Friday, November 30, 2007

Dear Charly (OR I Should Have My Own Advice Column)

Ok, I read today's "Dear Margo" article, and I am absolutely steaming mad. No so much at Margo, although her reply was wishy-washy at best, but at the jerk who wrote in about his wife. I'm paraphrasing here, but basically, the guy works out of his home, and his wife is a stay at home mom to FOUR kids, with another on the way. And he's bitching because their house is always a mess, and instead of cleaning in her downtime, his wife just sits and watches TV. It doesn't list the ages of the kids, or whether any of them are in school, nor does it state whether or not he ever helps with the kids. It also doesn't state what his thoughts are on having all four of those kids running screaming through the house while he's trying to work, but from the tone of the letter, I would be willing to bet the guy won't tolerate it. So we have some poor woman who is desperatly trying to keep 4 kids corraled while hubby is working, because if he isn't able to work, they aren't able to pay bills, and then he wonders why she's tired all the time and doesn't have the energy to clean up. So here's my response, long-winded though it may be. What do you think?

In response to the letter from the gentleman "Living in a Mess," I would just like to offer my view as a former stay at home mom. I had three children home with me most of the time (the oldest was in school) and babysat one of my daughter's classmates after school. My husband works varying shifts, so he would be home sometimes for days on end, sometimes would work days, and sometimes nights. Whenever he was home, it was a constant struggle to keep the kids quiet so he could sleep, a situation I'm assuming this housewife can sympathize with if he is working out of their home. It is nearly impossible to engage young children all in the same activity at the same time, so while you are trying to read with one child, you may look up to see another child move his finger painting project from his paper to your wall, or perhaps while you are changing a diaper, you may look up to discover a different child climbing a bookshelf to get to something at the top (yes, this one has actually happened to me, and I left the diaper right there on the floor - the baby pushed it out of the way when he got up to check out what I was doing, and I forgot about it until I vacuumed the next day - leaving diapers on the floor is not always a sign of laziness, sometimes it's simply extenuating circumstances). Some days I would vacuum, only to have my toddler coat my living room floor in baby powder. Some days I would pick up every toy in the house, only to have the boys race each other to see who could pull the most toys back out of the box 30 minutes later. All of this being said, I want it made clear that my children are not little demons, they are happy, and extremely well behaved. My son that climbed the bookcase? That was the first, and only time he ever did that. The baby powder? That was an accident - my oldest boy was helping me change his baby brother's diaper. They are simply curious, and they are young, much as I imagine their children are. Like the wife in that letter, I constantly was reassuring my husband that I would catch up on the housekeeping, but I never did. I was exhausted all the time, and during the time I did have to myself, after the kids were in bed, it took all my energy to turn on the TV and veg for an hour or two before bed. My husband felt much the same as this husband does - that if I was not working, then I should be taing care of the house. My solution may not work for everyone, and may not work for this couple at all, but it saved my sanity, and it prevented loads of stress - I got a part time job outside of the home and hired a nanny/housekeeper. I only work while my oldest is in school, and this year, my older son is in a local half-day preschool program as well. So in the morning, I get up with my children, send my daughter off to school and go to work. I work 4 blocks from my house, so I come home at lunch and help out with getting my son ready for school. As soon as he gets on the bus, I put the baby down for a nap and go back to work. My nanny goes into housekeeper mode while the baby is sleeping and does all the deep cleaning of the house - bathrooms, mopping the kitchen, vacuuming, etc., as well as the maintenance items, like laundry and dishes. When I come home in the afternoon, at the same time as both of my older children, we make dinner together and when my husband is home, he takes care of either getting the kids ready for bed, or cleaning the kitchen after dinner. We trade off, usually every week, but it's pretty flexible. Once he had a better understanding of just how difficult it was to wrangle all three of them at the same time into one activity, he had a better appreciation for what I had to do every day, all day. And once I had some time away from my kids, among other adults, and away from my messy house, I became more motivated to keep the house clean and to spend more enjoyable time with my kids - not just chasing them down to pick up their messes, but actually spending time with them again. My house is still messy most of the time, but it's just toys and art supplies now. And since we are both contributing to the family income, my husband and I are also both contributing to the family upkeep, which to me, is ideal. In comparison, however, let me offer up one of my husband's friends, also a stay at home mom. Her house is always spotless, you could literally eat off of any surface in her home at any time. She spends her entire day scrubbing and disinfecting. Her 4 children, some of which are now in school, are terrors - she has had to take them to the hospital multiple times for broken bones (once from the oldest swinging a baseball bat at his younger brother, breaking his arm, once from the two middle children building a ladder to the top of the house, a venture that took them several hours to complete, and climbing up on the roof and jumping off, one of them breaking an ankle). They are rude to everyone, they are constantly in trouble in school for fighting, yelling at the teachers, and refusing to follow school rules. She spends all her time cleaning that house, but little to none with her children, and they have suffered for it. When her daughter broke her ankle jumping off the house, she literally had no idea what they had been doing all day. She sent them outside so she could clean, and never once bothered to check on them after that. In the house, they fling food at each other at the table, and deliberately spill drinks on the floor, because they know she will tell the to get outside so she can clean it up, and outside, out of her sight, they can do whatever they want. So even if a nanny or housekeeper is not practical for the letter-writer, perhaps he should be thankful that even though his house is a mess, his children aren't.

