Friday, February 29, 2008

news, News, NEWS!!!!

We got the house!!!!!! The realtor finally called this afternoon and said that the seller's bank agreed to our offer. Finally!!!!! I was starting to get seriously paranoid about the whole thing, like maybe someone at the bank wanted to take advantage of the amazing deal we're getting themselves. Anyway, yippee!!! Oh, I'm so thrilled.

Also, here's a funny - Patrick announced yesterday that he knows how cats get fur. Apparently, you're supposed to get them wet, and then hair will stick to them. Or, they get sweaty, and then you can stick it on. I was slicing cheese, and almost cut my fingers right off! I hope he doesn't decide to try that one out sometime!!! Our cat would NOT appreciate being dunked in the toilet!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Blue Skies

Didja miss me? :)

I've been off for a few days, in a swirl of cleaning and quickie repairs because the County People came today to do the appraisal of this house and explain what we are entitled to in our relocation. I have been so nervous, thinking about all the 'what if's and imagining the various scenarios that I really haven't been able to sit still long enough to blog or anything else until I've basically fallen into bed at night. The cabinets are bare, but at least they're clean, dammit!

Also, demolition has begun. We live next door to a small bank, on a corner, and the house around the corner, on the other side of said bank, was purchased by the bank to be turned into a new parking lot, since the county is taking the one they currently have. Three days ago, when I brought Patrick to school, there was a house there, and when I brought him home (I stayed out doing errands while he was there) all that was left was a pile of toothpicks. That house was as old as ours, and nothing had been salvaged out of it but the windows, which we saw them take the other day. What a waste. It was pretty unnerving, seeing this happen, and knowing that that's exactly what's to become of our place sooner or later.

On to the good part! The three people who came today were VERY nice, and made it clear that we're gonna be OK. What they said boils down to:

1) They will pay off our mortgage regardless of the appraisal because they need to own the house free and clear, so if the appraisal is low because of the current market, it's not a worry. If it's more than we owe, we'll get the difference.
2) They will work with the bank to ensure we get the same interest rate that we currently have on this house, which is nice since it's lower than what's out there now.
3) They will not only move us, but have the movers pack everything for us, including our big playset out back. This is HUGE, because since we only moved here eighteen months ago, I was NOT looking forward to re-packing everything!!!
4) They assured me that everything in the house, like the original woodwork and big, beautiful banister, will be salvaged rather than wasted.

Also, the appraiser was a really nice older man who made sure to tip everything in our favor, such as he referred to our basement as finished, even though it technically is only finish-ready, and called our kitchen upgraded because I did a lot of tile work in there. At the end of the interview, I gave him some papers I had printed out detailing properties the same size and age as ours that have sold in the past six months for more than what we currently owe (anyone can look up property and ownership information through their state Dept of Assessments and Taxation website, and it's really interesting!), and he said that he could use them, so hopefully that will help us as well.

It was such a relief to hear that we're going to be OK, and not stuck with trying to explain to a mortgage company why we had a loan on one house that we needed to roll into a new home loan! That's what's really been keeping me up nights, I'll tell you. I was honestly surprised at how nice the people were, too, because with the county we lived in before this, if something similar had happened, I swear they would have probably just burned our house down while we were out one day!

So, at the moment, I'm pretty elated. Not only did we not get bad news, we actually had a good experience! Now my only concern is that we haven't heard from the seller/his bank yet with an acceptance of our offer. I'm trying to be patient on that one.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Daddy Dinners Are For Champions

Tonight I talked to my favorite sister-in-law, Jane, who lives about an hour and a half from here. We used to live within fifteen minutes of each other before we moved out here to the hicks, and we're almost the same age. Our sons are within six months of each other, and my nephew has a cousin on the other side who is the same age as well. My nephew, Caleb, has several learning disabilities and delays, plus eye problems from a birth defect, and he just brings out the best in Patrick. Every time we're together, especially now that that's a less frequent thing, he treats Caleb like a little brother, literally putting his arm around Caleb's shoulders and guiding him where he needs to be, like across streets or into buildings. It's adorable, and my heart just bursts watching it.

Anyway, I was talking to Jane on the phone, and she told me the funniest Daddy story EVER. Seems that she was in the middle of cooking dinner, a spicy chicken dish that was for her and her DH only, and she was planning on making something else for Caleb and Anne, my baby neice, in a minute. Well, her sister called, and they ended up being on the phone for awhile, so my BIL, Trent, was on his own to find something for the kids to eat. Jane had suggested some cheese and crackers as a starter, and then left the room. A few minutes later, she came back to see Caleb with a MOUNTAIN of minimarshmallows on a plate, like Trent had just grabbed a handful and thrown them there, and a bowl of sixteen olives, or at least that was all that was left, becasue he was shoveling them in as fast as he could! SIXTEEN!!!!

Jane, who was somewhat shocked, made a comment about it not exactly being the dinner of champions.

Trent looked at her and said, in all seriousness, 'Oh, no, it's OK; he had a link of sausage first.' !!

Now, catch your breath and ponder this: What on earth is THAT going to reappear as tomorrow?! Marshmallow olive poo in sausage casings, anyone?! Eeeewwwww!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

there went the wagon...

I'm off the diet wagon. Wait, that's an understatement; I fell off the wagon, it ran over me, and then the horses pulling the wagon BEHIND it pooped on me as they stepped over. I actually had time to come up with a new mathematical theorem to reflect this process while coming up for air from stuffing my face with leftover candy: Valentine's Day + PMS + house issues = Chocolate x the square root of Ice Cream. Beat that Einstein!

I don't get regular PMS. I get it for weeks. My periods, which have always been irregular, are now worse than ever, probably because I'm older, and so only come every 45 days or so, if I'm lucky. However, I ovulate at the expected time, so that means I have a good two and a half weeks between the O and the P when I'm crampy and have sleep problems (either too much or none at all). Seriously, if it didn't mean having to take synthetic hormones for the rest of my life, I would have the entire business taken out.

This also means that I never know exactly when the Red Menace is going to show up. It's usually at the most annoying time possible, like when I'm at the gym, or waiting to get Patrick from prek. Then I get that Feeling (YOU know the one, dear ladies), and run for the nearest bathroom to do the Toilet Paper Trick until I can get home. Whoopee. Nothing like surfing the Red Tide on a boogie board made of TP!

So, tonight I'm just all hormoned out, and I'm sitting on the couch watching Baci Bean cruise the house looking for trouble because I'm not playing with him. Pretty soon, he'll slink by with the remote in his mouth to see if I'll actually unbeach myself from the couch to get it from him. I have another one upstairs, so he's SOL. If only I could teach him to drive to the store for Midol. And maybe some of those cookies with the peanut butter cups in them. Mmmm.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Yes, the PS2 IS Your New Mommy!

Confession: I have been letting Patrick play A LOT of PS2. What else is there to do?! There's ice everywhere, and frankly my brain is mush from dealing with all this house stuff. So, I would say for the past three days, the boy has spent about five hours a day playing.

