Sunday, February 27, 2005

Snow, glorious snow

Ran up to Park City to the outlet mall this afternoon to get some shoes for Harrison that he can run in for soccer next week – his first “official” activity. There is a ten degree difference in temperature between Salt Lake and the mountains and it was noticeable today. We no longer have snow on the ground, the daffodils are actually starting to push up, while up in PC there is still a lot of snow.

The kids went berserk. They loved putting on their snow boots and running through it. Harrison wanted to romp through all the “mountains” of snow in the parking lot. I couldn’t keep him out of it. I finally coaxed him into the car with promises of THE PARK – our favorite up in the old section of town. The snow was hard-packed and still higher than some of the equipment. It was really fun.

Days like this are so worth remembering.






Quality time on our walk

I doubt Harry and I will ever forget the sound of my voice yelling "HARRISON!!!!" over and over as he advances through these formative years.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

I'm sure I'm neurotic, now

I’m starting to wonder if I really am one of those parents who wants to get her kids into the “best” preschool and give them all the “best” opportunities in life. I have always prided myself on not really caring about appearances when it came to my kids. I say I don’t care that they have never been in dance/piano/karate/mommy & me/ etc. classes, but I think I do care.

Harrison goes to a pretty great preschool that continues on through 6th grade. It has a strong academic focus and the elementary kids even wear uniforms. Other kids in Harry’s class take violin lessons and are active in dance. They are all turning 5 this year and most of the kids can read. It’s a pretty cool place, but not somewhere I thought he’d ever be. The question at hand now is Kindergarten. Where do we send him?

As a public school educator, married to a former Catholic High School graduate, my husband and I have always agreed that we would send our kids to public schools. I’m not sure what to do, though, now that I have a choice. Chris and I have been toying with keeping Harrison at his present school next year for two reasons: 1) he has gained a bit of a head start and keeping him in this school will just enhance his education, and 2) this school has all day Kindergarten which Utah public schools don’t often offer. Our neighborhood elementary school is top notch – best in the Salt Lake City school district. This particular school does offer a full day program, but we would have to pay a couple hundred dollars a month to put him in it, not including the extended care we would need. We are okay with this – it’s still cheaper than private – but we are a tad worried that he might become a behavior problem if he gets bored. Also, it’s first come – first serve. We may not get in.

This is where I start to question myself, though. Beth told me today about an accelerated-type Kindergarten in our school district over at a magnet site that isn’t too far from us. She said that she was going to get Kyle screened to see if he would qualify. I freaked. Am I too late? Can I get Harrison in? I actually started getting competitive about Harrison’s capabilities compared to Kyle’s. (sorry, Beth) WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

Harrison had behavioral issues at the first school we sent him to this fall. I switched him to his current school which we all love even though he struggled in his first classroom. He actually almost got kicked out due to their “no biting” guidelines. Three bites, you’re out. Harrison has bitten three times, but the Director has been really great and knows that there were some extenuating circumstances. After the third bite, he was transferred into another room and has flourished. He is happier, behaving well, and has blossomed in every way imaginable. I have been able to focus on Ella, and getting her out of her place into this great place, for the last couple of months and it has been wonderful. Until Friday.

Harry bit again. Late in the day, he tells us that another boy hit him twice in the head so he bit him. He knows he’s not supposed to. The Director wants to meet with us on Monday. I feel like we’ve been called into the Assistant Principal’s office. What if he gets kicked out?

We started a “Happy Jar” for him this weekend. Same paper strips that we use for Ella’s “Potty Jar”. It’s to reinforce him when he uses his words instead of grunts or whines. Harry is really sensitive, but can’t express his feelings very well. How in the hell do you deal with stuff like that? I’m a counselor and have never been able to help someone talk who can’t or won’t. It is helping, but I feel like I’m just pasting something together quick to fix the latest leak in the boat. That doesn’t seem like the best approach for something as important as raising a child properly.

Parenting is relentless. The behavioral, emotional and physical challenges are daily. These other things – choosing the right school and managing behavioral crises – just add to the daily grind of diapers, discipline and enrichment. How do people do this year in and year out? I love my children to death which is probably why all of this takes such a toll on me. I want what is best for them and it KILLS me to see them hurting. Maybe that’s why I am starting to get worked up about where Harrison is going to go to school. Have I failed him some how? Did I have too much stress in my life during my pregnancy with him that has caused him to not be able to communicate very well?

I hope I don’t sound like I am totally losing it over all of this. I just feel like parenting is such an important job that deserves more training. How can it be appropriate to learn on-the-job when your actions affect human beings for the rest of their lives? There has got to be a better way.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Underwater Anatomy Class

Ella earned a baby doll by filling her potty jar with paper strips. We went to the toy store tonight to pick it out. She picked an anatomically correct boy baby doll that pees and can float in the bath tub. It came with a miniature potty chair, hooded bath towel and baby bottle (so she can ply him with liquids and watch him pee all over the floor). What more can an almost three year old girl want??

Harrison and Ella are pretty taken by “Boy Baby”. They usually take baths separately, but tonight wanted to bathe together with “Boy Baby”.