Monday, November 19, 2007

58 Hours and counting...

... Until John comes home. Normally, I can't wait to kick him out the door, but this time, it's different. I think having the biggest stressor in my life gone for the moment has relaxed me to the point to where I realize it's not all about me, all the time. I also read a book last night, a really lame version of a trashy romance novel (which I detest but will read when I've read everything else in the house and just want mind-numbing escape), but it actually made me think about some things. Mostly about my weight, but also about how in general, any changes I want to make in my life have to start with me. Whining about wanting to lose weight while stuffing in another McDevils cheeseburger really isn't going to get me anywhere. I would like to lose some of these pounds, but really, I'm content the way I am too. Whining about how my husband is a jerk and only wants sex from me isn't fixing our problems. Being comfortable enough with myself to WANT sex again, and therefore giving him (and me!) more of it, which in turn relaxes him to the point where the rest of my insanity doesn't bother him, so we stop fighting all the tim about stupid bs that means nothing, well now, THAT is going to get me exactly where I want to be. So here I am, counting down the hours until he comes home and I can share with him my newfound attitude... hopefully, naked. ;o)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ahh, Thanksgiving... Time of spending ridiculous amounts of money on over-priced food...

...that's going to go bad in the fridge because after that magical day of family hell, no one wants to ever look at turkey again.

When I was younger, I loved the holidays. My mom was the world's biggest bah-humbug for Christmas (one year, she made me wrap my own presents because she just didn't feel like it - it became a tradition after that). I always knew if I wanted to go all out for the holidays, my mom would buy the stuff, but she wouldn't do anything with it. If I wanted our house festive, it was all up to me. I always decorated for Halloween, Easter, Valentine's, 4th of July, etc. And in mom's defense, she never skimped on the gifts, especially the ones we made ourselves - she's incredibly crafty, and would always help me make gifts for everyone I knew if I wanted to. The one holiday I never got into though, was Thanksgiving. I don't know why, but I have always had a sort of animosity towards that particular holiday. I think part of the reason might be because my birthday is so close (several years, it's been on Thanksgiving - this year, it's the Saturday after). I never really was able to have much of a birthday party as a kid - everyone was out of town for the holiday. That, and my mom was never really all that strong on history, or tradition, or being thankful for anything, so to me, it just seemed kind of silly. That, and I'm not a big fan of turkey, especially dry, over-cooked turkey, and I was the youngest (by almost 10 years) in a family with very few children, so even the obligatory family gathering was pretty lame to me.

When I met my husband, he was not exactly as big of a humbug as my mom, but not far from it. He wasn't really into the holidays, or birthdays for that matter, especially Thanksgiving. I think he saw it in much the same light as I did - boring with crappy, expensive food. That, and in small town Oklahoma, hunting season falls right over the holiday weekend, so no one was ever around to eat all that turkey anyway. Neither one of us is a hunter though, and after we had a family of our own, we started looking at Thanksgiving as an opportunity for all of our "orphan" friends (the ones without families close by) to gather for food, and cards, and a few drinks, and kids to gather together. The first year we tried, it was a pretty big success. We had 1 close friend and family over, and my MIL, and my SIL and her husband dropped in after hunting. The next year, we added a few more friends, and lengthened the time - instead of a formal dinner time, we just invited people to come over any time after 3, and stay as long as they wished. There was invariably 1 or 2 people with a plate of food, 3 or 4 people playing cards or dominoes, a few people out on the porch watching the kids chase each other around the yard. Even in our tiny house, there was still room for everybody, and the fun lasted all day. We never came close to running out of food though, and always had huge piles of leftovers in the fridge that went bad long before we could eat them all - and that was after sending plates home with everyone. So our Thanksgiving gathering became a tradition, one we followed for 3 or 4 years.

