Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Shopping 101

A few months ago, after much robbing of Peter and paying of Paul, JMahl and I managed to pay off our credit card.  This was cause for celebration, so we immediately splurged (on the credit card) and got Chinese.  And then I had an (almost) completely open credit line with which to enter the Christmas season.  So, like most parents out there, I have spent the last few weeks feverishly purchasing presents that will, most likely, be appreciated for a much shorter time than it takes me to, again, pay off my credit card.  Yes, I realize this is a very negative outlook, but my husband has started to rub off on me and, I must admit, in this matter, he is correct.

Every Christmas I am convinced that THIS Christmas will be THE Christmas that my children will remember forever.  If you take some time to think back, I'm sure you have some of those.  I do, although I'm sure they aren't the ones my parents wanted me to remember.  For example, the year I received a huge box of coal from my brother Ian.  At the very bottom of the box was a wonderful horse poster.  This was the period where, like many little girls, my bedroom walls were decorated with animal pictures.  I loved it!
And the year I begged for the tiny doll with a whole closet full of clothes, page 176 in the Sears Catalog.  Do you remember thumbing through the Sears Catalog that was two inches thick and was ragged and torn by a week before Christmas?  I got an erector set that year.
And the year we waited to open Christmas presents until my mother and new baby brother Trent came home from the hospital.... that was frustrating, only getting to open ONE PRESENT so that Mom could see us open the rest, all because Trent decided to be born the day before.

But isn't that most of the joy of Christmas morning?  Not so much what the kids get-- but seeing their faces when they get it?  At least, for me that's it.  Which is why I keep buying things.  But that thrill and excitement is elusive.

It seems as though no matter what I get for the kids, it's never EXACTLY what they wanted.  Sure, if you ask my husband, he'll tell you that I tend to buy things that I want the kids to want (the hammock swing), not necessarily something they do want (a spy-copter that I know Dugan will destroy by New Years).  But really, as their parent, it is my job to guide them toward wanting the things I want them to want, right?  And there's also the issue of over-presenting.

Unlike when I was a child, and I only got presents on Holidays and Birthdays, my kids get stuff pretty regularly.  I blame this fact primarily on my in-laws, who have a tendency to splurge when it comes to the children, but I'm guilty too.  New shoes don't wait for a present-giving holiday.  New clothes come at the start of a school year.  Little "just because I love you" presents come when I have extra money in my grocery budget.  Maybe JMahl and I have more money than my parents did when we were young... or maybe we're just spoiling  our kids.  I don't know.  But regardless, kids (or my kids, at least) expect more and don't seem as grateful for the things they get anymore. My children have no hesitancy in saying "this isn't what I wanted", while I clearly remember wearing things I hated just because my mother bought them for me and I didn't want to hurt her feelings by telling her how ugly they were.  Although there was one Christmas I do remember being very upset that my parents bought all my brothers new camping gear while I was left with...uhm... I don't remember what I got, but it wasn't camping gear.  I felt left out, but my parents made up for it a few months later when I graduated from college and received- tada!- new camping gear!  And it's been used at least three times since then!  But I honestly never realized how hard it was to shop for children until I became a mother myself.

But I thought I'd solved this problem this year.  A few months ago I had each of the kids post a Christmas list on the mantle (so that Santa would get it).  I promised them that Santa would get them each one thing off the list. This list was posted in September, so when Mason's birthday rolled around at the end of October, I utilized it to make sure he had a fabulous eighth birthday.  Not such a great idea, since he only had one thing on his list:  "an iPod 4th generation 8gb with built in forward/ rear camera and facetime".  He was very specific.  He's lucky that his father jumped on the excuse to shop for that to get himself an iPad 2.  But that left me no chance of early Christmas shopping, until Mason added to his list.  Which, of course, post-Birthday, when he had what he wanted, he did.

The problem is, he (and Kayton, too) have continued to add to their lists.  Every day there is something new tacked on in sloppy penmanship to the bottom of the list.  And I've already hit my Christmas budget.  Last night, after purchasing everything on the lists for both kids (unbeknownst to them, of course), as we sat around the dining room table eating dinner, Mason informed me that he ONLY wants a sled "like Zack's!  Have you seen Zack's?  It's so cool!  That's all I want!  If you get me that, I'll be sooooo happy!!!".   Uhm.... what about the snowboard (hidden in the basement) that you wanted?

Well.... I sort of want that still, but not that much.

Okay....... and Kayton, what do you want?  Well, I know I said I wanted a computer, but all I really want is a squinkie car.  It's only $15- I saw the commercial on tv, and it's really awesome and all my little squinkies can ride around in it.

So you'd rather have a $15 cheap plastic toy than your very own aqua blue netbook with a built in webcam (not that that's already been purchased or anything...)?


Kolbie is not any easier.  She wants whatever Kayton wants.  So when Kayton wanted an American Girl doll, Kolbie did too.  And when Kayton wants a squinkie car, Kolbie does too.  Kolbie also wants whatever happens to be showing on the most recent commercial:  Mommy!  Mommy!  LOOK!  I want THAT!
What is that, Kolbie?
I don't know, but I WANT it!!!
Of course, to show her true altruism, she occasionally switches it up to:  Mommy!  Mommy!  LOOK!  MICAH wants THAT!   At which Micah will, in verification of this desire, point and jump and yell "Wan AT!"

There's no way I can shop according to every tv advert that pops up on the screen in between Dora and Blues Clues, but bless me, I try.

Christmas Morning would be much more successful if I waited until the kids were climbing into bed on Christmas Eve, preparing to dream of sugar plums and the razor electric scooter that one of the kids at school said they may be getting for Christmas, and then ask each child, as they snuggle onto their pillows and under their blankets in the matching family pajamas I got everyone again this year even though none of the kids wear pajamas to bed, preferring instead to sleep in their underwear, "Okay, tomorrow is Christmas.  What do you want Santa to bring you?"  And, as they relay their last minute Christmas wishes, I will furiously text JMahl, who would be waiting with bated breathe at the Toys-R-Us... "2 lalaloopsy dolls, 1 96-pack of squinkies (make sure there's a fairy in it), a basketball hoop, and, oh, if they have Kenmore mixers, you can pick one up for me..."

Thursday, November 10, 2011


May, 2011- My son got a bug bite on his leg.  He itched it; he scratched it; he kept picking at it, and I kept yelling at him.  Leave it alone!  Let it heal!  Stop touching it.  I tried everything- bandaids, creams, a huge piece of duct-tape wrapped around his leg.  See if you can get that off, my stubborn child!  Most often, I fluctuated between screaming STOP IT and begging quietly "Please let it heal or it's going to get infected."  Then I just gave up.  Sometimes you choose your battles and, heck, if he wants to pick his disgusting scabs, that's what boys do.

June, 2011-- During a masterful attempt at cutting my son's hair (I was convinced that buying a new razor set would take me from bowl-cut skill levels to the amazing reconstructive techniques that my husband's barber applies to him every two weeks), I managed to cut my son's head. Smooth move, Mom.  In my defense, he was wiggling.  And, again, in my defense, I was quick to inform my husband (who was quick to jump in with a "THAT is why you will never cut MY hair") that I think he had a bump there already, and I just, sort-of, kind-of, shaved the bump off. And then, of course, I spent the next few weeks screaming/ begging/ cajoling my son to stop picking at the new scab on his head.

July, 2011-- My husband (who is a paranoid father, as previously noted) finally insisted I take my son to the doctors.  Despite me telling him multiple times that the scabs would heal if Mason would just stop touching them, he put his foot down.  So I did.  He also insisted that I ask the doctor if it were possible that the dog was causing this.  And post-doctors visit I sneaked in the front door, hiding the prescription bottles in my purse, not wanting to admit that yes, my husband was right.  It was infected and he did need antibiotics, but proud to say that no, it was not the dog.  But with prescriptions in hand, thankfully, my husband swallowed his "I told you so".  Although, maybe I just couldn't hear it through the pillows covering my ears and the loud humming I was doing for the next few hours.

August, 2011-- Back to the doctors, with a snide comment to my husband:  "The antibiotics worked wonders.  They caused a yeast infection-- hurrah!"  To the doctor, I was less snide.  More confused:  6 weeks on antibiotics, coating his body with cream, and all we have to show for it is a yeast infection?  And oh, he's got another sore on his chest.  What's up with that?  Doctor's remedy: New prescriptions.  Thank goodness for good insurance.  (And thank you, honey, for keeping a good job that allows us good insurance.)

September, 2011-- Now I'm sort of frustrated.  The school nurse and Mason's teacher keep sending home notes about the "stuff" in his hair.  The supposed yeast infection hasn't gone away, and the original scab has grown to twice it's original size and has made friends of about four other spots on his body.  New doctors visit.  New prescriptions.  Back home.  My husband has stopped saying "I told you so" and starting saying "Tell me something.  Please."

