Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If You Want To Save Money- And The Earth Too

If you have read this website for any length of time, you know my agonizing frustration at my daughter's propensity to collect junk- papers, books, magazines, stickers, toys, trinkets.

Her room is something I try to tolerate because I feel like it's "her" space so I shouldn't push too much. I leave it alone and make the sign of the cross and clutch a crucifix to my chest every time I walk past it. So that God will protect me from the evil spirit of filth that lurks within.

But the playroom is another matter. It is one of the first things we (or anyone else for that matter) sees when we walk in the house. The little kids keep their toys there but she has an "office"- a desk with a computer and all of her "office" things. Well, as you can imagine, it's a MESS!

Look. See for yourselves.

It's a miniature version of Howie's desk downstairs.

I desperately wanted to find a solution to all of this clutter and lucky for me, I came across some book/magazine organizers when I was looking through a magazine. But they were expensive and I would not like to stand on the street corners in order to pay the mortgage because I bought some magazine organizers. Priorities, people. I searched online and I found an earth friendly alternative. They were made from cardboard and looked dull yet functional. But I don't have access to large cardboard boxes. Or do I?

After finishing a box of cereal I realized I have a plethora of cardboard boxes at my disposal and it was time to put them to work. Here's how I did it:

I used whatever size cereal boxes we had hanging around, a ruler, a marker and a pair of scissors.

First I measured six inches down the right side of the front of the box and marked it. Then I measured six inches down the left side of the back of the box and marked that.

Then I connected the marked dot to the opposite corner of the box. I did this to both sides.

I cut down those lines with a steady hand. Well, as steady as it could be after two glasses of wine. I find that crafts are always embellished in a lovely way with a large amount of liquor.

When both diagonals were cut I held it out like this and considered making a really cool cardboard airplane but then I changed my mind and got back to business by cutting a straight line along the side panel.

And then I cut all of the edges from the top of the box. Carefully because by this point I was easing into my third glass of sangria.

Then I painted it. With paint. But I guess you could have figured that part out. I tried finger paints but found they didn't cover well. I used a household paint and it worked like a charm. And let me tell you...sangria and paint fumes are equivalent to smoking a haystack of peyote. I was flying inside a rainbow. On a unicorn. Who spoke in a thick Brittish accent and answered all of the questions to life's great mysteries.

And then I watched the paint dry. Because there was nothing else to do.

I ended up making three of these. In an assortment of vibrant colors. I labeled them and loaded them up with magazines, dvds, books, papers,etc... and we went from cluttertown to this...


This was the cheapest, easiest, most earth friendly project I've ever done (well besides my compost pile) and the kids had a great time too ( I totally let them take a few wiffs of paint because I'm a good mother and every child needs an acid trip from time to time- it makes them grow up big and strong).

So go forth and be crafty. And bring a bottle of sangria along for the ride :-)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Night Of Terror

On the first night of our vacation, we stayed at our cousin Teresa's house. She was in Maryland that week and offered us her place since she figured her cats could use the company.

She lives in Carlisle, a borough about 20 miles southwest of Harrisburg. It's a cozy little town, a mostly agricultural place with huge fields that remind me a lot of Oklahoma. There are wide open spaces with farm houses scattered miles apart. Teresa lives in a small cluster of houses surrounded by open farm land. It's beautiful and peaceful and in the middle of nowhere.

After putting the kids to bed, Howie went out to pick up some food, some burritos from a local place that we both desperately miss. I stayed to get some things un-packed, lay out clothes for the next day and get a much-needed shower. I was busy during the first hour he was gone and spent much of the second hour surfing the internet and watching the boob tube. It wasn't until early into the third hour that I really started to notice that he'd been gone quite a long time. It was nearing ten o'clock. By rights, it should have only taken about 40 minutes for him to pick up the food and return. But we're talking about Howie here. The man I can send on a ten minute errand to buy a gallon of milk and who returns two hours later with no milk but a box full of head-less Barbies he bought at a tag sale (or twenty).

But still, it seemed like it was taking too long and I started to get worried. Since Howie took my cell phone, I tried Teresa's home phone only to realize that she had disconnected her home service in anticipation of her impending move. I had no way to reach him.

I walked outside and stood in the pitch black of the open countryside and felt the panic start to rise up inside of me. What if something had happened to him? There would be no way for anyone to contact me and let me know. And there would be no way for me to get to him. I was out in the middle of nowhere with no car, no money, no food and no means of communication. I didn't have any phone numbers for family and even if I did, how exactly would I go about contacting them?

I paced...in the house, around the kitchen, back outside. I watched eagerly as cars zoomed past and hoped and prayed that it was him, only to be disappointed. As time creeped on, the panic got more intense. My breath was getting short, my chest began to hurt and I could feel the fight or flight sensation come over me.

I decided to head next door to the neighbor who had introduced himself when we arrived. He and his wife seemed nice enough. I hated to wake them but I had to call him, to make sure he was okay. But they weren't home. I tried the neighbor on the other side, my last option. No luck.

Oh God, please let him come back soon. Let him be okay. What could have happened? What could be taking this long? Did he stop off to visit with someone? No. He wouldn't do that this late at night. I know he's not lost. The car was in perfect condition. Even if he decided to get something other than burritos it wouldn't this long. It has to be something bad.

