Sunday, March 30, 2008

So I Guess That Makes Me Piggy...

Since I got sick the other day (four days and counting, thank you very much), this house has turned into The Lord of the Flies.

I always hated that book.

As I have been laying here on Kleenex Mountain, which is located just around the bend from Laryngitis Lane, it has slowly dawned on Patrick that I am essentially helpless to do just about anything. At first, this annoyed him, since it made me boring, but increasingly he has realized that it also means that he can do almost whatever the hell he wants, and I cannot scold him (I can't talk), chase him down (I can't move quickly without coughing up a kidney) or basically do anything at all except flail helplessly on the couch with my voiceless mouth flapping like a beached cod.

This is a bad, bad understanding for a five year-old boy to have.

All hell has broken loose at our house.

I'm beginning to believe in demonic possession.

So far, he has:
- continually spun the round chair where his sick sister has flopped in circles
- yanked off blankets from people
- completely ignored any instructions
- harassed the dog beyond all reason
- completely and totally trashed his room in various temper fits
and, my personal favorite,
- mimicked us both in that high-pitched 'Mnne mmne blah blah' voice.

The last time he bothered Josie, I told him to go to his room, which at first he totally ignored, so I used the entirety of my voice for the day and yelled at him, which of course resulted in me doubled in half, hacking. His Majesty then proceeded to stamp up the stairs, and from the relative safety of the upstairs landing did the mimicking thing, followed by a tremendous slamming of the door. This behavior, my friends, is grounds for murder in any country. However, all he got was a spanking, when I got up to him.

Soon after, he came out all sweet and nice, only to be so nasty to Josie AGAIN that she actually told him she hated him, which never happens (I know this will be more frequent in the future, but they're little yet). I couldn't even scold her, because she was right! He complained and whined when he heard me coming, because he knew he was past Deep Shit and on to Endless Diarrhea, but I just told him that I didn't blame her one bit and that he was to go to BED RIGHT NOW. (It was 7:30, anyway). The boy had the sense to know that he was mere seconds from being stuffed in the oven, and went.

He has never been like this, at least not since he was two. I know he's bored, because we've all been in the house for days and days, since first he was sick and now we are. DH has been gone for several days (and returns tonight, thank heavens). I'm too sick to play with him, and I can't have anyone over to play with him, either. Plus, he still has a small cough, so I can't in good conscience send him anywhere. So, he's screwed. I appreciate that. But still, it make me uncomfortable to feel that we're all just *this close* to having a mob of healthy children chase us weakened little Piggies off the island.

SO, all you single moms, and spouses of deployed soldiers, I salute you. I don't know how you manage it all by yourselves when things like this happen, but I am hereby in awe of your superhuman coping abilities. Personally, if DH weren't about to walk through the door and save me (and, by extension, The Boy), I think I would move into the minivan. At least I could lock the door and get a nap!

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Plague

We are all sick.

Well, the three of us that are here, anyway. DH is conveniently in Canada, doing his final presentation for his grad degree. Hooray! He's been in grad school for almost five years, meaning that our time together has been very limited for a long, long time. I'm actually a little nervous about how much together time we're going to have now. I'm kinda used to being on my own now in the evenings. For the first year, it was really hard, being alone so much, but then I got used to it, and actually started to enjoy the peace and quiet. Hmmm. I hope that's not a bad sign. Anyway, he's almost done, and he'll be home on Sunday.

In the meantime, I am hacking up a lung. Josie has the runs. Patrick has had a nose thing for almost a week, and is finally feeling just about normal, which is good for him, but bad for me, since I in no way can keep up with him. Luckily, he has discovered that his room is full of - gasp - TOYS that he can actually PLAY with! By HIMSELF!

I believe that these things have happened to us because my mother, otherwise known as the Plague, was here this week. She lives in my hometown still, and every time she comes to visit, which is usually two or three times a year, we get sick. I don't know why, other than that she's a nurse and maybe carries germs that she's immune to but which kick the crap out of the rest of us?

I do not like my mother. I hate it when she visits. It's the most stressful, unpleasant thing for me, EVER, especially with all the house crap we've been going through lately. It's not really how she behaves when she's here, per se, although that doesn't help (examples: she frequently swears in front of the kids, she leaves waist-length processed hair all over my house), but rather how she was when I was a kid that still bothers me.

When I was three, she and my father divorced. This is a long story that I will get into another time, but basically it was my grandmother's doing. We then moved in with my mother's mother and stayed there until I was fifteen, while my father left for parts unknown (until I found him as an adult, yet another post for another time). For those twelve years, I was choked, ridiculed, physically violated, aimed at with projectiles, and hit. I was wished dead by my grandmother. When I tried to get help from the school counselor, the woman called my grandmother (who also worked at the school), and not only did I get the worst beating of my life, but I also was forced to march into the school and say that I had made it all up. No one ever believed a thing I said again. When I was frightened after seeing Gremlins and cried at night, she told me that I'd better go to sleep, because the only thing I had to be afraid of in the dark was her. She actually told that story to my boyfriends for years, thinking it was a big joke. (I actually only stopped being afraid of the dark about two years ago, embarrassingly enough.)

After we moved out of my grandmother's house, we got an apartment, and my mother's boyfriend moved in. He hated me, and wouldn't speak to me unless she was there, which she wasn't usually when I was around because she works nights and was never home before I left for school, and slept a lot when I was home. I was afraid of him, and for years slept with my bedroom door barricaded. One time, he slammed me repeatedly against my bedroom wall behind my door (I was trying to get into my room and shut the door, because he had been chasing me) while she watched. He cheated on her, and she expected me to be her confidante and consoler and secret-keeper while she went through all his things, just like she always went through all my things. She cheated on him once, too, with his sister's husband, and expected that she could share it with me.

Her boyfriend has several children, two of whom are younger than I am and have been around my mother since they were toddlers and I was about 15. I get to hear all sorts of glowing things about how amazing they are, and how wonderful it is that they've had the chance to travel through school, when she took every opportunity to make sure I could NEVER travel through school (to the point of telling me that there would be no more college money for me if I even *applied* to study abroad). However, she didn't think that those two were wonderful enough to warrant help through school, while they were literally eating box noodles every day and constantly in danger of not being able to return to school because they couldn't maintain three jobs plus their schoolwork. She actually refused to marry her boyfriend because she didn't want to be responsible for His Children in any way. She had the money to help them, she just wouldn't.

