Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dogs should sleep inside - IT'S COLD OUT, FOR GOD SAKE!

This is a picture I took last spring in Florida while visiting my dad. I blew it up, framed it and am giving it to him for Christmas.

The beautiful thing about insomnia is that it truly gives you that time to think that you rarely get in a busy, normal day. Since I believe I've only slept for and hour and a half, since I went to bed last night at 10:25, I've had lots of time to think about our upcoming trip to the midwest. I thought of a great gift idea for my friends back home, but don't have any time left to buy them, nor room to pack them. We are leaving after work today to fly to Minnesota. I've also been able to remember that I forgot to pack a gift for Ella that I left in the trunk of my car. Good thing it's large and heavy because we have six or seven suitcases fully packed at this point. I'm sure I can squeeze in a toy ironing board with an authentically heavy toy iron.

It also allows you to keep track of things. For instance, I now know that my furnace makes a clicking noise, followed by a whirring noise before revving up into full "blowing" mode. I also know that it comes on about 3 times an hour. I know that before 12:40 am, I coughed approximately once a minute. After that time, the number significantly reduced until about 4:30 am when it started to increase again.
Another gift that insomnia has given me is the gift of patience. Since last summer there has been a dog in our neighborhood that barks excessively at night. I used to think that it was our next door neighbor. I like my next door neighbor - and his dog - so I used to try to ignore it. One evening, though, the dog was barking so much I ran out in the back to track it down. I live in a neighborhood with tiny houses. There are literally about seven yards in very close proximity to me. It could've have been coming from anywhere. I narrowed it down to the neighbor behind my garage. The one with the tall, white plastic fence. I can't really see their house so I don't know, when I drive down their street, which house it is exactly. Over the last few months, now that my windows are closed and I am back at work desperately coveting any and all sleep I can get, I am still awakened by this dog a few times a week. Each week I get more and more upset about this dog, but have yet to do anything about it. Well, this past night, I was able to listen to this dog bark - on average - 40 minutes an hour. As I listened to him/her bark, and bark, and bark, I found myself completely amazed by the energy this animal exhibits, yet also wondered WHAT THE HELL his/her owners do to sleep through all the racket. The latest conclusion I came up with (around 4:30 am) was that they must work the night shift.

One thing I have definitely inherited from my mother is the ability to worry the night away. Any and all anxieties circumvent in my head at night. I have been pretty sick with a terrible chest cold/flu thing since last Friday. I did work yesterday, but wasn't able to do much of anything to prepare for this trip, or Christmas, over the weekend or Monday. All of our packing occurred last night, so I'm sure we have forgotten a million things. Thus the insomnia.

The silver lining in all of this is pretty silver. Our original plan was to drive to Minnesota. We would take two weeks so that the drive wouldn't become the vacation. Life happens and things change. My new job had a shorter holiday break which didn't allow me to take off for two weeks. Chris' job never coordinates with him taking off two weeks, so we decided to fly. However - I had already "purchased" a ticket with frequent flier miles. The ONLY seat available for me was in first class. When we went to purchase three more tickets, we were able to get them on the same flight. Unfortunately, my husband (who had to work really late, but is still slumbering quite peacefully right now) will be back in Coach with my two-can't-wait-for-Santa-to-come-so-we're-going-to-be-EXTREMELY-high-strung-and-full-of-energy-until-he-does-children.

Because I'm pretty sure I was Catholic in a past life, I'll probably switch with him half way.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A year ago today

It's called an anniversary, but we're not having a party.

December 12, 2005
8:00 am
I didn’t sleep a lot last night. My mom was restless. Moaning and calling my name every couple hours. She hasn’t thrown up any bile since last night. My dad just called hospice and told them how bad things got yesterday. We thought she had an accident in bed, but it was a false alarm. We feel she needs a nurse to help us care for her. I’m so exhausted.
8:30 am
My dad just called again wondering why the social worker assigned to us didn’t know anything about my mom’s case. I tried to explain to him that she just started her day…that she probably needed to read the notes from the workers over the weekend. He is very upset.
9:30 am
Our social worker just showed up. She is very animated and loud, but strangely comforting. She and I just went in to greet my mom. She asked my mom if she would like to move into a hospital bed. She doesn’t. I spent another ten minutes explaining the benefits of keeping her head raised, etc. and she finally agreed. My back and arms are getting sore from running to her when she gags and holding her up.
12:30 pm
The social worker just left. There was much talk of hospice options, nurses, beds, pads, and funeral arrangements. She also told me that flying home tonight, and returning for the weekend, might not be a good idea if I want to be here when she dies. Our two to four week window has shrunk now to five days or so. The social worker mentioned that she saw a dramatic decline in my mom just in the time she had spent here.
2:00 pm
The hospital bed and wheel chair arrived. They set up the bed in the living room. Still waiting for the special bed pad that will make her more comfortable.
3:00 pm
The first nurse arrived. He’s male and seems nice enough. Doesn’t seem terribly able to gain any rapport with my mom, but he isn’t rude or anything.
4:30 pm
The bed pad arrived.
5:30 pm
My mom still moans and asks for me. I have been running in there a lot and don’t feel like the nurse is doing much. I started giving her pain pills and medication for her stomach yesterday. The nurse keeps asking me how much to give her. Isn’t that his job? I’m recording what we are doing and he is making a microwave dinner for himself. He set up camp at the dining room table and I believe he’s doing crosswords.
9:00 pm.
I just got off the phone with my good friend, Meg. She told me that she found out about her dad dying first thing when she woke up 28 years ago in December. I cried for her and for me. How awful. I feel very guilty for talking to Meg for over an hour. That nurse is not giving my mom the attention she needs.
11:00 pm
The new nurse just arrived. She is wonderful. Very grandma-like and very loving towards my mom. She is in the living room with a blanket over her lap. She has promised to check on my mom every half hour.

