By midsummer, things were getting a bit unsteady around the Manor. When I’d get home from work, the Mrs.,shewould have ‘the look.’ You know the one. It’s mostly in the eyes, but her face, oy vey; it gets so ashen and screams of defeat. It’s as if her pupils’ turn into little waving white flags, “I give! Uncle! Calgon, take me away!” (Note: if you are not living life as a baby boomer, Calgon was marketed to females only as the answer to life’s woes in the form of a bubble bath). It’s a strong tell for me that the Littles had spent yet another day as tiny behavioral terrorists, ignoring all forms of vocal messaging from the mother ship until things got bat-shit crazy. Tears have fallen from all six eyes, Gatsby hides under the bed, and then, only then, do apologies abound from two miniature mouths.
Life without the chaos routine of school and all it’s afternoon extracurricular activities was affecting us all. The Mrs. and me, we needed to lay down the law. While not outnumbered, and still holding a slight edge in altitude, we needed some household rules. Over dinner, a purely shpilkes (anxiety, ants in the pants kind of feeling) producing activity referred to in a past post, I broached the topic of developing martial law some guidelines to help us all through sanity our cohabitation. I needed ‘buy in’ fast, so I said toLittle and Big, as I made those eyes to the Mrs., you know the ones that say please, please, please… just go with me on this, “You two get to set the rules on how we are going to get along. Mommy and Ema need your help.” I begged, “Think about it now and let’s discuss how this is going to work.” And the Littles, they spoke, excitedly:
Always listen to Mommy and Ema
Don’t interrupt when anyone is talking
Clean up after we play
Answer your questions and look at you in the eyes
Clean our room after our friends come over or we made a mess
Don’t hurt Gatsby, or pull his tail, or poke him or yank his ears or put our hands in his mouth
No kicking or hitting or spitting
Share more and don’t say ‘mine’
No screaming because we have neighbors
Don’t jump on the sofa
Say I’m sorry like we mean it
When Mommy and Ema say it’s bedtime, we have to get ready for bed
They do listen. They just don’t do. We both applauded their thoughtfulness and went about our evening foolishly thinking, we rocked this! And then two minutes later… not so much.
I sadly looked over all of our house rules, and then came up with an idea. At the next meal (Jews, we always have to eat while doing important things, or at least talk about where we will next eat, or what we just ate), I bring it up:
All of the rules we discussed are wonderful and I think there are too many to remember? Why don’t we start with just one rule?
And don’t you know, about two weeks in, we are living life so much better, with two simple words…
Now, mittendrinnen(in the middle of) this mishegas (craziness), my Mrs., she loses both her credit card and her bankcard. Now, was it not just two weeks ago when I shared with you the struggles of themissing wallet? Oy vey (sheesh). In a freakish, ominous ‘take 2’ moment, we found ourselves at the same movie theatre, to see the same movie, Pete’s Dragon. This time, the hooligans who found her goods were not as nice as the previous Good Samaritan. They bee-lined it to Best Buy and did some substantial ‘best-buying.’ Over $2000 worth… enough damage to give us our own detective!
We are now without a credit card or cash and are fighting fraud. Our frugalista status has reached a record new low. The Mrs., she is distraught in a new way. I remember it is not her fault.
There is a genetic marker on her very DNA strand, aligned with both her mother and her sister – a truly unfair predisposition to the mis-placement of important items. Latin name, ‘vitalgoneastrayitis.’ They suffer.
Me, I thankfully also remember our house rule, be kind.
A shtikel mazel iz vert merer vi a ton gold.A little bit of luck is better than a ton of gold.
I can also pop corn on my face. Pretty impressive you’re thinking, ha?
Warning to all male readers: I am about to delve into the anatomy of a hot flash. This may mean talk of lady parts (though doubtful), cycles that coincide with the moon, and all things related to estrogen, and the natural biological process of what I call, estrogen-not.
You’re still here. Nice. After all, you have wives, moms, and daughters. You’re a real mensch (good-hearted person) for staying! So, as I was saying, my body has run cold my entire life. Blue fingers and lips when it’s 89 degrees in the shade…no joke! I wear many layers of clothing all year round. And yes, I’m at that age where that mysterious metamorphosis materializes.
I remember back in the day, getting happy when I got carded before entering a bar. It’s the exact same feeling now when the doctor or lab technician says, “Do you still get your period honey?” Go Girrrrrrrrrrrl!