Ella: “When my baby gets out of the bath, I’m going to put her towel on.”

Me: “It’s a boy, honey.”

Ella: “No it isn’t.”

Me: “Yes..see…he has a p*nis.”

Ella: “He doesn’t have a p*nis like Harry’s.”

Me: “Yes he does. See? Here it is.”

Ella: “Oh. There’s her pee-nuts.”

Harry: “Peanuts?”

Ella: “Peanuts? We buy peanuts all the time at the grocery store!”



Extended Version

I want to thank you all for the kind words of support. I’m much better today as I knew I would be. Sleep is an amazing healer.

Harrison has forgotten or at least forgiven me for what happened. I have also forgiven myself. I do have a lot on my plate and I need to accept that the stress of it all will over take me if I don’t keep it in line.

Thought I’d clear up a few things about my face. I did go to a doctor about two days after it started last September. I had blood drawn and everything was fine. He referred me to a neurologist with suspicions of Multiple Sclerosis. October and November were extremely hard. I was convinced that I had this incurable disease.

The neurologist ordered an MRI brain scan and they found some white spots on my frontal lobe. Could be something – could be nothing. (I think they all take the same “how to give patients ambiguous answers” class in med school)

I then went to a cardiologist and had a echocardiogram and a TCD bubble test to see if my heart was leaking in any area which could release clots to my brain. This might be an explanation for the spots. That test came back negative. My heart is fine.

The next test to be administered was a spinal tap. I was extremely excited about this test - nothing better than laying on your stomach so that a HUGE needle can be inserted into your spinal column. The best part of the whole test was that I was told to lay flat for twenty four hours. If you don’t lay flat, you are more likely to cause an excruciatingly painful headache that would only be suppressed by another visit to the doctor. When I say “flat”, I mean no raised head. Originally, I had imagined a blissful day of sitting on the couch watching “Oprah” and “The Price is Right”, but it was so uncomfortable. By the end of the 24 hours, my body was all screwed up from lack of activity. I don’t know how my mom survives, day after day, not being able to walk much. It was unbearable for me. This test result took a week to come back. It was negative for MS, but positive for Lymes Disease. This required me to go see an Infectious Disease doctor. They reviewed my test results and told me that they were sorry to have wasted my time, but I indeed did NOT have Lymes. My neurologist had misread the results.

After this third test, I had started to accept my numbness and I accepted that my doctor was a nimwit. He suggested some other heart test, but I thought it was a reach. I went to get a second opinion for my sanity. I’m not sure if it helped with that or not. The new doctor did say that it couldn’t be trigeminal neuralgia or Bell’s palsy because my numbness is bilateral – it affects both sides of my face.

In about 6 months I’ll have another MRI brain scan. If the spots haven’t changed, I will just accept that it will always feel weird when my kids are on my lap and their hair rubs on my cheek. That’s okay in the scheme of things. I could have cancer. I am incredibly lucky to be healthy. Hell, I'll consider all of this my mid-life in-depth physical.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Don't call DCFS, I'll call myself

Some days I want to hit rewind or do-over.

Things started okay – I actually got on my treadmill this morning AND turned it on. Got to work early and accomplished a lot. Interacted with the students, which I rarely get to do in this position, to photograph them for a surprise project I’m working on. These were the higher highs.

Lower lows included going to a new neurologist for a second opinion. My face has been numb since late September and I’m looking for answers. First thing was the weigh-in. THAT was fun. They had a large steel square on the floor that I had to step on. I felt like a truck or a farm animal. The digital numbers flashed in front of me - numbers larger than I’ve seen in over 10 years. Then the nurse said, “Is that right?” “I don’t know” “How tall are you?” “5’8”, why?” At this point I’m about as humiliated as I could be. Was she asking if it was possible that someone could be this fat? “We’ve been having problems with the scale” Great. Just my luck. Actually, the scale was working fine. I’m just big right now.

The appointment was not exactly what I expected. My well-educated neurologist had no idea what’s wrong with me. Here was his analogy: “Some nights you wake up and hear a noise. You walk around and you can’t find anything. The doors and windows are still locked. No one is lurking around. What does that mean? That nothing is there.” Yup. My University of Utah brain doctor has no idea what’s wrong with me and basically told me to relax. Sure. Did I mention that my FACE IS NUMB!!!!!!!!!

After the doctor, I went to get the kids and the pick up went from bad to worse. Ella was in a really bad mood. She was whiny and disrespectful – not in her nature usually – that’s more my style. Just to add to the madness was her refusal to sit on the toilet. Great. I have six whole days till she needs to be completely potty trained. Picking up Harrison didn’t go any better. Both kids ran from me in opposite directions. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.

Beth called while I was in transit to schedule our “training” walk. She offered Dave up for sitting all the kids as Chris stayed at work late. My kids were so out of control by the time we drove into my driveway that I kept them strapped in their seats while I ran in and changed into my workout clothes. There’s some classic Dr. Spock.

