Humor is also a way of saying something serious. - T. S. Eliot

Saturday, December 31, 2011

This is a Test

Today is a test, and not of the emergency broadcast sort.  But believe me, if the person being tested doesn't succeed, there will be an emergency -- for him. 

There are about 12 weeks out of the year when I cannot stand being married or being a mother.  Awful to say I realize, but it's true.  This is one of those weeks.  (And really, there are probably more than 12 weeks, but for me to outright admit that would not be kosher.)  And I have to wonder whether my forgetting to put on my wedding band this morning was some sort of Freudian slip.

Between getting Christmas cards addressing me as "Mrs. 'Dave's Last Name'," (DAMN is that ever a pet peeve of mine!) the kids being out of school, and the mess that happens in a house with too many new toys, messy children and too small of a home...

I'm fit to be tied.

I am left with little patience to deal with stupid men.  And the fact that I am now returned to corporate America and surrounded by other strong women who are not shy about describing their husband's or partner's (or ex's) idiotic behaviors only feeds my willingness to identify Dave's behaviors as unbearable.  The only person not bitching with us right now is the woman in a same-sex marriage -- and I'm beginning to think there really is something to be said for being a lesbian and I am considering the option fully.  Really.  I am not against same-sex marriage for others, or myself.

This week, I want to know why someone who tests above normal on I.Q. tests:

  • Flushes a toilet that overflows -- not once, but twice! -- and doesn't preventively turn off the water.  Really?  And for one of those times, leaves it for me to clean up because he is late for work -- again -- because he slept in -- again -- and lord forbid he help with ANY of the morning routine -- again.

  • Calls me at work when the plumber doesn't show up.  I realize I am on the crisis team, but for heaven's fucking sake, figure this issue out on your own.

  • Leaves me to deal with a group of male plumbers (Lord save us all) who: lack problem solving skills when they are locked out of my home (it's called, call my cell phone, which I told them to do in the first place), bitch at me before I am not even awake the next morning for a wasted trip (again NOT MY FAULT ASSHOLE -- it's called follow directions) and THEN cannot figure out what is wrong with the toilet and ask ME if what is happening looks normal.

  • Nearly blows out his engine on his car by driving it with only two drops of oil in the car after not taking care to get an oil change done for 10,000 miles.

  • Tells me he "doesn't care" where he is supposed to put toys after I spent from 9AM to 1AM cleaning and re-organizing the post-Christmas mess WHILE HAVING 3 SMALL CHILDREN UNDERFOOT -- and getting them out of the way is like hearding cats into a mother-effing river.
ah hem.

Mama always told me those "talented and gifted kids might be smart but in everyday life they are stupid."  Cheers and amen to that one.

When I get home tonight,  if the long ago broken light switch that operates the light above our kitchen table so we can see the food we eat for dinner that I so lovingly home cook each and every frickin night (or morning on the days I work) is not fixed when I get home and the water filter is still blinking red at me when I turn the faucet on...he will have failed the test...and the little light on the faucet won't be the only thing blinking red.

That is not a threat.  It's more of a promise...a premeditated plan with intent...a reason for the criminal lawyer I know to be on-call for me it whatever you want on this twelfth and final week of 2011.  Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Batten Down the Hatches

In the same way that one might prepare for a hurricane, boarding up the windows and tacking down any loose objects, we are preparing for Christmas morning with Andi. 

Andi has consistently been asking for one thing for Christmas. 


Andi wants a car like mommy's so she can, "DRIVE! DRIVE! DRIVE!"

Last year at 18 months, Andi watched her twin sisters open a set of gifts and then she opened her own.  In the package, the person had given her an AGE APPROPRIATE toddler toy.  Andi was incensed.  She threw it across the room, then, kicking it, yelled, "I don't want (xyz), I want (what Sophia and Ella got)."

So tomorrow, Andi is getting her own bike.  I'm pretty sure she won't be able to throw it, but still...we are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst of Hurricane Andi.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Baby Gift for Uncle Pancake

As a soon-to-be aunt, I've been looking around for something to get my brother and his wife for their new arrival next year.  I wanted it to be something useful and unique.  I think I've finally found that special something that will help to assure everyone gets some sleep...

