Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Maybe it isn't so bad

Stash from the front yard Easter Egg hunt

Update: see end of post

I’ve received a lot of support and advice over the last 24 hours. When I wrote my post yesterday, I didn’t realize how strong my feelings of angst were. It must have come through because I didn’t even realize that I had posed a question – to stay at home or stay at work.

Some suggested following my heart. A wonderful strategy. Others thought that I should stay home with Marge even suggesting I take a leave immediately. Chris’ response to that was, “sure, I would suggest that too if I lived right in San Francisco!” (We love S.F. and are bitterly jealous of you!)

Reality states that I must work, however. Two mortgages, two preschool bills, one child support payment, car payments and general living expenses prohibit the luxury of one income. Could we pare things down? Absolutely. I just don’t think that the two mortgage thing can be pared down until Mr and Mrs Perfect come and buy our vacation home. Also, I doubt my current employer of less than 8 months would accept a leave on my part. I have a master’s degree and 16 years of work experience. I need to be careful with what I’ve built.

So where does that leave me? I think the experiences of the last couple of months have made me a better mother. A more sincere mother. I wrote a couple of months ago that I didn’t truly, truly enjoy mothering until I took Harry to “The Polar Express” movie. Maybe that’s when it all started to sink in. That may sound really trivial or weird to some, but as I said – parenting has never come terribly easily to me. But, this is real. These two little people are mine forever. To mold and love and teach and hold.

I may not be able to parent exactly as I want to right now, but I need to make it work and put them first. I’ve always done that, but for some reason it feels different now. Easier. More natural.

Both kids are still sick. Harrison had a fever most of the day and Ella is coughing in her sleep as I write this. Each cough makes me cringe. I told my co-workers that I would not be in tomorrow. My in-laws, who are visiting from Green Bay, watched them today, but are leaving tomorrow. I’m glad. This is my job and Chris’. He’ll take Friday and we’ll just go from there. One day at a time – figuring it all out along the way.

Update: My friend who's helping me sell my house back in Wisconsin just called. There is a woman who seems interested after she saw the house last night. Guess how this potential buyer found my email to contact me ? She Googled my post, "817 S. Quincy" I LOVE THE INTERNET!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

lunches in restaurants or mac n cheese at home?

the new do

Why does it always seem to be greener on the other side of the fence? I have worked full time since my kids were born, but for the first time I’m having serious doubts about my choice. Because I work for a public school system, I do get summers with the kids, but is that enough? Do they deserve to be home with me (or Chris)? Would I be able to psychologically handle it?

I’ve been on Spring Break since last Thursday. Got up this morning with every intention of going to back to work after five days away. Ran on my treadmill. Started making lunches for the kids, when Ella trotted into the kitchen whining, “Hold me. Hold me.” (It’s adorable the first couple of times....) I reached down to pick her up and immediately recognized the tell tale sign of a fever – she was warm under her arms. I pulled her into a hug and pushed my hand under her shirt onto her bare back. She was burning up. I immediately knew I wouldn’t be going to work today. Chris’ job is more demanding right now and though we usually discuss who will stay home according to work load/commitments, I knew that I would be staying. In fact, like a mother bear, I wanted to stay home - to protect and care for my little girl.

Harrison, usually the first one up, wouldn’t get up this morning. He lingered in bed much longer than usual. I made his lunch and planned for him to go to his new preschool without Ella. I didn’t realize how much of a transition this is for him – switching schools. He gave me quite a pathetic face as I told him that Ella was staying home and he would have to go to school alone. “But Mama, I have a fever, too.” (fake cough, fake cough) Dropping him off this morning was really hard. He just stood there staring at Ella and me as we left him amongst the staff and kids who are virtual strangers to him. Last Friday, his first day at this school, I think he spent most of his time exploring and playing with Ella. The reality of him going alone was hard for both of us.

Focusing on Ella, I came to the realization that she has become a rather sickly kid. She had a follow-up doctor’s appointment, from her trip to the ER two or three weeks ago, scheduled for today. Good thing because the inhalers aren’t cutting it anymore. She’s hacking up a lung every other minute and I’m sick of it. Sick of the fevers, treatments, coughing, and medications. I sent her on her way to the doctor with Chris because I had a lunch appointment with a potential business partner for my school. We need speakers and money to keep up our program.

The meeting was great. I was articulate and “sales-ish” without sounding crass and annoying. The gentleman I met with travels to Europe a lot and speaks fluent French. His interest in my school was sincere and his questions were really fun to answer. We also talked about business, religion (I know – weird, but not a bad weird), divorce, mountains, and ambition. He brought out a side of me that has been hard to find lately. I was interesting without talking about potty training or preschool dilemmas.

When I got home, Chris gave me the doctor’s visit wrap-up. “Ella has five prescriptions waiting for her at the pharmacy.” Great. Ear infection, more inhalers, steroids, etc. Even the pharmacist seemed sympathetic as she handed me all the medicine. Ella took it all in stride. “I want my Sing-gu-lah!” she sang throughout the drugstore. (She used to take Singulair daily, but an allergist told me to stop and now she’s back on and heard me say so.)