Our visit to the Adam’s went well until we had to leave. Same old drill. Ella and Harrison have the directions embossed in their brains. When Mom wants/needs to leave, make it as DIFFICULT as possible. Run away. Refuse to put coat and shoes on. Talk back. We finally made it out, but the added struggles started to send me over the edge.

Putting the kids through the bedtime routine by myself is kind of hard. They both need a lot of individual attention. Highlights of this evening: lots of yelling, lots of crying, lots of guilt and one spanking. I spanked Harry and he looked at me and said, “that didn’t hurt” – this was uttered by the same Harrison who just yesterday I was so enchanted by. I proceeded to pull his pants down and slap his bare bottom. He started to cry. Hard. I cried too.

Chris called to check in during all of this and I managed to spread my love to him. I told him it was completely unfair that he wasn’t home. (Mind you I have worked over 40 hours of overtime in the last four weeks or so and he has not once complained let alone yelled at me to COME HOME.) He still hasn’t come home and it’s 10:30 PM. He must have a lot of work to do.

Kids are asleep and I’m all alone feeling awful. I work so much and have so little time with my kids. Why wasn’t I able to make them laugh tonight? Why did I yell so quickly? Why didn’t I use the great tactic of distraction more often? Why did I hit my son? I am mortified with myself.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

In the car on the way to pre-school this morning

I think Harrison is trying to rip my heart out one piece at a time.

H: “Mama?”

M: “Yes, Harry?”

H: “I wish you and Daddy worked on pew-ters at home?”

M: “Why is that?”

H: “Because then we could all stay home together.”

Monday, February 21, 2005

Pull ups in the wild, wild west

Beth's artistic eye

Growing up in middle America I was fairly unaware that other places didn’t look like Minnesota, Wisconsin or Illinois – the places I frequented as a child. My exposure to the West came in about 8th grade when we took our summer vacation cross country road trip to California. It took us three weeks to get there and back. Three weeks of keeping my brother on his side of the station wagon. I didn’t really appreciate it then, but at least had a reference to other landscapes as I got older.

So my knowledge of the West was limited even after I made the calculated decision to live here. Living in the city of Salt Lake is not really THE West. It is metropolitan (my words – not necessarily those of my neighbors from LA!!) and it has green grass and big trees. I have a charming older home and feel almost as if I’m still in the Midwest, except that it is much hillier and we have phenomenal views of the Wasatch Mountains.

I flew here last year with the kids, so that didn’t help my senses associate me to the fact that I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! Driving to Minnesota for Christmas started my transition to this realization – especially the horizontal, blinding, straight-line, snowy winds in Wyoming.

I have noticed subtle differences, but do not think any of them made a dent in my psyche until this past weekend as we traveled to Moab, or as I like to call it, Another Planet.

Some of the things I had previously noticed were the size of the pick up trucks out here. People like them large. Ford F-250s are a dime a dozen. I haven’t seen many gun racks on trucks, but my friends have told me that it’s a pretty common option on these loud diesel machines. Sidenote: when we first moved in, I seriously thought that there was semi-traffic on my quaint neighborhood street. I kept hearing the loud sound of a diesel engine chugging up my street. It took me about a week to finally run to the window and see who was moving into the neighborhood. That’s when I discovered that it was just the guy across the street going to work. For the size of his engine, he must haul horses daily!

Other differences include interior decorating differences. Stores, homes, restaurants have a larger percentage of western/southwestern motif. It’s fine. Just different. Also, people dress more casually for outdoor activities. Most of my friends wear fleece when they take their kids to the park. I wear my Talbot’s pea coat. I need to sell the vacation home so that I can go shop the Patagonia Outlet clearance sale. I can definitely see the advantage to this type of attire. One other subtle thing I’ve noticed while at work, also known as “treeless, barren, prairie land”, is the wind. It blows hard and often down in the valley. One afternoon a tumbleweed blew past my window during a windy snow storm. SERIOUSLY. I felt like I was in an old western movie.

This past weekend, however, exposed me to an entirely new world. Four hours from my 1927 Tudor is a red land unlike any other I had ever seen. It is full of rock, desert and formations that are beautiful and eerie at the same time. Chris and Dave went mountain biking in Slickrock and Chris said it felt like he was riding on the surface of the moon.

My experiences in Moab were somewhat limited due to rain and potty training Ella (which is going famously by the way thanks to the underwear-under-the-Pull-up-advice I got from the Internet), but what I did see was amazing. Overall I’d give the weekend a 9. Friendships are deepening between parents and kids alike, no one got sick or injured (Chris usually hurts something when biking) and we all had fun. My only complaint applies to the trip home.

Since it rained so much on Saturday, we saved touring Arches National Park for Sunday. Of course everything took longer than expected and we didn’t leave for Salt Lake until about 6:00 PM. No big deal, I thought. It’s only 4 hours. Well, it turned into a big deal. I live near mountains and need to start appreciating the weather that goes with them. Our trip was uneventful until about two hours in – just north of Price – when in the distance we saw a strange sight. I thought it was a freight train with red lights, but it was a REALLY long line of cars parked at a dead stop. We waited and waited and waited for one hour and 10 minutes. The snow started to fall and about one inch accumulated on our hood. Harrison had fallen asleep, but Ella was antsy. This was NOT a good end to my potty training extravaganza. Squatting in a snow storm in front of an audience was not something I was going to make Ella do. When the cars started to shift into Drive, the traffic moved at a crawl because we were in a pass and it was extremely icy. We drove at about 25 mph for well over an hour. The temperature rose a few degrees and the ice seemed to dissipate, but then the snow starting coming down stronger. It was blowing right into the wind shield and we couldn’t see the lines on the side of the road.

