Fire in the hole

I have been pretty good, I think, about sitting on my hands when it comes to how our new summer schedule is working out for everyone. I have been trying to take that old expression about not saying anything if I don’t have anything nice to say to heart, a bit more, you see. Also, I’ve been trying some of that positive thinking thing I always hear people talking about, where I don’t dwell on things that are unpleasant, but rather focus on the GOOD and therefore, in this case, the IMAGINARY.

This summer sucks donkey balls, quite frankly. Now you know.

The stress level ’round here is palpable, and try as I might to get a handle on my emotions, the two very small and stressed-out people scurrying around here are a constant reminder of how much this situation just blows for everyone involved.

Having the kids here for two weeks and gone for two weeks and back and forth all summer long is just enough time, each stint, to drive me into my closet for some primal scream therapy.

The first week they’re back, Otto and I spring into action as The Stable Household With Rules and Expectations and Appointments. They’re sleep-deprived and wild-eyed, and while I’m all for a bit of break from routine for the summer, I also believe children require SOME structure to feel comfortable. Or, at least, MY children require some structure. So when someone else allows my kids to stay up until 10:00 or later every night for weeks on end, they come back here bleary and argumentative. GO FIGURE. So we get back to a regular bedtime. We get back to regular mealtimes. We attend to the doctor and orthodontist and therapy appointments that have all been suspended while they were away, and the piano lessons and playdates they’ve missed for two weeks, and if I’m ESPECIALLY lucky I get to explain to my daughter, again, why she cannot be on the swim team this summer because going away all the time makes it impossible. BIG FUN!

The second week they’re back, they’ve just about recovered, except now it’s time to start stressing out about the next trip! Yayyyyyy! This renders Chickadee in particular an angry ball of emotion, which I think we’re pretty patient about for the first couple of days, but it’s wearing. On all of us.

There is also the constant tension I feel—totally self-imposed, I admit—between wanting to be able to do fun things with the kids and feeling like what they really need, in these brief times at home, is calm and routine and whole grains.

So the first week sucks and the second week sucks and then HEY! Time to go!

Yesterday, I just lost it. It was a combination of things and the details aren’t important, but we were out running some errands and when we got home I was just completely overwhelmed and unhappy and drained from the constant anger I’ve been feeling about how one of us gets to spend the summer being Happy Fun Jollytime No Rules Parent and one of us gets to pick up the pieces over and over again when that backfires. I told the kids I needed a few minutes alone and I went into my room to lie down.

I fell asleep.

When I woke up, Otto and the kids were gone. I did some work and when they came back, they’d been to the library and the grocery store, and all three of them were in rare form and returned bearing many hugs and kisses. Otto and Chickadee started making tacos for dinner, and I pointed out that our jalapenos runneth over. The kids and I went outside to cut a few. I gave them to Otto and went back into the office to finish up some work.

Otto announced that dinner was ready and the table held a complete taco bar with all the fixin’s… including little round discs of the jalapenos.

Now, I personally would’ve removed the seeds and DICED the peppers, but Otto had been so awesome to take the reins with the kids all afternoon and make dinner, I decided not to say anything.

We sat down to eat and Chickadee said grace. She was in a great mood. I tried not to let my mind wander to the place that suggests the good mood was due to my absence for the last few hours.

As we assembled our tacos, I said, “Hmmm, I wonder how hot the jalapenos are.” Otto and I put a few on our plates and dug in at the same time.

We chewed, then turned to look at each other. “What?” said Monkey, looking at us. Otto and I both opened our mouths to facilitate greater gulps of air. “WHAT?” said Monkey, concerned now.

We both grabbed for our water. Chickadee started laughing. “Are those peppers HOT, Mom? I could’ve TOLD you they would be hot!”

Still, we couldn’t speak. We were both panting for breath, although I was beginning to giggle in spite of myself.

“Oh,” said Otto, finally. “That’s… that’s…”

“HOT?” I finished.

Otto took another long drink from his glass. “Nice job, Farmer Mir,” he said.

The children were delighted. Apparently watching your parental units SET THEMSELVES ON FIRE at the table is highly entertaining.

We continued eating. Each time one of us encountered a jalapeno slice the kids stopped eating to watch us. I finally shoved all of mine to the side of my plate, unwilling to encounter one by accident. Otto got up and poured himself a glass of milk.

“So are those pepper GOOD?” Monkey asked.

“They’re delicious,” I gasped, fanning myself.

“My teeth hurt,” said Otto.

“I don’t understand why you keep eating them,” mused Chickadee. “You look funny.”

There’s probably an object lesson in there about the line between pleasure and pain, but other than noting that I do miss being mocked during dinner when they’re away, and vowing to de-seed and dice the peppers, next time, I got nuthin’.