As I stood trembling at the kitchen sink, I noticed a light coming from a house that bordered the back yard. It was far and I couldn't imagine leaving the kids in the house alone. But I was desperate and vowed that I would only be gone as long as it took me to call him and make sure he was okay. As long as he was okay, he could be gone for the rest of the night and I would sleep soundly.

I secured the house as best I could and trekked across the yard, over some hedges and onto the neighbor's property. It was a beautiful night, the kind of night that would have been the perfect beginning to our vacation together. We could have eaten on the patio in the cool of the night. But instead I was standing outside, barefoot and in a complete frenzy, about to knock on the door of a complete stranger and ask if I could borrow their phone.

What if they didn't answer? Or worse, what if they did answer and they were a maniacal killer who would lick their lips at their immense stroke of luck that landed their next victim on their front steps! What if he made me rub lotion on my skin!?!

Instead, I was greeted by a friendly old couple who were very eager to help me and were more than generous and understanding at the crazy woman who landed on their steps at 10:30 at night. I called him but it went straight to voice mail and right at that second my heart stopped beating and I think I screamed a little bit. I still have a very vivid image of that old couple standing in the door frame of their back porch, mouth agape as I threw their phone back at them and ran off into the darkness of the night, gasping and crying.

I had to get back to the kids, to make sure they were safe. They were. And just as I was about to throw myself on the couch and cry until the last bit of breath had left in my body, I saw him. He pulled into the garage, nonchalant like. But as soon as he saw me, realized that something was way wrong.

I hugged him and then proceeded to spew water from my eyes in such quantities that it flooded Teresa's basement. He explained that the burrito place was closed and so he had to drive out of his way to the other burrito place which was also closed and so he went to another place but not before getting stuck in traffic. My phone wasn't working at all and he even if it did, he couldn't reach me because he had taken his memory card out of his cell phone and Teresa's didn't work.

After a few deep breaths, I calmed a bit but I didn't sleep well. I was still wound up, the anxiety coiled so tightly around my heart that I still couldn't breath.

I don't know what I would ever do without him. Sure, he drives me crazy on a daily basis. He is the benefactor of many of my gray hairs. He is the reason that I have those angry lines on my forehead and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about locking him in the basement a time or two.

But he's also the source of all of my happiness. He is such a huge part of me that I think I would cease to exist without him. I would be a shell, a car without an engine. A thing without it's source of energy or purpose.

I hated that I was such a mess, that I was so out of sorts that I couldn't compose myself and seem okay. Because I try very hard to be composed, to be strong. Now he knows I'm a fumbling, gurgling mess without him. But I guess that's not such a bad thing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Many Thanks

In the past few days, I've had several people make personal comment to me about this blog. One was just last night. A friend of mine, *waves at Carla*, was here at the house and said something to the tune of "you are phenomenal, a modern marvel of literary perfection". Okay, maybe she didn't say that. But she said that she had read a couple of posts and really related to them, in fact, they made her feel good, because I'm honest and have no hesitation in making a complete idiot of myself for the entire internet to see. I didn't even know that Carla reads my blog but to know that she is and it resonates with her, just made my night.

I also got a facebook comment from another friend *waves at Maureen* who mentioned that her brother and sister-in-law read me often and enjoy the blog *waves to them too*. They found me on her blogroll and asked if she really knows that woman in person. Because they care about her and don't want her associating with such shady characters. But they read me. Clearly they have good taste and know good writing when they see it.

And the only reason I mention any of this is because I sometimes forget how many people loyally read these scribblings. This August will make two years that I have been a blogger and during that time I have poured my everything out for the world to see. Many of you have read me from my very first postings on MS *blows Nic a kiss* and the fact that you have found me interesting enough to continue reading me for TWO YEARS, makes me swell up with appreciation. Or maybe all of this swelling is from eating all those salt-laced party chips and dips last night. Either way, I'm appreciative and completely humbled.

I'm humbled that you continue to come back. Or that you subscribe so that I invade your inbox every few days. I love that you find me funny and don't point out that I am most certainly delusional and a little bit crazy. I love that you are supportive and non-judgemental. I love that you are reading, plain and simple and the biggest compliment is simply that you find me worthy enough to continue reading.

Thank you for that. It means a lot to me and bolsters my commitment to continue writing. I love writing. It's sweet...like a chocolate-drizzled sundae. But having readers is like adding whip cream and nuts and cherries on top. In other words, you make it even better. And yes, I just called you a bunch of nuts :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

When It Rains...

The night we got home from our vacation, I laid in my cozy bed, the one that hugs my body in such a way that I sometimes feel like it's going to swallow me whole. It's a glorious sensation to crawl into that bed every night but this night was even more profound because of the hellish sleeping accommodations I endured while we were on vacation. A half inch layer of foam over the metal frame of a pull-out couch does not spell comfort, let me tell ya.

I had just tucked my hand under my pillow, let out a sigh and clicked the remote when the TV exploded. And I'm not even exaggerating when I say it exploded. It made a scary cracking sound and then smoke, clouds that smelled like charred rubber and scorched electronic wires, billowed from the back of the console.

