Saturday, May 30, 2009

NOW, HE LOTH HITH FIRTH THOOTH, THOO!

[Why does that make me think of Cindy Brady?]

Fell out during the night.  Woke up with it stuck to his lip.  

I know, total ewwww!

But because Mommy was traveling, he decided to put it in his tooth box and save it until she returns on Monday night.

[He got $5 for his first one, FYI.]

Friday, May 29, 2009

SHATTERED GLASS - PART 2 of 2

I spent the rest of the afternoon that day on the phone with my banks, filling out paperwork to close and re-open new accounts, sitting and waitingwaitingwaiting at the DMV to apply for a new temporary drivers' license, and then finally getting the bezillion shards of safety glass (which I find a particularly amusing name right now) vacuumed out of the truck before picking up the kids around 5:30 that evening.

We were all exhausted.  And they were full of questions, none of which I could hear, of course, as we drove back across the bridge with a hole where our window used to be and the 70-mile-an-hour wind rushing through our hair.

But we talked about it over dinner, and again before bedtime, and Chago, it seemed, was able to kind of find a pocket for it, you know? Grasped that it was a random, maybe even one-time occurrence, and that it was all going to be okay, and that it could've been much worse, and that we were very lucky, and then he just kind of put it away.

Saia, on the other hand, was an emotional wreck.  And that part of me that she gets that from obviously could not blame her.  And I tried, I did, to hide my own fear.  To comfort her and calm her and not let her see that I was scared shitless that the initial charges to my credit card occurred in the city where we were vandalized, but the latest series of charges took place right around the corner from our home and, of course, they had our address.  And I tried, I did, to reassure her that the world is not a bad place, that there are good people everywhere, that sometimes even good people do bad things, and that we can't judge someone solely on their behavior without knowing their circumstances or all the possible conditions and reasons leading up to it.  But I knew I'd left all the outside lights on, and had double- and triple-checked all the doors and windows already.  And I tried, I did, to explain to her that it was okay to be hurt, but that we should try not to be angry because then they would get a lot more than just our money, and we couldn't let them, not anyone, take our spirits.  And I tucked a butcher knife under my own mattress that night.

And we read our stories, and we sang our songs, and we kissed our goodnights and said our i-love-yous.  But both kids were still pretty restless all night.  And I'd made at least 6 trips downstairs before Saia just couldn't fall back to sleep anymore after waking up screaming from a nightmare about me running out of money and she not being able to find me.  After bringing her into bed with me, we fell asleep shortly after 3am.

And the sun rose the next day.

And so did we.

And for that, I am forever grateful.

As it turns out, I forgot, but of course Saia did not, that it was pet week and we had not yet taken our pets in for show and tell, and today was the last day of the week.  So, broken window and all, we all loaded up in the truck and made our way back across the bridge and arrived at school completely windblown and about a half hour late.

But the kids were wonderful and did an amazing job with the dogs.  Walking them around the room on their leashes and cautioning the children to keep their distance from the chihuahua when her ears are back.  They told stories about how we got the dogs, and how Ryce got into a fight with a raccoon, and how Reyna had her tooth pulled because she had rotten sulfur breath.  They showed the class how Ryce can sit and lay down and shake, with both paws.  They were so confident and so strong and so self-assured.  And it made my trip all the way back across the bridge just to drop the dogs off back home afterwards, so worth it.

And then it was off to LandRover to try to get the window repaired before the weekend.  And even as I drove down the interstate with the wind gushing around me, I knew the impossibility of the task.  Understood the unwritten rule of dealership service centers.  There was no such thing as 'can you get it done today?'  

And then I spoke with the service manager, who gave me all of the disclaimers that I expected, and all of the fees, and all of the parts and labor numbers, and all of the 'we'll see what we can do's that I could possibly stand.  They, of course, didn't have my window in stock and would have to send someone to such-and-such a city about 2 hours away to pick it up.  And the regulator that moves the window up and down would probably have to be ordered, which meant we would likely not be able to have our truck back before Monday, and, by the way, we would have to pay for the rental car ourself because they couldn't provide us with a loaner since, technically, the vehicle was still drivable and we didn't have a preexisting maintenance appointment.

And I was just...so...empty.  I think I'd passed angry like 18 hours ago.  And I was just really really really...tired of feeling screwed over...again...and again.

So, while they conducted the diagnostics, I contacted my insurance company and blahblahblah, big shocker, same shit, different day.  They couldn't do anything for me either.

And then Mike, the service manager, returned with a smile on his face and keys in his hand.  "We've sent someone to get your window.  I'll go pick up the regulator myself.  We're gonna do everything we can to get it done today, even though it's the end of the month, and a Friday, and my techs are swamped.  And I can't make you any guarantees, of course, but here's a loaner.  I'll call you around 5 to let you know where we are."  

Back across the bridge to pick up the kids, a few more phone calls to finalize account closure details, deposit checks into new accounts, and confirm all credit cards had been canceled, and I we got the call around 4:30 that, lo and behold, our truck was actually done!!!  And as I couldn't figure out a way to keep the loaner [which, by the way, I TOTALLY LOVEDLOVEDLOVED!!] without incurring, you know, criminal charges, we reluctantly returned the very very nice little ride around 5pm.

And then, folks, the proverbial shit hit the fan.

Turns out banks should really not give you those little temporary blank checks because, well, no one will take them.  Telecheck, apparently, will not accept anything that is not imprinted, which is something the damn bank should have done when they gave them to me.  But I couldn't use my temporary debit card either because the account that I was having all our money moved into wouldn't clear the check I'd deposited earlier today until tomorrow.  And the dealership would not accept partial payment either.  

"It's policy, ma'm," they kept saying over and over.  

"I hear what you're saying," I said, "but can't you see that that doesn't mean a thing to me in this moment?"

"We simply can't release your vehicle without full payment.  It's just..."

"I know, I get it, it's policy," I said.

And there we were.  A stand-off.  On a Friday afternoon at 5:15pm with exhausted children and a mama who's had maybe an hour's sleep in two days.  No money on hand.  No way to get to our money.  No way to get to our vehicle.  And now, no way to get home.

