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Monday, December 28, 2009

Worse Than Pulling Teeth

She climbed up into that tall chair that sits in the window. The one that allows all the passers by to watch while they are, well, passing by. She looked excited and perhaps a wee bit nervous. I confess that I was nervous as well. "You're in the hot seat now!" I told her. She picked out a shiny blue pair. Blue has become her favorite color recently. She waited patiently for the associate to come back and seal the deal. It was a busy place to be today, a few days after Christmas with all the area schools out. Kids and teens of all ages ran rampant outside the window from where Dear Daughter was perched in her tall chair.

The associate came back and made sure I had signed all the waivers agreeing to indemnify them of every possible thing that could go wrong with what they were about to do to my daughter. Then the associate loaded her gun with the shiny blue pair Dear Daughter had picked out. My heart beat a bit faster, and I turned my head. I couldn't watch. I just wanted it to be over. I heard a loud exclamation of "Ouch!" I peeked back over my shoulder to assess the damage. My little girl still sat on that tall chair. Her chin was quivering just the littlest bit and she fought back a tear. I resisted the urge to pull her out of the chair and hold her close and insist she forget all about this nonsense and call it quits. But she had told me before that this is what she wanted and that she could handle it. I told her I was proud of her and grabbed her hand as the associate loaded her gun again. "It's almost over!" I reassured Daughter. She caught her breath and looked apprehensive like she wasn't so sure anymore that this is what she wanted. Then it was over. Daughter looked sober for a few moments. I tried to lighten things up for her with exclamations of how proud of her I was and how brave and beautiful she was. She smiled, weakly at first. And then she beamed the rest of the day.

My six year old baby now has pierced ears.

My baby who is so brave at the dentist's office. They told me they look forward to her visits because she is so sweet and good mannered. She doesn't cry or protest when they do their dentist stuff in her mouth. Not even when she had to have those two teeth pulled. My baby who told me nonchalantly in her smiling sing-songy voice that day about what it felt like to have teeth pulled, and the bloody gauze hung out of her mouth as she talked. It "tugged" and felt "crunchy" she told me as I cringed and felt a little woozy myself.

I asked her tonight if getting her ears pierced hurt worse than having teeth pulled. "Oh yes!" she exclaimed without hesitating. I asked her if she had to choose one or the other, would she rather have her ears pierced again or have teeth pulled. "Oh, have teeth pulled!" she said again without hesitating.

Seriously.

The whole ear piercing ordeal struck me as a bit barbaric--forcing an earring until it punches through the entire earlobe. What a strange custom. Thank God our culture doesn't encourage females to wear those coils around our necks to stretch them out. No, at least in our culture we are only fixated on punching holes in our bodies.

Dear Husband pointed out that at least we can probably rest easy that Dear Daughter won't be wanting to pierce anything else on her body. If she even so much as hints at piercing something else on her body someday when she turns into a teenager, I'll be reminding her of how much this ear piercing thing hurt. I'll point out that it was so excruciatingly painful that she would rather have teeth pulled than go through it again. Surely that will work.

I alternated today between thoughts of "Thank God she's only six!" and "Oh My God! She's already six!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Moment of Truth

I opened my eyes to the rising sun this morning and looked to see if the familiar yellow curly head was sharing my pillow. Admittedly, I was pleased to see that it was, and I snuggled down into the blankets and as close to his little body as I dared, lest I wake him. I lay there gazing on his angelic sleeping face for a few moments and fought the overwhelming urge to kiss his cheek. And then I couldn't resist any longer, and I kissed him every so lightly. I wondered what a little curly yellow haired boy dreams about as I thanked God for the gift of this child who turned four years old today.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

What a precious four years. And how quickly they have passed. The dear one still allows me to hug and kiss and love on him. When it gets too much he says, "MOMmy!" but his tone tells me he really isn't complaining; he just notices how very much I love him, and I'm pretty sure he rather likes it because he hugs me back as he says it.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

He sighed in his sleep and pressed against me a bit, and I felt his little hand curl around my arm. Those irresistible little hands and fingers that I can't resist kissing. My heart swelled so full that I was sure it would explode from my chest.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Do you know how much I love you?" I ask him regularly at random when his preciousness overwhelms me. "SOOOOO MUCH!!!!!!" he answers. And don't you forget it, sweet boy child. Don't you ever, ever forget it! Not even when you are 38 years old. And then I imagine for a second what he will look like when he is 38, but that thought is too much and makes my heart heavy with ache. When I finally came to terms with him turning two years old, I begged Time to stop right there. It didn't, and so I watched him grow to three years old and told him often how that was quite old enough. Today as I hugged and kissed him and held him tight, I whispered in his ear, "I just can't believe my baby boy is four today!" and he whispered back, "I still feel like I'm three!" Thank God," I said to us both. After all, I'm in denial as well.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I grew up in a small town in the rural Midwest. REAL small. Approximately 350 people small. I was 14 years old when my family moved to a "larger" small town a bit more south, but still Midwest. I adjusted well to having 210 kids in my high school class in this "larger" small town, considering I previously had a class of 20 in the REAL small town. The "larger" small town was essentially a suburb of a small "city" of sorts. Even this small city of sorts eventually began to close in on me, so I moved away for college to a larger city with a metro area population of nearly three million. That worked pretty well for me. I loved the anonymity, the opportunities, the always something do-ness of the city. You would have thought I'd have been in culture shock to spend the first 14 years of my life in a little rural town of 350 people and then four years later find myself in a metropolis of nearly three million people. Maybe I was in shock; college was a blur, after all.

I moved West after that--to Idaho. The entire state made up a total population of slightly more than a third of the population of the city from which I had just moved. I adjusted once again. And then, despite my disdain for small towns, I somehow worked my way back to small town living in the Midwest. Dear Husband and I and our family currently live on a cheery five acres of rural American Dream paradise just outside a small community of about 1,000 people. A short commute takes us to the same small "city" of sorts that I previously mentioned from my high school days. Yes, much as I hate to admit it, it certainly sounds like I've gone some sort of full circle in my life.

My disdain for small town living stems from a deep dislike for small town gossip and a lack of privacy. Somehow, though I can't quite pinpoint exactly how, I felt impacted by both of these in the first 14 years of my life. I promised I'd never subject myself to small town living again. Now to be fair, our current small town life is still much much different that my growing up small town life experience. We currently have a 15 minute drive to a city of sorts (population of about 150,000). Growing up in REAL small town, the nearest city of sorts was at least 45 minutes away, and it wasn't even a "real" city. It was simply large enough to have a few restaurants, a small bit of shopping, a hospital, and some stinky air. I think it may have boasted a population of about 25,000.

We mostly just sleep in our current small town. Well, that's not quite true. We also run around on our small acreage with the kids and dogs, enjoy bonfires at the far corner of the property near the woods, hunt for frogs and tadpoles in the pond, grow a garden, go for country walks, that sort of thing. We just commute for everything else. Once in awhile, however, I indulge in the amenities of our small town. For example, our small town has its own post office, chain-name supermarket, and pizza joint. It also has a few other things that I never use. There are days that I enjoy driving a short mile to the post office where there are no lines to wait in (a nice perk during the holidays), and where I am greeted by the same smiling friendly postmaster guy every time I walk in. And then I can drive another mile to the chain-name market to get a few groceries, and again there is no line to wait in. I always get a front row parking spot, and someone always takes my groceries to the family-mobile and loads them up for me. Small towns, I've decided, do have a few perks.

This morning, however, I had a true small town experience that simultaneously creeped me out and gave me the warm fuzzies. I walked into the post office and was greeted by Smiling Friendly Postmaster Guy, and I no sooner walked in the door than he stepped away to answer his back door, where the UPS man was waiting. Before all this registered in my brain, the UPS man was shouting a street address out to me. I offered back a clueless look before I realized he was asking me if that was MY street address. I'm not used to being recognized like this when I walk into random businesses. I opened my mouth to say "No" and in that moment UPS Man said, "Oh wait! No! You're the house over on _________, the one where all the little girls in princess dresses were dancing around." I closed my mouth without uttering a peep, with the same clueless look on my face until I had a flash memory of Dear Daughter's birthday party last August. UPS came to the door and ten little girls dressed up in princess clothes went screaming through the room. "Yep!" I said. "That's me!" He rattled off my address (correctly) again to confirm, and then offered to leave my packages there with me if I wanted him to. Well, sure. I couldn't see any reason why not. He told me he'd pull around front and meet me, and Smiling Friendly Postmaster Guy told me to go ahead with that business while he weighed my packages. So I met UPS Man at the front door of the post-office (which was roughly ten paces from the back door of the post-office) and he already knew what vehicle I was driving. I had this odd warm feeling as the hair on the back of my neck stood up just a bit and I simultaneously thought it was nice to be known. I wasn't sure which feeling to surrender to, so I just went with it. I confirmed he had the right vehicle and pressed the auto-unlock button on my keyless remote. "Could you just put it in the back of the van?" I remained in the door of the post office, still feeling like this was all a little weird, as UPS Man carefully placed my packages in the back of my van and closed the door firmly. I clicked the lock and stepped back inside as I waved back at UPS Man and shouted "Thank you!" Inside, Smiling Friendly Postmaster Guy was waiting with my packages weighed and ready for me.