The t.v. had died, of quick and sudden cardiac arrest. We had a funeral. It was sad.

It was the last thing we needed. The vacation had bled our pockets dry. And it was time to pay the mortgage. There would be no way we could afford to buy another boob tube. But thanks to a great online deal through best buy, we were able to replace the old set with a new 32" flat screen for under $400.00, an expense that in hindsight, we shouldn't have made.

That SHOULD have been the end of the story but then two weeks later I noticed that our family room TV was looking funny. The colors in the upper left side looked a little fuzzy, tinted in red and slightly distorted. I said a prayer that the kids had merely been fidgeting with the settings and that Howie could make it right but after trying for quite a while and making some calls to service places, we determined that it's on it's last legs.


And then yesterday, Howie noticed that his truck was leaking power steering fluid. We didn't think it was a big deal and figured it might cost a few hundred to replace a reservoir or something. It turns out it's much, much more, to the tune of twelve hundred dollars more.

It's like everything decided to fall apart and add up on us all at once. And just when we thought that things couldn't get any worse we got our vehicle tax bill in the mail and a letter reminding us that our insurance deductible has not been met and we get the pleasure of paying a gigantic bill to the pediatric dentist for Bubba's mouth-full of cavities.

I think it's about time that I start to sell oranges on the downtown street corners. Or sell my blood plasma. Does anybody need a kidney? No? How bout a first born child? I'll even waive the shipping!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Loan Shark

In an attempt to motivate Birdie to help us clean the house this weekend, we offered to pay her per room. The more rooms she cleaned, the more money she made. Plus, each room was worth a different amount depending on how much effort she put in. If she picked up the room kind of half ass-like, it wouldn't be worth much. If she; however, put everything away, put clothes in the hamper and vacuumed, it would be worth much, much more.

So the negotiations commenced.

Howie: "I'll pay you...um...five dollars for everything."
Birdie: *laughing in his face* "I want twenty."
Howie: "Yeah right. I'll give you eight."
Birdie: "Eight. TEEN!"
Howie: "Look. I'm not a rich man."
Birdie: "But I bet you have twenty dollars."

Now, this is the first time we've ever even offered to give her any type of allowance. She's always been expected to contribute to the house simply because she lives here. And we feed her. So, I have NO idea how she learned to barter so well but let me tell you. If I ever go car shopping again, I'm taking her with me.

Howie: "Fine. I'll give you ten."
Birdie: "Fifteen."
Howie: "Ten."
Birdie: "Twelve?"
Howie: "Eleven."
Birdie: "Done! But you'll pay me eighteen if I scrub the floors on my hands and knees."

I'll tell you what, the girl did an amazing job. She picked up the playroom and mopped the floor. She cleaned her sister's room, made her bed and put all her toys away. She cleaned her own room, even carefully sorting through things and throwing them away without provocation. That, my friends is the equivalent of her cutting through her chest, ripping out her heart, spitting on it and tossing it in the garbage.

She picked up clothes and organized her brother's room. She dug things out from under her bed and tidied up the family room. It only took her about an hour but we were astonished at how much she accomplished during that time!

Birdie: "Okay, so where's my eleven dollars."
Howie: "I have six dollars cash but I can give you the rest when we go to the store."
Birdie: "I know you had more money than that this morning."
Howie: "Yes, but I used some of it to buy a tool box at a tag sale a few minutes ago."
Birdie: "How could you go out and BUY something when you owe me money!?!"
Howie: "Don't worry you'll get your eleven dollars."
Birdie: "But now you owe me THIRTEEN dollars."

Howie and I both thought that her bargaining was a cute thing in the beginning but at this point she started to scare us. We looked at each other with wide eyes. He gulped and I bit my bottom lip. The way she was looking at him, with her hands on her hips and her eye brows raised, suggested that at any moment she was going to whip out a butcher knife, cut off one of Howie's pinky fingers and threaten to take a finger an hour until he paid up!

Howie: "I'll stop at an atm before we go to the store today."
Birdie: "Well, okay. But you better not forget."

As she walked past us in the hallway I said, "man, you better get your shit together and get her the cash soon or else tomorrow morning we might wake up with a dead horse's head in our bed. Or maybe she will abduct Bear and hold her ransom until we deliver the cash."

Howie just left. To take Birdie to the ATM. No doubt with a gun in his back.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Word Of The Day

Did you know that there is no certain word that means the opposite of "ripe"? I mean, you can use "green" or perhaps "un-ripe" but neither one of those really seems to do the job adequately, do they? I was trying to find just the right word to describe the kind of nectarines that I want because I cannot seem to buy one that is not seconds away from rotting. Seriously, no matter how firm or beautiful they look in the store, they turn to mush within hours of being in my house. I couldn't think of a word off the top of my head so I used the technology at my fingertips to browse through a thesaurus and guess what? NO SUCH WORD. Anyway, apparently, some British dude named James Ellinor, happened upon the same sad truth that there is no word for the opposite of ripe and so he created a strange (and frankly, egocentric) word to be added to the dictionary. The word is "jellinor". Weird right? It's clear that while ol' Jimmy is quite adept at finding mistakes in the dictionary, he's not exactly what I would call "creative" in the word making department.