I then decided to pick Harrison up early from school for two reasons: 1) I was worried about his mental state – he’s still pretty emotional after all the discipline he received at his old school and 2) he has indoor soccer tonight and I didn’t want to rush him there right after school. He was half asleep on his cot when we arrived. (Yes, I’m the lame parent who doesn’t know when rest time is and bounded into school with Ella making lots of noise.) Harry lifted his head half way and then covered his mouth with his fingers together and straight. “Do you need to throw up?” “mumble, mumble” “Do you want to sleep some more?” “mumble, WHINE, mumble” “C’mon Harrison – let’s go home.”

As usual, Harry sat down to take off his shoes inside the door. He threw his coat on the floor and walked directly into his bed. It happened so fast that all I saw were the covers being pulled up over his body. These are not typical behaviors of my boy. He rarely naps anymore, let alone by choice.

I got Ella settled in front of a video (or as I like to justify it and call it “Quiet Time”) and the guilt pains rushed to the surface. How do we handle Harrison’s care for tomorrow? Should I take another day off? Will Chris be able to? What about Ella? She’s probably not ready to go back, but could if we pushed it. Do I even care if I miss another day of work? Shouldn’t I? Do I even like my job right now? Then the big one hit – IF YOU STAYED HOME YOU WOULDN’T BE HAVING THESE WORRIES.

So here I sit. Contemplating life’s little quandaries. What makes me happy? What’s the right thing to do? You know – just typical stuff.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The best part about coloring Easter eggs with the kids is listening to Ella say "Lello" (yellow) and "Puh-ple" over and over again!

The Pull-Up Twins - Eli & Ella

Friday, March 25, 2005

So far, so good

Harrison was so excited to go to Ella’s new school this morning. He asked me if he was going there “forever”, and I said, “Probably” not wanting to upset him. “Yea!” he said. “Why do you want to go to Ella’s school forever?” “Because I love her soooooo much.”

I know these loving feelings may change at any moment, but for now I’m going to take credit for raising two great kids who love the hell out of each other. Ella, just don’t touch his blankie with balls (his favorite blanket that is crocheted with popcorn ball knot thingys), or his Leppy and life will stay good for at least another day.

P.S. I’m feeling so happy about how great Harrison’s first day was that while I was in getting my hair done FINALLY, I got crazy and let her cut bangs. Dave, my new favorite person, says my new do reminds him of Michelle Pfeiffer. There you go – life doesn’t get much better!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Harry J

A tough decision

Had a nice day off. Took the kids to school at a more leisurely pace. When we arrived at Ella’s school, her director greeted me with, “I’ve been thinking of your son all night.” We confirmed that I would bring Harrison for a trial run next week.

Dropped Harrison off with his one hundredth message of love, support and reminders not to hit, bite, kick, or spit. “You can be mad, just don’t hurt your friends.” He happily jumped into the Lego pile with a couple of the other boys. I walked over to his regular teacher and expressed my concern about yesterday’s events. She seemed much more in tune, than the director, with the fact that the instability in the classroom is causing many of the kids to act out. I felt a little better after the conversation.

It was nice to have some time at home alone.. I read some blogs, cleaned the kitchen and rubbed the marker artwork off the wool rug that the kids had created last night. Washable markers have got to be one of the greatest inventions ever. I was energized by all the supportive comments I got from all of you and started to seriously consider what it would take to move Harrison to his sister’s school. My mom called, and after hearing the latest news about Harry, gave me some words of advice. “Move him to the nurturing school. His current school is more suited for kids who aren’t as sensitive - who are able to let these kind of things (his teacher leaving) roll off their back.” After a great lunch with Beth and a work buddy, I came home to laundry and more cleaning. It was so nice just to have the time to do all of this without the kids undoing everything.

I was anxious to pick up Harrison this afternoon because it seems that things get worse for him later in the day. As I entered the classroom and signed him out, the kids were all at the tables by the door doing an art project. Voices of the kids yelled to me, “Harrison’s in the office”, over and over. The sub teacher did not say anything. I walked across the room to get his coat and papers. As I walked back up to the door, fuming, the teacher looked at me and said, “Harrison is in the office.” “I gathered, “ was my response even though I wanted to say, “No shit, Sherlock!”

My heart was racing as I walked down the hall towards the office. As I approached, there was Harrison sitting in a chair outside of the actual “office” being scolded by a substitute teacher. It was hard to watch, but I let her finish as she was almost done. Harry saw me and raced over to hug my leg. The teacher approached me to tell me about his offense and was still very upset. “He apparently did this yesterday, too, because he told me he hurt someone else.” That was about all I could take. “Yes,” I responded, “He was written up. I’m fully aware (even if you aren’t and probably don’t even know his name!) I don’t think this is working for him. Your classes are too big for him. I think this might be his last day.” I don’t know why I told her all that. I was just sooooo mad and frustrated. I felt terrible for Harrison and yet I was mad at him, too. I grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the school quickly. By the time we reached the parking lot, my mind was made up – he was never going back there.

By the time we got to Ella’s school (about a mile down the road), Harrison explained to me why he hurt his friend. He spoke more clearly about his feelings than he usually does and I understood where his anger had come from. I repeated my use-your-words-not-your-hands lecture and he seemed relieved that I didn’t yell. I asked Ella’s teacher if Harrison could come tomorrow and she assured me he was welcome.

I announced my decision to Chris when we got home and he fully agreed. He’s a great writer – much better with things like this – and is planning to write the director and corporate about how we are feeling after the last few weeks events.

