“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Friday, April 13, 2018

Boymom 101 - Enjoy!

Noah is twelve days shy of his tenth birthday. This kid has driven me crazy since he was in the womb. Before he turned two, I was convinced he was plotting my death like Stewie from The Family Guy.

Awhile back, I instituted Family Meetings as part of our household structure. The children hated them, Joe was enthusiastic to the point of weirdness, and Max repeatedly left the table. But, in the end, it really didn't matter because I got to ring a bell every time I made a point. Nothing can really get me down when I get to ring a bell.

Family Meetings led to chores as Law. Among other things, Joey and Noah now do the dishes. When I say they "do the dishes," I mean I make them clear the table. They rinse the plates. Load the dishwasher. And they do all of these things so half-assed that every morning after they've left for school I have to re-do the whole damn job. It's fine. I love doing it! I embrace it!

No I don't. I'm being sarcastic. I effing hate re-doing the work for them. But whose fault is that? I know it; I own it.

Tonight Joey is having a friend sleep over. It's Friday the 13th and they've begun a tradition of watching horror movies on said date. It went swimmingly at the last event; this time the tradition morphed into six seventh grade boys sleeping in my basement. That's fine. I don't really mind, but you can bet your cottontail that I'm going to make him earn it. This morning when I opened the dishwasher, nothing was even placed properly. All pots, bowls, and plates were flung in haphazard heaps with no attempt at organization. I pulled a coffee mug out and it was crusty inside. Unacceptable! I calmly put the mug back in the dishwasher, closed it, and walked away.

Sleepover is set for 8 pm. I made Joey clean the entire basement, including the bathroom (except the toilets, which is Noah's job BECAUSE...you don't want to know why, I promise). And then, just as the boys settled in to while away the rest of the hours by watching Spaceballs, I sang out, "Oh, boys! Let's talk about the dishes."

Boom.

Parenting is power, and I am wild with it.

You can imagine they were beyond disgruntled, right? I tried not to show my amusement as they grumbled and shoved at each other trying to complete the task they had carelessly believed was done. (Chumps!)

And then it happened.

"For Chrissakes, Joey, get outta my way!"

WHAT.

I almost peed my pants. I'm not even kidding. About seventy percent of my instincts wanted me to laugh, but the other thirty percent had to rein in that stampede of hysteria with maturity.

"NOAH."

He'd forgotten I was there. You should have seen him freeze up. He didn't even turn around, but his voice grew a bit squeaky on the one word..."Sorry?"

"NO WAY. GET OVER HERE."

It's not enough to have a scary "serious" voice, you know. You need to perfect the crazy eyes. I learned it from my mom, she'd be proud to know.

Noah's face went from white to a rosy blush as he walked over to me, his mouth open just a little.

I pointed at the floor. "TWENTY-FIVE PUSHUPS. NOW."

Let it be known that my father-in-law was a big fan of pushups as consequence, and since Joe's brother was only fourteen when we started dating, I saw with amazement the incredible results of this genius. It's not just character building. It's exercise, too. WIN-WIN!

Joe taught each boy how to do pushups around the time they started climbing on furniture. As tots they found it enjoyable and loved impressing their father. Fantastic. Positive preparation.

But that means that in that moment when I pointed at Noah, I was SO READY.

He got down and started the process. He huffed and he puffed to his third pushup, and then dramatically whispered with strain, "TWELVE..."

"No way, buddy. That was THREE."

He looked up, a small smirk starting on his lips. My scary eyes washed it away within seconds.

At fifteen, he asked for a break.

"I'm getting your father."

"Nooooooo!"

Yeah, right. I was escaping so he wouldn't see me laugh. I ran up the stairs to where Joe was getting Max ready for bed and whispered the whole thing in his ear, and he, too, got the giggles. But for good measure, he yelled, "Don't make me come down there!"