In all my past small town living, I have to admit that this was the first time that I went to the post office to mail packages and was greeted by UPS (who immediately recognized my face and my vehicle and could instantly rattle off my street address) offering to load my packages into my car while I was there attending to my other business. I still can't quite decide how I feel about this experience.

Seriously. Small. Town.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Does SOMEtime Have to Come So Soon?

Dear Daughter is a very proficient reader for a not-yet-six-and-one-half-year-old. She discovered my Garfield comic book collection in the storage room a few weeks back and has developed the same passion for them that I had as a kid. Only I was a quite a bit older than she is currently when I began collecting and reading them.

We've had the same bedtime routine for nearly six and one half years: PJ's on followed by teeth brushing and about an hour of reading followed by several minutes of snuggling together in the dark and debriefing our day, or what we've just read, or whatever is on the girl child's mind. In the past couple weeks a new dimension has been added onto the routine. Dear Daughter now gets an additional 30 minutes of time by herself to read her Garfield comic books after I leave her room as long as she turns her light out when told (she knows how to tell time by herself now), and stayed in bed the night before instead of sneaking around the house.

Tonight I pointed out to Dear Daughter that it's kinda silly for us to turn out the lights and snuggle in the dark only to have her switch the light right back on to read some more by herself after I leave her room. The lights out for snuggle time routine began six years ago as a means of helping her wind down and go to sleep. Tonight I suggested we just leave the light on as we snuggle a few minutes and ponder the meaning of life, and then I would leave and let her read her comic books until the specified "lights out" time. By definition, this arrangement implied less time to cuddle up together. Dear Daughter loves cuddle up time. I expected her to protest my suggestion. I probably secretly wanted her to protest a little. She didn't.

"Well..." she began thoughtfully with a little grin. "I guess I have to grow up SOMEtime! So I think that would work, Mommy! That way you could go get started on your night-time work and I can get to reading my Garfield books!" I watched her face as she spoke, and feelings of bittersweet pride stuck in my throat. I knew I wouldn't be able to stop the tears, so I just let them trickle in warm paths down my cheeks. I was remembering when, at almost two years of age, she finally allowed me to place her in her crib awake instead of rocking her to sleep first. I was pregnant for the second time, and I could no longer lift my big rear out of the chair along with her 30 pound body without causing her to wake up. In fact, tonight was very much like that night just over four years ago. While my rear is not quite as big as it was then when I was pregnant, the same lump choked me in my throat as did four years ago when Dear Daughter allowed me to put her in her crib awake, and with a tearful, pitiful voice assured us both with her words, "Mommy be back!" I barely got out the door that night before the tears flowed, and tonight I didn't even try. I just let them slip down my cheeks as I held her close with the lamp still on.

"Yes," I said in a pitiful voice. "I guess you have to grow up SOMEtime...." I heard her pitiful little not-quite-two-years-old voice echoing in my memory..."Mommy be back!" Yes, my baby girl, I will always "come back," no matter how the fabric of life changes you or our relationship. But that doesn't stop the ache that comes with the knowledge that a milestone has once again been passed, and once again things will never be the same. I would have held you a little longer last night if only I would have known.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Superstitious

It was Friday the 13th, and I'm not superstitious. Dear Husband commented that evening about some silly poll on the number of people who are superstitious and because of it do not leave their homes on Friday the 13th. It just happened that the kids and I did not leave the home on this particular Friday the 13th. It had nothing to do with superstition; it had to do with having one fabulously joyous day on which there was nowhere we HAD to go. The house was relatively clean. Even my work for the week was nearly caught up before the weekend. This kind of thing just never happens in my life very often anymore. In fact, I cannot remember the last time. I spent the day not thinking at all about it being Friday the 13th. I schooled the kids peacefully. The phones didn't ring. My only chore for the day was the six loads of laundry that I juggled between Math and Handwriting and Science and Social Studies. I enjoyed some outdoor play with the kids and the dogs as well as some games and silliness in the downstairs playroom. As 5 pm drew near, I was satisfied this had been a very productive and even relaxing sort of day, and I was feeling very little stress or pressure. Days like this are too few and far between.

I eventually succumbed to the kids pleas for television by 5:15 pm while I prepared a meatloaf for dinner and then spent some time in the office shredding sensitive papers, rearranging piles, and filing stuff that has accumulated for the past year. This is how the husband manages things. I stay out of it until I feel like I'm going to go insane or until I worry that one of our children will wander into the office and be buried alive under the sliding stacks and mounds of stuff awaiting sorting and shredding and filing.

I was mindlessly shredding the piles of paycheck stubs from the year 1982 or something, when Dear Son came screaming into the office crying above the drone of the paper shredder, "Mommy! I need a snot rag!" He was nearly hysterical. "I put a sticker in my nose, and I can't get it out now!" and he continued to wail in hysterics. I'm pretty sure I exclaimed something along the lines of "Oh crap!" but probably a tad stronger than that.

I took Dear Son upstairs to put him under my strongest reading lamp so that I could peer up his nose, all the while pleading with him how he could do this after the Trident wrapper thing.

I saw nothing but black way up in the uppermost caverns of his nostrils. He had informed me that it was a black sticker he had shoved up there. I mumbled the derivative of "Oh crap!" again as I went for the flashlight. I peered up there again and saw something black all the way as far back as I could see. I was trying to remain calm, but my mind kept racing between my child's welfare and the steep bill this was going to cost us at either urgent care or the ER.

I did what many hysterical mothers of young children do when they don't know what else to do: I called my mom. She is a (retired) nurse, after all. This means that she can advise on anything from high fevers to amputated limbs to stickers shoved up one's nose. She re-affirmed what I already knew: I would have to take Dear Son somewhere to get medical assistance in extracting the object from the depths of his nasal passages. There was that expletive spewing from my mouth again.

I called the closest walk-in clinic. I don't regard them very highly. They've lost my respect for a variety of reasons. But I was desperate. I explained to them the predicament and asked if they could assist in this sort of thing, and I was told that while they could try, they would probably end up referring us to the ER anyway, and so given that we were going to have to pay for this "procedure" out of pocket, we would probably be better off just going to the emergency room in the first place. Really. I let this sink in. My mind was really racing now. I was worried about my son going through a "procedure" to extract this object from the depths of his nose. I was worried about the cost of said "extraction." And now I was also envisioning sitting for hours in the ER waiting room among hoards of Swine Flu sufferers coughing and sneezing all over my boy child. I had one last option. I called the pediatric urgent care associated with our doctor's office, and they assured me that in the vast majority of cases they are able to extract objects from kids' noses and they rarely have to refer to the ER. Okay then. From our past experience with them, they charge more than the walk in clinic, but less than the ER. Seemed like the best option at this point.

Husband walked in the door just in time to rush off to urgent care. A 30 minute drive (with a brief stop to drop Daughter off at Grandma's house) and 20 minute wait later, we were in. Son had complained of his nose hurting on the drive. I was worried about him, like any good mother would be. The nurse's assistant brought us back to an exam room and asked several questions. She left. A Registered Nurse came in and asked us all the same questions. She left. A Medical Doctor came in and asked us all the same questions again. She left. I nudged Husband and asked him if we were going be expected to pay for each of these people's time when all they had to do was review the first person's notes and we'd all be on the same page. The doc returned. She couldn't help giggling. She sees kids do this sort of thing fairly often, she says. Her own grandson had decided to shove an open tube of Super Glue up his schnoz and squeeze the glue out while it was up there. I didn't ask how that one turned out. She was chuckling, so it must not have been too bad.