December 13, 2005
1:00 am
My mom stirred and made some noises. Enough to wake me, although I can barely sleep. Too much on my mind. I ran in to see her, but she didn’t open her eyes.
5:00 am
The nurse checked on my mom. She was sleeping comfortably with my dad at her side.
5:32 am
The nice nurse just woke me with these words, “Carol, your mom just passed.”

Monday, December 11, 2006

My nephew

My first photography "job." My brother and sister-in-law are going to use this photo I took for their Christmas cards. Posted by Picasa

Santa's helper

 Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 09, 2006


In high school, college, my twenties and early thirties, I was extremely social. I rarely did things alone. I had many friends, but never remember having to work at it. Life luckily just handed them to me and I had the time to maintain those friendships effortlessly.

Times change. You have kids, lose sleep and suddenly priorities change. I cherish my time alone. I don’t have a lot of girlfriends and it’s okay. Friends can be a lot of work. When I met Chris, I had a large social group. I moved from Minneapolis to Wisconsin and that group shrunk significantly. I stay in contact with one couple. When we moved to Utah, the few friends I had shrunk to even a smaller number. It's all been fine, though. Life with babies just consumed me.

Having more time at home now, I am suddenly aware that I am friend-deficient. Not that I really care, but it has just become more apparent. I have great neighbors – those friendships have come easily. In fact I cherish my Saturday night casual dinners with one couple in particular, but I think I’m finally ready. Ready to expand my friendship circle. Ready to call people and set up get-togethers. Ready to return phone calls (a problem I’ve had for the last few years). Ready to work at being a good friend.

I wait for Harry daily outside his school and watch the other mothers chit chatting. They all seem to know each other. I stand alone each day, leaning on the tree by the sidewalk, hoping that Harrison has remembered his lunchbox. Twenty five of 26 days, he forgets it in the bucket they store them in. Unlike in the past, I'm starting to feel a little left out.

However, I think I’ve met someone I might be interested in. She has a boy Harrison’s age, and a girl a little older than Ella, but in her class. We greet each other almost daily picking up our girls. We’ve had a few playdates with the kids so I feel like we’re on the right track. She’s lived in Utah a long time, but is originally from the Midwest and we seem to have a natural connection due to our upbringing.

She came over to pick up her daughter last evening and I offered her a cocktail. She excitedly accepted and ended up staying for a couple of hours. It was really easy, but I felt like I was on a first date. I told a lot of stories that started in the middle and had no ending. I apologized for a lot of things and felt a little self conscious about the flour all over my sweater (I was baking sugar cut-out cookies). She didn’t seem to mind and even helped with the dishes.

This may be the beginning of something wonderful.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

One of the many reasons I think she is the smartest girl on earth

Since I was about 18, I have struggled with my body image. I'm never satisfied but try very hard not to verbalize these feelings around the kids. I'm doing enough to screw up their childhoods without realizing it - this, however, is something I can control.

The last few weeks have been extremely hard. I finally stopped Weight Watchers and have started gaining some weight back. It's a cycle that I seem to go through over and over. I am not ready to throw in the towel - I still exercise about 5 days a week, but the holidays are really making it hard to just eat Boca burgers and veggies.

Tonight, I was in my room putting away clean laundry when Ella joined me and pushed me back onto the bed. My shirt came up a bit and exposed my stomach. I slipped up and expressed some honesty by saying, "Oops - Mama is getting big." Without missing a beat, she responded, "Oh no, your shirt is getting smaller." I laughed and corrected her, "I don't think so, Ellie. I'm just too big." Emphatically and loudly she stated, "Mama! Your shirt is getting smaller."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Homework Assignment

Harrison was asked to write directions for making a healthy snack as a writing assignment. I don't have access to a scanner, but I will attempt to reproduce what he came up with. Warning: he tends to forget vowels at times and he reverses "b"s and "d"s a lot.

Name: Harry

Snack: Smoothie

Ingredients: IcE Yogurt StroBarYs Bnanas ornge juice

Steps to Make:

First: You Put ice in the Blenber

Next: You Put StroBarys in the Blenber

Then: You Put Bnanas in the Blenber

Then: You Put onge juic in thE Blenber

Then: You Put Yogurt in the Blenber

Last: You Mix it all up.

Next Friday, I will be helping Harry make smoothies for his "Show and Teach" demonstration. First graders are apparently too old for "Show and Tell" where we just had to ship Baby Seal to school. Now Harrison has to demonstrate something for his class. "We will need 22 cups, Mom,"...and a blender, a cooler full of fruit, ice and yogurt and patience.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Photo Friday

Theme: Immature
We all want to be carried sometimes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I'm sure "bedraggled" is sexy somewhere.

The kids and I had the day off today. We kept busy preparing for Thanksgiving. Harrison helped by building a Lego underwater ship thingy for pretty much the entire day. He surfaced from the basement occasionally to use the bathroom or pick up food I left for him at the top of the stairs. Ella contributed by talking continuously the ENTIRE day. If she stopped to breathe, or rest in any way, her body would continue for her, nonverbally, by wrapping one of its limbs around me or by trying to climb into my lap – even if I was standing.