Another change. Another transition. I can only hope that the community at Ella's school can engulf him with their kind and nurturing spirit and purge the anger within my little man.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Daycare dilemma...again


Today was the “Easter”, oops, I mean “Spring” Party at Ella’s new preschool. She wore pastel colors – even tights and a flowered skirt. I was proud! They had a special lunch (that I didn’t have to make!) and even dyed eggs. She greeted me at the door tonight with a little basket filled with bright jelly beans, pale yellow grass, a plastic egg and a hard boiled egg. Harrison, by my side, noticed the basket, too, and they ran together to the table to look through her loot.

I stayed by the door and vented to two of her teachers about what I had been through the 30 minutes prior to coming to get Ella. Picking up Harrison this afternoon, I was in a great mood. I hadn’t seen either of my kids, for a substantial amount of time, since Monday night as we went to the NBA game with the Adam’s last night. I left for work early this morning and both kids were in a great mood. It left me with a lot of incentive to leave work on time and get to them quickly. As I entered Harry’s classroom, I noticed two substitute teachers in the room again. Harrison’s favorite teacher, Mr. Chris, has recently gone AWOL. Literally. He just hasn’t come in to work for about two weeks now. No one seems to know where he is – apparently he never even called. His other teacher ends her day about 3:00, so I think they’ve been scrambling to find coverage. One teacher was trying to read a story, while the other teacher was disciplining three of the kids. Harrison was sitting right next to the teacher who was reading. Apparently he had been misbehaving while sitting with the other children who were trying to listen. I wasn’t too surprised as he gets antsy late in the day. I couldn’t help but notice how frazzled the two teachers were. How they didn’t have control of the kids. They didn’t even know the children’s names and some of the kids were trying to help them with that.

I grabbed Harrison’s papers/drawings out of his cubby and found a discipline slip from his director. “Notice of Concern: (name, date, etc. – ok here’s the good part) "Harrison has had issues recently with spitting, hitting, kicking other students. We are concerned with this comportment (what?) issue as it is not acceptable in Kindergarten (apparently they are already thinking about next year).” I was blown away. Harry hasn’t had any behavior issues to speak of at school for quite awhile. The slip asked me to call, but I was there before 5:00 and walked right down to her office.

The director and I have been on awkward terms since the Ella incident. I am still a little bitter about it, but tried to remain calm and approach this with a fresh outlook. The director said that Harrison had a bad day. (Duh.) The first thing she wanted to know is if something was going on at home. I’m a counselor. I know exactly what she’s thinking and I quickly squelched her thought pattern. “No, in fact things are great. He has been more affectionate and loving than usual lately. He’s been telling me he loves me more often and is really expressing his love for his sister, too.” She cautiously nodded. Her comment put me on the defense, so I decided to go for the jugular. “I just left his room and I need you to know that it is chaotic in there right now.” She didn’t really accept that, but I gave her some scenarios. I also mentioned that the absence of Mr. Chris has affected him. I told her that he is convinced that his favorite guy (next to his dad) is out ill. “Mama, Mr. Chris IS coming back. He went to the doctor and is home recovering right now.” (I think Harry is pulling this from watching Ella go to the ER a couple weeks ago – and yes, he really used the word “recovering”) Our conversation ended with both of us agreeing that no matter what’s going on, Harrison needs to learn to handle frustration and anger in non-aggressive ways.

I tried to discern what had happened today to set him off, in the car on our way to get Ella, and he was unable to tell me much of anything. “Harry, what do you like about your school?” “Playing with the toys.” “What don’t you like about your school?” “Going to Miss Shawna’s office when I get in trouble.” Harrison, like his brother, is not a fan of verbalizing thoughts, feelings or details of a situation. It’s frustrating as hell for me, but it does help me to gain patience.

As Ella’s teachers listened to me tell them every thought and feeling I was having, including verbalizing every detail of what happened, I was comforted by their insightful and compassionate responses. They really honed in on the missing-Mr.-Chris-piece without me even mentioning it. They were unimpressed that preschoolers are "sent to the office" when they misbehave. The more they supported me, the more I talked. Harrison and Ella were playing so nicely together admiring both of their baskets (one of Ella’s teachers gave him his own)that I was able to talk uninterrupted and calmly. Finally, I expressed something, out loud, that I had been pondering for over a week. Harrison has been asking to attend Ella’s school. I haven’t taken his request too seriously. Not because I don’t respect my son, but my God, HE’S FOUR! He loves their sandbox and puzzles. For Harry, it’s usually about the toys. If you have good toys, you’re in. However, he’s been pretty consistent with his request and keeps telling me the he wants to be with his sister because “I love her.” Because of recent events, I asked the owner/director/teacher if she would be willing to let Harrison visit for a day to try it out. She suggested one day next week while Harrison is on Spring Break. Harry overheard this and seemed happy at the thought of "playing" at Ella's school for a day. He even brought it up later while I was boiling eggs for dinner. Harrison ate the egg in Ella's basket - that she had resoundingly rejected - and loved it. He asked for two more and I had to stop letting him eat them when he asked for a fourth. (Yuck - I hate hard boiled eggs!)

Just when I thought life was calming down, I am now heading straight into another daycare dilemma. Am I crazy? Should I just leave him in his stable environment? Or should I send him to a much smaller school where he might flourish, or he could fail miserably. My baby boy does need to learn to behave consistently and appropriately. Could another change wreak havoc or bring serenity?


Where did you come from????

Ella has become so precocious lately. She gets this gleam in her eye, and a look on her face, that I just can’t believe is on my child’s face. Who is this girl? Where did she come from?

