the loud, moist shushing above is actually due to the very stiff drink.

Actually.

I haven’t even finished it yet (Okay, well NOW I’ve finished it.) and if we weren’t on day three of a blizzard suffice it to say I wouldn’t be able to drive. Though, you know, I have been known to drive in blizzards.

I saw the football coach driving past my house Friday (Hi coach! We HAWKS got your Christmas greeting–well, Andrew, being the only HAWK, he got it.) and as he was driving by I was pulling out in the thick of the storm to take myself and three children for haircuts. Yeah, it’s that important.

Um, no, wait.  It’s not.

I called the salon by the end of a mile to say, “Hey! What the heck were you doing calling us to rush down there NOW to get our hair cut? It’s a blizzard out here! I’m going home.” They said okay.

I’ve been summoned for cake twice now though so I have to hang it up here (after much backtracking and fixing a la Todd’s insanely potent appletini) but I’ll be back later with pictures from the cool, new camera.

Yay camera!

and given that two of my last three blog entries were about one thing I bet you smart, smart readers can guess where this is going.

John & Kate Plus Eight.

After reading my Pffffffttttt! post, one of my friends responded with a couple links to anti-John & Kate sites. That was about right, I think. A cousin also told me that she thinks I might just be a John & Kate hater. Maybe.

I clicked the links. I’d seen one site before but not the other and I started to read. After a little while I decided to watch an episode called Twins Are Mommy for the Day because I read about it here. I wondered if I’d have the same passionatley negative feelings as the writer. In one way, I guess I did but in some others, not really.

At the beginning the author makes a big fuss about Kate going along with the girls’ idea to try to be mommy for a day so they can see how hard she works. Um, so? When I watched it I didn’t see the big deal. Does it hurt these girls to get a very small clue about what it takes for their mom and dad to give them a regular, everyday Saturday? Of course not. It’s good for them to know that meeting their needs and giving in to some of their whims takes a lot of effort from other people.

There’s also some snark about the fact that John’s not on board with the idea. I have to admit I wouldn’t be too jazzed either but I understand that John’s attitude is irritating. There’s really not much he’s up for. He tends to be whiny that way.

Apparently it’s a problem for the writer–and others if you read the comments–that the sextuplets still wear bibs and use covered cups with straws. A waitress served my nine-year-old a covered cup with a straw just yesterday so I’m not sure why that bugs. I’m thinking she would feel strongly about children walking around with food stains on their shirts too. Things have to work a little differently in large families. I have a good three loads of laundry to do each day and I get the impression that’s less than a lot of others. Should Kate allow her laundry pile to grow exponentially by having to provide a change of shirt with every meal for her six youngest children?

The idea of naps for three-year-olds doesn’t go over well either. Once again, I don’t get it. Kindergarten teachers enforce naps so they can have a break. What’s the big deal here? There’s really no doubt that a person caring for six preschoolers could use a bit of a break during the day. How else is she supposed to manage that? Should she leave them unsupervised?

With her free day a la the twins and John, Kate decided to switch the kids’ closets from summer to winter. The author injects some venom about how this could only take a full day for Kate. Um, nope. It takes AT LEAST a full day for me too. I have to figure out what hand-me-downs might fit which kids and I have to try and organize things as I put them away so they can be used for the next child down the line. Its really not this simple, quick task. It’s a pain in the rear that takes over my whole bedroom and when it’s done I ALWAYS find stray shorts or tank tops coming out of the chronically backed up laundry. I even keep a special box in my attic for the remainders as they drizzle in. It’s my most dreaded chore.

There are, of course, some mildly cringe-worthy moments. Kate has some not-so-nice thing to say about Mady being “mean and ugly. ” John has that eternal puss on his face. There’s a shot of Kate in the recliner looking as though just being in her house is a chore. But they are H-U-M-A-N. I’m pretty sure there’s pettiness in every household and I don’t know a single grown-up who doesn’t have some story about their parents acting like jerks. Is it really that big of a deal?