We all converged for one big Costco and grocery store run. Costco, on this late Wednesday morning, was as crowded as any Saturday afternoon. We were there for our staples, but I felt compelled to buy rolls for tomorrow. How could I pass on THIRTY SIX fresh baked rolls for $3.79. I’ll be happy if we eat 15 of them! The kids were well-behaved even though the sample tables were just in the process of being set up. Usually the samples are the only thing I can use for bribes while we’re there. I was worried about going to the grocery store right afterwards, but they were great. Harry is reading now and can really help me. We got everything we needed but the green beans. “We’re out,” was the comment I received from the produce guy. That means one more trip tomorrow morning with all the other last minute shoppers.

After lunch I made a hand-me-down recipe from my grandmother – Rotkraut (a sweet and sour red cabbage). I normally would have called my mom for the recipe (as I never wrote it down) and was starting to freak out when my dad didn’t have it. These are some of the hardest times for me about my mom’s death. When I can’t talk to her and she has some information that I’m sure no one else has. It’s the most exasperating, frustrating and sad feeling I’ve ever felt. I emailed my cousin to see if she had it and she did. Her mom is my mom’s only sibling and we are quite sure that her recipe is the original. It had all the markings of one of my Oma’s recipes – not too many measurements and incomplete instructions. Anyway I made it and the smells that I created were so familiar it was eerie. For a few moments I felt like I was continuing a legacy – as hokey as that may sound.

Cleaning the mess in the kitchen for the third time today, I then proceeded to bake a cake. We figured out that it was Harrison’s half birthday tomorrow and he never forgot it. “I want a white cake, with white frosting, and NO turkey. I’ll eat bratwurst.” So I succumbed and baked him a white cake with white frosting. And being a German, with a history of Wisconsin residency, I’m sure we can find a brat in the freezer to bring along tomorrow.

Tomorrow we are baking two pies, making “special” green beans with $5.69 worth of pine nuts and cooked carrots. The dinner is being hosted by Chris’ Mormon brother and wife. They are making the turkey and stuffing. His other brother and wife are bringing mashed potatoes, but their son is violently ill with stomach flu so I don’t know if the potatoes will make it. That would be such a bummer as I was already pretty upset about not having wine with dinner and coffee with my pie.

Chris arrived home not a minute too soon tonight. He spent his day in Park City, and apparently the stylish tourists are arriving in droves for the long holiday weekend. “You should have seen them all dressed up at 8 in the morning!” About ten minutes later he commented to me, lovingly I’m sure, “You really look like a bedraggled stay-at-home-mommy tonight.” I flipped him off.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My day off

My work week is already over and it’s only Thursday. I am volunteering at Ella’s school tomorrow. They need someone to take pictures of their new building, and I’ll be helping with the Thanksgiving feast that Ella’s class is serving. There will be Pilgrim hats and lots of songs about turkeys.

After the feast and program, Ella will go down for her “quiet time” and I’ll run over to pick up Harrison - Fridays are short days for him. We will also pick up a new friend of his. Harry’s having a play date and he’s really excited. While the boys are playing, I’ll do laundry, gather recipes for Thanksgiving, and try to organize the huge pile of school papers and mail on my desk. I even found a few Thanksgiving-themed word searches for the boys to do if they need some structure to their afternoon.

Tomorrow has quickly become exactly the kind of day that I hoped to have when I quit my full time job. I have mixed emotions, though. I felt it when I was arranging the playdate tonight. The mother works full time and as I was talking to her I found myself explaining my work schedule. “I have always worked full time….I just started part time….there’s nothing wrong with parents that work.” I just kept talking and talking. After I got the kids to bed, I watched the end of Grey’s Anatomy. One of the show’s themes was about working moms and the internal struggle.

I’m happy with my new schedule. I love that I get to be a much bigger part of my kids’ lives, but I have this guilt – as if I’m letting Gloria Steinem down.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ellastyle - Vail

"Jammie baby" has been a permanent fixture the last few months. She was named after the pajama attire she came with at purchase. The coat, Miss Ella is wearing this season, is the find of the year. I was looking for a white puffy shirt (ala Seinfeld) for Harry to wear for Halloween as a pirate, at D.I. (our Goodwill-type store) when I found this coat for FOUR DOLLARS. The mittens were on clearance last year at Shopko for $1.50.

I have to get creative now that we're living on half of my old salary. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Some pictures from Colorado

A cool play area in Vail Village

Lake Dillon, Silverthorne (above)
(I think I want to move again!)

Dressed for the big wedding. (below)
(Ella was thoroughly enthralled with the wedding preparations. Harrison - not so much.)

 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My kids - the bullies

I hate to admit the things that happened today, but this is supposed to be a record of my kids' lives...I need to remember the bad with the good.

Harrison is my more challenging child. His behaviors are straight forward and tangible. For example, today he socked a boy in the nose so hard that it bled. It was an accident. It usually is, but he still hurt someone. He was egging on two boys who were wrestling at recess. As the play fighting escalated, Harry apparently got excited and joined in by jumping on the two. He inadvertantly hit one of them. His teacher literally came chasing after me on the school lawn to tell me. She was kind about it. She started by telling me that his behavior in class was perfect today before dumping the disaster at recess on me. I was proud and totally frustrated all in a matter of 15 seconds.

As I spent the next few minutes with Harrison alone, before picking up Ella, I tried to understand what had happened. Once again, I was reminded of the definition of impulsivity. There is no reason - it just happens for Harry. He does things without thought and then regrets the consequences. After we "talked", a friend of ours approached and offered to take Harrison home for a playdate for the next hour. He was thrilled. I was, too, as I worry that his impulsivity will begin to cause him to lose friends.

