Seriously, holy fuck. Too much. This is all too much. When I moved from New York to Austin, went from single in the city to married and Peg Perego in the ’burbs, it was a culture shock, but it was somehow manageable. But this, being thrown into full-time mothering and full-time Long Island is too much to take.
Today: Wake up when my mother-in-law gently wakes me, “Stephanie? It’s 7:45.” From there, I must groom somewhat, find clothes and shoes, remember my phone and wallet. Then, off to pick out kids’ clothes (already set out the night before), coax the cutlets out of their jammies, chase after naked cutlets, remind male cutlet that his extra bit is not, in fact, a handle. Bathing suits on, then arguments and squinting offspring begging to go without sunblock. Rubbing. Spraying. Double-check backpacks for clean towels, extra plastic bag for wet garments, Band-Aids for Little Miss, water-shoes on, wrong foot. Where’s your cover-up? Running shoes packed in backpacks along with dry clothes, underwear and more sunblock. I can’t imagine the nightmare that would be my life if I now had to make lunch.
Goal: 9am arrival at school. It takes 7 minutes door-to-door. But first, breakfast dishes off the table into sink, hands washed, teeth somewhat brushed if you can call it that. No, you cannot watch “Max & Ruby.” “My eye stings! Mama, you got sunblock in my eye!” “Mama, I need a new Band-Aid for my chin.” It was never, ever, this hard in Austin. What’s different? A fucking backpack.
I never cared if we were a few minutes late. There was always a quick pit stop at the bakery if there was no time for breakfast. I never had to worry about two sets of shoes, extra clothes, clean towel, or a chin. I could leave dishes in the sink, knowing sugar ants weren’t going to take over the world. And if we were late, they’d only be missing a few minutes of playground time, not “work time” with tracing letters, drawing triangles, properly holding crayons, cutting, and tracing their names.
Arrive 10 minutes early, doors are locked. I want to hang someone. Once inside, I eavesdrop, hearing an assistant teacher speaking with a parent about “patching.” I interject, mentioning that Abigail is just starting to patch… again… more religiously this time. Parent asks me if I have a good doctor. We just moved here… Dr… K- something. “I hope not Dr. Kanterman.” Yes, that’s right. She doesn’t respond “Oy—” but she shares some other choice words. I grab her phone number and the name of the Ophthalmologist she swears by. The aforementioned Ophthalmologist Abigail had seen last Wednesday insisted she didn’t need surgery, so long as she could control the wandering (which she can, but she does it often when tired or spacing out). Her eye isn’t a lazy eye, where the eye turns in. The doctor explained that there was no “age window.” He said that for what she has, you can correct it at any age, but for now, there’s no reason. Do I need this second opinion?
“All I’m saying,” Parent tells me, “is that he misdiagnosed my daughter and gave my son the wrong prescription. But go ask other mothers. Though, I’m sure you’ll hear.” Awesome. Another to-do, to-worry. Because what if there is a window?! I want to jump.
Parent invites me to join her and a few other mothers with kids in the class for frozen yogurt after school. I am relieved and grateful, looking forward to it!
Returns to Tuesday Morning, a good half hour of returns (aka more purchases). Dunkin’ Donuts for the mother-in-law. A call to Costco to ask about veal. All in a morning’s work. No veal, call Publix. Veal. Pickup, panko seasoned crumbs, more eggs. The butcher de-bones five skin-on chicken breasts for my lemon & shallots chicken dinner with parmesan risotto. I want to surprise Phil with a tray of blondies. I buy chips.
Home. It’s noon. Pickup time is 2:45pm, so I have two and a half hours. And I spend it unpacking in a garage and working a king size comforter into a duvet, resorting to safety pins. The bottom of Lucas’s train drawer gives in. Trains, tracks, and bridge trestles everywhere. Mother-in-law is frying up her son’s favorite veal cutlets, needs plates, dishes need cleaning, dishwasher needs unloading. Breakfast table needs a wipe down. The Roomba is stuck in a lopsided crack. It’s 2:45pm, and I look like a band of aggressive-looking lowland gorillas have had their way with me.
Exhausted guppies. No more nap time at school. Eyes wandering on the both of them. “It’s hot, mama.” “I cut myself, mama.” Yogurt will make everyone chill the fook out.
The rest is a blur. At one point, Lucas was lying on the cement, that ready for a nap. Where are you from? What do you do? You look familiar. Where do you live now? What does your husband do? Are there any Jews in Austin? Do you play Words With Friends? I tell them yes, I do, but share that I won’t play with them. “I cheat,” I say plainly. They stare. “What? I do. Now there are no lies between us.”