The last time I remember feeling this way was right when she was born. I was used to having one child, and to suddenly be holding another one – that they told me came from INSIDE of me – was just too bizarre.

Monday, March 21, 2005

We do live closer to Idaho now

While I was helping Harrison into his pajamas last night, he announced, “Mama, you smell.”

I refrained from getting defensive and simply replied, “Oh. And what do I smell like?”

“Potatoes. FRESH potatoes.”

Really. I had no idea.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Harry Knows Best

This morning it is snowing and fairly cold. What a difference a day makes. Yesterday it was much warmer, but the morning air was still crisp. Chris had to go in to work for the day and without him I cannot open the garage door to pull out all the things a mom and two kids need to play outside. The garage door opener has been broken for about five months and it is a total pain in the butt. We have such limited disposable income that priorities for spending on other things have won out this winter. The only way to open it is with brute finger strength. One has to wedge their fingers underneath the bottom of the door and then pull it up. No longer are handles put on the outside of garage doors – a little fact I hadn’t noticed until ours broke – so it is impossible for me to open the door. This gets to be quite annoying. Luckily, I remembered to ask Chris to pull the Burley and sand toys for the day.

Harrison noticed that Dad was outside, and still in his too-short-for-him-glow-in-the-dark-dinosaur-footie pajamas, he ran outside to see what was going on. Chris was outside pulling things out of the garage for me and told Harry to go in, change and then get a coat and shoes on. Right. That’s really gonna happen. Harrison responded the only way any almost five year old could – he ran in and put on his alligator rain boots and coat right over his pulled-too-tight jammies. He then grabbed his digger and dump truck and started playing in the sand box and our little play house.

(rest of this post guest-written by my husband)

When Chris noticed that Harrison had come back out, he walked around the garage to check on him. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed something unexpected sitting up in the tree branches that extend over the top of the outdoor gym thingy.

Dad: What is that in the tree?

Harrison: My Snow Leopard. (a snow leopard puppet named “Leppy”)

Dad: What is Leppy doing in the tree?

Harrison: He is a leopard, they climb trees.

Dad: But he is a stuffed animal and he shouldn’t be outside, you will forget him tonight and he will get wet.

Harrison: That doesn’t matter. He is a snow leopard, Dad. They live in the snow and snow is wet.

Dad: But he is a stuffed animal and should stay in your room.

Harrison: No, he is a snow leopard and they live outside in trees and snow, he will be all right.

Dad: Hmmmmm…..I am not so sure but if you think he should stay outside then I guess that is OK.

Harrison: Yes, he can stay outside, he will be all right.

So….who did Dad find in the tree just as it started to rain on Saturday night while picking up all the toys from the backyard? Leppy, in pounce position, anticipating a bird or neighborhood pet for dinner.

Saturday, March 19, 2005's a good thing

Thanks for all your advice. I will definitely check out that "how to get organized" website a few of you told me about!

I don't know, though, if I really need help. I think my children are getting everything they need from us.

Friday, March 18, 2005

one step forward, two steps back

It’s amazing what a difference a few days makes. Just a few days ago, I was on my parent’s lanai stomping ocean sand off my Teva sandals. This morning I’m having trouble sleeping because I have so much to do, and so much on my mind.

The laundry to be folded has taken over our house. The dishwasher has to be unloaded and there are dirty dishes on the counter waiting patiently. I have to submit an ad to the newspaper in Wisconsin by 5:30 PM tonight to advertise the open house we are having Sunday. ( I found a good friend to host it for us. We’re going to try and sell it on our own for a month or so before relinquishing to a realtor. Beth and Dave have been WONDERFUL and donated time and web space to our cause.)

The reason that Chris and I get so behind with things is because we have decided that our kids and sleep are more important than cleaning. It has been a hard decision to come to. We HATE disorder and dirt. Who doesn’t? But working full time is brutal on the amount of quality time we spend with our kids. Each evening we struggle to balance all that life throws at us. Sorting through the mail can become a monumental task when you have to prepare dinner, find the washable paints you promised Harrison he could use, help Ella find the hair elastics you just bought her the other day so she can sort and organize them (yes, she’s already showing signs of obsession AND compulsion), let alone do the dishes from breakfast, or vacuum a room. Throw in Harrison’s new twice-a-week soccer league and you can imagine how that affects us.

We want to figure out a better way. We wish we could do it all. Neither of us are night owls. By the time the kids are down for the night, we usually retreat to the living room to relax a bit. Rarely can either of us make it past 10 PM before we fall into bed to start over. I guess that’s probably because we are early risers. Chris had to go into work this morning (left here at 4:06 AM) to get caught up. I never fell asleep after he got up and left. So the day begins. I’m behind already because I’m doing this, but it makes me happy to record our life right now. Oh well, the kids will never know that we lived in chaos and disorder – it’s never been any other way! Hopefully they’ll know that to keep our sanity we just did the best we could. Sanity is good!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

"We just bought it for the large trunk." Mmm...doubt it.