October, 2011-- The list of prescriptions is now amazingly long.  (Have I said thank goodness for good insurance yet?)  Four oral medications.  (with benedryl and tylenol thrown in for good measure)  Nine different topical solutions slathered on in different combinations at different times of day.  Two medicated shampoos on alternate days.  And vials of good old-fashioned olive oil poured on his head before school every day.  No luck.

Sunday, October 23-- Mason woke up in the morning with a sore on his eye.   This sore makes over 40 spots all over his body. Each one growing bigger every day.  None ever going away.  We do a quick emergency room visit.  New prescription and finally some bloodwork.  Blood was hell to acquire.  Never want to do that again.  But bloodwork told us nothing.

Saturday, October 29-- We go to see a Pediatric Medical Dermatologist.  After reviewing her biography online I suggested to JMahl that he may want to take Mason in.  She was hot.  Happily, he refused, and I took Mason in.  She was not only hot, but she had a hot husband at the office helping her that day.  And she was super sweet.  I loved her immediately.  Mason didn't hate her immediately, which says a lot.
And she immediately had a possible diagnosis.  YEAH!  Finally something!  Wait... What?  Are you sure?  No.  Not sure until we do a biopsy.  But no, the dog is not causing this. (Because JMahl, again, insisted I ask.)

Sunday, October 30-- JMahl is now nervous.  I am nervous.  We've spent the last three days researching the possible diagnosis and getting crazier by the minute.  Interestingly enough, we don't do any research together. We speak to each other in code.  Not really saying the words out loud.  Not really admitting to what we just read on the internet (which is possibly one of the stupidest things a parent can ever do.)  Most of our conversations went like this:  "JMahl, did you know that..." To which he would respond, "Don't you have female friends to talk to about this?  I don't really see the point in discussing something we don't even know for a fact yet."  To which I would get annoyed, shut up, and ignore him for the next few hours until he would contritely roll over to my side of the bed, put his arm around me, and pull me to him.  And I knew that he did care.  Did understand.  Just, well, we have different ways of worrying.

Tuesday, November 1--Today is the day of the biopsy. JMahl took off the afternoon to go with me and Mason.  My mother-in-law, God Bless Her, stayed home with the girls.  Mason refused to get out of bed.  I don't blame him.  I hadn't slept the night before,and that, for me, is highly unusual.  I'm one of those "close my eyes and go to sleep and don't wake up unless a child is screaming bloody murder... and even then, I may not wake up unless my husband kicks me a few times".  But for some reason, after tossing and turning for an hour in bed, I still couldn't sleep, and pulled myself out of bed to go downstairs and do some house-cleaning. Yes.  Midnight housecleaning.  The odd thing was, it was actually enjoyable.  There's something very nice-- very accomplished-- about cleaning your house in the middle of the night.  Not having children running behind you dropping crumbs in your wake.  Not having a dog leaving muddy footprints on the floor, or a husband leaving his socks on the carpet where you just finished picking up three days worth of dirty socks.  The floor got mopped, and the floor stayed spotless for about six hours (until children woke up.)  And around 3:30am I went back to bed, tossed for another hour or so, and finally fell asleep just in time to wake up with the baby.   For the record, midnight house cleaning will not be a regular thing.

Thursday, November 3-- The doctor has said that she should have results by tomorrow.  But I'm nervous.  My stomach won't stop stirring.  Every time the phone rings I jump.  My mind goes from "there's no way this is the diagnosis" to "what if it's not and it's worse????".  Then I calm myself and remind myself that there are both a lot worse things it could be and, most likely, it's something a lot less serious.  But, in a manner reminiscent of early relationships in high school, I check the dial tone on the phone.  Yes, it's working. I check that my volume on my cell phone is turned up.  Yes.  I debate calling the doctor to make sure she didn't loose my phone number... then I remind myself that results aren't due till tomorrow.  Just when I'm somewhat sane, I get a call from my husband asking for the doctors number-- just to check... just in case the results came in early.  I yell at him for his impatience, hang up the phone, then check to make sure I'd hung it up properly and that there was a dial tone.

Friday, November 4--  There is nothing worse than waiting for the phone to ring... or maybe it's jumping every time the phone rings, but it's never the call for which you are waiting.

Sunday, November 6- My 33rd birthday.  The phone rings all day, but it is always well-wishes for a great year.  My daughters made me a birthday cake. My husband decorated the house with bright Birthday signs and balloons.  My son pulled out his ipod and made me a wonderful birthday song with background beats:  You're the best mommy, and I love you.  You're so pretty and the best mom in the world.  For your birthday, I'll be a better boy and not make you mad.  Happy Birthday, Mom.... I loooooovvveeee youuuuuuuuu.....

Monday, November 7-- Still no results. My husband or I come up with excuses at least twice a day to call the doctor's office.  "Can we get a note for school saying he's not contagious?  Oh, and by the way, have you got the results yet?"  And "Is your office open today?  Oh, it is.... well, do you have results yet?"  Both the doctor and the nurse have told me repeatedly-- and kindly-- we will call you when we get the results.... but it's hard to wait. Hard to jump each time the phone rings, carrying my cell phone around in my bra so I can be certain to hear it ring... if it does ring.
But it's even worse for Mason. The kids at school have gotten mean.  "You're gross. That's disgusting.  What's the stuff all over you?  I don't want to sit next to him... I might get what he has."  I don't know what to do.  I offer to let him stay home from school.  He says "I hate school.  My friends are mean.  But I want to go to school-- tomorrow's GYM day!"  I start to cry, hiding it from him.  My boy is in pain.  My boy is being hurt by his friends. But he's my boy.
I can't keep sitting around waiting, so I make another doctor's appt-- this time with the eye doctor.  I'm terrified that the sores surrounding his eyes, covering his eyelids, are going to have an irreversible effect on his site. The optometrist says whatever it is, it's not affecting his sight.  Good news.  That's something. And by the way, says the optometrist, if this is a dog allergy, this is the worse dog allergy I've ever seen.

Tuesday, November 8-- It's surprising the things that you never think to ask your children.  I guess we, as parents, assume our kids are healthy unless they tell us otherwise.  I knew he had headaches occasionally, but I assumed they were from too much sugar, too little water, too much running, too little sleep.  I knew his legs hurt occasionally, but I assumed that was the result of his tendon surgery last year.  My boy has been through a lot, but he's not a complainer, that's for sure.  I had no idea that his fingers went numb so often.  Or that they went numb ever, until he asked "why do my fingers go numb so often?"  I had no answer, just surprise-- they do??? Why didn't you tell me?  His answer, honest enough:  you never asked.  I can't help but wonder, are these symptoms or is this just little boy?  How do I know?

My husband and I jump whenever the phone rings and have started to just give the other a shake of the head- no- when Caller ID doesn't say the doctor's number.  Considering my husband's animosity for the ringing phone, I would find it funny the way he rushes into the room whenever it beckons, but I can't laugh.
I found him today in the kitchen, leaning against the counter, staring.  What's wrong, I ask,not used to seeing him like this.  He started to shake... what if it's fatal? he finally got out.  I just looked at him for a moment before putting my arms around him. I held him up, while he fell apart.
It's not fatal.
But how do you know?
I know, because the day he was born the doctors told me to be prepared for his death.  They didn't think he'd make it.  Four weeks later he was healthy, home, and fine.  I know because he's already been through too much for an eight year old boy.  Four surgeries, twelve weeks in a wheelchair, constant physical therapy.  Too much.  God wouldn't do that to him- to us--too.
But how do you know?

I don't know.  But in every thought is the prayer, "Lord, make it okay.  Make HIM okay.  My boy.  My love.  My heart.  Make him okay.  I'll stop cursing under my breath when the kids push me to the limit.  I'll stop lying in bed in the morning wishing I could just ONCE wake up to something other than squabbling.  I'll stop resenting the constant need-need-need having four children creates.  I'll stop wishing for more money, a better complexion, a more romantic husband.  I'll give up the dog--- if you just make this an allergic reaction-- please!  I'll give up sneaking a cigarette when I've had a rough day or just too much to drink.  I'll give up too much to drink- anything to drink!-- just make my son better.  Please, God.  I try to barter.  Okay, if this is an allergy, I'll give it all up.  If it's just a skin disorder, I'll give up cursing only- and the stolen ciggy.  If it's something curable, fixable, LORD, I will make it worth your while, I PROMISE.  And if that doesn't work, why don't you give this illness to me so my son can have a full, wonderful, pain-free life?  Please, Lord.  PLEASE.

Thursday, November 10, 8:15am-- Mason can't sleep at night because of the pain and itching.  Tylenol and Benadryl only do so much.  Yesterday he woke up with his entire body covered in a light rash, which I can only describe as goosebumps that don't go away.  I don't know if this is something else, or if his skin- his body- is about to completely give up the fight.  I remind myself that he had his flu vaccine last week, and that could very well be the cause of this new symptom.

