Make it stop.

December 13, 2010

You know that handbasket?  The one that goes to hell?  Yeah.  My life’s been in that basket for far too long now, and I want off this ride.

Things have been generally stressful since Hubs went west in mid-September, leaving me as the Responsible Party with all three kids, three dogs, and a house to pack and move.  Then he had a wreck on November 1. Much chaos and difficulty ensued with getting his car evaluated, getting answers from insurance, etc.  After three weeks, they finally decided to total his car and he had to find a new one, fast.  Mind you, he went ahead and bought that car over three weeks ago, because he needed a car for work and insurance declined to pay for a rental car any longer, and yet the check from insurance for his old car didn’t show up until yesterday.

I was already developing serious concerns about our insurance company before I had a wreck, on November 16.  Again, it took a ridiculously long time for them to decide whether to repair or total my minivan. My sweet minivan (don’t laugh!), the only new car I have ever owned, which Hubs got for me for Christmas six years ago. Yeah, it was a mom car, but it handled so well, and had nice leather seats and a DVD player and room for all of the kids and assorted junk.  By December 3, they finally decided to total the car.  Did I mention that they kept telling me that they were waiting on a report from the guy who inspected my car?  And they fed me this line for a week and a half? And the report was there, in their system, the whole time, only with a slightly different title than what they apparently expected? Gah.

So, my rental car subsidy ran out on Friday, but I cannot locate the title for my late lamented van (I’m wondering if the bank ever sent it when I paid off the loan – I can’t remember receiving it), and so I am in a similarly awkward position of having no money and no vehicle.  Well, actually, I still have the rental car, because I don’t have a choice. I have to apply for a replacement title, and then send in that title to the salvage yard so that they can officially total my van and pay me.  I fear this may take a while.  Did I mention that we’re moving to Texas? In a week?

In other fun news, I went to the emergency room one night over the Thanksgiving holiday – always a good time. I wished fervently for hand sanitizer – nay, a personal protection bubble – while I sat in the waiting area with A (the patient), baby D (the bottle-refusing baby), and a huge crowd of coughing, hacking, sniffling sick people. A fell and whacked her cheek and the side of her body pretty well, but the doctor said she didn’t have a concussion and sent us home after more than three hours.

As if the poor kid hadn’t endured enough (the fall, plus night terrors and sleepwalking that seems tied to her father’s absence), she got sick last week. Both of her brothers got the flu shot earlier in the fall, but she was in school when I took them. And something came up when I planned to take her for a flu shot, and with all of the business, neither she nor I ever got the shot. So naturally, my sweet baby girl got the flu.

She missed four days of school last week, and now she’ll miss tomorrow, too – she’s healthy enough to return, mind you, but school was canceled due to the threat of inclement weather. There’s a dusting of snow on the ground, and that’s enough to call off school in these parts. I’m sure others who live to the north would laugh at the way Georgians react to snow. Quick! Everyone run to the grocery store and buy all of the milk and bread! And yes, the kids and I were out there with the rest of them at Kroger yesterday. In addition to the requisite bread and milk, we also bought Oreos, hotdogs, and some ham from the deli to round out the gourmet offerings on our menu.

So, I’m dealing with an inadequate rental car (A has to ride in front – the back seat is too small for three car seats/boosters), a sick girl, a wild boy who’s stir-crazy from staying inside so much, a baby who wants to be held at all times, a dog that needs to be rehomed before we move (which makes me so worried and sad and knotted up inside), and the house. Packing the house. Which is going well, in terms of boxing and packing items, but which is also making me sick.  The dust stirred up with all of the moving and such has ignited a disgusting sinus thing that makes me cough, snort, and generally act in a decidedly unladylike fashion. The cough has kept me up at night, and I woke yesterday to find that I also had laryngitis. Still have it today. And that makes it so much easier to talk on the phone and get things done in preparation for the move.

Argh. This needs to stop now. I really need a few things to go well. I could use a streak of good luck. Smooth sailing, or what you will.


Dear Lord, I need a break.

November 27, 2010

This holiday weekend is rapidly driving me insane. A and S are constantly picking at each other, sniping, whining, wailing, and coming to me to complain about each other. I knew things were off to a bad start when I spent most of Tuesday night in the emergency room.