I have tried to work this out with her. I wrote her a letter about ten years ago, but all she did was scream and cry and refuse to talk. Her basic comment is that the past is the past and she won't apologize for it, and that she's a different person now. She is the reason I moved so far away from everything I had ever known, and from a nearby city that I had loved. I knew if I didn't get away, she'd find a way to infiltrate my life, and I couldn't risk it.

Even with this large distance, she still calls and complains to me about the old woman she helps, who was my grandmother's best friend and whom I actually did love because she was the only one who was kind to me, ever. She complains about having to help her, having to spend time with her, having to take her places. Now, first of all, she doesn't have to do any of those things - she volunteers to do it. Secondly, why do something if all you're going to do is complain? She complains about her friends, her patients at work, everyone. She even has pet names for people, like Bimbo or Miss Perfect.

Why do I let her in at all? Oh, boy. Well, part of it is guilt. She's my mother, and I can picture the scene if I cut her off. I can also imagine her being the kind of person who would try and sue for grandparents' rights, and then I would have to deal with all kinds of court proceedings, which if I lost might result in my children being alone with her.

Also, I want my children to have a family. When my father left, all of his brothers, sisters, and parents abandoned me as well, leaving me with just my mother and grandmother, who were both only children. As long as the woman behaves herself around my children, I'm willing to allow her to be near them so they can have a balanced sense of family.

Finally, I suppose it's because I'm scared to cut her off. I mean, that's a huge decision, when she's all the family I have (my wretched grandmother died almost ten years ago). I think subconsciously I imagine some huge hand coming down from the sky and smiting me where I stand if I do that, some kind of cosmic Getting In Trouble. That's probably the childish part of me being afraid of her still, I suppose.

The best thing for me to do, probably, would be for me to forgive her and move on. I mean, adults are supposed to forgive and move on, right? The problem with that is, it's difficult to forgive someone who won't acknowledge that she's been in the wrong, and also it seems just...unfair for her to Get Away with everything, scott free. I mean, I know since I allow her to be in my life, and since she managed to never get caught, she has already gotten away with
everything she did to me, but I feel like if I forgive her in my heart, that will be a final betrayal to myself, like saying, well, it's OK.

So, she keeps coming. And I keep getting sick.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Trifecta of Evil

So, the last few days have been eventful.

Yesterday, after getting my mother from the airport and going to the science center, I came home to find our neighbor's truck parked on our side lawn, next to the family room window. Not the driveway side, but the actual lawn side. It wasn't just any truck, either, but an extended cab, long bed huge, honkin' blue truck with a tiny for sale sign on it. The day before, I had told him (I don't know his name, but I believe he's dating our neighbor to the back, Lori) that it was OK to put a sign on our lawn about the truck he wanted to sell. Seems he decided to post the sign on his truck. Surprise! So, I called the number on the truck and said that THAT would HAVE to GO, but that he was still welcome to put a sign on the lawn. Jeeze.

About an hour later, someone was at the door, and DH answered it, thinking it would be Lori to apologize for the truck incident. Nope. It was our next door neighbor to the other side, the older woman who came over a week ago looking for information about the relocation, since the county hadn't called her yet, and who had then let loose with a number of words, including the N word, that I would have preferred that she not use in front of Josie, or even in the general vicinity of our home. Not only was it this woman, but also her daughter and granddaughter, who used to live here, and who had decided that they wanted to see the place one more time. We hadn't invited these people over, and I was in the middle of making dinner! They made themselves right at home in the family room (where they had a nice view of the truck), and STAYED HALF AN HOUR! I tried calling to the kids to wash their hands for dinner. Nope. I tried going into the family room to say hi, where I was greeted by the daughter and granddaughter like I was an alien in THEIR house, and said that I'd love to hang out, but I was in the middle of making dinner. Nope. THEN, the daughter and granddaughter started wandering through the house, looking at the kitchen WHILE I'm COOKING!!!!! Finally, as I was literally dishing out the food, they left. Maybe they were looking for an invite. Jeeze.

Well, that was all OK, because the relocation people were coming today. I went to bed thinking about it, woke up thinking about it, ran all over the house this morning preparing for it. DH stayed home from work for the meeting. They were coming at 9:30.

Or were they?

NO, they weren't. They weren't coming at 9:30, or 10, or 10:30, or even 11. In fact, they weren't coming AT ALL. They never showed up! We called their offices, their cell phones, and their receptionist and got nothing but voicemail. Finally, at NOON, we got ahold of Frank the relocation contractor, who had the gall to ask DH if he'd checked his email! Apparently, he had sent an email at 9:40 (yes, ten minutes AFTER he was supposed to have been here) that they weren't coming because the package needed to be approved by the commissioner, who was on vacation until tomorrow or something. Now, I know he knew that yesterday. In fact, I'm pretty certain he knew that Last Week, because I know for a fact that he had a meeting with Joe, who is an actual county person, and who is in charge of ferrying all documents to and from county officials, last Wednesday night. Yeah. So, needless to say, I went completely apoplectic and sent Mr. Joe, who is the only person in this mess who has actually been accessible and polite, an email with an earful (eyeful?) of documentation of the many, many ways his contractors have totally screwed up (except I'm not thinking of a word that nice). I was pretty much in tears, but after I wrote all of it down and sent it away I felt better. He is on vacation until tomorrow, and I will speak to him tomorrow whether or not he wants to speak to me. I have had it.

So, just for the record, that's three weeks for an appraisal, two canceled / missed appointments, one unannounced appointment with a second appraiser, and literally no phone calls with any information from them at all. This, ladies and gentlemen, is your tax dollars at work!

So, I have no idea what's going on, when it's going on, or who it will be going on with. Maybe someday we'll have an answer, but I'm beginning to think that we're going to know the meaning of life first.