10:50am-- I call the doctor.  The nurse answers.  Yes, results are in.  The doctor will call to discuss the results with me as soon as she has a moment.  I think this is worse than the waiting.  Knowing that someone KNOWS what is wrong with my son, but it's not me.  I call my husband, am reassured that he will be by the phone waiting for my call.  I reassure him that it's going to be okay... probably not a big deal.
I send a text to my brothers and close friends who have been waiting by the phone with me.  "Results are in.  Waiting for call to discuss them.  PRAY."  Within seconds I receive a text back:  "We are."  The phone beeps again: "Will do".  Another beep: "Praying."  I start to cry.  This is why God gave us families-- so we are not alone when we are scared.  I find myself thinking about when I was a child, sharing a bedroom with my little brothers.  I used to get so scared of the dark- shapes distort themselves at night to be something horrific and scary.  No matter how bad the fear got, I only had to reach out my hand to touch Jared's hand... reaching across the space between our beds.  I only had to whisper a "hey, are you awake?" to hear Trent's giggling response and know that I wasn't alone.  I'll never be alone.  Fear is so much easier to deal with when you're dealing with it with someone.  I feel for my husband in these moments.  He has me, but no siblings to call, to rely on.  No "Will do. We are.  Praying." to help alleviate the terror of the unknown.  I thank God and my husband, silently in my head, for our decision to have four children.  My children will never be alone.

11:27am-- My hands won't stop shaking, and I don't know if it's fear or the extra pot of coffee I just drank.  Probably a combination of both, if I'm honest.  Dugan knows something is wrong.  He's at my heels every time I turn around.  I keep tripping over his feet or getting swatted by his tail.  I call my Mom and let her know that we will have the results today.  She breaks into prayer, ending with "Thy Will Be Done".  I can't help but add silently--but only if it's MY WILL TOO, Lord.  I take it back immediately.  I don't believe in a vengeful, unconcerned, or "relishing in the pain of children and parents" God-- but I don't want to challenge Him either.

12:52-- As the phone continues to not ring, I've convinced myself it's not going to be bad.  That we have been stressed out for nothing.  If it WERE that bad, the doctor wouldn't have waited so long to call.  If it were serious, she would have called immediately, or had us come to her office to talk about it, or sent us to the hospital.  So, it's obviously not that bad.  I read a study a few days ago that said that waiting for biopsy results causes more stress than actually receiving the results.  I believe it. So I'm going to stop stressing.  I'll clean my house, singing along to the radio, content in the knowledge that if it were bad, I'd know by now.  No news is good news.  That's what they've always said, right?

2:08pm-- I've convinced myself of two things:  1/ The doctor will not call until after 4, when her office closes. 2/ The results will rule out all the really bad things and just leave questions.  If she had an answer, she would have called already.
Documenting this is the only thing keeping me sane right now.

2:24pm-- The phone rings.  I check caller id and see a number I recognize.  I take a moment to breathe before I answer the phone.

3:05pm-- I've made the important phone calls, sent the important texts.  My husband first.  He says "I just wish I could hug you right now."  I say "When you get home, I don't think I'll be able to let go of you."  I call my Mom.  My Dad.  Text my brothers, my close friends.  The responses start pouring in.
I was right about one thing.  Wrong about the other.  The doctor called before 4.  It's not what she thought it was. It's not worse.  It's better.  It may be chronic, it may be painful and disfiguring, but it is treatable.  It's just Psoriasis.  A rare pediatric form of psoriasis, but just psoriasis.  I cry in relief.

Two weeks ago-- a week ago, even-- this diagnosis would have been upsetting. But now, after spending a week researching everything from Systemic Lupus to Skin Cancer, terrified that I may loose my child, I am relieved.  It's not going to be easy, but he's going to be okay.  See, honey?  I told you it wasn't fatal.  He's going to be okay.

I've developed a new understanding, a new sympathy, even empathy, for parents who are told their children may have a horrible disease-- the disbelief, the guilt, the fear.  I don't think I- or my husband- or our family-- will ever forget the fear of the last few days.  But I can breathe now.  God answers prayers.

I write all this and share it with you for a number of reasons.  One, to you, my family and friends who read this,  you now know what it is when you see Mason.  You will understand that this is treatable, that he will be okay. No need to worry (it's not contagious-- unless you are related).  And two, to our neighbors and acquaintances who may notice his skin and not want to ask while wondering "what's wrong with him"; and to you who may have a child come home from school and say "there's this boy in my class who's got sores all over him"-- you won't say "see?  this is why I make you bathe every night instead of just two or three times a week (depending on how dirty he is) like his mom." You'll explain to your child, as I must explain to mine, that sometimes things happen.  Sometimes we have things in our body that don't work the way they are supposed to.  And this isn't something wrong or bad with you.  This isn't YOUR fault.  This isn't because you are bad or dirty or God loves you less.  It's just the way things happen sometimes.  And you're going to be okay.  Thank God for this diagnosis.  Thank God for modern medicine.  Thank you, God.

You will be okay.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


A few days ago, a svelte, fit, hair-brushed, made-up Mom in a cute, well-fitting track suit and shiny clean sneakers asked me, in my baggy sweatpants, unshowered and unbrushed hair, no makeup, and something orange dribbling down the front of my shirt, if I was a runner.  My first response was no, but I didn't want to say that, because I could see in her eyes that being a non-runner was just as bad as not showering before picking up my daughter from pre-school.  So, I sort of told a somewhat half-truth white lie.  "Not really.  Not anymore. I have four kids..."

Because there was this time, once, when I was a runner.  Off and on, that is.  In High School, for about two months out of the year, I ran track.  And then there was that time in college that I ran every night- for about one and a half weeks- before taking just one night off... which led to three years off.
And then again, when I got pregnant with my oldest, I decided to take my dog for a brief run every night in order to stay in shape through my pregnancy... but then bedrest ended that.
And last summer I did get a new pair of running shoes (and a new puppy) and did nightly runs with him for another few weeks... until I took just one night off... which led to now.
So I have sort-of, somewhat, sometimes, been a runner. But I have four kids now, so it's really hard to be a runner.  It would involve having to either A/ get out of bed unrealistically early to take a jog-- which is not going to happen.  I love my bed.  B/ sacrificing my quiet time at the end of the day when I can actually just sit on the couch and read-- again, not going to happen.  I need my fantasy life. or C/ investing in a $600 jogging stroller... uhm... yeah, I'm cheap.  (But I am open to donations!)

So, having four kids justifies my lack of running, I would say... although, I think I could also argue that having four kids makes me more of a runner than anyone else.  That's four different runs to the grocery store on the day that I forget specific items promised to the kids.  Four different runs in four different directions when I hear a scream in one room, followed by a squeal in another, followed by sounds of fists in a third, and then a dreadful silence in a fourth- -that to a mother speaks of only one thing:  some horrible mess is going to need to be cleaned up.  Most days, this is a five-way run, since I can tell the sound of the dog's paws hitting my counter as he goes for my pot roast cooling.  So, yes, daggone it, I am a runner.  I run to keep the cookies from burning; I run to chase down the dog that the 18-month old just let outside; I run to throw a helmet after a quickly-peddling 8 yr old on a bike; and I do the long jump over the loads of laundry that I've left sitting in the middle of the living room floor for three days.  A few weeks ago, three kids and a dog and I even went for a jog around the neighborhood.  They all beat me-- even the three year old-- and I did beg one of them- any of you, I don't care who, just go!- to run back and tell Daddy to bring me the car, but they refused.  But I did run.  So, yes, perfectly coifed and good-smelling mother-runner. I'm a runner, too.

But what's with this new fad of running?  Sure, it's refreshing-- if you're not bent over heaving up your guts.  It's exhilarating-- if you like having your nose frozen and your toes blistered.  And it's good for you.  But so is sleep.  But running is the cool thing to do now.  (Or maybe it always has been, and I've just never been cool.)

But you can't go anywhere around Elkridge without passing someone running.  I don't mind so much in the summer when they (and by they, I mean the men) are shirtless and sweating; but it just annoys me to see people running in the rain.  Don't you know RAIN is God's way of saying "Put on sweatpants and stay in bed... or don't even bother with the sweatpants, it's cool."  And I will never appreciate the sight of sexy, half-naked summer-running females---especially the ones pushing double-jogging strollers.  These I can ignore when I'm alone in the car, but when my husband is with me I tend to get tired of hearing the "Uh, honey, let's get one of those for Christmas.... The JOGGING STROLLER, I Meant the Jogging Stroller, I swear! Please stop hitting me!"