Before you all throw things at your computer screens, there is almost always someone playing with him. DH and I love to play almost as much as he does, and we got the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie game the other day, which is super-fun. Frankly, I would play all day too, if I could.

I don't know why I feel so defensive about it. The boy has been reading fluently for months, and can do simple math, both of which I honestly feel were encouraged by the gaming, since before he could do those things he was desperate to know what the words on the screen said and how many more apples he needed to get to win the prize. It's helped him learn to take turns, since many games are one-player, and he willingly passes off the controller after two tries at any one thing. His hand-eye coordination is excellent, and his problem-solving skills are good, too. We have no violent games. He's rarely in there alone playing, but at least when he is I know exactly what he's doing while I'm in the shower/on the phone/cleaning up dog poop outside. And of course, we do other things every day as well, like read books and play board games and go out.

I know there are a lot of people out there who turn their noses up at video games, especially for children. They're the same people who claim not to watch TV, like they're too good for Discovery Channel or the weekly dose of The Soup.

I think it's the whole Parenting As A Competitive Sport thing that makes me defensive.
'My McKenzie has never SEEN a TV!'
'Oh, little Olivia is too busy with gymnastics/ballet/quantum physics to condescend to electronic stimulation.'

What can I say? Well, I could say, stick my controller where the sun don't shine, but I'm probably going to need it later.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Last year, I used to hang out with one of the moms from Patrick's prek a lot. It started out because Patrick and her son really liked each other. We had dinner at her place with her fiance and her kids one time, even, but mostly it was us going over there after school so the kids could play and we could talk, maybe once a week.

Things started to go downhill when the favors started. First, it was that she had car trouble, so could I bring her son to prek for her, since I was going anyway, for a few days. Oh, and bring him home, too, could I? A few days stretched into a few weeks. Pretty soon, I knew that every time she called, it was because she wanted something. Other favors included making her daughter's birthday cake and managing the party because she had to go to a funeral out of town. Now, I knew no one else at this party, and it was full of family members, including her mother, who lives with her, but she asked and I pitched in. It pretty much spiraled from there. There never was an offer to reciprocate to anything I did for her.

Another problem I was starting to have was her treatment of the kids. She was a constant yeller, and was sarcastic with them, so they in turn were sarcastic with everyone else, including grownups on occasion. Her son was frequently getting into trouble at school, and Patrick would occasionally get brought along on the ride. I definitely noticed over time that after he had played with this boy, his behavior was much more aggressive and defiant. Josie flat-out refused to play with Patrick's friend pretty quickly.

By the time summer approached, I had had enough, and started scaling back on our hanging out time. The breaking point came when she told me that she'd had a hookup with a 20something she picked up at a bar the night before in the back seat of her SUV, which actually belonged to her fiance, and that her plan was to stay with the fiance long enough to siphon enough of his check (he was supporting all of them, even though they weren't his kids) into a separate account that she could kick him out and not be in financial trouble until she got a job. I liked her fiance, and he was a really nice guy, so that on to top of everything else was really too much. Add to that her asking me to watch her kids for her once a week, while she went to school on his dime, for the entire summer, and I'd had enough. I took advantage of the end of the school year to let the friendship lag, and she didn't call often once I'd turned down her request to watch her kids over the summer, anyway. Since she never left messages, it was easy to not call her back when she did call. By fall, she'd changed the prek class her daughter went to so that she'd go in the afternoon, when Patrick wasn't there, and that was that.

I've run into her once or twice since then, and I've tried to be like, oh, we just don't get to see each other anymore now that our kids aren't together. Well, since today was yet another snow day, so I took the kids to Blockbuster to find yet another thing to plug them into for at least a few hours (we got A Series of Unfortunate Events for and Chicken Little for Patrick), and guess who was there? Moan. I pulled up into the parking lot, and her mother and two kids were waiting in the car parked next to us. Groan! We got out and the kids waved, and her mom waved to us, but didn't go to lower the window. At least I was prepared when I went into the store. She was really, really frosty, more so than the previous times we've run into each other, but not so much that the kids would notice anything (who am I kidding, they can't even see through air half the time), and left without saying goodbye while we were in another aisle.

I was surprised that I was a lot more calm about everything than I would have been when I was younger. Maybe getting older is good for something after all! Still, ugh. I think there's no pretty way to end these things. It's not like I could have told her that I felt taken advantage of and was repulsed by her selfishness towards everyone around her and expected that things would have ended any better. Has anyone else had a similar situation with someone, and ended it in a more delicate way? I really have no idea how to do this kind of thing with grace, obviously!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Be Vewy Quiet, I'm Hunting ... Weal Estate

After practically vibrating off my chair for the past two days, this morning I finally went house hunting with my friend Madeline. I had narrowed the choices down to two that were within five houses of each other in her neighborhood. Both were built in the early 1900s, both are brick with hardwood floors, and they have approximately the same size yard. I was so excited, and had a great time looking at them! Madeline brought her little girl with her, and I think the agent thought for quite awhile that we were a family, the three of us, and that cracked me up.

Anyway... drum roll please.... we picked a house and made an offer!!!! The first house I went into was The House. The One. It made me almost forget about my current house, and that takes some doing. It has kind of the same vibe as the one we have now, like the spirits of the generations that have lived there are still around. The other house had been too redone; it had a new kitchen, the floors had all been replaced, and there was gross linoleum in the bathrooms. In the owner's defense, she seemed young and I don't think had an appreciation for the intrinsic value of origin in an old home. There is no cause, ever, for there to be linoleum in an old home. That's just my personal opinion. Anyway, whatever spirit presence that had been in that place was ripped out with the floorboards. Also, there were only three bedrooms upstairs, and the smallest one had the door to the attic in it, so there wasn't really enough space to put a bed in it easily, and since the attic is finished, it seems weird to have someone's room be the entrance to it.

The House, on the other hand,is the same square footage as the one we have now, with one important distinction; both the attic and basements are finished off!! Hello, double the useable floor space!!! The thing that really sold me on it, though, was that it comes with a piano. Josie has been taking lessons for years now, and we've been wanting to find an old piano for her. Well, there it was, sitting in the dining room in front of the bay window, and from where I was standing in the living room area (in front of the fireplace!!), the glass french doors leading to the dining room framed it like a gift. I guess I just had a Moment. Anyway, there's a wraparound porch, two bathrooms, two sleeping porches off the back (one is actually enclosed and heated!) and a hot tub. And, good luck for us, although I feel bad about it, the house is near to being foreclosed due to a nasty divorce, so it's out there for a steal.

According to the Man from the County, who I have been dealing with on all issues demolition, we should have an offer from them within the month. The appraiser should be here by the end of next week, and from there it's pretty straightforward. I am so excited, and so nervous, that I can barely think straight. This will be an amazing opportunity for us, if the buyer accepts our bid. There is another offer out there, but we offered more, and a shorter time frame to close (the other party has a house to lease out first), so... cross your fingers for us!!!

