December 23, 2011
But now it's on to bigger and better things. I promised you a glimpse into my very colorful history with Murphy--you know, the anonymous and oh so cherished guy who came up with Murphy's Law--and here, my dear readers, is your first installment.
Today's incident takes place when I was about 9 or 10. I was hanging out in my older sister's room. She is 5 years older than me which meant she was more mature and thereby automatically cool. Being allowed to hang out in her room was a rare and treasured event and there I was in my nightgown, chillin' with my sister.
In her room she had a dresser. Actually I think it would be classified as an armoire. It had 2 drawers on the bottom and 2 doors on top that opened up to reveal cubbies that she stored her clothes in with a little decorative ledge to separate the two. For some reason, I climbed up on the dresser. I can't remember if I was after something on the top or if I was just trying to do a mountain goat impression but I climbed. That decorative moulding ledge provided the perfect support for my (at the time) little feet.
What happened next was something seldom seen outside of cartoons. My foot slipped and I went down, heading straight for a face plant on the floor. Until...the knob on the dresser door got caught on my underwear. I was now suspened 2 1/2 feet off the ground with only the strength of my underoos holding me up. The momentum from the fall kept me moving enough that I was swinging back and forth like a pendulum. My sister did the only thing she could do in a situation like this--she burst out laughing.
Obviously help was not coming from my beloved sister. I started trying to get myself down but I couldn't reach around to get a hold of anything. All I managed to do was increase my swinging momentum. I started laughing, too, even though it was clearly not funny but the laughter just made it that much harder to concentrate. I ended up flailing my arms and legs through the air hoping to just knock myself loose but to no avail. At this point, neither one of us could actually speak through the laughter and tears and my wailing for help. How was I supposed to get down? Did I really want to call for help and explain to my parents how it was I ended up hanging off the furniture by my underwear, bicycling my little limbs for all they were worth?
At the time, it felt like I was trapped there for hours with nothing to comfort me other than the sight of my sister in tears from laughing so hard, but looking back I suppose I may have only hung there like a slab of meat for a few minutes. And in the end, calling for help wasn't necessary. I was saved by the low stress tolerance of cotton. With a loud riiiiippp, the seam of my underwear gave out and I was dumped on the floor, humiliated but generally unharmed.
This is one of those incidents that has lived on in our family lore. It's brought up whenever we get together and have those "Remember when..." conversations. Whether brought on myself or thrust in my lap, I seem to have a great talent for finding myself in...unique situations. At least life is never dull, right?
December 7, 2011
You ever hear the saying "If it wasn't for bad luck you wouldn't have any luck at all"? In my house that's not just a saying, it's a life motto. I've mentioned before that I am a disaster magnet and it's true. I am the very definition of Murphy's Law. If something can go wrong, it will. No question. In fact, I've decided to institute a new feature to my blog. I'm calling it "Flashback Friday". On Fridays, I will post assorted stories from my past that will demonstrate to you my unluckiness and prospensity for attracting problems.
But for now I will just share with you what happened this morning. I somehow managed to NOT turn on my alarm last night so we overslept this morning. Logan's internal alarm clock woke him up at 7 as usual so he was already getting ready for school but the rest of us are apparently lacking that particular gene so we started the morning running around in a frenzy.
I was shadowing the kids, doing my best drill sergeant impression--you'dbettermovefasterthanthatoryouwillgotoschoolwithoutbreakfastIdon'tcare howlatewearenooneleavesthishousewithoutbrushingtheirteethit'sonly33 degreesoutsidesodon'teventhinkofwalkingoutthatdoorwithoutacoat--and we managed to walk out the door 5 minutes before the late bell was supposed to ring. It takes us about 3 minutes to get to school so we could just make it.
Except that it was only 33* outside. That meant the windshield was frozen over. I shoved the kids in the car and grabbed the scraper. It wouldn't do any good to turn on the defrost because, in addition to that pesky leak in my radiator that kept me from having A/C during the 41 straight days of triple digit weather this summer, my heater core has now gone out and I can't use the air. So, no defrost. Scrape the ice like crazy. Make a hole big enough to see through and hop in the van. Grab napkins and wipe the frost off the inside. But, wait. It's not wiping off. What?! It's not frost..it's ICE. That's right. The inside of my windshield was iced over as well. How is that you ask? I chalk it up to the whole bad luck thing but it seems there's actually an explanation for it. With my water leak and no heater core and not being able to turn on the air, somehow I have water leaking into my car. (Yeah, that's right. It's been raining like crazy. I finally have a house that doesn't flood but now Suzy is flooding. Figures.) The water inside the car caused extra moisture to build up on the inside and it froze over. I had to scrape the inside of my car. There were little icy chunks all over my dash when I was done.
I scraped just enough to see and then set off for school. Only it kept fogging over. And I have Bell's Palsy (again--yet another example of my luck) and so my vision is a bit off. I ended up driving (possibly illegally and highly dangerously) to the kids' school with my window down so I could judge where the lines were in the road. I got Bubba and Sassy there in the nick of time. At that point, I did park and take the time to scrape the rest of the ice of both the inside and the outside of Suzy's windshield so I wouldn't kill Howdy and myself on the way to drop him off. The drive home was thankfully uneventful and the weather warmed up enough that I was able to pick them up without having to wear my gloves.
I'm thankful for the little things.
November 9, 2011
Except this is me you're talking to. I would like to present the 30 Day Thankfulness Challenge with a Slacker Mom twist. I was inspired by my friends over at Rants From Mommyland. You see, they have this saying that something is a "First World Problem". Lack of food, water, basic medical supplies? That's a problem you'll encounter in a third world country. Malaria, starvation, AIDS epidemics? Again, third world problem. But we don't live in a third world, we live here--the United States. The country where even our homeless have more than those in third world countries. The country that has an obesity epidemic and an endless need for storage units to house all the crap we own that we can't fit into our houses. So the problems that we encounter tend to be...a little less urgent, let's say.
Less urgent they may be, but we still rant and rave and vent about how hard we have it. Let me present to you a few of my own personal First World Problems.
- I'm irritated because now that the tractor trailer full of our belongings has been delivered, I can't use the excuse of not having dishes to avoid cooking dinner and get take out.
- I feel like my cupboards are empty because after sending my two youngest to school today with canned goods for the food drive, I'm down to only 3 cans of tuna and 4 boxes of Mac & Cheese.
- The A/C in my van doesn't work so as I'm driving to take the kids to the movie or go to work or pick up fast food for dinner, I have to drive with the windows down. It gets too loud for me to listen to the radio and I hate that.
- I couldn't get my little TV to fit in the kitchen so now I will only have cable in 2 rooms in the house.
- We only have a dorm size fridge right now which means I can only keep a few Dr. Pepper cans in there at a time. Sometimes I forget to restock and then I have to drink one that's not cold.
- If we are recording 2 programs on our DVR at the same time, we can't watch another show so we have to choose which one we are going miss.
- Howdy and Sassy have started liking candy with peanuts in it so that means this year I can't pick out all the peanut M&Ms and Snickers from their Halloween candy and keep it for myself.
- My kids can't be near me without cuddling, snuggling or sitting on my lap which means they are ALWAYS. TOUCHING. ME.
*In the Lord, I'll be ever thankful!*
November 8, 2011
A slacker mom who, due to a lack of vision by her previous employers, was not recognized as the genius that she is. She has years of experience in customer service, managerial duties and putting up with corporate crap. Also highly qualified as a doormat.
Slacker mom has many sought after skills and talents such as:
- Excellent at photographing things that don't move--a perfect skill for those needing a morgue photographer or want someone to photograph their ceramic cat collection.
- Great at organizing and details--a great asset for anyone looking to organize their closet by season, color, sleeve length and/or collar type. Slacker Mom also has wicked mad skills with a label maker.
- Mastery in full body restraint techniques. Able to subdue a 60 pound screaming monsoon with badger-like talons and a penchant for spitting WITHOUT. LOSING. SANITY.
- Ability to pull together random pieces of cast-off junk and produce unique and whimsical gift and decor items. On a related note, Slacker Mom is experienced in finding room to store large quantities of cast-off junk in very limited space--highly efficient.
- Professional level skills in multi-tasking--can simultaneously stalk Facebook while cooking dinner, reading a book, watching Monday Night Football and riding the minions about their homework. She has even been known to run through several loads of laundry while accomplishing the above tasks.
- Can anticipate the needs of others. Slacker Mom can answer the question "Mommy, where's my--?" without needing to hear the end of the sentence.
All she is looking for is a job in which she can showcase these talents and get paid enough to live in the manner she thinks she deserves. Anyone with a position available should leave a message. Be sure to include the pay rate as well as the number of week long paid vacations Slacker Mom can expect in her hire package.
Then she'll have her people contact your people.
October 31, 2011
I especially love those last few days leading up to Halloween. There's just nothing like sitting in rush hour traffic only to look over and see Frankenstein is driving the car next to you. Or watching Batgirl get off the city bus and cross the street to (I can only assume) spend her day fighting crime. And all those parents who drag their kids to the neighborhood Trunk or Treat? You know they're only doing it so they can get away with dressing up like vampires and witches and cartoon characters without their mental stability being questioned by the authorities.