But running does flow through my blood.  Proof positive being my daughter, Kayton, who 
has joined a great organization -- Girls on the Run-- which has her training for 5ks for a whole semester. She loves to run, and she's a real runner.  When she runs, she really looks like she's flying, with her legs perpendicular to her body and her hair a mile behind her.  She reminds me of the Goddess Diana in my old Greek Mythology books-- minus the bows and arrows... and the sex appeal, of course.  Kayton's only nine, for goodness sake, but she's already run four 5ks, and she's prepping for her next one in December.  She'd be much faster if she didn't enjoy it so much and have so much fun doing it, so I happily choose the latter over the former.  I've always, somewhat boastfully, informed Kayton that she got her running gene from me.  She was inclined to believe me (albeit skeptical), since she'd never seen her father run; but then a few days ago JMahl apparently got tired of me getting all the (skeptical) glory and went for a run with her.  She came home glowing and exclaiming "Daddy's fast!  Why didn't you tell me?! He beat me!!!"

I hadn't told her because, honestly, I hadn't known.  I've only ever seen JMahl run twice in our time together.  Once was a few days before our wedding when I caught him going out the back door in the middle of the night wearing a pair of sneakers and a backpack stuffed with his birth certificate, a picture of his Momma, and a pack of Newports.  Apparently, running with a backpack is a great way to get in shape for a wedding, he was told.  The other time was a few weeks ago, right after I asked him if maybe he might consider having another child.  I'm not sure what possessed him to take off across the neighborhood in his boxers, but luckily, the indecent exposure charges were dropped.  Apparently, after the cop had determined he was sober and got his side of the story, he (coincidentally, a father of four) didn't feel inclined to take him to the station and just brought him home with a strict warning to me to not mention pregnancy to him again unless he was fully clothed.

So, apparently, my husband is a runner, too.  Now, all I've got to do is get us both well-fitted track suits, shiny running shoes, and a shower, and maybe someone will believe us when we say so.  Heck, yeah, Mother-Runners!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

When enough just isn't enough.

This weekend heralds several anniversaries for me and my family.  October 8 would have been the 62nd anniversary of my paternal grandparents.   They created an amazing family from their 59 years together and, as I've mentioned in prior posts, did an absolutely fabulous job of not just building a family together, but creating a cohesive unit that, despite states and countries and multiple generations, maintains a very close family connection.

 In keeping with strong marriages, October 9 is the 12 year anniversary of my oldest brother and his wife.  Based on what my husband says about being married to me, and based on the similarities between myself and my brother(as laughed (or cried) about by my husband and my brother's wife), this is an equally amazing feat.  If you keep in mind that my parents wouldn't let me leave until I went to college, I lasted living with other DeMeritts exactly... well... I didn't.  Oh, I love my DeMeritt family dearly, but not enough to live with any of them.  (Which does make you wonder why I then went on to create four more...)
So congratulations are due one hundred fold to my sister-in-law.

But, this weekend also brings another anniversary.  On October 8, my dear baby girl turns 18 months old.  (Gasp, sigh, and wipe away a tear).  By most standards, 18 months means she is no longer a baby.  Sure, she's not going to be any different on Saturday than she is today... but I'm going to know it's over.  And what makes this anniversary even harder is the knowledge that my husband has put his foot down (and taken a knife to his nether regions) to ensure that we have no more children.  When he made that decision I agreed that four was enough.  That I was wonderfully happy and satisfied with my family. (Although I did get a dog exactly two weeks later).  That I would never complain.  But, here I am, trying to convince my husband that maybe, just maybe... one more?

The problem is, it's harder now.  Once upon a time, my husband seduced me by saying "I want to get you pregnant". And he did.  And back when I had two kids, trying for three, or three kids, trying for four, it was relatively easy to create another.

1. Get the hubby happy (ie. drunk).
2. Wait until his brain isn't working properly (ie. mid-relations) and ask him for another baby.  He'll say yes to anything at certain moments-- whether or not he even hears the question that I may or may not have asked under my breathe...
3.  "Forget" to use protection.  (Because of 1 and 2, number 3 came easily.)

TADA!  Four weeks later:  "Honey!  We're pregnant!", and I would gleefully hand him a tissue to wipe away the tears of joy rolling down his cheeks.

But now, that's ruined.  And while I've done relentless internet searching to determine if there is any vitamin supplement (or surgical change that can be done while he sleeps) that would reverse the procedure, I have found nothing.

So last week I tried a new approach.  The "hypothetical situation" approach.
So, honey, say there's an illegal immigrant who has a brand new baby born in the U.S.  The illegal immigrant is deported, but she wants her child to remain in the states since he'd have no real chances back in the home country.  Since it may be a matter of life and death for this child, we could adopt him, right?
But what if you KNEW the child would be murdered if it were deported?
Okay... so what if we found a baby in a basket on our front porch?
Back seat of our car?

So then I try a different (albeit, potentially dangerous) tack.  So, honey.  Would you love me no matter what? YES.
What if I made a serious mistake one night and, oh, I don't know, cheated?
And what if I accidentally got pregnant from that mistake?
Okay... what if YOU cheated and SHE got pregnant but didn't want the baby...

I don't think he'd put it past me to hire a surrogate to seduce him just to get another baby in my arms.

My last ditch effort actually worked.
What if your vasectomy fails?

I will.  I will bank on that.

And as a side note to any friends or family who have considered putting me and JMahl down as the legal guardians of your children should something (God forbid) happen to you.... that's absolutely fine with us.  As long as your life insurance is enough to cover a dream home, live-in nanny, maid, cook, college, and JMahl's retirement fund.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I've been busy....

I recently received an email from one of my many sisters-in-law begging me to please do another column since she had been sorely missing my wit and perspective over the last many weeks that I haven't blogged.  More accurately, she asked if I'd quit blogging, but when I relayed the conversation to my husband, I chose to read between the lines and express her absolute longing for a blog post from me due, of course, to my very high entertainment factor.  After many years of living together my husband can read between MY lines, and clarified "so... Lana said hello?"   Regardless, her email has propelled me to get back on the horse- purely in justification of my silence over the last few weeks.

I'm busy.  No, not really. In fact, if you ask my husband, he'll say that life is no different than it's ever been.  That the house is just as clean (okay- just as messy) as it's always been.  That I read just as many books as I ever have (as if I would ever tell him just how much time I spend reading). That the laundry is still always piled up (hey, I only wear 1/6 of those clothes... and probably not even that since I WILL wear a pair of sweatpants for four days straight), and I have remained consistent in my complaint regarding "being so busy" for the last nine years.  So maybe nothing has changed... but really, I think a lot has.
For one thing, Micah doesn't nap as often as she used to.  While this is great in many ways (ie, she sleeps better at night), it's not so good for me being able to sit at the computer and type for thirty minutes straight.  She likes to type too, and that makes for an immense amount of editorial work.
Plus, I finally gave into my husband's pleas (and my own level of boredom) and started teaching again.  So now, when I do have time to sit at a computer, I'm creating lectures or grading exams.  (Which is exactly what I should be doing right now, but am not.)
And the older kids are back to school now.  During the summer I couldn't write as much because they were always here and needed me to be ever present giving them ideas for what to play with and who to play with and how to play:
Child:  "There's nothing to DOOOOOOOO!!!!!"
Me:  I have chores you can do.
Child:  I don't WANT to do chores.
Me:  How about you read a book or practice your multiplication tables?
Child:  I don't WANT to read or do homework. I want to play with someone.
Me:  Hey, GREAT.  You'll be happy to know that your father and I decided to have four children... and that means you have three siblings to play with.  Aren't you thrilled?
Child:  I don't WANT to play with any of them.
Me:  Then play with the dog that you begged for.
Me:  Outside NOW and find something to do before I find something for you to do that I guarantee you won't enjoy.