Click here

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Few Pics

Maggie and Sophia after Maggie got groomed by a very sweet grooming team who donates their time and services to rescue dogs. (They were really good and worth the drive.  Locals reading this blog and in need of a groomer, let me know, I'll pass their name along.)

Ella was all ears...
 And then there's Andi.  Stripped naked and wearing "mama's jamas" while mommy was at work.  Some kids have a pacifier, others have a doll or blanket.  Andi gets comfort from my pj's. Usually, though, she just carries them around and  buries her face in them...this is a twist.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Naughty and Nice

It was never a problem for the girls to have their preschool friends over.  Not only were the kids well-mannered, sweet kids, their parents were nice, too -- easy to set up play dates with, nice to talk to, etc. 

And so when I told the girls they could each invite a couple friends over for a cookie decorating party we had last week, I didn't anticipate having any issues with the kids or their parents.  In fact, I thought it would be fun.  While all the kids are in kindergarten, all the kids invited were six-years-old so I expected just that much more maturity and appropriate behavior.  And sadly, I expected mature parents....

I have a pretty high tolerance level when it comes to dealing with small children and their antics, but after two hours with the children we invited into our home I had decided a few things...

1. Damn. Those kids were naughty.
2. The twins are not having a birthday party next summer.
3. Maybe I'm not as child tolerant as I thought.
4. No WONDER Sophia (formerly little miss popularity) doesn't like going to school and doesn't have any friends. 
5. The children's parents need a parent coach...or something.

These children:
1.  Opened Christmas gifts under our tree.
2.  Did not listen to and follow directions.
3. Had little respect for boundaries (which I don't have many, let's be honest).
4. Spit at Mocha (the 16 yr old dog) and cursed her. Multiple times and vengefully -- holy crap you budding little socio-path!
5. Engaged in manipulative behavior when they wanted to do things they knew were no-no's.

I was feeling badly for Sophia.  At school conferences things came full circle as I mended my negative feelings towards Ella's teacher and returned to my first opinion of Sophia's teacher, which is, she sucks.

For weeks I have wanted to write about my experience at the girls conferences but I get so angry and upset that I shut down or write a blog so laced with anger I fear publishing it for people may think I'm crazier than they originally thought.  Though I know I'm not alone in my thoughts, I do wonder if I am in the minority. 

Sophia's teacher and I butted heads about achievement-oriented testing, testing, and re-testing of Sophia.  I said I didn't care to worry about whether my 5 yr old could read b/c she's....FIVE...and then further pressed on that the thing to be concerned about is socialization as well as too much academic pressure on a child who is clearly pushing back. 

This (sorry gramma but I'm really mad here) damn effing school system is so achievement oriented (as are many these days hence the development of a film It's like the only goddamn thing that matters is math and science.  Be damned a child's emotional development. Be damned a child's creative expression. All that mother-effing matters is whether our children score high on some stupid standardized tests.  And let's not even get me started on what I think about standardized tests.  

Now our school curriculum may be fine for kids who are ready -- like Ella -- but Sophia isn't there. 

And it is royally pissing me off to send my once happy child who enjoyed school thoroughly at ages 3 and 4 when there was balance to the curriculum, to now see her become more anxious, unhappy, moody, and lose confidence in herself in a curriculum that is NOT balanced.

So desperate and panicked did I become that I looked into putting her into a Christian Academy or the private catholic school down the street -- which Dave abruptly put a halt to. 

I talked to a friend and colleague who started out as an elementary ed teacher, but then went back to grad school to become a psychologist.  The main reason...she doesn't believe in how hard our children are pushed these days and she wanted no part of it.  I spoke to a couple teachers about the issue.  Both indicated retiring early because they didn't want to play the game. 

I talked to another teacher who was in my zumba class and she told me, "Well, it's only November.  Sophia should be adjusted now. You need to have a talk with her about getting serious about learning and reading."  Are you serious?!  Really?  She's FIVE! It's not like she's 15 and refusing to study because she wants to spend all her time texting and giggling about boys!