Trying to put this experience into words isn’t easy. I am a marginal writer, at best, but I am journaling this mainly for us. The wilderness, that is the West, is relentless. We were without cell phone service, bathrooms, gas stations, and medical care. I knew that Beth and Dave were a mile or two behind us, and there were cars all around us, but I still felt isolated and scared. Now that I am a parent, I have deeper responsibilities. My commitment to keep Harry and Ella safe is inside of me and it was raging last night. I am still thrilled that we live in such a magnificent place, but for many reasons I respect it much more this morning.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Harrison in Moab

I finally learned how to take a family self portrait ( I KNOW - we forgot Harrison!)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The rantings of a long day

I’m sitting in the Commons of a suburban high school right now representing my charter school at “10th Grade Orientation Night”. There is music playing – pretty old stuff like, “We will, we will rock you…” and “…American Pie..and Styx “whoa mama, …hangman is comin down from the valley…the gig is up… they finally caught me” It’s a circus-like atmosphere. Parents, students, chatting, screaming and lots of tables set up advertising extracurricular activities that incoming sophomores might be interested in.

The cheerleaders just walked by in a perfect row. Blue nylon pants with a dark stripe on the bottom, white men’s style undershirt on top, heavy makeup (like blue eye shadow and bright rouge – maybe it’s a dance line or something) and their hair is all pulled back tight in one or two buns behind their heads. Valley women (the area south of Salt Lake City proper is called the Salt Lake Valley as it sits between the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges) are a different breed. I could say a lot of tactless things, but I’ll just say this…they take fashion seriously. For example, a current hair style trend appears to be bright highlights in darker hair. Think two-tone or zebra.

I’ve been assigned Table #20, right next to #19 – Chess Club and #18 - Auto Fundamentals. My neighbors have lots of props. The Chess Club has two game boards set up and the Auto guys have a full car engine sitting on their table. I have brochures and “Send me more information” cards. Lame, I know. I thought in this energetic, feverish environment that I would probably not get too much activity at my table. I thought that maybe I could bond with Chess Club guy, but NOOOOOO. He’s too busy. His table is super popular. He has about 20 people around him. The kids are lining up to play him, but it might be because he has one of those cool Bobby Fisher box thingys. You know, those black boxes that sit on the side of the board that the players hit down after they’ve made their move. Click, click, click, bam, click. It’s going to be a long night.

Just had a few mercy visitors - parents waiting for their kids to play a game with Chess Club guy. Click, click, click, okay now it’s getting annoying.

High school is a funny place. I never really liked it myself which is ironic as I now work in one. The students in my school are not typical, though. They are more self-confident. Risk takers. They want to get more out of their education and have chosen to leave this comfort zone – the circus that America has created in its traditional big high schools.

Enough theorizing.

Two updates for this week: Mom is still doing ok. Her birthday is tomorrow. She will be 78. I sent her a care package. She loves to get packages in the mail.

Ella earned a sticker at school again today for going on the potty. Thanks to all for the ideas. I think the underwear UNDER the Pull up is my favorite. Chris doesn’t want to tell our old school that we’re leaving until we're sure she's trained. This weekend I’m finally traveling out of the area to see the Utah desert for the first time. I hope I don’t get too fixated on this and leave the condo once in awhile. Poor Ella, she has no idea what’s about to hit her. (Don’t worry. I’ll let her play outside at least once!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

"I'm a big guh-l"

What would you do?

Ok. I've got an ethical dilemma.

Harrison goes to a phenomenal pre-school. He's learning to read, he has loving, involved teachers who are tolerant, and he is HAPPY. His classroom environment is cheerful and bright. They have fun, yet structured, activities and he is thriving!

Ella goes to a not-so-phenomenal pre-school. She is not learning to read, in fact she isn't even being introduced to the alphabet. Her teacher is, well, I don't really know much about her teacher. Today, in fact, is her teacher's first day. This is teacher number FOUR. What I'm saying is that since last August, she has had three other lead teachers in her room. Her most recent teacher was pretty good, but decided she couldn't handle it here and fled back to California. Ella's classroom environment has gotten brighter and more cheerful, but it doesn't have windows and that REALLY bugs me. She does like her school, though, and seems happy.

So - back to the dilemma - Harrison's pre-school Wonderful Director just called me to let me know that there is a space available for Ella in his school. What dilemma, you ask? What could be better than getting her into this amazing place? Nothing, but she has to be potty trained and she's not.

My head was spinning during the conversation with Wonderful Director. How can we afford her to start right now? (We have to give four weeks notice at Ella's school and with our current financial situation it will be pretty hard to pay a third daycare payment this month.) How can I negotiate a learning curve clause into this?