I have to say, not to be too New Age-y or creepy, but I think Tavis is somehow partially to thank for this. We found out about the definite deal for our house, as well as the availability of this new house and it's new price, on the anniversary of his death. Then, there was a piano of all things being included in the bargain! Last year right this very minute I was at his viewing, actually (yes, they had an open casket, and yes, it was wrong of me to actually look, because while old people may actually look better when they've died, young people decidedly do NOT). You know, even if it sounds silly, it makes me feel happier to think that he is somehow involved, so I'm just going to keep on thinking it, regardless.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Adjusting to Being Roadkill

Today is definitely better than yesterday. I've gotten over the shock of losing our house to The Man, and have actually started trying to joke about it a little. I realized something yesterday afternoon that definitely points to the whole 'what goes around comes around' thing - the woman who owned this house before we bought it, who as it turns out KNEW that the house was soon to be Roadkill (haha, get it? hey, it's all I got at the moment!), and who sold it to a Flipper, who ALSO knew its future, and never told us, currently is living in a smallish house behind our property. Well, guess who's gonna be front-and-center when the new highway expansion pack is put in place?! HER! I'm not mad at her, really, but I do definitely feel a sort of guilty satisfaction at this karmic turn of events.

Several people have urged us to 'go after' the flipper, the realtor who sold us this beautiful house, and anyone who may or may not have ever known anyone in our zip code. My husband was pretty solidly in that camp for awhile, as a matter of fact. I am completely uninterested in doing so. Whatever is going to happen is somehow meant to be, and I honestly feel like any money we might get from such a situation would be dirty. Also, going up against people who are who knows where, and trying to prove that they in fact knew what was going to happen, seems like a gigantic waste of mental and physical energy. I have a feeling it would only bite us in the ass, and probably the pocketbook, in the end.

There is also the possibility that things will actually work out in our favor in the end. With interest rates being what they are, and housing prices having gone down, we just might be able to lower our mortgage. I am slightly concerned that we won't get what I would consider a fair value for our home, but we've done some work on it since we moved in, and I'm hoping that that will add enough value to counteract any decline in market value. Certainly, whatever they will give us will be more than it will be worth once there's a four-lane road in front of it (or, actually, through it). I'm determined to get at least what we paid for it, plus a little help in the down-payment on a new home, since we obviously weren't planning to move and haven't saved up anything.

I'm going to look at two houses tomorrow that are in my friend Madeline's neighborhood. One of them I've been in love with since we moved to town, but wasn't on the market then, and another one a few doors down. I'm hopeful that things will work out with the first one, since it's so beautiful on the outside, and from the same historic period our current home was built. Also, its current owner is having financial problems, so the house is almost in a foreclosure state. Maybe we can help him out at the same time. At least that way something good would come of all this, anyway.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Big, Bad Twofer

There is no easy way to segue into this, so I'm just going to blurt it out; today is the one-year anniversary of my nephew, Tavis's, death. He was sledding last year on his family property after an ice storm, hit a bump, and ended up in a ravine, where he hit a tree full force with his abdomen. He was awake enough to call up to the house on his cell phone, and got his twin sister, who in turn got their mother and went looking for him. When they saw how bad off he was, they called 911 and his father. The entire fire department came, because Tavis's dad is on the squad, and they had to use ropes and pulleys to get him up to the waiting ambulance. When they finally reached the top, his dad arrived, and they were all together when, moments later, Tavis lost consciousness for the last time and essentially died in their arms. He was life-flighted to Hopkins, where he was officially pronounced dead. While I wasn't there, I did see the life flight, since media crews were there to show the whole thing, and were waiting for his parents and sister when they arrived home from shock trauma. He was sixteen when he died, working on getting his driver's license, dating his first girlfriend, doing all the things he was supposed to be doing.

There is a list, I think, of people whose names we expect to hear when the phone rings too-late at night. Grandparents, uncles, that cousin you never see in Chicago. It's never, never a child's name.

I think I'm able to tell the story in a pretty concise, matter-of-fact way these days, simply because I've told it to a hundred friends, and it's easiest on everyone involved to keep the details out of it. I've found that no one is comfortable hearing that his spleen was ruptured, or that his father knew from the instant he saw him, when he was still conscious, that he wasn't going to make it because of the way his pupils looked and the way his abdomen was distended. My friends don't know what to say, and I found that several people avoided me altogether in the days and weeks after it happened, just because they were at such a total loss of words and everything else seemed trivial in comparison. The funny thing is, that was when I needed mundane details the most, and now that I've adjusted enough to be able to talk about him without crying, it seems inappropriate to do so. A dead child is a real conversation stopper.

What is bothering me the most, at present, is that I will no longer have the comfort in thinking about him in the recent past, like 'last year at this time, we were all doing xyz'. As of tonight, in two hours, I will have known he was gone for a year. Time has marched on, but I'm not ready to leave him behind, and have him get further and further away all the time. He was a wonderful boy, a rarity among teenagers, a boy who actually loved his little cousins with all his heart, and played with them whenever he was with them. He taught both my children how to be 'Santa' at the family Christmas get-togethers. He helped them at Easter egg hunts. He held them when they were babies. Those memories didn't seem so far away before today, but now I feel them slipping to that place in the photo album, where someday my grandchildren will point and ask who that boy is.

In the midst of dealing with all this, I got a call from the county today. Recently, we've discovered that our home is slated to be 'eased' - taken by the county to make way for road widening, in other words. We live in a hundred year-old american foursquare, four stories, on a quarter acre. Soon, it will be a turning lane. The nice man (for he really is nice, even if his job sucks) called today, of all days, to tell me that the appraiser will be here in two weeks to start the process of moving us out of our home so it can be demolished. The appraiser will come, the deal will be made, and we will leave. Someday, I will drive to the store over the place where my beautiful home once stood. I'm sure that people have been born and died in this house, maybe someone was married in my living room, had their first night as a married couple in my bedroom. This house was the last place I ever saw my nephew, where my dog, who died of cancer three weeks after Tavis's accident, has his memory box buried under the six story tree in the backyard.

I understand the need for progress, but time really, really is relentless. I have always heard that phrase and never thought much of it, but now I understand. No matter what happens, today, and all future January 19ths, will be a bitter pill to swallow.

Monday, February 18, 2008

One Too Many ....

...days off. There is no cause to have children home so much in February! I don't care if George Washington himself showed up, the kids should watch it from the safety of their school windows. My own, personal, MENTAL safety, that is.

Patrick is currently upstairs screaming that he is going to 'cry to death' and 'cry all the days' because he has finally had his little heiney swatted. Oh, he's been asking for it for awhile, but lately it's been more begging, and just a few minutes ago his need for a swatting reached a crescendo of brattiness. His new thing is to fling himself about the house, falling on the wood floors and flailing about because 'he can't walk because they're too slippery'. Now, since my housekeeping has reached appallingly low levels recently, I know that's not the case because the floors are so covered in grime that it's a wonder we're not all stuck to them! He has also taken every opportunity to heave himself on other people, particularly Josie and the dogs. The dogs, thankfully, are mild-mannered and put up with this crap, but Josie is another story, and she has every right to be annoyed, anyway. He doesn't listen to anyone telling him to stop for more than five minutes.