Then, after our son died, suddenly all the holidays seemed... flat. That first year, we didn't even try to have it at our house - we went to my MIL's and cooked there, for just us and her and my SIL. A couple months after that, we picked up and moved 4000 miles away. Last year, we attempted to renew our holiday gathering here. I honestly think the only reason I did it is because a friend of my husband's from work was moving over the holiday weekend and wouldn't be having a Thanksgiving of their own. Something about that bothered me, I don't know why, so we invited them and their 5 kids over for dinner at our house. His wife and me became fast friends that day, and our kids all got along great. It was a horribly stressful day for me though. Partly, I was ashamed to have anyone in our home (you would have had to see it to understand - let's just say that when it was hauled off to the dump, it disintegrated before it completely the 5 mile journey), and partly there as the stress of meeting new people. But mostly, there was this memory of my little boy, and I missed him so much it took everything I had not to kick everyone out and just bawl my head off. Which is really unfair to him, because I know he wouldn't want that. But it's so hard to participate in family events when he's not there. It's like there's something missing - you know the feeling when you have a dinner party, and all night, you keep thinking you've forgotten something, and then after everyone leaves, you realize you left the appetizer in the fridge, or the place mats in the washer? It's like that, just a nagging disquiet, like something needs to be added to make it perfect. It works as is, but it's just not quite right.

So this year, we have moved into a new home, one I'm proud of, so I actually WANT people to come over. We have a few friends, more than last year, so we are going to attempt the day-long food fest again (last year, we just had a sit-down meal, followed by a card game). We also decided to have our Thanksgiving on Friday instead of Thursday, kind of a combo dinner/birthday party for me/housewarming party. So now I am in all out frantic clean mode. And I am on my own - John has been out of town all month, and won't be getting home until early Thursday morning. He can, and will, help with the last minute cleaning, but the deeper stuff is all on me. Like our garage, that is so full of stuff that there's just barely a walkway through it - all stuff that needs to go under the house, be sold on craigslist, or go somewhere in our already overstuffed house. (Yeah, I know, who cleans the garage? But our entryway sucks, and we have brand new light colored carpet, so in the winter, we use the garage as our entrance to keep the snow and dirt to a minimum. Plus, that's where the extra fridge and freezer, and pantry shelves are, so I need to be able to have a clear path to them. We don't actually park in it, our car is 2 inches to long to fit without taking out an added on closet in the master bedroom. Do you have any idea how much it sucks to live in Alaska and NOT be able to park in your garage in the winter?) So, my nanny is staying over late tonight to watch Peanut and Chunk, and Princess will be assisting me in scrubbing every surface in the house. Then on Saturday, my mom is coming over (thank god she's in town right now) for a Shrek movie marathon with the boys while Princess and I tackle the garage and crawl space. On Sunday, I will be converting our guest room into a kid-friendly space, so the entire third floor will be a kids-only zone - three bedrooms and 1 bath for them to tear apart, all full of kids (read: non-breakable) stuff. The guest room has it's own TV, with VCR, DVD, and 3 different video game systems. Hopefully, that will keep all 10-15 children occupied. My bedroom/office will be converted for the teenagers to use the computers (we have three set up in there), which is my plan for Monday and Tuesday night I think, after the kids go to bed. Then I have 2 other bathrooms to clean, because there isn't a bathroom on the main floor, so I have no idea which one is more likely to be used by guests. The kids will have the bathroom off the guest room all to themselves, but we'll have plenty of adults too, so maybe it's best to go ahead and open up both baths for use. I've never had a house this big, so I really don't know what I'm doing here.

As much as I am looking forward to starting up my own Thanksgiving tradition again, I am floundering. I'm not really sure I want to do this. As much as I want to show off my house, and my family, and actually relax with friends I haven't really been able to see since I started working again this summer, I'm just not sure I'm up to this. I don't know if it's lingering sadness from yet another birthday and Halloween without my Pumpkin, or if it's knowing that this year is officially my last 20-something birthday, or if it's just work blahs and tiredness, or if it's stress left over from this summer's extremely extended visit by my MIL, or if 'must losing my mind in general. Not to mention the cost - I made up my menu/shopping list last night, and it's two pages long. Even hitting every sale I could find, it still comes up to over $200, just for one meal. Maybe that's not a lot to some of you, but to me, that's an astronomical amount of money. We usually only spend about 400-500 a month on groceries, so to blow half of our monthly food budget on one meal is nuts to me.

Does anyone else do this every year? How do you deal with holiday stress overload?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Blog ettiquette

Being new to all this blogging, I have to admit I have no idea what the rules are. Generally speaking, I know most people try to post once a day, or every couple of days. I would love to do that too, but as already evidenced, it ain't happening. So my question is, can you save it up for a couple of days and then flood the blog with 15 entries in one day? Or is that info overload? I don't know how this works really, and while I would love to have other people read this, I highly doubt it's ever going to happen. In that case, I guess the rules are whatever I want them to be, so I say "15 posts in one day? Bah - make it 20!" This bunge and purge cycle is how my life seems to run itself - all or nothing, all the time. If by some miracle, I do end up with the occasional reader, just let me know if that annoys you.