My first day home has been good. The hugs from my kids have been amazing, but I can't help but miss my ride! I drove this a lot while I was visiting my parents. Had to fit in with the South Florida retirement crowd!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Those were the days

When I was in 8th grade, Stacey Kness and I would take the city bus down into the heart of Minneapolis. We would dress up for these adventures – my mother insisted on it, and Stacy and I thought it was kind of fun so we always complied. Neither of us ever had much spending money, but we loved to window shop. We would go all over and then end the afternoon at the Walgreen’s because it had a photo booth that would produce those black and white strip pictures. I know I have one in my sentimental-crap-from-my-past-that-Chris-wishes-I-would-throw-away-box down in the basement. I run across it every few years. It’s hard to forget Stacey’s huge smile – braces sparkling from the flash and her rubber bands pulled so tight it looks as if they’ll break any second from smiling so big.

I remember feeling grown up during these afternoons. I think it was because of our early privilege of independence (WHAT was my mother thinking letting me go down to the big dark city without adult supervision??), but also because we wore skirts. I still love to dress up. I usually feel significantly better about myself if I am in nice clothes. My dad commented this afternoon, as we waited in an incredibly long line to check my bag, about the way it used to be with air travel. He remembers when it was glamorous and easy. People actually dressed up to go on an airplane. They didn't throw on sweats or flannel pajama pants. Now it feels more like a cattle herding (his words, not mine.)

Dressing comfortably is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but I do long for the days when people wore hats and presented themselves in a more polished manner.

The last few years of having babies and raising infants/toddlers/preschooler have wreaked havoc on my body. My body droops more, I hang on to fat in different places than I used to, and my face has aged a LOT. I try to eat right and exercise, but I haven’t been consistent with either. I’ve been successful on Weight Watchers, but gained it all back over the last two years. All of these factors lead me to one thing – I am not proud of my appearance. I guess even my father has noticed because yesterday, during our brunch date (mom was too tired to come along) he asked me if I ever wear lipstick. I gave him my excuses – I never remember to put it on, I drink a lot of coffee and water during the day so it just comes off, and I don’t own any colors I really like. He patiently listened and said, “Well, you should.” Thanks, Dad. I know you mean well, but your timing sucks.

I haven’t been able to have my hair highlighted, brows waxed or hair cut in many moons. Chris always tells me to go ahead and get it done, but I am very worried about our financial situation and never want to put more on the credit card than is necessary. Last week, the day before I left for Florida, a gift of cash was given to my hair. That’s what the envelope said, “To: Carol’s hair” – with strict instructions that this money was not to be spent on Pull-ups or fixing the garage door opener. It was just for me. When I got to Naples, I called the only Aveda salon in the phonebook and they had an opening for today. I LONGED for this appointment. I REALLY want to look a little better and getting my hair done always helps. I bounced into the salon a minute early and was greeted by those wonderful Aveda smells. My mind was filled with thoughts of being pampered for two hours and how great it would be to have someone else deal with straightening my hair with a dryer today! As her finger scoured the page for a longer period than I felt was usual, the words I dreaded came our of her mouth. “I can’t find your name.” Sure enough, they mis-scheduled me for next Monday. I was not a happy person. After I said “Fuck”, not under my breath but loud and clear, the receptionist gathered that I was upset. She had no idea about the anticipation that had built up for this moment, the hours I was able to freely give to it as I was already on vacation, that I would now have to sacrifice precious weekend time with my kids to try and do this at home, but that didn’t stop me. “Can you come back next Monday?” “NO! I’ll be in UTAH!!!”, I yelled as I stormed out. I can only imagine what material I gave them for the rest of their day.

I am not proud of my behavior, but I am proud of what I did next. I ran down the street to a great costume jewelry store. They have mountains of trendy stuff at really cheap prices. I was in the mood to be glamorous. Pretty. I found a rhinestone ring that I liked and I bought it – all 10K of fake emerald-cut amber for $14. It’s huge, it’s gawdy and I love it. Not what most mothers of preschoolers working in public education wear, but what the hell. I needed to feel pretty and this has done it. You should see it now as it glimmers under my reading light in the plane! Pure joy.

My dad was right about the lipstick. My mom has a ton of tubes that were given to her by some foundation that helps people on chemo feel prettier with makeup. She doesn’t wear make up too often, so she gave some to me. I put some on and now – in conjunction with my ring – I look pretty great. No suburban-housewife-look for me, no sir-ree!

I think tomorrow I’ll wear the ring AND the $6 sparkly broach I bought.

Auf Wiedersehen!

I was able to go down to the beach today, finally! 81 and gorgeous!!! However, my mom can't really get around, so she didn't come. My dad - well, he was too busy reading his Wall Street Journal to come. My kids and husband are home in Utah, so they couldn't make it. I found myself feeling sad. I think that's a great sign. I'm ready to go home. I loved being "alone" the first two days, but the last two I've been starting to miss my kids a LOT.

I will miss my parents terribly, but as I just told my mom. I got to do everything I wanted to do while I was here (except get my hair highlighted, but that's a story for another day). I had some great, quality time with my mom and dad. I ate well. I exercised, slept well and relaxed. It was perfect.

Amanda - I'll be at work mid-morning!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

I don't have my kids here to photograph, so I found this guy!

I don't have my kids here to photograph, so I found this guy!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

My beautiful, beautiful mother!

I felt like a kid again. I sat in the back seat of the Cadillac for about two and a half hours today listening to my parents fight about my dad's driving.


My mother’s parents immigrated from Germany in the early 1920s to Chicago. They had two girls who spoke only German until they entered Kindergarten. My grandparent’s home was the extended-family gathering place. THE place to be on a Sunday afternoon. THE place to stay if you just came over from the old country.