Ultimately, what I discovered is that, no, I’m not a John & Kate hater BUT, unlike the author I enjoyed the program so little that I only made it about halfway through. The whole thing is just too close to home for me. It’s not entertaining and the way they earn their money still irks me but truth be told, if Kate Gosselin were a mother in my neighborhood I think I’d enjoy her at mom’s night out. Her bossing would get on my nerves but guess what? I wouldn’t be hanging around her house on random Saturdays to hear it and if she started with it in public I’d just turn my attention to my own band of rebels. She can raise hers however she manages.

And that, ladies and gents, is the final word on my John & Kate fixation. I think. I’ll let you know for sure next week.

In all my years of birthing babies there are a few things I’ve noted to be true. One such thing is that you don’t get to truly know a child’s personality until they’re walking.

Of course there are lots of things you can know about them. I swear I knew a few things about some of my kids before they were born–especially the older ones who I had more time to really observe.

I’m not kidding, for example, when I say that I remember the weekend I started feeling David move. I was on retreat so I was without the distraction of my family. It was a silent retreat too so there was lots of time for quiet reflection and noticing that, hey, this kid NEVER stops kicking me. He was a lovely, easy baby after that but when he was a toddler, woo wee! Watch out! Shannon, on the other hand, seemed to be on a schedule before birth. Every morning I’d wake up and lie still for a few moments to get my predictable good-morning kicks. I wasn’t able to do that with any of the others and none of them were still taking two three-hour naps a day when they were two like she did.

But, the truth of my experience remains that you don’t truly know who a child is until they can walk. That’s when they can explore what they like on their own. When they have the ability to slide off your lap, you find out what drives them. It’s also about the time that they develop decent communication skills and a sense of humor. Then you find out how well they can do the former and if they have one of the latter.

So, Marie’s finally walking. She was a late walker. At eighteen months she’s only been ambling around for about eight weeks. Now I can confidently say she’s no girly-girl.

I’m not complaining. Hey, she’s a girl, for sure. She flirts like a girl. She bats her eyes at her dad. She loves to hug her dolly. She is gloriously disinclined to throw things. (Thank. You. God!) I can still doll her up in clothes that don’t feature pictures of sports equipment, pets or trucks but, she’s a sucker for anything electronic and with the exception of the aforementioned doll her favorite thing to do with anything too froofy is to get it as far away from herself as possible.

Just try hading her a chunky lavender pony with a beautiful, flowing, pink polyester mane. She’ll drop it away from herself, she’ll push it back to you and if you persist too long she’ll give it a few whacks on the nearest hard surface before getting rid of it.

Do you have a toy you think she might like? Does it have buttons that will make it talk, roar, growl or play music? Fantastic!

Can she crawl across the floor pushing it to activate a purring motor, a siren or the sound of skidding tires? Yesss!

Does it have a digital display of any sort? Just try and drag her away! I tried to drag her away from one today but nothing could compete. It was glorious. It was captivating. It was plugged into the wall and it had one of those warm glowing screens with red numbers on it. It was a carbon monoxide detector and it was awesome!

She even gets in on the wrestling and Andrew says she’s a cheap shot. He demonstrated for me by lying on the floor on his stomach the other day–all 5’4″, 140lbs of him. My teeny, tiny, pink clad toddler dove on him. He rolled over, wrung her out and sent her away. Then he got back on his stomach. This time she ran up, whacked him in the head and tried to take off. Unfortunately her stride is much shorter than his reach and he got her.

The other day she discovered the joy of running around the chimney. She ran and ran and ran–which was remarkably similar to her walking and walking and walking–until she had a coughing fit. Then she crawled and crawled and crawled around it.

Am I surprised this is my Marie? Yes and no. I mean how could it be avoided with five older brothers, I suppose. On the other hand I didn’t expect it to happen so early. I thought years of sitting on the sidelines of the gridiron would do it to her. I didn’t think it would be part of her DNA. But alas, it seems to be and all in all I’m thrilled. I mean it could still come to fruition but lately I’ve been thinking ahead to when she’s old enough to take to Disney World and I’ve been dreading the whole princesswear thing. Perhaps I needn’t be concerned.