I picked up Ella, and her friend, for a pre-planned playdate. They were adorable - thrilled to be together. Soon after we got home, a neighbor came over with her younger daughter. I assumed that adding a third girl to the mix would be easy. I assumed that my daughter would welcome this girl into their game of "house" and I would be able to chat with my friend for a half hour or so. I was wrong. Immediately Ella started communicating negative statements about this new girl joining their game. She was rude and non-inclusive. I was mortified. I pulled Ella aside a few times to talk to her about her uncharacteristic behavior. This just made things worse. The
negativity oozing out of Ella continued for about ten minutes. At this point, my neighbor and her daughter left. I told Ella how upset I was, but couldn't properly handle the problem due to the first friend's presence.

Two terrible scenarios in one day. Two scenarios that I never expected to have to deal with. I truly do not know which one bothers me more. I certainly don't want my son to be someone who hits - but he claims it was an accident. I can't get over the "mean girl" that took over my daughter's body right before my very eyes - but did I possibly set up a 4 year old with something that she wasn't able to handle?

I am not feeling overwhelmed, but I do wonder why it has to be so eventful and difficult. I really hope the weekend brings some relief.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Second verse, same as the first

Thank you for all the support about not liking my first day on the new job. I know it will get better, but I don't believe it yet.

I can't pinpoint what I don't like about it - probably just that it is work. Thinking about the extra hours at home was all I focused on...I never really thought that it would be work. It's just shorter amounts of work - that I don't really love right now.

I really miss the comfort of my old job. My friends and the students especially. I had a month-long goodbye. They capped it off with an all-school Halloween party in my honor. My last day was full of hugs and last minute instructions. I needed to tell everyone what to do after I left. I had a lot to "to-do"s left.

My students are in good hands, but they do seem to miss me. I've received a few emails and they even talked me into a MySpace account. I now have a very generic page (which I have no idea how to navigate) and four new friends (all former students). It's pretty funny.

I know that I will make new friends. Many of the people I've met are great. They are all willing to help and answer all my questions. The students are adorable. They are so pliable and accepting - willing to accept me as the new counselor. As long as I continue to pass out stickers and "Gold slips" (rewards for good behavior), I'm in.

Today would have been better than Thursday, but I am sick. Fever, stomach junk and headache. I was finally able to digest some ibuprofen about an hour ago and feel better than I have in over 10 hours. It was so embarrassing to be sick on my second day. I already have a sub plan ready in case I can't go in tomorrow.

Three more days and then we're off to a wedding in Denver. I have so much more time to do last-minute errands and prepare/pack for this road trip. The shorter hours are the reason behind this job change. It's definitely better for our family. I just need to make it better for me.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

First day

I didn't like it. Gawd!!!! Now what?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Today was my last day of work. Tomorrow I start my new job.

Last week I received two negative phone calls from Harrison's school about his behavior. Today I only got a note in his planner about his naughtiness.

Last week I couldn't wait to get out of my work environment. Today I had a hard time leaving.

Last night I had a personal laptop full of pictures, documents and bookmarks. Today I turned that laptop in and am currently borrowing my husband's.

Today I am a high school counselor. Tomorrow I become an elementary school counselor.

Today I left for work before the kids were even dressed. I picked them up from after-care programs. Tomorrow I will walk Harry to school and take Ella myself. After their school days are complete, I will pick them up. NO AFTERCARE!

Today I received presents and wonderful notes. I hugged about 30 people and teared up a few times. Tomorrow I will walk into a strange new building to work with people I barely know or have never met.

Today I'm a full-time working mom. Tomorrow I'm not.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

In the last week...

... my internet has been inaccessible due to a number of reasons which has kept me from posting and has kept me from reading. throat has become sore and swollen. I have searing pains when I cough and occasionally when I swallow. A low grade fever overcomes me off and on most days. Since I put in my resignation, I am not allowed to take any sick days. has gone into overdrive. I have five days left and I highly doubt I will finish everything I need to.

...Harrison won the "Fish" award at school. We don't know what it's for, or how he won it, but his name was announced over the P.A. and he came home with a large super ball. We think it has to do with helping out another student. Have I mentioned that Harrison is not my verbal child?

...we received information about the Kindergarten programming that Ella is in at her Montessori. She is in a 3-4-and 5-year old classroom. I truly think that her teachers think she is five, instead of four. I'm thinking I'll just let this go and see how she does in her "accelerated" environment.

...Harry got into a bit of an altercation at school (in my UNFAVORITE after care program) and the worker wrote a discipline report on him. The next day he got scratched between the eyes by another boy and the scabs are still here six days later. No discipline report was filed on this boy. I cannot wait to get him out of there!

...Harry has decided to be a pirate for Halloween and Ella wants to be a witch, "..but I don't want to wear the hat,'s really annoying."

...I still can't figure out how to download some of my pictures back into my computer since it had to be completely erased a few weeks ago. I will probably have time this weekend, but wonder if I should bother since I have to give back my computer next Wednesday. dad has been noticed by a "hottie" (yes, he used this word) at church, but he's not sure he wants to pursue her or not. "Carol - she's really into the Twins, and I just can't understand that. Who likes baseball?"

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

From the backseat today

Me: “Hey you guys - look over there at the mountains. Aren’t they beautiful with all the snow on the tops?”

Harry: “Yea! We can go skiing!”

Me: “Not yet, dear. There is snow up there because of all the rain we’ve had lately. The higher up the mountain, the colder it gets. That’s when the rain turns to snow. There still isn’t enough snow for skiing.”