Tuesday morning, I called A to the table to eat breakfast. She stumbled out of bed, barely awake, and came to the table, where she sat in some sort of contorted, unstable position on her chair. I told her to sit up straight, but she didn’t move. She was wearing an oversized t-shirt and had her arms inside it because she was cold. She maintained this position even after I placed a plate of food in front of her and told her to take her arms out and eat. And then, as I worked in the kitchen, she toppled from her chair and landed on her side, on the tile floor, with a horrifyingly loud sound.

Immediately she wailed. I picked her up and held her, while her busted lip and bitten inner cheek bled out on her shirt and mine. I could see the beginnings of a horrid bruise forming on the side of her face, from her forehead down her cheek. Once she stopped crying, I gave her an ice pack and put her back to bed to rest. She missed the bus, and I thought she might need to stay home for the day, maybe go to the doctor. But she insisted that she felt better, so I took her to school, an hour late.

Apparently she had a headache much of the day at school. She didn’t mention this to anyone (even though her teacher knew what had happened that morning) until she got home. She seemed tired, so I gave her some Tylenol and told her to take a nap that afternoon, but she kept waking up and complaining about her head hurting. I called her pediatrician’s office, and they said to see if the headache went away within an hour of taking the medicine. If not, I should take her to the emergency room. After an hour, she woke up screaming and wailing about her head and neck hurting, so I loaded up the kids and went to the ER. My mom met us there and took S home with her, leaving A, baby D, and me at the packed ER, waiting to be seen.

After three hours, a doctor finally examined her. By then, A announced that her headache was mostly gone, and that she felt a lot better. The doctor said she didn’t need a cat scan, since that would mean a lot of radiation exposure and since A never lost consciousness or threw up. So we were sent on our way, with instructions to watch A for anything troubling.

By this time, it was nearly 10 pm. A hadn’t eaten dinner (nor had I), and she requested Steak ‘n’ Shake, so I went to the drive thru. As I got the food, she complained that her neck hurt. I looked at her, and then, as we pulled away from the window, she barfed. On my coat, sort-of fortunately. Have I mentioned that I had a wreck a couple of weeks ago, so we have a rental car? I got her out of the car to barf more on the lovely grassy area beside the drive thru lane. She finally said she felt better, and mentioned that the kid who sat next to her at school today had barfed. Lovely.

Not knowing whether to attribute the barf to germs or head injury, I took A and her baby brother home. S spent the night with my parents (prompting some jealousy from A, who insisted that she felt much, much better after throwing up). I put her to bed and stuck her untouched food in the fridge (said food would later become fodder for one of many fights between A and S). I checked on her regularly through the night, and she seems fine now.

The next morning, my dad came to get A and take her to join S. The two of them spent the day and night with my parents, while baby D rolled on the floor and I worked like a dog (not my dogs, mind you – they’re all lazy bums). The woman who cleans my mom’s house occasionally came by and helped me with packing and cleaning. We made so much progress, and she is such a lifesaver. I can’t do this packing alone – I’ve been trying for weeks with almost nothing to show for it. She’ll be back next week on two days.

That night was amazing. I was exhausted, went to bed early, and slept in the next morning. I think it still counts if one gets up around 5:30 to feed a baby and then goes back to sleep for a few more hours. The key thing, for me, was a respite from the wake-up committee (climbing onto the bed, getting in my face with their hot morning breath, saying “wake up, mama” over and over and over).

I tried watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade that morning – I haven’t watched it since I was a kid (Hubs can’t stand the parade coverage, largely due to the chipper commentary), and I used to love the floats and the balloons – but I gave up fairly quickly. Dance numbers and interviews with actors pimping the network’s shows are not a parade. That disappoints me.

Thanksgiving Day at my grandmother’s house was delightful. The only thing missing was Hubs – his absence felt like an ache all day long, but I enjoyed the time with aunts, uncles, and my cousin. A and S had a fantastic time with my cousin, and baby D loved being the center of attention. He’s a great sport at family gatherings, smiling and laughing and doing adorable baby things. All three kids crashed on the way home, and the older two slept from late afternoon straight through until morning.