Uncomfortably, I am holding for now.  Holding my anxiety and irritation close so that Sophia doesn't pick up on it and committed to supporting her through this difficult situation and hoping that she'll come out of kindergarten with resilience -- not really what I thought I'd have to help her develop during her kindergarten experience, but certainly a good thing to have in life, and after all, everything we need to know we learn in kindergarten.  And this year she learns that sometimes you get put in a broken sucky system, but you can still come out okay.  To hell with reading. She'll get it when she's ready. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Getting Even is Sweet

Dave said he didn't know my voice could reach that octave.
Mom said the family wished there would have been a video camera present to witness my reaction.
Dave thought the winner of an Oprah give away had called him at work, stating it wasn't until he got home that he finally figured out what I was screaming about...

On Wednesday I got the Christmas card in the mail I have been waiting for for years.  I mean, really, every year I'd watch to see if Heather would drink a wine cooler and every year I would get disappointed as she'd pop the top off of the cold, glass Caribbean Cooler.  I'd drop hints about how it's workable to have a baby during grad school and tell them how babies don't really take that much room if you have one at a time, therefore their condo would be a fitting size for a new addition.  After our group trip to KC last September, I thought for certain the couple's time with us had doomed me to never becoming an aunt as Uncle P and Aunt H witnessed Sophia barfing in a fine restaurant, Andi tantruming in a chocolate store, and Ella pouting for hours because she wanted a cookie.

Finally, word has arrived....

Uncle Pancake and Aunt Header are having a baby June 2012!


My time has finally come to pay Uncle Pancake back for all the bad things he taught the girls, from spitting to swearing.  My time has come. 

Ella thinks the baby should be named Mackenzie.
Andi doesn't hope for a baby girl or a baby boy, but instead states, "I hope it's a puppy!"
Sophia wants to know NOW -- is it a boy or a girl? 

Whatever it is, I just hope all goes smooth for the next 6 months and they have a healthy little baby next June.

Let the games begin!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How a Social Worker Raises Children: Tis the Season to Teach of Giving

The cold blast of air hit me before I saw Ella crouched behind the ottomon with the sliding glass door wide open.  It only took me a moment to realize that Ella was attempting to let Maggie inside. Ella had figured out that Maggie doesn't come inside if we are standing by the door. 

The girls are doing a great job being intuitive and patient with Maggie until she learns to trust.  Maggie prefers to spend her time hidden under the safety of the Christmas tree.  Dave believes she is waiting for Santa.  

I was worried the girls would get tired of waiting for a traumatized dog to warm up and wish they had a dog more like both of the neighbors do -- an energetic puppy, highly engaged with the family.  It turns out they are patient, nurturing, and very happy to help Maggie learn to be social.  I feel proud about the compassion they have shown.

I've been anxious for them to get big enough that we can start doing volunteer projects together.  Besides the foster dog, we continued our now two year tradition to decrease our gift giving to one another, and instead "adopted" a family at work and went shopping.  The child was a 3 yr old little girl that wanted princesses and tea sets -- we figured we knew plenty about this sort of thing and decided we were the best family to shop for her gifts. 

Sophia caught me off guard though, and asked why the family needed help with gifts.  Doesn't Santa go to their house, too?


I don't know, I had told her, where Santa goes, but at least this way we are guaranteeing there is something under their tree on Christmas morning. She seemed to accept my explanation and I breathed a sigh of relief and then felt guilty for being the lying liar that I am.  I considered not doing the whole Santa act for our children just because I didn't want them to be as sad as I was when I realized Santa wasn't real in the sense I wanted him to be. It's fun to believe in someone magical who does good things, but it stings when reality hits and the magic dies. 

It wasn't even about the gifts for me.  It was about the feeling that someone out there was powerful and watching over me -- watching over all children.  One year I bargained with Santa that he needn't give me a thing if he would "make my sister ok" and learn to talk.  That was the year that I was growing suspicious of Santa, and needless to say, he didn't give me my wish. 