I casually mentioned my two concerns to Wonderful Director and she was very understanding. She agreed to hold the coveted spot for two weeks. (We can probably sell plasma to cover the difference.) She was understanding until I asked about leniency. "So" I said, "when you say potty that 70% potty trained or closer to 95% potty trained?" I actually said this. To Wonderful Director. Out loud. She hesitated. Probably because she couldn't believe I said something that stupid. Out loud. "95%" was her response, followed by this question that almost made me laugh LOUDLY, "Is she having lots of accident-free days?" I had little time to think through this question, so I just sputtered out an honest, "No." I then babbled on about how she got out of the tub last night to pee and how I was going to really get on her this weekend when we go out of town with Beth and her family. (Beth is completely behind this and promises wise Pee Jar strategies for me to use on Ella.)

Wonderful Director listened politely to my incessant spewing, but with this calm silence that really said to me - "Get your kid in underwear or she can't come here!"

Do you think a Pull-up can hold a day's worth of pee?

More snow for those of you who miss it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

One of my angels

Chris came in the house this morning, after starting the cars and shoveling a bit, with a HUGE smile on his face, "Did you know that the snow here has the lowest percentage of moisture? That's why it's 'The Greatest Snow on Earth!'"

Can you tell he's pretty stoked to be living here?!!

Monday, February 14, 2005

I'm feeling pretty fortunate this holiday

I woke up on Oct. 31, 1997 with a need to talk to my good friend at the time, Ann. She was the type of friend everyone dreams of having. She supported and agreed with me ALL the time. I needed to see her, that weekend, so that she could assure me that breaking up with my fiancé was the right thing to do.

Ann lived five hours away at the time so it was a little bit of a production to get together. We figured it out and I was able to spend Halloween in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I knocked on her door at about 10:15 PM. First words out of her mouth, “Do you want to go to a party?” Of course. About 11:00 PM we arrived. As I walked in, I immediately noticed Chris. I shoved my engagement-ring-adorned-left hand in my pocket and smiled at him. The deceit had begun.

As the evening progressed, I knew that breaking up with my fiancé was inevitable. If I were this attracted to someone else, I was obviously not ready for marriage. Chris was incredibly charming, extremely handsome and a good conversationalist (although that could easily have been because of the 64 ounce rum and Coke he was drinking).

We stayed up till 5 AM talking and kissing. It was really nice. He gave me his number and then I had to punt. “Um… don’t really want my number. I’m…ummm…complicated…I just broke off an engagement.” (The ring was sitting at the bottom of my pocket). He was so great about it. He just smiled and said, “I’m complicated, too. I’m not quite divorced.” I knew he had a son, and that he hadn’t lived with the boy’s mother for about two years, but this was still a surprise. I smiled back and gave him a fake phone number! (I am still ashamed, so please don’t admonish me. You need to know I told myself I would never see him again.)

I went back to Minneapolis. Officially broke it off with my fiancé. Moved back in with my parents (which I’m so grateful for now due to my mom’s illness.) Heard that Chris had tried to call me at the fake number. Called him back and our relationship began about two weeks later.

We dated irregularly for awhile, probably due to the fact that we lived five hours apart, but talked on the phone a lot. I discovered him through those conversations. We were both cathartic, but it wasn’t a “Let’s Bitch About our Ex’s” fest. I learned he was intellectual, sensitive, caring and a loving father. He wasn’t just a pretty face. (Believe me, there were times that I thought the immense amount of lust I had for him was clouding my judgment.)

Our years together since then have been difficult. We’ve endured a nasty custody battle for his son, living in a town we both disliked to be close to his son, raising two babies – one of whom had health concerns and colic, financial stressors and home remodeling nightmares that would rival anyone’s. (This is the part where I’m supposed to say that we’ve become closer and stronger because of all the stressors, but I’m not so sure.)
I truly believe that our marriage would be in a better place if we hadn’t had to go through as much as we have.

I also truly believe that our marriage is in a good place right now.

Our move to Utah, as many of my family and friends already know, has been an epiphany. We know what’s really important. We try harder to focus on the positive things in life. We have ridden ourselves of most of the stressors we have in our control.
We brought our family to the mountains so that we could focus on us - the four of us, but with an underlying purpose of repairing the two of us.

On this Valentine’s Day, I want to tell the world that I cherish my husband. I also need to tell him that.

He has never been a romantic, but he shows his love for me in many other ways. I would love it if he gave me jewelry and flowers occasionally, but my heart still flutters when he runs out in the cold for me and starts my car in the morning.

Most importantly, he supports me at the deepest level – he wants me to be a better person and pushes me in that direction. My aspirations and my dreams are as important to him as they are to me. I yell at him sometimes if he “reminds” me to run once too often, but he knows I want to run a marathon some day. He compliments my photography skills and schemes to figure out ways that I can make money taking pictures. He lets me invite people for dinner, even when he’s too tired to entertain, because he knows I’m a social being. He wants me to spend money we don’t have on professional clothing so that I can present myself with confidence and finesse in my new position.