This last time, they were watching The Prisoner of Azkaban together, when Patrick started getting bored and bouncing all over the place. Josie asked him to stop several times, and then he started shrieking about her taking the remote from him. I reminded them that no one needed to hold the remote, since they were actually watching the movie, but that didn't help, so I said that since he was obviously bored, he should go and play in his room for awhile. Well, that did it. Scream central. 'I'm NOT BORED!!! I'M NOT BORED!!! NO!!!' So, rather than going upstairs, he sat and waited while I walked over to him, warning that if I got to him before he started upstairs, his bottom would be sorry.

What is it that makes kids wait for you to smack their bottoms? Does they really think, after all these years, that I'm not going to do it? I've always been a stickler for follow-through, and I don't issue these warnings idly. It's like they're thinking, now? Now? How 'bout now? Will she do it THIS time? I haven't had to smack their butts often anymore, especially Josie's, but seriously! So, he sat there like a screaming monkey, waiting for me to get to him, and then had the audacity to act surprised when I flipped him over my knee (my rule is one bun-swat per year, so five little swats, obviously not hard)! After that, he stomped upstairs, wailing that 'you always send me' to his room.

Oh, the tragedy of being sent to one's room, with toys, books and a comfy bed! Oh, no! I would definitely not like that.... no....please don't make me be ALONE.... :)

Tomorrow, there will be school again. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. DH did just call and say that he heard there may be another storm on Wednesday, though.... oh, no.....

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Is It Over Yet?!

February is the longest month *EVER*. I don't care if the calendar says it's shorter than all the other ones - it is definitely, without a doubt, the worst time of the freakin' year.

I have a mite touch of cabin fever.

Also, poor Tyler Bear Dog is in sad shape. I hadn't really thought about it, but of course they shaved his ear, which now looks all grey and grizzled and misshapen. Not to mention, they used red thread for his stitches, so his ear looks like Frankenstein's quilt. The stitches go all the way through his ear, too, so taking them out in twenty days is going to be pretty painful, I would imagine. I'm supposed to keep him quiet for several days, and keep Baci away from him, particularly because they didn't put any bandaging on his ear!!!! The tech just told me that they wanted it to be open because it would heal better this way, but that it would probably drain so have him lay on a blanket. It was actually bleeding a bit even as she said it. Luckily, that has seemed to stop. His pain medication makes him really loopy, and he seems OK without it (he's a really tough dog - once he split open the webbing on his paw and we didn't even know it until over a week later), so we're probably going to stop making him take it. If he starts acting like he's in pain, though, obviously we'll give him more.

Did I mention that DH is sick? Ooohh, yeah, that's what every February needs is a SICK MAN. To his credit, he's been keeping the moaning to a minimum, for him, but for a few days there I was still thinking that I might need to move out. Is there anything worse than a sick man? All he had was a head cold, for goodness' sake! He stayed home from work on Friday so he could treat me to his specialized sick-man breathing, too - 'mmmmmmpphhhhhhhhhh'. I do want to feel bad for him, really I do, but the whole illness thing just isn't doing it for me when his nose isn't even red. Not to mention, when I'm sick, the world has to keep on turning because preschoolers wait for no man (or woman). Why is it that men always seem to be Ill, and not just under the weather?

Fortunately, the rest of us have somehow seemed to avoid The Plague that most other people around here have had. Josie's next-door neighbor at school threw up all over her desk, and half her class was gone for over a week. Patrick's friends have all had it, including his friend who we have given rides to school because his mom has a new baby; that boy started throwing up hours after he got out of the car last. I don't know if it's the flu shots, or what, but knock on kayboard, we all seem to be making it through OK.

Book Review: Slave; My True Story, by Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis


That's what I thought and felt as I read much of this account of Mende Nazer's life. Until she was twelve, she lived happily with her family (although there is a positively gut-wrenching account of her female circumcision, so much so that I actually had to put the book down and cover my face for a minute before I was composed enough to continue - even writing this I am squirming internally) in her village in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. She played, attended school, participated in tribal celebrations, and aspired to be a doctor when she grew up. Unlike many accounts of personal tragedy and struggle, this portion of her story is in-depth, and told with such obvious love and longing that I found myself becoming attached not only to Mende, but to her family as well. That made it all the harder to read of the raid on her village by Arabian raiders, in which many were raped, cut open and burned in the streets. Mende is abducted along with many other children, physically and sexually assaulted, and sold into slavery.

I don't want to give any more of her tale away, but suffice it to say that the entire story, right up to the dramatic and sudden climax, was positively gripping. Her ability to recall names and other details, especially while she was so young and traumatized, is remarkable. I can't even remember what I went to the store for, and here she can tell who was with her and where she has been during the most terrifying and confusing experiences imaginable! She even has managed to inject some humor into the story, detailing her and other children's reactions to seeing a large city and card for the first time (they thought the large cars gave birth to the smaller cars, and streetlights were some kind of light plant!).

I have heard that slavery still exists as a dirty, secretive entity, but like I assume most people, it seems such an outlandish concept that I have kept the information in perhaps a separate part of my brain where I store all other new bites that don't seem quite real. For this practice to continue, and to worm its way into what we arrogantly call first-world countries, is absolutely horrifying. Mende only escaped her captors and published this novel in 2003, with the help of journalist Damien Lewis. For those who are interested, there is a wealth of information about her on the internet, including YouTube videos of her discussing her experience. I hope to read more of her in the future, especially updates as to whether she is ever able to see any of her family again. She is definitely an awe-inspiring young woman.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Dogboys

I am a giant Dog Dork. I love dogs, and all things dog, including doggie kisses and noses. I do not (yet) wear embarrassing outerwear embroidered with them, but I do admit to having dog socks, and the ID tag from my previous dog, Cyrus, on my keychain.

What I do NOT like is Doggie Tantrums, which is what my younger dog, Baci, is doing right now. He's sitting by the back door whining and probably drooling... yep, he's drooling (he always does that when he has a tantrum)... because I have had the nerve to put him Out while I am In. Even worse, he's out there alone, because our other dog, Tyler, is at the vet today having surgery. Baci is rarely alone, which means poor old Tyler is rarely alone, either, because Baci worships the ground Tyler walks on.