"Just tell me what you expect me to do," I said.  Not upset, not angry.  Just really looking for a solution.  Any solution, no matter how fantastical, and I would've taken it.  I would have.

"I don't really know, ma'm," he said.  "I guess you can take my car."

"WHAT?!?!" I said.  Well, not THAT fantastical!  Of course, that's not a viable option.  Are you crazy? There has to be another way.  How can you not have any loaners?  How can you not help me out here?  This is insane.  Can't you see how insane this is?  Isn't there ANYTHING else?  Anything at all?

And then he suggested that he drive us to the bank that was up the street to see if maybe they could imprint the checks like they were supposed to have done.  But knowing that the money to which those checks were associated would still not be accessible until tomorrow, I didn't think that would really work either.  Without another plan on the table, however, that sounded like the only possible move.  So, off we went, with me driving, and this total stranger in my passenger seat next to my newly fitted window, and the kids asking where we were going to now, Mama?

And my head was swirling, processing, processing.  There had to be another way.  What was I missing?  What angle hadn't I covered?  Where was the way out?  There's always a way out.  Why can't I see it?  Why can't I fucking see it?

When halfway there he says, "You know what, just go ahead and turn around."

"I'm sorry?"

"Just turn around right up here and let's go on back to the dealership."

"But..."

"Let's just get you your vehicle and get you out of here," he said.  "I know you.  We've serviced your vehicle here before.  And you've been through enough this week already."

"But..."

"Go home.  And try to enjoy the weekend.  And we'll take care of this on Monday."

And as I pulled up to the service door to let him out, I muttered something about thank yous and how much we really appreciated the help and how I just didn't have any more words, and as I drove off I just started to cry.

"Mama, what's wrong?" asked Chago.

"Why are you crying, Mama?" asked Saia.

"It's okay, babies," I said.  "Mama's okay.  These are happy tears."

"Why, Mama?"

"Because someone helped us who didn't have to.  Someone took a chance on us being good people just because he's a good person.  And everything's going to be okay now."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

SHATTERED GLASS

Rushing back from Starbucks that morning, I realized I had just missed the kids taking off for their field trip.  And I thought, for just a second, about leaving the truck there in the school parking lot, and trying to run to catch up to the group.  I was even wearing tennis shoes in preparation of the field trip (yes, I know, try to contain your shock, but I did learn a small, but valuable, lesson from my last experience, if you'll recall).  

So without really knowing how far they'd already gotten, or even which direction they were headed, I determined it would probably be best to just drive around the bend along the levee until I saw them, and then park there to catch up.

Which I did.

And they were already about 10 blocks away.  And about ready to cross the street.  All the duckies with their 3rd grade big buddies.  Following the two teachers and the three parent volunteers.  Not quite a single file, but close enough.

So, I pulled over right in front of a house, between two driveways, behind an Acura, and in front of a BMW.  [A silly thing both my father and Amy have always had in common, that, apparently, has stuck with me, despite my floating through life with rose-colored glasses most of the time: Parking close to vehicles that are at least comparable to your own so that you decrease your chances of being vandalized by, evidently, banking on the fact that the Joneses will get theirs before you do, and away from the crowded spots in parking lots, so that you don't get dinged in parking lots.]  Plus, it was a nice neighborhood in a town not really known for its crime rate.  And the good weather meant there were a ton of people out and about, walking and cycling up and down the path.  So, truthfully, I really wasn't all that concerned.  Not here.  Not today.

And as the teachers and parents prepared to block traffic to start herding the group across the intersection, I quickly grabbed my iPhone, my camera, and my sunglasses, and shoved my purse down into the passenger floorboard, covering my laptop that contained my beloved Mac.

Jumping out, I locked the vehicle, setting the alarm, and ran to catch up with the group just in time to help the last section of kids across the street.

For the next hour and 15 minutes or so, I took some gorgeous shots of the kids on their walk, skipping and holding hands, down by the water during low tide, collecting shells, and harassing hermit crabs.



On our way back to the school, coming down the same sidewalk along which I'd parked, I was already joking with their teacher about how I'd just meet them back at the school 'cause here was my ride, when we noticed one of the other teachers up at the front of the line herding the kids away from a pile of shattered glass on the sidewalk.

Right. By. My. Truck.

And I remember having that moment of embarrassment.  That same one you feel when you trip or fall in public and try to recover by oh-so-unsuccessfully pretending that nothing happened, that you're alright, and that the busted tendon and the gaping wound on your knee are really just cosmetic.  No, really, I'm alright.  That wasn't me.  That's not me.  That's not mine.

And then I ran right up to the side door, obliterating whatever useful fingerprints there actually might have been, and peered inside what used to be the passenger side window, uncertain of what to expect, but certain that it could not be good.  

And it was.  And it wasn't.

The vehicle itself had not been tampered with.  It was still drivable.  And, except for the glass, appeared to be mostly unharmed.  

And my Mac, my beautiful precious, was still hidden away, shivering from the trauma and still afraid to come out, but safely tucked away in her case, patiently awaiting the sound of my voice.  

And I was instantly awash in relief.

Followed by reverberating waves of terror as I realized the reason that I could even see that my Mac was okay was because my purse was gone.

This purse!  My brand new, less than two weeks old, Marc Ecco purse from Macy's that the kids picked out for me for Mother's Day.

With all its contents.  With all of its contents.  With all of its contents.  And then I heard a slurping sound.  And then my brain went into overload.

The kids came rushing up to me asking me what happened, and I tried in that distant voice, kind of half awake and half asleep, to tell them everything would be alright, my eyes darting left to right looking, searching, scouring, but Mama needed to call the police right away.  And the rolodesk in my head began cataloguing...driver's license, insurance cards, two bank cards...And the teachers and parents came up to me, no one really certain what to do next, and I tried to find a way to tell everyone to just go away.  Just. Go. Away. so that I could think again...At least two credit cards, two retail cards, a gas card...So that I could figure out what the hell I was supposed to do next...$20 in cash, my social security card, the kids' social security cards, for crissakes...And then somehow they did, and when I looked up, everyone was gone, except for one of the parents who had stayed behind to ask me if he should put the kids in aftercare so that I could take care of things...checkbooks, driving glasses, extra sunglasses, make-up, flash drive, baby pictures with Santa and the Easter Bunny...and I was nodding and shaking my head at the same time, as he shoved a wad of cash in my hand, saying something about vaccuuming out the truck up the street before we headed across the bridge and did I have enough gas to get home?