Just for added fun, my mother is here until Thursday, and DH is leaving for Vancouver tomorrow, not to return until Sunday morning. Yippee!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Coupon Queen

My kids have a really cute card game called Sleeping Queens. In it, there are about a dozen cards with various funky queens on them, like the Cake Queen, the Dog Queen, the Peacock Queen, etc, and they remain upside down until you draw a king from the deck, such as the Tie-Dye king, and use it to wake one of the queens up and claim it as your own. Well, if I were one of those queens, I would be the Coupon Queen.

Whereas the Pancake Queen has hotcakes thoughtfully glued to her hips and a butter hat, I would have a fanny pack with a giant binder to hold all my various paper treasures. There would be a pair of scissors tucked behind my ear, and perhaps a backpack for the new Sunday papers. I would definitely be wearing a cat-ladyesque outfit, and a hat that still has the price tag dangling from it, like that lady in the 80's commercial.

I admit it, I'm a coupon freak. I buy both the local paper AND the major metropolitan paper, because inexplicably they have different coupons in them. For instance, if the local paper has a BOGO deal on cheese sticks, the big paper will have $.55 off one bag. I don't know why this is, since it's the same cheese. Maybe they do demographic studies that show people in different areas like different deals, or some such thing. Seems like a waste of research dollars to me, but I'm happy to clip both and take advantage of the company that's gouging me six ways to Tuesday on the freakin' things.

I typically only do one large grocery run every two weeks, with small runs mid-week for fruit, etc. Also, I get my milk weekly from a local Amish market, because it's from free-range, happy cows and comes in quaint glass bottles that I can bring back the next week to trade in for more. I usually go through about three quarts of milk in a week, with a little left over in a cup in the fridge, and if I get that size, Josie can get her own milk.

Today, I was about orgasmic because not only did I need to do a BIG grocery trip, I had also earned a 10% off my entire grocery purchase coupon a few weeks ago, plus I had a giant pile of coupons from the extra P&G brand flier that came out in last week's paper. I always save the 10% coupons for the biggest trips imaginable, and buy half the store. One time I actually saved so much they had to call a manager because the computer kicked it back as an error! So, today, with my overflowing cart, I saved (drumroll, please):


Thank you, thank you, you're too kind, really. :)

It breaks down like this: about $40 in coupons, $6 in doubled coupons, and the rest in store card savings. I kind of don't count the store card savings, because I feel like they just inflate the prices so they can then give discounts later, but at least it looks good on my receipt.

The only downside to the coupon thing is that it takes me longer to shop with all the paper shuffling. I typically spend about an hour and a half at the store, and I definitely don't bring the kids, EVER.

Even better, this particular grocery chain gives $.10 off a gallon of gasoline at their pumps every time you spend $100 during a specific time period. For instance, between now and May 5th, I will accrue a point for every dollar I spend, and each hundred points gives me a dime off every gallon of gas on one fill up. If I use the points midway during the earning period, I can start all over again until the accrual period is over, and use whatever I have by the end of the timeframe.
Today, I happened to talk to the chatty bagger girl, who told me that there was a price war on with a new station, and gas was only $2.99 a gallon. That's a good quarter cheaper than everywhere else in town! Luckily, I was needing to fill up, so I headed over, and since I did my ginormous grocery trip today, it boosted my point bank to over 600, so I got $.60 off on top of the price war, meaning I filled up my minivan for $2.40 a gallon!!!!! It only cost me $35!!! That, my friends, is better than sex, no matter how you slice it (especially after ten years of marriage).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Oy Freakin' Vey

There is no easy way to say this. I think my kids have somehow become morons.

I don't know how it happened. They seemed to be perfectly intelligent when they were born, but as they get older, it becomes more and more apparent to me that they are, in fact, mentally misplaced. Carlos Mencia would sum it up neatly by calling them dee-duh-dees. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids, and technically, education-wise, they are very bright, but when it comes to basic life skills, forget it.

I submit the following evidence for your perusal:

1. The children increasingly cannot see through air. For example, Patrick dropped a doggie yummy next to his foot outside today, and despite my repeated directions on how to find it (look down - now point at the ground - now move your hand to the right - it's THERE! THERE!), the boy turned in circles until one of the dogs happened by and snapped it up.

2. They cannot follow directions. Today I asked Josie to pick up the two videos to go back to Blockbuster, and when I got were a Wallace and Grommit game and a video that was clearly labeled in large print 'PROPERTY OF COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM'. When presented with this label, she just stared at it blankly and finally said, 'oh'. When I asked her, she knew what video she was supposed to bring back, yet it wasn't one of the things in her hand that she was planning on returning. Wha?

3. Patrick's short term memory is shot. Today, for instance, we went to Panera for lunch, Toy R Us for a gift, and the mall for another gift. Simple, right? While we were at TRU, he started whining that he hadn't had lunch and he was STARVING, even when I reminded him that we were, in fact, eating less than a half hour before, and that he had gorged himself on a whole bowl of soup, an entire muffin, and a large drink, he looked at me like I was out of my mind. Regardless, he picked out a gift for his friend, we paid, and left to go to the mall, which is right across the parking lot. By the time we were parking at the mall, he started whining about how we 'didn't even get a present' for his friend! I incredulously told him that we had JUST left the toy store, and he insisted that he couldn't remember what he had picked out. The boy frequently accuses me of not feeding him meals, but not remembering something he was literally holding moments before is a new one.

4. Josie is confounded by computer phone calls. She will listen to the entire message before either (a) calling me to tell me it's for me or (b) hanging up and walking away; regardless of which of these things she does, she will have no idea what the call was about or who it was from. Since the school sends phone messages this way occasionally, it's important that I know what's going on, but after repeated lessons and role-playing, the mystery of the computer call still eludes her.

5. Patrick basically walked right into Josie's swing path today. The funny thing is, the younger dog had done the same thing a few minutes before. Both ended up ass over tea kettle in about the same spot. (Both are also fine.) It is disconcerting to watch one's children making the same mistakes as the DOG. It is even more disconcerting to realize that one's children do not learn from the dog's mistakes! (Man, I didn't know words could be put together that way!)