She peered in one of Son's nosrils. She peered in the other side. She called me over to peer in. "Do you see anything?" she asked me. Well, no, I don't see anything at this particular moment and now that this very small light is shoved up his nose. She said she needed to check his throat to see if it had moved down there. She gagged him with her tongue depressor. He screamed and squirmed. Nothing. She didn't say much, but she left the room. She came back with two more nurses. I again wondered if we would have to pay all these people for their individual time. Dear Son was clinging to Husband and begging to go home. We convinced him to allow us to have another look. The crew had brought a sheet in to wrap his arms to his sides and keep him from flailing. I was thinking of how much I would absolutely hate this sense of helplessness to have my arms strapped at my sides while someone jabbed around in my nose and throat. We made it sound like a game for Dear Son. He was going to get to pretend to be a burrito. He actually fell for it, and didn't even complain until someone started to stick tools in his nose. Who could blame him? They used something to spread his nostrils wider because they were swollen a bit from his allergies and that made it hard to see up there. They looked in one and then in the other before they decided that it was all clear.

What? I asked incredulously. There's nothing THERE? I asked at least a dozen questions and was told about a dozen or stories of crazy things they've extracted from kids' noses, including a bean that been up a kid's nose for so long that it had sprouted. Seriously. They hypothesized that Dear Son had either gotten it back out himself or swallowed it, and that if there were still a sticker up there, it would dissolve in time and make its way back out. Dear Son had insisted over and over again that he shoved a sticker up his nose. I asked him for the three hundredth time if it felt like there was something still up there, and he was SURE he put something up there. He first said "Yes!" and then said that maybe it had already come back out. While thankful that everything was okay and that my boy child was healthy and nothing worse was wrong, I was also beyond exasperated. The staff handed the boy a Thomas the Train sticker on our way out, and I told them it was a sick joke and a ploy to keep kids coming back in. I quickly warned Son not to dare consider shoving this sticker up his nose. They also gave him a purple Popsicle.

The boy slurped happily and obliviously on his Popsicle, and the husband and I exchanged bets on the way out as to how much this visit, that could have completely been avoided, was going to cost us. We agreed that it would probably be somewhere between $200 and $300.

It was Friday the 13th. Turns out it didn't matter that I didn't leave the house all day. I suddenly felt a little superstitious after all.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

John Lennon
















My dear three-year-old son is becoming quite the little prolific artist, much like his big sister has been ever since she could hold a crayon. Dear Son's latest art theme is lots and lots of happy smiling people. The other day he came up with this one (pic on the left). It looked eerily familiar to me (pic on the right). When I asked him if he had drawn a picture of John Lennon, I think he snorted and looked at me like I had three heads before he replied, "Mommy! It's a picture of Zoe!" Apparently my 6 year old daughter has an uncanny resemblance to the late John Lennon. Or maybe I'm just imagining things...?

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Farm

This post is looooooong overdue, which pretty much sums up my life these days. Several weeks ago we made a trip to farm country to visit the kids' great grandmother and great aunts and uncles. We don't travel much. At all, really. This is probably because I hate to travel, and traveling with kids causes me to twitch uncontrollably. Nonetheless, it had been three years since the kids saw their great grandmother. More importantly, in some ways, it had been three years since my grandmother saw her great grandkids. Since this is the only grandparent I have left and we did not get to see my other grandmother before she passed away last spring, I thought it was important to make this trip.

Just in case it wasn't a hard enough commitment to make already, I was faced with a really bad cold that should have landed me in bed for several days. It hit me the day after I let Grandma know we were coming for sure, and I didn't have the heart to let her down. If I'd have started my Vitamin D3 regime a bit sooner, I probably wouldn't have gotten sick at all. At least it helped me get well a lot quicker.

I had ten therapy appointments scheduled the day before we were supposed to leave for the trip. And I was sick. But that's not all. We also got 6 1/2 inches of rain the day before we were to leave. Yes, SIX and ONE HALF inches of rain. In one day. I was driving home from work in the dark around 8:30 pm with my eyeballs swimming in snot, and I was having trouble finding a road to travel that was not flooded. I nearly didn't make it home that night, and I still had to pack for departure in the morning...AFTER getting the kids to bed. I expected a late night despite the fact that I already couldn't keep my eyes open and it was only 8:30 pm.

Right after we got the kids to bed, the power went out. And it didn't come back on. And it was STILL raining. So Dear Husband and I decided there really wasn't anything else to do but go to bed. We would leave in the morning whenever we were ready, and there was no point in stressing more about it.

We made to farm country the next evening, and it was a good thing the kids managed the 9 hour car trip so well. Better than I did, actually. I was twitching a bit by the time we made it in that night, but it could have gone much worse. Not only did we make this trip with kids, but also with two dogs. Baby is our new Boston Terrier. We decided it would be less stressful for all of us to just bring the dogs than to leave them with a boarder. Baby had just joined the family, and Cooper has major separation anxiety and a history of abuse before we got him, and it just seemed less stressful to bring them. Cooper loves to come with us places in the car. Actually, I don't think he loves to go in the family mobile, I just think he loves the part about being with us.

Cooper actually traveled well. He didn't shake or hyperventilate. Only a few weeks before he was riding in the family mobile with us and Dear Daughter called to me from the middle row to tell me, "Cooper is vibrating." I looked behind to see what she was talking about, and sure enough, Cooper was trembling and shaking like a leaf. Vibrating was actually a pretty accurate description.

Baby "vibrated" and hyperventilated for the first 30 miles. Fortunately she got a grip after that since we had 8 1/2 more hours of travel ahead of us. By the time we arrived, both dogs were seasoned travelers with nary an ounce of doggy-anxiety to show for it.

And the kids did amazingly well. We have not traveled with the kids that far in three years, and I was very skeptical. The last time we made this trip, neither one of the kids would nap in the car, and both of them needed to. We had to stop a lot more that time, so the trip became 11 or 12 hours long. And neither one of the kids slept at all the entire 12 hour car ride. Not. a. wink. I was REALLY twitching by the end of that trip!

We clearly made it. Grandma just turned 91, and she still does pretty well in assited living. I think our visit was the highlight of the year for her.

The kids also got to see their "cousins" (which are my cousins' kids). I have to do my research on family relationships to find out what that makes our kids. Second cousins, perhaps? Regardless, the kids (and I) enjoyed a leaf fight. Aunt Pat even joined us for awhile. I particularly like this picture--you can see a cloud of leaves directly over Dear Daughter's head.

These pics are on the property where I spent a lot of time when I was growing up. It was originally my grandparent's and now it is my Aunt and Uncle's. I haven't been there much in the past 24 years, but each visit brings back lots of old family memories. The landscape has changed a bit. Grandpa and Grandma's house is no longer there. A big row of pine trees that used to border the driveway and divide the space from the field behind are gone. But some of the outbuildings are still the same.

The kids also got to see my uncles' farm equipment and even go out in the equipment to the field. Dear Daughter couldn't believe how big the wheels were on the equipment. The kids each got to ride in the tractor and combine. Dear Daughter even got to drive the combine a bit. They had a lot of fun. Then they got to see the 2,500 pigs that my Uncle Randy and cousin Nick manage. I couldn't believe it later when I realized I didn't even get a picture of all the pigs. I guess I was too mesmerized by the sea of 2,500 pig faces and grunting, stinky critters all crammed together to remember to take a picture.

I'm not sure if the farm or the hotel experience was more fun for the kids. The kids had never stayed in a hotel before, and they seemed to think this was great fun. Of course, we couldn't get them to sleep together in one of the two queen beds in the room. They would just giggle and jabber the whole time. So, as predicted, Dear Husband and I had to split up in order to split up the kids so we could all get some sleep.

All in all, the trip went pretty well and hopefully I'll stop twitching before we take on a trip to Oregon next.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Whack-a-doodle

It's been a "dry year" at MGM. Many of those that used to follow me faithfully over the years have gotten bored with the chirping crickets here. There are a variety of reasons why things have changed at MGM. The most obvious one is that time has been so limited. My "career by a thread" became much busier than I planned or expected. Then I stumbled into a disaster just over a year ago, which I have eluded to, but cannot--for a variety of reasons--describe in this venue. Not that I could find the words anyway. This "wrong turn" pretty much swallowed me for more than twelve solid months. Add to that the demands of homeschooling an extremely precocious child and her little brother, not far behind her. Then I launched my own private clinical practice last spring. Because I contract with more than a dozen private insurances, each of them requiring me to re-invent the wheel of establishing a partnership to provide services for their members, this has been no small feat. Providing for insurances, including the claim filing and bookkeeping involved, is exhausting. In short, the stress of the past stretch of life has pretty much zapped my joy, energy, time, attitude, and creativity. It's been pure survival!