My kids get into the holiday just as much as I do. And every year their costumes get a little more elaborate. It's so much easier when they're little and have no input in what they're going to be. One year, I put my daughter in a cheetah print shirt, slapped some eyeliner whiskers on her, colored her nose, and voila! Instant cat. And she was adorable. But that kind of thing doesn't fly anymore. No, this year my minions wanted to be a zombie, a vampire and Fred--the single most annoying television character ever. Fred got nixed pretty quick due to the fact that he wears suspenders and those cannot be found anywhere. So instead, Bubba chose being a commando. That was just about the easiest thing ever. Throw some camo on that kid and paint up his face and we'll call it good. Howdy wanted to be a zombie but after lots of suggestions by me about how we could dress him up, he still couldn't decide exactly HOW he wanted to look so he chose Death instead. And wouldn't you know that we have a hooded cape in our Halloween costume stash--loaded up on our trailer which is currently making its way south from WA with all of our belongings. So that required the purchase of a new cape as well as a face painting kit so we could do him up all creepy with a skeleton face. (Turned out pretty good if I do say so myself.) Sassy wanted to be a vampire. Actually, she wanted to be a vampiress but decided the word was too hard to remember so she asked that I just tell everyone she's a girl vampire. I thought that one would be pretty easy too only she didn't want any face paint. Or fake vampire fangs. Um, then how will anyone know you're a vampire? By the drop of blood I had to draw at the corner of her mouth. After a snack and some juice, the blood was gone and she just looked like a girl with heavy eye makeup and a long dress. Oh well. It worked for her.
When shopping around for costumes and ideas, we of course went to the only store known to man--WalMart. I was amazed at the costumes for kids. There were plenty of choices if I wanted my little girl to look like a hooker with wings, or a pornographic fairy tale character. Since when did Halloween become an occasion for flashing everything the good Lord gave you? When I was growing up, we were lucky if we had any exposed skin at all. Of course, that was WA and it was guaranteed to rain on Halloween. Back then our costumes were those vinyl one piece sheaths with a character's image stamped on it. You had to buy them one or two sizes bigger than you needed so you would have room to put it on over your winter coat. And we didn't do the whole fancy face paint thing. Nooo. We had---the Mask. These were a plastic form of the character's face that had an elastic band around it to hold it onto our heads (over our knit hats that we wore to keep our ears warm). The Mask was such a marvel in costume technology that it is now only found in horror movies and bank heists. It was obviously designed by someone who was both blind and lacked nostrils. The Mask featured holes for the eyes because we wouldn't want to not be able to see. Duh. And just in case we wanted to be able to breathe, there were two pin dot size holes for the nostrils and a microscopic slit for the mouth. These little holes were not enough space to actually pull in any oxygen nor to vent out when we breathed so the inside of the mask ended up all damp from the air we were sucking through our open mouths and then exhaling back into our own faces. The words "Trick or Treat" were muffled by the Mask so they came out as unintelligible garb but when you show up at someone's door on Halloween in what is essentially a plastic bag with Strawberry Shortcake's face on it, they pretty much know the drill.
Neighborhoods where I lived weren't like the ones you see today. We didn't have 100 houses in a 5 block radius. We actually had to drive from house to house. We'd pile in the car, mom would pull up to the driveway, and then we would all pile out, do our thing and then climb back in the car to repeat the process. And--prepare yourselves--we DIDN'T. BUCKLE. UP. I know. It's amazing we survived, right? But we were just going to get right back out at the next house and it was too time consuming to get that seat belt stretched far enough to span our rain coat and costume clad bodies.
So after hitting all the houses in the neighborhood, we'd head back home. We were never allowed to touch any of our candy until it had all been thoroughly inspected by mom. After all, our teachers and parents had drilled it into our heads that there were some very bad people out there that might put poison or drugs or even razor blades in our candy. In fact, I went to school with a kid whose cousin's babysitter used to watch a kid that knew someone that had to go to the hospital after biting into a candy bar that had a razor in it. So you KNOW it was true. Only after mom had inspected every wrapper and tossed out anything questionable (which, having done this job myself a time or two now, I suspect was actually all of her favorites), were we allowed to gorge ourselves on our haul. The great thing was, for the next week, all the kids at school would bring candy in their lunches and it became like the trading floor on Wall Street. Twix were traded for M&Ms, 3 Musketeers were passed down the aisles, and pudding cups were sacrificed to acquire that prized peanut butter cup. That kid who tried to pawn off his candy corn? He ended up sitting in the corner...alone.
While some things over the years have changed (no plastic masks for my kids), all the best things have stayed the same (candy corn is still not welcome here). But we have put a little twist on things. For instance, when it comes time to go trick or treating, I find one of those cookie cutter neighborhoods that builds houses 6 feet apart. I park my car at one end and we hit every door until we can either no longer walk or our candy bags are just too heavy to carry. More goodies--less work. I'm all about efficiency.
And although I know the odds of someone taking the time to tamper with Halloween candy in an effort to maim or poison random children is slim, I still inspect every piece of candy my kids get. I did have a scare one year, though. It was the year after 9/11 when Anthrax letters and threats were popping up everywhere. My boys and I had done the door to door thing with all the other kids in the neighborhood. I remember they got so much candy the handles on the buckets were straining under the weight and I ended up having to carry them both. When I dumped everything out onto the table, I noticed a white powdery substance on the candy. My heart started thumping and sweat broke out on my brow. Was this Anthrax? All I knew about the deadly poison was that it was a white powder. Crap! All those years that I rolled my eyes at those warnings from my parents and teachers and they were RIGHT! Some psycho that got off on harming innocent kids lived in our neighborhood and had infected our beloved Halloween stash. Or what if this was the work of some disgruntled candy factory worker who was right now sitting at home just waiting to hear on the news where in the country his poisoned candy had hit? What was I supposed to do? Throw it all away? Call the police? Call Homeland Security? Would we be quarantined?
As I sat there wondering about the effects of Anthrax poisoning and how much longer I had to live, I noticed something in the pile of candy. It was a Pixie Stick. And it was broken. If you don't know, Pixie Sticks are straw-like containers of flavored sugar. Break open the paper straw and you will find (you guessed it) a white powdery substance. Huh. What do you know? I guess I won't need that Hazmat suit after all.
Hey kids, the candy's ready!
October 25, 2011
The trip went well in spite of being rained on the entire time we were loading. We had a lot of people show up to help and we finished in record time. That was an unexpected surprise. We ended up with more time to spend with family and friends and I cherished every minute of it.
The rain stopped pretty much as soon as we were all done loading up and then we were left with typical fall weather. The air was just crisp enough that I put on a light jacket but it stayed dry so that I was able to walk around outside and get some pictures.
I've been in TX now for 5 months but being back in my parents' house it felt like I had only been gone a few days. Life has a different rhythm depending on where you are at and who you are with. Going back home was like reciting a synchronized routine. It felt like slipping into my favorite pair of jeans. Comfortable. Familiar. Cozy. Worn, but in all the right ways. My dad still lounged on his bed--barefoot--in front of the TV with his box of See's chocolates on the nightstand. My mom was still up impossibly early to make sure all the meats were marinated and rubbed and the salads were prepared for another of our traditional BBQs. My sister and her kids were still irreverent, sarcastic and fun. My grandma was still playing hermit in her house while unloading the contents of her closets on me. My girlfriends were still loud, obnoxious, and so funny that I was in danger of wetting myself.
I had to admit to myself that life continued on.
Yes, I have a life here in TX and moving was a decision that I absolutely had a say in and could've vetoed at any time, but I didn't. I packed up my family and moved here so we could do more for our kids, so my husband could see his family and spend time with them for awhile. And for the most part, I'm okay with that decision. After all, it wasn't made lightly. It came only after about 9 months of discussion, prayer, research and many pros/cons lists. The kids are doing great and my husband has really enjoyed being away from all the rain and close to his family. I am the only one who really had to give up anything to come here. And I felt that loss when I went back home. I knew it was coming and I almost didn't want to make the trip, but the pain of missing everyone would've been worse than the pain of saying goodbye again.
And it was painful. I miss the fall weather, the changing leaves and the drizzly days that force everyone inside to huddle in front of the wood stove. I miss dinners with my parents where the conversation is completely inappropriate and quite possibly offensive but we all walk away from the table with our bellies full of food and sore from laughter. I miss late nights at coffee houses with my girlfriends where we open up and dump on each other and compete to see who can make the others laugh the hardest, and who can refrain from wetting her pants the longest. I miss the 97 different shades of green that surround everything and the bright sunbursts of yellow and red leaves that break up all that green. I miss standing on my parents' porch after it's rained and listening to the silence, that moment when you close your eyes and everything is so quiet and peaceful that you feel like you're camping in the middle of the mountain with no one around to intrude on your solitude. I miss driving through town and knowing that every where I go holds some kind of memory for me, whether it's a shopping trip with my mom, or an outing with my sister and our kids, or just seeing the same landmarks for 30-some years. THIS is my home, THIS is where my memories are, THIS is where my family is.