It’s crazy, from the moment that first red dot appeared, I despised it. My parents, they made such a taka mitziah (big fucking deal) out of it – took me out to dinner? My mother, she told the waitress. Attention Judy Blume: you, God and Margaret did not help me to prep me for a scenario like that. “I’ll have the nova platter with an everything bagel, toasted lightly, cream cheese on the side; Morty, he’ll have the stuffed cabbage, and my daughter, she got her period today!” That was a long time ago, but the memory is etched in my brain.
And now, look at me, saving energy by cooking on my sizzling body parts! I’m finally one hot momma! At first, I had maybe 3 hot flashes, and that was it. I thought, well that was easy! Today, I get my schvitz (a deep, heavy sweat) on maybe 8, 9, 23 times a day (and night). This schvitz emanates from the subterranean parts of my core and rises both up and out simultaneously. Toxins and impurities run scared from every molecule of my being.
While this little body convection oven starts cooking, my heart, she races. Archetypal fight or flight heart palpitations, like the saber-toothed tiger is running after me, mittendrinnen (in the middle of ) every fucking thing. My fingers, they tingle (which is good, because I have to flip the eggs to cook evenly). And a perfect coating of sweat covers every single square inch of my person, from the waist up. I’m lichticheh (lit-up) and radiant. They don’t call this a flash for nothing! As quickly as she starts, she’s over. After, I get a little bit chilly. Oy vey iz mer.
Does this mean I’m an alta kocker (literally, the term means an old shit, but over the years, pleasantries have reduced the term to more akin with, ‘old fart’)? Hell no! I think age is a just a state of mind. My Little and my Big, they keep me young. I’m reliving the childhood I missed get with them, and loving almost every minute of it. And, I gotta stay young to take care of my Mrs.
For now, I’ll make eggs, or pop popcorn, and take solace in knowing that I am still being responsible and frugal for my family. Spa, shmah! For a schvitz like THIS, it would cost an arm and a leg.
Note: no eggs were harmed during the writing of this post. And Alannis, isn’t it a bissel (little bit) ironic that when my eggs cease to produce, I can scramble, poach, sunny-side up and over-easy like a pro right atop those ovaries? Next up, omelets.
So tomorrow, we are going to renew our lease at the Manor. I feel kind of, well, feh (grief, blending with a bit of the blues) about everything. While not out of our hole, we are vigorously, frugally digging. We were hoping to be further along, but beshert is beshert (que sera-sera). There are irons in the fire. Well, there’s metal. And it’s hot.
Some of you may remember our previous ‘pest period.’ It was not pretty, especially for the Mrs., who at the time, I affectionately referred to as my LMPP (loving mouse-phobic partner). It seems as though the little grey gremlins are back. This may be a karmic result of my recent rant on mosquitoes (which also led to a doozy of a spider bite that took me down and out). Insert ‘WHITE FLAG’ here for all things alive and erring on icky.
So I get a call at work. The Mrs. and Little, they hear a squeaking sound under the stove. Gatsby, he hears it too. His nose is at the base of the stove and his tail is standing tall. “There must be a nest!”
I try to calm the terror in her voice. I gotta say this family needs this like I need a loch in kup (hole in my head). I quietly explain how we don’t have a nest, but we probably did catch a creature under the cooker. Since it’s wailing aloud, apparently a better mousetrapcanbe built! We stopped and held a moment of silence for the torturous death that was transpiring in our very own home. My shana madelah (sweet Little) had to hear this mishegas (craziness). We decide to try not to let Big find out about this incident. Why fan the flames inferno?
The Mrs., she calls the Manor (the third management company since our stay) and is told we will be placed on rotation for pest control. Oy gevalt (fuck this shit, ugh, gee whiz, really)! By the time I get home from work, the squeal had ceased, as did the mouse that roared.
A few nights ago, the Mrs., she comes into the bedroom, locates me amidst a bulk of blankets, Big, Little, and their selected ‘stuffies.’ She pokes at my ribs, and says, “It went snap. I heard a snap in the other room.” This could only mean one thing (aside from a lousy slumber). More.
Well, the Mrs. and Big are now bothchaleria’s (slightly psychotic) and trembling in terror when it comes to these small, unwelcome beasts of burden. I got up (really just to pee) and secured the bedroom door (as much as one can do) and we all (yes, we are all together in one bed, in one room, for this very grey, furry reason) set off for a restless, edgy nights’ sleep.