Tyler is having surgery because he has a hematoma on his left ear, poor guy. I didn't know that could happen, actually. Even worse, I feel like it's all my fault, in a roundabout way. A few weeks ago, DH and I saw a sign at the local PetCo for three young labs that needed a new home due to foreclosure. We have room for a third dog, potentially, and that might give Baci someone to play with and maybe leave Tyler, who at eleven is starting to slow down, alone. So, I called the number, and the next day a woman showed up with this... DOG. It wasn't full lab, as it turned out, but half lab and half boxer, and it was entirely untrained. It dragged the woman all over the yard before coming into the house, and then once she was in here (our dogs were out back at the time), she promptly peed on the carpet. We thought it was the long ride here, or excitement, since labs are generally thrilled to see each other, so we decided to let her go to the back yard to meet the dogboys. Well, it wasn't excitement, we found out pretty quickly, but dominance, and she promptly attacked both of our dogs!! Tyler got the worst of it before we could get her off, and ended up with a big gash in his ear. I have a feeling that the attack is what led to this hematoma, since they are caused by a weakening of the cartiledge in the ear flap that exposes veins to damage. I think what happened was that she damaged his cartiledge, and then at some point this week he must have whacked his ear while shaking his head, and the blood pooled inside. His poor ear felt like a ziplock baggie full of water!!!! Thank goodness I didn't lance it myself, as I thought initially it was just a fluid-filled cyst, which he has had before on his side, although way, way smaller, more like a blister size, and which I usually tend to myself. This was nearly half his ear flap, which on a lab is pretty big. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the vet got a syringe full of blood out of it!!!! She said when she was done that it would probably come right back, and it did. Apparently this isn't uncommon in older dogs, although I don't know anyone who has had this happen to theirs. One friend told me last night, though, that her dog died from a nasal hemotoma, so now I'm paranoid about THAT, thanks.

Anyway, Baci's going to be spending a lot more time away from Tyler for the next few days while his ear heals, and it will be good for him to get used to being more on his own, anyway. Tyler is getting older, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was his last winter. That will be a huge transition, since he was DH's and my first dog together, and we got him the summer before we got married. We lost his brother, to whom I was horribly attached, to cancer last year, so when Tyler goes it will truly be the end of an era. We got Baci, a chocolate, to fill the void when Cyrus died, and it's amazing how alike they are; big, needy and dopey!! Tyler is very cat-like; neat, dignified, and and likes his space. That's probably why the cat doesn't hate him with a passion; she can't STAND Baci's dopey ways. Oh, and she probably doesn't like it that he gets his doggie cooties all over her bowl when he steals her food, too.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Book Review: The Best of Friends: Two Women, Two Continents, and One Enduring Friendship, by Sara James and Ginger Mauney

This dual memoir was a pleasantly engaging surprise. I wasn't sure what to expect when I checked it out of the library, because I sometimes find relationship-writing to be melodramatic and, frankly, entirely self-serving, but this book was much more than that. Sara, who has risen to become a prominent figure at NBC News, and Ginger, who went from being a professional Girlfriend Sidekick to a National Geographic documentarian, have chronicled their lives and friendship from their childhood in Richmond (this part is more filled-in than given in blow-by-blow detail) to the present day, when one now lives in NYC and the other in Africa.

Since both have enjoyed incredible success, that in itself would be interesting enough to make reading a book by either individual interesting, but by combining their professional stories and intertwining their relationship throughout, the story is really more than the sum of its parts. One of the things I liked best about the book was the alternating method of storytelling used by the authors; each tells their part of the story for a chapter, relating their own lives as well as their reactions to and conversations with each other, and then the other takes over for the next chapter. It gave me just enough information about each of them in that particular time of their life to keep me interested before moving on to the other side. The transitions between the two sides were surprisingly seamless. Also, they skip over periods where life was more stable rather than feeling that they need to detail every iota of their lives, backfilling pertinent information where necessary.

There were a few times when I felt like skimming over points that seemed to be slightly repetitive, but it was very interesting to read about these two fascinating women and their evolution from regular smallish-town girlhood friends to vastly different but equally exciting lives. In the end, the book was indeed more about the value and necessity of friendship than was about the two of them individually. I think it's so important that we stop and remember the incredible gift that our friends are to us, and it always saddens me to see that so many people use our newfound technology to distance themselves rather than bring them together. We're all so wrapped up in doing so much that it's easy to leave other behind. I love that this book showed that even for the busiest, and sometimes most unreachable people in the world (Ginger spent many years living in the bush in Africa), this kind of intimacy is still possible.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Gone, Baby Gone

Another adventurous day.

On the whole, it actually went much better than I had thought it might, with both children playing together in Josie's bed first thing, and no major fights the entire day. Considering the weather, and the outrageous level of cabin fever, I consider that a major success.

However, for the first time in awhile, Patrick pulled a vanishing act on me! Let me begin by saying, he has a long history of doing things like this, but it's been years since the last incident. I believe the first time was when he was about 18mo old, when he toddled off at the beach while I had my back turned, picking up sand toys and putting them into the beach bag. Just like that, he was gone. By the time I found him ten minutes later, happily eating a cracker on the blanket of a kind woman who was holding onto him to keep him out of further trouble until his mother turned up, I was certain he had been washed away by the tide, and was in fact looking into the water as I screamed for him. The second time, a few months later, he disappeared from the gym daycare while I was working out, and was missing for almost a half hour. The staff, all of whom I had known for years, were pale as ghosts, and the entire place was on lockdown, including the parking lot where they were searching cars because, although no one wanted to say it out loud, they thought he had been somehow taken. Turned out, he had simply gone into the walk-in toy closet (which was on the way to the toddler class he was in line to go to when they noticed he was gone) and climbed up to the top shelf, where he sat happily in the dark with all the toys to himself. No one had thought to look on the shelves to find him, because children are supposed to be on the FLOOR. Let's see... then there were the two times he left the house when he was two; one time I hadn't locked the door, and I looked out the window while talking to the contractor installing said window only to see him wandering down the road, baggie of popcorn in hand, like a little homeless person, and another when he figured out the deadbolt while I was in the bathroom.

All those incidents were years ago, however, so it's been quite awhile since I've worried about his purposefully leaving me while we're in a normal location. At fairs, playgrounds, etc, I keep an extra eye on him, but at places like the library, where we were today, I expect that his ability to stay put at the little kid table while I,say, help his sister pick out books is sufficient. Obviously, I am an idiot.

The three of us were standing at the library checkout counter, me with a giant pile of books in front of me, Josie doing her new drive-me-crazy move, which is a kind of modified grapevine-a-la-pee-pee-dance, and Patrick wriggling all around while holding onto a card listing the library's new online capabilities and asking me a lot of questions which I was trying to answer while simultaneously fishing for my library card and answering the librarian's questions about fines and materials I had on reserve. Finally, I told Patrick that I needed to speak to the librarian, so please just read the card for himself (yes, he reads fluently). In the ensuing quiet, I dealt with all things library, and took a breath. After a second, I noticed that it was, in fact, quiet, which is never a good sign, so I turned around, and Patrick was GONE. Not next to me, not sitting at the tables nearby, not climbing on the video rack, but GONE.

Then, I glimpsed his little hat head walking out the door, still reading the card. HE was LEAVING.