I sat on the airplane heading south and I wanted to scream for the pilot to turn the airplane around and take me back. (But pick up my kids first.) Texas just isn't the same, I wanted to shout. I can't hang out with my kids at the beach every week in the summer and catch starfish. We can't go hiking and "blue tarp" camping in the mountains. I can't sit around a bonfire with my family and watch the bats come out after sundown. We can't drive an hour to go tubing in the mountains in the winter. My kids aren't going to find live frogs in their plastic eggs at Easter and we won't be able to go stomping through the mud at the tree farm to cut down our tree at Christmas. And no matter how clear a day it is in Texas, the mountain will never come out.
So I sit here and I get depressed about all that I've left behind and I want to cry and wail about the unfairness of it all.
And then I see my husband with his 3 brothers. I see him with his sister, his dad and his best friends. I see them laughing until they cry. I see the family jumping in without a moment's hesitation to support MC and his family. I see their joy at having us so close and having the whole family together again. I see my husband connecting with old friends, having the social interaction that he never quite had when we lived in WA. I see my husband enjoying the weather and not grumbling about always having to work in the rain.
And then I remember the last 13 years of us living in WA. 13 years that I got to spend with MY friends and MY family. 13 years that I was connected and involved and living close to those who love me. And I realize that for 13 years my husband lived without those connections. For 13 years he accepted our every-other-year visits to see his family and friends as status quo and never complained. He contented himself with the occasional phone call or FB chat in lieu of late night Acquire marathons. He endured the rain, my family, distance from lifelong friends, and the lack of sun because WA was where I wanted to be.
My husband is my best friend. I love him more than anything. But I'm coming to realize that I've been very selfish. All these feelings of loss and sadness and "life is so unfair"-ness are all things my husband has probably felt throughout the years. Why do I think that I have a right to have everything my way while he is left out? What makes my wants and desires a higher priority than his?
Is TX my favorite place to be? Not by a long shot. Would I rather be back in WA where some of our business goals that we've worked on for years are finally coming to fruition now that we've moved away? Absolutely. But this is the decision we've made. Together. It's time for me to give up a little bit and let my husband get to enjoy life on the other side of the fence. We can make a good life here--and we will. The kids are already settling in and enjoying themselves. MC is reconnecting with friends he hasn't seen in awhile and getting to spend time with his brothers on a regular basis. My family is happy. I'm making the decision that I will be, too.
Our kids will grow up with the great memories of living in TX and spending time with their family here. When they are older, they will come back and drive through town and reminisce about all the fun things they did while living here. They will grow up knowing that home is where you make it. It's where you plant your roots and invest your heart, even if it's not your first or even second choice. Home is not a place that is handed to you, it's a place that you build with your own sweat and tears and smiles and laughter. It's the place that you think you can't wait to leave but run back to every chance you get. That is home. And that is what I am making for my family--no matter which state we live in.
September 7, 2011
But lately I've been thinking about mental hospitals. Specifically, I've been considering checking into one. Seriously. I think they've gotten a bad rap over the years. I've been doing a little research and I've decided the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. Don't believe me? Read on.
1. You get to stay in your very own padded room. You mean I don't have to share a room with my 3 kids, my husband, and all our belongings? Hello, privacy! And the padded walls and floor? For a girl who consistently runs into walls and furniture (while stone cold sober) that's a major bonus.
2. You are given clean, matching clothes. OK, so the whole white-on-white look isn't real appealing but the clothes are clean. And you wouldn't have to go tearing through the pile of laundry that you still haven't gotten around to folding to find anything. You wouldn't even have to mate the socks to have a matching pair. You would have to give up pretty shoes but in exchange, you would get to wear comfy slippers everywhere. Spending all day in jammies? Sign me up.
3. You are fed 3 square meals a day. And you NEVER. HAVE. TO. COOK. Someone else has to do the planning, shopping, prep work and cooking. It even gets brought to you on a tray. And you're in your very own room so no one will say anything if you eat dinner IN BED. And when you're done someone cleans up after you. There's no leftovers to put away, no dishes to wash, no kitchen to put back together. Heck, if you dribble on yourself they sort of expect it. They'll just bring you clean jammies and help you change.
4. Nap time is mandatory. That macrame project getting a little too stressful? TV time wearing you out? No problem! Nap time is on the schedule. And if you have trouble sleeping, they will even provide you a little pill to knock you out ensuring that you will catch some zzzzz's.
5. They have a counselor on staff. Do you know what this means? It means that someone is actually paid to listen to you whine and complain about how horrible your life is and how much better it would be if your little minions would just pick up the slack and take over all the domestic chores leaving you with plenty of time to watch trashy TV and drown in a gallon of Ben & Jerry's. For an hour, you get to scream and wail and blame everyone else for your problems and they HAVE. TO. LISTEN. Now they will probably then tell you that you weren't held enough as a baby and may even have the orderlies bring you in a wide array of colored pills that will make you 7 kinds of happy but hey, it's a trade off.
6. They have tight security. This isn't like a regular hospital that allows Joe Blow off the street to just walk in and visit patients. No, you have to show ID, get verified, pass through a security scan and then wait in the designated visiting room. It's like prison without the cavity search. And the little minions? They have to stay at home--wouldn't want them to be traumatized by what they might view in the loony bin. So that means you can watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey and eat your tapioca pudding in peace without someone climbing into your lap and yelling right into your face with fishy cracker breath, "Whatcha doin'?" In fact, if you're not up to visitors at all, you can just fake a psychotic episode. Start screaming at the voices in your head, eat the crayons before they eat you or just start dancing around in your underwear and I guarantee you'll get a bonus nap time.
7. They have ZERO expectations. As far as they're concerned, you're a nut job. They just want to keep you medicated and numbed out so they don't have to pull out the UFC moves to take you down. They won't take a look around your
Yes, you have to deal with patients with questionable hygiene habits who (surprisingly) seem to have more voices in their heads than even you, and you may have to guard your salisbury steak with your life lest someone tries to feed it to their pet bedpan, but it's all a small price to pay for a little bit of R&R.
September 1, 2011
School is back up and running and my kids went back after homeschooling the last 3 years. I knew going into this that Bubba was going to have a longer and more challenging adjustment period than "typical" kids. (Duh, the kid has Autism. When are things ever easier?) So I was quite excited about him having a great first day of school. And a great second day. And even a great third.
And then Day 4 hit. And I got The Call.
I was at work, scrambling around making phone calls to try to find someone who could pick up my kids from school since I had just found out that I would be working past 3pm and wouldn't be able to get there in time. Cue guilt about not being there for my kids and being a burden to someone else and I now had a headache. Then my phone rang. It was the school.
"Mrs. Slacker? This is Mary Poppins from the elementary school. Bubba's had an episode here at school."
I can't tell you how many times I've had phone calls start like this. I'd been expecting this call since the first day of school and was honestly surprised that it had taken this long. Bubba is going from being home with a pretty relaxed routine and very few expectations of him to being at school with a very rigid routine and a new set of rules for him to follow. He is now in a classroom filled with people he doesn't know and he hasn't learned what's expected of him yet. Hello, anxiety.
Being anxious means that when something sets him off--triggers his anger, frustration, fear--he will react in an even more pronounced manner. That's a nice way of saying the kid will freaking flip out. And because we registered so late and without any records, we don't have an ARD in place (In WA, we call it an IEP. By the way, the district should get an award for the most anagrams used by a public office.) so there was no plan for everyone to follow to know how to deal with Bubba's behavior. They were flying blind, so to speak.
It all started when Bubba's teacher had the gall to ask him to write something. Bubba write? That's tantamount to waving a red flag in front of a herd of bulls in Pamplona. I sort of feel sorry for the ladies at the school who had no idea what they unleashed. But unleash he did. The question was, "What Did You Do Over Summer Vacation?" His answer? "I don't remember what I did over summer vacation. I killed my teacher." Oh yeah. He went there. The teacher handled it fairly well but Bubba threw a bit of a fit in class. His teacher decided it might be a good time for him to meet some of the support staff who will be there to help him out. Once he got into the new classroom, he stuck himself in the far corner of the room. He started yelling. He started throwing books off the shelf. Then he picked up a chair and started advancing toward the teachers.
During this time they were all trying to talk him down, reason with him, distract him. They even had to restrain him. Nothing worked. He must have got to a point where he'd run out of things to throw because then he took off his shoes and threw them at the teachers. And then he threw his socks. And the cherry on this meltdown sundae? He took off his pants and threw those, too. When I was told this over the phone, I couldn't help it--I laughed. Then I apologized for laughing. I mean, I've been there. It's really not funny when you're in the midst of a Bubba storm. But I still found it amusing. Mary Poppins told me they were just glad that nothing else came off after the pants. (Even funnier!)
The problem was, they wanted me to come to school and pick Bubba up. I work an hour away and had appointments booked until 3:30. I called everyone I work with and begged them all to come in and cover for me. I even offered gas money but no one could do it. I might have cried a bit at this point and dumped a bit on the nurses at work but the massive headache I had brewing makes it all a bit fuzzy.