Living in Minnesota as a child, and only visiting Chicago once or twice a year, I had a hard time remembering who all these “old” German-speaking relative were and how they were related to me. I would attend a wedding, or dinner at a great-aunt’s, and get very confused. “Mom, who is Onkel Hugo? Is he your cousin or really your uncle?”

This afternoon flashed me back to those days. My parents and I drove an hour up the coast to my aunt’s condo. (My mom’s only sibling just remarried, after being widowed for about 27 years, and bought a place down here with her new husband.) Several of my mother’s cousins – some on vacation, some who winter down here – got together for lunch. There were 10 of us in all.

After lunch, my aunt pulled out about 40 REALLY old pictures of various family members. Once again, I was asking lots of questions about who was who and how were they connected to so in so. I was comforted, though, when I realized that not everyone knew who everyone was, so I wasn’t the only dummy. I enjoyed listening to the accents that are still in the voices of two of my mom’s cousins. Each of them love my mom so much and are very concerned about her health. Throughout the day, I was pulled aside a few times as they asked more direct questions about her condition. It was so nice to see the love and support she receives close up and personal. It has been hard living so far away these past few months as her cancer has dramatically become worse.

There were times throughout the day that I was a tad bored and I felt slowed down by the pace, but I remembered why I came down here. It’s to be with my mom and dad. Plain and simple. I just get to be. No work. No parenting. No working on a marriage. I just get to enjoy my parents. It’s a wonderful thing.

Friday, March 11, 2005

As we all know, the last week or so has been pretty awful around our house. I took this about a week ago inbetween Ella's stomach flu and RSV - she wasn't exactly healthy, but was very clear about her feelings. "NO PICTURE MAMA!!!!"


I called and was able to reach Chris. He was also angry. “I can’t keep going over there!” “They won’t clean her. It’s you or me and you’re closer.” Another low point. More sobbing and crying at my desk. The insinuation from the director was that Ella was not welcome to stay at their school until she was 100% potty trained (contrary to previous conversations I had had with the director). I was panic stricken. What had I done? I pushed her too hard not realizing the potential negative outcome.

Not being sure of her future at this point, I called her old school to see if I could slip her back in. “Oh Carol, I’m so sorry, but I gave her spot away already.” MORE sobbing and crying. This time on the phone with her old director. (Pretty embarrassing to cry in front of someone who can say, "I told you so!")

I tried to do some more work, but scenarios of bankruptcy and a future socially anxious teenage daughter (due to pushing potty training and the shame of this day) ran through my head relentlessly. As I headed home around 5:00 PM, I called the new director one more time. “What does all this mean?” I asked. “Can she come back tomorrow?” Long pause. “No. She’s not fully potty trained.” “But they gave her old spot away.” “I’m sorry. Why don’t you just stay home with her for a few days and work with her. I’m sure she’s almost there.” WHAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTT???? I work full time. I’m going away for five days. What planet do you live on???? More crying. Ulcer starting.

After a conversation with my husband, who was rightfully freaked out, and Beth, who was a savior and comforting, I settled into a state of numbness. I didn’t really know where I was nor was I able to concentrate on anything. I walked into Harrison’s classroom, in the same non-poopy-underwear-cleaning-school and looked all over for him. He wasn’t there. I ran out to the car and called Chris. “Where’s Harry?” “With me. I told you I was getting him.” No recollection.

The evening was again hard. Ella was again really whiny (who can blame her) and we were not the most patient. Chris’ dad finally landed in Green Bay and was able to go check the house. Thank God he didn’t find the worst. In fact, he couldn’t find anything. It was good news, but didn’t really make much of a break in the huge dark cloud that hung over our house.

Wednesday morning I called in sick and pulled out the phone book. I looked for the numbers of preschools I had heard of and others in our general area. Ella and I ran over to Beth's as she had offered to help me with all of this. She grabbed the phone and dialed the number of the first place. “Hello? I am new to the area and am looking for care for my daughter….” Wink, wink, nod, nod. I was glad for the help because Chris and I had another blow out an hour prior (stress induced, I’m sure) and I was an emotional wreck on the edge of tears once again. We made two appointments and then enjoyed some bagels. I was glad for the emotional break.

I spent the morning and early afternoon with Beth talking and brainstorming what I could do. She came to my second appointment and we both agreed that it was a nice place. They have It’s a small preschool in a converted little house with three college educated teachers. The owner has 21 students right now and was glad to see some potential business coming her way. It felt good, so after a couple hours of thought, I called her back and asked if Ella could start the next day. She was happy to accommodate. Also, somewhere in here, I received a call from Chris letting me know that his dad went back over to our Wisconsin house and discovered an upstairs toilet running that must have caused the water bill. He has even offered to fix it this weekend.

I won’t say the heavens opened up, or that rainbows filled the skies, but the boulder that was on my shoulder became about the size of a small rock. Ella must have felt the shift in the universe because she finally stopped whining. She started laughing and playing. We made a train out of chairs in the kitchen and she asked for about twenty snacks (she hadn’t been eating well prior to this.) I was finally able to start thinking about my trip and the packing I had yet to do.

It was a late evening, but a pretty good one. Chris decided to work late, anticipating his inability to work extra while I’m out of town, so I had both kids to myself. We had a wild dinner out with Beth and her boys and then settled into our bath and book reading routine for bedtime. I was comforted by the regularity of it. The acid in my stomach started reducing and I was finally mentally ready to try on my summer clothes to see if anything still fit.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

My how time can heal

(This post was written this morning. I have finally found Internet access!)