And then I was alone.  

Standing in a puddle of green glass and certain, just absolutely positive that someone was going to come around the corner with my purse and say, we're really sorry, lady, we really needed the money, and we know it was stupid, but we can tell by the contents of your purse that you're really a wonderful person and an amazing mother, and there's just this code we have, you know, us criminals, that just won't allow us to do anything bad to good people, so here you go.  And, you know, we're really sorry for the scare and all.

And then a friend drove by and pulled over to help, and I texted Amy, and the cops showed up as I was canceling my debit cards.  But the three steely officers, all shiny and slick, muttered and puttered and essentially shrugged their shoulders in unison, "Tough shit, lady," I heard them say, but I'm sure it was something like, "Well, we have all your information now, ma'm.  Please let us know if you think of anything else that may help. Here are some phone numbers to the victim's hotline, the DMV, the credit reporting agencies, and the social security administration."

And then I was alone again.

MY ONE TRUE MISTRESS -- TODAY, HER NAME IS ALDO

Who got their adorable summer Aldo white platform beauuuuuuties delivered to the front porch today?

ME! ME! ME!  That's who.

It's okay.  Seethe.  You know you want 'em.

[and no comments on the pedi please -- I've been a little busy the past couple of weeks!]


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

THE SAIA AND CHAGO SHOW: EPISODE 7 - CHATTING WITH MOMMY

video
In which the monsters discuss their first time instant messaging Mommy while she's on a business trip, a verrrry tedious task that will not soon be repeated, as the quickly dying art of telephone conversation and even the always technically challenging video chatting is just soooo much less painful for Mama to have to sit through (at least until I can get them to two-finger type).



WELL-WORLD WEDNESDAY TIP: USE DRYER BALLS

Tip #190 from Daily Eco-Tips - Use Dryer Balls

"Just toss 4 or so Wool Dryer Balls into your dryer. Being 100% wool is the best part about these balls as wool does not harbor bacteria. The wool fibers absorb static cling and the friction softens clothing and shortens drying time too! They will help the clothes and the air circulate freely in the dryer and can reduce drying times by over 25%!  You can get hand made eco friendly dryer balls and an eco friendly reusable bag from WoolDryerBalls.com."

Haven't been asked to review these or anything.  Haven't even tried these yet myself, but I'm always on the look out for new eco-friendly tips, and really kinda growing on the idea of drying my wool balls.

[Why does that make me think of Alec Baldwin's "Schweaty Balls" SNL skit?]


Eco-tip shared via AddThis

AND SO I'VE FINALLY BECOME *THAT* WOMAN

With Amy traveling again and coming off of the Memorial Day weekend, it was totally expected that our routine would be slightly off this week. But when I heard the BEEPBEEPBEEP of the garbage truck down the street and realized we forgot to take out the bins last night, I grew just a tad pissier than my usual sunny self. 

Stumbling out of bed, I ran downstairs, out the garage, and to the side of the house. I grabbed the giant green yard waste bin that's practically my height, and lugged it to the curb in my bare feet. 

Returning for the humongous blue recycling bin and brown trash can, I stepped on one snail, two rocks, and at least 3 different slug trails. Cursing loud enough to make the Chinese man who walks his weiner dog every morning and doesn't speak a lick of English turn around and scowl at me disapprovingly, I brushed myself off, and headed back inside, ignoring the 4th car to drive by the house at a really really reaaaally slow speed. 

And yes, right around that time it finally occurred to me that I was indeed still in my jammies -- summer jammies, no less. And, apparently,  had just become THAT woman in the neighborhood. 

In other news... 

Kids dressed up for Mix-Match Day today. The very thought of mixing his shoes, though, very nearly sent him into an epileptic fit, so he got to keep those "normal."


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WHEN TUESDAYS FEEL LIKE MONDAYS

Alarm didn't go off this morning, but luckily our little 3ft alarm came in around a quarter to 4 to snuggle, sending Mommy shooting out of bed, as her flight was at 6, and the taxi would be here in less than a half hour for a 30-minute ride to the airport. 

This was gonna be tight. And Amy, in case you couldn't guess it, just HATEHATEHATES to be rushed or late.

So, after wrestling with the cabbie on the phone just trying to get him into the gate ("No, no, no," she's saying, "stop talking and listen to me!"), she waits by the trunk of the cab, impatiently tapping her foot as the decrepit old man insists on heaving her luggage in himself.

Finally on her way, I get the following text from her:
Now, he has to stop for f'ing gas!! Seriously!
And then 5 minutes later:
Oh, and now he's bitchin' at me about paying with a credit card because it'll take longer. UGH!
And then 30 seconds later:
Oh, and he smells!!!
And now I'm laughing like a loon under the covers. Then I get:
And now he's calling me 'honey'...OH, HELL NO!!!!
And there's really no point in trying to go back to sleep because two minutes later she says:
Oh, and don't forget, he's using a magnifiing glass to read the credit card slip and his Thomas guide. And we're still at the gas station. And I'm gonna strangle him!!!
Several messages later about how slow he's driving, and how she's gonna push him out and drive her damn self, she says:
I actually had to tell him to go through the damn carpool lane at the toll booth. I really think I'm being punked or else I'm on that show where they time it to see how long it takes for you to start cussing like a sailor!!
But she gets there with just minutes to spare, in her seat, and on her way. A few hours later and she texts that's she's landed. How was your flight, I ask?
Fell asleep briefly and spilled my water all over my pants.
They were white.  

And she's on her way straight into the office.  

And it's only Tuesday.


Monday, May 25, 2009

SHE LOTH *LOTH* HER FIRTH TOOTH







Amy and I agreed if Saia was actually able to find it out in the yard, she would totally earn herself a 20-spot. 

But, alas, it was not to be. 

And truthfully, we're pretty sure the little monster swallowed it without even realizing it.






Saturday, May 23, 2009

MY SON, KING OF THE JEWS???