So next time you are in the supermarket you can seem like a true genius and intellectual when you hold up a melon, tap on it and self-righteously declare, "why I am certainly glad that I checked because this one seems to be rather jellinor and I prefer mine ripe."

Don't worry if people look at you funny and roll their eyes. That just means they are jealous that you know so much.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Different Man

"I am at my wits end. I don't know how to handle this anymore. I'm exhausted."

This is the statement I made to Howie a couple of weeks ago. Because the man was simply driving me crazy. I had accepted his quirks from the beginning because, well...I love him. I HAD to accept them if I was to marry him and live with him for the rest of my life. And I figured, heck...I have my own crazy quirks and marriage is all about compromise right? Right? Well, I got more than I bargained for.

But that was before I ran a household and looked after three children. That was before the overwhelming amount of responsibilities of raising a family were laid square on my shoulders because he didn't have the ability or desire to cope with them.

In the time that passed between those early days and now, my patience has grown thin. My energy has waned. I still love him, of course but something had to change if I was to get through this marriage with my sanity intact. And people, I don't have that much sanity in the first place so it's vitally important that I maintain what I have!

These issues have been getting worse, especially over the last few months. He was having a very difficult time contributing at home and was struggling at work. He seemed overwhelmed and stressed and increasingly temperamental. We were arguing and I would tell him point blank what I needed but even though he had good intentions and motivation to change, he just couldn't. It was infuriating and we felt frustrated and almost hopeless.

And then, as if God himself extended his hand to us, we had the occasion to catch a segment of a television show that was talking about adult A.D.D. It discussed how debilitating it can be for adults to deal with this neurological disorder and how it affects both their home and professional lives. It was textbook Howie. This was the checklist:

1. Do you have trouble concentrating to an extreme degree? Howie has about 15 minutes worth of concentration, tops.
2. Do you have problems following conversations? "What did you say?"
3. Do you zone out? There were times that I would talk to him and he would be looking me dead in the eye and not hear a word I said. It would make me cry. Once he was watching Bubba while we were at a fair. Bubba ran away and Howie stood there watching him, unable to process what was happening and act on it. It terrified me!
4. Does finishing a task seem impossible, and you might have several tasks started at once without finishing any of them? READ THIS
5. Are you easily distracted and forgetful? When he leaves in the morning he never does it once. He comes back in the house at least 3 times. Once to get his keys, then to get his drink, then to get his id badge.
6. Is it impossible to be organized at home and work? Organization is a dirty, dirty word.
7. Often forget appointments or obligations? He once left me waiting FOUR HOURS for him to pick me up from the bank. He once postponed a dental appointment for three years.
8. Have problems following directions? I always thought it was a guy thing for him not to want to follow directions until I realized it was because he couldn't process them. He has difficulty reading.
9. Misplace things often? If I were to send him into the fridge for some ketchup I wouldn't see him for a year.
10. Speak or blurt out without thinking or interrupt conversations? This was one of our hugest bones of contention. He would not let me finish ANY sentences and it drove me bananas. The combination of my pet peeve being his compulsion was a recipe for disaster.
11. Have racing thoughts? It's Daytona in his brain and the checkered flag is a' wavin'.


He went to the doctor the very next day and within minutes was confirmed with ADD.

We had suspected this as early back as last year when Bubba's developmental doctor pointed it out but we sort of poo pooed the idea. We thought there might be a chance but we didn't look into it any further than that because it's just wasn't something he was ready to deal with.

I can't tell you what a huge relief this has been for both of us. All of this time he felt like a bad employee, a bad husband, a bad dad. He was dealing with symptoms every single day and struggling against them, yet failing. All of this time I felt like an impatient wife who nagged and didn't understand. I could clearly see there were problems but kept making them my own, if only I could be more patient, more self-less. We also never realized how through the course of our relationship, we have both self-medicated this disorder and not even realized it. It made sense and in a way is a testament to how well we work together. The more he couldn't do, the more I did for him.

In the beginning, he was responsible for the money. But he wouldn't pay the bills, even when there was plenty of money in the account. So I took it over.

And when he couldn't organize his clothes or get himself ready in the morning, I did it for him.

When he couldn't remember anything, I reminded him. When he couldn't organize, I would make him lists. When he couldn't process, I would coach him.

He's also been medicating himself in other ways. It would not be uncommon for him to drink 5 or more Red Bulls a day. Plus caffeinated tea. And Skoal. Now, most people would be picking imaginary bugs off their faces with their shaky fingers after 2 Red Bulls. I once saw him drink ten! All of which were an attempt to strike a match within him so that he could focus. They all failed. While he would maintain focus for a couple of hours, he would soon crash and be worse off than when he started.

But we did what worked. And like I said, in the beginning it was no problem. It wasn't until I had more and more demands placed on me that I started to feel like I was being pounded into the ground. And while there have been problems, I think about how much we have compromised and worked and been partners and I'm really proud of us. All of this time I thought I was a shitty ass wife who complained about the small stuff and now I know that I put up with hell of a lot more than most women could fathom.