I'm not sure what to do about these things, and the millions of other little things that go along with them. Are everyone's kids like this? It baffles me how children who consistently get top grades in school can be so obtuse. Maybe it's like how a lot of PhDs suddenly become functionally useless common-sensewise. Maybe my kids are budding PhDs. I hope so, because I'm going to need a lot of medication to combat the insanity they're causing me to experience!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Does Having a Green Thumb Mean You're Moldy?

I have spent the better part of my 'free time' (read: moments when I have snuck off, unnoticed, during TV/computer time) the past few days setting up my seeds in their temporary peat houses. My windowsills look like Little People farms. I have two big folding tables set up, each with several trays on them, and one radiator balancing two more. I still have a few more to put up, too.

I'm intimidated by those last few trays. They are for the 'temperamental seeds' - those that have to be soaked, nicked, or otherwise molested before they can be planted in their tiny plots. Having previously purchased all my plants as small, well, Plants, I haven't really messed with seeds very often, and certainly have never set up this kingdom o' soil, so I never realized what DIVAS the tiny things can be!!! They make me think of Nathan Lane in The Birdcage - 'Mmmm, I'm not gonna grow unless you BOIL me some water, girl! My coat can't HANDLE all that dirt without a good soak first!'

Anyway, I'm irrationally excited by my ever-growing fifedom. For the first time, I'm also going to try my hand at veggies. I promised myself last year that if I kept all my plants alive, and managed to direct-sow a few seeds successfully, I would early-start seeds this year in the house and try veggies while I was at it. I'm hoping that I'm not going to regret living up to my promises to myself. It's starting to seem like this might be a lot of, um, Work. Regardless, they're there, and I find myself observing them several times a day, looking for that miracle seed that shoots a sprout in a record three hours. If I actually found something, I'd probably pass right the hell out.

I'm a little nervous, too, that I like them so much. What if none of them grow? What if I'm a Plant Parenting Failure? I'm hoping that even if I'm not a good parent to, say, watermelon, I'll be an excellent steward to decorative gourds and columbine. I'm trying to be a good environmentalist here, with my seeds and pots and rain barrels; if none of them grow, am I actually making the planet worse by wasting the seeds that a better gardener than I would have grown into a suburban Eden?

I have a habit of thinking that these kinds of things are a great idea, jumping in with both feet, and then too late realizing that oops, I did it again. In my wake lie many knitting needles, needlepoint strings, and recipe books. They are the roadkill of my life, flattened by my flightiness. Gardening, however, has seemed to stick for a few summers, so maybe this is my Thing. Maybe someday, several years from now, I will be that woman people talk about down the block, the one with the garden that people drive by to see. There I'll be, in a big floppy hat, little gloves, and trendy gardening clogs, glistening in the sun, waving serenely at the parade of cars as they drive by, like the Ms. Cleaver of Gardendom.

Or, I'll be the one on the 11 o'clock news, 'Dirty Woman Found Drowned In Own Rainbarrel: Tripped Over Trendy Clogs While Blinded By Ridiculous Hat'.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dragging on Like the Dickins

If you've been reading my posts right along, you know that we are in the middle of being relocated by our county so they can widen the road in front of our house. Apparently, the new road will go through our living room, so it's a good idea for us to get out of the way. I have made my peace with this process, and am actually excited about moving to the new house we've chosen, so now my only concern is really that we GET ON WITH IT ALREADY.

Our new place, which looks like this:

is in a neighborhood, which our current home is not. This is the first time we've lived on a main road, and I haven't really minded it all that much. We have minimal, albeit friendly, interactions with our neighbors, which is OK by me, and because our home is brick, the sound of the traffic isn't all that loud. Besides, while it's a main road by this town's standards, it is by no means a main road by the standards of the county we lived in before this. Frankly, I can see cows from my upstairs windows. So, it's a rural main road, busy for this part of the state. The upside of this has been that when I put out seasonal decor, like Santa and reindeer on the roof, people actually see them, and all my kids' friends love to drive by our house. My gardening, which went swimmingly last year, is appreciated by all who stop at the light on the corner. We have almost no front yard, which is fine with me because I wouldn't let the kids play in the front without me, anyway, and all my flowers are safe from soccer balls, bats, and pogo sticks.

Anyway, we were supposed to be meeting with the county reps tomorrow afternoon to discuss their relocation offer to us, but this afternoon I had a surprise visit by yet another inspector who was supposed to be validating the work done by the first one, OVER THREE WEEKS AGO. Seriously, this is dragging on longer than
Great Expectations (which I submit is the most gawd-awful book ever written)!!! I have a feeling he wasn't going to be as generous as the first guy, either, which was disheartening. He wouldn't talk about what the other guy had said the place was worth, and actually claimed that he didn't know, immediately following that statement by saying that he had to talk to the other guy about a few things. So, I told him that that meant that he really did know what the other guy's report said, he just didn't know what the final analysis would be. He stared at me, and finally said, no. Argh. He also informed me that he didn't think that the county folks would be here tomorrow, and sure enough, about a half hour after he left, Frank the County Guy called and said that they needed more time, could they come out Tuesday morning? ARGH!!!!

At this point, I'm beginning to get stressed out again. I had been doing pretty well, staying calm and not thinking about it hardly at all, but now, boy, I'm starting to freak a little. I actually had a glass of wine (read: swigged vino from a juice glass - THAT'S class, my friends) while I was cooking dinner, and that helped me somewhat. I hate that no matter what I do, another unseen person is having conversations about my family's most basic needs - housing and finances - and I'm not involved in the process. I have to sit here quietly and wait. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I'm NOT a patient person. I do much better when I'm in motion. Sitting passively by is SO not my thing!

This entire experience is driving my OCD bananas. I don't have the hand-washing kind of OCD, but the mental kind, where I worry and stress about things repeatedly. Mostly, it manifests itself by my freaking out about somehow hurting the kids - not my WANTING to hurt them, but being terrified that somehow I WILL. I did see a doctor about it, years ago when it got really bad - coincidentally when Josie started kindergarten, and I was most worried about her safety and well-being - and he said that that's a classic OCD symptom. I take medication for it, and generally go about my life just fine, but when I get really stressed out, it breaks through the medication. Let me tell you, that part of my brain is on super, massive, monster-truck overdrive.