"Okay, Saia," he says from his perch on the fireplace. "I'm the King of Jews."

[WHAT?!?! I could NOT have just heard what I thought I did!]

"You be the tapir, ok?" he asks.

"Um...Chago, honey?" I call, inching my way a little closer. "Who are you again?"

Annoyed with the interruption if his game, he snaps, "The King of Jews, Mom! The King of Jews!!"

And with that, I swooped into the living room, snatching him promptly off his throne, and sat him down on the floor with me sitting directly in front of him, nose to nose.

"Son, where did you hear those words? Do you even know what that means?"

"What's wrong, Mama? Why are you upset?"

"Baby, where did you learn that? Can you tell me?"

"From a book," he says, utterly confused.

"Can you show me, please?"

And as I wait there for him to retrieve it, my mind is darting in a million directions.

"Here, Mama," he says, crawling into my lap. "It's right here, see?"

"Kink-a-jou. It's kind of like a Lemur. It lives in the rainforest."

[Oh, for pete's sake!!]

Friday, May 22, 2009

REPARATIONS


"Okay, Mama, go put on your fancy jewelry and come and sit down," he said.

"What's going on, guys?" I ask, as I begin to thaw out some ground turkey for dinner.

"We can't tell you, except that..."

"Don't tell her, Saia!!"

"IT'S A PARTY!!!" she blurts out.

"A party?  What kind of party?" I ask.

"An I-love-you-thank-you-you're-the-best-mama-in-the-whole-wide-world party."  Yes, obviously, that was Mr. CharmAndSchmooze.

And then they anointed me with a crown, and tossed balloons and home-made confetti (still not quite sure what they cut up), gave me presents (magnets off the fridge, pictures of themselves, one of my lipsticks) that they'd wrapped up in ten pounds of scotch tape and decorated with stickers and glitter and beautiful pictures of our family.

And I cried.  And they swarmed me with hugs and kisses.  And then...

Then...

They even cleaned it all up.

And it was (almost) as if yesterday never happened.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I THINK I CHEATED ON YOU

Had a really bad afternoon with the kiddos yesterday. Really. Really. Bad.

For whatever reason (read: taking advantage of the fact that Mommy is traveling), they decided it would be a good idea to fight in the truck all the way home, NOT do their chores, smear toothpaste all over the bathroom counter, and turn their rooms into landfills. And while, no, none of this is really new, it was all at one time, and all on top of a couple of weeks now of Amy & I continually badgering them to get their shit together, as it seems, since about Spring Break that they have just turned themselves off.

So, after spending a better part of the afternoon picking up after them again, re-doing their chores again, piling things from around the house in front of their bedroom doors again because there was no way...literally NO WAY...to even enter without stabbing your foot on a teeny tiny sword, or a barrette, or a plastic orangutan arm, or something or other, I just couldn't ask them one. more. time. to straighten things up or else.

They had already had their timeouts. They had already had their favorite babies taken away. And they were even grounded for the rest of the afternoon, relegated to their separate rooms, which they were to have spotless by bedtime, or at least, no longer a hazard to walk into.

Did they have cupcakes at school today, I ask them. No. Did they have any sugar from anywhere else? No. Was something going on at school, with other kids, with their teachers that I didn't know about? No. Did they think this behavior was acceptable? No. Did they think they were doing a good job of being respectful, and contributing to the family, and being responsible for their own things? No.

So, then why the hell, as we're walking down the stairs holding hands to go brush our teeth after dinner, which, once again I had to stand watch over and prod them to eat like 3, 4, 5 times. Why then, when we turned the corner into their rooms did it look a gajillion (yes, gajillion! do you have any idea how much that is?!?) times worse than before? 

Not only had not a single toy, book, crayon, or stuffed animal been put away, they'd actuall multiplied!! By the hundreds of thousands. And it felt like that moment in Gremlins (totally dating myself here), you know the one I'm talking about, when they walk in and see that the sweet little innocent Gizmo has sprouted little cancerous demons from his back that were intent on and quite successfully destroying everything in sight?

And then I felt like I must've looked like a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Tom standing there, Jerry outwitting him again, his whole face turning bright red, the steam streaming out of his ears, his neck stretching upwards as his head prepares to literally explode, and then the top of his scalp shoots off into the air and flames burst from inside his skull to the sound of a train whistle. TWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, just like that.

And then I started screaming. Bloody murder screaming. Grabbing my hair, kneeling on the floor, banging my head hands on the table kind of screaming.

And that's all you're going to hear about that.

We hugged and kissed and said our I'm sorries and I forgive yous and I'll try not tos before they went to sleep. And then I logged on to blog about it...and couldn't.

Couldn't fess up to you the magnitude of awfulness I felt. The humiliation and shame for breaking down like that. The sheer embarrassment of such an event that was so beyond just another bad mama moment that I just. couldn't. say. it.

To you.

So, I slunk away to other mommyblogger sites. And I vented there. Like a neighborhood bar they were, the blogtender welcoming, pouring me another drink of been-there-done-that, and encouraging me to drown my sorrows in self-deprecating prose and self-indulgent I'm-such-a-failures.

And I bloghopped for hours, desperately seeking the cyberarms of compassion and commiseration from other moms. A mom site from Hawaii.  One in Australia.  Another from the misty woods of Tennessee.  And I cried as I wrote.  And I cursed my lack of self-control.  And they patted me on the back and nodded their heads and poured me another round.

And it was good.

Except that this morning I woke up feeling guilty. Like I'd cheated on you. With them. Couldn't find the solace I needed here. Afraid to let you in, to let you too close, thinking if you saw how ugly it was, how ugly I was, that you wouldn't be here tomorrow. That you wouldn't let me come back...and admit my failures...and try again.

So, there it is.  And here I am.

And no, you're not Kate and I'm not Jon, but for the blog's sake, I think we've got to find a way to get through this. Together. Somehow.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WELL-WORLD WEDNESDAY: PLASTIC BAGS VS THE BAY

PARANOIA WILL DESTROYA (or Another Bad Mama Moment)

Okay, I can't be the only one.