He was prescribed Adderall and I have to say, holy Lord above, it's like we died and went to marriage heaven. Within minutes he said his brain was calm and he was gitty with the excitement of being free from the uncontrollable chaos in his mind.

The stress and anxiety have almost completely dissipated, he's contributing at home and getting three times as much done at work. Because he's HERE. He's with us. He is looking at me and hearing me! He's paying attention and for the first time ever, I feel like I can count on him! Strange as it may sound, I feel like I have a real marriage. I'm not his care-taker. I'm his partner!

There is still a long road ahead. While his brain is calm and he can listen and focus, he still has to learn to organize himself. Because he didn't have the ability, he never learned to prioritize or complete a task from beginning to end.

Simply put, there is still work to be done. But at least now there's also hope :-)

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Brewing Storm

One of the best selling points about our MOMS club is that we will cook meals for families who welcome a new baby into their homes. The mom gets the choice of twice a week for 6 weeks or three times a week for a month. It's a God send. Especially for new moms who can barely muster enough energy to keep their eyes open, much less cook dinner. I stupidly did not join the club until Bear was a few months old which means that I never benefited from this gesture. I'm campaigning to see if I can get back track compensation. So far there are no takers.

One of our newest members recently had a new baby girl and the other night was my night to feed her family. I made a spinach quiche that included mushrooms, onions, garlic, eggs and feta cheese in a crumbly crust. I also included a summer salad and homemade chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. It smelled scrumptious. As with any other time that I have to cook meals, I simply make twice the customary amount and give half to the family and keep half for us. This way, I don't have to make two separate dinners while fighting off children who still think they need to be attached to me at every moment of the day. Really, I'm not that incredible kids, go play!

I made my dinner delivery and then came home to feast with my family. The smells that filled the house were only a prelude to the deliciousness that was dinner. Afterward, Birdie and I decided to take a walk through the neighborhood. Well, I walked, she rode her bike.

It was a cool evening and while part of the sky was bright and blue, the other part held ominous clouds that threatened to deliver a downpour at any second. We took a chance and luckily, we escaped without a drop. But that was the good news.

I walked down my street and had just turned on to another when I started to feel sluggish. I suddenly felt out of breath which was strange because I was only walking. Then I started to get terrible stomach cramps. They came and went and I crossed my fingers and hoped that it was a passing rumble.

Big mistake.

A few minutes later we turned on yet another street and Birdie raced down the hill so fast that I could only barely see the light beaming off of her helmet.

And then it hit.

It wasn't one of those dull warnings that let you know that you have about twenty minutes to get situated, grab a magazine and leisurely sit down for a calm constitution. It wasn't like a hurricane warning where the forecasters tell you that you have about 5 days to board up your house, call your insurance company, pack up your treasures and head out of town. No, this was more like a blaring tornado siren. It wasn't there for any real kind of warning, it was there to give me a second to realize that the storm was already over my head and I better say a quick prayer because I was about to die. There was no time to run, there was no time to duck, I was plain shit out of luck.

But I was standing in the middle of the street, still in our neighborhood but a good 10 minute walk from our house. And I didn't have 10 minutes. For a second I panicked. Should I sit down and ask Birdie to ride back to the house so Howie could come pick me up? No. It would take too long and I couldn't guarantee that she wouldn't stop off and chat with a neighbor for half an hour or stop to pick dandelions from someone's yard.

I started to break out in a cold sweat. My intestines were churning and the pain commenced. Lord help me. I knew I wouldn't make it home and I knew nobody could come get me so my options were either shit my pants right there in the street or knock on a neighbor's door. Problem is, while I know these people, I don't really KNOW them if you catch my drift. I don't know them by name, I know them partly by face when they drive past my house or I walk past theirs. I know they put new siding on their house but I don't know their dog's name or how many children they have. I definitely don't know them well enough to show up at their doorstep when they are eating dinner and ask them if I can run in real quick and take a dump.

I walked a few steps but had to stop. Then I saw a neighbor's son standing outside with their dog and since I was desperate I asked him if his mom was home. She knows me slightly. We bought a few things at their last tag sale and their daughter babysat for us a couple of years back.

"Um. Hi. You probably don't remember me but my name is Licha and we live up on the hill and your sister used to babysit for us, is your mom home?"
"Oh, yeaaah, I remember. No, sorry she's not here.
*Clearing throat* "I'm so sorry to ask this, but do you mind if I use your restroom. Silly me should have done it before I left the house."

You see, I was pretending that the whole thing was no big deal, that I was just going to come in for a second and take a quick tinkle. What was I supposed to say? "Holy cow, I ate something that made me really sick and I'm about to poop in my pants can I please come in and disgrace your family toilet?"

No. I was not going to say that. He was sweet. He let me right in and I strolled patiently across their kitchen, trying to seem calm. I even made a comment about how nice their kitchen renovation turned out. All the while I was chanting on the inside, "i'm gonna lose it, I'm gonna lose it. I hate quiche, I hate quiche."

Then I quickly closed the door to the bathroom, flicked on the air vent and got into position. Sweet lord above, thank God for this kind and understanding young man who let me use his bathroom because without him I would have ended up a neighborhood legend. A scary story that parents would tell their children to scare them into not wanting to play outside.