Somewhere on the path of almost completely losing myself and feeling so swallowed up that I didn't know if I'd ever discover myself again, I have just recently begun to feel "resurrected." Glimpses of myself that I haven't seen for a year and few months are surfacing. I find myself able to enjoy my children every day the way I used to, and I try not to dwell on feelings of anger or resentment at how the past year and few months have been robbed out from under me and my family.

Yesterday, Dear Daughter set up a "tea party" and invited her little brother and I and the two Boston Terriers that live here to the party. The tea party morphed into a birthday party for Baby (the recent doggie addition to our home). I thoroughly enjoyed the act of playing this out with the kids, complete with birthday cake and song. Yes, we all three sang Happy Birthday to Baby at the tops of our lungs while Baby sat nervously in my lap. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that after the wee ones quit singing, I went on at the top of my lungs in my most obnoxious voice and as much off-pitch as possible. Baby so enjoyed it that she began to howl in her little soprano doggie voice. Thoroughly amused by her little quivering chin as she thrust her head to the sky and yowled along with me, I pressed on in competition with her. Cooper sidled up to my knees and lifted his little chin to the Heavens as well and began to howl along in his more tenor-ish voice. I apparently enjoyed these moments of howling with the dogs so thoroughly that I paid little mind to the fact that my children had covered their ears with their hands and were making horrified faces at their mother who had fallen off her rocker. In fact, Dear Daughter decided to practice her safety lesson of a few weeks ago and picked up her toy phone and announced she was calling "9-1-1." I quieted enough to hear what she was going to say. "Yes, hello!" she said to the imaginary emergency response person at the other end. "Please send an ambulance for my mommy! She's gone whack-a-doodle and needs to get to the hospital."

Yes, as backwards and ironic as it may sound, when the kids think their mommy is insane it means things are actually returning to normal.

Not only am I enjoying howling with the dogs, but I can once again find joy and humor in the little things of life. Like when Dear Son climbed into bed in the wee morning hours a couple days ago and did his wiggly jiggly thing that shakes the bed and shakes me awake. I try, in these moments, to stay still with my eyes closed and not let myself be awakened by whatever he is up to. It's pure denial as I try to gather a few more moments of sleep, lest I allow full consciousness to leave me wide awake for the day. Finally, realizing that I could not deny myself back to sleep, I gave up and opened my eyes. The wiggling and jiggling was not subsiding and something lumpy was being shoved under my pillow. I saw my dear boy child looking back at me, his bare feet shoved under my pillow. "What ARE you doing?" I inquired with irritation. "My feet are cold!" he responded matter-of-factly. Of course they are. Dear Husband put the boy child to bed without socks the previous night, despite the fact that the lows for the night reached somewhere around the freezing point, and despite the fact that I requested that the husband would put socks on the child's feet. I'm pretty sure the husband also neglected to put the extra blanket on the boy child's bed. And now he was shoving his very cold, naked feet under MY pillow at the crack of dawn! Of course I could not stay irritated at the child who stared back at me with his yellow curls in a frizzed mess and a combination of a shy-impish grin and incredulousness on his face that I would not find this act of shoving his feet under my pillow completely appropriate and understandable.

These are the things that have escaped the past year. Some of them I'm sure I didn't even notice. Others may have been noticed in the moment, but lost in the sea of stress and left to float for all eternity in some vast pergatory where all the missing pieces of my life go during periods of great stress. I hope one day when I find my eternal resting place I will be able to gather all these pieces back to myself and set them in their proper places in my memory. At minimum, these are the things that I had no time or energy to find joy in over the past year and few months, let alone blog about.

Yes, after a year and a few months of previously unknown levels of stress and exhaustion, it feels good to once again be aware of the small joys in each day, and in my enjoyment of them to re-discover my old "whack-a-doodle" self.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Six Year Wisdom

We had tacos and nachos for dinner last night. Dear Daughter picked up a naked tortilla chip at one point during the meal and began to balance hamburger and cheese on it. I watched her inquisitively for awhile before asking her what she was doing. "I'm upgrading" she responded. Indeed.

At bedtime tonight she asked me if I was going to do "some work" tonight (as I usually do after she goes to bed). She then proceeded to go on some tangent about whether I was going to talk some more to my lawyer and how she doesn't like lawyers because all they care about is money, blah blah blah blah. I interrupted her to ask her how she knows about lawyers and how she came to have this opinion. "Oh, I just know about these things" she responded before jumping right back to her blabbity blab about the issue. I interrupted her again with a sarcastic quip, "You know EVERYTHING don't you?" She didn't miss a beat and responded quickly and innocently, "...no! I don't know where Heaven is!"

...okay. So ALMOST everything!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Irresistible

Dear Son loves to do errands with me after we drop his big sister off for her afternoon home school co-op classes. Lately we have been frequenting Target. Son has been making his birthday list ever since his big sister's birthday passed a couple months ago. He begs to peruse the toy aisle to drool over his wish-list item each time we go.

Last week he overheard me talking to his daddy on the phone about going to Target that afternoon after dropping off Daughter. He then started jabbering in the background about random stuff that I wasn't listening to. Until I heard something that drew me in. I asked him to repeat what he said to see if he did indeed say what I thought he said.

"I 'need' to loot (look) at that red 'battle ball' when we do (go) to Tardet (Target) today betause (because) it is so IRRESISTIBLE!"

Seriously. Irresistible. He hasn't a clue how to play the silly game, but he sure does love him some robot-like-balls that pop open like little round Transformer orbs. Right now he has his eye on Inclus.

When I asked him where he learned the word "irresistible," he got all shy on me. I was compelled to inform him that HE is IRRESISTIBLE before I smothered him with kisses all over his yellow curly-headed self.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Passports

A book I was reading to my Dear Daughter last night included reference to a passport. So I paused to ask Daughter if she knows what a passport it. "Oh yes!" she exclaimed and proceeded to describe (quite accurately, I might add) what a passport is. I looked at my six-year-old girl (who has barely traveled out of the state) and wondered out loud, "How in the world do you know what a passport is?" "Oh..." she responded nonchalantly, "I just happen to know about passports."

Okay then. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. This is the girl who can seem to be not listening at all when I read to her sometimes. She can be busy fluffing her pillow and rearranging the blankets on her bed or making eyes with the dogs, and as soon as I scold her for not listening, she protests that she has indeed been listening. "Okay," I challenge her. "Then tell me about what was I was reading!" She will proceed to tell me, practically verbatim, what I've been reading for the past ten minutes. How she can absorb all this--sometimes sophisticated-- information while "multi-tasking" is beyond me. We are currently reading "A Child's History of the World" and she is grasping the origins of our alphabet and pieces of Greek and Roman history....

...and apparently all about passports.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Falsies

I have a confession to make: I have falsies. No, I didn't get a "boob job" (unless my Wonderbra counts), but for the past few years I've worn false toenails. In this, the era of open toe sandals, they are a life saver for people like me who do not have pretty toenails due to lifelong problems with ingrown toenails and surgeries to fix them gone a muck. The only comments I've ever received on them are compliments. People want to know who does my pedicures. Even the ladies at the salon who actually do pedicures professionally ask who does my pedicures. When I confessed that it was Walgreen's, one professional pedicurist requested that whenever people ask who does my toes, that I reference her. She was willing to stamp her good name on my Walgreen's pedicure-in-a-box.

Yesterday I was fixing my toes with Dear Daughter peeking over my shoulder. She said innocently, "Mommy, why do you always say you have ugly toenails? I don't think they look ugly!" She went on to say, "I mean, people's body parts just change when they get old." Huh? I had to ask for clarification on that one. "Well, you know. When people get old, their body parts-like their toenails-just start to change."

Sure, I thought to myself. When women reach the ripe old age of 37 years and 8 months, all they need to manage their aging body parts is a Wonderbra and some Walgreen's toenails-in-a-box. Er...and maybe some hair dye to hide the gray. Uh...and some tweezers for those stray facial hairs. Um...and perhaps some "shapewear" undergarments to tighten stuff up a bit. ...and that magic nighttime facial cream to erase the wrinkles. And according to my sage six-year-old, it all just goes with the territory of getting "old."

