Home.

There’s a dark green carpet in my new family room that is already my nemesis. I suppose any color carpet and four kids is a terrible combination, like beer and tequila and that one night at the dance club 15 years ago.

I have yet to crack the code of the thermostat, which thankfully was stuck on cold and not off (says she who decided to move on the hottest day of the year). Though it would be nice to know that when I put it on auto cool, that doesn’t mean on heat.

But hey, it’s still more predictable that my 2-year old.

The first couple of nights, it just didn’t feel like home, which is funny for me since my places of residence have never felt like home. My transient lifestyle took me all over the midwest, then the south, then the tour de inlaws, then back to the south again and I never thought of myself as someone who could be settled in a place so much that I’d really miss it.

I’ve never really been attached to stuff, mostly because I never actually had ownership of anything growing up, my dad the kind of person who would give in a good mood, then take away in a bad one, so I learned to never hold onto anything, tangible anyway.

But even though my home in Atlanta was poorly decorated, unless you count toddler drawings on the walls and play-doh speckles on the carpet, I suppose it became mine over the years. The place where two of my kids were born, one literally, filled with all sorts of memories that can’t be packed in a box.

Nonetheless, they’re brought with me here as I settle into the ‘burbs of Philly, now just a few miles from my people, a few more from my family.

Since I’ve arrived, I’ve felt as though I couldn’t breathe, the next in my odd series of psychosomatic symptoms I’ve been experiencing lately, leaving me to wonder if I was having some sort of allergic reaction to the house, the new surroundings.

My in-laws. (ha).

The first time I’ve seen my mom in over a year.

But then my friend arrived, and my kids returned from a weekend at the beach, and all our kids played and fought and ate and fought again. The emails, updates, and texts from old friends now close have been a warm welcome.

Suddenly I could breathe.

Free birth control aka my trip to Wegman’s and Sports Authority last night

Last night I decided it might be fun to go out to dinner at Wegman’s, followed by Sports Authority and then Home Depot, which is not something out of the ordinary for people with no children, but generally not for people with children, let alone had FOUR OF THEM.

Maybe it’s the cheese steaks and WAWA coffee taking over my brain because there’s just no good that can come out of that whatsoever.

But at dinner time? On a Friday?

The last attempt at Wegman’s alone with four kids a few days ago ended with me doing the “you stand here and you stand here and you stand over here and don’t move until I say so” which seems like the best last resort at the time but doesn’t actually work because you’re distracted by the bagger putting your eggs in with your orange juice and suddenly they are playing tag again in the checkout line and you’re apologizing to the 17-year old cashier who looks visibly afraid.

So why not try it again?

Because I enjoy torture, or really, not cooking and instead paying $389,123 for prepared food from a hot bar so my kids can sit in tiny benches and stare at a television screen while I shove the first meal of the day down my gullet.

And aside from the fighting over the high chairs, we actually made it through dinner in a totally not-appropriate Emily Post is rolling in her grave this is the sort of thing that people will judge us for situation.

SpongeBob is my babysitter

(Totally turning that into a bumper sticker)

But the problem with a semi-successful dinner outing is that you get all brave and ballsy and HELL YEAH I’M GOOD AT THIS PARENTING SHIT, MOTHER EFFERS and you think that you can stop at other places and do all the errands because well…

you’re dumb.

TOTAL ROOKIE MOVE.

Leave while you’re ahead, woman. Enjoy the sweet taste of victory (which is gulped down falafel and tofu curry if you’re wondering) and leave.

And really, it wasn’t too bad with the kids waving lacrosse sticks at each other, then trying on 20 pairs of roller skates, until Bridget decided she didn’t want to wear shoes in the store and threw them at me.

So I tried to put them back on and that was well, loud, and then she took them off again, at which point a seemingly nice lady decided to “help” me by letting me know that my “other one” was a little far away and “well you might want to…” Which what? What do I might want to do exactly? TELL ME. Because right now I’m trying to put shoes on a screaming 2-year old and unless my child is on fire, I’m pretty sure she’s fine.

And really, given how her sister is screaming like someone cut off her feet, I doubt anyone will want to take any person related to her.

Turns out, my shoe-wearing offspring (who are very good about staying together, by the way) were all standing with their face in the vagina of a mannequin laughing hysterically because LOOK HOW TALL I AM MOMMY NOSE IS RIGHT IN HER…

Yeah okay then. I’m sorry what were you saying, ma’am?

So hey thanks for the tip, lady, no need to worry. Just here, spreading a little birth control (and sex education, apparently) to my fellow humans at Sports Authority on a Friday night.

Language arts.

I try to take the questionable language my kids sometimes use in stride. So while a fresh, sassy mouth will get you a quick send-off to the corner, a random “sucks” or “what the hell” doesn’t really bother me.

Oh I still pop right up on my soapbox with a “those are adult words” and a “we don’t say these to the neighbor kids PLEASE” talk, but then get sent on their merry way. I figure that so long as they can keep it in our house, or if they’re a bit more unsavory in their rooms, we’re all good.

But this brilliant let’s-get-upset-about-stuff-that’s-actually-really-bad parenting doesn’t take into account the tiny one in the house, which I discovered when she started calling me a Dumb-ask, which she heard from her brother which he heard from, well, we won’t discuss that, but let’s just say now my BFF’s kid is saying it.

I think the hardest part of the whole thing is not to laugh when she uses it in completely appropriate situations, like when her brother takes her piece of banana bread. Or when her sister elbows her.

I mean, they kind of are being dumbasses. Or Dumb-asks.