The women are incredibly welcoming and inclusive, inviting us to swim tomorrow afternoon after school, setting a play date at a water park for Monday. Tomorrow, I can’t help but think, I have to bring Abigail to the plastic surgeon after dropping Lucas off at school. She still can’t soak her chin or get it wet. No swimming. I *know* the plastic surgeon will have to do something. The scab has come off, and the wound is no longer bleeding, but it is OPEN. It has healed OPEN. I am absolutely dreading tomorrow. Kids are climbing trees. Kids are eating donuts. I don’t let mine, especially not after chocolate yogurt, M&M’s and Oreo toppings.
The gas light is on. OF COURSE IT IS. Mother-in-law requested chocolate yogurt with some kind of chocolate topping. I remember just as I buckle the kids into the car. No fucking way.
Gas station. Drive-through for chocolate frosty for Grandma. Home. Carrying in artwork and backpacks, heavy with wet towels. The garage door opener hasn’t been programmed, so I must manually plug in a code. It’s 5pm. They need to be asleep by 7pm. They haven’t had dinner. They haven’t had their bath. Lucas is out of clean underwear. I bang my head against the wall and remind myself that I have my health.
Spot-treat stains, pre-soak, search for color-safe bleach, gather more laundry, unload backpacks, clean out my own mouth. Put a baked potato with broccoli and cheese onto plates, placemats, napkins, waters, forks. No one wants to eat. Abigail has chocolate yogurt stains from her neck to her china. Naked kids, not a handle, no one wants to see that. Grandma, can you please give them a bath?
Email? Blog? What’s that?
Recipe. I now know why the Contessa was barefoot. Measure wine, squeeze lemons, peel and dice shallots, cube butter, is this oil rancid? Measure salt, grind pepper, “listen to Grandma!” How long does this motherfucking piece of shit electric stove take to heat?! What does Ina mean 12-inch cast-iron skillet? Messerfecker. Wash chickens, dry chickens, pre-heat oven. Make sure NON-cast-iron 12-inch pan fits in said oven (just barely). “Give it back, Lucas!” “No, Abby. I had it first.” “I want to do it myself!” “Mama, help me!” I dig through drawers for pj’s and tomorrow’s clothes. No one wants to eat.
Phil phones from the office. All I can think, “Don’t even think of telling me you’re going to the gym.” What I say, “How are you? Me? My day was great. Really great.” He’s tired of hearing everything out of my mouth be a negative. “You don’t have to lie,” he says. “Just come home,” I say. I wipe away stress tears. The oven alarm sounds. It’s pre-heated. Season chickens, heat oil, stir wine, lemon juice, shallots, bring to boil. Thank goodness I made the risotto last night. Forget the blondies.
Grandma makes egg salad sandwiches. The kids eat them. I would’ve let them go hungry. The TV goes on. Oil pops and sprays. I forgot to pack silicone potholders. These suck! Grandma burns herself on the handle when I ask her to check if the chicken looks done. Forgot to pack a thermometer. Phil’s home… eating a cheese steak sandwich. “Please,” is all I can say as I feel my eyebrows pinch together, dog face cry held in.
“Lucas needs OT again. He can’t draw a straight line with a crayon. He just doesn’t push down.” Thera-putty. We didn’t do thera-putty today. We didn’t practice. They’re exhausted. We’re all exhausted. This is going to take time. I stir the cream into the reduction; it’s a perfect swirl of sauce, unbroken and delicious. I wish I could say it wasn’t worth it. I take a moment, breathe, drink my wine, think on it, bite, relax. Plate the risotto, a pool of sauce, golden crispy chicken, sauce.
Phil asks what the wet clothes are on the floor outside of the laundry. “Their wet towels from school, plus the rest of the laundry that still needs washing.”
“You mean the laundry you said you spent today doing?”
“You didn’t just say that.”
“What, you have one load of wet laundry still sitting in the washing machine and another pile on the floor, nothing in the dryer. What did you do all day?”
We eat at the table. Phil does the dishes. I tuck the kids into bed and read them a bedtime story. Teeth have not been brushed. I hug stuffed animals. I lower the fan. I come back to turn on a nightlight. It’s likely 8:15pm. I have to do this all again tomorrow, plus a swimming play date and a plastic surgeon. We’re going out for dinner. I’m not cooking again until I hit some kind of stride a la Kramer v. Kramer and the French toast kick-ass moments.
“What can I do?” Phil asks at 10pm. I’ve been here in the bedroom, stowed away rant-blogging my day as Phil and his mother watch USA on TV in the living room.
He doesn’t understand it and can’t see about what I have to be stressed. As in, if he were doing it, it would all be done hours ago, because he’s efficient and can prioritize, whereas, I’m a mess. He doesn’t say any of this. I know he thinks it. KNOW. Also know he resists saying it. And he’s kind of my hero when he offers, “I can go out and get you anything you want. What do you want?”
I look up at him, so grateful, so exhausted, and manage to peep, “Blondies?”
He’s on it.