MC was actually able to rework his schedule and drive the hour from his work to get Bubba. Of course, by the time he got there, Bubba was fine. The thing with Bubba is, he will have this massive tantrum, be in full nuclear meltdown and then it's like a switch is flipped and he's fine. He'll even give a sincere apology when prompted and then continue on like nothing happened while everyone who dealt with him is left a boneless puddle of worked up nerves and frayed emotions. The recovery time for Bubba's tantrums is much higher for the grown ups than it is for Bubba. For some reason, this particular day's switch was flipped when someone mentioned lunch. He calmed right down and then sat and ate his lunch. Then they kept him docile by letting him play on an iPad until his dad arrived.
The whole incident was dissected and discussed and Bubba was warned that if he should happen to throw, hit, or threaten anyone again, he would lose his precious computer time at home. Always a harsh punishment as far as he's concerned. Luckily, he managed to make it through a few more days without incident.
Until Day 6. That's the day that he struggled with a Math Pre-Test and immediately after was told it was time for Art class (his least favorite subject). Again, meltdown time. This time it involved telling the teachers that he was going to hit them--and then he did just that. He physically hit and kicked his teachers. Two teachers at a time kept watch over him while he refused to come back inside the class and even had to restrain him again. All he wanted was to come home so, of course, I did NOT come and get him. He missed out on having lunch with his friends but eventually he was able to return to class. The crying and screaming resumed after getting picked up from school by Mommy and learning that he lost his computer time for hitting. However, I'd much rather him throw a fit at home where I can ignore him then at school where he may actually hurt someone.
Since then, he's had some very good days where he's earned 2 computer sessions at school and had positive feedback from his teachers. He's also had some not-so-good days, like the day he slammed his head on the sidewalk during a meltdown and I got a call from the nurse telling me to watch out for symptoms of a concussion.
But during all this, he seems to be making a friend. The kids are encouraged to write notes of thanks or appreciation to fellow students when they have done something kind. Bubba came home with a note one day that said, "Bubba is awesome." He then returned the favor by sending this Kid a note saying "Thanks for the nice note." The next day, Bubba brought home a half sheet of paper with Kid's address and phone number in case Bubba wants to come over sometime for a play date. For this, I am grateful. I know that Bubba will do fine with the academics and the behavior problems will improve. But making friends? That's always a struggle with a kid who acts like he knows everything, is quick to tattle, and is seen yelling and screaming in class. To see him making a friend this early in the school year absolutely warms my heart. Despite his challenges and setbacks, I have hope that Bubba will not only survive his year of 5th grade, but that he will thrive and continue making progress in leaps and bounds.
August 28, 2011
Let me turn your focus now to my dear Howdy. At 12 years old, he is smack dab in the middle of that awkward stage. His voice is getting deeper, he's growing armpit hair (I know, gross, right?) and he's closing in on my height. But he's also only 84 pounds, has teeth growing in all sorts of weird spots in his mouth and has a voice that randomly alternates between Alvin the Chipmunk and a deep tenor--sometimes all in one word. He's what I like to call a "sensitive" boy. He is a perfectionist who tends to stress over things like getting homework done perfectly and meeting new people. While he can be an outgoing and even obnoxious kid among his cousins and friends, he is super quiet around new people. He doesn't have that confidence and swagger that some kids seem to be born with. In truth, he is a male version of me at that age.
Taking all that into consideration, along with the fact that he has been homeschooled for the last 3 years, I was a little nervous about dumping him into public school in the 7th grade. Middle school is quite possibly the worst invention ever. Let's take all these kids who are at their most awkward and dump them all in a school that has 8 classes a day, all in different locations around campus--including PE in which they will have to shower in front of other kids who are all at varying stages of development--and hope they survive long enough to make it to high school. It's hard enough to make friends at a new school but Howdy isn't popular, cool, rich or the best looking. He's shy and awkward and seems (unfortunately for his social life) to be developing his parents' sense of humor. I lay awake at night thinking, "He's going to get eaten alive."
What could I possibly do to help him survive middle school? I consulted the closest thing I've got to an expert--my 15 year old nephew. I figured he's cool, has a lot of friends, seems well-liked--he'll be able to give me some pointers. His first piece of advice? Lose the knee high socks. Funny, that's the same thing his dad has been saying for years. Unfortunately, Howdy is pretty attached to his knee highs. In fact, if they made socks that went OVER the knee, he'd insist I buy those. (On a side note, I'm way more relaxed about things like this then MC is. He is always trying to think, "What is going to get them picked on?" He tries to help them match better and avoid going out in public in clothes that may be potentially embarrassing. I, on the other hand, encourage the "Be Yourself" attitude. I have a frog hat that I wear in the winter, my favorite outfit is a 70s style dress that MC calls a muu muu, and I keep hoping to find one of those cute baby tutus in a grown-up size so I can wear it. If my kids want to go shopping in mismatched clothes, I'm okay with that.)
Back to Howdy. His school starts at 8:25. As of 8:00 on the first day, I wasn't even sure if he was registered. We stood in line at the office and found out that yes, he was registered and they had a schedule printed up and ready for him. He had to skip out on getting an elective so they could fill that spot with his Math Tutoring class. Good bye, Theater. Hello, Algebra. Sorry, kid.
I had heard that they couldn't have backpacks so I sent him to school without one only to see 90% of the kids arriving with them. No big deal, I could buy him one after school. The only problem is that he was sent with a lunch (Just a plain, insulated bag--nothing embarrassing, I promise. I even refrained from putting in a napkin with a note from me like I did the other 2 kids.)
I helped him find his Advisory class where he will start each day and then (after lingering only a tiny bit), I left. I have to admit that I left with a knot in my gut. I was filled with anxiety and it wasn't even for me! I think that may be the worst. All the way out to the car I was racked with worry. Would he find all of his classes? Would he have anyone to sit with at lunch? Would he talk to any kids or would he spend the whole day silent? I called MC to let him know that yes, Howdy was in school and I dumped all my concerns on him. When it came to the lunch bag issue and how I was worried that he would look like a dork carrying that thing around all day, MC reminded me that he had given me cash that morning to pick up the rest of the school supplies. I ran back in the school 2 minutes before the bell rang and very discreetly swapped the cash for Howdy's lunch bag. I did give him the option and he chose to buy his lunch rather than carry around the lunch bag.
So that was it. I had done all I could do. The only thing left to do was to sit and wait. For 7 hours. Sure, no problem. At 3:25 I was outside his school with his brother and sister (who get out 30 minutes before he does) scanning the crowds, waiting anxiously for any sign of my big 7th grader. I don't think I had any fingernails or stomach lining left by the time he finally came strolling up. He looked up and, seeing us waiting for him, his face broke out into a big grin. That smile made my entire day. It eased the knot of fear and anxiety that had taken up refuge in the pit of my gut and lifted a weight off my shoulders.
Did he have a good day? Yes. His Math Tutoring classroom is cool. He'll get to have a locker. He likes his Advisory teacher. And they didn't have to do any work on account of it being the first day. He had a great day.
All my kids enjoyed their first days of school and were looking forward to going back. I felt so much better knowing that they not only survived but they liked it. I'm holding out hope that Howdy will find his own little mix of quirky kids who will be just like him--funny, sweet and slightly awkward. I'm hoping that he will find that self-acceptance sooner than I did. I know that he will be making memories that will stick with him for life. I hope the good ones stick like glue and the not so good ones slide right off.
(Author's note: As I was finishing this post, Howdy came up to me and waved his armpit stench at me until I was breathing in a cloud of noxious stink. Then he giggled in that evil, so-pleased-with-himself way of his before scurrying out of arms' reach. I think he may fit in just fine in middle school after all.)
August 26, 2011
Before I could even send the kids back to school, I had to get the list of their school supplies. I remember the days of shopping for school supplies fondly. My favorite part of shopping was picking out my school supply box and my lunchbox. They would set the tone for the entire year. It was a decision not to be made lightly. Sure I was in love with the boys from Dukes of Hazard, but would I still want to see their faces staring up at me 3 months from now? And you don't want to pick your favorite cartoon character for your backpack only to get to school and find out that the other kids think it's childish. Despite the heavy decisions, shopping for school supplies was always fun.
Nowadays? Not so much. See, they've changed the way you buy supplies now. You no longer buy a box of crayons and a few pencils for your little minion to use. No, now you buy supplies for the WHOLE class. For the. entire. year. My kids are in 3rd, 5th, and 7th. Let me share with you their combined supply lists.
*2 pkgs tab dividers
*6 pkgs wide ruled paper
*5 spiral notebooks
*3 2" binders
*7 LG pkgs pencils
*2 pencil sharpeners
*4 lg erasers
*3 boxes 16 ct crayons
*3 pr scissors
*19 (yes, that's 19) glue sticks
*7 boxes of Kleenex
*4 pkg colored pencils
*colored construction paper
*2 pkg 9x18 manila paper
*12x18 manila paper (This is the first time I've ever even heard of manila construction paper. What in the world is it used for?)