This turned into a large discussion about rain, snow and ice – a little science lesson on the road that suddenly turned into something else.

Harry: “The snow comes from the sky, and we come from Heaven. We come down from Heaven. Live and then go back to Heaven when we die.”

Me: “Who taught you that, Harrison?”

Harry: “Mom, that’s just the way it is.”

Me: “Of course.”

Ella, not wanting to stay out of the conversation, shouts out: “God made us.”

Harry: “He made everyone, but I wanna know who made God? Could he have made hisself?”

Ella: “Yeah? Who made God?”

How did the conversation turn to this? I just wanted them to appreciate the view!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Reason Why

Summer break went so well this year that I began to think about staying home full time. I was less than thrilled with my job and washing dishes looked absolutely idyllic. This faded after the first month, however, but I still wished that the kids could be home more. Chris and I looked into getting some help - someone to prepare lunches and get the kids off in the morning. We even considered having that person retrieve the kids from their schools so that they could be home at a more decent hour. After checking Craig’s list, the newspaper and asking around, we even interviewed someone. She gave us her hourly rate and we quickly fell to the ground in shock. There is a reason that only rich people employ nannies.

I crunched the numbers over and over and found that even with a more reasonably priced “helper”, we really couldn’t afford this luxurious service. Chris and I coaxed ourselves into accepting that we would have to wait one more year before considering this option again. Our debt is unusually large due to losing so much money on the house we sold in Green Bay. Couple that with a primary mortgage, child support payments, car payments (reasonable, but still there), Ella’s preschool tuition, and day-to-day expenses and it adds up to one thing - we are STRAPPED.

As the school year began, my feelings were mixed. I was enjoying my job much more than the previous two years, but still felt that the kids deserved to be home more - like I was. My mother was always home. She did raise a feminist, though. The pop psychology movement of the ‘70s had a large effect on me and my mother. She was reading I’m O.K., You’re O.K., and I had teachers showing me commercials that stereotyped female roles. I distinctly remember analyzing a commercial for a stain remover, “Wisk” I think. Its slogan had something to do with getting rid of “ring around the collar”. A man would be wearing a dress shirt and someone would notice the stains around his collar – immediately the camera would focus in on his wife as if she were a criminal. The premise being, of course, that if she used their product to pre-treat the stains on her husband’s collar, they would come out in the wash and she would never be shamed again for not keeping her husband presentable. I think since that moment, I have always avoided becoming that woman. I was raised to do it all – work, marriage, career. Lately, however, I’ve begun to wonder if it is all worth it.

Harrison’s Kindergarten year went extremely well. We entered with trepidation and exited with confidence. He became an emergent reader, he never bored of entering Mr. P’s classroom and he bonded with an accepting adult other than a parent. His report cards showed progress and achievement. His behavior remained in check and there were no trips to the office for misconduct. As first grade began, we had no reason to worry. We assumed that things would go as smoothly as they did last year. Unfortunately we were wrong.

Harry’s new teacher is extremely experienced. She has been teaching for over 20 years and still seems to truly love teaching six year olds. One thing she isn’t, though, is Mr. P – Harry’s Kindergarten teacher - the man who single-handedly got my son to enjoy school and learning, while accepting him wholly as the smart, yet wildly immature little boy that he is. Harry felt this acceptance immediately and flourished. Ms. B. doesn’t have this connection to him. I understand that the kind of teacher-student relationship we experienced last year is rare. I just don’t think we realized how special it was until we didn’t have it anymore.

First grade started well. We experienced a three week honeymoon period. Harrison skipped to school each morning and behaved well. Things weren’t going as well after the regular school day, though. Each afternoon, after school is dismissed, he goes to the gym for an after school program. It has too many kids and not enough experienced staff. Harry loves all the playing, but the lack of structure is not good. One day I came to pick him up, but had trouble finding him. I didn’t see any familiar adults and as I was scouring the playground, I noticed that the gate surrounding the playfields was open. I went back inside and looked for Harrison. After re-visiting the playground, I found him on the jungle gym. After asking him about his day, he recounted an episode with another boy which ended with Harry getting bonked on the head with a rock. He came with me, but there were no adults that seemed to notice. The gate was still open and my discomfort was rising.

Later that evening, Chris and I had a long talk about priorities and our family. I flipped open my laptop and searched for part time counselor position. I was stunned to find two openings in the area. We spent a few days discussing the realities of this option and decided that I should apply and think about the rest if I received an offer.

I worked for days on updating my resume, writing a cover letter and contacting old supervisors as references. About a week and a half later, my stress level went through the ceiling when I was contacted to schedule an interview. After making it through that process, I was asked to come back for a second meeting – they wanted me to teach a lesson to a “live” classroom of students. I passed that test and was offered the position a little over a week ago. The minute I told my husband, it all came clear – we knew the answer I needed to give. Financial sacrifices aside, my children need me to be home more often. They need me to take them to school each morning, and pick them up each afternoon. They deserve more time in the evening in their home. Due to my long commute, and their varied school locations, we don’t get home until almost 6 pm. Dinner is thrown together, homework is hurried through, baths are taken, and books are read. It would be palatable if it didn’t feel as if a stopwatch were running. The stress during our weeknights is always high.