  1. Ceramom

    Hehehehe! My mom did that once, many years ago. Everyone turned purple. Cream cheese was involved in putting out the fires.

    Hope this trip is easier!

  2. Flea

    Way to go, Farmer Mir! :) Look at your green thumb go!

  3. Aimee

    Two words: ugh! and hee!

    Sorry that the summer of suckitude is, well, sucky; and I wish I could’ve been there for the jalapeno hilarity.

  4. Astrogirl426

    Oh, it sounds like summer is fun fun fun at the Mir ranch.

    I don’t know if this will help you, but I’m sure the kids are grateful for the structure you provided when they were home with you. Fun and games are fun, but when it’s round the clock fun and games, it becomes wearing quite quickly. I bet you they’re relieved to get back to your house, and some calm and routine. You are good parents.

    And yes – de-seed and de-vein the peppers, they will be slightly less hot. Bread also helps.

  5. Beachgal

    Yikes….this is why I don’t eat jalapenos or any peppers.

  6. Debra

    Those peppers sound so great! I wish the rabbits would leave ours alone so I could experience such pain!

  7. annie

    Sorry about the summer see-saw. Having been there I know it’s grueling! I’ve found it helps to allow for SOMEthing outrageous – like the occasional ice-cream for breakfast or a night sleeping in the tent outside. Or making hair pink and setting yourself on fire. ;-) You’re doing great!

  8. AmeliaB

    Your summer sounds painful! I love reading your blog since I am always trying to save money so I relate to a lot of what you are doing. I can’t help but think that round trip plane tickets for two every two weeks all summer must be EXPENSIVE. That alone would make my head explode. Also, two kids off schedule all summer… wow. I am really sorry.

  9. Em

    I’m sorry your summer is going the way that it is. It almost makes a person long for the stress of school again.

  10. Mandee

    Yeah, that sucks. No two ways about it. We have the same sort of transition with my nephew any time he returns from a visit with his sperm donor. Yesterday, he tried to strangle his pre-school teacher. He’s 2.5 so thankfully, he wasn’t very successful.

    Way to go with the peppers, by the way!

  11. beth s

    Let them stay on the plant a LOT longer and they won’t be so hot. The smaller they are, the hotter they are. Also, as they turn red, they get sweeter (not really sweet, just less hot I think). Also the seeds and membrane are where most of the heat comes from.

  12. Steve

    Ask Otto about my spicy-rice recipe, with scotch-bonnet peppers.

    I diced the peppers next time…

  13. Otto

    My teeth still hurt, for the record.


  14. Jennie

    HA! You discovered that all the heat of hot peppers are housed in the ribs and seeds. Next time if you just use the green part, your teeth won’t hurt (as much).

    I sympathize with being the structured parent. We’re still married and my husband is a wonderful father, but even so I can relate on some level. My husband is all about making things the most fun in the moment and I worry more about the long term. So when I play board games with our only child, I make him take turns and he doesn’t always win because that’s the way he has to learn to play to get along with others in ‘the real world.’ When he plays with my husband, it’s always his turn and according to his own rules and he always wins. Guess who he likes to play with more?

  15. RuthWells

    So much sympathy for what you’re going through with the kids.

    For the jalapenos, try eating them grilled (or roasted). Brings out the sweetness and tames the heat a bit.

  16. suburbancorrespondent

    Lousy custody plan (although you’ve figured it out already). That sort of back and forth doesn’t work for anyone, not even adults. When my husband used to go away for work a lot, I much preferred that he go for 6 weeks at a time rather than 2 weeks here and 2 weeks there, all through the year. The strain of readjusting so constantly was too much to bear. With kids, it’s got to be worse. Can’t you do a month away, a month home?

  17. Jess

    I just… I honestly DO NOT BELIEVE your summer custody situation. I know you talked about it before, but this is the first time I put the pieces together and realized just how absolutely insane it is. I mean, seriously. Stability, what?

    Also, like AmeliaB said… plane tickets. Ouch.

  18. Ani

    Two weeks on/two weeks off. I say the judge who came up with THAT gem needs to experience the sheer JOY of that one.

    Geez Louise, guess they don’t hand out common sense when they appoint judges.

    My sympathies, and many a raised glass of something frothy and alcoholic in your honor.

  19. jennielynn

    I am so sorry. That judge (and your ex) need to have their heads yanked out of their asses. Painfully.

  20. Amy

    That reminds me of the time Boy 1 was about 2 1/2 years old when we went out to eat. He got a personal pan pizza (no problem). Until he picked up the first piece and found a “treat” underneath. Before my husband and I could stop him he had that jalapeno in his mouth – but not for long!! He spit it out and tried everything besides ripping his tonuge out to get rid of the “fire”.