I think I'd better start shopping for some TED Hose. My 38th birthday comes in just a few short months.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Because It Makes Me Feel Better

I've been wanting to post for quite some time now, but the stuff of Life has raised barrier after barrier against my time and mental state. At times I feel like my children's lives are slipping by right before my eyes. The weather is threatening to change, and has had its moments of cooler temps. So much so that a pair of jeans has occasionally snuck back into the kids' wardrobes. First it was Dear Daughter who exited her bedroom one morning fully clothed and ready for the day. ...Except that the jeans she had pulled out of her drawer and onto her body were no less than three inches too short for her now. That very pair was actually a bit long on her early last spring.

The next week it was Dear Son who decided sport a pair of jeans. His ankles we exposed beneath the hemlines, making him look like his nickname should be "Stretch."

I looked upon them with that irritating ache in my heart and that queasy feeling in the pit of my gut. I couldn't deny the fact that it happened again: my children changed and grew and transformed yet again as if right before my eyes. And where was I when it was happening? Such big changes. Too big not to notice until the next season begins to arrive. I considered throwing all the jeans in their wardrobes away, allowing me to perhaps stay in my state of denial. They could just wear shorts all winter, couldn't they? At least I wouldn't notice their legs growing longer by the day as their hemlines crept up their ankles.

Dear Daughter loves to tell people she is six years old now. It's really not hard to tell by the gaping hole in the front of her mouth where the last lost tooth used to reside. And Dear Son. I still delude myself that he is a baby. His curly head still has that sweet baby smell. Dear Daughter lost that baby smell some time ago. Now her head just smells like hair. Ick. I don't know what happens that turns a sweet smelling baby head into stinky scalp, but I suppose whatever it is, it's a milestone marking the end of an era forever. I squeeze my little boy every day, burying my nose in his precious yellow ringlets and breathing deeply that sweet little boy smell--dreading the day that it no longer smells so baby sweet. I plead with God, please don't let this baby grow up the way You let my first baby grow up! But I know better. And so I deny it by calling them my "babies" anyway.

Dear Son asked me one day why I call them my "babies" because they are not actually babies anymore. I told him it's because it makes me feel better.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Never Too Young

Dear Son is getting pretty independent in his three-year-old potty habits. It's all good so long as he aims well (I got him trained pretty good now to point that thing down and not to spray the wall behind the toilet). For whatever reason, our home was built with quite tall commodes that don't slack at all in the overall bowl size, either. Son has to hang on for dear life to keep from falling in.

Despite his independence, he still sometimes needs a little help, and he likes me to hang out in the general vicinity in case of such need. Last week I was in the master bathroom getting ready to put on my make up for work when he hurried in and put himself on the tall throne. He sat there with his feet dangling and sweetly said, "Mommy, you are pretty!" I turned to look at him and and repeated what he said to be sure I heard him right, "You think I'm pretty?" "Yeah," he said. "You are pretty when you put that makeup on your eyes." "Oh!" I said. "You think I'm pretty when I put my make up on!?" I tried hard not to stress the part about the makeup and not to sound disappointed in the qualification he added to his compliment. "Yeah," he said. "AND you are pretty without your makeup!" he added hopefully.

The little guy has already mastered the art of putting his foot in his mouth and back peddling quickly.

Friday, August 14, 2009

No Hocky Puck Necessary

My firstborn, who just turned six years old, finally lost a tooth the "normal" way! As I described in my last post, we were hopeful to be able to lose it this route and not via "dental assistance" like the two bottom ones required. Daughter is just too timid and doesn't like to wiggle on those teeth aggressively. I've been nagging on her for weeks to keep working on it, per the dentist's caution that we had limited time to achieve this task before he'd have to intervene. Dear Husband and I have taken turns wiggling on it for her the past couple weeks.

This morning I noticed it was sticking out of her mouth at nearly a 90 degree angle. It was pretty ugly. But I was distracted first by my trip to urgent care to address the fact that I came home from work last night feeling like death, and woke up this morning disappointed that I was still alive. The doc at urgent care said I was the third case of this throat funk she'd seen this morning. And it was only 9:00 am. I guess I'm not original or anything this time. I was too sick to even drive myself, so I had to recruit the husband. Of course, that meant we also had to cart along the wee ones. I sent them to get some groceries while I sat in the urgent care office. No way I was taking my kids in there or they'd get sick for sure.

It was on the way home that I noticed Dear Daughter was looking like quite the snaggle tooth. As soon as I got that first round of antibiotics in me, I scrubbed up and manhandled her tooth for a few seconds. It began to move around the socket, but wasn't coming out. It was making my skin crawl, so I stopped and asked Dear Husband to finish her off. That's when Daughter took a step back from me and spit the tooth out on the tile floor. It rattled across the kitchen before it registered in my brain what just happened. I looked at the tooth on the floor, I looked at my stunned daughter, I looked at Dear Husband, and then I shrieked that Daughter just spit her tooth out! Dear Husband said proudly that she is just like a hockey player. Daughter was pleased as punch.

We can only celebrate for a day before we have to start working on the other front tooth. Dentist said they both have to be out by her appointment in September or he's going to yank them.

It's the first tooth Dear Daughter has lost the "normal" way, and it was bittersweet. With each baby tooth lost, it feels like another bit of her babyhood is lost. It's been less than six years since we celebrated the excitement of her getting her very first teeth, and now we're already celebrating her losing them. *sigh*

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Time Warp

We made it. It was over nearly a week ago, and I'm just now posting about it, so that should be an indicator of how much it wiped me out! Wild parties have taken on an entirely different meaning since kids came along!

I still call her my "baby" even though she is now officially six years old. She's such a ham that it's nearly impossible to get a candid shot of her. This one is as close as I've gotten.

...and I almost snuck this one in without her knowing. Almost.

The week ended last week with the annual birthday visit from G Uncle Ron and G Aunt Pat and the third annual fishing trip. Followed by a family birthday party. Followed by the day Dear Daughter has been dreaming of for more than half a year: her first birthday party with girlfriends.

She hammed it up with her new Talent Show tent and microphone and competed with her little brother for the best talent in the house. He gave up and took her on in true Bumblebee fashion.








Last year Dear Son was enamored with Darth Vader. This year it is Bumblebee, followed closely by Optimus Prime. As I've said before, he is about as much boy as Dear Daughter is girl.

When the weekend was over, six little girls came to celebrate some more at Dear Daughter's first girlfriend party. Here she is competing with some friends in a round of "Freeze Dancing."

No wonder I ended last week in a complete stupor. Maybe the sore throat I'm battling added to that stupor. And the latest legal battle I'm fighting still with a lady who I'm pretty sure answers to the name of Satan.

So I guess that's a wrap on another year. I'm pretty sure Daughter grew about four inches and added nearly 10 pounds since her last birthday. Her long pants from last fall are now all too short and I plopped her on the scale out of curiosity. No wonder I can barely lift her anymore.

Poor thing is also trying to loose another tooth, but she just can't seem to loose them normally. The clock is ticking, and the dentist says if the two top front teeth don't come out before our visit in six weeks, he's going to yank them himself. Seems the permanent teeth are pushing in, but they are not pushing the baby ones out. One of the two has shifted in position quite a lot and has a funky color now. The dentist explained this is due to the permanent tooth trying to come in and the gum bleeding into the hollow of the tooth. Nothing to be alarmed about, he assured me. But nothing too pretty, either. Fortunately the discoloration has not gotten worse. Yet. I think I have enough stuff on my mind without the constant reminding I have to do to get Daughter to wiggle on that tooth. I figured we'd work on one at a time, but time is running out. The good news is that these teeth are coming in straight as far as we can tell on the x-rays. One of them was rotated 90 degrees a year and a half ago when we discovered the extra tooth that had to be surgically removed. I'm thrilled to hear that it straightened out and will come in just fine so long as Daughter can get those baby teeth out of the way!

For those of you with little children, I urge you to start taking them to the dentist as soon as their baby teeth start coming in. I'm always amazed when I hear parents say they never took their kids to the dentist until they were four years old or older. There's a lot that can be managed with preventative care when kids are seen by a dentist early.