After six years of trying to do it all, I have finally given up. I can’t do it all well, so I have decided to take the half-time counseling position in another school. I start the beginning of next month. I told my fellow staff members, and my students, today. It was bittersweet. They completely understand, but we are all sad. I feel an unusual closeness to most of the people I encounter at work each day. I was one of the original staff that opened our school. This is our third year in existence. We are very small and very close. I sometimes compare how our school is run to a family business. We all do a little of everything. There are pros and cons to that. One of the main cons is the extra hours that most public school educators don’t have to put in. I just can’t give that much anymore.

My mother has been on my mind so much during all of this. I have imagined how she would have reacted each step of the process. What questions she would have asked and the comments she probably would have made. I know she would be proud of me. She was always my biggest supporter. She would probably tell me that the more I take care of myself – the better mother I’ll be for my two babies.

Ironically, I think her death may have had everything to do with this. I compare my parenting style to hers so much more since she has died. She wasn’t perfect, but she was pretty darn good. And she was always there. I rarely remember her not being at home. I guess I just want to give my kids a little more of that.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Still here

Just when you all were starting to think I had fallen off the planet - here I am! Although - I do have to admit I am a bit disappointed - not one concerned email or phone call came my way over the last two + weeks since I last posted! My faithful readers know me well. They all figured I was an overstressed, working mom who hasn't had time to write. Yup! that's me. Throw in a wigged-out computer that completely collapsed and it all adds up to a posting vacation.

I have TONS to write about, but the timing is poor. Stay tuned - if you're still there - and I'll let you in on the new excitement in my little world in the next couple of days.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A sign

One of my absolute favorite times of the week is Sunday morning. I love the smell of the coffee brewing, the look of my dining room, with the sun shining in the windows across the wood floors, and the big Sunday newspaper.

I start with the front page. Just a quick glance. Then I go right to the ads. I used to save the Target and Dayton’s ads for last. A weird idiosyncrasy I’ve had since my twenties. Now that Dayton’s is defunct, I still savor the Target ad. Before Weight Watchers, I would eat a still-warm scone from the little local market two blocks away, but now I down my dry Kashi GoLean with my coffee. After the ads, I go back to the available sections (Chris is usually reading across the table from me.) The Arts, Money, Opinion and Travel are my first choices.

Yesterday, in the Money section of the Salt Lake Tribune, there was a fluff piece on employment - “Employment: The worst jobs”. Underneath the title, and before the brief article, was a list. Number one was “Flatulence analyst”, number fourteen was Blue cheese factory worker and then near the bottom – right after “Slaughterhouse worker”- was “High school guidance counselor”.

I kind of wish I had seen this list before I invested two years full time into grad school, one year of internship and 14 years on the job.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I don't know if I should be worried, or gleeful with pride.

Me, yelling from one room into another to Chris: "I need to go to the liquor store today."

Ella, responding from the other room: "Yea!"

Friday, September 08, 2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I think they're finally ready for the black tight shorts

Chris has been riding bikes for years. We came into this relationship with a bike a piece, and now we have about eight total.

Chris got into mountain bike racing a few years ago and needed an upgrade. Moving to real mountain country required a third upgrade. He now also owns two road bikes (one was a hand me down from his brother) to keep him in better shape for his racing.

Our wedding gift to each other was a tandem. (We heard that it was great for a relationship because you were literally stuck together on them therefore having deeper and more meaningful "discussions.") It's great except that when you add a Burley, the rig gets a bit long.

Last fall, I gave up my circa 1987 steel "mountain" bike (that is heavier than our tandem) and bought myself my own road bike. It's been a slow learning curve, but I truly love having my own. I have mastered the clip pedals and can even turn my head, to watch for traffic, without falling over.

We take the kids on rides, occasionally. Harrison on the tag-along and Ella in the Burley. Usually, however, Chris and I ride separately for exercise. A few times we've hired a sitter so that we could ride together, but not nearly as much as we would like.

You'd think with all the bicycle enthusiasm around here that the kids would be little biking machines, but alas they are products of us. Their athleticism is doomed to be mediocre to non-existant until they are older. Ella is quite content on the small tricycle we bought Harry when he was two, and Harrison has shown zero interest in donning a bike that doesn't have four wheels.

During the Tour de France, the Outdoor Life Network coverage was broadcast for hours in our house. The kids knew that Lance had retired and that Floyd was the man of the hour. It was fun to see their sincere excitement about the bike race - although they usually could only handle it in five minute increments.

With Chris in his cast since July, biking has not been a main attraction around here, but obviously it's still on their minds....

Ella (to me and Harrison): Hey – we never got to go on a bike ride yesterday. (We were going to try a family ride, but I was pretty nervous about Chris attempting to ride with his cast.)

Harrison: Do you want to do a pretend Tour day France in the driveway with our bikes?

Ella: Sure. What number do you want to be?

Harrison: Ten

Ella: I want to be twelve.

Chris, we may have some racers in our future yet!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Found on the ground at a neighborhood park

Throughout my career I have “happened upon” a large number of notes written by one adolescent to another. My nine years at the middle/junior high produced, by far, the most entertaining notes. Often, however, the swearing or vulgarity just got to the stupid level and stripped away most of their entertainment factor.

I found this a couple of weeks ago and laughed out loud. I truly think it is in my top five as one of the best notes I’ve ever read: (words in italics are mine)

“Reasons why Parker is a RETARD! (double underlined)

1. says I wear too much make-up :( (the actual frown face also had a “v” mark above the eyes for extra effect)

2. his laugh is gay

3. breaks up through an e-mail. HOW RUDE + MEAN!!!

4. breaks up w/ me before I break up w/ him. (can you believe the audacity!)

5. immature around his friends (wouldn’t you love to know the depth of the conversations she and Parker had when he wasn’t with his friends??)