I was soooo looking forward to having that meeting tomorrow, finding out what they're offering, and being able to (hopefully) relax (as long as they don't try to screw us, which, let's face it, is what I'm REALLY worried about). Now, just for fun, they'll be coming here during the week my mother will be here (more on that tomorrow), and the day before DH leaves for a conference for four days, so it BETTER BE GOOD when they get here! Otherwise, I'll be trapped here alone with my mother, and Patrick, who is off all next week, freaking out about bad news to boot. I can't swear which one of us would get voted off the island in that case, but smart money would probably go for the old lady.

Monday, March 17, 2008

These Truths Are Self-Evident

Now that I'm in my mid-thirties (oh, God, that's the first time I've said that out loud...ugghhh), I have come to some conclusions about myself that are not so pretty, but will just have to be accepted:

1. I will never, ever finish the laundry on the day I start it. I will forever be one of those people who has that perpetual load in the dryer that's waiting for the next week's washing to force me to take it out and fold it. Loads which have been fortunate enough to make it out of the cycle of cleanliness will just have to continue waiting folded in the baskets patiently until said new loads force me to put them away so the next batch can have it's turn being ignored. Share and share alike, I say.

2. I will never load the dishwasher right after dinner. I will wait until the next morning, when I have to scrape off the leftovers of what seemed so appetizing the night before but was apparently just Gook waiting to happen from my increasingly chipped plates. Shabby chic applies to chipped plates, right?

3. I will always hate to get my hands wet. For someone who loves dogs as much as I do, I have to admit that my dislike of wetness makes me much closer to being a cat. Putting my hand in the clean dishwasher where all those big puddles of water are waiting to splash me from atop the upside-down glasses, getting the toys out of the bathtub when they're full of cold water, even being freshly out of the shower, all drive me berserk. I like showering, swimming, etc, but immediately afterwards I feel like a... well, like a wet cat.

4. I am not going to be a patient person. EVER. So get over it, already!

And lastly, an oldie but a goodie...

5. I will never get back into those jeans, that top, that underwear, and no, not even you, beloved tank dress. I've loved you, and lately worshiped you from afar, so believe me when I say it's not you... it's me. There's someone else in my life, his name is Carb, and my kangaroo pouch and I are leaving you for him.

I'm not sure if this was an ode to weakness or a battlecry of self-acceptance, but there they are, five of my many (faults? quirks? neurosis?) hung out like underwear on your neighbor's line - too much information about someone you hardly know!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Where's McDreamy When I Needed Him?!

Yesterday morning, had you been a chip on my shoulder, you would have found yourself, my shoulder, and all my other parts, for that matter, in the ER. McDreamy, however, wasn't there. Neither were George Clooney or Noah Wiley. What a ripoff!

I was there because I've had some problems with reflux over the past year, so bad that it wakes me up in the middle of the night in terrible pain, and keeps me up for however many hours it takes for it to subside, usually three to four hours. Basically, I have a hiatal hernia (when your stomach refluxes into your esophagus), and the pain stops when the hernia pops back into place. I've been on Prevacid for a few months, which has been helping, but I still occasionally get a flare-up. I do my best to sleep propped up on several pillows, not to eat in the late evening, and to avoid excessive caffeine. However, my nemesis, Starbucks, FINALLY opened a branch locally about two weeks ago, and I have been weak. Very, very weak. OK, OK...if you look on Google Earth, you'll see that there's a line stretching from there to my house that looks suspiciously like an umbilical cord. I admit it. I swear, ocifer, there's crack in them there lattes!!!!

Anyway, two nights ago I woke up with the familiar pain, but it didn't go away. It got to the point where I was so tired and distressed that I started vomiting, and couldn't stop until finally I was dry-heaving repeatedly. So, DH stayed home, and after we dropped Patrick off at prek I had him take me to the ER. By this time, it had been almost 10 hours, and I was about to keel over. I was also getting very scared, since I have heard that hernias can sometimes twist on themselves and that can be a life-threatening situation.

Amazingly, the ER was almost empty, and I got right in. Of course, the first thing they had me do was strip and put on a gown, showing off my lovely sasquatch legs. (Mental note - shaved legs are today's clean underpants when it comes to medical emergencies! Even in winter, there's no excuse for the COAT I was sporting. Had I been in the wild, I would surely have been hit over the head by a hunter for my pelt.) Even though there was no handsome doctor to woo me, the nurses were very kind, and immediately got me a cocktail of anti-spasmodics and numbing agents to relax my esophagus and ease the pain. Once those kicked in, and they had drawn blood to make sure that there wasn't anything wrong with my liver, etc, I passed out on the bed and slept on and off for about an hour. DH was so wonderful, rubbing my back and just basically hanging out there with me the whole time. He's such a great guy, despite the witchy things I say and think at times.

Basically, it boiled down to I was just having a really, really bad reflux attack and my body kind of freaked out about it. By the time they sent me home, I was feeling a lot better, and slept on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. Today, I feel pretty good, just sore as usual after something like this happens, and I have a lot of very attractive burping going on. I have to take it easy on the food over the next few days, and try to stay upright, ie no playing with the kids while hanging off the bed, etc.

The good thing about all this is that I was able to be there WHILE having the problem, unlike when I go to the doctor about things like this and they shrug and say that it's hard to tell what's going on since I'm not having the problem currently. Also, I got a script for the painkillers they gave me at the hospital so if this happens again I can care for myself better. At some point I'm probably going to have to have surgery to take care of this, but I'm trying to put it off until at least the fall, because both kids will be in school all day then, and since both will be walkers I won't have to worry about how to get them to and from school. I'm hoping to find a good gastro doctor soon to talk about what I can do to prevent re-occurances until then.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Box o' Rocks

My goofy dog, Baci, is scheduled to take a training class on Friday evenings starting this week. I registered him for the basic class, even though he's already good at all that stuff, to try and build up his confidence by surrounding him with other, mostly younger, dogs. He's already had some unpleasant experiences with other dogs, having been attacked by another dog at our home about a month ago, and also in his last class, which let in too many shelter-adoptees who were completely unsocialized and all growled whenever another dog came near. Having had dogs all my life, I feel that a dog who is afraid of other animals is a danger to itself and others, so I really want him to have some positive experiences pronto.