Chris is a playful and loving father, an extremely ambitious and smart businessman and an extraordinary partner.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Christopher.

Friday, February 11, 2005



Eli calls her "My Lady"

Ella has a boyfriend. I think.

Eli’s an older man. Just turned three and she won’t be three till April. Ella and Eli (that’s hard to say – go ahead, say it out loud) started becoming good buddies last November around Thanksgiving. Eli is a pretty rough and tumble kid with his brother and Harrison, but around Ella he’s really gentle.

They have a lot in common. Both have older brothers. Both love to copy everything their older brothers do. Both love great colors. (Eli’s favorite is pink and Ella’s is “puh-ple.”)

The other night Beth and family came over for dinner because their house was filled with floor varnish fumes. As the evening got late, I started a bath for Ella. I didn’t want her to scream when I pulled her away from the fun she was having with Eli, so I suggested he get in with her. Beth was cool with it and the two of them had a blast. They behaved SOOOO much better in the bathtub than Ella and Harry do. I couldn’t believe how much fun they had. Beth took lots of pictures, but it didn’t seem to phase either of them as they are both used to cameras in their faces the better part of any day. (Disclaimer: Beth does not work, nor as ever worked for any Kiddie Porn sites or video companies.)

I haven’t walked, excuse me, TRAINED with Beth all week. I had to work at home on a newspaper ad for my school two nights (not part of my overtime, by the way. I don’t feel I should penalize my principal for my continued inadequacy with InDesign) and then had to work Wednesday night. Last night I promised her we would walk. I walked in the door and got talked into making the Pillsbury Crescent Rolls that have been in the fridge too long. (ok, it was my idea) I also wanted a margarita. What could be better than putting my feet up, sipping a green salty slice of heaven while munching on a warm roll? Why walking with my friend Beth, THAT’S WHAT! She did it. She pulled all the right strings (“you’ll feel so much better if you walk”, etc.) and I went for a walk. Chris chimed in and told me that the sooner I walked, the sooner I could have my drink. So I told Beth I could walk, but it had to be right then (the drink, the drink!) She came over with the double stroller and Eli and we plopped Ella next to her man.

They were in heaven. They actually chatted. No screaming or annoying loud talk, just nice simple conversation. This lasted for about 40 minutes. No fighting. No pulling hats off. Nothing. Ella even leaned her head on Eli’s shoulder for a part of their ride. Beth and I didn’t really realize the moment in history that was occurring until about 25 minutes into our walk. We had talked the whole time and were not interrupted once. NOT ONCE.

Ella has a real friend. At two. How cool is that?

Well, maybe this is really what goes on here EVERY day. And don't give me shit for using a shot's Utah - they've corrupted me.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Thought you'd be glad to hear that my mom is doing much better. She is off oxygen and will get out of the hospital tomorrow. She even walked for 6 minutes. She was very excited about this because she hasn't been out of bed since last Friday.

She sounds so positive, it's amazing.

This is the kind of thing that goes on at my house EVERY day!

"Mommy, please oh please oh please take a picture of my dinosaur eating my other dinosaur.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Anyone know a good charm school?

It’s hard to watch my kids eat. Watch in an analytical sort of way. I do technically see them eat daily, but I’m usually busy doing other things like dishes or making bag lunches.

We try to have dinners together at the dining room table (I’m a counselor – I KNOW the importance of this), but it can be difficult. You see, they can move around. Literally. They jump out of their chairs and run around - run to their room for something, run over by their sibling to poke or tease, climb under the table or (my personal favorite) jump out just to stand next to their chair. They simply cannot sit in a chair quietly for more than about one minute.

Sitting at the kitchen counter has solved most of our mobility issues, but we can find nothing to solve our Poor Table Manners problem. Harrison is REALLY good at The Chipmunk. You know – he often daintily holds his food with both hands and then he chews quickly simultaneously shoving the food in barely able to keep from choking because he can’t swallow fast enough. Ella, on the other hand, has mastered The Scooper. She attempts to use silverware as often as possible, but nothing is better at getting as much food into her mouth, as fast as possible, as scooping it with her hand and then pushing it into her mouth. She loses approximately a third of the amount every time.

Tonight, as Chris monitored this evening’s Poor Table Manners, he commented that he was anxious for them to grow up so that they could start cleaning up after themselves. (We do ask them to clean up their table messes occasionally, but who are we kidding? Preschoolers can’t clean for shit.) He then made some reference to the zoo and monkeys. (You can probably fill in the blanks.)

The monkey reference definitely grabbed the kids’ attention. They thought that was hilarious. So, my lovely spouse tried to turn it into a teachable moment.

Chris: “What does a monkey do, Harrison?”
Harry: Lifts arm and scratches arm pit.

Chris: “What else does a monkey do?”
Harry: Lifts other arm to scratch that arm pit.

Warms my cockles to know that the hard-earned thousands we have invested in Harrison’s ACADEMIC preschool are paying us such grand dividends.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Socially mature Harrison

Recent News

Ella : self-initated pee-er. Got out of the tub tonight, on her own accord, and peed!!! This is about the third time she's done this. We have high hopes that she will be in underwear soon. We could really use the money we spend on diapers for BILLS!