6. too much in common w/ Mike.

7. talks too much about kissing.

8. fools around (I’m guessing she’s not referring to him as a class clown)


10. Never calls back…

11. tells family everything. Underlined five times

12. nosy. underlined twice followed by another frown face with a furrowed brow

13. talks about Catlin BIG frown face

14. is a shithead.”

Well, that just about sums it all up.

Monday, August 28, 2006

It's going to be a long year

Mrs. X: “Carol? This is (Harry’s teacher). How are you?”

Me: (tentatively) “Okay, and you?”

Mrs. X: “Just wanted to let you know that there was a little incident today during Art. The scissors were out and Harry cut G’s hair (adorable little girl down the street).

Me: “Oh my god.”

Mrs. X: “I have to give him credit. G came up to report it and I called Harry up. I asked him what happened and he said, ‘I cut G’s hair.’ I told him that it was completely unacceptable to cut hair in this classroom (somehow I think he already knows that), and asked him why he did it. He said, ‘I don’t know.’”

Me: “I truly believe that. He does things without thinking quite a bit. He has a bit of an impulsive streak.” (Just check out most of my archives from the last school year!)

Mrs. X: “Well, I think a note of apology to G would be nice.”

Me: “Of course.”

Mrs. X: “I haven’t had any other problems with him (IT’S ONLY THE 4th DAY OF SCHOOL!!!) I just thought you should know and now I am going to call G’s parents.”

Me: “Do you have to? I’m already on thin ice with them – I really don’t think her mom likes me.” (yes…I actually said all of that.) "Can you tell where he cut it?"

Mrs. X: nervous laugh “No, but I still think a note of apology would be nice.”

Yes, ma’am.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Should I quit my job tomorrow or just wait till Monday?

After becoming "comfortable" with the new routine - two sitters rotating in and out of the house as I started back at work two weeks ago - the kids had change in that routine on Wednesday. Harrison started school and Ella had a friend from preschool over for most of the day. Ella had fun, but a seven hour play date is too much for anyone. Today, while Harry got to run off to school again, giddy and excited, Ella went to the neighbors' for the day. Normally, this would be quite a treat. She loves the mother of this family and they have a girl about her age and a year and a half old baby. It's Ella's dream house - real baby paraphenalia all over the place!

Today, however, she was tentative to leave the house. She woke up a bit late and didn't have enough time to just wake up in her own surroundings. I left for work knowing that she was in excellent care and tried to brush off her clingy-ness.

Nine and a half hours later, my two beautiful kids bound into the kitchen. Tonight was Back to School Night for parents only. We had 45 minutes to make dinner, eat and catch up on everyone's day before they were going back to the neighbors' to share their sitter. Both of them were amazingly resilient to my hurriedness. They peeled their own corn on the cob and didn't squabble as they normally do.

Harrison left the room for some reason and Ella declared her thoughts:

Ella: "Mama, I didn't handle things too good today."

Me: Amazed that she was using this expression, I made her repeat herself. "What? What did you say?"

Ella: "I didn't HANDLE things very good today."

Me: I had visions of her not sharing with her friend, or using poor manners at lunch. "What do you mean?"

Ella: "I couldn't handle that you were gone all day. I really missed you."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

You only have one chance to make a first impression

Harrison met his teacher today. He chose not to speak to her at all. Not once. He did a great job of giving her a refresher from the non-verbal unit in her college Communications course.

Sideways glances = I'm listening, but I'd rather go over here and look at all your books.

Hiding behind Mom's leg = Didn't they tell you that I'm shy?

Slow and thoughtful nods = Yes, that sounds good, but don't think I'm going to show you any excitement until at least October.

Grabbing and wiggling front tooth for 95% of the visit = my tooth is loose and I am determined to be the first name of the year on your "Lost a Tooth" chart

Monday, August 21, 2006

My little boy is growing up

Here it is – two days before the first day of first grade. It’s post-bath time and I’m logging in my Weight Watcher points for the 153rd day (seriously, I just counted) while Harrison is behind me loudly slurping from his straw the remains of his homemade smoothie. We just had a great mother-son discussion that I wanted to write down so that I never forget the ever-changing dreams of my first-born.

Me: “That was really nice of you to teach Ella some words in the bath just now.”

Harry: “I put the letters “e” and “t” together and then put different letters in front of them to make words.”

Me: “I know, dear, that was really great. She was really learning. Are you going to be a teacher when you grow up?”

Harry: “NOOOOOoooooo!!!! I want to be a firefighter, (pause) and an army guy (pause) and a police officer.”

Me: “All at the same time?”

Harry: “Yup.”

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I had a week "off" between the three weeks of house guests and my first day back at work. I had great aspirations of finishing all the projects I mentally had set up for myself back in June.

Didn't happen.

So here I sit, exhausted after only three days back in the working-mommy-grind, trying to at least record a bit of our life of late.

These pictures wer taken the other day. I attempted to take four kids to a professional soccer team practice. The parking was a nightmare so we didn't get to go. Harrison, however, made the best of it by playing soccer at the park with his best buddy. She is the proud owner of the original "baby Seal". Grandma sent a new baby Seal a few months ago from Wisconsin. I don't get the obsession, but it is somewhat comforting to know that there is another child affixed to a large white stuffed seal just a few doors down.

Going back to work has been tough. I'm not sure if this is the best profession for me anymore. My empathy for adolescents has waned over the past 14 years. Starting Year 15 seems a bit overwhelming. I worry that I won't be able to give any more of myself.