My first response was to holler for him to come RIGHT BACK HERE, which being in his own little universe he heard not at all. So, I took off after him, still calling for him, with people looking at me like I was a mad assassin. Within about fifteen seconds I caught up to him, STILL WALKING, even though by this time we were both out in the snow, and asked him such popular favorites as, 'What on Earth Did He Think He Was Doing', 'Where Did He Think He Was Going, Young Man?!' and, my personal favorite, 'Had He LOST His MIND?!' in a tone that probably would have done many a banshee proud. The people around me had the nerve to look surprised that I was upset! It turned out that The Boy, of course, had no answer to any of these questions, but did at least have the sense to look abashed. Good Lord.

Suffice it to say that Mr. Idontwanna Holdyourhand is going to be back on a short leash until he's twenty at this rate!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Two Little Turnips

Both kids were in rare form today. Patrick starting the morning off getting his video game privileges taken away because his sassiness has gotten out of control. He does this thing where whenever anyone says anything to him that is either pleasant (ie, your friend is coming over today) or he doesn't like (for instance, if I have to run an errand after I pick him up from school), he either turns into a rag doll and slumps over dramatically or flops his head back and opens his mouth like a dead trout, kind of like a full-head eye roll. I am DONE with this. Today, he was in the bathroom supposedly brushing his teeth when I had the audacity to tell him that we weren't coming straight home from school because I would need to stop at the Y on the way home to drop off the soccer sign up forms. For my trouble, I got the trout head. THEN, when I scolded him, he did his purposeful-eye-dart, which is when he is looking at me, then pointedly darts his eyes to the side and back as if to say that I can' t control his eyeballs. Well, I beg to differ. I made those eyeballs, and if he keeps it up I might just take them back! So, he lost gaming until his father got home. (I didn't want to take it for the whole day because we do sometimes play as a family in the evenings, and generally even if he's playing during the afternoon I'm playing with him; more on games another time. ) To his credit, he accepted this, and when I reminded him after school he took it in stride.

Then, this afternoon when Josie walked through the door, she handed me an envelope from her teacher. Seems someone not only didn't do what she was asked FIVE TIMES in a row, but when the teacher told her to sign the behavior book (acknowledging that she was having one of the four daily behavior points taken away) she DIDN'T DO IT, and then proceeded to ARGUE with her teacher about how she HAD done it, but just VERY lightly!!!! So, she had another point taken away, lost recess, and had to bring a note home. As punishment, I made her write an apology letter and didn't let her help make brownies this afternoon for the teacher appreciation day tomorrow. She NEVER acts that way. She said it was because she wasn't done her math, and she didn't want to stop when the teacher told her to, and then she didn't want to sign the book because I would be disappointed in her for losing a point. I know, however, that it was more because she was furious about the whole thing and didn't want to do it because she knew she was screwed. Now, of course, she's MORE screwed.

As a topper, Patrick got neither stories or songs at bedtime tonight because he was such a pill about doing as he was told and putting his jammies on, and then had the nerve to try to argue with his father that he in fact WAS putting them on. It didn't help his cause that he was standing in the middle of his pile of rocket toys at the time, holding his hamster. He has ended up having a temper fit in bed with a red bottom, from the sound of it. It takes a lot to make my husband lose his temper, so I can only imagine the faces The Boy was making. I'm trying not to be perversely glad that he's making them at someone other than me!

Why do kids not get that when we're *looking* at them, we can SEE them?! It mystifies me that they still want to argue when we're looking right at them doing whatever it is. A few years ago, Josie actually tried to tell me that she hadn't cut her hair, when I was looking right at her HOLDING THE SCISSORS. I'm trying to decide whether it's that *they're* stupid, or that they think *we* are. At any rate, public schools are closed tomorrow for teacher in-service, so Josie will be home all day, and Patrick will be here as well, since I'm not dragging everyone out early in the morning to drop him off at prek. Hopefully they've all gotten whatever this is out of their systems today, because if they act like this again tomorrow, they're going to be OUTSIDE.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Diet, Day Five

The diet is going well. I don't know if I've lost any weight yet per se, but I have been eating less, particularly in the munchie department. I think the DexaTrim drink tablets are actually helping, although I can't swear as to whether it's because I believe that they will or because they actually do. Either way, less stuff is finding its way into my face. I have noticed that the caution on the box to be aware of other sources of caffeine in my diet is a serious one; if I've had a coffee, and then drink water with tabs in it, I do get a hyper, strung-out feeling that isn't terribly pleasant. That has only happened once, but it passed in a short while, probably helped by my eating a cereal bar to help balance myself out. Since then, I have tried to drink it either after dinner or with a small snack. I also used a SlimFast for the first time today, and I do believe it really does tide me over as a breakfast meal. At least I wasn't tempted to start gnawing on my fellow choir members, as I usually am on Sunday mornings because I never have time for breakfast before I run out the door. There's nothing like a Christ crouton bouncing around all alone in your stomach to make you realize that you're EMPTY, and that's when friends and family start looking mighty tasty.

This is not to day that I've been depriving myself; today at social time I had some snacks, and my husband bought me a Peppermint Patty as a surprise this afternoon. But, I have had less of a sense of ... urgency about food. I think this means that I am somehow assigning less importance to it. That is a HUGE leap forward for me, and breaking the habitual eating pattern is a big part of what I was hoping these 'aids' would help me with.

At first I was uncomfortable about the kids seeing me with the colored DexaTrim drink, which I have been using once or twice a day (you're allowed up to three times, but that's more than I want to do). One, since I have a daughter, I'm worried about the whole body image thing. She's not a skinny girl, but she's very healthy and tells me often that she loves her body. I don't want anything to change that for her, and I'm nervous that she would start thinking there was something wrong with her if she knew I was unhappy with mine. I was teased so much about my weight as a child that I'm very protective of her psyche, and while that may be an example of projecting my issues onto her, but there it is. Second, since I WAS teased so much, I am very, very private about my own feelings about my body. I don't want to discuss my concern that I'm too heavy with my children, because that could lead to a lot of intrusive comments or questions, particularly by my five year-old. I do not relish the thought of my children, particularly Patrick who has no sense of social nuance, taking it upon himself to think about and comment on my weight. So, I told them a little white lie and said that it's an adult vitamin powder in the drink. This way, they don't ask to have some, either. :)

I'm going to weigh myself tomorrow morning, so cross your fingers for me. I'm hoping to see at least one pound gone, but will try not to be demoralized if the numbers are still the same. In the past, once I started losing, it was like I had finally gotten a heavy stone moving, and progress was easier after that. Regardless, I have started to notice small results from my workouts, particularly in my stomach (which I SWEAR I could use as an environmentally-friendly shopping sack). That, at least, is something.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Slacker Parent Rant

I promise not to do this a lot, but I have to get this one out. Here's something that bugs the crap out of me: parents who expect other parents to deal with all the volunteer stuff for all the organizations their kids are a part of. I have been noticing rampant 'taking-it-for-grantedness' increasingly as my children get older, and now that they're both starting to get involved in many various things, it's starting to really annoy me. Is it that parents who are willing to accept responsibility have a certain smell about them that slacker parents can pick up on? Do we all have an invisible SuperParent cape on our backs? Just in the past week, I was at a PTA meeting (about ten parents, plus five officers and some school staff for a school of 400, which was actually a year-high), vacation bible school planning meeting (about 10 parents, including husbands and wives, for a children's program of over 150 kids, and we were cornered because we were all there waiting for our kids to be done with choir anyway), and a valentine's day cookie baking and decorating party at the church (20 kids dropped off for four hours, three parents stayed, which sounds good until you figure out that two parents are in the kitchen monitoring baking and cutting with a few kids at a time, leaving the other two alone with sixteen sugared-up elementary school kids).