As it is, I'm probably still gonna be stamped and labeled, "the woman who takes walks through the neighborhood and might show up on your doorstep to ask to use something totally inappropriate. She'll use your toilet, borrow a tampon and then use your toe nail clippers." Of course, I only asked to use the bathroom but you know how stories get embellished. By the time the story makes it's rounds I will have come in and walked naked through someone's house.

Lets just hope that the young man was just trying to be nice when he said he remembered me and really has NO idea who I am!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Rat Race

Howie and I had a discussion this morning about the trials and tribulations of marriage and parenthood.

From the view of an outsider, marriage and parenthood is a beautiful thing. Most likely because it's judged from snapshots of children smiling as they swing at the playground or of families huddled together for a happy picture. Everything seems hunky dory, even easy.

But nobody takes pictures of a screaming bath time or of arguments over who's turn it is to clean the litter box. We don't see people on edge as they rush out the door in the morning or of frustration as it grows on a sleepless night with three flu infected children.

Marriage and parenting do have their rewards, there is no question about that. They're loving and comfortable and at times, truly joyful. The problem is that they are also complicated and exhausting. Unless you are lucky to be independently wealthy, you most likely live in a household where one or both of you work.

We are from a one income family which means that Howie works and I stay home with the kids. Our jobs are both undeniably important. He brings home the bacon. I fry it up in a pan. Without each of us doing our parts, we would not eat. The choice to be a one income family was mutually agreed upon and while it's the best choice, it does mean that both of us have to make sacrifices.

It's not that easy. Howie's job can often times be stressful and he is inundated from the moment he wakes up until the moment he gets home, often times longer than that. He's busy with meetings and projects and putting out fires which is to say that he is unavailable to us. The problem comes when he is not able to turn that off when he walks through the front door, or in our case, the garage side door. I'm fine being the work horse at home but sometimes 24/7 is just too much for me.

We both have our roles and like it or not, we must fulfill them.

But dude, it's such a rat race. He has a lot on his shoulders and the more he works, the more work there is. The same can be said for me. It's a never ending battle of dishes and laundry and shopping.

This is the un-glamorous picture of marriage and parenting. It's talking to each other while one of you is on the toilet, because that's the only alone time you get. It's agreeing on what bill gets paid this pay and which one can be put off for another two weeks. It's lying in bed next to each other talking about sex instead of doing it because you're too tired to even adjust your pillow.

There is a part of me that wants to be past this phase but I also know that these times will never return. The kids will never be this little or innocent again. We will never be this young. Thank goodness for that youth and whatever energy it brings because without it we might never survive!

I'm wise enough to know that all of this is temporary. The landscape of life and relationships change just as surely as the landscape of the earth. It endures weathering and drought and cloudy days. Yet hopefully, with the birth of each new season, it is renewed.

I'm trying my best to accept the season we're in yet look forward, undoubtedly with a little impatience, to what lies ahead. Even as I write this, I have mixed feelings. Because I think there is an understanding that we shouldn't talk about these things, for fear that people would *gasp* think that things aren't perfect in our lives. For me, putting up the act is simply too much work. In my life, a dirty house is the norm, I feed my kids far too many chicken nuggets, I don't always pay my bills on time. I argue with my husband, I yell at my kids and I don't always like being married or being a parent. It's not a pretty statement but it's true. There are times that it's all too overwhelming. It's hard to work and work and constantly feel like you never get ahead or succeed in completing anything.

So there. I just went ahead and said it even though I know that I risk judgment. Honestly, I wish more people were honest about the realities of it all. Then maybe, there wouldn't be so much pressure to be perfect. A few weeks ago, our pastor was speaking in church and he talked about a fight he had with his wife. It was one of the most refreshing things I've heard in a long time. There he was, a pastor, someone that I would assume has it all together and makes the right choice and has the right feelings. There he was admitting that he struggles with marriage just like I do. He jumps to conclusions and he gives the silent treatment. He knows it's wrong, as do I and he tries to do better, as I do as well. But it was nice to know that he was honest about himself. He wasn't standing up there trying to seem perfect, he was showing that even the best of us struggle.

It made me realize that in trying to do a perfect job or always love marriage and parenthood, I was always feeling like a failure. It's impossible to attain perfection or in many cases, even to keep up. The success comes when you trudge your way through it, embracing the messiness of it all and being real about it. Success is recognizing the raw reality of it and still choosing to do it again tomorrow.

This marriage and parenthood thing truly is a marathon, which must be why I'm out of breath by the end of the day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Days

The kids are bored and I've already broken my "no TV all summer" rule. This rain is killing me! My plan to feed them breakfast and send them outside for the day just doesn't play out well when it's hailing outside! They watched the Michael Jackson memorial service today, followed by an episode of Sponge Bob.

Oh well.

So they've been home for a couple of weeks now and one of those weeks was action packed because it was vacation week. This week is a lot slower. And wet. This afternoon the sky opened up and poured buckets which I wish I could say was a rare occurrence but not these days. It's July 7th and it's in the low 70's. I can't say that I wish it were hot but I do wish it would stop raining already!