It was then that I learned that it feels better to give than to receive. That it isn't material things and money that make us happy and touches our hearts.  It's about walking a path with others who are suffering knowing that it's comforting to have someone beside us on our journey.  To know someone is in our corner, even if they can't fix things.  

I would be a bad mom and a selfish person if I indulged the girls and didn't teach about giving in some way shape or form.  As a child, it's easy to think about receiving because of the developmental egocentricity that comes with the territory.  There are plenty of opportunities for the girls to learn to graciously receive from others, but it takes forethought to assure they grasp why giving back is a responsibility we should undertake whenever we are able.  It's fun to watch the girls eyes light up when they get a gift on Christmas morning, but it's truly heartwarming to see them thinking about others in unselfish ways.  It's about not leaving anyone behind and making sure everyone knows they matter...someone loves them....someone cares.  That's where the magic is.

Friday, December 9, 2011


At long last the girls got to hold Maggie the Black Thing.  Sophia, especially, is great with her. Maggie still darts away from us, we have to approach very, very slowly.  She still sits under the Christmas tree, and both afternoons Dave has left her alone he has come home to a present of sorts she has left in her cage for him...which makes him not very happy. Gulp.  Dave's vacation is coming to an end, though I'm not sure it was much of a vacation between all the errands, shopping, adjustment to the dog, and him still having to work to meet deadlines.  I feel a soapbox coming on about him working when he is supposed to be on vacation...should I be mad at him? mad at his company  for being assholes? or mad at our workaholic culture in general.  I'm going to sign off and head home from work and leave you with some pics of the girls with Maggie.  Finally.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Black Thing Under the Tree

If we still have her in another month, I'm not sure where she'll sit.  Maggie's favorite spot....

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Visit to Santa

Andi has been calling Maggie, "that black thing."  While it sounds harsh, she is saying it lovingly.  The bigger girls are very gentle with her and read to her and sing her songs very quietly.  She is taking it all in.  Mostly from her kennel.  Though tonight, she has elected to stay outside of her cage for a couple hours -- wow!  She doesn't bark...she stays frozen when you set her down.  She is definitely shell shocked.

Lucky for her, we had our annual trip to see Santa.  She had some peace and quiet while the girls visited Santa and then shoe-shopped til they dropped.  Sophia got the cutest pair of Toms -- much cuter on than I thought.  And we got Andi Uggs because that child REFUSES to wear socks, and doesn't have any other warm shoes to wear.  She has one pair of silver glitter Mary Janes.  With the snow falling, that just won't cut it.

Tomorrow Dave and I head out to (hopefully) finish xmas shopping while the girls hang with the beloved neighbor.  It will be nice to be done shopping and just sit back and enjoy the holidays without having to go out in the crowds.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

She is Here

And she's scared out of her mind.  We're giving her space.  Andi is demonstrating for her how to go potty -- in a pink princess potty chair -- let's hope both the dog and Andi come out of this adventure potty trained. Win-win! 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Annual Tree Hunt, Grumpy Gnomes and Santa's Spy

This past week Dave took a day off work and we went tree hunting.  Not only did we find a nice tree for our living room, we found an angry little bah-humbug gnome running through the tree farm.  The only noise it made was high pitched screaming.

Decorating the tree, Andi had a great smile on her face.  I was the one who turned into a bah humbug gnome after Andi broke an ornament and started pulling things off the tree and out of boxes faster than  I could keep up with.

Dave and I looked at each other and reminded each other why our tree only had 10 ornaments on it the years the twins were 1 and 2 yrs old.

I have twice found Andi opening her presents from under the tree, which is why I have introduced the Elf on the  Shelf.  The girls love looking for the little elf every morning and after she disappeared suddenly (by falling behind the bed), the girls are certain she IS real and that she DOES fly back to Santa every night and tell him if they were naughty or nice.

I hope she stays all year.