I see the same faces at all these places. These same people lead the girl scout troops, teach Sunday school, staff fundraisers and coach sports teams. I'm not complaining about being involved in my kids' lives, but it DOES amaze me that 1) other parents aren't interested in taking part with their children once in awhile, and 2) that none of them seem to think that, hey, maybe those of us who do it all the time for everyone else would like a break once in awhile, and be the ones who get to drop OUR kids off for an afternoon for be watched by other people for free. I'm not talking about the parents with six kids here, or the ones who have crazy work schedules, but the ones who are obviously going to enjoy a date with their spouse while you do xyz with their kids for the umpteenth time.

Once administrators realize that you're dependable, you're screwed. This week I got volunteered to be in charge of the school talent show AND head the decorating committee for VBS this summer. No pressure or anything. Actually, I *am* looking forward to doing these things, even though I'm kind of scared to be in charge of the talent show, not because of the kids, but because of how their parents may act if they don't like how it goes. (Like when I coached teeball years ago, and one dad had the gall to not only expect me to teach his preschooler to be Babe Ruth, but to criticize me, fresh latte in hand, when his kid failed to make the all-star team. The last thing I will need is some stage mom freaking out on me because the mood lighting was all wrong for her second-grader's dance number.)

I fully admit that I bring some of this on myself, because when I go to these meetings, the desperation in the eyes of the PTA board when they're faced with no one to run something makes me feel bad, so I agree to take care of whatever it is, like being the liaison to the county board of education finance committee (OMG, what was I THINKING?!). I know that in six years, when Patrick is in fifth grade, I will probably have that same roadkill look on my face, and I hope that there will be someone as easily guilt-tripped as I am sitting across from me!!!

I'm done whining now. Oh, and if anyone has any ideas on how to decorate a church like a religious amusement park (I'm not kidding, that's the theme!!!), please let me know on the double!!!!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bonfire of the Banshees

I am an only child. More than that, I am the only child of an only child of an only child (Beat that!! And no, I wasn't spoiled, so don't even go there.)! Therefore, I feel that there should be post-birthing class seminars offered to people like me, something along the lines of, 'Navigating Questions of Air and Space Ownership', or 'Share This: How To Know When the Shit Is About To Hit The Fan'. It could be sponsored by the makers of Duct Tape, Paxil and Kahlua.

Aside from being at friends' houses, I have never experienced the joyous interactions of siblings before my current trial by forest fire. Besides, that was entirely different. Of COURSE my friends' brothers and sisters WERE obnoxious brats with no redemptive qualities, so THOSE fights over toothpaste and pre-chewed gum were totally valid.

Lately, the fights around here have been a little once-sided. Poor Patrick adores his sister. Josie is sick to death of her brother, and no matter how adoring he is to her, she has been sloughing him off like old skin. She rarely even hugs him back when he says goodnight to her. He, on the other hand, makes a point of doing things for her, little kid things like winning her an animal prize in his Leapster game, even if she has completely blown him off minutes before. I've tried talking to her about this, comparing it to how our younger dog worships our older one, but it doesn't seem to last more than an evening before we're right back where we started. She's not a cold child, and is in fact one of the most compassionate, empathetic children I know, but where her brother is concerned it's like there's some kind of wall there. I really wasn't ready for the 'I'm too cool' act to start so soon!

I am also dumbfounded at the sheer number of things that two people can fight over. Who knew that it was of crucial, earth-shattering importance that one of them OWN the correct pronunciation of the word 'clouds'? One-upmanship is a big, BIG deal. Pasta must be eaten in a certain way, my friend, or it's WRONG and requires immediate correction. Don't even get me started on the many incorrect ways one can hold a toothbrush - it boggles the mind how tiny nuances of wrist movement are apparently the only thing preventing the loss of all current and future teeth. These two take 'my way or the highway' to a whole new level.

My husband says that this is all normal, blah blah blah, but I find it so hard to watch! They do play together at times, and I know part of the problems stem from Josie approaching the stage where she wants to identify with the grown-ups, and more importantly, be identified by others as grown-up. Rationally, I know these things. Mostly, though, I just want them to love each other, respect one another, and above all, I want the shrieking to stop!!!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Diet, Take 523

A couple of weeks ago, I started going to the gym again. I had seriously gotten out of the habit when we moved here about a year and a half ago because a good part of the reason I had liked my old gym so much was that I knew I was always going to run into someone I knew there. New place = no friends at the gym = no motivation to go. No one asking me where I had been when I didn't go for a few days, no familiar faces next to me on the treadmill, etc. So, I fell off the wagon, and that's one mighty fast wagon, because by the time I looked around, it was long out of sight, so I just sat myself right down and ate a pint of Ben and Jerry's instead. Unfortunately, that, in addition to various other issues, led me to gain about 40 lbs. Yeah. It's not so pretty.

I never had a hard time losing weight when I was younger, but for the past two years I've been on Zoloft for my OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and that has put my metabolism essentially in reverse; the only way the numbers on the scale go these days is UP. Also, whenever I try to exercise, I tend to gain weight, too! I think it's a combination between my gaining muscle very quickly and the fact that working out makes me SOOOOOO hungry!!! I'm probably eating more and not realizing it.

In an effort to deal with 1) the largess of my ass and 2) the fact that even my FAT is stubborn, I actually purchased things in the dieting aisle of the grocery store today. Typically, I stare at them for a long time, waffle, and then lose my nerve. This time, I actually got some things. First, I bought some SlimFast, which I've never actually used before, and I'm going to try having that as my early-morning breakfast, since I'm usually in a hurry to get the kids ready for school and it will save me some time. Also, I typically head to the gym after I drop Patrick off at prek, and having a regular breakfast in my stomach can be kind of a pain, but I want to have *something*. Then, I got some Luna bars, which I have loved since I did the Avon walk a few years ago (you carry protein bars with you at all times on those walks, pretty much), to have in the car to eat when I leave the gym, since I get hungry pretty soon after I'm done, but that's when I typically run any errands in the remaining hour and some I have before I have to go back to the prek, and I have a bad habit of getting snacks while I'm out because I'm too hungry to wait until I'm at home. Then, of course, I flagellate myself about the head because I've just ruined my workout calorie burn! Finally, I got some appetite control tablets that dissolve in a water bottle, DetriMax, I think, or something like that, that make the water berry flavored. I figure, if nothing else, I'll be drinking a bottle of water, which is at least good for me.