Our yard has been enjoying it. This spring our "yard" was really 90% dirt but thanks to all the rain, the hydro-seeding took off and we have a full lawn albeit with weeds sprinkled here and there. I don't care. It's way better than I ever thought it would be!

My garden is loving the rain too! I'm sure glad that I took everyone's advice and drilled holes in the bottom of my planters because my veggies would have surely drowned by now. Instead my tomatoes are getting plumper and my squash is getting longer. My peppers are starting to flower as well and the lettuce is looking luscious. I can't wait to cut a few leaves and have a fully grown "deck salad" salad for dinner. That's what I've decided to call it. When you come to visit, the specialty of the house will be my "deck salad"; a mixture of green and purple lettuce, warm tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro and peppers. Grown on my deck and perhaps even served on my deck. Thus, aptly named.

I took the girls for a walk this morning while Bubba was at summer school. Birdie rode her bike, sans training wheels, YIPPEE, and I pulled bear in our clunky, red wagon whose wheels I had to WD-40 before we set out. I'm glad we went earlier than later because the rain came down in sheets not long after I got Bubba off the bus. He goes to summer school from 9-11:30 and the bus drops him off at 12:00. I had just parked my car at the bottom of the driveway when the bus appeared with a squirrely driver behind the wheel. He quickly explained that the reason he was SO late was because some of the other parents were not at their stops and he was quick to apologize. I found it strange because technically he was early but I suppose the man is a little afraid of me.

Last year on the first day of summer school, he picked Bubba up on time but brought him home an hour and a half late. I was out of my mind. I got no phone call from the school, the bus company, nothing. I went ballistic! I'm sorry, but you just don't take someone's kid for an extra hour and a half and expect them to be all peachy king when you come face to face with them again. My Bubba was only 3 1/2 years old at the time and although the school secretary reassured me that he was in good hands, I found it completely unacceptable for the bus driver to take a detour with my child in the back of the bus and NOT TELL ME!

So anyway, he's shakes in his boots every time he sees me. Because I gave him a piece of my mind when he finally arrived at our house. He also averts eye contact as if he expects that if our gaze meets that laser beams will shoot from my eyes and make his head explode. He really is afraid of me. The man is old enough to be my father and he calls me "ma'am". He is clearly trying to keep me happy!

So since the rain kept us indoors, I did get some much-needed cleaning done. We basically vegged out this entire last weekend. We spent most of Sunday sprawled out on our bed with kids jumping around us. We napped there, we ate there, we watched TV there. But of course, that sort of negligence leaves a trail of chores in it's wake.

I attempted to straighten Birdie's room, which is a futile endeavor. The girl is a hoarder and a scavenger. Walking through her room is like taking a tour in the den of a chipmunk or perhaps a squirrel. Upon entering you are surrounded by shredded paper and trinkets of all kinds (marbles, chewed pencils, stickers, shredded paper). Not to mention all of the food. It's hidden under her bed, in her drawers, stuffed away in bags and suitcases. I find half eaten apples and every so often I step on a blue berry that squishes between my toes. I fully expect her to start storing things in her cheeks soon! Her most recent treasure was actually kind of touching.

Last week, my cousin Gary finally got around to sending me a box full of my mom's stuff which he promised to mail me the week she died, a year and a half ago. Because we had flown there, I couldn't bring much back with us, so my uncle promised that he would go through the rest of my mom's things and mail them to me as soon as possible. He did go through it all and entrusted my cousin to mail them to me. Obviously, Gary didn't make it much of a priority. I can up the ante of irony by telling you that Gary works for UPS! Anyway, the box finally arrived yesterday and inside were quilts my mom had made and pictures, lot of pictures. One was a gigantic picture that she and I took when I was a teenager. She was sitting in a chair, looking younger and healthier than I can remember her ever being and I was standing behind her, hand on her shoulder with my brutally teased 90's hair that looks like it could go up in a puff of smoke if a match was struck within 100 yards of it.

It's representative of a time when it was just me and her. A time that is full of fond memories yet seems almost too distant to recall.

Birdie claimed the whopping print for herself, placing it lovingly on one of her shelves. She took it without my noticing and for just once I realized that these things she hoards, these things that I see as trash and annoying stuff that I have to pick up and organize, these things are her treasures. They are special to her.

I was reminded of this as I walked by the picture and took a moment to gaze at my mom. For a moment, I remembered my childhood obsession with papers and how it drove my mom to the edge of her sanity with said obsession. I had a love of everything paper and took great pleasure in surrounding myself with it. I stacked papers, I paper-clipped papers, I scattered papers and she would always walk by my room exasperated.

I guess her curse really worked, I really did a child exactly like me.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Don't Say Nobody Told You

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A few months back, I took a Zumba class with my favorite instructor, a woman named Kerin. I love her because she's young and fun and always plays the greatest music. It's hip, it's contemporary and in many cases, it's un-signed and un-labeled.

One song in particular caught my attention and I thoroughly enjoyed gyrating to it but when I asked Kerin what it was called she was at a loss. She said her husband had downloaded it and he couldn't remember what it was called. The only thing she knew was that it was by a local girl and she was up and coming.

Well shit.