I know my blog posts have been pretty pitiful and completely lacking creativity for quite some time now. The incessant drama of my life this past year has just absolutely sucked it out of me. It all began on Dear Daughter's birthday a year ago. It's not quite over yet, but I'm optimistic that I'm close, and that I'll soon be able to reclaim my life and in time, recognize myself again.

Friday, July 24, 2009

All Sales Are Final!

The kids have these FABULOUS periods of time every so often these days when they actually play really nicely to together. They like to pretend play all kinds of games together, and I was thankful they were entertaining themselves today as I was washing windows and blinds. It's been two years since I washed windows. I know, I know, spare me the hushed gasps. In case you haven't been reading me much over the past year or five, I've been busy.

I've been complaining for over a year about how dirty the white wooden blinds were getting, and I had made attempts to wipe them down, but they never seemed to get very clean no matter how hard I tried. Seemed like I just pushed the dust around. I discovered today that taking them down from the windows and hosing them off in the shower works better than anything else I've tried.

The kids actually played well together long enough for me to wash four kitchen windows and the glass patio door along with all their accompanying blinds AND wash the tile floor. This, btw, is where the real gasps should be inserted!

As I was rehanging one of the blinds, I heard the kids in the next room. They had both donned their bathing suits and were pretending they were taking a vacation to the beach. In this midst of my passing through the living room, I had reminded them that they needed to put away the remains of the blanket tent they had made for the dog. Dear Daughter tried to work this right into her pretend play, saying to the "dad" (played by her little brother) that they had to finish their chores before they could leave for their vacation. Dear Daughter then began to say a script along the lines of how their children never clean up their messes. Dear Son, in character as the "dad" then said with exasperation something to effect of getting rid of the kids because they are so messy. Dear Daughter, still in character, responded, "Well, we HAVE to keep them, because they're OURS!"

For some reason I found this conversation that I was eavesdropping on to be really funny. While I've never implied in any way that I wanted to get rid of them, I have joked with them (when they are being stinkers and then cute their way out of stuff) that I guess I'll keep them one more day. They always know I'm teasing and think this is really funny when I say it. So guess that was their own rendition of the joke, or something.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Don't BUG Me!!

We are enjoying a nice bit of respite in the dog days of summer with highs in the low 80's. The windows have been open again for the first time in weeks and the chugging of the air conditioner has silenced, even if only briefly. We have lots of interesting sounds out here in the country surrounded by woods. As we were getting the kids ready for bed the other night, Dear Daughter asked me with great concern in her voice, "Mommy, WHAT is that noise I hear outside?" I listened and tried to hear what she heard, but I felt like I was missing something. "What's it sound like?" I asked her. "Don't you hear it? It's going 'waaaaa-aaaaaa, waaaaaa-aaaaa, waaaaa-aaaaa' and it sounds REALLY creepy!" I listened again before it dawned on me what she heard outside.

We don't hear traffic outside our home. We don't hear people outside our home. We don't hear the hustle bustle of modern civilization. We DO hear owls hooting and coyotes calling at night, the wind swishing through the trees, tree frogs and bull frogs and every other frog variety singing and chirping and grunting their little hearts out. There's one particular variety of frog that sounds a lot like a wild turkey. And in the summer time we do hear something deafening outside our home. Something as loud as city traffic in the backyard. We hear BUGS! Lots and lots of bugs! They drone on and on in their sing songy voices much like the way Dear Daughter imitated them. I knew then what she was talking about, because I noticed it, too, earlier that evening when I opened the door to let the dog out. In fact, I felt literally assaulted by the bug noise that seemed to literally scream at high decibels.

I pondered for a moment the reason my daughter is creeped out. She and I share our disgust for bugs. It's possibly the biggest drawback of living away from other human civilization and out in the midst of a corner of what some have referred to as the "boondocks." We have bugs out here. LOTS of bugs. Dear Daughter and I have once again survived the most horrifying three weeks of summer that happen each year around this time. It's the time when the ping pong ball sized shiny green kamikaze June Beetles come out of the ground to buzz around for a mate so they can lay eggs and produce millions more of their kind for next year. They are harmless, more than a few people have reminded me. Perhaps, but I still don't like it when they carelessly bonk into the side of my head because they are such miserably poor navigators. And they make the creepiest buzzing noises as they sweep by your head, missing you by centimeters. I get all panicky that they are going to get stuck in my curly hair the way that June Beetle did that summer night in high school when I ran around the woods in the dark at my friend's house lighting off fireworks and being generally stupid. That thing hung out in my hair for awhile, apparently, because I didn't even know it was there until I tried to wash my hair in the shower later that night and got the thing even more tangled in a web of wet curls and shampoo. It wouldn't stop buzzing and I don't know how I kept from screaming and waking the whole house up.

Before we moved out here to no-man's land where the beetles really are as big as Volkswagens, I thought the Japanese Beetles were creepy. We had become infested with those even when we lived in town. But they seem tame at about one half to one third the size of the big tankers we have now.

A couple weeks ago, however, I became desensitized to the big green flying Volkswagens much the way I became desensitized to the smaller flying Japanese Beetles. At least the Volkswagen Beetles (ha ha...get it?) don't STING!

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As you know by now, I like to drive the big ass lawn mower. The buzz and drone of the engine and monotonous action of back and forth rows are a soothing escape. It's the only time I can seem to give myself permission to sit still and zone out the rest of the world. Dear Son likes to drive the mower, too, and begs to climb up on my lap and steer the machine around the acreage. We were not quite 30 minutes into the job a couple weeks ago when I thought I felt a Volkswagen Beetle stuck in my hair. I started to relive the summer of '89 before I stopped the mower and turned off the blade and screamed to my boy child to run for his life with me. We were chased all the way up to the house, but not by Volkswagen Beetles. In fact, I still don't know WHAT they were for sure.

My husband speculates they were Africanized Killer Bees or some sort of thing. I can't find a picture or description anywhere on the Internet that matches what those things look like. I'm guessing they had a nest in the ground somewhere and we mowed over it. Whatever the reason, I'll never know, but they were PISSED OFF! One DID get stuck in my hair and stung my head before it found its way out. And I was stung in about four other random places. Dear Son was stung twice on the back of his neck, and since they had chased us up to the house they were swarming around the driveway and garage threatening us constantly. After icing the stings until they stopped burning, and dodging more stings as I stood in the driveway, I looked across the acre of grass between me and mower that sat idling in the grass with a couple dozen black and white bumblebee mutants buzzing around it. I insisted Husband check my curls thoroughly before putting on a cap and getting up my nerve to go back out there to retrieve the mower. The husband, you see, is seriously allergic to bee stings. Allergic enough to potentially die from a sting.He handed me a can of wasp and hornet spray and gave me a pep talk and sent me back out there. Thanks, Hon!

I got within 15 feet of the mower and the mutants literally came after me again just for STANDING there! I got stung again as I bolted back to the house. This time husband decided he was going to have to get in the game. He grabbed the wasp and hornet spray and went in. I stood in the driveway feeling like a major wimp and praying he didn't get chased and stung like I did. We didn't need any ER trips. And that's when he started doing a crazy dance and running back toward the house. He got stung, but barely. I started to run after Benadryl and an Epi-pen and call 9-1-1, but he seemed to be okay for the moment. We stood there looking at the mower running idle with a full tank of gas while the bees swarmed around it, and scratched our heads. Well, Husband scratched his while I held ice on mine where the stings still throbbed. We decided to go in together this time. Moral support for each other if nothing else. He grabbed the wasp and hornet spray again, and I grabbed a bad mitten racket and slowly we made our way down again. I swung at anything that moved and Husband sprayed at anything that moved until he got close enough to jump on the mower and drive it the heck out of Dodge. Then we ran in the house and bolted the windows and hid the rest of the day. Just kidding about that last part.

Not that it hasn't crossed my mind.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Going UP!


My blog...it's feeling neglected. For the first time in four and a half years, I can't seem to make adequate time for this blogging thing. It's not that my kids have become any less cute, as you can see by their little mugs. It's not that they don't still say just the cutest things, like the other day when we pulled into the local big name discount store. We decided to take the whole fam as we were out doing other things and needed a few this and thats from the big name discount store. It was Saturday night. Yeah, I know. That's how exciting thing are in my life these days. Stuffmart on Saturday night with the kids. Whatever. So we pulled in the parking lot at around 7 pm, and it didn't take long for me to start grumbling about how crazy it is that the place is soooooo busy even on Saturday nights. Apparently lots of people around these parts have really exciting lives.