The next morning, I get up at my normal 4am to work before work. Several hours later, alarms blaring, the Mrs., der kinder (the kids) and Gatsby all amble out of the bedroom, sleepy-eyed and cotton mouthed. “Did you check,” she asked me? “Nope,” I replied.
In a pre-caffeinated blur of bravery, the Mrs., my LMPP, she opens the doors to the closet where said snap sound came from a few short hours ago. She looked at me, pale and panicked. She mouthed, “Two. Dos. Duo.” Bring the body bags.
Since it is only 7:20 am, I fire off an email to our newest friend in Manor management, Matthew. I hit send and barely heard the electronic swoosh of the email leaving, when I am startled from a sharp knock at the door. “Who is it?” “Maintenance!”
I pinched myself to prove I wasn’t dreaming (just exhaustion). It was Franklin! Franklin – my morning knight in shining arm gloves, carrying a plastic bag. The kids are so busy getting ready for school that they don’t even notice him exhuming the bodies.
He came back soon after with fresh traps in hand. The Mrs., she says, “Aren’t you going to add peanut butter?” Franklin mulls it over, probably thinking, ‘hmmm, a nice nosh (snack, meal, or in this case, last supper), even for a mouse?’ He looks perplexed. No PB in his toolbox. What to do? So the Mrs., she gives him the organic, free range, dead-sea salted smooth spread that we’ll be paying off for the next 30 years. At least they’ll go out with a nice nosh?
We are ferklempt ( a hot mess) over here. So, who among you has this issue, and how are you handling it?
On Saturday, the time had come for me and the Mrs. to turn in her car because the lease was up. I was concerned because the car was, let’s say, very lived in, with a lot of memorable experiences . It was totally ‘kid-ified.’ To her amazing credit, the Mrs. did a bang-up clean up in the nick of time, and it showed rather well.
On our drive over, der kinder (the kids) in tow, my agita (anxiety, in Italian I think?) was palpable and we were all desperately in need of a good laugh. It had been a rough week for multiple reasons, least of all our need for frugality.
I put my hand on the Mrs. shoulder while she was driving and said, “Honey, when we get to VW place, the ground is the limit!”
The Mrs., she started with a small chuckle, and landed into a nice, hearty gaffaw! We all started laughing, and so began our new journey with the greatest sound my ears can ever hear.
The holidays are headed our way, no bones about it. While I do not care to keep track of how many shopping days are left until Christmas, I do know all too well, how many days left until payday. And that is just an icky, new feeling that I must get used to. We managed through those eight crazy nights of Hanukkah; I suppose the big red-suited man will let us fly by too.
Please, do not for one moment feel bad about us! We are doing the very best we can right now, and I know we are not alone. Tough times, tough measures surround us all. We are very grateful for what we have, and more importantly, who we have surrounding us with love, joy and support both during the holidays, and year round.
Thankfully, Little and Big don’t really ask for a lot. They never have. We are just in ‘Living Lean’ mode, and with that, will come a special frugality to the season that should not be misconstrued as ‘Grinchism.’ We got through it last year, and I guess that means we should be even better at it by this year? This year, the Mrs. and me have not even argued about a budget. We both know its bubkes.
I love the holidays, as viewed through the eyes of Little and Big. I grew up on latkes and menorahs – a jelly donut was a big deal for my Big and me. Of course, a purple tree, blinking lights, ornaments…it’s a huge WOW!
On Christmas Eve, Toffey will spend the night. We will make egg-free cookies for Santa (sorry big guy, Little is allergic) together – a few for him, a few for us. A ‘nice nosh.’ We will sup together. And we will all wake up early in our jammies, and see the surprises that Santa has left for us after his magnificent voyage across the world.
Here at the Manor, luckily men have been outside working on all the chimneys in our building for the past several weeks. I expounded on all the ‘white lying’ of the season by telling the girls that they are readying them for Santa, his elves and the reindeer. Yes, this haimish’aYid buys in. I hear the bells ringing on the polar express and love the look on their little joyous faces on Christmas morning.
Here is what I don’t so much love:
The lack of sleep – in fact, my sleep bank may very well mirror my…well, you know
We have less charitable giving to offer this year
We cannot yet get the girls, us, an addition to the family in the form of a new pug. We are so very grief-stricken by the tremendous loss of Atticus and Eli.