    And from experience (being in a split home and alternating) -Now as an adult – I respect my Dad the structured/rule type more than the other one. It’s hard to understand when they’re young but when you’re kids grow up they’ll see why it was best that you’re doing what you do.

  21. Megan

    That Otto? Is fabulous.

    Also try a swallow of milk for cooling down hot peppers. This comes from someone who lives in Hatch Green Chile Central but is also a hopeless gringa who is regularly mocked for her lack of tortilla making ability (I don’t make ’em, I just eat ’em. It’s a motto to live by I feel).

  22. StephLove

    I’m sorry the summer schedule is so difficult. I wonder if the five weeks could be split into two trips next summer or even month-long one. It would be a long separation but it would be less confusing for the kids than constantly going back and forth between two very different styles of parenting not to mention less travel with all its attendant hassles and costs.

    Good luck weathering the rest of the summer. Your kids go back to school really early right? So you’re a good bit of the way through it already. (We’re only on week 3 of summer vacation here. Not that I’m counting the weeks until Big Kid goes back to school and Little Kid starts her first year of preschool. Why would I be doing that?)

  23. All Adither

    That situation with the kids sounds so hard. I don’t understand why the other parent can’t step up and be DAD instead of BUDDY.

  24. Holly

    I’m sorry about the custody situation, it doesn’t make sense to me, and it doesn’t make sense that it made sense to the judge…? follow that? Jalepeno’s are yummy, but it comes at a price, which I see you’ve learned. ;-)

  25. Cele

    I don’t understand rulings that 1) destroy continuity of homelife and routine 2) Cost an arm and a leg, and three months morgage.

    I’ll stick with my pepperocini. But I am thinking about those banana peppers.

  26. Karen

    Your Otto is such a good guy. We had dogs and tomatoe plants growing up. The dogs would eat the tomatoes till my dad planted scotch bonnet pepper plants in between the tomatoes. That finally cured that. Reading your story made me laugh from the visual you inspired and then remembering those dogs drinking gallons and gallons of water.

  27. Sheryl

    It would be really nice if next year the judge would give the kids consecutive weeks; all that shuttling back and forth is so HARD on everyone. Yuck.

  28. the planet of janet

    i resemble this remark. i was the stable, rule’ish, boundary-setting, boring, disciplinary, whole-grain (love that description) household while my boys’ father played disney dad every other weekend.

    every other sunday, monday and into tuesday, i spent agonizing effort turning my children back into the boys that MOMMY was raising, instead of the wild animals who were returned to me. only to have to turn them back over to him again. lather, rinse and repeat for 13 years or so.

    patience, my friend. i’d like to say it gets better, but it doesn’t. instead, i can only say: this too shall pass.

    my boys have a FULL understanding of who their father is — not from anything i said or did, but from just living life with him.

    which is why i have three young men in my household who love their mother and merely tolerate (or flat out ignore) their dad.

    it does not make me HAPPY to know that one of my boys refuses to speak or deal with his father at all. but the man has reaped what he sowed for all those years.

    cripes, i should have just written my own freakin’ post instead of hijacking your comments section.

    sorry hon.

    but this too shall pass.


  29. carolyn

    I’m sorry for the custody situation this summer. it is so hard. My ex is right here in town with us and my kids are insane when they return from time spent at his house. It is tough for all of us.

  30. The Other Lori

    Maybe primal scream therapy should be replaced with jalepeno heat therapy. Kill 2 birds with 1 stone…

  31. Daisy

    I love your gardening stories. Frankly, the kids will remember these moments better than they might remember the “fun” activities you do with them. Just to confirm what your other commenters have told you: yes, the hottest part of the pepper is the seed. My method for using these is to dice and freeze them, pulling them out in the bleak midwinter. If I don’t have time to dice them and take out the seeds (I’m starting a new school year when mine ripen, after all), I’ve been known to throw the entire jalapeno pepper in the freezer. I deal with the seeds after thawing.
    Love your kiddos; and your stories.

  32. hollygee

    Bread, milk, or — hey! — Pina Coladas! all help tame the fire.

    Two week turn-arounds sound deadly. Blessings on all your heads to survive.

  33. elizabeth

    my heart goes out to you. I did the back and forth while teenager was younger. I do think it gets better as time goes on, they get older and understand more of what is to be expected in each place. but I’d still lobby to have larger chunks of time in one place. harder on you while they are away, but easier on them to make fewer transitions.

    glad you can still get a giggle in thru all the stress. =)

  34. Vane

    So sorry about the custody situation, it doesn’t sound like it provides any stability to the kids at all, but hang in there, summer won’t last forever.