I tried to pay close attention to the lyrics to see if I could find the title. It didn't work. When Kerin offered to award us all a CD of zumba music which she said included tunes from class if we won a dance off, I hudled a group of my peeps and we choreographed our way to zumba victory. Unfortunately, the CD did NOT include the song I wanted and I just about gave up on ever tracking it down.

Then last night, Howie and I were watching Wednesday and Thursday's pre-recorded So You Think You Can Dance shows and Howie heard a song called "Creator" by an artist named Santogold. He immediately looked it up and downloaded it to his itunes. Then, when we were watching the elimination show, one of the dancers did a solo to a song by the same artist and I immediately recognized it. It was the song I had been trying to find! We had hit the mother load.

I did a little research on Santogold and found out that she grew up in Philly but went to school in this neck of the woods which is why Kerin said she was local. The more I researched about her, the more I liked. I listened to her entire album and have to say that there is not much I didn't love.

I'm telling you, this girl is going to be big. She's incredibly talented and amazingly artistic and unique. Her sound is like a blend of pop and alternative rock as well as eccentric drum beats that were influenced by Cuban, Haitian and West African drumming. It's been said that "Santi has a wonderfully bizarre approach to melody and lyrics and has no care for conforming to mainstream guidelines". Her music has also been called "pop art".

It's new, a whole new genre of it's own and if you haven't heard of Santogold, prepare to hear a lot more of her in the coming year. This genre is beginning to break out with artists such as M.I.A who had huge radio play last summer and with Santi being as colorful and talented, she is sure to be next in line, especially now that she's been featured on a show like SYTYCD.

Here is a link to "You'll Find A Way", the song that I finally found! Strange at it may sound, if any of you have seen the HBO series "Autopsy", the drum beats may sound familiar. I swear they are the same. If you have time, check out the song linked above and "I'm A Lady", both terrific!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Home At Last

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Mamaw and Papppy bought a camper out in Donegal, PA a few years before they retired. Mamaw goes there often but it was our first visit. They have a lot of great amenities and it's a fun place for families because they have a playscape, a giant sand pit, fishing, swimming, mini-golf and activities for the kids (while we were there they had a chocolate slip and slide and a breakfast with Disney characters).

The kids were in heaven! Their schedule went something like this:

6:00 Wake up and start jumping on the furniture.
6:30 Beg for breakfast
7:00 Eat and get dressed (spend 20 minutes looking for shoes)
7:30 Head outside and start throwing rocks at the neighbor's camper
8:00 Ride bikes
9:00 Play on the playscape
10:00 Play in the sandpit
11:00 Ride bikes again
11:30 Beg for lunch
12:00 Scarf down food
12:30 Play on the playscape...barefoot because shoes cannot be found
1:30 Go swimming
3:00 Get out of the pool and dry off by riding bikes again
3:30 Blow bubbles, play ball, play with neighbor kids
5:00 Eat dinner
5:30 Play at playscape again
6:00 Roast marshmallows
7:00 Ride bikes again, get lost in the dark
8:00 Sit on the deck and stare into space
8:30 Change into pajamas
9:00 Jump on the furniture
9:30 Fall asleep while standing up

They didn't always brush their teeth. They didn't always wash their hands. Heck, they were lucky if they got a bath! At one point I stared at Bear and couldn't figure out if she was so dark because she was tanned or if the dirt on her face was so thick that it made her two shades darker.

They all around had a blast and enjoyed many firsts. Here are a few things they did for the very first time ever:

Birdie rode her bike without training wheels.
Bubba caught a fish
Bear started a camp fire. Alone. Wow, we are great parents!
Birdie rode on an upside down roller coaster
Bubba held his first sparkler
Bear slept in a tent
Birdie fell and busted her knee open and got lost and found by a stranger, oh the adventure.
Bubba killed a hornet
Bear swam by herself

I learned that my kids are not nearly as fussy as I make them out to be. They slept anywhere we layed them down and under any conditions. They sat in a car for a total of 17 hours without screaming or whining. They ate grilled hamburgers for days on end.

Of course, they are all covered in bruises. From the looks of Bear's legs, we spent all week hitting her shins with a switch. It's knees to ankles bruises on that girl. I'm so grateful that I packed the first aid kit! Bubba's got scrapes and bumps and Birdie is the same. Hey, you play hard and that sort of thing happens. They are badges of summertime honor that say they didn't watch TV or sit inside. They played in the rain and splashed until their sneakers were soaked through. Their clothes were so dirty and crusty that I'm considering throwing them all in the garbage!

We had a nice time too. It was nice to have nothing to do but sit on the deck and chill. There was no place to be, no phone ringing, no deadlines to meet, no chores to be done.

Even still, it's nice to be home. I didn't sleep worth a crap the entire time because I missed my bed. Rollaways and air mattresses just didn't cut it for me. When I crawled into my bed last night, my whole body shivered with pleasure and I slept through the night for the first time in a week.

We brought Mamaw home with us and geesh, the woman is in rare form. I seriously think there is something wrong with her. She's mad or depressed about something and my face has a giant target on it. I have no idea why. But that's a whole other blog. I'm off to unpack and wash my smoky laundry and pick up some groceries. Time to get back into the groove.