Listen. If you're judging us right now, I don't even care. These boys are disgusting! You can't even imagine the crusty bathrooms. The junkyard they call their closets. The toothpaste on the mirror because spitting after brushing teeth apparently means turning into a power washer of epic proportions. The farting. The fart JOKES. The pranks! Joey once pretended he broke his neck by crunching a plastic water bottle in his armpit. He abruptly collapsed to the floor like a limp noodle. I screamed and started to cry. He began rolling on the floor, laughing so hard he couldn't breathe. They run me ragged and then cover me with hugs and kisses and apologies and compliments of such sincerity I start to cry all over again. They talk about their poop. Sometimes they call me into the bathroom to show it to me! I'm not kidding! They are exponentially disorganized, and it's literally in their hormones to be so. And oh my goodness, the blood. There's always blood on one of them. And then it's on their clothes with the grass stains and food stains and exploded pens that they keep in their pockets because they must want to one day be sterile!

Read my words: THEY MAKE ME CRAZY!!!!

So, yeah. Given the opportunity to build character, encourage exercise, and return the crazy, you bet your boots I'm taking FULL ADVANTAGE.

And that's called BEING A BOYMOM.

Feel free to share your crazy parenting moments in the comments below. I love it, and believe me, it feels amazing to vent!!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

No Apologies

When I marched up to the gate at the airport the other day, my family rolled their eyes. Here she goes again, their expressions announced. And I mean...my whole family. I haven't been on a plane with my brother and sister since I was fourteen. Their spouses and children all watched me march right up to the gate attendant and announce my injury.

I boarded the plane ahead of everyone, cheerfully claiming my seat. Asking my husband sweetly, "Could you help me?" and reminding him, "I have a broken arm."

I'm annoying everyone and I'm totally fine with it.

A week ago, I was getting ready to board a different plane. Different trip, different flight. It was 3:30 AM, and I didn't want to wake my kids. My middle son Noah had crawled into bed with me at some point, so I had to be really quiet, because I knew if I woke him the resulting whines and tears would cause me strife.

Instead, I dressed for my flight as quietly as I could. To avoid excess noise, I lifted my suitcase up and hobbled to our stairs. And because I'm me, my socked foot slid on the first step and I bounded down eight stairs with the suitcase on top of me.

At the landing, I was crumpled in a daze. The noise of my fall on hollow wood in our echoey house woke everyone. The dog sat worriedly at the bottom of the stairs, Noah rushed down to me, my husband crowded in.

Later Joe told me, "You never made a sound. The fall did, but you didn't."

I did not ask for help. I did not say I was hurt. I didn't say anything. My life is not mine. It belongs to my family. My heart is not mine. It's theirs, too. The only thing in my mind was, "I am getting on that plane." I was going to New York City with my book. The one thing in the world that is one-hundred percent all mine.

I blacked out. Twice. I threw up. Once.

When I couldn't lift my arm at airport security, they offered me first aid. I had no choice but to refuse it when they told me I couldn't fly if my arm was broken.

That's when I knew. Of course it was broken.

"I'm okay," I insisted.

I waited my turn to board the plane. I held up the line of boarding passengers while a nice middle-aged man helped me lift my suitcase into the overhead compartment. In my seat awaiting takeoff, I held my seizing left arm with my right hand and did Lamaze. As the plane picked up speed on the runway, I was sweating, but I felt amazing.

Nothing could take this from me.

I was getting to New York City. I would attend the New York Pitch Conference. I would meet with editors from the best publishers. I would pitch them the book that has consumed my life for too long.

And three of them would say "Send me your work."

The first day I was there, I had no time to worry about a broken arm. I barely made it to the conference. I downed ibuprofen and sat in my chair, avoided movement on my left side, balanced my laptop on my knees, and tried to absorb everything that was said to me. That night, once the conference had finished for the day, I made my way to a creepy city urgent care. My Uber got lost. "Ubers don't get lost," Joe said. "They use Google."

Mine got lost.

The X-ray at urgent care confirmed that my left elbow was fractured. They gave me a sling and advised me to see a specialist as soon as I could.

"Monday," I said. It was Thursday. They looked disapproving, but what could they do, really?

Days one and two of the conference, I was the first of our group to pitch. In front of eighteen people I'd never met before, I had to talk about my book. I had to summarize a story that has become part of me. I had to sell it. Without anyone else to show me how, or to mess up for me to see what not to do, I got up and followed one my life rules: Act confident and no one will know you're not.