*2 boxes quart bags
*2 zippered supply bags
*7 composition bks
*6 blk dry erase markers
*5 folders w/pockets and brads
I had to buy all this to send with my kids on the first day, which happened to fall on a Monday. I didn't get paid until the Friday before. What a surprise. So Saturday found me elbowing my way through the crowded, picked over school supply section of WalMart in an attempt to make sure my children wouldn't be singled out on their first day for not being prepared. I grabbed a cart and started throwing in whatever supplies I could reach and prayed they were on my list. I figured I would just grab everything I could and sort through it later. My cart couldn't fit in there among the sweaty bodies and grabby hands so I kept parking it at the end of the aisle. More than once I had to go back and rescue it from the supply vultures who kept trying to pick through my stuff in search of supplies that they hadn't been able to find yet. Once I even had to take it back from an employee who scolded me that they were instructed to pick up all stray carts. I felt like I was shopping on Black Friday. I was guarding my 20 cent pencils and 97 cent pens like they were they sale-priced Louboutins. Anyone came close and I growled out, "Mine!"
The store employees were trying to keep up with the crowds and the mess. As quickly as they could reshelve returns and misplaced items, they were being snatched off the shelves. I nearly shouted in triumph as I saw the manager hang a package of pink erasers back on the display. They were still swinging gently on the hook when I grabbed them and threw them in the cart. The manager remarked that he believed that was some sort of record for how quickly a reshelved item was gone again. That's right--I excel at guerrilla shopping!
I lapped the aisles for about 45 minutes, scanning the displays for discarded or replaced items that I could check off my list. I scored when I found a catch all cart that seemed to be the primary dumping ground for items people changed their minds on. (I can't actually be sure that it wasn't another shopper's cart but since no one body slammed me to get me away from it, I figured it was safe.)
Eventually I conceded defeat, endured the long check out line, and moved on to another WalMart. And then the dollar store. And eventually Target. I found most of the things on the list and had to reassure the kids that I would just have to buy the few things I missed after the stores restocked. Which should be around Easter.
In addition to spending the national debt on glue sticks and crayons, I also had to buy backpacks and lunch bags and a cart full of food to fill those lunch bags. Our stuff is still in storage in WA so I had to buy backpacks knowing that we have 3 perfectly good ones already. Grrrr! And because my kids won't. stop. growing. I had to buy them new clothes as well. Howdy's school has what they call "standard dress", which is an unofficial uniform. They have to wear slacks with belts and plain polo or other button up shirts--always tucked in, of course. See--the non-uniform uniform.
They showed up on the first day scrubbed and shiny and chock full of brand new pencils. And then Howdy, who is in middle school now and has 8 classes, started bringing home supply lists for his individual classes. I asked, "Can't you just use some of the supplies I already sent with you?" He informed me that he was specifically told that those supplies were to be used in his advisory class only. So I had to go out again for more folders, composition books and a PE uniform. I've been to WalMart so many times in the last week that any time I see that giant blue sign on the side of the highway, I have to grip the steering wheel because the car starts to turn off the exit on its own and my debit card lets out a scream of protest. If those plastic WalMart bags were edible, I could single-handedly wipe out famine in a third world country.
My only consolation is that they have now finished the first full week of school and it looks like we are done buying school supplies. That should give me approximately one week to save up and recover until they start bringing home the list of supplies they need for the sports teams and clubs they want to join. I'm starting to see the benefits of having children who are completely uninvolved.
August 10, 2011
Here's how the conversation went:
Me: "Hi, I just moved to the area and I need to register my children for school."
Secretary: "OK, what is your address so I can find the right school for you?"
Me: "Um, I'm not really sure since we haven't moved in but I thinks it's 704 or 705 Sesame St."
Secretary: "Which one is it? Because that street is divided and it could be one of 2 schools."
Me: "I really don't know but I'll drive by it today and find out."
Secretary: "Oh...alright. Well, what grades are your children going into?"
Me: "I think they'll be going into 3rd and 5th but I'm not for sure. See, we've homeschooled for the last few years. In WA state."
Secretary: "What kind of program did you use?"
Me: "We didn't use a specific program. We used Unit Studies." (I say that because it sounds so much better than telling her we did whatever work I could come up with when we actually sat down to do school.)
Secretary: (Again, she's polite and doesn't press.) "Well, did you do any testing or evaluations in WA?"
Me: "Yes, we did." Once. "But I don't have the records. They are in storage in WA."
Secretary: "Were they ever in private school?"
Me: "My daughter has never attended a regular school but my 2 oldest did attend public school for a few years. Those records are in storage as well."
Secretary: (I can practically hear her collecting herself again.) "Those records would give us a place to start but that's okay. We'll just have you come by the school and pick up a packet of forms to fill out and then we can go from there."
Me: "Great. But while I have you on the line, I have a concern. My children are not up on their immunizations. In fact, in WA, we opted out of immunizing our children. Is that a problem?"
Secretary: (a momentary silence) "Well now, that's a whole 'nother ball of wax. You see, there's a special form for that. I'll need you to fill that out and then we have to send it off to the state of TX. They'll review it and then decide whether or not they'll allow the children in school."
Me: (mentally thinking, "It figures") "Can you add that to my packet?"
Secretary: "I'll have to see if I can find one. I may have to go to Admin and have them get one for you."
Me: "Thank you. Now, there's one more thing."
At this point, the secretary has been very polite and professional despite the things I keep throwing at her. In her pauses and silences, I can practically hear her cursing out idiot parents who call to dump all of this on the school 2 weeks before the first day. But I continue anyway because I have no choice.
Me: "My younger son has a diagnosis of high functioning Autism and had an IEP in WA." (That's an education/behavior plan for those with special needs.) "I don't think he's going to need that or the one-on-one para educator he had in WA but I'm thinking he might still need a 504 plan." (That allows for special help when it's needed.) "See, he was integrated in the regular classroom but I think we might want to have a plan in place in case he has a melt down in the middle of school."
Secretary: (no doubt reaching for the Advil at this point) "Special Ed would most likely need to be brought in to go over all that."
I'm shaking my head because I never do things the easy way. School starts in 2 weeks and we have no house and I'm not sure of the address of our possible rental. I know what grade my kids should be in based on age but not on skill. I haven't bought school supplies or the non-uniform outfits that have to conform to the dress codes. I haven't worked out the whole before/after school plan because I didn't know where we would be living and how far that would be from the schools. I have no school records because they weren't in school and no testing records because I assumed we would've already moved our stuff down here from storage so I didn't bring it with me. In order for me to feel comfortable and know that Bubba will be taken care of at school, I want to meet the principal, the director of Special Ed, his teacher and any speech therapists that might be involved with him and I'm just now finding out what school he will be attending. I have legitimate reasons why none of this has been done before now but that doesn't change the fact that I am left scrambling right before my kids are supposed to start school.
Me: (with a deep sigh of resignation at yet another hole I've dug myself into) "Can I come by and pick up the forms and at least get started on those?"
Secretary: "Yes. But we're leaving for lunch so you'll have to wait for 2 hours."
Me: (of course) "Alright."
Secretary: "You should probably know that the immunization issue is a really big deal. You're looking at at least a month before that comes back to us and we can't allow the kids in school until then."
With my head in my hand and my stomach curdling, I thank the secretary and hang up the phone. I start to wonder what the requirements are for homeschooling in TX.
June 24, 2011
You know what I hate more than that? When they're right.
Yesterday was not the best day for me. I had to get up at 6 in the morning so I could take my cat in to get spayed. My philosophy is that no one should be up before 8 o'clock so I wasn't the most pleasant to begin with. When I lived in WA, I think I was the only person who didn't drink coffee so there was no shot of caffeine to perk me up. But at least I was by myself so there was no one to inflict my morning-induced grumpiness on.
Remember my thermostat problem with Suzy? It's a fixable problem but one that has to wait a paycheck or two. So in the meantime, I have to drive with windows rolled down in place of having the A/C on. At 6:15 in the morning, it was already pretty warm out and I got to drive 45 minutes through Dallas in rush hour traffic. Because I got to the clinic early and then had to wait in a long line once I got in, Suzy had plenty of time to cool off. That didn't seem to matter much when I finally got back on the road to head home. The car started to overheat pretty quickly and then I not only had to drive with no A/C, I also had to turn the heater on in an effort to pull hot air away from the motor. Having the windows rolled down when it's 90* doesn't do anything to cool you off, it just blows around the hot air. Add in the heater blowing on high and I was one sweaty girl by the time I made it back home. Hot and sweaty Slacker Mom = grouchy and nasty Slacker Mom.
Back at the house, I got the kids' breakfast and made them do their chores before they returned to their morning ritual of killing off brain cells by way of video games. For the last week or 2 that's pretty much all they've had to do. It was too hot to go outside for about 4 days and then the men started reroofing the house which dumped all kinds of debris into the pool and nails around the grass leaving them both unsafe for the kids. As much as my kids love video games, they just can't handle that much "unstructured" fun. It makes them a little...snappy. It didn't take long before I had kids growling at each other and dissolving into tears and then I had to listen to 5 variations of "He's being mean to me!", "That's not fair!", and "I called it first!"
Most of the time, I can tune out the kids. I try to let them work things out themselves unless it dissolves into fist fights or wailing that makes the neighbor dogs howl. But there are times when my nerves feel like they are already stretched beyond capacity and the slightest tweak will make them snap like a rubberband. It's times like these that my voice comes out a little harsher and a little louder than normal, usually at the smallest provocation. So when there is a bigger than small provocation--such as 5 kids all having serious meltdowns--Mommy crosses over into the Dark Side. I needed a break and I needed it NOW.
