The kids are playing in the basement; the decibel level is akin to a rock concert. I ask my husband to close the door and search for serenity within my fiction cocoon. I am nearly in the zone when I hear feet pounding on the stairs. Small is whining before he bursts into the kitchen. Since his father is the first parental unit he’ll encounter, I stay on the couch and do my best to ignore their conversation. I am semi-successful until I catch a sentence that concludes with “Mommy.” I am needed. Sighing, I look up from my book. Small is heading in my direction; his face tear-tracked and dirty. I sit up and put on a sympathetic expression. I reach for him, ready to whisper words of comfort and absorb all his hurt feelings, but he hurries past me with nary a glance. Throwing himself on the dog bed next to Paco (who sighs as deeply as I had), Small breathes deeply of musty dog and closes his eyes.

“Brendan?” I call. “What did you just tell Henry?”

“I told him to go snuggle with you or the dog.”

Small stops sucking his thumb long enough to give me an unsolicited one sentence explanation: “Paco cheers me up faster.”

Knowing that my child, whom I spent hours laboring to bring into this world without the benefit of pain-dulling drugs, whom I love, counsel, and care for, whose physical and psychological well-being I put before my own, whose head I have held, butt I have wiped, and knees I have kissed, whose everyday actions I chronicle in the hopes that they might, someday, promote fleeting, happy thoughts…he prefers the dog’s company over mine?

That’s just fabulous.

And the Mommy of the Year award goes to a neutered, middle-aged, red dog whose favorite hobbies are surreptitious sleeping on the furniture and overt cleaning of his ass. “He just makes me happy,” says his son.

Humble pie does not go down well. It almost always gets caught in the throat.

At the grocery store, why are there always five scanners and zero baggers? I’d rather wait a little longer in line, even if I need to play defense in the candy zone and constantly redirect the kids’ attention from the educational headlines: “Improve Your Sex Life With These 10 Tips!”, than be required to bag two weeks worth of groceries myself. It’s not that I’m above bagging; I’m a decent enough bagger (even if I perpetually forget to bring my reusable bags). It’s more that I find it incredibly challenging to organize our stock of go-gurts, goldfish and chicken nuggets while simultaneously riding herd on my herd.

I’m puzzling out how to cram the most groceries into the fewest number of paper bags with Small and Medium shaking the row of but-they-only-cost-a-quarter! toys 20 feet away when the laconic teenager says, “S’that your bread?”

There, at the wrong end of the conveyor belt, is my bread. “Yes,” I tell her. “That’s mine.”

“You want it?” she asks.

We stare at one another. My blood is rushing through my veins so quickly my heartbeat has to be audible. I stomp around to the other end of the checkout, nudge the bread onto the belt, return to my unwanted post and resume bagging.

Again, goth girl stops scanning. “Got ID for the wine?”

Again, we stare at one another. I reach for my purse. Except it’s on the other side of the cashier’s station. The side where the customers are supposed to stand. I put an overly full bag in the cart and scrabble around for my driver’s license.

Once upon a time, I was flattered when I was asked to show ID. Now, I’m just irritated. Someday, my testiness is going to get the better of me and an unwitting cashier is going to get an earful of: Are you blind? Can’t you see how old my children are? I’m not wearing any makeup, I haven’t showered in days and I have thirty minutes to get home and everyone fed before T-ball, so please, don’t delay me any longer! As it is, if I didn’t have to bag my own damn groceries, I’d open that screw-top bottle right here and start chugging!

Oh. Now I understand the dearth of baggers.

The other night, I was on the fringe of a momversation about designer jeans. One hundred and eighty dollar designer jeans. As much as I would like to own a pair of jeans that would lift my junk back into my trunk, I am unemployed. One hundred and eighty dollar jeans are out of the question.

I live in jeans. I’ve got my play-on-the-floor jeans and my work-outside jeans. I have a pair that I must wear with a belt and a pair with raggedy legs from being scuffed under my shoes. I have a couple of pairs I can wear if I fast for a day or two (these are my standing room only jeans) and then there’s the button fly pair of American Eagle jeans that I bought in college and can’t bring myself to give away. The problem is that none of them fit me quite right. They either give me a troubling case of missingassitis or they underscore the mommy pooch I am continually trying to hide.

Yesterday, with the ladies’ postulations ringing in my head, I shimmied, shook, and struggled into no fewer than ten pairs of jeans at TJ Maxx. None of them fit. Skinny jeans with a one-inch fly may look good on the hanger but they ain’t gonna cut it in real life. Not mine, anyway. Jeans that have bell bottoms wider than my own bottom look just plain silly. And I flat-out refuse to buy jeans that are pre-ripped or have more than one zipper. So what’s left? Mom Jeans? C’mon now! I have three kids and am well into my fourth decade but hells if I’m ready for that.

Let’s face it: most people look better clothed than naked. I know I do. Even so, if I don’t find a pair of damnmyasslooksgoodinthese jeans soon, I may start leaving my pants on the ground.

Introducing the Daily Rant! This category is a new feature that I plan on updating, while not daily (lest you be confused by the title), at least semi-regularly (since I am irritated by a wide variety of things). The Daily Rant will be less stylized than my normal posts – I’m going to use a stream of consciousness approach. Today’s rant – in fact, this whole category – was inspired by a particularly unhelpful employee of a local college, which will go unnamed since it is my alma mater and I don’t want to give the school any negative publicity.