Harrison : honor student. Had a great talk with his teacher who told me that he was socially mature in his class. MY HARRY! Most of you have no idea how great this is. He was a mess last fall and was almost kicked out of the same school until he was moved into a new room with this same above mentioned teacher. I LOVE MR. CHRIS!

Chris : world's longest phone conversationalist. I used to think he was the world's longest shower taker, until he got on the phone with his mother tonight. Believe me...I totally support mother-child relationships, but Chris and his mom don't like each other. It's not sad, really, more like uncomfortable. Tonight, however, when I need him to help with the kids, he and his mom are BEST FRIENDS! They just can't stop coming up with irrelevant topics to talk about.

Glenn (my dad) : supporting husband of the year. Talked to him this morning and he's feeling pretty helpless. "I'm fine...healthy...playing the best golf of my life (we both agreed that's a fairly relative statement!) and she just has so many struggles." At 75, he's been put in the role of caretaker. He does all the cooking, shopping and cleaning now. He's fine with it, but upset with the reasons behind the new role.

Trudy (my mom) : bravest woman on earth. She's been in fairly good spirits. Talked with her tonight. Today was a bad day - too many uncomfortable tests in cold rooms, bad hospital food and extremely LOUD roommates. They are moving her tonight into the cancer unit where she has been promised it will be much better. I guess cancer patients are, on average, quieter than heart patients?? She will be in the hospital until Thursday. She has a filter in her abdomen now and is on blood thinning medicine.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


"Harrison Bear"

About two weeks ago, Beth and I decided to start walking regularly. Fast walking – somewhere between strolling and swinging-arms-around-the-mall power walking. On our first outing, Beth had an abdominal attack and I (still not completely acclimated to this higher attitude - ha ha) got a side ache about 5 minutes in. We decided to walk to our neighborhood grocer and get some water.

On our way in, we ran into one of my neighbors. She lives between Beth and I, but Beth didn’t know her. She is an amazing older woman who is widowed and lives alone. I admire her because of her independence and her continued curiousity in the world. One day last summer she waved across the street to me with a VERY large smile. “Carol, I just took the tram up to the top of Sundance and then hiked down. It was amazing! You HAVE to try it sometime!” (Yes, I will – when I gain the stamina of a 70 year old!)

She introduced herself to me within a few days of moving here, last July, and I immediately LOVED her because she had a great thick German accent that reminded me of my Oma and all my Tantes. She has baked German cookies for us and even brings the kids special candy treats on holidays.

My mom and dad came to visit late last summer and I quickly introduced my mom to her because of their parallel German heritage as well as their health parallel – they both have cancer.

We all chatted, after I introduced Beth to her, about where her house was in relation to Beth’s as Beth worked her angle. (She’s looking for someone who won’t mind if she and the boys cut through their yard to get over to our street where all the kid action is.) My neighbor asked about my mom and I filled her in on her recent failings – the tumors that had afflicted her legs, lungs and brain.) She was immediately sympathetic and thoughtful. I then asked her how she was doing and unexpectedly discovered that she was also going through some difficulty – that she too had a tumor in her lung.

As Beth and I said our goodbyes, I hugged my neighbor and told her that I would pray for her. She lifted her sleeve to reveal one of those yellow Lance Armstrong bracelets. (I’d always thought that I should buy some due to the large number of people I know affected by cancer.) She smiled at me and told me that I should get one for my mother.

Friday, a package was on my doorstep with ten Lance Armstrong Foundation “LiveStrong” bracelets. Each bracelet was individually wrapped which caused the kids to think that they were something special – like packages of fruit snacks or something. Harrison ripped one open and put it on his bear.

Yesterday I went into work for awhile. My school had a recruitment event. I came home about 3:00 PM and Chris was waiting by the door. The kids were happy to see me, but he immediately put them in their coats and outerwear to take them outside which I thought was a little odd since I had just gotten home. He then looked at me with a serious look and said, “Call your mom. She’s in the hospital. Blah, Blah, Blah.” I didn’t really listen to everything he said. Something about blood clots.

It turns out that she has two clots in her lungs and a large one in her leg. She had trouble breathing in Friday while my dad was golfing. An ambulance trip later, she was admitted for three or four days. She’s on oxygen and complete bed rest.

I’ve talked to her a couple times and she seems to be getting better. The words I can’t get out of my head, though, are “I am so sick of this.”

I would do anything to make it all go away.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Road Warrior

Hand off

trying to keep up

"Let's go play in the street!"

Burning energy

Friday, February 04, 2005

We call this "The Reading Chair"

8:28 PM

Ella is up on a kitchen stool at the counter eating orange slices. She has wet hair and is in warm pajamas having just taken a bath.

Harrison is in the bath tub now and Chris is sitting on the bathroom floor hanging out with him.

I'm in the dining room, right off the kitchen, "working" on my laptop.

Ella: “Mom, can you take the peel off, because I can’t. I can only take one peel off over here. Mom!”