Here’s what I do love:
My kids get to celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas, so the magic of the white haired man rocks in this house
When I asked them what they got last year from Santa, they had no idea – but they did remember the experiences we made together and the joy of the people we shared them with
Toffey is making a beautiful tradition with us on Christmas Eve, and he swears up and down, and sideways too, that he never, ever sees or hears Santa come in at night with our haul
So, frugal schmugal. We do the very best we can. We make memories, not bills. We enjoy the time-shared.
Wishing all of you, the very best of the holiday season!
The days that follow a ‘do-over’ hold unnecessary stress for all of the family. The pain gonif strikes on its own schedule. Azoy. Time was carved out and stolen. It does not come back easily. We stay cautiously optimistic, not knowing when the thief returns…
“Mommy, are you better?” Four little words. Oh how to answer these sweet little faces. Super Mommy powers to the rescue. Grab your land legs, “Of course sweeties!”
Little, Big, Ema and me need some fun.
A nice day. Crisp, autumn air.
A babbling brook. Discoveries abound.
Crunching leaves underfoot. Running over bridges.
Peeping in windows. Making believe. Making it real.
Bumping into fellow Miquon tots.
Jumping across the creek rocks. Slipping into the cold water.
Oops! Giggling, then freezing. No fear here.
A time like no other.
Beautifully, fantastically brought to you by mother earth.
This has been a tumultuous year (or two) in our family. Loss. Pain. Change. Fear. Panic. Anxiety. Surgery, job loss, death, sweet soul-mate pet losses, friend loss, financial insecurity, personal insecurity, moving out of our home, living week to week, working two jobs, missing my family, start-up sorrows, sleep deprivation…and now, just for fun, lets add mice (of which my partner has the greatest of phobias) in our new humble abode…okay. Bring it on…this is life and we all have our proverbial hand of cards to play.
It’s been messy. It’s been tearful. Well ‘F’ that—we’ve sobbed enough tears this past year; but not enough that they don’t keep flowing. It’s been– the kind of year where you can truly recognize what family means and who your friends are.
Through all of this, there must be some lesson that can help me to redefine what success and failure actually mean. This requires lowering the volume on the often loud, and thunderous narrative that takes place in my head. You know that voice…I am trying with all of my might, wit and Mom-superpowers to fully grasp that feeling like a failure and failing might actually be two different things.
As a family, we’ve had to change a lot about how we live each day and exist in today’s ‘ca-chinging,’ credit card culture. Frugality does not come easy for all. So very hard to do when you have two adorable, loveable and well deserving girls (insert that failure feeling here). So hard to do when it hasn’t always been the way we’ve done our life. When prior salaries have had different places to insert a comma.
Enter the new world of our frugal-foursome, wear we live lean, lean on, and lean in.
Slash the budget and stop the hemorrhage. This requires tremendous discipline in thought and outcome (and the realization that we are still bleeding)
Cut the cord—goodbye Comcast, hello Netflix
Control has to win over convenience, which is really just a luxurious money suck—Eat home, brown bag lunches, snacks and beverages, avoid quaint coffee culture
Sell the house—downsize, move, rent
Kill the guilt that fuels spending and brings on a different kind of guilt—make memories, give experiences, learn to live well with less. Discover the joy, contentment and happiness in ourselves and with each other
Seek ways to continually course correct our new ‘lean awakening’, leaving senseless squabbles behind
Share the burden of stresses that I hold so deep and internal
Recognize that ‘thrift maven’ may come in stages for those of us that are more ‘spendy’ and ergo, less frugal
Control what I can control
Always lead by example
Keep my ‘cup half full attitude,’ even when I question the what exactly is in the cup
Work hard and make the time to play hard—it’s just as important
Set goals together for a purpose, because some may just find the simple act of saving for savings sake boring
Are we better? Are we fixed? No. Are we always on the same page? No. But we are wiser. And with that wisdom, there have been moments, sweet joyous moments of pure bliss.
There’s no going back. Yes, we would like some more financial stability. Yes, we would like less pain, and most certainly (and quickly!) an absence of vermin. But for now, we are where we are and we are constantly becoming who we will be. We are a beautiful work in progress.
We know together that one cannot buy good parenting or good partnering. Frugality and discretion won’t change our love for one another as we walk the path less purchased. We will definitely stop along the way to welcome the happiness in the small moments as they appear.