    As for the jalapeños (yes, mi keyboard does have an Ñ hehe), try putting a little salt on the back of your hand and lick it (like you do when drinking tequila), it helps get rid of the heat almost right away.

    Now, if you feel like doing something REALLY wild … try an habanero sometime (I have no idea how they are called in the US), but have a firehose nearby.

  35. Lylah

    We’ve talked about this already, so I won’t go into it except to say again that the judge ought to be lobotomized with a spoon.

    One time, we were eating homemade sushi and my husband took a bite and said, “hey, that wasabi isn’t hot at all” and then before I could say, “Wait a sec, it’ll kick in” he picked up a tablespoon, took a heaping spoonful, and ate it. And then his head exploded and the kids and I watched as he danced around the kitchen like a member of “Blue Man Group” without facepaint, eating and drinking whatever he could think of to make the pain/heat go away. Was pretty funny…

  36. Patricia

    I’m right that your ex reads you here on occasions, right? Well, if he still is, then I hope he takes to heart the number of us children of divorced parents who have fabulous relationships with our Rule-baring parents and not so hot dealings with our “Fun Parent.” Perhaps he will heed the warnings that “Easy today will be gone tomorrow.”

    Mir, you are doing an amazing job of keeping it all together this summer — even with time outs and naps. Just hopefully next year, maybe you can at least insist that some of the ongoing appointments be continued at Dad’s house — like therapy.

    Just know that as hard as these days are, the kids know that it is for your ex’s ego that this situation sucks and not because it is for their best interest. Sorry to be blunt, but if he thought of their best interest, he’d ask for a month straight AND have rules for them in his house too.

  37. marge

    im new to the blog so i guess im out of the loop, but couldnt you say, respectfully of course, that its just not working out, could they please stay home for now ? i think most dads mean well, they dont realise how they tear up their children.

  38. The Other Leanne

    I hope you’re documenting all this for the next hearing (the behavior, not the jalapenos).
    Of course you know about seeding the peppers, but soaking them in salt water will also take some of the hot out. As will grilling/roasting, and also smoking them = chipotle!

  39. Sue @ My Party of 6

    I’m sorry, Mir. Your kids will look back on this time and remember that you were their rock. But for now, you only get the suckiness. It’s not fair.

    And does Otto hold training camps?

  40. mommytherobot

    god that nap was a long time coming from the sounds of it. damn, you are pretty strong and together for having your kids gone every two weeks and they are pretty magnificent to be the way they seem to be if they can go thru two households w different rules. i’ve never liked summer so yeah, i agree when you say, summer sucks donkey balls. i’ll make sure to say that out loud my very Southern, old fashioned mother in law when she comes by!

  41. J

    Hey, spontaneously combustable parental units are hilarious… at least if you aren’t the unit who is combusting. Anyhoo – hoping your summer gets better… it may be gradual – like from donkey balls to mountain oysters, but hey! at least it would be improvement. =).


  42. David

    So, Otto, next time you’ll take the seeds out, yes? LMAO

  43. jenn

    Good Lord Mir, that is the most ridiculous custody situation I have ever heard of. That makes me glad for my mom, that my dad basically ignored me (except for a brief Saturday afternoon visit every few months) Yeah, it cost me a few thousand in therapy money, but at least I had consistency and predictability!

  44. Susan

    I hear you on the sucky parenting plan. We do it in the same town, but I hate the two week periods when they are gone. My ex does make some effort to impose rules and bedtimes, but I am just not good with them away for so long. The first two years we did it, my house became a total pigsty, because I was either not home, or sitting around depressed. I am a bit better now (summer 4), but I still hate it. And we are all stressed all the time. I hate that I just want summer to be over every year.

  45. Dawn (The Other Other One)

    Hmm… what The Planet of Janet said. Interesting that the people who impose these revolving door custody schedules never have to actually live like that themselves, isn’t it? They’d last a month tops.

    My kids moved EVERY WEEK. Their father only lives blocks away, but they hated it. But I was assured by ‘experts’ who got to lay their heads down on the same pillow every night that it was what was best for all concerned, so that was nice.

    The day is not far off when you kids will be able to choose what they want to do and I can almost guarantee they’ll choose the stability. And the parents who burst into flame on occasion. Who could pass up on that?

  46. angie

    brilliant title, though

  47. kate

    LMAO @ Wendy’s link! That bacon chart is hilarious!!! Mmmm.

  48. BlapherMJ

    I feel for you and your family — custody visits are very tough on everyone, but the stress the kids deal with is ridiculous….. I wonder about judges and what goes through their mind…..

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