Me: (Ok, Ok)

I’m back. I hear noises from the bathroom that sound like pure joy. Harrison is giggling and Chris is making noises in his throat that sound like some sort of motor.

Ella: “I’m done Mommy. Can you wipe me up?”

I’m back again. Chris and Harrison are playing with boats in the water and the shark. Harrison is still giggling.

Ella has now interrupted them. “Daddy, can you please hold me?” She likes to be touching us at all times. If she isn’t on one of our laps, she is stroking our face or asking to be held.

I like that I am a mother.

I like that I am a wife.

I feel content tonight.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

In the eye of the beholder

My mom and I were talking this evening on the phone. It’s so hard because she lives in Florida and I’m way out here - the two hour time difference can be difficult. I like to wait to call until after 7 PM when I have free long distance and that is pretty late for anyone over 35 with little kids, let alone my 77 year old mother. So, as I normally do, I take the selfish route and call at 7:00 anyway.

I woke her, of course. She’s always very nice about it. “That’s okay, I just had my eyes closed” which in Trudy code means that she was not FULLY sleeping, just in that haze between awake and asleep.

Our conversation was disjointed at best. My kids choose to ask me 50 million questions whenever I put a phone up to my ear and that can get a little distracting. Tonight was no exception. My mom was very patient and just asked me to repeat things a lot. After the kids finally disappeared for a complete five minute period, I was able to have a better conversation. We talked about me first – she’s really nice about that – and then I asked how she was doing.

Her days have been full of bridge games with friends in their condo community, and crossword puzzles on the lanai, but she still gets bored occasionally. She then filled me in on how the latest chemo treatments have been working. Her cancer marker blood test revealed a large drop in her count this week which is GREAT! Her hair has fallen out, “You should see me, I’m completely bald!” she tells me with a smile. We then discussed the available options she has besides her wig – today she’s leaning towards a turban. (Personally, I’m pushing for a cute Gilligan-style hat.)

She then told me that she has been getting compliments on how good she looks. “Carol, I actually think my wrinkles are disappearing. I keep looking for them! I am still using the same moisturizers.” At this point we are both laughing because it’s almost as if she’s justifying her claims. (Don’t worry, Mom, I don’t think you’ve gone and gotten Botox!) We then laughed as we visualized her in a TV commercial telling everyone the amazing wrinkle decreasing benefits of chemotherapy.

Thank God we can laugh about some of this.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Communication Styles

Ella: Hare-son, move.

Harrison: (no comment)

Ella: (screaming) Hare-son, MOVE!

Harrison: (elbows her leg)

Ella: (crying and screaming) MAMA! (sob, gasp, sob) Hare-son won't let me get my shoes.

Harrison: (stands up and pushes her into the wall)

Ella: (more crying and screaming)

Mama: Harrison, use your words.
(One of 50-60 standard sentences I say over and over and over. Other favorites: "Go to your room", "Apologize to your sister", "Please don't use your head as weapon, Harrison", "Can you please stop whining?"

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

It doesn't suck to be me

Sunday, after our wonderful trip to the amazing Salt Lake City library , we drove over to a downtown Italian deli to pick up some bread and dipping oil. The deli is across the street from a city park that is notorious as a haven for homeless people.

As we drove around the park, to get to Caputo’s, I watched the activity. Two men were walking holding big bags. One man was walking cloaked in a large white blanket. (“Look, Mama, he’s going to find a place to sleep,” Harry explained.) In one area, there was a large collection of people huddled around a couple of cars and tables. (Sometimes churches or organizations bring hot meals to the park for the homeless.) Off to the side of the larger group of people was a make-shift game of baseball. It was 38 degrees out and a neatly dressed woman was pitching to a not-so-neatly dressed man. He never hit the ball, but he kept awkwardly swinging at it and laughing. Patiently waiting in the outfield were a few other men.

We pulled into our parking spot, right across from the baseball game, to begin the unloading ritual (unbuckling car seats, verbal reminders of all rules while in a store, verbal reminders of all rules while crossing a street, verbal reminders of how to NOT hit your sister, etc.) As I jumped out and closed my door, I noticed a woman in the car next to ours changing her shirt. I didn’t think much of it other than to look away so I wouldn’t embarrass her. I quickly noticed, though, that her small car was full. I mean packed to the ceiling with food and piles of clothes, pillows and papers.

I opened the automatic sliding door of my fairly clean, newer minivan feeling guilty. I grabbed Harrison and hugged him tight (as he struggled to touch down onto the street and get away from me!) thinking "I am so lucky."

It was one of those “a-ha” moments. I have a beautiful home – well actually TWO beautiful homes. I am NOT homeless. I have a thoughtful, caring, funny, attractive husband who I want to be with. I am NOT alone. I have amazing children who are the light of my life. They are hard work, but EVERYTHING I could have asked for. I am NOT broke. I can still buy necessities and even beyond that.

When I’m bitching about weight and how FAT I think I am… When I’m bitching about how much it sucks to pay all of my bills… When I’m bitching about my kids’ temper tantrums… Will you please remind me of that woman who lives in her car

Exploring the library

A sign in the children's section of the library