Dear Daughter piped up from the middle row of the family mobile, "Maybe they are just attracted here because the sign says, 'Always Low Prices!'" I don't think I had consciously read or retained what the front of the store said on their signage. My little precocious one who began reading at age four certainly did, however. And then used the word "attracted" in her sentence quite effectively.

Life certainly is crazy lately. I thought summer would feel calmer, and I suppose it does to some extent. You will recall that last summer, almost exactly a year ago, the crap started hitting the fan around here. I think the dust has just begun to settle nearly a year later.

A year ago I decided to make a career change. Not in the practice of what I actually do as a private practice licensed psychotherapist, but just where I decided to do it. I had been providing individual, family, and group therapy services at an area group home for teen girls for 3 1/2 years. I did this consistently for those 3 1/2 years along with other varieties of work, which used to be teaching at a local university and then more recently doing office based community counseling. But in the past two or so years of my work at the group home, it had become the largest portion of my career, and at times the only work I was doing. These are girls that typically come with a very long list of issues. Girls who have been in the foster system for nearly all their lives with more foster placements than they can count. Girls who've been removed from their birth parents for a variety of reasons including parents' drug addictions, being beaten, raped, molested, and any other form of abuse you can imagine. Sometimes being prostituted by their own mothers to support their mothers' drug habits. They are 17 years old on average by the time I get a hold of them at the group home. Some of them come with histories of problems with the law from mild things like shoplifting to things like drug posession, running away, assault, etc. They often have severe conduct problems and severe emotional problems. They come by their problems legitimately as the result of a culture of parents who have failed to instill a sense of love, belonging, and value into their childrens' souls. As much as my heart breaks for them, their issues and the intensity of their lashing out exhausts me at times. I become a safe person for them over time, and this often makes me a person with whom they can express their anger. It's not unusual for me to become a mis-placed target for their angry attacks. I know how to compartmentalize this stuff and I can rationalize that it comes with the territory.

Last summer, however, was a turning point. Last summer one of my teenagers there decided to take her life by hanging herself. I think the combination of this experience along with the especially difficult caseload I carried there during that time wore me down to the point of needing a change for the sake of my own mental health. Little did I know that there was to be no rest in sight for me. Oh no...in fact, things were going to get MUCH MUCH worse over the next several months.

Unfortunately, the path I chose was a lot like when Alice fell in the rabbit hole, only much much more hellish. It appeared at first to be such a good move and turned into the worst nightmare of my life. I've never been treated so poorly. You wouldn't expect this from people in the human services field. It was insane, and I certainly felt at times like I was losing my mind! It was exhausting to phase out of my practice at the group home and my other small office based practice and move it to this new group in the first place. I partner with more than a dozen insurance groups and third party payors. The red tape to move and re-establish with new tax ids and national provider identifiers and addresses and the like is insane. Each of those dozen plus groups I partner with have their own set of rules. Two months into my work with this new group I started to see some really bad signs, and I started feeling uneasy. To add to the stress, we learned at this time that my husband was to be laid off (which never happened, despite the loss of certain benefits and bonuses). I only made it five months total before I ran screaming from that group. I lost more money in that particular decision than I care to think about, and forget about peace of mind. It was pure hell the whole way through. I'm TIRED! Really really tired!

Meanwhile, after running from the hell I'd endured for 5 months, I decided I was done contracting with groups. I have yet to find a group who can run a smooth business and have their act together. I realized after seeing this in multiple private practices that it took me more time and effort to babysit things to be done correctly than it would take for me to just do it all myself. So that's what I did. Within 10 days of terminating my work with the clinic from hell, I had my own private practice launched. I launched my practice March 3rd, and I'm just now at the end of all the red tape involved to uproot and move my affiliations with the various third party payers AGAIN! For now, I am managing all aspects of my business, including all billing, bookkeeping, and administrative duties along with the therapy duties. And I recently agreed to return to do ONE therapy group at the teen group home where I previously worked. Would you believe me if I said I missed those girls? So there's been no rest.

We managed to finish a year of homeschooling last spring despite all this insanity, and I've been busy lesson planning for the next year whenever I can steal some moments. I must be organized for next year in order for it to work. Dear Daughter will join a homeschooling group in the area where I can drop her off one afternoon a week and she will get art, drama, music, and PE classes.

In light of my current life circumstances, blogging has just not risen to the top of my list of things to do. My top priorities at the moment include getting that birthday party planned for my little girl who has coveted a party with little girlfriends for months now. Her big day will finally arrive in a few short weeks. She began inviting people to her birthday party since last December. Even random strangers she has just met in the park have gotten invited. *sigh* Next on my list are enjoying my family, getting the homsechool year mapped out, and managing my private practice.

This, my friends, is why I don't frequent this space as often anymore. I often think those days of round the clock feedings were so much easier than this. I can't promise I'll make it back more often, but I do expect the dust to continue to settle in my life as I work at forgetting the former things and moving forward into new things! It's been a rough year in so many ways with little room left for going "down," so I figure there's nowhere to go now but "up"!

We have managed to have some fun this summer, too. Here's the fam in front of the word's largest banjo. Dear Son has been completely potty trained for months now. WOOOHOOO! But he has developed this annoying habit of grabbing himself all the time. So glad it got recorded in a family pic.

And here's Dear Husband helping the kids with arcade bowling, which they both thought sounded like so much fun. Until they got a few rounds into the game and lost interest. Husband and I finished the game off, and I smoked him.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Death to Elmo!

Dear Son was into Elmo oh so briefly. The sentiment was gone by the time Son reached the ripe ol' age of 2 1/2 years. While anything and everything Elmo has generally been banished from the house, a hooded Elmo bath towel remains. I grabbed it last night after Son's bath and popped it over his head before he knew what hit him. As soon as he realized, the protest began, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhh! I HATE Elmo! I hate Elmo because he doesn't involve GUNS!"

Transformers have LONG outlived Elmo in this little boy's favor. I think Transformers have enjoyed a year on the pedestal so far. At the moment, the boy (in his 3 1/2 year old big boy status) covets a Bumble Bee helmet and blaster gun more than anything else.

I think I should have at least kept that 28" Elmo doll around for target practice!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Dumb-o-crat!

Dear Daughter (with disgust in her voice): "He's just being a DEMOCRAT!"

Me: "A 'democrat'? What does THAT mean?"

Dear Daughter: "You know...it means that he's DUMB!"

That's my girl!

I didn't teach her this. I swear.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lunch Lady Land

It was a family bonding moment. After enjoying a late Sunday lunch of chicken enchiladas, pico de gallo, guacamole, and the like, we had us a mess on our hands to clean up. The whole family pitched in, and we were getting pretty goofy and having fun. I suggested to Dear Husband that we needed some music while we cleaned up. Suddenly a few lines from an old song that I haven't heard in nearly two decades crawled through my head. "We need 'Lunch Lady Land'!" I exclaimed. "'Lunch Lady Land'?" Dear Husband replied with a what-in-the-world-are-you-talking-about tone in his voice. "Yeah! That old Adam Sandler song. Don't you know it?" He didn't, which I still find odd, but he quickly pulled it up on YouTube on the kitchen desktop computer and we listened while we worked. The kids found it hysterical, and while I couldn't remember the words when I first suggested the song, my memory came back after a line or two, and pretty soon I was singing "Sloppy Joe...Slop-Sloppy Joe..." into a big soup spoon. Dear Husband wasn't impressed. Amused perhaps, but not impressed. In fact, he refused to play it a second time, much to my chagrin. In addition to having the stoopid song stuck in my head all day, I've also been innundated with all kinds of odd college memories.

Apparently I'm not the only one who hasn't been able to get the song out of my head. Just before bed, Dear Son was wandering around humming the Sloppy Joe line, too. I seem to think this is a lot funnier than Dear Husband does.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Frumpy

It's true that I used to be really thin (emphasis on USED TO BE). I once wore a size 3 nicely on my 5'9" frame and turned the men's heads when I walked by. A decade and half and two children later...well...let's just say I don't wear a size 3 anymore. Yeah, I still pine for my size 3 body many days, but it could be a lot worse. While I am pretty "average" now, I'm also far from morbidly obese.