A few days ago, we were at my in-laws (hey-yo, 10 minutes away, guys!) and my little 18-month old niece was there, who Bridget has deemed her archenemy because, well, she’s always been the baby.

“She’s mean!” Bridget said to me, pointing at an adorable, smiley whispy-blonde haired toddler who is a dead ringer for a baby doll.

“Blabbieprrrrrffffftmoooooo” replied her little cousin, scampering off in all her INCREDIBLE MEANNESS.

Whoa, watch out. That kid is a TIGER!

They played a bit more and then ended up near me in the kitchen, where for seemingly no reason, the little cousin reached out and pinched Bridget’s arm in one of those slow motion you can see it coming but can’t stop it in time situations, at which point Bridget gave me an I-told-you-so look before SCREECHING at the top of her lungs.

It was more like a I WANT TO BE THE ONLY BABY kind of screech because lord knows Bridget can dish it out and can certainly take it, so one little toddler pinch would not cause her this much strife.

But then, while my mother-in-law was trying to explain to the baby that pinching wasn’t nice, Bridget turned around, walked right up to her, and said:

YOU’RE A DUMB-ASK.

As she walked back to the playroom, I got up to grab her, but then, sat right back down because you know, I can’t say I really blame her.

And hey, it was better than pinching her back or calling her a SHITHEAD.

If the shoe doesn’t fit, throw it.

My littlest one has never really liked wearing shoes, but lately, she’s been taking them off in public. And then refusing to put them back on.

This is fine if you’re at, say, the beach. Or, a grassy knoll.

But in the middle of a store, the library, or A PUBLIC RESTROOM, it’s ridiculously annoying. Gross, even.

I go from “put your shoes on please,” to counting, to forcing them on her feet at which point she screams like I’m cutting off her pinky finger and then proceeds to just toss them off again.

I carried her out of one store like a sack of potatoes under my arm, which left a fabulous impression on all the people behind me at the quality and ingenuity of my parenting skills.

So I decided that I would win this little game because I’M THE MOMMY DAMNIT and I took her to the shoe store to get new shoes that would stay on her feet. Give me shoes that shine, flash, glow-in-the-dark and send smoke signals to fairies so long as she keeps them on her feet.

Lucky for me, the shoe sales people were 18-year olds with no children who apparently don’t understand that the ability for them to take them off on their own is NOT a good thing.

Screw independence. Give me duct tape!

Then they did what every nice shoe sales person is supposed to do and offered to size her which PSHAW oh please. Good luck getting her to put her tiny foot on your fancy sizer thing.

Which she did with no argument, smiling happily. Of course.

“Now let me go see if I have those in a 7.5,” the girl said, headed to the back, home of the sale section aka “shoes for children I can actually afford in your fancy shop.”

SEVEN AND A HALF?

Poor kid’s been wearing a 6. Or at least, I’ve been forcing her to wear a six until she throws them at my head.

And quite honestly, I can’t really blame her.

Fun

The whole “18 Summers” thing has completely wrecked my parenting.

You know, the “you’ve only got them for this long until they leave the nest and you’re miserable so get off your fucking phone and play with them DAMNIT” thing.

I can’t be the only one who thinks that whenever anyone says something like that.

You only have 18 summers, you know or soon they’ll be driving you around or I miss when they were small and making gigantic messes with LEGOs.

Seriously, someone actually said that to me and I wanted to make him walk through my playroom barefoot just to watch him beg me for mercy.

See, I know I will miss it and I will be sad. I’m already that parent who knows what is coming but is still distracted on my phone sometimes when my kids are showing me the soap they carved with a butter knife at which point they make me feel like shit.

So when I saw the whole 18 summers thing, with it’s actual number that you can countdown and feel crappier every year you get closer to that magic number, I decided that we needed to have fun.

FUN!!!

And now, every single freaking action I take and decision I make all summer long must pass the fun test, which means we’re having popsicles for breakfast and taking trips to Washington D.C. and eating goldfish before bed even after we brushed our teeth and then must brush them again BECAUSE MOTHEREFFING FUN.

Now it’s not that I’m not usually fun, but I’m busy a lot and I work a lot and I’m alone a lot and add that all up and you get well, orderly and organized and sometimes a little rigid and well, maybe not super fun. Dinnertimes and bedtimes and schedules because that is how sanity must be maintained.

Side effects: Shortness and loud talking.

Which for kids is probably not fun, even though I’d argue fun is had, just not necessarily in an eat whatever you want for dinner so long as it’s actual food kind of fun.

So as you might guess, my SUMMER OF FUN DAMNIT plan has completely backfired and now my kids think that I’m a pushover. Because as we parents know, fun comes with a price.

What I think is fun, like a DC Duck Tour in the blazing heat on a weird bus that goes into the water with “Captain Talks A Lot” as my son called him, quite accurately because that’s his job and all, is not really fun to them.

The train ride is long and boring and all the walking is long and boring and the baseball game is hot and long and you guessed it BORING.

When are we getting on the bus? When are we getting off the bus? Are we at the Metro? Can’t we just take a taxi? I’m hot, thirsty, tired, hungry I NEED ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW MOM can you get me some cotton candy and you got me PINK I WANTED BLUE.

And now they think they can have goldfish before bed every night.

But then, as my daughter dosed off after a day of long boring walking, she said “Mom, you’re so fun.” Which can only mean one thing. She’s buttering me up for the Fruit Loops she saw in the hotel lobby breakfast bar.

Or maybe, amidst all the groaning, moaning, and whining, which I’m pretty sure is part of being a kid, they’re having fun after all.

And the truth is. So am I.