Early morning, that is. S woke me up at 4 am to tell me he was hungry. He wanted macaroni and cheese, and I wanted to go back to sleep. We compromised, and I heated up the aforementioned Steak ‘n’ Shake kids meal. I parked him in front of the tv, watching kid shows on Disney, and he scarfed down the food. I headed back to bed.

5:30 am  “MAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHMMM! S is eating my chicken fingers!” Much drama ensued. I was up for good. The day, in summary:

Needy baby D wants to be held at all times. A screams at S. S screams at A. He did it! She did it! Make him stop! Make her stop! MAAAAAAAAHHHHMMMM! Whining. Wailing. Sneaky, naughty behavior. Contraband food discovered in A’s room after explicit warnings, less than one hour before, not to go there. A scolded and sent to room. Am I gonna have to stay here forEVer? More whining. Wailing. Full-blown tantrum: kicking feet on walls, screaming, lots of it’s not fairs.  A busted trying to sneak out of room/time out to get toys. Toys confiscated. More tantrum. Plans to go to grocery store, to get some food for the mostly-bare kitchen, scrapped. Pizza ordered. Pizza arrives. A and S pick off cheese, toppings, leaving crust and sauce, and have nerve to ask for dessert. Denied. Requests for indoor camp-out. Denied. Children to bed. Baby D resists. Late night.

And then, this morning, another disgustingly early wake-up call. A wants pancakes. No can do – don’t have all necessary ingredients. I make muffins (Cinnabon style, from a mix). Food snobs strike again: What are these? I don’t like these. These look funny. I don’t want to touch these. I’m so full, I can’t eat any more (after a single bite). And now? I’m taking these ingrates to the country. I hope the fresh air, sunshine, and exercise will exhaust them, so maybe I can get a nap this afternoon.

At least tuning them out to write this post has been a break, of sorts. At least getting it out of my system helped a little. But I could use one of those nice, quiet afternoons where I can get a bit of uninterrupted sleep.

Sweet boy

November 16, 2010

Over the last few days, I’ve been struck by how sweet, gentle, and caring S can be.  Sure, he has his moments of acting like a little hellion, but beneath that, he’s amazingly generous and sensitive.  I don’t think all of his classmates in preschool are like this.  I know some are – and I’ve observed that those are the kids he seeks out as companions.  His two best chums – a girl and a boy – are lively, intelligent, delightful kids.  Each has a terrific sense of humor.  It makes me particularly sad and wistful to think of moving when I consider the relationships he’s developed with those two kids.

This morning, A overslept (and needed it) and didn’t wake until the bus had already passed, so I took her to school.  S is like me in the mornings: he’d love to snuggle in a warm bed for a while, until he has to get up and do something.  I always feel bad getting him up before he’s really ready, because I secretly wish I could stay in bed, too.  Unfortunately A’s bus arrives at the rude and ugly time of 6:40 am, so I have to get up at least an hour before that to get her on the bus.  Usually she’s wide awake and ready to go (like her father, she’s one of those strange “morning people”), but last night we were late getting home.  Anyway.

My sympathy for S’s bed-loving ways led me to offer to carry him to the car in his pajamas for the ride to A’s school.  Let’s not dwell on the fact that I was also wearing pajama pants for the trip – a fact no one would have even seen before the switch from daylight savings time two weeks ago.  I thought I would scoop him out of bed and take him straight to the car, but no.  I walked back, and he had turned on his light so he could find his stuffed animals.  He walked out of the den, his arms overflowing with stuffed animals, wearing his Buzz Lightyear pajamas, and announced he was ready.  I suggested that he pick one animal to join him (I’d never be able to carry him and his menagerie at once), and maybe a blanket, since he didn’t want to put on shoes.  This is how we ended up with a boy, his big red fuzzy blanket, and two kitties snuggled in a booster seat for the trip.

His favorite lovey is a little orange striped cat he calls “Kitty.”  Kitty is his baby.  He’s started taking more trips around town with us since Hubs left for Texas, and S sleeps with Kitty every night.  Kitty helps S on the farm (my boy has an unbelievable number of toy tractors and implements, most from my parents), and sometimes even joins us at the dinner table.  Kitty is particularly fond of desserts, but since he can’t actually eat them, he tells S (Kitty is very shy and only talks to S) to enjoy his share.