I made an announcement that we were going to the movies. That earned me cheers all around. After we figured out how to split everyone into 2 groups so that everyone could see what they wanted at the same time, things were good for awhile. Lunch came and went and then we started getting ready to go.
That's when I remembered I still needed to pick up the cat. At the exact time the movies started. And I was the only adult at the house. That meant I was going to have to pile the 5 kids in my non-air conditioned van and drive 45 minutes in afternoon traffic to pick up the cat and then another 45 minutes home. Instant downer. I had great plans for our movie excursion. I was going to park myself on the back row of the theater with my pocket size flashlight and lose myself in a book for an hour and a half. Great plans? Ruined.
Oh, and by the way? MC informs me that there was a problem with the check I deposited in the morning and MC and I couldn't pull out any money to pay for gas to get him home from work and me to the vet and back. So I needed to make sure I got to the bank and got it straightened out. Now. Heavens to Betsy, are you serious?
I pull in the bank and unload all the kids; it's too hot to leave them in the car. Honestly, I probably would've brought them in with me anyway. I find that nothing gets you helped out faster than having a whole herd of kids trailing after you. The only thing worse than a hysterical customer is a hysterical customer with kids. I spent some time explaining my situation to the clerk. When I made the deposit I was told the funds would be available right away. They weren't. Now I was about to drive out to West Dallas without knowing how I was going to pay for gas to get home and my husband was going to be stranded at work, also 45 minutes away. They couldn't do anything.
I almost cried right there. I loaded everyone back up into the van and came up with a great alternative to at least one of my problems. I drove over to my brother-in-law's house and announced to my nephew that he was babysitting the 5 kids. Thanks and good luck! See you in 2 hours!
That was one weight off my shoulders. The bank teller did have one suggestion for me to try but she wasn't very confident that it would clear up any money for me but I figured it was worth a shot. It worked! Again, I almost cried, this time out of relief as I filled my gas tank and called MC to tell him that he could get gas on his way home. Then it was just a matter of driving out to get the cat.
At 2:30, my van said it was 101*. When it's that hot, it's just gross. Sweat just rolls down your back and there is no cool breeze to make it easier to breathe. Driving with no A/C presents a unique challenge. How do you drive but still manage to keep from soaking your clothes? The first thing you have to remember is to not sit back against the seat. This will only make your shirt stick to your back. Then you have to drive with your elbows up to help get some airflow going in those pits. And thighs are not to touch under any circumstances. Be sure to mop off your top lip occasionally. You don't want people to think you have some kind of weird mustache going on. This is really all that can be done. Unfortunately, there isn't anything you can do to prevent the embarrassing butt rings--the spots of dampness under your cheeks from sitting in your own pool of sweat.
So I arrived at the vet on time but it took them an hour and a half to get my cat signed out, go over her meds with me and finally, bring her out to me so we could leave. Then I got to repeat the whole process of trying-not-to-look-like-an-NFL-linebacker-after-a-game ordeal. And yes, I had to have the heat on the entire drive home. I swung by and picked up the kids who were--thank the PlayStation angels--very good for their cousin. We got back to the house just in time for me to start dinner.
Really? After all this I still have to cook dinner? I hate to cook on a normal day. But on a day like this when I had a bite like a velociraptor and I was hot, sweaty and completely out of Dr. Pepper, the thought of cooking had me close to tears. (Yes, again. Do you have a problem with that?)
I called MC and said I was thinking about taking the kids up to the pizza place. He made the observation that not all of our kids were particularly fond of that restaurant. My response? "So?" He answered with a forced but cheerful, "Okay then!" So my sister-in-law, who was in the same why-do-we-have-to-eat-dinner-EVERY-night boat that I was, loaded us all up in her car and we went to dinner. Sometimes all you really need is some breadsticks and cinnamon rolls to make things better.
There was some more bickering in the evening but I managed to get all the kids bathed and in bed without killing any of them (or myself). I did, however, make a run to WalMart at 10pm to stock up on Dr. Pepper.
June 22, 2011
Short recap: Driving through El Paso with the 3 kids, the dog and the cat I decided I couldn't handle the stench of the former and didn't relish the thought of another night stretched out in the front seat of my mini van trying to get a few good hours of sleep. So we pulled into a cheap hotel for much needed showers and mattresses.
As this was our 3rd day of literally living in the van, it now resembled a college dorm room. Snacks, blankets, wrappers, books and CDs were strewn everywhere. The dog was buried underneath a mountain of bedding, the cat had taken up residence in the middle of the dozen plants I insisted on cramming into the van, and napkins and papers had been blown around the van in the whirlwind caused by driving with the windows open due to the lack of A/C. After shuffling the kids into the hotel room (as well as stealthily smuggling in the dog and cat), I set about unloading half the car. I carried all the plants in so they could get watered. I brought in clean clothes so we could peel off the ones that were now growing on our skin. And I brought in our box of snacks so I could dish out a dinner buffet at 10pm that consisted of Goldfish crackers, Fiber One granola bars and Pringles--all washed down with tap water.
After the boys showered, I stuck Sassy in the tub only to realize that I didn't have any hair conditioner. Her hair is to the middle of her back--it NEEDS conditioner. But what are you going to do? She had to go without which meant her hair was not tangle free when we started out the next morning. After a good night's rest and de-funkifying, we set off--Texas or Bust!
We made a lunch stop at a Dairy Queen that had a playplace and I let the kids out to burn a little energy. Driving along the highway at 80+ miles an hour (relax, Mom, the speed limit was 80), the wind whipped through the car and caught up Sassy's hair in a tornado. I had Howdy take a few pics and we all thought it was pretty funny. (Yeah, until it took me half an hour to comb all the tangles out AFTER doing a deep condition on it.)
The scenery in west Texas is pretty boring--fields as far as the eye can see. And considering it's all flat, you can see pretty far. I started to feel like I was back at home when I saw oil drills randomly dotting the landscape. It was a bit surreal driving through Texas and realizing that I was actually moving back. It seemed like another visit to see family. It could've been just another road trip with the kids except for the fact that every inch of the van was loaded down with all our stuff.
We pulled into my brother-in-law's house in Mesquite at 9:30pm. I unloaded the bare necessities and the kids let loose with all their pent up energy as they saw their cousins. I felt a sort of greeting from Washington when I had to step over a huge slug that was making its way across the sidewalk leading up to the door.
It was a long, exhausting trip but I did learn some interesting things along the way. For instance, I learned that sod is actually grown on a farm.
I learned there is a city in CA called Los Banos which, for those of you who aren't up on your high school Spanish, means "The Bathrooms". Would you really want to tell people that you live in the bathroom? Who chooses to live there?
I learned that the fine for littering in CA is $1000 while in NM it's only $300. I find this ironic since the strip of highway I drove in CA is the dirtiest I've ever seen. If they actually enforced that law, they might bring in enough revenue to hire someone to pick up all the trash
I learned there are some very interesting street names such as Smokey Bear Road, Sore Finger Road, Stink Creek Road and Noodle Dome Road. (What exactly is a Noodle Dome?)
I learned that Stanton, TX is home to 3000 friendly people and a few old soreheads. At least, according to their welcome billboard. I wonder if those soreheads know they are the soreheads or does everyone just assume it's someone else?
I also learned that a change of state does not mean a change of life, only a change of venue. I was a disaster magnet in WA, I'm a disaster magnet in TX. My knack for attracting crises will follow me wherever I go and all I can do is laugh it off.
As far as my kids go, I hope they learned that there is always something new to see. I hope they learned that when bad things happen, you mourn and then you keep moving forward. I hope they learned that in a time of crisis, you just have to go with the flow. Panicking or crying doesn't change anything. I hope they learned that being stuck in a van for 4 days with your siblings is actually kind of fun. And I'm pretty sure they learned that if they don't want to hear mommy sing at the top of her lungs and most likely off-key, they should never put "Goodbye Earl" by the Dixie Chicks in the CD player.
So here we are, residents of Texas. We are adjusting (some of us quicker than others) and looking forward to the day that we move into our own house instead of relying on the goodwill of family members. It's a whole different world down here and I will be blogging my observations as the days go by. Trust me, you don't want to miss it!
June 11, 2011
In Benson, AZ we pulled over at a McDonald's to get some food and cold drinks. When I was waiting to get my food at the drive thru window, my A/C suddenly stopped blowing out cold air. Just as I noticed that, my "Service Engine Soon" light came on and started dinging repetitively. I grabbed our food and pulled over as quick as I could. I rolled down the windows and turned off the engine. I doubled checked to make sure I had everything shut off and then I started up the engine again. The dinging continued.
Two days before I left WA, I had my A/C checked and I was told there was a chance that I had a leak in my system. They filled my freon and assured me it would last at least until I could get to TX to get it checked out. Apparently they were wrong.