They're paving our development in two phases, so we have to park in Phase 2 or else outside the gates if everything's full until Thursday, when they'll start paving over there and the whole damn community will be parked outside my front door over here in Phase 1.  Amy's traveling this week, and got home late from work on Monday, so her car got left off the property.

So, after we got home yesterday and lucked out in finding one of the last open spots in Phase 2, I thought I'd go ahead and bring her car in, so we wouldn't have to worry about it out there on the street all week long.

Amy's car, by the way, is her 3rd child.  

Or 2nd wife.

Either way, it means she WOULD NOT be spending another night outside the gates.

And the thing is that I'd thought about it all day long.  Imagined every possible scenario.  Tried to think of every angle.  And basically, it comes down to this:  There are no carseats in the Mustang.  No way I could bring the kids with me.  They would have to stay in the house alone while I walked down to the end of the block, got into the car, drove to the end of that block, made a left, drove to the end of that block, drove into the development and found a parking spot.

But how could I leave them alone?  Even for a second?  They trip over their own feet and get hurt or impale each other with random objects when I'm standing right in front of them, for crissakes.

And, at the most, it was only going to take me 3 minutes.  (Yes, I really did time it.)  But the utter damage they could do...to themselves, to each other, to my home in 180 seconds...the sheer thought is just horrifying.

And if the street the car was parked on wasn't so highly trafficked, or questionably populated, or her car wasn't so damn pretty, I probably would not have given it a second thought.  So, as we get closer to the house, I'm prepping the kids for my next steps.

But how much do I tell them?  What do they need to know?  Because...(and here's where the paranoia part begins to rear its ugly head)...what if I don't come back?

What if, in the short stretch from the car to the gate, I have an accident?  Because most accidents do happen within a mile of home, somebody important enough to quote has said repeatedly over the years.

And we don't have any family here.  And the small circle of friends we do have don't live anywhere nearby.  And we don't know a single -- not a single neighbor.  Their dogs' incessant barks? Yes.  But not their owners.

So...in the very highly unlikely event that some idiot driver's ed teeny bopper comes zipping around the corner and slams into me at the stop sign and I get carted away in an ambulance, (Yes, people, my mind does actually work this way.  All the time.  Yes.  All the time.), do I write all the emergency numbers they would ever need on a note on the fridge?  Do I need to go over telephone dialing protocol?  CPR basics?  Do I give them a certain amount of time before they panic -- like if I'm not back when the big hand is on the 2 and the little hand is on the 5, call 911?  Do I have them stand out in the front yard so they can see me?  Do I tell them they aren't allowed one foot out the door, unless said time is reached, in which case they can go out and walk down to the neighbors, but stay away from the sidewalk so you don't get abducted and raped and killed, and only go to the neighbors on the left because we've actually seen their heads over the fence, and maybe even stepped in their dog poo by the mailbox, and they would probably even recognize you, too, but only if you screamed really loudly, Santiago, stop hitting me with that pooper scooper!

And I can feel my heart beginning to race as we pull into the driveway.  And outrageous thoughts about how this could be the very last time I see my children are spinning wildly in my head.  And I try to get a grip, to stay calm, to not freak them out.  And I curse Amy once or twice under my breath as I let the dogs out and get the kids in the house.

But having lucked out that the kids did not happen to have a stellar day at school, my instructions were as follows:  "Take your homework out of your backpacks.  Sit at the table.  Complete and recheck it before I get back.  I'm going down to move Mommy's car and will be back in less than 3 minutes.  Less. Than. Three. Minutes.  We'll talk about your day today once I get back.  And trust me when I say you'll have a better case to argue if you stay in your seats the entire time and have all that homework done. Is that perfectly clear to everyone?"

"Yes, m'am," they duo'd.

And as I marched down the stairs and out the side door of the garage, locking all the doors behind me and cringing every time I heard that click, but trying to make my steps sound angry (enough to keep them in their seats), I swear I could feel my knees knocking and hear my heart crumbling at the thought that the very last words they heard from me were not "I love you."

And then I ran.  High heels and all.  Down the hill, out the pedestrian gate, across the busy street like a Frogger fashionista, nearly busting my ass -- twice.  Then I jumped into the Mustang like Bo Duke and hauled ass down the block.  Seven cars -- SEVEN -- were at the intersection.  And all, apparently, Sunday drivers over 85 who just HAD to turn down my fucking block!

COME!!! ON!!!  Move it, people, move it, forfuckssake!!!  Don't you realize that my children have probably set the house ablaze, refrigerated the Chihuahua, and invented the cure for the common cold by now!?!?!

And then I zipped through the gates, spun into a parallel parking spot, turned my wheels into the curb, and ran, heels and all, back down the other hill towards the house imagining the whole way all sorts of hell that must have broken loose.

When I got to the front porch, doubled over with side pain and totally out of breath, I tried to listen for signs of dismemberment or bludgeoning, and when I didn't hear any shrieking I knew, just knew, they'd drowned in their own cups of apple juice or choked each other with their banana slices.

But no.

They were exactly where I left them.  Just doing their homework.  Not a hair out of place.  Not a person, place, or thing destroyed.  

It was like time just stood still.  For three perfectly painful minutes.




Tuesday, May 19, 2009

THE DEAFENING VACUUM OF HER ABSENCE

"Hi. I'll be right down. Can you give me five more minutes?"

I shot straight up in bed thinking I'd already missed her.  But she'd never leave without saying goodbye.

"Taxi's here.  Walk me out?"

I looked over at the clock.  4:35am.  

"You have your book? Your iPod? Your charger?" I ask, as I shove beef jerky and seeds into her bag and hand her a couple of croissants.

"Yup, yup, and yup.  I'll text you from the gate."

And off she went.

Crawling back into bed, searching for the warm side, searching for her scent on the pillow.  Tossing and turning.  Suddenly noticing every crick and creak.  Getting up twice to check on the kids.  Check the windows.  Check the doors.

It's not the first time she's traveled for work, of course.  But it's been a while.  And it affects me the same way every single time.  It doesn't matter if we've just been arguing or just been vacationing.  If we're on or off the same page.  Her absence leaves a deafening vacuum.  And it's just. barely. tolerable.

"Made it through security. At my gate," came her text.  5:55am.