Our Elf on the Shelf named "Holly June"

Mr. Mom and the Kids

This past week was my first official week working as a crisis triage clinician.  I've been in training the past 7 weeks -- there's a lot to learn about all the technology -- dealing with suicidal clients or people needing in patient treatment is the least of my worries and was not the focus of training.  It was learning all the damn computer systems and the ins and outs of managed care (still not a big fan and prefer to stick with working directly with the crisis calls and EAP counseling calls -- so I'm actively avoiding doing the managed care work for as long as possible). 

I'm not complaining, though. It's fast paced, fun, and you never know what you are going to get.  Most of the clinicians on the team are highly seasoned and, honestly, intimidating as far as their knowledge goes.  Last week, one of the most experienced and revered clinicians came over to the other newbie and I -- we are both in our 30's -- he is pushing 70, and asked us to come help him.  We sat there and stared at him, certain there was nothing we could help with.  Turns out he wanted one of our young bodies to climb under his desk and get a plug.  :)

Anyway, while I'm juggling mental health crisis at work, Dave is at home with the girls.  Today Dave took the twins to gymnastics.  While they waited for the girls class to end Andi looked at him and said, "I want you to go to work and Mommy stay home."  H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S  She followed up with, "I like mommy," in case he didn't get the message.

Before they went to gymnastics, I encouraged Dave to make oatmeal for a heartier breakfast.  And it's the real stuff....not the instant stuff in a little package that tastes like sugar and preservatives, but real oatmeal made on the stovetop. I make  it a few times a week and the girls eat it up. It's quick and easy, and healthier.
So why not? 

I'll tell you why not...apparently it's not easy -- for Dave -- who just admitted that he made the oatmeal and the uniform response from the girls was, "YUCK!"

I really do hope, though, that they all adjust because I like going to work and having my own time. Nearly doubling our household income has taken a lot of pressure off our shoulders.  The 45 minute break I get allows me to workout in the gym.  And it's nice to be using the clinical skills I developed but had been laying dormant for most of the last five years.

I had been feeling lost lately.  I began wondering if I was having an early mid-life crisis because I was feeling pretty stagnant.  I had a life plan as a go to college, get married, go to grad school, buy a home, get a good job, have kids, and be a career mom...and I'm just realizing that I'm (finally) doing all that. I feel lucky to have gotten to stay home with the girls, but that was really hard, isolating work, and for right now, this feels really nice.

Status of Things

Yes.  Dave has warmed up to the idea of a foster dog joining us and we are now set to meet her on Monday (providing we pass the home visit).  The girls are on the edges of their seats waiting to meet her.  They understand she may have some issues with socialization and may lack skills that other dogs lack due to her rough start in life, but they are on board for teaching her how to be a part of the family.  They also understand we are not her "forever home" and are learning the concepts of fostering and adoption -- which is good, because Dave and I have considered fostering children when our own kids are a bit older.

Dave is used to this sort of thing.  My parents probably should have warned him that I have a bit of a habit of taking in stray dogs, though while I was in grad school -- and 6 months into our marriage -- Dave learned that I was a bit -- enthusiastic -- about rescuing dogs when he saw me running down the middle of one of the busiest streets in Columbia, MO trying to catch a limping chihuahua.  I hopped out of my brand new CR-V, leaving it parked with it's flashers on.  Dave sat stunned in the passenger seat for a moment before he hopped out yelling, "What are you doing?" 

I called back, annoyed at his distracting me from the task at hand, "I'm trying to save this dog before she gets run over!"

"YOU'RE GOING TO GET RUN OVER!" he had shouted back at me. 

Eventually I caught up with the dog at the entrance to a hospital, and Dave caught up to me with the car.  It was a turning point in our relationship -- one in which he knew I was just a little off kilter -- and one in which I knew he'd be there anyway and eventually.  We brought the dog home, finding her a home just days before we moved to MN for Dave to start law school. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Game On: Bleeding Heart vs. The Husband

The girls want a dog.
I'm not ready for the committment of actually owning another dog, but I do like them...if they are small and cute.
I spend time at work while waiting for the next crisis call looking at; giggling with a co-worker about how cute some of the dogs are.
The option of fostering a dog entered my mind during these browsing sessions.
Dave said, "no."
But that was after I already applied and was accepted and  kind of sort of might have committed to taking in a 5 yr old pomeranian just rescued from a puppy-mill who is in need of fostering when she is discharged from the veterinary hospital this upcoming Friday.
The girls have already named her "Maggie."
Dave has asked me to quit acting like I'm a telethon host and to give him space to think about it.

