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Running on "E"- part 2

****cue sad violin music************

I was at first thinking that perhaps last week's trip to Massachusetts and nearly running out of gas struck a cord with me because I am neurotic and anything such as this can send me into a tizzy. Or, perhaps it is because almost running out of gas and therefore running on "E" is a perfect metaphor for the last year and a half of my life.

Having a second kid has been ten times more work than just having one. (I don't care how those with more than two manage, ok?) It didn't help me that I finally got a boss (which I'm actually very thankful for) and some fire under my butt to make our office the best it can be. As all new moms heading back to work, I didn't have the time to think very much about how hard the transition was and what a drain pumping and nursing was on my body. Not to mention battling winter illnesses, being out of the house for 3/4 of the day, sludging through freezing, snowy weather and terrible roads, and trying my best to "pretend" that I wasn't a crazed, tired, crabby mom during work. For better or worse, I hit autopilot and cruised through the academic year. During those 10 months, there was a great deal of laughter and many tears as we figured out how to be a family of four with two working parents.

As the buds popped out on the trees and we woke up to sunshine, I anxiously awaited my summer hiatus from work. I'm so lucky to have eight weeks off in the summer and time to spend each and every day raising my kids and enjoying the weather and activities of summertime. As each day passed and my time off neared, I envisioned how much easier my outings would be with a toddler and almost Kindergartner. No more worries about nursing and keeping the baby out of the sun or having to hold a little one's hand in the water with an infant strapped to my chest. Maybe Char would even play in the sand while Caroline splashed in the water and I could sit in a beach chair, soaking the sun and enjoying my little ones gaining independence. I needed this vacation- yes- let's call it what I want it to be- a vacation, badly. How people go to work day after day, month after month with as little as five days vacation, is beyond me. Eight weeks away from the office makes me work harder when I am at work, gives me time to stop thinking and freaking about every detail of office life, so that when I return I have the energy to deal with all the junk a job brings. By June, I knew that my tank was on low and I could turn the autopilot off and cruise into August.

Bwwwhaaaaaaa! (Is that how you write an evil laugh?) Not so fast, silly Mommy! Just as I flipped the switch and set the car to coast, we hit a speed bump, and yet another speed bump. Occasionally this summer I may have even tried to back out of one of those pay parking lots with the strip of pointy metal sticking up out of the ground that rips up your tires if you go the wrong way.

Charlotte has become a rambunctious little being who likes to rise with the sun and run full speed ahead until she passes out each night. She climbs onto the kitchen table, sticks her hands in the toilet, searches for every unlocked drawer and delights in trying to ride her sister, and the cats, like a horse. Caroline has revolted this summer, or turned into a thirteen year old overnight. She falls into fits of anger at the slightest event, mostly me telling her no, she can't eat candy or watch TV all day or ride the bike parked outside of the library.

In conjunction with realizing my children are ever- growing, changing and reacting to the world around them, good old Andy has decided to go on a parental vacation. Apparently, my time off from work means he gets time off from home. During the summer, most responsibilities in the house, from sun up to sun down, fall on my shoulders. From making the bed to making dinner- oh, yeah, and caring for the kids, has been my unspoken responsibility. (He would like for it to be known that changing the litter pans and plunging the toilet are his year-round duties.) Due to this domestic divvying, Andy is responsible for all outdoor care like mowing the lawn and weedwacking. Coincidentally, these are all activities not to be conducted with little children at one's side. I watch him, with his serene expression, as he walks back and forth along the lawn, listening to his ipod. I do this while the kids wrap themselves around my legs, pleading for more juice and cheese sticks. I have to read their lips, you see, to know what they want because I can't hear them. I too, have decided to put my ipod on.

I feel like a failure of a parent because stay-at-home parents do this every day. Working parents do this every day. People do this and care for elderly parents or fight cancer, work multiple jobs, volunteer for their community. So, why can't I? Why is it that I can barely change a few poopy diapers, calm a tantruming child, fill some sippy cups, fold laundry and burn a quiche for dinner? People- tell me! What is the secret? How do I pull together the perfect family, be the perfect wife, mother, friend and stellar employee? Screw perfection, how do I hold down these roles without being told I need therapy and Prozac or looked at with dagger eyes in Target? How do I go to work without regurgitated food on my shoulder or spend "romantic" time with my husband and not make a grocery list in my head?

I'm running on fumes. The tank is on "E" and I'm stuck between the New York State Thruway and the MassPike and there is no gas station for miles and miles. Good thing we have the gold card for AAA. I hope they can tow me to Jamaica- alone.

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