I rolled over again.  Five more minutes til 6-oh-oh.  But sleep was too far from my grasp, tangled up in thoughts of boarding passes, and middle seats, and will she remember to grab a water and eat a little before she boards?

"Where's Mommy?" she asks sleepily from the foot of the bed, eyebrows furrowed, lower lip pouting, rubbing her eyes with both hands.

"She's traveling today, baby, remember?" and she crawls under the sheet with me and snuggles in so close I feel we're going to spontaneously combust.  And then he's right behind her.  Hovering in the doorway.  Not wanting to come in.  To admit that she's gone.  Because he knows it's not the same around here without her.  The sounds are different.  The silence is different.  The smells and feel in the air are different.  And he crawls in reluctantly on the other side of me, inching his way under my arm, legs tangled around my own.  And we stare at the shadows on the ceiling.  And just lay there.  

Waiting.

"I miss her," she says.

"Me, too," he says.

[Me, three.]

Saturday, May 16, 2009

GONE FISHIN'

No, seriously.

Had it stuck in my head since visiting my Dad last month that I wanted to take the kids fishing.  I have great memories of camping and fishing as a kid (another benefit of blocking out the bad things), but have never been fishing before with them.  Nor with Amy.  (And probably for good reason, the rational, very sane side of my brain tried and tried to forewarn.)  But, eh, why not give it a shot?

So, I try not to give Amy too much advance warning for these things, as the element of surprise very often works in my favor when it's going to minimize the amount of time she'll be pissed at me for dragging her somewhere outside of her comfort zone.  So, she only found out the night before, and then, only 'cause the little tattletales couldn't keep their mouths shut about it.

But I tried not to rush anyone this morning.  Tried not to act excited.  Tried not to make everyone anxious.  Waited (ever so impatiently) for everybody (read: Amy) to be up and dressed and ready to go on their own terms ('cause that would set the mood for the entire day), and I just sorta did my thing.  

But I don't do nonchalant very well.  So, I started with watering the garden, then picked up around the house, then cleaned a bathroom, then threw in a load of laundry, then couldn't hold it in anymore and began prepping the sandwiches, got everyone's individualized snacks together, ensured we had at least one first-aid kit packed, several changes of clothes, and charged the cameras.

I was a machine, people.  A quiet machine, yes, keeping it all inside, of course, but I was ON it!!  And everything worked seamlessly.  Loaded up and out of the house with plenty of time to stop and pick up some ice and, of course, our Starbucks.

And it helped, too, that the lake was less than a 7-minute drive from our home.  But the hike from the parking lot to our choice fishing spot, however, took the better part of the morning.  Not that we had one already picked out, but choosing one, the right one, back and forth, here and there, how about this one, what about that one, ugh! 

You just don't understand the pressure I was under here.  Had to find a spot that's not too far away from the bathroom, so the hike back while squeezing their legs together won't be unbearably long (or messy), but it also has to be far enough away from the crowds of people and flocks of geese because, well, Amy hates both.  

And it has to be shady enough because it was going to be a scorcher (which it was!).  But it also has to be sunny enough because Amy's a sun worshipper.  

And then it has to have plenty of room for us to sprawl because, well, we tend to sprawl wherever we go -- 'cause you just need room to spread out, you know, to sit comfortably, and even lay down should one of my brood manage the art of relaxation enough to actually nap, but then you also need enough room to prepare and lay out lunch, have everything at the ready, and, essentially, recreate a mini-roughed-out-version of home.

But once we found the perfect locale, it was all about making everyone comfortable and happy.  The goal, of course, being that if I could make everyone else comfortable and happy (oh, gods of the lake), there might be a moment or two in there that I could steal for myself.  But in between setting up our little picnic grounds, ensuring everyone had cold drinks, pulling out snacks for Amy, snacks for the kids, cold drinks again, snacks again, moving chairs to slightly better spots, cold drinks again, snacks again, it was practically noon by the time we figured out that the brand new fancy schmancy little fishing rods we just bought at Target yesterday and were just about prepared to cast didn't even come with a bobber OR A HOOK!!!

A HOOK, people!!  Seriously.

But with Amy already thinking she'd pretty much rather be anywhere but here, and the monsters getting restless because When are we going to catch a fish, Mama? When are we going to catch a fish, Mama? and let's not forget the When are we going to catch a fish, Mama? it just took everything I had not to burst into tears right then and there, scream out fuckinggoddamshit! at the top of my lungs and toss the icechest, bags, and chairs off the pier and onto the family of squawking ducks swimming by!!

But instead (you'd be so proud, Daddy) I just strapped on my MacGyver hat as tight as I could and tried to make it look easy.  

Luckily, the world is full of polluters, so it took me about two seconds to find aluminum can pop tops, which I broke in half and twisted into a faux hook.  With a tampon string and a piece of bubble gum, I then...

No, not really, people!  Come on, now!!  

Onto the bobber.  A couple of pieces of driftwood performed stand-in duty there.  And, yes, they looked like floating turds, and, no, the "hooks" were definitely not hooky, and, yes, it was totally half-ass, but HEY! backthefuckoff, it worked!  And now for the bait.

Ohjesusagechristareyoufuckingkiddingme!!!  

We didn't stop to pick up any bait.  Yes, really.

Kick in small town Texas girl, and out come the hotdogs.  Well, okay, turkey dogs.  It IS California, people.  Chopped that up into bitesize chunks and we were off and running, baby.  So much so, in fact, that the fish, the mutant-amazonian-beasts-of-the-lake fish, were practically clamoring to come up onto the shore and help themselves.  They were seriously jumping right there in front of us, less than 3 ft away.  And taunting the kids with their snatch and run maneuvers, making off with like half the pack of weiners before we'd even learned how to properly cast.

Real fisherman about 25 yards away (you know, the kind with actual hooks and bobbers and worms and beer) came over and offered to buy whatever it was we were using as bait, as they enviously coveted our little turd-and-weinnie thingamabobs.  So we generously handed them a couple of gratis turkey dogs and literally watched them just roll their eyes and laugh as they kept saying (very loudly and over and over) how they'd never heard of such a thing in their lives, even as they went on to rebait their hooks with our dogs.  