This morning, Kitty and his new tiny sidekick, Little Kitty (a little black and white stuffed toy that S got from a Happy Meal several months ago), joined us for the expedition.  After we dropped off A, S and Kitty sat in the back seat taking care of Little Kitty, who, like S’s little brother, is a baby.  Drawing on his observations of me, S reenacts typical baby-care tasks and tells Kitty how to be careful and gentle with a baby.  Hence such gems as, “Kitty, he’s just a little guy.  You have to be careful” and “Shhh!  Little Kitty’s sleeping!  We don’t want to wake him up!”

Last night we ate dinner with my parents after I picked A up from ballet.  Just before we ate, I let S sit on the sofa and hold baby D in his lap.  The huge smile and obvious delight on S’s face as he held his baby brother were so precious.  He loves being a big brother, loves the sense of responsibility (to teach baby D all about farming as he gets older), and particularly loves to get smiles and laughter from his baby bro.

Sure, S tries my patience sometimes.  He can be a handful, and he’s stubborn and insistent in a way that might be attributed to my family or Hubs’ side, maybe both.  But he’s also precious, generous (sharing a piece of his favorite candy with his grandfather, because of course he wants to share candy he loves with the man he loves so much), and loving.  He hugs his baby brother with great enthusiasm and excitement, if not always as much care and gentleness as I might want.  I don’t know what I did to deserve this amazing kid, but he’s such a delight.  It’s all I can do not to scoop him up and hug him and kiss him and tell him he’s fabulous while he dances around the kitchen, singing a happy song, doing a happy dance, because he gets to have Fruit Loops for breakfast.  He plays “hide and seek” in the car as we drive to school (yes, I know there’s not really anywhere to hide, particularly when you keep your seat belt on, but he loves it nonetheless).  He still climbs in my lap sometimes for a cuddle, even though he’s getting older and so independent.  My boy is amazing, and I’m a really lucky mom.

Clone me, add more hours to the day, insert overused harried woman cliche here

November 2, 2010

It’s November.  I’ve pretended long enough that I don’t have tons of packing, culling, organizing to do.  I have to face reality: we have far too much stuff, most of which needs to be packed so it can go west in about six or seven weeks.

I’ve attacked the issue in tiny bites so far.  Yesterday, I cleaned out some of the food cabinets in the kitchen, so I can take food we won’t eat before the move to the food bank (which is woefully low on stock just now).  I’m trying to be strategic, pulling out foods that the kids don’t like much.  That makes for a strange collection – several cans of tomato soup and baked beans, a can of Mandarin oranges, some jars of spaghetti sauce (A’s going through an anti-red-food phase and S hopped on that bandwagon too), several boxes of broccoli and cheese Rice-a-Roni (A & S pick through to remove anything green), a bottle of Balsamic vinegar, and three bottles of hot sauce.  Hubs may be surprised to learn this (hi, honey!), but I plan on moving little to no food.  Texas may be a whole other country, but I know they have grocery stores there.

I got one big sentimental task out of the way yesterday: I cleaned out all of A’s outgrown clothes, so that I can donate some and pass others down to younger cousins.  My little girl is so tall and slim now, not the tiny baby she used to be.  With her little waist, she has been able to wear some dresses and outfits for three or four years, until she outgrows the length.  Efforts to get her to eat enough are largely futile.  She’s not too thin, but is on the edge.

Hubs was in a wreck last night, on his way home from work.  A woman failed to slow/stop for the red light where he was stopped and ran into the back of his car.  I said many unkind things about her and her barely-scratched SUV.  The little green car (what A & S call their daddy’s car) has a smooshed trunk and rear bumper and had to be towed.  I’m very relieved that Hubs is mostly okay (some back and neck pain -> a few physical therapy sessions) and a little apprehensive about the traffic out there.  The other “new guy” who started work around the same time as Hubs was in an accident a couple of weeks ago.  I hope this is just a fluke and not an indicator of the caliber of drivers in Austin.

Oh, look!  I’ve managed to procrastinate for several minutes by writing this post!  Off to pack.