Oh, who am I kidding, there’s a new Tinkerbell movie in which Tink is, believe it or not, a technogeek. Somehow I can’t imagine there’s not a Tinkerbell costume somewhere in her future.

I got my first hate response!

I’m just so thrilled I had to share. I mean I initially replied in the comments section of the post it went with, but I’m positively silly with excitement over it and I need to commemorate the occasion with a full-blown, has-it-really-been-six-weeks-since-my-last-entry blog post. Having friends and family read my blog is great. Having strangers peek in and actually let me know they’re fans is great too. But a hater?

I. Have. Arrived.

(Thanks Hannah!)

So, Hannah appears to be one of the rabid John and Kate fans I mentioned in the post just below. That’s where I came good and clean with my less than enthusiastic feelings about them and child-rearing for dollars. I gotta tell ya, she let me have it. I’ll show you, actually. Here’s her reply:

wow…
i can’t help but feel bad for all of your 7 children.
it sounds to me like you don’t have enjoyed being a mother at all…
which makes me wonder why it is you decided it was a good idea to have 7 children.
Kate didn’t plan on having 7 children at once…
and if you don’t think she should have helping hands near by, then thats up to you.

but having 7 children one at at time and then complaining on a blog about how much of a bother it is to have that many children…
my god,
you need to look back over your life and think hard long and hard about why you are in the position your in.

enjoy your children while you have them…
they will be gone before you know it.

And then, after she read the other responses and realized I’m not fond of summer vacations with the rugrats in tow she added this:

p.s. don’t take vacations anymore….
your children will be much happier if you didn’t go anywhere and there was less whining.

Oh my, but it’s delicious! I don’t think I need to think too hard about my life though. I know exactly how I managed to end up with seven children. *wink wink nudge nudge*

So, Hannah says she feels bad for all seven of my children (All of them?! Clearly she’s never met Ben.) because what I’ve written here makes it obvious that I don’t like being a parent and they’d surely be happier if I could find a way to quit complaining.

Ouch! Hannaaahhh!

I knew my point in writing that John & Kate post was to say once and for all that, no, I do not enjoy watching John & Kate because, believe it or not, people ask me if I do.

A lot.

I might have mentioned a couple of other things too–like the fact that I don’t think they’re so amazing to be doing the same job millions of other large families do without lots and lots of free help and big, free paychecks and that I’ll be more than okay if I never see another animated children’s feature. I might have interjected those things but I think I got my point across, didn’t I?

I think I got my point across so I’m confused. Either Hannah thinks I abhor motherhood based on that one post about John and Kate and the fact that I’m over Walt Disney or she’s read a lot more of my blog and she thinks I’m very, very serious when I’m trying to be funny. Whoops!

The truth is this. I never did like Anastasia but I do like my children. Even the boys. Even when they ask me to play with their Matchbox cars. They’re smart and funny and they read this blog AND they laugh about it. There are actually several comments around here from my oldest daughter telling me to keep writing and that my stories are hilarious. So, I guess she doesn’t strenuously object to my whining.

But, while we’re discussing the oh-so-horrible mommy sin of complaining I have a question. What, are we sugar-coating motherhood here? ‘Cause, you know what, I’m not the sugar-coating type and as wonderful and joyful as it is, it’s HARD. It’s expensive, labor intensive and emotionally draining. If you show me a woman who loves, loves, loves every minute of it I’ll show you a liar. In the words of the great Pat Benatar, “love is a battlefield.”

Since this is my blog however, the answer is no, we’re not sugar-coating motherhood here. As Hannah pointed out about my not thinking Kate should have help, it’s up to me. I don’t think that about Kate though. As a mother of seven who knows precisely how much work her life entails, I think most emphatically Kate should have help. I still don’t want to watch her on tv.