I was looking forward to starting this class until I got a call from the trainer this afternoon. Petsmart won't allow me to use his pin collar in class. The brochure said nothing about restrictions, and PS sells that style of collar. His last class (at a private place) was the same way. I'm really frustrated that I can't equip my dog in the way I know he needs to be equipped. He's 88lbs, but only just turned a year old, and as a lab his puppyhood won't end for another six months so he's VERY boisterous. I've tried flat collars, gentle leaders (which he ingeniously has figured out how to get out of every time - all he has to do is yawn, which stretches out the part that goes around his muzzle, and then yank his head back quickly while closing his mouth -that leaves him with only the slim neck collar on, and that's completely insufficient), clicker training on lead, treat training on lead, everything. Finally, after not even wanting to leave the house with him because he's so excitable after all my efforts, I went out and got a pin collar (or pinch collar, they're sometimes called), which is what I'm trained all my other dogs on. Within five minutes, he was like, 'OH! You meant THAT heel! Pardon me!', and in the past two weeks he's been everywhere, including pick up Patrick at prek where other little kids were crawling all over him, and been calm as could be.

Apparently, the whole dog training theology has shifted in the past few years since I've had a new dog to train, and these collars are now considered mean. My thought is, some kids need some forms of discipline, and other kids need a firmer hand, and it's the same with dogs. Baci has a huge neck with a lot of loose skin, so I can't even tighten a flat collar on him without bunching it all up, whereas the pin collar is loose on him and his many folds until he really pulls in any direction. Obviously, I know that these types of collars can be misused, but they were invented for a reason, and that reason is a 90lb lab puppy who WANTS THAT BIRD ACROSS THE STREET. NOW. I've never had a dog so much as whimper with one of these, primarily because they're self-correcting - dog pulls, collar tightens, dog stops. Generally, the first time they pull hard is the last time, and ever afterwards the collar sits loose on their necks. With my other labs, I've been able to stop using it once they've firmly entered mental adulthood at around three years, and just gone to the plain slip-on style without the prongs.

So, now I'm annoyed that I have to go to this class underarmed to cope with my boisterous baby. Hopefully all the other dogs will be friendly, and he'll get the idea that it's a good thing to see other dogs and not a scary one. Maybe there will be a miracle and he'll have seen the light as far as pulling goes, but somehow I doubt it. When it comes to focusing outside the house, he's definitely a box of rocks mentally. The one good thing is that she said he can wear it, but his leash can't be attached to it, so maybe the weight of having it on will be enough to remind him that just because he's out somewhere exciting there's still no reason to drag mommy like a sled down the aisles of Petsmart.

OK, let the hate mail regarding pin collars begin *covering head with blanket*.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Funky Town

Man, am I in a Funk.

I don't mean, as in 'funky'. I would love to be funky, it sounds fun and happy and, dare I say, hip. But funky is something I am DEFINITELY not.

These past few days, I have barely been able to function and participate in society in a remotely positive manner. The poor kids, I'm trying not to just freak out on them, but unfortunately, if you look up 'being in a funk' in the dictionary, I'm pretty sure you don't see a parenting award sticker placed next to it. I think it's more like a warning label. Or maybe one of those Mr. Ick stickers.

I'm not quite sure what's even wrong with me, to tell you the truth. Maybe it's the fact that I just had my period, and I figured out that I still have at least ten more years of the friggin thing, which calculates out to being something like 600 days o' cramps. O. M. G. That's a LOT of zits that are coming my way. (Why am I still getting zits?! It was a cruel joke played upon us all that acne stops when you're a grown-up!)

Maybe it's that I'm getting that in-between feeling that I always get when we're about to move, kind of like I don't really belong Here anymore, but There isn't home yet, either. I'm not upset about moving anymore, and actually I'm kind of looking forward to it, but it's still unsettling enough to endorse a Funk, I suppose.

Not to mention, this morning, I was pinned in my driveway for two solid cycles of the stoplight that's near our house, because everyone in town seemed to have a burning need to hurry up and wait at the light rather than let me out of my house. Nothing inspires the Crazy Lady in me more than sitting in my driveway watching some Drama Queen yak on the phone and pretend not to see me watching her in my rearview mirror! Watching isn't really the word... plotting her demise is more like it. When that happens, I have a total Ally McBeal moment and imagine myself slamming into reverse and WHAM! Cell phone is permanently lodged in her ear! (Hell, she should be grateful - it would get her hands-free, after all.)

I also think that Funkiness is something you can catch, and in turn pass on. I've been noticing that there seem to be a lot of Funkified people out there lately, so I probably got contaminated somehow, like while standing in line at the library (has anyone else noticed that the vast preponderance of librarians seem to really not like kids, or even people, all that much? What is that?!!!) listening to the woman at the desk hiss at some poor kid who was talking to his sister too loudly.

I'm doing a lot of reading and video game playing to try and trick myself out of all this, but really I think it all comes down to a Vitamin D deficiency, the kind that can only be fixed by the S-U-N. I thought I was going to like this early clock change bit, but so far all it's done is show me more of the cold daytime I can't go out and enjoy!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Boy, In His Natural Environment - Observe!

Today I took Patrick to his annual visit at the Child Development Lab at the University of Maryland. Since he was two, he's been part of a study on child interaction.

I enjoy taking him to these things as much as I loved taking personality tests when I was a kid - which is to say, a lot. It's a chance to see kids in their natural environment, as they would be (and, I assume, are) when there are no adults around, because their play takes place in a two-way-mirrored room that is also shown on a closed-circuit TV that the other mom and I watch from next door. I'm always nervous, although less so this year than when he was going through his Running Man Tantrum phase at around two, that he'll behave in a way that will expose me as a slovenly, overly permissive fraud of a mother who shouldn't even be allowed to take her child home.

Until this year, the kids always did the same thing: free play, restraint testing (to see whether they would hold off on doing something until the student came back into the room, haha), following directions, snack, and individual interviews to see how they described their time there.