When they found out my arm was broken, someone said, "My God. Are you okay?" and I laughed. I told them, "I've waited too long to get here. This won't stop me."

And it didn't.

Day four, I was last to pitch. A new friend (of which there were several, and I'm so grateful) laughed because I had seated my temporarily handicapped self right beside the door and waited and waited for the end of the line to come.

She said, "You're first in line but last to go!"

I burst out laughing much harder than I think she expected. Except...she had just encapsulated my entire life in eight words.

Always first in line. But somehow always last.

A few days later with my arm in a sling, I had my three sons, their respective backpacks, two stray hoodies, and a purse laden with hand sanitizer, gum, snacks, a bottle of water, and somebody else's headphones.

"MO-OM! Joey's not letting me use the tablet!"

"MOM! Tell Noah to stop touching my stuff!"

"Mommy? I have to pee SO BAD!!!!!"

"Mar? Do you have room in your bag for this?"

"I WANTED TO SIT THERE! MOM, TELL HIM I CAN SIT THERE!"

"NO! MOM, TELL HIM I WAS THERE FIRST!"

"Mommy? Is our dog going to die while we're gone?"

Yes. I got on the plane first.

Yes, I asked for help.

But. As you can see, I was first in line, but still last. I'm not complaining.

But I'm not apologizing, either.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

March 14 Student Walkout

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

Almost one month ago, one young person massacred a high school. In the weeks since, stormy debate has overtaken the media over how to best handle this going forward.

I'm not going to talk about that.

I want to shout from rooftops at all the students I ever taught who questioned me when I told them WORDS ARE POWER. I teach seventh grade. It's an age where humans are at a developmental stage  that makes them question everything, even things we know they once knew, like "Why do I have to respect the teacher?" and "What is noun?" and "Why should I be nice to everybody?"

So of course, when I'm jumping around my classroom shouting, "Reading is what the cool kids do! Words are the greatest gift we have!" they're going to call me out.

And good on them.

For real.

First, I don't mind explaining. I could talk endlessly about words (and individual letters, for that matter).

Second, let's raise humans who question the way of things. Let's raise them to examine circumstances and information and to STOP and THINK about WHY. To question:

Is there a better way for the greater good?

That is what the world needs now, and if I may be so bold, our survival always has and always will depend on it.

I was thrilled when I heard about the scheduled National School Walkout scheduled for tomorrow, March 14. All this because a wounded mass of teenagers in Parkland, Florida stepped out of the wreckage and used their words. It wasn't enough that five years ago kindergarteners were killed. That for five years, parents who should have taught their children to swim, taken their little son or daughter to Disney World, or read them Harry Potter have lived every day since December of 2012 living with the aching awareness that they were robbed of those opportunities.

The teenagers of Parkland have emerged from their tragedy strong. They have done research. They have found the right things to say, the best words, and the right things to DO to make a change. They took this on the grandest scale they could: NATIONAL. As a country, they said, let us all show each other that we are not going to allow this anymore. As a country, as our nation's students, let us walk out on the current institution and shout from the rooftops that the status quo is NOT OKAY.

It's beautiful.

Except...

More than once in the time from this plan's inception I've been told of "how each individual school is going to handle that." Um, what?

"Our school is just going to take seventeen minutes of silence so as not to disrupt learning."

"Our school will gather in the gym."

"Our school won't be participating."

*chuckle, chuckle* You're joking, right?

Okay. So, hey teenagers. America's youth. Are you out there? Can you hear me? I want you to do me a favor. Google "walkout." Google "taking a stand." You don't need to tell me what you find out. I guarantee that you're smart enough to process it and realize what I'm saying.

You are our future. Don't let the message of Parkland's survivors be muffled by adults and administrations who can't be bothered, or...what? Are afraid? I don't even know.

Teenagers of America: if you believe in Parkland's message, stand with them. Get up out of your chair, walk out of the classroom. Go down the stairs and out the door.

Stand together.

Use your actions. Use your words. THAT IS HOW IT'S DONE.