But that’s not even my favorite part. My most very favorite part is where Hannah uses the fact that Kate didn’t mean to have seven children at once as some sort of defense. It’s so non-sensical it makes me feel all filled with whimsy!

First of all, Kate had six children at once, not seven but that’s beside the point. How does the fact that Kate Gosselin never planned to have eight children and that she had six at once make her family more sympathetic as far as large families go? Why does the fact that she allowed herself to be implanted with more embryos than she could safely carry give her family a pass on the scorn and derision some people feel justified in spewing at the rest of us? I don’t get it. Having more than a half dozen embryos implanted despite the inherent risks to the health and lives of the mother and all the children strikes me as one of the less responsible ways to have a family.

What if I told you I didn’t plan to have seven children, what would you think of me then? Less, I bet. Okay, I know you would think less of me even though you think well of Kate. You would think less of me even though all of my seven pregnancies combined was less dangerous than the one in which she bore sextuplets after deliberately taking a potentially lethal (and one of her fetuses did die) chance by having too many embryos implanted.

At any rate, I need to thank Hannah for the stellar advice on vacations but I already decided they won’t be worth it until everyone’s old enough to pack their own toothbrushes. Staying home is fine anyway because without corporate sponsorship we happen to have a comfortable home, great yard for playing in and a nice, refreshing pool–all of which I’m grateful for until I’m cleaning them solo. And most importantly, for those days when life with seven kids really does feel like a battle to be won we have a great big bunch of friends with liquor cabinets.

Seriously though, did anyone else happen to catch the episode of John & Kate Plus Eight when they had movie night? Because you can be my witnesses. It wasn’t a blast. While Kate seemed to be yukking it up (for the cameras?) John was decidedly stressed out and NOT having fun. I guess he should have considered that before agreeing to IVF. Hmmmmm.

Hey, Jon and Kate! PHHHHTTTT!

I know people just love Jon and Kate Plus Eight. Some are downright rabid fans. If there are any of those among you, I’m sorry. I have to get this off my chest.

Why don’t I like poor Jon and Kate, you ask? Why don’t I have a feeling of jovial solidarity with them?

It’s because watching their program is a busman’s holiday for me. I flipped it on the other night to see the Gosselin’s having movie night, with the non-stop talking. And the fidgeting. And the crying. And the fighting. And the popcorn. And the spilling. (Spilling even though it’s Kate’s house.) Then there was the threatening and cajoling and the fact that they had to watch an animal movie. Kate might still think it’s fun to watch kids’ fare but I’ve been at this for fourteen years and I am OVER it. Plus, I know that no matter how you keep saying it’s FUN because it’s family time, it’s not fun. It totally stressed me out.

And then there’s this… Great, she had six kids at once. So what? I’m sure that was a grueling pregnancy. I truly believe it was a marathon of a first year. But, I’ve been pregnant seven times! Even discounting the weeks I missed because all my children were early I’ve spent 1/3 of my fifteen-year marriage prengant. I’ve spent more of it nursing, and nursing = sleep deprived. Isn’t THAT amazing?

With the exception of the hospitalization, the diapers and the bottles I don’t see how what they’re doing is harder than what we’re doing. So there are six three year olds in their house but when the Gosselins decide to play t-ball, for example, there will be eight Gosselins playing on maybe three teams but at the same level and on the same fields. Next spring I will have five children playing baseball and lacrosse on five or six different teams at all different places and with all different schedules. As much as I enjoy watching my children playing whatever sport they’re playing, that kind of schedule is overwhelming. It just is. It takes apblomb! It takes heroism! It’s not that interesting though, not for TLC anyway.

And finally, I have no hired help but Kate Gosselin does. She can afford it because she gets paid for having had six children all at once. It wouldn’t matter though, because I remember one episode in which she described the different people who volunteer to help her just because. There were all kinds of people. Random women from church came over regularly to help with everyday stuff. They all saw her with those six babies and two toddlers and pitched right in. Somehow the same doesn’t happen when you have your babies one at a time and somehow Kate still manages to complain about how much work she has to do on every episode.