Today, they had a little bit of free play, during which the other mom and I had to fill out a mountain of questionnaire paperwork. I had to rate Patrick's levels of spontaneousness, nervousness, outgoingness, etc. Just when I got to the one about whether or not he was concerned about engaging in play where he might get hurt, he and his little friend Tom began that Run At the Wall and Bounce game, where each child in turn hurtles at the wall (which in this case was made of glass - mental note - discuss the unwiseness of throwing oneself at glass with Boy at later date) to see who can bounce off it farther and with the most outrageous death-noise. Um.... that would be a negative five on the 'concern regarding safety during play' scale.

After free play, the kids were instructed to pick up their toys (further mental note - reflect on why Boy tidies up for stranger but not for me), and one of the students brought in a K'nex toy. They were supposed to follow directions to build some creature or other. I can't say how far they got, since I was STILL filling out paperwork, but it couldn't have been far, because as soon as the girl left the room, the two of them got into a Who Can Barf The Loudest contest. I have to say, the ability of a five year-old boy to fake vomit while simultaneously laughing hard enough to make himself ACTUALLY vomit is impressive.

Once that debacle was over, the boys again picked up the stuff, and the Girl brought in snack, which was graham crackers and juice in these little juicebox holding containers which were very cute and clever, and which the boys promptly removed. The Girl Student went back in almost immediately to show them how to keep the boxes in and still drink, which they dutifully did, exclaiming over how cool it was, right up until she turned her back, at which point the containers found their way right back off. (HA!)

After snack, it was computer time. The boys had to listen to directions, and then use the mouse to blow up a balloon on the computer, earning points. They were told that the more points they got, the bigger prize they would get, and they were shown the prizes they were playing for - crayons, pencils, etc. I was expecting some fighting over this, since they had to take turns, but they did really well! They screamed and laughed over Tom blowing up the balloons too much so they popped, and cheered over his doing well. Tom got three stars from the game, so he got a three-star prize. Patrick's turn was quieter, I think because they were starting to get a little tired from all the excitement, and he only got two stars in the end, probably because he never uses a mouse with my laptop. I was expecting him to be upset about not getting as big of a prize, but he didn't say a word about it! Phew!

Then they had to share a Leapster, which was funny because the other boy had no idea how to use it, and rather than taking it from him Patrick told him what to do, hovered around him for a minute, and then went back to miming barfing in front of the mirror. I suppose that's sharing, sort of.

At the end, Patrick had to go through his individual interview, during which Girl Student got a lot more information out of him than I am usually able to do after he does something (What did you do today? Um, I forgot. What did you have for lunch? Um, huh? Who did you play with today? Dunno.) and he got to pick out a big prize, which today was an Imaginext gorilla thing.

The Students today were a lot better than they have been in the past. I remember being in college and feeling like my studies had obviously made me smarter than regular people, so I know that their age and inexperience were what made some of them be a little...urm...obnoxious in the past. They were never overtly rude, but for instance, one year one girl had an obvious Idea of what a SAHM was, and it was somewhere between Betty Rubble and Lucille Ball. I put up with her condescending tone for almost the entire time, and then on our way out we talked about the research and when it would be published, and whether she would get any credit. I told her that she should make sure that she did, because I was credited in a book one of my professors wrote that I helped him with even though I had graduated before it was completed. I wish I'd had a picture of her face! Today the girls were very sweet and respectful, or at least had the sense to appear to be!

Today was the last visit for a few years; we don't go back until he's seven. I think it's fun, though, and I believe that there have been a few things published based on their findings so far, and that there's a website. When I find it, I'll post a link.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Now, That Jus' Ain't Right

This afternoon the appraiser for our property showed up to take a few more pictures and measurements. I swear, the guy's about nine hundred years old, and he walks exactly like Tim Conway from the old Carol Burnett show. He was supposed to have finished this appraisal LAST weekend, but says that he'll actually be done this weekend. So, no offer from the county for us this week. What could I say? I didn't want him to have a stroke right here in my house because I got upset with him... as it was, I followed him around because I was terrified he was going to fall in our uneven back yard!

Then, not twenty minutes later, our elderly neighbor showed up on my doorstep. She's probably about 65 or so, and we've been friendly since we moved in, although since we have a privacy fence (we live near a small business, so I wanted the bigger fence) we don't talk as much as we otherwise would. Well, I opened the door, and the first thing out of her mouth was 'I need to talk to you.'

So, as an extra bonus to our entire moving situation, I got to tell this poor woman, who has lived in her home for fifty-plus years, about the demolition project that's coming our way. She had heard rumors of it a week ago from her neighbor on the other side who had had his house on the market until the county told him he couldn't sell it on the open market, and thought I might know something. I have to say, that was one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever had.

She held it together pretty well, and talked about how she hopes to hang onto the back half of their property, which is about twice the size of ours, so they can build a smaller home on it. Her kids have all been born since they lived there, and two of them still live with her.

As an ultra-bonus, I got to have her drop the N-bomb, in addition to other inappropriate language, in front of Josie, who thank God wasn't listening that closely, I believe. The woman kind of slipped it in there, and I didn't say anything to her about it, because she's old, upset, and I didn't want to draw Josie's attention to it. If it was someone younger, or a different conversation, or someone we were going to be seeing regularly, or if Josie had heard clearly / not been there, I would have said something. As it is, I'm trying to think of a way to figure out if she heard it in a roundabout way so I can talk to her about it if she did. Ugh. At our last house, she was the only white child in her class two years in a row, so moving here to White Bread, USA was a big shift for us, particularly because we do run into racism more often now. Still, I was shocked to hear it.

Anyway, the Neighbor stayed for about forty minutes, and I was as helpful to her as I could be, giving her names of people I have talked to and telling her that I'll be in touch when we get our offer from the county so she'll have an idea what they're doing for us. I'm thinking I'll give her those things when we're ready to leave and everything's taken care of, just in case we're not technically supposed to share info. I could tell that she was close to tears a few times, but hopefully since they have a plan of what they want to do, it will get easier once they're adjusted to it. I can't imagine being in their position. Being in ours was shocking enough.