Any school, any administration, that employs punitive action against students who participate in the walkout is wrong. Stand together in the largest group you can gather.

Stand up. Walk out. Lives have been lost. Change the future.

Sincerely,

Mary Pat Bielecki,
former teenager
former student
mother
teacher for almost 18 years
believer in words
believer in YOU

P.S.-- Can you spot the shooter in this video?

P.P.S.--Sandy Hook Promise


Saturday, February 24, 2018

On Carrying a Gun in My Classroom

WARNING: You may hate me after this post. I'm a little scared to hit "Publish." But if you'd like to know about the reality of what so many are asking, I have to do it, and encourage you to read it.

My classroom is an energetic place, to say the least. On any given day, a student's experience is one or all of the following:

  • Jumping up and down
  • Screaming and yelling of vocabulary, life experiences, sound effects
  • Dramatic re-enactments of literature or life experiences
  • Throwing of candy to well-deserving students (they like Jolly Ranchers best--you should see when I accidentally drop one; they dive at it like a herd of Walkers in The Walking Dead)
  • Me, running around in erratic circles to hold the attention of seventh graders who hate to read, all the while bumping into things because I'm klutzy, which I accept because it further holds their attention. What's funnier than seeing your teacher trip and fall?
  • Loud music
  • Amazing and intense Powerpoints set to inspirational music
  • Leaping off of furniture
  • The Hokey Pokey
  • The Chicken Dance
  • Final Copy Day; in which my students must turn in final manuscripts of a writing piece on which they've worked for weeks and which must be free of errors lest I return it to them and mark it in my grade book as a zero until it is corrected. High tension situation right there, no exaggeration.
  • Writing Workshop, with students wearing headphones to create their own "soundtracks" or else me playing a loud "Study Playlist" to block out distractions while they work
  • Writing Workshop, in which I travel student to student through the classroom and work one-on-one with them to meet their particular needs for writing improvement. I have between 115 and 130 students year to year. I sit beside each one with a purple or green pen and mark up their drafts from beginning to end with suggestions and changes. I have conversations that include uncomfortable eye contact so they will (to any degree) absorb what I am teaching them.
  • I am an anxious person. This isn't really anyone's business because I do my job well, but for the sake of this discussion, I'll share that I do get migraines, and have, on occasion, taught through migraines accompanied by an aura (spotted vision/vision loss). 
  • I do not have enough sick days because I'm a young mother whose children are sick often. We have a lot of doctor appointments that can only be scheduled during school hours. This means I often come to school exhausted and/or not feeling the greatest. 
Due to all of the above listed items, I am not capable of operating a gun. I should not be given a gun, because in all truth, the above items will affect my judgment and ability to obtain the (presumably locked up or not-immediately-ready-to-fire) gun. I cannot be trusted to aim well for any of the reasons listed above, not least of which is the wellness factor. I will hesitate to pull the trigger because I am not confident I could attack another person, no matter the situation.

Fire me and find someone who can and will carry a gun? Okay. But know that I'm not alone in this. I am not the only teacher whose classroom looks like this and who has the same reservations. I'm willing to bet I'm in the majority, in fact. So what will we end up with? Military teaching our kids? Sacrifice the success of education (which is already a hot-button issue currently being ignored...by the way, please opt your children out of state tests since nothing has changed enough yet to make those tests effective) so that, bottom line, gun laws don't have to change? Not to mention the cost of training and arming educators. But don't worry. School districts have bottomless funds...oh, wait. They don't. Countless fantastic educators have lost their jobs in the last decade. Valuable programs and extracurriculars have been eliminated. Because schools don't have enough money to begin with.

Further, I am going to be one-hundred percent honest with you. Every year, I get to know and truly love my students. But no matter what, I love my own children more and my greatest fear is that I will die and they will grow up without me. Self-centered? Vain? Conceited? I don't care. Call me whatever you want. Bottom line? I'm an EXCELLENT TEACHER, but I will NOT sacrifice my life for anyone but my OWN FAMILY. I will follow all protocol and use logic to the best of my ability to keep students safe, but I won't be the hero on the news. I am needed elsewhere, and that will always be my priority.