Those conversations took up at least 42% of my summer.
The other 58% was spent doing the same old laundry, cleaning, and reading of books. (Hey, a momma's got to have her fantasy world too.)
But now the kids are back to school; but instead of having extra time, I'm having to get up early, make sure lunches are packed, breakfast is eaten, and that Kayton is not wearing her pajama pants to school.  If I'm lucky, I have time to enforce hair brushing.  I'm not always that lucky.  And on top of the kids being back to school, college is back in session and two days a week I am teaching 50 odd community college students what it's going to take to be successful in business.  The hard part is biting my tongue and not saying "Step 1:  Leave community college and go get your degree at a four year university".  Okay, I admit, I have said that.  But, lucky for me (since this is my job), and lucky for the community college (since this is how they stay in business), no matter what I say, there are an amazing number of students who are going to ignore that advice and believe that their Associates degree is going to earn them a fabulous job with a life-style changing income.    Hey, an Associates is better than nothing.
But that's two days a week, which still leaves me five for writing.  But another day is spent doing very little (by which I mean talking to myself) in preparation for my ESL (English as a Second Language) tutoring.  Honestly, I love tutoring ESL.  And it's not just because of the immense fun I get from explaining to my student that "I woke up and gave my husband breast" is not really an appropriate conversation for the class, despite how wonderful it must be to be her husband in the morning.  My husband never gets breast in the morning.  They are reserved for a baby in the morning, since that's my main recourse to avoid having to get out of bed at 5am when Micah wakes up.  I give her breast and go back to sleep.  Having two breasts, I've tried to convince Kolbie (my three year old) to regress to nursing so I don't have to get up with her at 7, but it hasn't worked.  Yet.  (To clarify, my student meant "breakfast"... which I figured out after some even more awkward conversation regarding "eat" and "yummy, yummy" and "he has to have it before work" and sign language involving putting things in mouth and chewing.  Hey-- to each his own.  Who am I to criticize whatever makes a marriage work?)
But even after this, I still have four days left to write-- but one of those days has to be a "catch-up" day to account for my absence from home the other three.  And one day is a "relax" day in which I do nothing to make up for all the hard work I've done the other five days.  And Saturday I have Mason's soccer games.... and Sunday is church and family day.... so.  There you have it.  No time for blogging.
Just think.  If I had a full-time job, my kids would be running around half-naked (as if they don't already), my house would be a mess (hey, no it's not always), and dinner would always be spaghetti since it's darn easy to make.  (We only have spaghetti one night a week... or maybe two, since that's the only thing JMahl cooks and, heck, if he's cooking, I am not going to complain about spaghetti for dinner AGAIN.)
So you see... finding the time to write this column may not be as easy as you may think for a Stay-At-Home Mom with very little else on her plate.  In fact, the only reason I'm finding time to write now is because my two little girls both got up crazy early and passed out on the floor while I was looking for my corkscrew, and now I've got a glass of wine in me and the compulsion to write.
Heck, it's Friday.  This is my "relax and do nothing constructive" day. Count your blessings that I'm blogging.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Happy (Non) Independence Day!

Contrary to popular belief, Independence Day does not have anything to do with Freedom for my husband.  For my husband- dear Man that he is-- the only freedom he has is, well, I guess there is none.  You see, Independence Day is yet another time that I enforce one of the very many family traditions that my husband was lucky enough to marry into.  (Notice, I say "he married into"-- because in my family, people marry in.  We don't marry out.  Yes, this is a very egotistical viewpoint, but we are a pretty egotistical family.)  

My family is huge on tradition.  We are also huge on family.  We are also just plain huge.  My grandmother had five children who, in turn, married and had 16 grandchildren, who then went on to marry (13 of us so far) and have (8 of us, so far) a combined total of 20 great-grandchildren.  This may not seem unreasonably large, but you are also not taking into account the fact that our family traditions tend to involve all of us in small spaces.  By my count, that comes to over 60 people.  And we get together a minimum of twice a year for extended weekends in either my parents' home in Virginia or, over the Fourth of July weekend, at my Grandfather's home on Conesus Lake in Western New York.  Specifically, in his 1/4 acre back yard.  In tents.  

Now, my husband was fully aware of this tradition before we married, but I think he may have felt that he was capable of avoiding it on occasion.  He was wrong.  But, because he's a good man, he's stopped grumbling quite as much and has learned to just go with the flow (read:  drink alot).  
But that's okay, because over the Fourth, everyone drinks a lot, so he fits in just fine.  

But there are other areas in which he refuses to budge.  And no-- it's not the safety factor.  He's actually budged on that one.  You see, my Grandfather's home sits 20 feet from the edge of Conesus Lake-- one of the beautiful Finger Lakes.  And, as mentioned in a prior post, my husband is convinced that we will lone day loose one of the children to drowning, and this weekend always seems like the best option for that happening.  Combine a lot of alcohol intake, twenty children under the age of 10, and a whole slew of parents who all believe that "someone else is watching my child" with a vast lake, a long rickety dock, and four large dogs all intent on chasing each other to the end of the dock as fast as they can- not caring which small child gets propelled into the water without the life jacket that is supposedly dock-mandatory. Someone is going to die.  If not by water, then by fish hook. (In 20 years we've only had one visit to the emergency room for fish hook, so our odds are looking okay.)

For many years my husband would stalk the edge of the lake, keeping a close eye on any child that came within a foot of the water, ready to swoop in and grab that child before a foot could get wet (and, in my opinion, ruin their fun and the whole point of having a lake).  This year, he decided his heart couldn't take the anxiety (and he couldn't risk having a heart attack over the course of the weekend, since no one was likely to notice after a rousing 8:30 am game of beer pong) and decided to subscribe to the family belief that if everyone was keeping a 60% eye on the children, the multiple 60% attention spans would somehow manage to overlap and, therefore ensure that each child was receiving 100% attention from a variety of parents.  Up until this point he was pretty adamant that 10 distracted adults giving only 60% attention to a child meant that the child had 40% lack of attention within which to drown.  Silly paranoid man. 

He has also become more flexible in regards to Tent City.  Many years were spent trying to convince me that there was no shame in getting a hotel room close by.  (There is. There most definitely is.)  Now as long as he has an air mattress, he's fine.  The fact that he has an iPad and a wireless connection makes a difference as well.

But he has put his foot down on one very specific area.  Going home.  

Now, my family is somewhat socialistic by nature.  For example, we all are required to bring food enough for our family, which is then thrown into the giant potluck meal.  There is no "my food/ your food".  (Although, please imagine my shock when I realized somewhere around a husband plus three kids that my own mother was no longer counting me in her "food for my family" count.  What?  I have to provide for MY family?)  We all are expected to help equally with preparation and clean up (although, let's be honest-- there are a few people who tend to take on the lion's share of the work-- for which I am eternally grateful from my place in a lawn chair.)  We all sleep in tents (except for my parents, who have somehow managed to stake a claim on the pull out couch for many many years running- not sure how that happened), and we all contribute to the general alcohol coolers.  If you don't want to share your beer of choice, you had better hide your cooler in the deep dark recesses of your tent.  Under something smelly.  And don't let anyone see you exit your tent with a fresh beer or the moment your back is turned looting will begin.  

When it comes to leaving the lake, I attempt to continue the socialistic "we make plans as a group" trend by saying things to my husband such as "But everyone else is staying, so we should too."  And yes, I have been known to try to get my cousins, uncles, and parents involved in these negotiations.  (Pss... go tell JMahl we need to stay until tomorrow.")  My husband won't budge.  When it's time to go home, we're going home.  

The main issue with this is that any day we leave, I see as leaving a day (or two or three) early, while he sees it as trying to stay a day (or two or three) late.  In the past he's tried to lie to me about when he needs to go back to work ("We have to leave Monday, since I have to be at work Tuesday.")  However, that tends to backfire when come Tuesday morning, I roll out of bed to find him still in his underwear with a guilty... uh... yeah... I'm off for three more days... look on his face.  That didn't go over well.  So this year he was honest with me.  We're leaving Tuesday.  I'm spending the rest of my vacation at home.  On my couch.  In my underwear.  Deal with it.  
He did make a potentially fatal error in judgement by asking me to drive the first leg and then falling asleep in the passenger seat.  And I can't say I didn't spend a significant amount of that time playing out various scenarios in my mind regarding him waking to find us at yet another family-filled destination (we've got a lot of family in NY... a lot of places to go), but I couldn't come up with any scenario that didn't end with my husband driving home to Maryland either with or without us (or me).  
Where are we?
At the lake house on Owasco Lake.  I told you I wanted to come here for a few days.
And I told you we were going home.
Well... we're here now.  What are you going to do?  Leave me?  Wait!  No... don't!  I wasn't serious!  Hey!  At least take the kids with you if you're going!!!!

While in theory it might not be a bad plan to be stranded at a lake house by myself (ah... me time!), in practice I couldn't figure out how to fit in a stop at the liquor store without waking him and giving away my whole plan.  

So we made it home on his schedule, with all four children (and the dog) safe and accounted for.  But in thinking back on the weekend, I realized some things about family and family traditions.  
Family both never changes and constantly changes.  There are always additions to the family (new fiance, new baby), and yet it's still "our" family.  There are new personalities (as people grow, change, adapt), new friendships (cousins that you have known for 32 years that you are finally just getting to know), and new expectations (yes, I brought lunch meat AND cereal this year).  But it's always family.  There's always a constant.  There will always be at least one "discussion" over the best way to do something (too many engineers).  There will always be rain at least once (it is New York).  Someone will always subtly point out my mispronunciation of a common word (yes, I know it's ki-LO-meter and Pro-ME-the-us... but my mouth refuses to say it that way); and someone will always give koolaid to a child that should not have any sugar/ caffeine of any sort.  And no one will get a full night's sleep.  For four or five nights in a row.  And it's always family.