I started laughing. I couldn't help it. It just bubbled up and I couldn't hold it in. Howdy looked at me like I was a few apples shy of a bushel and wondered why on earth I would laugh when our car wasn't working. I was laughing because that was just one more thing to chalk up on our list of disasters. I was laughing because I should've seen it coming. I was laughing because the alternative was crying and I just wasn't up for anymore tears. We were in 93* Arizona heat with no air conditioning. And in case you didn't know, there are no trees in AZ so it's not like we could sit in the shade for awhile and cool off.
I called MC and he suggested I call AAA, which we were now members of, and see if they could do anything to help. Their suggestion? Get it fixed or roll down the windows. Thank you AAA for stating the obvious. Not that I blame them. I mean, what else was there to do? We didn't have a choice. I couldn't afford to take Suzy to a garage so we rolled down the windows and got back on the highway. The good news is the dinging eventually stopped so we were saved that annoyance.
When you're driving down the road at 75 miles per hour with the windows unrolled, it sounds like the ocean is rolling right past your ear drums. It's too loud to listen to music and it's too windy to read so we pretty much stared straight ahead while we drove on to New Mexico.
We got pretty hot and gross without our beloved A/C so I promised the kids ice cream. I pulled into a McDs in Las Cruces, NM for ice cream sundaes. As I was waiting for my turn at the window, I looked down at my gauges and saw that my thermostat was almost in the red. That needle had climbed up to point to H and my car was about to overheat. (Maybe this was a sign that we shouldn't keep eating at drive thrus?) I thought, if I could just get back to the freeway and get that air blowing over the engine again, it might cool down. Unfortunately, I missed my turn for the freeway and had to pull over to figure out where I was. While stopped, I called MC again and he told me to check out the coolant. It turned out I was a little low so I put some water in and then just sat and waited for awhile before trying to head out again. In an effort to cool things off, I turned on the heat blower as I wound my way back to the freeway. Turning on the heater while it's 95* outside is a great feeling, let me tell you. The good news is, once I got up to freeway speeds, Suzy's temperature dropped back down and I was able to kill the hot air.
It was a long day of filling up the gas tank and our bellies and then driving until both were empty. It was evening when we hit the TX border. While I was happy to be that much closer to the end of my trip, I have to admit that I had a minor panic attack when I crossed into Anthony, TX. I can't say this has ever happened to me before. My heart started to beat erratically and my breaths came faster. Tears welled up in my eyes as I acknowledged that this was real. We had moved to TX and there was no going back.
Let me be clear. I love my husband's family. I think of his siblings as if they were my own siblings. His brothers are the brothers I never had and I even love all the sisters-in-law. They are good people and so much fun to be around. But they are the only good thing about Texas (um, no offense to all you Texans out there). While I get sick of the rain in WA and wish we had more sunny days, I LOVE living in WA. But this was a decision months in the making. We took a lot of time to pray about it, discuss the pros and cons and basically stew over it before deciding to commit to moving halfway across country. I knew what I was getting into and fully agreed to it so I didn't let myself panic any farther than the Anthony city limits.
It was dark by the time we got through border patrol and into El Paso. We were hot, filthy and stinky. We hadn't changed our clothes in 3 days. I had changed out of the clothes I wore while carrying my dog into the vet but the kids hadn't changed at all. The car smelled of feet, dog and armpits. There was some serious funk going on. We were up to our ankles in fast food trash, books, and tossed aside pillows. My plants were wilted and suffering damage from where the cat had been gnawing on them. We only had one more day before we made it to Mesquite but my sanity had reached its limit. I needed a shower and a bed. STAT!
I called up MC and sweet-talked him into finding us a cheap hotel (which turned out to be not as cheap as we thought since we didn't book it a day in advance but was well worth the money).
There is more to this story, of course. I thought I would be finishing up the tale of our travels with this entry but I find I have a way of making a short story long so it looks like I will have a Part 5 after all. Stick with me because we're almost there.
June 10, 2011
Day 2 of our trip found us driving through Oregon and into Northern California. The curves heading into Grant's Pass didn't agree too well with Sassy and we had our only incident of car sickness. For lunch, we pulled into a Burger King. That night, I had pulled into a rest stop for a 5 hour nap and was now feeling tired again so after we ate, I slept for an hour or so while the kids watched a movie and a hummingbird played outside the window. The rest of the day was just a blur of highways and long stretches of farmland.
Our excitement for the day came as the sun had almost set and we were close to our next fuel up break. As I was driving along, I heard little "pings" hitting the windshield. It sounded like it was starting to sprinkle but I didn't notice any rain drops. And then the storm opened up. Only it wasn't rain. Our car was suddenly being pelted by...BUGS! We were driving through some sort of bug metropolis and the whole front of the van was being swamped by insect carcasses. My vision was quickly blocked by the grisly scene on my windshield. I turned on the wipers to try to clear them off but between my useless wipers and the sheer number of bug splatters, all I managed to do was smear them a bit. I was only able to see through the one clear spot in the glass that measured about 5 x 5 inches.
At the first exit, I pulled off to get gas and attempt to de-bug Suzy. It was not an easy task. All I had was the dirty water the gas station provides for you to clean your windshield and a small squeegee. I washed off as many as I could and tried not to be sick as I could feel the squeegee breaking through the built up wall of guts and insect pieces that were glued to my car. I managed to scrape off the first layer, getting rid of the biggest chunks but there was no getting off the stickiest layer without some serious soap and a scrub brush. The funny thing was, every other car in the gas station was doing the same thing. We all bonded over the disgusting job of cleaning insect guts off our cars.
Once the tank was filled and I was satisfied that I had knocked off all the loose bugs, we were back on the road. Here are my directions for how to get to Texas from Washington. Head south on I-5 through California, then take a left and drive to Texas. That's it in a nutshell. California and Texas are both so big that you feel like you will never leave either state. And from the time you take that left in CA to the time you get to Dallas, everything pretty much looks the same. I have to tell you, it's not a very exciting drive. Luckily I had a good stockpile of CDs to listen to and having the 4 of us singing at the top of our lungs helped to pass the time.
As the kids settled in for the night, I told them they would wake up in a different state. I was wrong. I drove for quite awhile the next morning before I realized that we were still in CA. I was so disappointed! And it seems that somewhere between CA and AZ I lost my ankles. From all the sitting my ankles had swollen so much that they now resembled pale tree trunks. Now, in addition to making sure I was awake enough to drive, I also had to worry about preventing blood clots so I wouldn't die mid-trip (have I mentioned my hypochondria?).
We finally made it to AZ and had to stop to refuel. While at the gas station, a man was asking around for jumper cables. I had some and I like to be helpful so I offered the use of mine. Then he mentions his car is down the highway and can he use them and bring them back? What do I say to that? I want to be helpful, I mean, I would hope someone would help me out if I was in the same situation. Then again, I don't want to have to explain to MC that he no longer has jumper cables because I was being naive. I took a chance and told them I would be around for a little while and he could bring them back to me.
As I fueled up, took the dog and the kids to go potty and got fresh drinks, I noticed that the stranded man had a friend and they had collected a gas can as well as my jumper cables and now they were just hanging around the gas station. Oh yeah, this was a scam. The friend eventually came up to me with his guitar in hand and explained that he was trying to make his way to Hollywood where he was going to make it as a singer. I didn't have the heart to tell him that with the way he butchered "Hey There, Delilah" he'd never make it past the "bad" auditions on American Idol. He finally came out and asked if I could give him a ride to that so-called broken down car. Stranded friend joined him in trying to look really sad and pathetic but even I know when to draw the line. I told them in no uncertain terms that NO ONE was getting into the car with me and my kids. I took back my cables and we took off.
That was the start of Day 3. And it just got more interesting from there. Part 4 will pick up where I left off.
June 9, 2011
That attitude lasted as far as Tigard, OR where we made a stop for dinner. We pulled into an empty Burger King parking lot and got out to stretch our muscles. It was then that I made a monumentally bad decision. I decided that since we were parked right next to a flower bed and there were no other cars around, I would let the dogs out for a quick potty break...without their leashes. Things went just fine until the boys ran inside for their own potty break. That's when the dogs ran after to join them. What transpired next didn't happen in slow motion exactly but I was completely helpless to stop anything. All I could do was stand there and watch. As we realized the dogs were trying to follow the boys, Howdy and I both hollered for them to stop. They turned to run back to me but then Romeo (my Yorkie) stopped as he saw a car turn into the parking lot. Rocket (our half Chihuahua/half Schnauzer who is definitely the kids' dog) never even slowed down. He ran full out for me, right in front of the oncoming car. I watched as the car that was turning into the parking space ran over my dog with his front tire. Rocket yelped and tried to scramble out of the way but he wasn't fast enough. He was run over by the back tire as well which actually left tire tracks on his fur. Amazingly enough, he got up and ran over to me. The driver got out and asked if Rocket was okay and I said I thought he was. Satisfied with that, the man went in and got his burger.
I checked Rocket out and I could see some scrapes on his foot but no other obvious injuries. Then he threw up. And he peed--and it turned pink, then red. As I watched, his lower abdomen bulged out and I knew we were in trouble. The kids were freaking out a bit but they felt better when they saw Rocket seemed okay. They had no idea that I was now thinking internal injury.