Follow the success stories of so many other countries. Limit access to guns. If you're looking to teachers for guidance on this, learn from our example. If a student starts poking a classmate with a pen, a ruler, a pencil...I take the fucking thing away.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Flashback Post: More Than Magic

Flash back to...2011. Joey was 6. Knowing him now, this is even better.

My favorite thing about Joey reading is that he laughs out loud at the funny parts.

There are many things about Joey that remind me of myself. I suppose this is true for all parents, but it still surprises me because he's a boy. It's odd to see so much of yourself in someone who is so fundamentally opposite. It started when he was a newborn, and he wailed dramatically just to eat, easily comforted when he finally got what he wanted after being made to wait a whopping ten extra seconds. My mom saw this and raised her eyebrows. She looked at me knowingly and said, "Who does THAT remind me of?"

It's more pronounced now. There have always been the flickers of me in his regular actions, like when he chooses to draw with chalk instead of play catch with father. When he uses his superhero action figures to create complex storylines instead of having them battle. When he loses time watching the leaves fall from the trees, perfectly content to just sit and daydream. All of these things and more drive my husband crazy, because I guess when you wait all your life to be a father to a son, you don't conjure up the image of a happy little dreamer.

But Joey is so lovable as he is, there's no danger of wanting him to be different. And also, like everyone else in our family, he has stubbornness issues. Even if we did try to encourage him to be anything else, it wouldn't work. He'd resist us fiercely and in his totally matter-of-fact, why-are-you-bothering way.

It's the reading thing that has really spelled it out for us. Joey took to reading fast. We show him words only once or twice, and they are committed to his memory forever. I remember one day in kindergarten, my husband said, "Maybe he should be reading by now." I'm a teacher, but I teach older kids, so I had no idea. I made a face, shrugged a shoulder, and said, "I'm sure they're working on it at school," a phrase that I completely abhor as a teacher and a parent and I still can't believe it was my mentality. It just hadn't occurred to me that he could be old enough to read. "No," my husband said. "We should be doing it now."

So I started filling up Post-It notes with sight words, and then basic words, and then words that turned up in our stories that Joey asked about. We stuck the notes on our kitchen cupboards, and before long our kitchen was a rainbow of words, words, words. Everywhere. On the microwave and the refrigerator, too. And Joey knew them all.

After reading became less of a novelty and more of a, "just what he does" thing, Joey became obsessed with writing. I've always taken for granted that I'm great at spelling and figuring words out from having read so much, but I realized it had to have started somewhere even if I don't remember. We started our Post-It words over again, clearing the cupboards and making room for a new list. Joey began a story on Microsoft Word, his fingers hovering hesitantly over the keys while he struggled to recall where each letter was located. Each time he needed help spelling a word (which was all of them at first), I'd write it carefully on a Post-It and put it up where he could see it. This process only lasted a couple of weeks. After that, he didn't need the Post-Its anymore at all.

When Joey brought home his first report card, it goes without saying that his strongest performance was in Reading and English Language Arts. Art class, Literacy and Library, and Computers gave glowing compliments. He did well in his other subjects, too, but you could see from the teacher comments that his magic comes from the right side of his brain. My husband read the comments and...not quite frowning, looked puzzled. He's an accountant. He loves numbers. He loves charts, especially color-coded ones. He looked up and said slowly, "I think...this must be exactly what your report card looked like when you were in school."

Stupidly, I beamed.

For all of it, nothing fills me with as much joy as when Joey is curled in the sofa with a book or a borrowed Kindle, eyebrows furrowed, lips moving silently to the words on the page. The room is quiet, and I watch him. Suddenly, the frown of deep thought disappears, completely erased as though he is surprised by some delightful part of the story I cannot know. The corners of his mouth curve up, so like his father, his teeth showing in a grin. He closes his eyes, tips his head back, and lets out a loud and wonderful laugh. Sometimes it's accompanied by an, "Oh, man! That's hilarious!" and sometimes he just reads on. But it is wonderful to me that he has the ability to lose himself and enjoy the words so thoroughly.