October 11, 2010

Lately I’ve been thinking about addiction and its role in my life.  I’m not a drug addict.  I take only legally prescribed medications as instructed by my doctor.  I’m not an alcoholic.  I drink wine or beer occasionally, hard liquor rarely, not to excess, and only when I know that it’s safe to do so: I won’t need to drive or provide solo care for my children.  And while I will admit to trying cigarettes, that was years ago in college, so no addiction there, either.

But I do have an addictive personality.  I have a serious weakness for junk food, particularly sweets and ice cream, and I tend to overeat when I’m stressed (let’s not talk about my eating habits since Hubs moved).  Any of you who know me on Facebook have probably noticed I play a lot of games there – another facet of my addictive personality.  Lately I’ve been more aware  of another tendency, again emerging when I’m under stress (and being the only parent in town for three kids is a wee bit stressful).

I’m hiding in books.  I’m serious about this.  When I get overwhelmed, I retreat into books as a way to avoid reality.  I don’t think it’s as physically harmful as drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or food.  It’s certainly not as apparent to others as my predilection for FB games.  But I enjoy reading, and I hide in books.  I feel like I have to watch this, because my kids deserve my time, attention, energy.  I can’t stay up late reading (which I love to do) if I need to wake up early and get A on the bus.  I have to put the books down when the kids are awake, so I can help with homework, fix dinner, change diapers, and do all of the other tasks that fill my days.

Nonetheless I feel this pull to read whenever I can carve the time.  I suppose it’s a comparably harmless addiction, but that pull is still there.  It makes me nervous.  I know that I need the break, that reading can serve a mentally healthy function for me, but I feel like my appetite has to be reined in.  Is thinking about this an indication of a problem or merely a healthy response, such that awareness and concern preempt an actual problem?  I’m not sure.

My languishing dissertation dealt with issues of maternal guilt, with the conflict between individual realization and familial obligation.  My life certainly isn’t a work of Irish contemporary fiction, but I feel like my focus on these topics must indicate something about my life.  Is it fear of what could be, or self-indictment of what is?

Books, Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, The Latin Quarter, Paris

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, The Latin Quarter, Paris


September 19, 2010

Hubs has a loaner laptop from his new job, to use until his permanent laptop arrives, so we were able to chat a lot today over Skype.  He doesn’t have a webcam for that laptop, but I have the one he got for me before he left, so he was able to watch baby D rolling and laughing in the floor.  He’ll be able to talk to A & S tomorrow (they’re already in bed).

I’m thinking that my neighbors feel kind of sorry for me, being on my own with three kids.  We went up to their house yesterday evening (she was hosting one of those home jewelry sales parties and had invited me, so I went in search of adult conversation and ended up buying, but I digress), and she sent me home with lots of chicken salad, croissants, cupcakes, and a piece of cheesecake.  And then this afternoon they walked down and gave me two containers of chicken vegetable soup, plus more desserts, and offered to have A up to play with their girls for a while.  A jumped at the chance, of course.  She loves going up there and spending time with the “big girls” (high school age).  I feel really lucky to have such generous neighbors.  Almost all of the neighbors in our old neighborhood in NC were rather standoffish, but fortunately almost everyone around us here is polite at minimum, with most being genuinely friendly and outgoing.

That soup was really good, too.  I wouldn’t make something like that myself, at least not now, because A and S are incredibly picky and wouldn’t want to try it.  They’ve convinced themselves that they don’t like a lot of foods, foods they used to eat and enjoy.  At present they claim not to like tomatoes.  I know they really do.  Both have eaten tomatoes as ingredients in various dishes and loved them.  But these days they pick out every little piece of tomato to form a discard pile on the side of the plate.  They won’t even eat ketchup!  It’s strange.  They want ranch dressing on everything instead.  They dip fries in it, eat it on hot dogs.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love ranch.  But I’ll be glad when they move past these imagined food aversions.  A used to love trying unusual foods – the kid would eat anything off the buffet from our favorite Indian restaurant – but now I hesitate to take her out to any place that doesn’t serve chicken fingers, because I don’t want to waste money on food she won’t eat.  S won’t even eat burgers.  The kid thinks he doesn’t like beef.  He has eaten it at my parents’ house and enjoyed it, but if you ask him, he still insists he doesn’t like it.  Since my dad raises beef cattle, I’m eager for him to get past this particular issue and develop broader tastes than chicken nuggets, fries, and mac ‘n’ cheese.