It's family.  It's tradition.  It's proof that in the midst of life changes, personality differences, eight to twelve hour drives, and tough times financially and personally, there is a reason to get together and be together and sleep within five feet of each other and not shower for four days. In a time where you spend more time communicating with family via the internet then you do face-to-face; "poking" each other on FaceBook as opposed to hugging each other in Grandpa's back yard, it's important to reconnect physically.  Because family is more important than anything else.  Because Independence Day, for me, is less about celebrating my Independence than it is about celebrating my Dependence on the love, acceptance, and tradition of family.  

And so what if my husband made me leave a day early, Thanksgiving is only four months away.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Early Rising

So, an interesting thing has happened these last two days.  A phenomenon that I can only explain as "it figures".  Actually, my husband was the first to notice this phenomenon- if it can be called that after only two mornings.  He walked into our bedroom this morning and said to me, very pointedly- "Don't ever tell me that 7 is too early for the kids to up and dressed and ready to go.  If they can do this on summer break, they can do it during school."  I, of course, mumbled something about "it's summer- leave me alone", and rolled back over into my pillow, narrowly managing to miss squishing the baby snuggled in with me since 4am.  

I chose to ignore the exasperated sigh.  My husband does not take too kindly to my being in bed when he leaves for work.  Despite all his modern beliefs about gender equality and the value of a two-family income, deep down (although he will probably never admit it) he's an old-fashioned man-- the type who expects his wife to be smiling at his bedside with a glass of Orange Juice- fully dressed and made-up by the time he opens his eyes.  While he showers, I should be ironing his shirt.  I should leave him at the door with a good-bye kiss, and have his dinner ready and the house clean by the time he walks in the front door-- still beautifully dressed and made-up.  He'd probably even prefer the perfectly curled hair and dresses of the iconic 60's, especially if I matched them with a pair of platform shoes. And he prefer I made some extra money in between his departure and return. 

But that's not what he got. Oh, I do iron his shirts on occasion, but I can't ever quite get them as stiff as the dry-cleaners, so why disappoint us both?  And me being up and dressed before him has only ever happened one time-- the morning I went into labor with Kolbie.  But I do normally have dinner ready by the time he gets home from work, and the house is usually somewhat clean-ish.  So, one and a half out of four isn't bad, in my opinion.  And I'm always happy to kiss him back (morning breath be darned!) if he comes to my side of the bed to say goodbye before he leaves for work-- and removes the pillow from over my head.  And the blankets.  And ignores the "don't wake me up yet!!!!" that normally comes from me around that time.  

But as to our summer-break phenomenon? He's right.  By 7:15, at the latest, these last two mornings, I've had wide-awake, dressed, and fed children-- children that I normally need to yell at at least four times in order to get them to the same status by 9:04 when the bus comes on a school morning.  Children that moan and groan about going to bed at 8:30 on a school night and still can't be pulled from a dead sleep twelve hours later. Children who, for the last two nights, have been allowed to stay up late (no, Kayton and Mason, summer time does not mean you don't have a bedtime, it's just that I'm more flexible with it), and yet have been getting up remarkably early.  It figures. 

I guess Summer Break isn't about the parents- and now I know what my Mom went through.  And while I'm not thrilled with this change in my children, I have to admit, it's not going to affect me all that much.  On Monday morning when they are up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, at 6:59, I'm still going to be in bed, head under the pillow.  Hey, my husband's up already.  Let him deal with them.  I'll take back over in two months when I have to fight with them to get out of bed at 8:25 to catch the school bus.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh, take me from home, where my wild children roam...

A few days ago, a friend forwarded me a story about a man who came home from work to find his home a mess, his children acting like banshees, and his wife lying in bed eating ice cream.  When he asked her what was wrong, she replied "You always ask me what I do every day-- well, today I didn't do it."  It was a cute anecdote, and my friend explained that she'd thought of me when she read it.  My first thought was... so, does she think I lay around doing nothing all day?  Then my less-paranoid instincts set in, and I realized that she was implying that I actually DID do something all day.  Well, friend, let me set you straight here.  You see, some days I do... but some days I don't.  Some days I'm motivated, excited, and my house is top to bottom clean.  Other days, well, hey, the library is there for a reason, and my house is a disaster area.  (although these are the days that I claim to my husband:  "the kids were just ON me all day.  I couldn't get a THING done.")

The thing about being a stay-at-home mom (or SAHM, as we've taken to calling ourselves in order to pretend that we are still in the working world and, therefore, acronyms have meaning) is that it's boring.  Well, maybe I shouldn't speak for every SAHM out there, but for me- a person who has been training since the age of 4 (back when you could start kindergarten whenever your Mom felt like throwing you into class) to have a career and interact with other intelligent professionals- well, spending all day doing non-high-school degree necessary work is plain boring.  Before you think that I don't appreciate my position, I do.  I am immensely grateful each and every day that my husband is able to provide for us so that I can stay home with these children, but I sure do miss getting dressed in the morning.  And wearing a bra.  And brushing my teeth.  
I am even more grateful for my status as a SAHM since I worked full-time when my first two were younger.  I remember the anguish and guilt of leaving my son at daycare (not my daughter-- she loved daycare, but Mason?  every day for four years he clung/ clang/ clinged? to me and cried for me not to leave him.  And I honestly felt that I did no parenting, since we'd get home from work/ daycare, make and eat dinner, and then the kids would be in bed.  So I never saw them.  And despite how luxurious that (occasionally) sounds now, back then it killed me.  When my oldest was born and I was preparing to go back to work, I called my Mom, in tears, because I'd have to leave my daughter with a babysitter.  My Mom said to me "The less time you spend with them, the more you appreciate the time you have with them."   Boy, was she right.  I'd like to appreciate the time with them a little bit more these days...

But with the first two it just made more sense to have a two-income family and have them in daycare;  when kids 3 and 4 came- well, I don't make THAT much money- and luckily, by then, my husband made as much as we did combined back with kids 1 and 2.  So it worked.  Sure, we still have the same quality of life we had eight years ago (ie. budget), but it works.  And he works.  And I "work at home". Which is boring.  Do YOU get excited over laundry?  HEY! Look how clean these clothes are!  And now I get to FOLD them?  YEAH!  

But to get back to the original story--the primary difference between myself and the protagonist mother is that, well, when my husband gets home from work, I make sure he knows exactly what I did all day.  For example: yesterday I cleaned the bathroom, so after eating dinner and explaining to my husband, in detail, just how long it took me to get dinner on the table, I took him on a tour of the bathroom.  "See, I mopped behind the toilet.  I  took THIS scrub brush and cleaned off that nastiness.  Look here-- see how neatly the medicine cabinet is arranged-- Wait!  I haven't shown you the best part!  All the bathtub toys right here. And oh-oh- hold on!--  here's your extra deodorant-- and did you see your new toothbrush?"  He's a good husband.  He pretends to be impressed.

This is my rather pathetic attempt to have him think that I actually did something constructive all day other than play on facebook, send a few emails, and turn on the cartoons for Kolbie.  I'm not sure he's buying it, but I feel like it's essential.  As it is, we already tend to have "conversations" regarding which of us has the worse life.  And they normally go something like this:
"It's so BORING changing diapers all day.
Yeah, well, it's not like my office is any more fun.
But at least you get to have adult conversation.
That would imply I work with adults.
Come on- you know what I mean.
Uh huh.  And you know what I mean.
Geeze, do you think all I do is lay around and do nothing?
(at this point he usually says nothing and just takes a long slow look around the house)
Seriously?  YOU could not handle staying home with these kids all day.
And YOU couldn't handle working every day to provide for a family of six knowing that if you loose your job, you and your family are screwed!
at which point I grumble: I wish I could loose THIS job...
To which he replies:  Why don't you and get a real job?
I'm TRYING!  But it has to be the Perfect job (so I can still sleep in, spend a lot of time with the kids when I want to, go to all school activities, and still pay enough for us to afford daycare and a bigger house/ mortgage)."  He tends to zone out during this litany of excuses.  

Sometimes the conversation ends here.  Other times it turns into a fight over kids, money, why I don't have a job-- all depending on the mood.  Sometimes it ends with: Do you want to have sex?  uh, sure, when the kids move out.  

But he's right.  I'm desperate for a job that gets me out of the home, away from the kids-- and yet still allows me to be with the kids when they need me.  And it's a difficult tightrope to walk.  I'm sure a lot of mothers out there are in the same boat-- the desire to be using their education, experience, big words--- fighting with their desire to be with their children.  (Although I do have one close friend who has managed to convince her husband of the necessity of continuing to be a SAHM even though her children have been in school for the last two years.  Not sure how she does it- or what she's doing- to make that work...but she's definitely doing something right at home, I'm sure.)  