All of this justifying meant nothing, however, when Dear Daughter ran to the kitchen the other day while I was preparing lunch and excitedly said, "Mommy! I just saw a commercial about something that might help you! It was something that will help you control your weight..." and that's when I tuned out. I looked at my husband, who knew enough to mind his own business and so did not say a word until I asked him to. And then he only shrugged as if to say he hasn't a clue where his daughter gets this stuff.

If I truly believed in Jenny Craig, my fat frumpy ass might have called her today for some advice about my "weight problem."

It's a good thing that daughter of mine is only five years old.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's Gonna Haunt Me!

For those who do not already know this, Dear Daughter is precocious. I hear she comes by it honestly, but I don't like to share that part often. She doesn't miss anything and asks those sorts of questions that stop you in your tracks because you hadn't really ever thought of them yourself until the moment that she asks them.

We indulged Daughter this weekend with her first visit to the community swimming pool. She's been begging for weeks. I personally am not a big fan of swimming in the first place, and certainly not in public pools. To me they seem a cesspool of public piss and spit with some chemicals thrown in. Like I really want to float around in that. Bleh. The whole family went, and as I was getting on my crocs and heading out the door, I spotted Dear Husband's chosen footwear lying in wait. It made me pause, as I had not seen these particular sandals for a couple years--not since we moved to casa de country. I snickered and snorted to myself at these really bad Addidas soccer slide knock-offs, compliments of Walmart. And then I immediately broke out in a version of "I'm Too Sexy"--adding in, "for my shoes" as I did an exaggerated hip hop dance around my husband in the kitchen.

Minutes later, as we pulled out of the driveway in the family-mobile, Dear Daughter asked from the middle row, "Mommy, what does 'sexy' mean?" I just about spit my Coke Zero all over the dash. I didn't think to screen my words amidst the mockery of my husband's fugly shoes and I wasn't quite ready to explain "sexy" to my not-quite-six-year-old daughter. Dear Husband twitched in his fugly sandals and smirked as he said, "Yeah, Dear. Tell your daughter what 'sexy' means." I stammered for the words before settling on the quick explanation that it means "looks nice." Then I changed the subject FAST, and silently prayed she wouldn't tell the pastor's wife at church the next morning that she looks sexy, which would be about as embarrassing as the time she randomly told the pastor's wife that there really is a bird called a "Booby."

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Tonight Dear Daughter and I were saying bedtime prayers, which included prayers for a friend's boy who went through a major life-saving surgery recently to remove considerable length of small intestine. He is now well and demonstrating a miraculous recovery, and as I talked with my daughter about how they had removed a length of intestine twice the length of my body, she asked me, "Mommy, where did they put that intestine that they removed?" I had to clarify what she meant to be sure I understood the question. It also allowed me some stall time to think about what the answer might be. Then I had to admit to her that I am not sure, but that I think hospitals have special containers for human tissue and body parts that are removed, which are called "bio hazards," and that they are probably disposed of in an incinerator. She digested this information for a few minutes (no pun intended!) before asking, "...but what if someone had to have their brain operated on?" She was kind of giggling when she asked it until I explained to her that sometimes people really DO have to have their brain operated on and brain tissue may end up in the same place. She was really serious as she studied my face in the dark. I was concerned she would have some wild nightmares, so I changed the subject again and tried to end on a lighter note before kissing her goodnight. When I walked across the hall a few minutes later, I heard her talking to herself in her room.

Somehow I have a feeling that both of these topics are going to come up again.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

"I Put Trash in My Nose!"

Dear Son doesn't like to miss anything. I reason that this is why he refuses to nap and why he wants to jump out of bed in the morning at the first notice of the sun peeking through the blinds. When Dear Daughter was this age, she would sleep happily away in her bed until 9:00 or even 9:30 each morning. She had not even figured out that she could get out bed by herself until she was nearly four years old. She would lounge in bed when she woke up and call out, "Mommy! I'm awake!" and I would have to come in and move the pillows and larger than life stuffed duck from the open side of her bed before she would climb out.

It doesn't matter to Dear Son that it is Saturday morning; if the sun is up, he wants to be up as well. True to form, this morning he jumped out of bed with the sun and wandered into the living room to turn on the television until the rest of the household decided to get up as well. Dear Husband was up next, and even though it was only 8:00 when I wandered into the living room to see if I was missing out on anything good (I wasn't), Dear Husband was just pulling out of the driveway with the 1967 Chevy pickup to go get some mulch for the yard. Dear Son was chomping on something and watching Sponge Bob, and he informed me rather nonchalantly at this point that there had been some "trash" on the ottoman, and that he had stuck it in his nose. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I wondered if it had anything to do with the screaming and crying I heard just a bit earlier, and which had awakened me from my slumber. I inquired a bit further for more explanation from Dear Son, but I didn't get anything new out of him. I decided that whatever the issue was, it must be over now, and I went about my usual morning business.

Dear Son followed me around still chomping on something, and I finally asked him what he was chewing on. "Gum!" he said with a grin, and then asked for a tissue. I noticed his nose seemed a bit red and drippy and I wondered if he was getting a cold or if he had some allergies the way his big sister does. I handed him a tissue and heard him sneeze a couple times and didn't think anything more about it.

I wandered to the kitchen, with Son following me close like a shadow, and cooked us a couple eggs while Dear Daughter continued to snooze in full ignorance to the rest of the household beginning their day. I sat by Son at the kitchen table, and we munched our toast together in silence until Son asked for a "wipe" for his nose. I handed him a napkin, and he snorted and sneezed and blew. I was focused on my egg and thinking about the chickens Dear Husband has promised me but that we haven't gotten yet. He says he needs to build a coop first and he doesn't seem to be too eager to get on that task.

Dear Son made another reference to the "trash" that was on the ottoman that he said he shoved up his nose and he giggled as he said that now he could "feel" it! That got my attention, and I'm pretty sure I asked with no small intensity in my voice what in the world he was talking about. He grinned and pointed to his nose and showed me how he could touch his nostril and feel it. I bent my head down to look into his nostril, and sure enough I saw something poking out of it. The pieces of the past 30 minutes began falling into place. "WHAT is in your nose?!!!!" I exclaimed with considerable concern and urgency in my voice. "Daddy said that it wasn't in there. He said he couldn't see it." I wasn't satisfied with this response as there most certainly WAS something in there! I was able to grasp just enough of the corner of whatever it was and yank it out of his right nostril. An entire Trident gum wrapper emerged, coated in snot.

"How in the world did a gum wrapper get up your nose?" I asked incredulously. "I put it up there," Dear Son casually replied, "and Daddy said it wasn't there anymore!"

What followed was the requisite speech about not putting objects up his nose--not even the "trash" on the ottoman. And then I quizzed Dear Husband good when he got home with his truck full of mulch. "I looked up in both sides of his nose, and I didn't see anything!" Dear Husband said in defense. "How could an entire Trident gum wrapper disappear up our son's nose?" I insisted.

Between Dear Son and Dear Husband, I never did get a satisfactory answer.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Good Life Part II

We were hanging out in the sunshine, enjoying the warmth on our bare arms and legs. Our tummies were full from lunch and there was the faint hint of a breeze in the air. The only sound was the happy chirping of the birds above us and the breeze rustling in the tress, now full again with leaves. I could smell the spring and sunshine in the air as we three sat facing the same direction, me slightly behind them. I looked at their content little baby faces from inches behind them, and I realized it was a perfect Kodak moment. I was desperate to capture the moment, but of course I did not have my camera handy. I took off into the house to get it, and I did my best to salvage the moment when I returned. I was only away for seconds, but the moment was gone when I returned. That is exactly what makes moments like this so worthy of being cherished: they are fleeting and fragile.

Dear Son realized by this time that I was looking for a good picture, and he made it clear he didn't want to be in it. I settled for admiring his towhead full of blond curls from the back. As his hair gets longer, his curls get wilder.








He couldn't stand it, and gave in to his curiosity about what I was doing behind him and why I wasn't arguing about looking at the back of his head.


Dear Daughter wanted to be in the picture about as badly as Dear Son DIDN'T want to be in the picture. So I indulged her. We had been picking strawberries in the garden just before this, and Daughter loves to wash them in the outdoor well faucet and eat them as quickly as I can pick them. The evidence is still on her chin.

As his big sister hammed it up, Dear Son began feeling left out and jumped into the game. And I decided right then and there that if I hadn't already decided it, that my life is as full and blessed as a life can get.





...and that's when Dear Son started getting cocky.