It’s 10:10 AM and I’m sitting at “The Cowboy Bar” at the Denver airport. I have a Bloody Mary on my table and no Internet access, but I’m happy. It’s official – my vacation has started. I haven’t referred to it as a vacation prior to this, but I think I will now. I should, after all, because “time away” is what you call a trip to Kansas or South Dakota, but going to Florida definitely constitutes a “vacation”. Especially after the last few hellish days.

By Monday morning, Ella and I were feeling a bit better. We gambled and took Ella to school. It was her last day at her preschool and I really wanted her to have closure and attend that day. She coughed a lot, but had a good day. Monday night was our LAST family dinner with all of Chris’ brothers, their wives, his dad and his son. We finally put our foot down and insisted that we all go out to a restaurant. Our timing was off and by the time we got to the restaurant, the kids were over-hungry and whiny. Their behavior was terrible and it continued through our tour of Chris’ newly-renovated warehouse office building afterwards. I pulled a SCREAMING Ella out of the building and took her home early. It was too long of a day for both of us.

I woke up Tuesday with a nervous stomach. I felt like I was going to a job interview instead of taking my baby girl to her first day of preschool in underwear. She did not have an accident-free weekend, but I blamed it on her illness. The school was prepared for her and she blended right in. I whipped out her inhaler and proceeded to show them how to use it on her for her noon treatment. The teacher and director looked at each other awkwardly and then explained that they do not administer medication, but they would keep if for her so that she could give it to herself. I flipped out. What? Are you nuts? She’s TWO!!!!!!!! They threw a bunch of “..she probably should be taught some independence” crap at us which I stifled with, “No. It’s too important to get the dose right. We will come at noon.” Chris works somewhat nearby, but it still was quite an inconvenience that we weren’t expecting. I explained our weekend and prepared them for potential accidents. She cried a little, but quickly jumped into things as I quietly crept out. I felt much better and went on with my day. I called to check on her about two hours later and was told that she had had a “poopy” accident. The director cleaned her up and said, “I normally call parents, but it’s her first day.” Thank you, but what the hell does that mean? Call the parents?

My day went well. I had a lot of work to do, but had a nervous underlying feeling all day. About 1:30 PM, Chris called to tell me that the gas company in Wisconsin had called after they received a call from the Green Bay Water Department. The Water Department wanted to know if the heat had been turned off because we had a $344 water bill. OH. MY. GOD. That was the final straw. I broke down at my desk crying thinking of water flowing down my wool carpet runner on my newly stripped and stained grand staircase. Chris also had a breakdown and starting swearing and threatening to give the house back to the bank. The only person with a key to get in and check things, my father in law, was in the air heading back to Green Bay. It was a low point to say the least.

About an hour and a half after that call, the school called again to say that Ella had had a second “poopy” accident. They weren’t going to change her. Policy. They couldn’t find Chris, so they wanted me to come. I work thirty minutes away. I was furious. “You want ME to come and clean her up?” “Yes.” “But I am over 30 minutes away.” “We can’t get a hold of Chris.” “So you mean to tell me that she has to sit in her dirty underwear until I get there?” Silence.

(To be continued....)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Life goes on


I haven’t been posting because my life got worse before it got better. I will definitely have much more time in the next few days to fill you in.

Key phrase in above paragraph – “…it got better.” I’ve had some moments of late that seemed would never end. I’ve cried more in the past two days than I have in years, but, again, things are better. Ella is on the mend and I am heading to see my best friend (my mother) tomorrow morning at 7:00 am. It is 9:00 pm and I haven’t even started to pack, but that seems to par for the course these days. It will get done. I’ve decided that it doesn’t really matter what I wear around a bunch of retirement aged people. If I forget something, I’ll just borrow or use my credit card AGAIN.

Hopefully I can write it all out tomorrow on my layover. Cross your finger that I find Internet access at or near my parents’ place. It will be nice to do some blog reading when I finally have a lot of time.

I’ll be back soon.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Having another shitty day. Don't want to complain in too many posts in a row, so will just say for's all about the kids. That's all that matters.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

just another day - extended version


4:45 PM Drag myself into shower – first one in three days!

5:30 PM Husband arrives home from second full day of skiing

6:00 PM Should be leaving to chaperone dinner/dance at my school, but I am still trying to wedge something “Prom-ish” onto my OVERWEIGHT body

6:20 PM Leave for dance. Fight with Chris the entire trip over something like “why don’t we ever plan ahead for things? or my version “Why the hell do you always forget things like this?”

6:50 PM Arrive at dance only 20 minutes late. Notice that there is too much cleavage in the room.

9:40 PM Leave dance completely exhausted. Fight with Chris the entire trip over something like “why didn’t you tell me immediately that your dad said Ella was having difficulty breathing when you called an hour ago?”

10:10 PM Arrive home to find Ella’s breathing very labored.

10:15 PM Call pediatrician’s office – given advice and told to call back at midnight. Give Ella inhaler and change her wet pants that grandpa forgot to change before bedtime.

11:00 PM Set alarm for 12:00 AM – don’t fall asleep till 11:40 PM


12:00 AM Alarm rings. Call pediatrician back. She listens to Ella’s breathing over the phone and tells me to call her back in 30 minutes. Give Ella inhaler and change her into a t-shirt from her footie jammies. Her fever is so high that she’s soaking wet.