So, that's my deal. I've done really well today, no slip-ups at all. I would love to lose two pounds a week, but really would take anything I can get. It's not so much about the numbers for me, really; I just want to be more comfortable this summer in the heat than I was last year. I've never cared for summer, but carrying this extra weight around makes it even more unbearable, especially when I want to play with the kids and work in my garden.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Obnoxious Playdate Quandry

The other day, Patrick had a friend over to play after preschool, another little boy named James. James seems to be kind of a milk-toast kid, a four year-old who doesn't talk much when adults are around and just hangs around. Anyway, Patrick often mentions that he's played with him during prek, so I figured it would be nice to have him over. I like having my kids' friends over to the house as often as possible. The kids like to be together, of course, but more importantly I get to see who they spend their time with when I'm not around, along with the added bonus of getting time to do my own thing while they all amuse each other. So, I figured this would be a good way of meeting James while simultaneously having my boy busy playing with this seemingly quiet boy. His mother said it was his first drop-off playdate, gave me her cell phone number, and left for two hours. At first things were fine, because they got on like gangbusters, and I was very happy. Eventually, I heard rumblings about their being hungry, so I popped some mac-n-cheese on the stove. A few minutes later, Patrick came running into the dining room, but James was nowhere to be found. I went into the living room, and there he sat on the couch, arms folded, with a face that could curdle milk! I asked him if everything was OK, and he completely ignored me. After several attempts to get him to come into the kitchen, or even talk to me, he finally shouted, 'NO!' at me and turned away to face the back wall. I was surprised, but thought, whatever, and put my hand on his back to guide him into the kitchen. He walked along for a few minutes, then put his feet out in front of him like a mule and refused to move! I told him that if he didn't want to eat, that was fine, but that he should sit with Patrick at the table to be polite and keep him company while Patrick ate. He promptly shouted 'NO!' at me again, then turned in a progressive circle as I attempted to position myself in front of him so I could talk to him. I had had enough of him by this point, and told him that he could either do as I asked or stand in the corner, and after ignoring me for a few more minutes, HE MARCHED TO THE CORNER! He stood there the entire time Patrick ate, probably five minutes or so, and then turned around to go play with Patrick was done. I tried to talk to him again, told him that he had hurt my feelings by being so mean to me, and that when he was in our home he needed to be polite to me. He continued to ignore me, and actually turned around on the couch so he could stare at the back of the couch rather than look at me, so I finally said that it was obvious that he didn't want to be at our home any longer, so I was going to call his mother. I didn't want to do that, since it would upset Patrick to have his friend leave, and also, I don't know his mother well, and this was his first playdate, but on the other hand I couldn't allow the situation to continue. I gave him one final chance, to say sorry, as I was holding the phone in my hand. He spat 'sorry' at me, finally, so I allowed him to stay, but told him that I was sorry to say that I was going to have to tell his mother how he had behaved.

Here's the kicker - his mother was neither surprised nor upset!!! She didn't speak to him about it, have him apologize to me, or anything! She just said, 'oh, yeah, he doesn't like to eat', and that was that! On top of everything else, he pitched a fit when it was time to leave, first ignoring her and then screaming that he didn't want to go with her to their boring house. She merely coaxed him to leave, and told him to leave like a good boy so she could make plans for him to come here again. !!!!

My first thought was, over my dead body!!!!! But in hindsight, I'm not sure. On the one hand, he acted like a brat. But, on the other, he and Patrick get along very well, and have the same interests. Do I let him come over again and deal with him, knowing his mother seems to let him get away with acting like that so it's going to be an uphill battle on my end, or do I politely excuse myself from any further mentions of playdates? Typically kids are BETTER behaved for other people, and only have fits when they're truly comfortable somewhere, so my concern is, if he's like this now, what's he going to be like once he's been here several times? I've had issues with the kids fighting amongst themselves during play, but never, ever had a child be rude like that with *me*. I see his mom three days a week, and I know she's going to mention letting them play again. What to say?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Book Review: Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill

Let me start out by saying, this is one of the most beautiful, haunting books I have ever read. The writing is so vivid and intimate that it is difficult for me to remember that Aminata Diallo is not a real person, and that while several of the events and characters are based on reality, she herself is a mere construct of the author's imagination. Aminata's story begins with the eleven year-old girl assisting her mother in midwifery, and learning the ability to guide women through the birth not only of their children, but of themselves into motherhood. Soon, when her African village is invaded by slave traders, she is shackled with other survivors and marched to the coast to meet the slave ship that will take her to the American south. The remainder of her story, which is reminiscent of Roots both in topic and its ability to live under your very skin, follows her from her sale at auction through years of love, loss, births and deaths. Always at the surface is the ultimate longing for freedom and the journey to the land of her birth that burns within her. Her eventual triumph, and the price she pays for her persistent striving to lift up not just herself but everyone around her, while simultaneously being surrounded by the very worst of humanity, results in a gorgeous and vivid tale. While some of the fortuitous events seem mildly contrived, and the ending is a little too neatly pleasing after the repetitive tragedy of the preceding three hundred pages, I was so thrilled that anything positive at all happened to this character I had come to love that I didn't mind. The ending of Aminata's story both satisfies and brings the theme of birth and rebirth full circle.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Here Goes Nothing

OK, so... Post One.

I've been at home with my kids for over five years now, and I've really only started to OWN the SAHM title. I went through the post-worker-syndrome, where I identified with a working persona that no longer existed, floated in the what-was-I-thinking?! phase (that was mostly when I had a tantruming preschooler and a fussy newborn), and was mired for a long time in the 'oh-crap-this-is-all-there-is?!' phase. The past few months have been more of an entry into a new place for me mentally, kind of an awakening to the fact that yes, I do still exist as a Person, and I am beginning to find that I actually have time to explore who that person is now that the small-child fog is lifting a little. I've become an avid coupon clipper in the past several months, and completely by accident stumbled onto the Book World section of the Post at about the same time. I had forgotten how amazing it is to READ! I've always loved books, and that part of me that has been just starving for some kind of stimulation has led me to have an absolutely overflowing library basket ever since.

The only problem has been, my husband is finishing his grad degree, and has no time to read. Most of my best friends are still carrying diaper bags. Definitely no time to read. So, here I've been reading the most wonderful books, and having all these (gasp!) ideas, and NO ONE to talk them over with!!! This is almost worse than having no new thoughts at all!!

One of my best friends, who I have known for almost twenty years (Oh, God, I think an age spot just busted out on my hand!!!), has been blogging for years doing book reviews, but she recently popped out her FIFTH baby and is on a break from the book biz. She's been suggesting to me for quite awhile that I might enjoy having my own setup, so here I am. So, I'm planning to share my weird family, and the occasional book review, with the black hole that is cyberspace, and maybe someone will beam it up. If not, well, that's OK, because since having children, I'm used to being ignored!