I am giving him space, it's the twins who are asking now.

I really hope his decision positively aligns with the timing of the dog's arrival to our home on Friday.

This could get ugly.  Please stand-by.

The situation is reminiscent of the time when I was 13 or so years-old and I signed my family up to host a foreign exchange student.  Mom was not happy about that....

I just can't help myself. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Target employee walked by Andi and smiled at her.  Andi was trailing behind me and I turned around to see what her reaction was to the friendly gesture by the man in the red shirt and khaki pants.  Her reaction -- while it probably shouldn't have -- caught me off guard...She first let out a growl, then lunging at him, she swiped at him with an oversized candycane ornament and then -- like a cherry on top of the assault -- spit at him.

For a moment I was dumbstruck, but then came to my "I better nip this behavior in the bud before she turns 16 and lands in juve" senses and stooped down to her level and quietly told her it is not very nice to try to hit others with candy canes and spit at them.  Realizing what I had just said, I quickly turned around and smiled to myself.  I have said a lot of things to my kids like "Stop running with the scissors!"  and "Don't hold your baby sister up by one arm!" but I have never had the opportunity to ask them not to hit others with a symbol of joy and merriment. 

Andi has stopped her major screaming fits, but as is so often the case, a bad habit that is eradicated is often replaced by other behaviors. 

The behaviors that have replaced the screaming include:  throwing her shoes at mommy and Best Buy employees who talk to her, growling, spitting (especially at "Big Bad Daddy" as she calls Dave), and last, but certainly not least, barricading herself under the chair in the pediatrician's office requiring removal of the chair -- twice -- so she could be extracated for an exam, and later for a strep test and blood work. 

This tiny two-year-old terror loves me and I love her and all of her naughty quirks.  I know she loves me because in a moment of deep philosophical thought she announced to Dave, "I love Mommy.  I love Sophia.  I love Ella."

Dave asked, "and do you love daddy, too?"  Her response was a silent pause and then, "I love mommy."  And then she sauntered away to go do her own thing, leaving Dave to shrug his shoulders and surrender to the fact that I am more popular than he is with our children. 

Thanksgiving 2012

What in the world?  It's already Thanksgiving?  Sophia made a homemade pumpkin pie (yes, of course we used real pumpkins -- not canned pumpkin.  And yes, of course we made the pastry for it, too).  Sophia and daddy LOVE their pumpkin pie.  For the non-pumpkin pie eaters in the house, Ella made a white cake with chocolate frosting. 

We actually did all of our baking the day before Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving Day was very laid back.  We made a gingerbread village.  It was 50 degrees or so, so the 8 pound chicken (we don't do turkey) roasted on the grill outside.  Inside we made candied yams, homemade mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, fresh fruit salad, cornbread, gravy, and stuffing.  Aside from Andi not eating -- she'd been sick and running a fever of 101 all week which finally broke on Friday -- everyone loved their dinner. 

Ella said she was thankful for her house and her family.  Sophia said she was thankful for Andi...and when pressed, for Ella, too.  Andi said she was thankful for Sophia...and when pressed, for Ella, too. Mommy echoed their sentiments and felt grateful for everything that is going well right now -- good health, good jobs, a home to live in and food on the table.  That's a lot to ask for in these hard times, and I'm so glad we have it all. 

Ella and daddy making gingerbread village

Sophia shows us her work

Andi's work -- she had a little help

Sophia's work

Ella's work

Mommy's work -- I'm particularly happy with the landscaping of mini jaw breaker stepping stones and gum drop landscape rocks.

Last, but not least, Daddy's chalet.