For me, reading has always been magic. But my son as a reader? More. Much more.


Writing at Age 5


Reading at Age 12 (on a phone...what is this world?!)


Essential Oils and Alexa

Hello, welcome to 2018. This is my life.

At a dinner party a few weeks ago, friends of ours demonstrated the wonders of the Amazon-based smart home device Alexa. "It's not all that expensive," they said. "You should check it out."

So I did.

And then, true to my nature, I ordered it on Prime so it would come really fast. I ripped open the box, because that's always fun. And then I let it sit on my counter for two weeks. Inside my brain, I think there's a Tilt-a-Whirl. You know, the crazy carnival ride where individual cars are spinning in different directions at once while all of them are on a fast rotating wheel. I love that ride, but when that's your life...well.

Anyway.

It's February break in our house, so the boys are off from school. The weather is warm and rainy, and I have the windows and back door open to let in the clean fresh air. I filled my diffuser with an essential oil called Loyalty. I didn't even know I had it! It smelled amazing, and I honestly think it made me happier to be around my kids. They volunteered to help me set up our new Alexa device. I looked at their shiny eyes as they read the directions and it made me feel all lovey and grateful.

Once we got it going, I quickly deterred Joey and Noah from being, well...themselves. That sounds awful. But really, you have to understand, there's a time and a place to break out the juvenile humor of little boys. "Alexa, make a fart noise." "Alexa, what does the fox say?" (Seriously??? That was, like, so 2013!) I jumped in quickly to say, "Alexa, play my iTunes."

If you are looking to feel sentimental with your children, wait for a warm rainy day. Open your windows. Diffuse something wonderful. And turn on Five For Fighting and let your kids serenade you.

We rocked out, singing into imaginary microphones and twirling through the kitchen. We are BIG-TIME twirlers in our house. It's only annoying sometimes.

Watching Joey and Noah in that moment, I thought about my house growing up. Music has always been a huge part of my life. My dad has eclectic and oddly specific taste (he once created a mix tape entitled "Middle Charts Rock"; it was his pride and joy as mix tapes went), and it pushed all of us to develop our own quirky playlists. Now, I can't hear music without building a story in my head or jetting back in time to some almost lost memory that becomes crystal clear with lyrics I know by heart.

Once, my mother and I did a late-night shopping trip to a drug store near our house. We loved shopping there because they had great makeup and beauty products super cheap. Oh, and pantyhose! It was great...if there was a last-minute pantyhose emergency, it was all, "RUN TO VIX!" That was the store's name. Vix.

Anyway, Mom and I were shopping at Vix and had separated somewhere near the lipstick. She always gets sucked into the big center displays of novel items, where I'm more of a go-to girl. Unconcerned, I was scanning for my lipstick color (I think was called Burnished Siena) as the song switched on the speaker somewhere overhead. The store was pretty empty and the aisle shelves were high, so when "You're So Vain" came on, I felt nice and alone and comfortable singing along. As the song progressed, well...I mean, it's "You're So Vain." Surely you've been in a similar situation. I was all alone and lost in the names of lipstick colors and my Tilt-a-Whirl brain was carried away.

As I flung my arms out for the big crescendo, I did a half-twirl. And there, from out behind a giant display of glitter eye shadow, jumped my mother, also doing the dramatic half-twirl to the song's high point. We startled each other, but then burst out laughing at what was, really, a perfect mother-daughter moment. One I'll never forget.

Flash forward to today. Five For Fighting drifted away and the next song on the radio was "Don't Go Breaking My Heart." (I told you. Quirky taste. But you and I both know you're singing one of these songs right now.) Joey was dancing in place by the pantry. I bopped into the laundry room to change loads. As the song grooved into the chorus, I twirled back into the kitchen at the exact same moment that Noah twirled out of the refrigerator. We locked eyes, and, still dancing, broke into crazy laughter.

Magic. The weather's just right. The air smells amazing. Alexa is awesome, and so are my kids.

The world's a mess, and I'm a Tilt-a-Whirl, but that was a great moment.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Why is Mom yelling NOW?!

"Why is Mom yelling?!"