But we were well into our own fishing nirvana, folks.  Some of us more than others, true.  But still. 

So...blah, blah, blah. Cast, sit, wait, reel it in, recast, replace lost weinnie, recast, sit, wait, reel it back in, recast, replace lost weinnie, recast, sit, wait, reel it back...STOP REELING IT BACK IN, SANTIAGO!!!! 

"But I lost my weinnie."

Well, there is that.

And when three pm finally came around, I asked Amy how much longer she'd like to give it. Magnesium thermal deathrays shot straight out of head. We went ahead and packed it up and headed for our favorite brewpub for pizza and reds.

Here we are post-pub.  A much happier, though still motley, crue.



If you're feeling particularly masochistic, feel free to enjoy the entire fishing slideshow here: FISHING SLIDESHOW

Friday, May 15, 2009

FRIpukeDAY

And the day went essentially like this:

"Mom, Saia's not feeling well."

[puke]

"Feel better, babe?"

"Not really."

[puke]

Rush to school to drop off guacamole for 20. Tag-team Amy so she can head off to work. Snuggle on the sofa and watch cartoons all morning.

[puke]

"Okay, let's get your hair into a rubber band."

[puke]

"Here, sweetheart, let's have some water."

[puke]

"How about a little apple juice?"

[puke]

"Okay, let's get some bread in there, maybe some granola."

[pu...]

"Okay, now let's get you a Pedialyte popsicle."

[p...]

"Mom, I'm hungry."

[gulfs sandwich]

"Mom, I'm still hungry."

[slurps Ramen noodles]

"Mom, I'm ready for Starbucks."

[Strawberry & Cream Frappucino, it is.]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

THE OVERMEDICATED SOCIETY

The latest topic on the Momversation site is about whether or not, as a society, we're overmedicating our kids.


As it's not like me to remain quiet, particularly about controversial topics, here's my (very newsy ;P ) response.


Like most hugely controversial topics, it's easiest to battle from the opposite ends of the spectrum. Either you're pro meds or you're pro natural living, and you likely have a long list of very real and rational reasons for your advocacy, but I'm one of those people (and I'd venture to guess there are probably a lot of us out there), who don't have protest-worthy feelings about this topic, who live their lives somewhere in the middle, and who are confused most of the time about what is best in what situation for what child in what instance.


MEDICATION


In general, I guess I would have to say that we do not medicate our children.


We have a first aid kit in our home that has a still-sealed-for-6-years bottle of that poison control medicine you MUST have when you first realize you're about to bring a baby into what used to be a carefree and completely uncontrolled environment. We have hydrocortizone cream, bacitricine, all the anti-bacterial ointments, peroxide, calamine lotion, a bottle of children's tylenol, vicks, arnica gel (for growing pains), a humidifier, and naturally flavored cough drops. But that's about the extent of it.


I typically use a crushed tylenol paste on insect bites before I "resort" to hydrocortizone or bacitricine. I use 3 cold glasses of water, cold washcloths, and massages for headaches and have never given my children medicine for that (being a teen with tylenol-controlled migraines that I eventually learned to control with diet in my 30s was a long lesson I don't want my children to have to relearn).


I only "resort" to the children's tylenol when their fever reaches about 103 and it's the middle of the night and I won't be able to monitor it every second. Fevers are a body's sign that it's fighting off something else, and I do try to let their bodies learn to fight off as much as possible -- without endangering them, of course. And the same goes for coughs. We do not give our children cough suppressants, as I feel their coughing is their bodies' natural response and don't want to interfere with their ability to purge themselves of the creepy cruddies. I will mix up honey and lemon or give them an all-natural cough drop to help soothe them if their throat is becoming irritated, but we don't have benadryl or dimetapp or any of those things in our house - for any of us.


A year ago, though, Saia had to be put on an inhaler for about a month. We followed the doctor's instructions to the letter, but stopped the medication when she appeared to be getting better, and have not returned to it. So, it's not like we're anti-meds entirely, you know?


However, we don't get flu shots. We don't go to the emergency room. I've cleaned, disinfected, and patched up all of their wounds at home, and am a big fan of liquid adhesives. We do have our regular doctor's visits, though. And my kids are (a little reluctantly on my part, I will add) completely vaccinated.


DIET


We have incorporated more soy, grains, fruits and veggies into our diet since having children. Our kids don't eat any candy or completely empty sugars (like frosting or kool-aids). We've moved to low sugar jellies and apple juices (because "no sugar" actually means they've substituted it with something far worse). Our kids always have two glasses of milk for breakfast, a cup of orange juice, apple juice for lunch, and water for the rest of the day, including dinner. Which means there are no sweets at all after 4pm.  Well, except for when they earn their dessert, and even then, it's a fruit pop or a cup of frozen yorgurt.


But we're definitely not health nuts by any stretch of the imagination (hell, we don't even shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, for crissakes) and are surely doing a million things wrong still by those standards. But even these subtle changes in our diet have helped tremendously with their ability to concentrate and their ability to control their own behavior (they're 6, though, so that's all relative).


SLEEP


Our kids are asleep by 7:30 every night and up by 6am, but they're twins, so we've had them on a pretty strict sleeping schedule since they were about 4 months old. Our kids have never even had an ear infection, and besides breastfeeding them til they were 2, and I don't think I can emphasize this point enough -- I would attribute their excellent health more to the fact that they're still getting a full 12-14 hours a night's sleep than to almost anything else.  I mean, sleep is when you're body goes into self-help mode. It's reparative and restorative, and cannot be discounted when you're talking about making changes that affect behavior and concentration.  Not that they're angels, mind you, but God, can you imagine the terrors they'd be on 8 hours or less?????


BACK TO THE POINT


So, I guess in response to the question posed, my answer is yes, I do feel that as a society we too hastily make the decision to incorporate medicine into our daily routines solely for convenience. At the same time, I am a huge advocate of science and discovery and, hell yes, especially convenience and having some sort of quality of life, and believe that we do have the brilliant minds in this world and the subsequent technology in this day and age to aid the efforts of caring for our loved ones precisely so that we don't have to resort to things like bloodletting anymore.