I remember my father saying to me once when I was a girl, complaining about having to help my mom in the kitchen while my brothers got to go chop wood:  "Just because a woman CAN do everything a man can doesn't mean she SHOULD".  (He may not remember or admit to saying this, but he did.)  And I understand what he was saying.  He encouraged me to get an excellent education (UVA!), has given me advice every step of the way, and has been a mentor throughout my career, and yet when I was pregnant he didn't hesitate to say "Your only job while pregnant is growing a healthy baby."  (Granted, this had nothing to do with career and was more a loving father's attempt to alleviate my guilt over my laziness with the house-cleaning.  And to clarify for my father's sake:  this is his outlook toward his wife/daughter/ members of family.  He absolutely does not oppose women in the workforce in any way, shape, manner, or form- pregnant, mothers, or not.)  He just felt that there is no shame in a woman staying at home with her children.  

But, you know, sometimes, for me, there is.  Maybe because I know I'm not the most interactive mother and could be doing more with them during the day.  Maybe because the more time I spend with my children, the less time I want to spend with them (oh, come on now-- it's normal to feel this way- right?)  Maybe because I can't help but compare myself to colleagues who have foregone having children (or four children) in order to get ahead in their careers, and I've seen "what could have been".  Or maybe it's those student loan payments looming over my head that I keep putting on unemployment forbearance-- student loans for an education I'm not using since none of my children seem all that interested in management theory.  But sometimes I just get tired of laundry, toilets, cooking dinner, and entertaining toddlers.  I didn't get a Masters degree in order to be Master of my own home.  Some days I feel like I should have just received a degree in Home Economics.  (It would have made my Great-Aunt proud-- she was one of the first PhD's in our family, back in the 60's- Professor of Home Economics at the University of Mansfield.)  

Speaking of Economics, another email forward went around a few weeks ago regarding what a SAHM would get paid if she translated her skills to the working world--based on salaries of accountants, CEO's, house cleaners, day care providers, etc.  They estimated at about $170k, I believe it was, annually.  It was over six figures.  I know they were trying to make moms feel better, but let's be honest here.  The majority of the day is spent doing tasks that even a high school diploma doesn't require-- so that's minimum wage.  A few hours a month we may do budgeting and bill paying... but really?  Enough to warrant an "Accountant" salary?  I think not.  And since we're only managing a bunch of uneducated, unskilled, non-employable children, well, I don't think we qualify for that CEO salary either.  The one thing I'll give them is the overtime, since our day does not end at 5:00.  But then again, neither does my husband's, since he helps with bedtime, discipline, entertainment, etc. when he gets home from work (sometimes... I'll give this to him sometimes).

So, I guess the only realistic way I can look at this is as an unpaid vacation.  A somewhat boring and redundant- no restaurants, beaches, or wait staff-- vacation; but a vacation none-the-less.  Because let's face it, my husband is right:  As annoying as it may be to deal with children all day, it's less annoying than dealing with adults who act like children.  
At least I can drink on the job.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sum.. Sum.. Summer Time!

Well, it's finally Summer here in Maryland (well, almost), but while the weather is beautiful, it brings with it a whole nother level of problems for me and mine.  Well, let me adapt that to say:  for mine husband.  Now, every marriage has its problems-- not enough money, too many kids, not enough alone time, too much work... you get the point.  But with summer comes an addition to our normal list of marital disputes.

You see, I was raised in the country where  my mother would kick us outside, lock the door, and not expect to see us again until lunch-- at which point we'd be locked back outside until dinner.  We swam in a creek, chased fireflies at night, and knew that if we saw a snake we needed to run (not because it would chase us, but because a sibling would chase us with the snake on the end of a stick).  And that about sums up my summer childhood.  It was wonderful and innocent- although I'm sure my mother's memories involve a lot of our complaining about it being too hot, and who hit who first, and who threw whose shirt in the creek.  But memory is a wonderful thing-- we can choose only to remember the parts that we want to use to justify our current actions.  And I am forced to do that each summer as, for some yet completely understood reason, I married a man from suburbia whose idea of summer fun was lying in an air-conditioned house watching tv.
And therein lies the root of our annual dose of summer fighting.

My husband is a paranoid father.  He is convinced that barefoot children means we are going to have to take out splinters and stingers nightly (I myself am always barefoot); that swimming is going to result in the drowning of at least one of our children (and he didn't think it was funny when I pointed out that we'd still have at least three... so... survival of the fittest?); that ticks are covering the heads of our children and they all should be shaved bald for safety (ticks, schmicks.  I never got lyme disease, they won't either); and that dogs carry all sorts of diseases.  (Well, the dog issue tends to last year round.  Specifically, if he sees the dog scratch himself he goes into an angry monologue about fleas in the house and the need to enforce a 100% dog-outdoor policy.  I was pleased to inform him that the Howard County Animal Control frowned on that.)

And while I say "Let the kids enjoy the sun!"  He grumbles about the dangers facing them out of doors. The only thing we tend to agree on is that sunblock isn't necessary, despite all the evidence to the contrary.  Personally, as a pale freckly skinned woman prone to sunburn, I love to watch my kids get darker and darker each day they spend in the sun.  And I think JMahl appreciates that during the summer the kids look more like him than they do me, although he'd probably never say that out loud.  (Aw, shush-- I do put sunblock on the baby! and the rest of them when I remember...)

Granted, the older two have somewhat outgrown his fears.  Sure, he still got upset when I showed him the video of Kayton (our 8 year old) flying Winslet-DiCaprio style on the bow of my father's sail boat. ("Are you trying to end up on the 10:00 news?") and when Mason (our 7 year old) is excited to tell about the crocodile he is certain he saw at the pond down behind our house I have to listen to "You let him go down there alone? Do you want to never see him again?", but in general, he's loosened up a bit with them.  Or maybe he sees them as a lost cause.

But in regards to the two little girls, he's as paranoid as ever.  Take for example, the wading pool.  Like many mothers of toddlers, I went to Target and bought a cute little blow up wading pool that holds maybe six inches of water.  And the little girls love it.  The Father does not.  He is convinced that Micah is going to drown in this pool.  He's gone so far as to inform me that Micah is NOT allowed in that pool.  Period.  I went so far as to ignore him.  What type of cruel mother would I be to hold a screaming, fighting, begging to get in the water one year old on the sidelines in 95 degree heat as her three year old sister splashes and frolics with her bucket and water toys?  Now granted, maybe JMahl wouldn't be so paranoid if I hadn't told him about having to rescue a possibly-drowning Micah from an over-zealous water attack from Kolbie that left her flailing on her back like an upside down turtle in four inches of water... but, as I told him, that's bound to happen sometimes, and that's why the pool says in big letters on the side in four different languages: "Never leave children unattended".  (Sad that the blow-up pool industry has to remind parents of their responsibilities, but hey.) JMahl, for the most part, once he realized I was ignoring his command, has taken to just avoiding the issue altogether and goes inside (air conditioning and tv) while the kids play in their water death trap.

But his paranoia has just recently hit an all new level, courtesy of the small red bump that appeared a few days ago on the side of Kolbie's neck.  Me?  I wasn't even thinking of it and definitely wasn't prepared when he asked me, in the serious voice that is most often reserved for test results and class bully issues, "what is that bump on Kolbie's neck?". So I looked at her neck and responded, quite aptly, with "a bug bite".  Yeah, that didn't suffice.
Are you sure it's a bug bite?
Well... I'm not an expert, but it could be a bee sting.
A bee sting!  How'd she get stung by a bee?
Uhmm... she's been outside all day, and I don't know that it's a bee sting, but it could be.  Or maybe it's a mosquito bite.
Well... are you going to get it checked out?
Uhmm... No??
(At this point he made a little sound of pure annoyance and I decided to leave the room before my own feeling of annoyance blossomed into something more.)

Fast forward two days and I decide to take Kolbie in to the doctor's to get her checked for a UTI.  She's taken to having a lot of accidents and wetting the bed at night- something that is highly unusual for her.  So I tell my husband at dinner last night that we had a doctor's appointment for today.
Oh.. you're getting her neck checked out?
Uh, what's wrong with her neck?
The bite!  Aren't you getting her bite checked out?
Nooooo... you don't take a child to the doctor for a bug bite unless A/ she is having some sort of reaction-- which she's not or B/ you are crazy-- which you are, but I'm not.

End of the matter, right?  So we go to the doctor's this morning, get her checked out.  I come home and shoot my husband a quick email:  "Doctor said she was fine.  No UTI."
Response:  "What did he say about the bite?"

Are you kidding me... did he really think...?  So, sure.  I did it.  I lied.  Because as paranoid as my husband is-- and as crazy as his paranoia makes me--- I love him.  And sometimes when you love someone, you have to lie to them.
"He said it was fine.  To bring her back in if she develops a reaction to it."

And Summer hasn't even officially started yet.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Letter to the People Who Stole My House

Okay, so it wasn't really my house.  But considering I've spent the last three months envisioning my life in it, telling the children stories about their new bedrooms, fantasizing about the kitchen and (more often) the soaking tub-- yes, it was sort of my house.  And I know my husband told me not to get my hopes up.  And my Real Estate Agent told me not to get my hopes up.  But I got my hopes up.  And now you've dashed them to the ground.  