It was after 7pm, I had a dog who needed immediate medical attention and at that moment, I didn't even know what city we were in. Luckily, the restaurant had Wi-Fi. Rocket managed to get into the van on his own and I settled him in on a blanket before grabbing my laptop and herding the kids inside. I looked up a 24 hour vet, called for directions and then we drove the 15 minutes to the office. I kept petting Rocket the whole way there and not once did he try to lick me. That's when I knew for sure that things were bad. See, the kids are always joking that Rocket has a Lick Attack. He will physically force his head under your hand so you can pet him and he can lick you. When I was petting him, he never moved. Not good.
I made the decision to tell the kids that it wasn't looking good. I wanted them to be prepared in case the doctor said they couldn't fix him. Sassy cried, the boys became silent. When we got to the vet, I wrapped Rocket up in Sassy's hoodie since it was the only thing around and we went in. It hit me while I was sitting there that I was probably holding my dog for the last time and I started to cry. I got myself under control before the kids noticed though. As the mom it's my job to be strong in this situation. We were shown to a room where an assistant weighed Rocket and looked him over while I explained what happened. She decided she wanted to take Rocket back to see the vet instead of waiting for her to come see us. Again, not a good sign.
After taking some X-rays, it was determined that, somehow, Rocket had managed to get by without a single fracture. But he had a massive hernia. Everything in his abdomen, all of his major organs had dropped through the muscle wall and were now bulging out. It could only be repaired through major surgery and some serious recovery time. The vet's recommendation was to just let him go. She was kind enough to show the kids to another room while we discussed this but then the kids had to be told. She gave me a moment to collect myself while she broke the news to them. I joined them quickly and I found them all crying. I explained to them that he was in a lot of pain and it was better for him but that didn't make it any easier on any of us.
We were given time to hug on Rocket and say goodbye, although he was pretty doped up on pain meds. They gave us a lock of his hair and made an impression of his paw print for us to take home. I apologized over and over again for letting him go without a leash but there's not much you can say to make up for a pet dying.
We had a moment or two of levity, thanks to Bubba. You see, this is our first lost pet. Death is new to our house so Bubba has never had to deal with it. As with other things, he takes a lot of his social cues from what he has seen on TV and apparently he learned mourning etiquette from National Geographic. He did have some tears but mostly he did a lot of wailing. It got so bad that the rest of us couldn't concentrate enough to mourn. I finally had to ask Bubba if he could please cry quieter which got Howdy and Sassy giggling.
Eventually we got ourselves together and went back out to the van where we had to face our other dog and our cat who had to be wondering where their dear friend was and why we were leaving the building without him.
It was about 9:30pm when we left and we had yet to eat dinner. We picked up some food and then the kids settled in for the night. I did the only thing I could do. I drove on.
(Part 3 coming soon...)
June 3, 2011
MC found a new job and then flew back up for a quick pack up and send off of the family. It just so happens that he came during the ONE week we finally had nice weather. I threw all of our stuff out on the driveway for a garage sale Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I picked MC up from the airport on Wednesday night and brought him back to Ground Zero. He was speechless. I would like to say that he walked in and was so impressed with all that I had accomplished that he was stunned, but you know that wasn't the case. He was a bit...overwhelmed, to say the least, at all that still had to be done. I couldn't figure out what the problem was; I was still patting myself on the back for all that I had done without him there to ride herd on me. As the hours progressed and the day of our planned departure loomed closer, I could practically hear the panic attack coming on. MC was actually stressing and if you know anything about him, you know that never happens. I found myself in the rare position of trying to calm HIM down. Unfortunately, all it really did was succeed in making me realize how delusional I'd been over the past 9 weeks. (Yes, I said 9 WEEKS. That's how long we lived apart. Let me tell you it was not fun.)
It was actually a blessing in disguise when the rain came in on Saturday. While working the garage sale, I couldn't help MC get anything done around the house. Once we cleared out the garage sale junk, I kicked it into gear and helped move and pack boxes. The stress of having so much left to do and the reality of leaving my family, friends, and the place I love finally caught up to me on Sunday and I lost it for a bit. Let's just say there were some tears and not a small amount of yelling/freaking out on my part--you know, the usual.
As with every other thing we've ever planned, things did not go as scheduled. The kids and I were supposed to leave in the minivan (that the kids and I have dubbed "Suzy") after church on Sunday and MC was going to fly out on Tuesday. We both had to be in TX on Friday evening for MC's sister's wedding rehearsal (the wedding being the reason we were so rushed to begin with. I adamantly REFUSED to move until we had a house of our own to move into but then Sis had to go and get engaged and plan a May wedding. I might have been able to miss it and live with the guilt but she asked me to take photos and Sassy to be the Flower Girl. We now had a deadline we weren't prepared for. Surprise!). Instead of leaving Sunday, we aimed for Monday morning. Again, it was a nice idea. At 5:15pm on Monday the 30th, the kids and I left Tacoma to make the long journey to TX. Let me amend that. It was me, the 3 kids, our 2 dogs, and our cat stuffed into Suzy along with enough clothes, shoes, toys, schoolbooks and toiletries to live on for the next couple of months until we shipped our belongings from WA. Oh, and about a dozen plants that I refused to leave at the mercy of my family members who are cursed with black thumbs when it comes to houseplants.
After working day and night for the next 2 days, MC decided that he wasn't going to make it on time either. He changed his ticket to arrive in TX at 9pm Friday, after the rehearsal. That meant I had just under 4 days to drive Suzy and her cargo 2800 miles across country so that we would be there for the wedding rehearsal. No problem!
I would have nothing to blog about if things went the way they were supposed to so let me assure you that it was a typical Slacker Mom trip. One good thing about having to do so much at the last minute is that I really didn't have time to wallow in regret and pity. I said goodbye to most everyone with dry eyes and made it all the way to the TX border before there was any time for sadness. Unfortunately, it was only hours into our trip before our train jumped its track. That will come in Part 2.
April 8, 2011
Domestic Enemies of the Slacker Mom
Enemy #1: The Birthday Party This is enemy #1 in my book because it causes untold stress and trauma. It starts out innocently enough with the first birthday when the whole family comes over to watch Howdy stuff his very first cake up his nose and smear frosting all over his hair. The next 2 or 3 years may not even be so bad but then they hit kindergarten and first grade, ages where they start having friends and understanding what this whole birthday thing is all about. Then it's not enough to just have Grandma and Grandpa over for spaghetti. No, now you have to invite other kids over which means you have to entertain them and feed them. And in my kids' social circle, goodie bags are always handed out which means I also have to spend a small fortune buying trinkets for all the kids who are coming over to celebrate Howdy's birthday. How do you think I feel telling my kid, "Sorry, honey, I couldn't afford to buy you a present this year. I spent all my money on bubbles and press-on tattoos for your friends." And it would be a black mark on their reputation for all time if we were to do the same thing twice. Not only do I have to come up with something new, but it has to be bigger. Each year has to top the next until I'm renting the Ringling Bros and hosting 200 guests in my backyard for a 3 ring circus.
Enemy #2: Laundry I realize this is an enemy of every mom, but it's an especially annoying problem for us slacker moms. See, it.NEVER.ENDS. If I actually get down to bottom of my laundry pile, I can't really sit back and relax because my children are wearing clothes. That are getting dirty. And will have to be washed. In our family of 5, we go through 35 pairs of socks and underwear each week. That's assuming no one has to change clothes because of the rain or sports or spills or anything else. And while my kids are pretty good about putting the dirty stuff in the baskets, I have yet to get them to tell me if they have something spilled on their clothes that would require a good dose of stain remover, and heaven forbid they actually remember to straighten out their socks. I end up pulling them out of the dryer in little balls. The best part is when I pull the toes of the socks out and a pile of dirt falls out into the basket of clean clothes, ensuring that I will now have to wash that load all over again. I would consider becoming nudists, but I'm not sure I could afford the therapy bills that would entail.
Enemy #3: PTA Moms If you are one of those Martha or Betty types that dresses your kids in clean, matching clothes, fixes them a healthy lunch each day, sends out homemade invitations and volunteers for every activity at school, I say good for you. Now go play in traffic. You Stepford moms are making the rest of us look bad and I don't need any help in that area, thank you. That's nice that your child wears designer clothes but let me tell you something. A rip in the knee hurts a lot less when the pants were from Goodwill as opposed to Nordstrom's. So Sassy never matches and her hair is always in her face. She got herself dressed and is proud of the way she looks. She gets to choose how she looks when she has to go out into the world. And, yeah, I know. My hair would look much better if it was professionally done instead of relying on the sale box of hair color from WalMart and my nails are always broken and ragged. But the money and time I save by doing it myself is money and time I can spend doing something fun with my kids. Do you know how many trips to the zoo/park/movies I can make with my kids for the price of your one salon appointment?
As the stay-at-home mom, I realize the house and everything that occurs within it is my responsibility. But that whole myth of the stay-at-home mom lounging at home in front of the soap operas and eating bonbons? That had to start somewhere and I'm all for keeping that urban legend alive. But how am I supposed to do that when things like doctor appointments and dishes and playdates keep getting in the way? And what is with my family expecting me to cook dinner? Seriously? EVERY night? Obviously I neglected to read the fine print when I signed up for this. Next time, I'll hire a lawyer.