I feel like I should bill the county for mental health / PR assistance or something. I knew they hadn't talked to her as of last week, but seriously, you'd think once they've visited one neighbor, they'd talk to them all. Jeeze.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Going Lando

My darling son, little Patrick, light of my life, is completely fixated on his penis. I walk through the living room, and there he is, hand in his pants, just sitting there.

'Is anything wrong?' I ask.
'Just making sure it's still there, then?'
'OK...ummm... carry on.'

This happens daily. One time, I even found him asleep in bed with Bill, because they had both dozed off reading stories. I went in to pick up His Highness, pulled back the blankets, and there he was, dead asleep on his back, hand in his underpants, holding on to the thing like a lovey. Which, I suppose, is what it is?

Lately, his latest fixation is going 'Lando'. In normal homes, this would be commando, but he's a Star Wars boy through and through, and that's what he's decided it is. It's cute, so I haven't corrected him, and besides, from what I remember of Lando Calrissian, it fits. He was definitely the type to hang onto it All The Time, kind of a role model, if you will. Maybe I should email Billy Dee to tell him he's the proud inspiration of a new term?

So far, I haven't caught him with his hands in his pants in public, thank God. I do occasionally see him feeling for it over his pants, and all it takes to get him to stop is a 'Do you need to go potty?', so I'm not concerned that he's about to be booked for being a dirty...young man, but I don't want him to grow up to be one of Those teenagers you see on the street, holding onto the thing like a life preserver!

I am, obviously, a girl. I have no brothers, no uncles, no cousins, no father. There was not a shred of testosterone within a yard of my body until I was ... well, never mind about that. I was too young, and don't you even think about it! (in case Josie ever stumbles onto this when she gets older)

So, for those of you with boys, does this little obsession quiet somewhat, or at least go underground, soon? I mean, it's funny now, sort of, but then I get a flash-forward of him at thirty, slouched on the couch, one hand holding a beer and the other one his penis, and I feel like that Scream picture! Is there hope? Or am I doomed to accept Penis McGrabb forever?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Me First!

Has anyone else noticed that it is impossible to do ANYTHING if a child sees you looking like you're about to do Something? I'm beginning to think that my kids have weird radar brains that track my every movement. It must go something like this - the kids are upstairs doing whatever it is they do when I'm not looking, like licking the cat or throwing legos behind the radiators, and then suddenly a little warning light in their brains starts flashing, 'Warning! SOMETHING is about to happen! Be FIRST!' , and like zombies they rise and walk to wherever they feel I am, following the scent of potential accomplishment. They see me near the stove, see that there's water on the stove, and eureka! 'Mommy!!!! Can you make me some hot chocolate?!' And then the other child, whose sense is either numbed by TV or just plain hasn't gotten to me yet, yells, 'MOMMYYYY!!! Can you make me some cocoa!!??!?!'

Take this scenario, and multiply it by about a billion, and there you have my day. If I'm walking towards the computer, zip! They're in front of me, wanting to play a game. Was I looking at the bathroom? Flash! They're little heinies are on the pot, and their usual Potty Time Opera Practice commences. (If they're having a particularly good day, they can take over both bathrooms at the same time and have competing arias.) Lord forbid I even THINK about the phone, because that REALLY throws their senses in a tizzy. That must be a Red Alert or something on the Brain-a-tron system. It's not so much that they want the phone, it's that if I'm moving towards the phone, that means that I actually am planning on doing NOTHING for a few minutes except talk, and oh, do they have better ideas for me!!! It's like living with two small, drunken bosses.

Why do I put up with this obnoxiousness? Really, the question is, how do you stop it?! I can't tell them that they don't have to pee, because that would be the one time they really did need to go, and I'd have to deal with guilt, laundry, and mopping, and still wouldn't get to pee in peace, to boot. If I'm boiling water for coffee, is it really that much extra trouble to make a few cups of cocoa while I'm at it? No. But the constant nature of it, and the fact that I can always EXPECT it, is what drives me bananas. From the minute something pops into my head, I can almost start the mental countdown to when their shining little faces appear (or they just holler from another room).

Even more obnoxious, the animals do it, too!!! They can tell if I get off the couch and come racing down the stairs like big, hairy gangbusters to see if I maybe, possibly will drop something, anything on the floor, preferably something that was alive at some point. Baci, the youngest one, will even watch me through the kitchen window if he's outside! Seriously!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Book Review: People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks

I first found out about this book when I was listening to NPR (yes, I'm a radio geek, through and through) and GB was being interviewed by Diane Rehm. I loved March, which she wrote about two years ago, because it extrapolated on my favorite story of all time, Little Women, to tell the father's side of the story, including how he and Marmee met and what his time at war was really like. It was very well imagined and written, so when I heard her discussion of this newest work, I requested it from the library immediately.

GB was a journalist for many years, and it definitely worked to her advantage in People of the Book, which is the story of a literary artifacts restorer on the trail of historical data relating to a recently rediscovered, several-hundred year-old haggadah that has been rescued by a librarian during the bombing of Sarajevo. Hanna follows the clues discovered in the pages - a drop of wine, a strand of hair, missing clasps - to understand the history of the book, and on a larger scope, that of its people. Following each chapter of discovery by the protagonist is a chapter detailing the fleshed-out tale of how the item came to be in the book. These 'background' chapters are included in reverse historical order, following the centuries, and are truly amazing short stories within the larger scope of the book that even alone would be a great read, and left me wanting to know more about the fates of the characters within, particularly that of the book's original creator's daughter (I'll say no more on that, because it would be giving something away).

Woven into the story of the book and its people is the tale of Hanna herself, her relationship with the book's most recent savior, her dealings with her complex tyrant of a mother, and her discovery about her own past. The ending of the book, which while not as smooth and effortless as the rest of the book was still adequate, is a six-year jump into the future that shows exactly how far some people will go to secure their own desires.

I will not be surprised if this novel earns GB another nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. It's at least as good as March, and, for non-fans of Alcott's work, probably more so. In addition to the work being just plain interesting and entertaining, I actually learned a good deal about Jewish history; the story is based on actual events, and the haggadah is in fact a real find that GB fleshed out in gorgeous detail.