I get it.  You have more money than I and can therefore afford to pay cash for it.  And I get it, the banks prefer cash to a mortgage payment.  I completely understand that.  But did you really NEED that house as much as I did?  Did you even want it as badly as I did?  No?  I didn't think so.  Or maybe you do.  

Maybe you, too, have four children and have been struggling to find a home to fit them all that falls within a reasonable price point.  No, I have no problem with my kids sharing a room-- but let's be honest here, Mason, as the only boy surrounded by three sisters, NEEDS his own room. And it's just not fair to give Mason his own room if Kayton, older by 14 months, doesn't get her own room-- so that (with another room for the little girls and a guest room so that our extended family will start spending the night again instead of opting to drive the extra hour to stay with one of my brothers who have fewer/ no children and, therefore, an extra bedroom) means we need at least five bedrooms.  

But maybe you do have childless family members who want their privacy.  And maybe you too are desperate to have that space for them so you don't feel ostracized when they all go elsewhere for the night while you lie in bed crying, taking it personally, that just because your last single brother went and got a fiancee who now visits with him he's no longer happy sleeping on the couch.  And so maybe you do have the need for those five bedrooms.  BUT, do you have in-laws who want to move in with you as well?   HA!  I thought not!  

Do you know how hard it is to find a home with a separate guest house for your in-laws?  Yes, I know there are a lot of houses on the market that have in-law suites.  I've looked at every single one of them.  But do you know what they all have in common?  An attached in-law suite.  
Now, I love my in-laws.  They are wonderful people and there have been times that I've thought of leaving my husband but stayed simply for his parents.  There have also been times my in-laws have begged me not to leave their son simply so they can keep me as a daughter-in-law (well, I'm assuming here)...   but I do not want to share a bedroom wall with them.  It's bad enough when your son walks into your bedroom in the morning and asks "what was that "uh-uh" noise I just heard?"  It's worse if your mother-in-law hears that and doesn't say anything, just subtlety asks you the next morning if you're sure your husband's "surgery" worked since you definitely don't want anymore children... right?  

And I, for one, don't want my mother-in-law listening to me yell at her son.  Oh, she's a smart woman and would probably not say anything about it--plus, she's married to his father so has a pretty darn good idea of what I have to put up with on a daily basis-- but if we ever get into one of those "just because your parents did that doesn't mean it was the right way to do it" fights (oh, come on now, every married person with children has said that at least once!), I don't need them hearing.  

But hey, maybe you are in the same boat.  Maybe you too have four (or more) children, in-laws that want to move in with you, and are desperate to have just a little more legroom in your living room; that one extra bathroom; that cute little cubby hole in which you told your son he could hide his important "boy stuff" from his sisters. But I don't think you are.  

So, tell me, did you really need to buy the ONE house in this town that is affordable, has at least five bedrooms, AND has a separate guest house for the in-laws to move into?  I thought not.  And yet you did.  

Now, I'm not going to say the house was perfect.  It was uncomfortably close to the McDonalds, but this fact seemed to be only negative for me.  My husband and eldest child seemed thrilled with the fact that they could walk to their fast food addiction.  And it didn't have a basement, which somewhat bothered my husband, since he likes his man-space-- but that thrilled me, since I saw it as a passive-aggressive means to keeping him in the room with me at all times.  
And sure, it's going to require a small mortgage payment in order to put up enough trees to keep the big "M" from shining in your daughter's (assuming you have one-ha!) bedroom window.  But maybe you like that view.  

And now you get to enjoy it.  So, I hope you're happy.  

If you see my car driving past your house-- it's just me saying goodbye to my house.  So don't call the police.  I promise as soon as I find a new-perfect house, I'll stop stalking yours.  
But if you move in and discover that all of a sudden a surplus of McD's trash is being thrown over the fence into your backyard-- well, that's not me.  I would never do something like that-- even to someone that stole my house.  

But if that inspires you to put the house back up for sale... well, let my agent know!  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Down with A&P? Yeah- they know me!

So, the big news coming out of my town this week is the impending closing of our local grocery store.  To be honest-- no one is really surprised.  Ever since a thunderstorm blew off a large chunk of the wall a few weeks ago, we had to face the truth that the store needed some serious work.  But still, this comes as a real upset to some of us loyal buy-local-ers.  And by "buy local" I only mean that we prefer to drive across the street to the grocery store instead of traveling a minimum of three major miles to a different store. 
Sure-- we're definitely sad about those in our community who will be losing their jobs, but it's more than that.  Because our local Superfresh (A&P owned-- yes, I know I had to stretch to use that title for this post), is one of the few places- perhaps the only store-  where I can ignore my children.  I am that woman who goes to the store sometimes simply to have a break from my children.  And no, Superfresh doesn't provide supervised daycare-- but close to it.

You see, I've been eschewing cheaper prices and greater variety at other stores simply for the convenience of being able to allow my children to run free in Superfresh.  And if you are reading this thinking "what type of mother are you?"-- I'll explain.  If you're reading this thinking "oh-- those are YOUR kids..."-- well, I'm sorry.  I hope my explanation suffices.

I have lived in Elkridge for six years now and have been going to Superfresh on an average of twice a week for these last six years.  If you do the math, you'll see that that's roughly 600 times over the last six years.  And in those last six years, the employees as Superfresh have remained relatively stable.  I know exactly who is going to be working the register and which manager will be on duty regardless of what time I decide to show up.  And they all know me.  Most of those employees charted my progress through my last two pregnancies, placing bets on when I would not be in the store due to a newborn, and offering me a plethora of baby names each time I attempted to speedily go through checkout.   There's nothing like listening to every baby name a person has every considered or heard to hit a slow-checkout record, I guarantee you.  To be honest, I could have foregone my ob/gyn visits by the time I was 9 months pregnant with Micha n lieu of grocery shopping.  My belly was touched, my weight monitored, my ankles eyed up for swelling on a regular basis. I would not have been surprised if at some point one of the cashiers had asked me to drop my pants so they could check my cervix.  (On another note, there may have been a time when a male employee hinted at that, but I don't think it was pregnancy related, despite what I chose to tell my husband.)

 I know the family situations, financial situations, and future big dreams of most of those cashiers and stockers.  When I lost my baby two years ago, one of the employees wrapped her arms around me in the canned food aisle and cried with me as I had to tell her about that loss in response to her chipper "how's the baby?!"  In return, I cried with her as she told me of her child that died in infancy- a pain I can never even pretend to understand.  These people are my twice a week family-- and I can guarantee that before you decided to leave your child with a babysitter you didn't meet them 600 times and cry in their arms.  

Which brings me to my major point about losing this store.  This is a store that I am extremely comfortable losing my kids in.  It's small enough that if I scream "KAYTON-- WHERE ARE YOU???" loudly enough, I will hear her reply on the other side of the store.  I can send my kids off with a grocery list and instructions to meet me by the dog food when their mini-carts are full, and I know they will be there.  When Kolbie slips my grip and takes off "I want to help you shop too, Mommy!", I know she'll be okay... and while I walk quite a bit slower than her, I'm always passing one of the store managers, stockers, butchers, or cashiers who will smile and point and say "she went that way."  Heck-- half the time I don't even have to tow Micah around since the moment I walk into the store someone swoops down on me with "THE BABY'S HERE!"  and the baby is gone until I discover her waiting patiently in someone's arms by aisle 4 when I'm ready to check out.  Again-- did you interview your baby 600 times before you left your child alone with her?  

And if you're going to bring up the issue of security-- no one's leaving that store with my kids as long as that one particular cashier manager is standing in her usual place by the self-service checkout, right next to the exit door.  I've never seen her smile, and she has a tendency to ignore my self-depreciating comments regarding my parenting-- but I know she won't let those kids out that door without me.  The only time she ever spoke to me was to say "I saw a man in here with HER (pointing at Kolbie) the other day.  Was that your husband?"  to which I replied, I surely hope so.  I got the feeling that after I left she pulled out her notebook filled with photos of customers and statistics such as "4 kids, uses her club card, has a tendency to talk to the register and beg it to stay below a certain figure.  Also may have attempted to bribe a cashier into a discount once" and add "has a husband who may appear with a child occasionally.  See attachment" before rearranging the photos so that JMahl's picture is now next to mine and those of the children.  

So, yeah, I feel safe in that store.  And relaxed.  And I'm going to miss it.  But that being said, I do have a suggestion for that space, should anyone reading this be looking for a business opportunity.

Half grocery store; half wine bar-- and still with the same kid friendly employees.  I shop, take a break from shopping to have a few drinks-- and you watch my kids for me the whole time.  And since I only live a quarter mile away, maybe it would be convenient to add a taxi service, complete with baby seats, so that after I have my fill of  wine tasting you can drive us all home.