Or, more frequently, "Why is Mom yelling NOW?!"

Some people aren't born yellers. They're patient and calm and speak in a nice low voice all the time, even if someone sets their hair on fire. Max's preschool teacher is like that. He loves her. Hell, I love her. She's fantastic.

But me? I was born loud. I'm not ashamed. I come from loud people. It should be listed as part of our ethnicity. Polish, Italian, Irish, LOUD.

Also in that list would be emotional. This used to bother me, but I'm kind of proud of it now. You never need to worry about whether I'm being honest with you. My face is ALWAYS honest with you, no matter what my mouth is saying.

So if shit goes down, this mom is yelling. That answers that. But let's now look at a typical morning in my house, and you tell me if you can figure out why Mom is yelling NOW.

For the fourth or fifth time in a row, my four-year-old son Max woke at 4 am unable to breathe from coughing up all the gook that had settled in his chest while sleeping. All children do this at some point or another. With my older two, it was annoying, an inconvenience, but also pleasant in the way that I could pick them up and lean against the wall or sit in the rocking chair and at least half sleep while comforting them.

Max wants a shower.

Max, as a human, is relentless. So, at 4 am, I get up, take off his jammies, and put him in the shower. And then we both get steamy, our noses run, and we are wide awake.

And usually by now, so is the dog and so is my middle son Noah.

Okay, I think, I can do this. As long as I have coffee.

Making coffee is a nice easy procedure. Except the few simple steps are interrupted by I want breakfast. I have boogers. Bizzy's in the basement! No, not THAT breakfast. Hey! He took the last muffin! I wanted THAT muffin! I have boogers. Ew! He has boogers! I'm gonna puke! Uuuggghhh. Mom, I missed the toilet. Ew! He missed the toilet? Now I'm gonna puke! Did he take my muffin?

But that's not even when it gets exciting. Wait until the oldest wakes up and "can't find" whatever he needs for school. It's usually laying on the floor. Right in front of him. Because, did you know?, that's where stuff will be found when you never put it away.

By the time I got to take my first sip of coffee today, my brain was scrambled eggs. So when Max came up, two snot rivers flowing cheerfully from his nose, and said, "I'm bored," I put my coffee down, and said in my usual loud voice, "I AM HAVING A BAD DAY."

To which he responded, "Geez! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?"

*Narrow-eyed, dead-pan facial expression.* Right here.

But he is sick. He is my little sickie. His eyes are about two inches in diameter and the prettiest green you ever saw, and somehow when he is sad his eyelashes get longer and poke the top of his head, so I said, "Here. Let's do something fun."

And I got the great big bowl reserved for Halloween candy and I filled it with fresh snow from outside. We got our Play-Doh toys and a ladle and Max's mittens and BOOM! A snow day indoors.

I am awesome.

All joy and smiles until I walked away for ten seconds and he decided to add sundae sprinkles to his snow bowl.

And they spilled.

Everywhere.

Man those suckers get some distance when they hit the floor.

So I'm vacuuming. It's cool. I love to vacuum. I break out the vacuum hose; I'm loving the sound of the sprinkles getting all sucked up.

"Mom! I'm gonna go get some superheroes to play with in the snow!"

My clever, creative boy. I'm so proud of us both, I'm dancing with the vacuum hose.

That's when I sucked up his mitten. You know...I try to be myself for one second...and guess what else? I still haven't had any coffee.

Thirty minutes later, my brand new vacuum is dismantled. The floor is a giant puddle where the snow melted. The dog is throwing up (because why not?). My arms are covered in vacuum dust. Max is bored.

"I'm going to wash my hands, and then we'll clean up," I tell him.

I enter the bathroom. I step in a lake of urine.

"I am having a BAD DAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!!"

"Geez, Mom. Mrs. Hanley always tells me, 'Just forget about the bad thing and move on with your day.' That's what she tells me. You should try that."

Thanks. Thanks a lot. But I am covered in vacuum dust and someone else's pee.

Screw it. I'm just drinking my coffee now.

P.S.--Max is still wearing the other mitten because, he told me, he needs to keep it safe from crazy mom.