Minutes ago, I called the college and asked to be transferred to the library’s circulation desk. The next person I spoke with was so spectacularly unhelpful, I wanted to reach through the phone and shake her. Hard. Helpful hint: if you are working the circulation desk in a library, patrons are going to ask you questions about which books are in circulation. They also expect that you will, if not cheerfully, at least diligently, try to find the book that they are seeking. This may require you to look something up. Probably using a computer. Another helpful hint: if you are a library patron and you are notified that the book you meant to read is now overdue and that someone else has asked to borrow the very same copy of the book you are currently using as a coaster on your coffee table, it is proper etiquette for you to return the book to the library without delay.

Phew. I think I’m going to like this new feature. Tell me: what are you ranting about?

You may have wondered – and rightly so – just where the hell I’ve been this past month. I mean, I haven’t oinked, in like, forever. It’s true. And I’m truly sorry. I’ve been guilt-ridden about falling down on my responsibility to you, my dear readers, so much so that I’ve gnawed my fingernails down to their quicks. My thumbs look more like mini-hotdogs wrapped in prosciutto than digits. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to post, I’ve thought about it endlessly and even composed pithy vignettes in my head – I just haven’t had time to sit down and write. The reason for this? Every spare moment has been consumed with exercising, eating, and thinking about exercising. It’s ridonkulous, I agree, and you can blame it all on my brother-in-law.

Last January, my brother-in-law (we’ll call him Corrado), asked our family to run the relay in the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon. OinkDaddy, an optimist and a member of the 26.2 club, was all for it. The other four family members whom Corrado approached were less enthusiastic, including me. 

I am not a runner. At best, I’m a shuffler. I can appreciate that lots of people get jazzed about hitting the pavement; I’m just not one of them. OinkDaddy, on the other hand, is at least conversant in fartleks, Kcals and energy goos. When he signed up to run his first marathon, Large was still rockin’ a stroller; OinkDaddy ran his third marathon six months after Medium was born. Come to think of it, when Corrado started running, his twin girls were a month shy of their one year anniversary. Hmmm. I smell a social research project: Is there something about babies that inspires men to become long-distance runners? But I digress.

The KeyBank Vermont City Marathon is a huge event in Burlington, Vt., traditionally held over the Memorial Day weekend. It’s an inspiring, uplifting, sweaty spectacle. I’ve spent quite a few mornings in May ogling exhausted-yet-determined people ascending Battery Street Hill to the rhythmic thumping of Taiko drummers. Each time, I’ve been so impressed that I’ve uttered the words, “I should do that,” only to have my motivation disappear faster than my kids’ Easter candy.

KBVCM relay teams are selected by lottery in February and are notoriously difficult to get. I never thought we’d get in, so it was quite a shock to hear that we were lottery winners. What were the odds? And more importantly, in the cosmic way of things, might this have reduced our chances of winning PowerBall?

OinkDaddy and Corrado gave me inspiring pep-talks, “You can do it!” “Stick with the training program. You’re going to be great!” “Go slow; just keep running!” The week after I received the “good” news, I hauled my butt around the track 12 times. I walked more than I ran. An old hamstring injury flared up. Ignoring it proved unsuccessful. With trepidation, I made my first-ever appointment for physical therapy. I don’t know why I waited so long. My physical therapist, Kim Ellsworth at Essex Aquatic and Rehab Center, was (and is!) awesome and had me up and running in a jiffy. I could have saved myself weeks of pain if I had seen her sooner. Therapy behind me, muscles and ligaments and tendons strengthened, I bought new Brooks running shoes and ran 3x/week for two whole weeks. And then I kinda…just…stopped running.

One reason I don’t care for running is that I’m not good at it. I never have been. I run like a duck. My knees are knocked slightly from doing w-sits as a child (Mom, you were right. If only I had sat criss-cross, apple-sauce!), thus, the lower half of my legs swing out as I run and the outside edge of my foot strikes the ground first. It’s not very efficient. Or comfortable. As far as exercise goes, I much prefer practicing Tae Kwon Do or going to a Les Mills Body Combat class (where a different Kim kicks my ass). I find running monotonous; minute after minute, mile after mile of the same forward motion. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s like being in labor all over again.

Mid-April, I got my poop together and started to train semi-seriously. Running outside helped motivate me to run farther. I ran two miles, then pushed myself to run three. I continued my cross-training workouts and a couple of times I ran with a friend who is so fit she bounds along Gazelle-like, talking continuously, while I huff and puff and nod occasionally. I welcome any distractions from my screaming quads.

Two weekends ago, I ran with Corrado. He generously let me set the pace (my pace is off his by a good three minutes), and for the first time since high school, I completed a five mile run. Huzzah! In spite of the fact that I’m not setting any speed records (11-minute miles, hello?), I trumpeted my accomplishment far and wide.

I’m now cautiously optimistic that I’ll be able to complete my leg of the relay without expiring on the trail. Look for me. I’ll be the one in a red Team Deep Fried Bacon high-performance t-shirt stumbling over the finish line. Don’t be offended if I don’t stop to chat. I’ll be headed for the beer tent.

Things I’ve Learned About Running

  • Eat breakfast or be prepared to bonk
  • Run un-caffeinated or get the trots
  • Good sneakers really do make a world of difference
  • Injuries will not go away on their own; go to physical therapy
  • When doing crunches off the track at the gym, face the same direction as the runners lest they get an eyeful of sweaty underwear
  • My brother-in-law not only runs faster than I do, but he writes faster too. Check out his fitness related blog and be amazed by how many calories he can consume.

The marathon is coming. Bring it, baby.

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