So there must be a way, a middle road by which we can balance allowing the amazing machines that are our bodies do the jobs they were created to do while at the same time incorporating those advancements that encourage, but don't obliterate our self-healing efforts. And I think, personally, that you spend the rest of your life negotiating that line every single hour of every single day. And, you know what, that's okay. Because as long as you're not allowing yourself to just be spoon-fed by one side or the other. As long as you're researching (even a little), and asking questions, and trying new things, and allowing yourself to be flexible enough to experience the benefits of both worlds when they make sense for you and your family, then I think you're probably right where you belong.



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WELL-WORLD WEDNESDAY: JUICEBOXES ARE FROM THE DEVIL

We stumbled upon these really really great (read: too adorably cute to pass up) mini plastic reusable jugs at Target for less than $5 bucks.  And for about a month now, we've used nothing since for the kids' school snacks and lunch boxes, as each container stores about twice as much as a juicebox, so it lasts them the whole day.

We stopped buying juiceboxes and those horrid juicepouches entirely, and now buy frozen apple juice, which is waaaaay cheaper, made of much more recyclable material than those huge apple juice jugs, and can be more easily watered down for a less sweetened version.

And yes, it's a little bit of a pain to rinse them out every night and to make the juice every few days, but I'm unemployed...what the hell do I have to complain about?!?!  And, truthfully, it's so minimal that I haven't even tweeted about it once.

Rid your world of juiceboxes, people.  

The path to hell is paved with flimsy pointy-ended plastic straws.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

THE UNBEARABLE LIKENESS OF BEING A PARENT VOLUNTEER

It was not going to be a good day.

A field trip with 39 kindergarteners, a handful of parents, and 3 teachers to a Build-A-Bear Workshop manned by TWO, yes 2, underpaid and not even remotely interested employees.

And, worse, we had no idea what to even expect, having never been there before.  It was always one of those places, like candy stores in the mall, that I'd so successfully made sweeping efforts to avoid and steer the children away from over the years.  It always looked like what I imagined the entrance to hell to be.  And, as it turns out, I was right on the money.

My first sign that our "hosts" were utterly clueless was when the 20-something with her hair pinnned back too tightly announced to the parent volunteers (which, I get, are sometimes a pain in the ass, but, for the most part, should be treated like gold because, what the hell is wrong with you that you don't even realize how lucky you are to have extra hands here today that aren't even on your goddamned payroll?!?!) that we could just go off and enjoy ourselves at the mall for the next two hours because "we've got it all taken care of here."

Yeah.

Right, sweetie.

Notafuckingchance.

And while some (obviously more intelligent) parents readily took her up on her offer and fled, I plunged forward with a few other stupid overprotective nellies and realized two critical seconds later that I had not only forgotten my Aleve, I also forgot to have my chai.

So, I won't go into all the gory details...well, okay, some of them, I will.  But the gist of it was this.  They were sooooo not prepared for a field trip with 40 children.  I get that they "do" birthday parties often, but this...a party, it was NOT.  Their number one problem was that they didn't even bother to split the kids into groups to have multiple activities taking place at one time.

No, no, no.  Get this.  These geniuses instead asked 39 six-year-olds to...STAND. IN. LINE. AND. WAIT.

Yes, wait.

And wait.

And wait even longer still.

Yes, really, just like that, but 10 times more annoying.

And then after they waited for the ONE person to come down the line so they could give her the name of their bears-to-be, then they were told to...

DING! DING! DING!   Wait in line again so that they could pick a heart for their little limp furry thingies.

And if THAT wasn't just the most lord of the flies episode!!! Ten gruesome minutes of all 39 children descending upon the poor man with the basket of little red hearts, shoving and thrusting their grubby 6-year-old hands this way and that, poking and prodding, pulling and tugging, until they'd retract it, joyfully raising the crimson prize above their heads in triumphant victory before ramming it full force into the slit on the back of the wilted little carcass.  Saliva dripping down their savage chins.

And then, yes, predictably by this point, they were told to get into yet another line and wait.  Oh, no, hold on, this time it was actually two lines...that converged...like merging traffic onto the interstate.  Yeah, and about that safe and hand-gesture friendly, too.

And then came the time to finally get their bears stuffed.  

ONE. 

AT. 

A. 

TIME.

There were 39 children, for crissakes!!!  THIRTY-NINE!!!!!  Seriously, did no one, at some point during the booking process, during the scheduling process, during the morning prep process, think it, I dunno, might be a good idea to, I dunno, maybe run a second stuffing machine simultaneously?  Really???  It's not like they were getting paid by the hour.  What the hell were they thinking?

So, once the precious little pissy pants were all lined up (because it was soooo past snack time at this point and all their blood sugar levels were dropping dangerously low), the other Einstein (who I'll credit only for his enthusiasm) decides that it's just about the bestest idea in the whole wide world if EVERY single time someone comes up to the machine and impales their bear onto the stuffing mechanism ALL 39 CHILDREN SCREAM AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS, 

STUFF MY BEAR! STUFF MY BEAR!  STUFF MY BEAR!

Yes.  Really.  

And as I'm frantically digging through my purse for just the right pen with which to gauge his eyes out, I realize that the freaking air conditioning isn't even turned on in this place.  Which, in some ways was a really good observation because I thought there for a second that I might be pre-menopausal, but as it turns out, I was just homicidal and totally fantasizing suddenly about how great Mr. Build-A-Bear Employee would look in that sparkly little Hanna Montana dress over there, with that red bow wrapped ever-so-tightly around his neck, and one of those cute little hearts shoved up his...

And then I must've blanked out -- because it was all over.  

I only found out later that I had apparently single-handedly led the children through several songs and a handful of circle games as they waited...

and waited...

and waited...

for their friends' bears to be brought to life with the incessant pounding of the stuffing machine and the neverending chanting of "STUFF MY BEAR! STUFF MY BEAR!" drumming in the background.

But, you know, I don't really remember any of that at all, and am fairly certain that I must've blocked all the rest of it out (as I'm frequently wont to do with traumatic experiences).  Meanwhile, Saia and Chago are beaming and just pleased as punch to have made themselves their very own teddy bears, and have only wonderful memories of the nightmare workshop.

And you know, I think I'm kinda okay with that.