My mind is (obviously) wandering all over the place.  This post is quite the piece of stream-of-consciousness writing.

Paradigm Shift

September 15, 2010

I am a solo parent.  For the next three months, I am the R.P. for these three small people, plus three dogs and our house full of junk.  It’s only two days in – Hubs left on Monday – and I’m already losing it.

S noticed that I was a little… frazzled, let’s say… in the parking lot at Wallyworld today.  There are so many things to do, and today I pushed myself too hard.  I didn’t allow sufficient downtime, so after a morning roving through the mall with baby D (yes, the sketchy dirt mall, but I did find him a cute Halloween costume and some shoes for A) and a headache-inducing romp through the aforementioned discount superstore with baby D and S, I was on the verge of tears as I hefted a 40 lb bag of dog food into the back of my van.

Have I mentioned before how I don’t like to do certain tasks and chores, how I always imposed on my dear husband in the past to do these things?  And now, since he’s 1000 miles away, I have to do these dreaded tasks myself?  Buying giant bags of dog food for the furry bottomless pits is one of those things.  I don’t like toting big bags of dog food, and yet  I insist that we buy said product in huge bags because it’s more cost effective and means fewer trips to the store.  Another dreaded task?  Rolling the trash can to the street.  Which I must remember to do this evening, too.

So, I was hefting this big bag of dog food into my van, tears welling up in my eyes (not because I threw out my back, which could have happened – just because I was so tired and kind of hungry and really stressed and kind of fed up with the constant chatter from S), when a Very Nice Woman walked by.  She offered to take my cart to the corral.  I managed to say, “Yes, thanks!” but what I really wanted to say was “OMG you’re an adult and you’re being nice to me and I was about to cry because I’m  so tired and kind of hungry and I’ve been cranky since this morning because the power went out while I was getting ready and made things so annoying and difficult and don’t think I’m crazy but I could just hug you for doing something nice to me even though you don’t know me and you just saved me from yelling BE QUIET to my motormouth son and looking like THAT PARENT in the parking lot at Wallyworld and oh thank you so much you’re amazingly kind and wonderful and have impeccable timing!”

So my sanity was saved, for now.  I still had oodles of errands to run today, such that I’m only sitting now, after 7 pm, for the first time since early this morning.  I’ve attempted to explain comets, telescopes, Pluto’s uncertain status as a planet, assorted physics concepts, the psychological motivations of mean girls, the benefits  of attending school rather than playing farm all day, the flexibility boys enjoy but girls lack in non-traditional urination locations, the funny feeling in your stomach when the van goes over a little rise in the road, a few etiquette issues, the importance of listening to your mother (doubt they listened to that one well), the rationale for excluding some personal items from sharing with your friends, methods of germ transmission, the concept of shyness and the difficulty some face in overcoming it, our family’s rationale for not allowing toy guns, the ways in which one person’s hobbies and interests may differ from another person’s hobbies and interests and how one must accept such differences and not force one’s interests on others who do not share them, the importance of allowing sleeping babies to sleep uninterrupted (even if they are really cute and you just want to play with them or say hi or show them the picture you colored).

I also faced some of the first questions and anxieties about moving, nervousness about liking Texas, finding friends, liking a new teacher and school, missing friends/family/activities/everything they know and love about this town.  I know there will be more.  I didn’t know what to say to A’s tears, but fortunately the “I don’t want to leave here!  I don’t want to go to Texas!” storm was brief.  I need to get on the stick and figure out some better strategies for that issue.

Oh, and my landlord’s wife called to see if she could bring a realtor by the house in the morning.  Yeah.  This place is a wreck and I lack the energy and will to do much about it.  She said they would just check out the outside, so I’m going to trust and pray that they will stay outside, because I don’t want anyone to see the inside just now.  Still in much of its post-Hubs-departure chaos: the stacks of laundry in the den are clean, but the piles of boxes and bins are rather haphazard throughout.

Deep breath.  Time to read the bedtime story.  Time to put myself to bed as soon as I get the minions tucked in.  I don’t even want to think about tomorrow just yet.