When you have your seven babies the old fashioned way you come home from the hospital just as tired and beat-up as you did with your first but you make dinner for the other six and you go to a birthday party. You get to do it yourself and while you made your own choices and take full responsibility for them, no, you don’t like watching Jon & Kate get extra credit and a paycheck for doing basically the same thing.

People who know me and say things like “You’re so relaxed you’re like Xanax,” may be surprised to know I’m really a nervous wreck. (I have this nagging feeling I’ve blogged about this before.)  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that while my internal dialogue is going like this:

Aaaahahahahahhaahhhhh! They’re using my car’s cigarette lighter to ignite napkins, tissues and football practice jerseys?! Holy crap! I am a terrible mother! What in the world was I thinking by procreating so many times? They’re all talking about me and what a terrible mother I am. Oh, God. That’s the least of my worries. DCFS is definitely going to come knocking at my door this time.

What comes out of my mouth is more like this:

Oh, my! Thank you so much for telling me about that Bill. (Walks quickly but calmly from the front of the van to the door.) David, get out of my car. Your coach is here and you can practice now. Ben, go play on the jungle gym. (Turning back to the other parents and pocketing the lighter with a mental note to never put it back.) They’re trying to kill me. (eye-roll) I guess I can just add this to the list of things I’m going to do to them and their things as payback when they grow up. How long until they move out?

Somehow, no matter what flippin’ insane things are going on around me I can’t bring myself to convey the flippin’ insane way I feel. Instead, I come across with a calm response or a joke or both. On the one hand, it’s probably good. On the other hand I don’t wonder why funny people like Chris Farley and John Belushi end up addicted and subsequently dead.

Anyway, that’s how it goes most days. Other days, not so much. The time I drove myself and four small boys to Boston for a postpartum doctor’s visit was one of the not-so-much days.

Ever the optimist I arranged for Todd to meet us in the parking lot so he could take care of the children in the waiting room. Of course he was late. Todd doesn’t do on time. This required me to lug two rowdy preschoolers, a toddler and a newborn into the office by myself.

It was lovely.

The waiting room was A SCENE. I seem to remember having to let other patients go in front of me as my appointment time came and went without Todd. I can’t say for sure. I’ve blocked out some of the more horrible parts. I know that when he finally did show up I was led away from the waiting room and seated in an orange plastic chair. Given the circumstances it was the most awesome orange plastic chair E.V.E.R.

As the nurse took my blood pressure she asked how things were going. I heard the doctor laugh out loud in his office when I responded that it was great if you like living in a frat house for little people.

Ten minutes later he walked into the exam room, sat down and started a conversation that went like this:

Doctor: Frat house for little people, ha?
Me: Yeah.  (Insert pathetic attempt at a chuckle.)  Didn’t you see them in the waiting room?   (Bursts into tears and begs for pharmaceuticals.)

Okay, it wasn’t EXACTLY like that but, sadly, it wasn’t all that much different either. Which brings me to my point.

I still live in a frat house for little people. Maybe more now than I did then since all the boys in question are now walking and talking and spending as much time as possible acquiring new and ever more creative ways to converse about body parts and their various functions. They’ve also broken my couch by diving onto it from an end table when they think they won’t get caught.

This very morning I was sitting on the broken end of the couch folding Mt. Laundry when Ben suggested I move.

Mom, he said. You shouldn’t sit there because you could break it worse with your big butt.

Oh, the tact.

I didn’t answer at first. I just continued folding and thinking about the fact that I really could lose some weight but, honestly, I don’t care. Then it dawned on me that hey, even if I have more to worry about than my weight at the moment, I don’t really want to hear comments about it from my five-year-old so I said, You know, Ben. Women don’t really like it when people tell them they have a big butt. His response? Well, you do.

Out of the mouths of babes, right?

I guess I should have known my college aversion to all things Greek would eventually come back to bite me in the ass.