12:35 AM Call pediatrician. She tells me to let her sleep, but that she is very worried about her. Thinks she may have influenza, pneumonia or RSV. Tells me to give Ella two more inhaler treatments and to go to the children’s hospital at 7:00 AM.

3:00 AM Ask husband to give Ella inhaler. He does.

5:00 AM Give Ella another inhaler treatment.

7:00 AM As if they knew, both kids awaken. Get them dressed, load in car seats and head to hospital (with a stop on the way for Ella’s favorite sprinkle donut)

7:55 AM Arrive in ER.

8:00 AM Realize that the co-pay is 100 bucks (there goes my hair cut and highlight for another month or so)
9:15 AM Administer nebulizer treatment to Ella after Chris and Harrison leave to go check on stepson and father in law. Listen to Ella scream hysterically for first 30 minutes of the 60 minute treatment.

10:15 AM Treatment is over. Ella has stopped shaking and crying and asks to go potty.

10:16 AM Ella throws up in hallway.

11:50 AM Doctor returns to assess Ella’s breathing. Thinks she probably has RSV or a bad flu.

12:40 PM Receive final instructions and are able to leave.

1:00 PM Chris leaves with stepson to go have one-on-one time.

2:19 PM Harrison and Ella each have tantrum number 50 million.

2:20 PM Carol has mental and physical melt down.

5:15 PM Chris’ entire family starts to arrive for another dinner at our house.

9:30 PM Carol retreats to bedroom and prays she never has a three day weekend like this again.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


Feel the love

I’m the odd duck - the only non-stay-at-home-mom in my neighborhood. Despite this I have managed to make several good friends here. I have my summers free (thank you public education) and did have a chance last summer to meet some people. When work started, I had enough seeds planted that they just blossomed over the winter even though I wasn’t around much.

These past couple of days of being sick (yes, I’m still laying down – day #3) have given me a lot of time to reflect. Some of my neighbors have offered to help in many different ways and for that I’m thankful. Beth, especially, has come to my rescue again.

This morning everyone went skiing again except for me and Ella. My little girl woke up last night with a fever and must still be fighting the flu she had earlier this week that she has now given me. I feel pretty good, but my fatigue is unbelievable. Even the littlest task will wind me. Beth called to check on me and immediately sensed my exhaustion. She sized up the situation (that I was alone with Ella) and said, “I’m coming over to get her. She can do a craft with the boys.” I was so relieved. It took her a little longer to get here than I thought, but I wasn’t complaining. My God – she was taking my child so I could nap – it doesn’t get much better than that! When she arrived, being the kind, direct Midwestern girl I love, she said, “You look sick.” Then she said, “Sorry it took me so long to get here, but it’s Mayberry around here!” What? “I stopped so many times to talk to people on my way.” I do have a great block with lots of nice families – 13 kids age 5 and under. The weather is around 60, (although I really don’t know, I’m STILL inside) and as it does everywhere when it starts to warm up, everyone goes out into their yard. We chatted about who she talked with and then she insisted I nap while they were gone. Ella was really excited to go with her. That, to me, is the true sign of a good friend. She has taken the time to connect with my kids.

While Ella’s been gone, I talked to my mom, uninterrupted, for the first time in weeks. It was wonderful. I told her that I think I really understand what it’s like to be fatigued for a sustained period of time. I feel much more empathetic for her situation.

I took a nap. I laid down and fell asleep in my bed in the middle of the day.

I just heard from Beth that she is taking Ella to the park. Ella wanted to talk to me. “Mama! I pee-ed on the toilet!” Beth has had her for over two hours and she hasn’t had an accident. This is a miracle. Ella had completely backtracked on her previous potty training success and I was starting to really freak out about her switching schools in TWO AND A HALF DAYS!

Beth, you are a potty training, craft wizard, crazy friend. Thank you.

Friday, March 04, 2005

my little ski bum

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Lately, whenever Ella leaves something behind she says, "I forleft it."

the technique

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Can I have one?

Harrison has always been someone to discover. He doesn’t communicate easily. He holds his cards close to his chest and then he slowly gives you clues. For example, when he gets angry, he pushes, cries, or even hits. At school, he hasn’t bitten other kids. He was almost kicked out for this behavior. ( I know! It’s developmentally inappropriate.) When he’s proud, he looks down and slowly smiles. If he’s really proud, he’ll probably respond to your request for a “high five” or a hug. When he’s ashamed or embarrassed by something he’s done, he’ll smile and then run away – acting as if he brazenly doesn’t care, but oh, does he care. Rarely, though he is getting MUCH better, does he just verbally explain how he’s feeling. I am often frustrated by this because I am SO verbal. Ask anyone – I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Adapting to our personality differences has been a challenge for both Harry and me. I do think, however, that my persistence in trying to interpret his emotions has paid off and will continue to in the future.

Sunday I bought the kids a $5 Playdoh Fun Factory. Harrison absolutely LOVES it. He sat down and played with it for about an hour and a half the first time he used it. Yesterday morning he had some extra time before school and played with it for another 30 minutes. He made “snakes” and then rolled them up into “fruit roll ups.” He made over 25 of these roll ups - rolling them up, over and over. During these calm times, when he is so focused (okay obsessed), I love to watch him. I stand back and just take him in. I watch his curious nature explore every inch of whatever it is he is working on.