Finding sitters for the 12 day gap, before the kids' schools start, has been an even tougher challenge than going back to work. We found a former nanny, who is GREAT, but extremely expensive. I'm paying her almost more than I'm making. I also worry about what is going on all day. She was recommended through someone we know, but she is still a stranger. Due to her high hourly rate, I've pieced together an extremely complex schedule that slips in three other adults to cover this time period. The kids are starting to ask - "who is watching us tomorrow??"

Guilt, and more guilt. Motherhood.

Chris' birthday was yesterday. He worked late and I didn't do as much in the present department as I would have liked. The kids got him another Johnny Cash CD (Chris loves to crank "Burning Ring of Fire"on the minivan's AWESOME stereo for them.) His wrist is slowly healing. He can do a few more things, but still can't write at all. He never complains. I can't even imagine how frustrating it must be.

Harrison starts first grade next Wednesday. The anticipation looms for Friday at 4:00 when they post the class lists. Harry is excited for school to begin. That, to me, is the best gift his Kindergarten teacher could have given him.

Ella's preschool is changing locations and will be closer and have a much better facility. She doesn't really understand how great this is - all she wants to know is if she'll have a locker. Where do four year olds pick up stuff like that?

Still dieting and exercising like mad. Not happy with the results (of course) - really wish I was. I write all the time about appreciating what I have - not worrying about the "little" stuff - seizing the day, etc. Even as I sit here in some pants I bought for my mom, right before she died and was pretty little, and all I can think is that I wish they fit looser. OH. MY. GOD. WHO CARES??? I want to yell at myself some days. Your mother DIED, for god sakes. Did you not learn anything from that?

I have. Chris and I try to remember this often. In fact, he is almost better at this than I am. His feelings of loss are also strong.

These ramblings are all over the place. It's hard for me to sit down and write about one of these at a time because I over analyze and then think it will take too much emotional (and physical) energy. Overall, I'm good. Chris and I are happier than we've been in a long time. The kids are happy and becoming easier to parent every day. The other stuff will come with time.

Oh - did I mention....I still really miss my mom.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Photo Friday: "Four"

Another entry in the Photo Friday series. Film shot before I had even touched a digital camera. It's a picture of my favorite spot, the turret, in my old Victorian house back in Wisconsin.

These four windows were just a few of the over 50 in the house.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Getting along

I’ve decided that there are few truly easy relationships.

At work, you are never able to truly be yourself. There is always a professionalism and certain decorum that needs to be maintained.

Friendships are complex. I have a friend from elementary school. I never forget her birthday and feel as if I could call her day or night with any problem, but we live 1000 miles apart and that leaves many limitations. She doesn’t know my day-to-day stuff, so that leaves the superficial topics for our rare phone conversations.

Because I’ve moved a lot, I don’t have many longtime friends. I just don’t have the desire/time to keep up friendships I’ve met along the way as well as I should.

New friends are great. They don’t know all your crap, so you can totally start over. Hold back showing all your insecurities. Reinvent yourself if you will. The bad part is, though, that because they don’t know all your crap there is no true glue that holds it all together. Hope is always there, though. Hope that it will develop into more. However, at this time in my life (kids/work/marriage/house) I don’t really make it a priority to deepen friendships.

Family is just plain weird. Having my dad and brother here for three weeks was eye-opening. First of all it was like having my mom’s absence thrown in my face over and over again. My brother and dad have started turning to me in uncomfortable ways. My dad is meta-morphing into a desperate single retiree who is on the prowl and my brother is … well, just difficult. He has always been Mom’s project. She did all his clothes shopping. She was who he talked to about problems. She was his staunch supporter when he made loads of mistakes in his teens and twenties. She is no longer around and he has chosen me to replace her. But I don’t really want to. My dad has also chosen me to replace my mom as his new confidant. I like it at times, but know I will be replaced when he hooks up with some hot widow at grief group.

The relationship of marriage? Where does one begin? Ups and downs. Highs and lows. Compromise and reward. Complex and yet very simple. Chris and I are best friends, but also our toughest critics. When nurtured, our marriage is amazing. When neglected, it can turn my world upside down.

That leaves the relationship between a parent and her kids. This summer off began simply. I loved being home with the kids. They responded with good behavior and wonderful energy. As the weeks went on, we struggled. Then the guests began. The break in our routine was actually good. However, not all of our guests agreed with my parenting style. My dad believes that children should be seen and not heard.  My brother, on the other hand, is a completely content parent. He loves being a dad to the core of his soul. At first I was skeptical. As siblings, we have little in common besides sharing an upbringing. I couldn’t accept his style. He brings his kids everywhere. For example, one morning we were short on milk. I quickly volunteered to run and get a gallon. He began to gather the kids and tell them to get dressed. I interjected that I was going alone as he was there to watch the FIVE children. He sincerely stared with disbelief that I didn’t want to take him and the children with. “It will be fun!” was his remark.

Now that he is gone, it is easier to look back on the week he was here. Even though he still drives me batty – due to our cavernous differences – he taught me a lot. He reminded me what parenting should be all about. It SHOULD be about enjoying my children – not about getting through the day. There have been several days this summer that I did not like being a mom at all. Several that I liked it for a few hours, but very few that I can say I truly LOVED parenting my two amazing little people. Since he’s been gone, though, that has changed. I look at them differently. I understand the root of their behaviors with more patience. I have returned to playing with them – not just working/cleaning/reading around them.

Thanks, Mark. Who would’ve thought that my little brother could teach me a thing or two?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tuesday, August 01, 2006