In other blog ettiquette concerns, what is your take on archives? Here's my deal - I find a new blog that I like the first page worth of entries, so I mark it. When I go back to it, I start at the beginning, and work my way forward. Sometimes it takes a couple of days, sometimes a lot longer. There's a lot of posts I would like to comment on, but I feel funny doing it. First of all, I don't know anything about how the commenting service works. Are you notified every time someone leaves a comment, like on MySpace? Or do you just check and see how may comments are there? Because what would be the point of commenting on a post from 2 years ago if you don't ever see it? Also, what is the point in commenting on something from that long ago? Is it more trouble than it's worth? Does it bring up too many bad memories (if it's an unhappy post), or have you forgotten the good feeling you had when it was posted (if it's a happy one), making it no longer relevant?

Fuzzy love

I have noticed that for the most part, all I have done so far is whine about my crappy life. So here's a spot of happy - my new kitty. I have always been a lover of all things furry, and while I would rather have a dog, I like cats too. I have one cat already, a fat, lazy, 5 year old ball of fluff named Dragon. But he doesn't do anything anymore except sleep. 22 hours a day. So, to liven things up, I got a new kitty, Phoenix. We'll see what happens, but so far Dragon is NOT appreciating his new roommate. But, at least he's not sleeping all day any more. Or all night for that matter. I'm hoping John comes home soon, though - Dragon sitting at the top of the steps, glaring at me as I laid in bed last night was kinda creepy. I'll post some pictures as soon as I figure out how.

Murphy loves me

Ever heard of Murphy's Law? Of course you have. Unfortunately, I have not just heard of it, it follows me around like a love-sick puppy. Examples, you say? Oh sure, here's some from just last week:

1 - After missing more days of work than I could responsibly afford the week before due to a nasty (but thankfully short-lived) stomach virus that passed through each member of my family (unfortunately, one day at a time), I planned on missing nothing this week. Then my daughter called me at work and said she broke her tooth and her mouth was bleeding. WTF? 5 hours and one very boring dentist visit later, we find that her adult molar had been stealing nutrients from the baby molar, and had been pushing it up and out, loosening it just enough that when she bit down, it started breaking chips off of the baby tooth. Apparently, a pretty common experience. However, never in my life had I heard of anything like that. And that baby tooth, the one that never has had a cavity, is so thin, you can almost see through it. Weird stuff.

2 - My husband works a seasonal job, which means he gets laid off every winter. No big deal Last year, he had kind of a weird year in that he got the job in the early spring, did the training, was laid off for a few weeks until they did their full recall in the summer, worked all summer, was laid off for a few weeks again, was sent through another training program, and then was laid off again for a few weeks in the spring. All these lay-offs kind of suck, but we plan ahead for them, based on the amount of unemployment he receives while laid off. The fist lay off was no problem at all, other than, because we had moved from a different state, we had to file with the old state for last year. So we did. Except some of his wages the year before had been earned in yet another state (we lived really close to the state line, so he worked for a construction company that did work in both states). So we had to file a claim with the other state too. Which didn't come through until 2 months after he was no longer laid off. So, they said they would just reimburse us the next time he was laid off, since it would be in a few months. We said OK. Then, when we tried to file again in the fall, they said, "oh, sorry, you can't do that, you are a resident of a different state." We said, "Duh. We told you that already, 5 months ago." Long story short, we ended up having to pay back everything he was paid the first time around, so that it could be reimbursed to us for our new home state. But they screwed up yet again because they were supposed to send part of the money to us, and part of the money to one of the other states. They sent the whole thing to us. Good for us, right? Wrong. At that point, we were broke, so we kept it, with the understanding it had to be paid back before we could file again. No big deal, we paid it back with our tax return. We didn't even bother filing for the spring layoff, it wasn't worth the effort. So here we are in the fall again. And we have been told that there is NO WAY any more screw ups can happen. Everything has been taken care of. Fantastic. So after two months off of work (unpaid, of course) due to medical leave, he finally gets laid off and we file again. And hear nothing for a month. Then we get this letter in the mail that says, "We're sorry, your check is being held to correct an overpayment to another state." ARRGGGGGHHHHH!!! So we call. And basically, get told that they have "fulfilled [their] legal obligation" and it is now up to the state that withheld the money to correct it, and it will take approximately 4 weeks for them to do so. Are you fucking kidding me? This was not our mistake to begin with. The only thing we may have done wrong was to keep the overpayment for 2 extra months because we had so many late fees to catch up on because of THEIR screw up to begin with. Sigh. I love dealing with the government.

3 - After all that, my darling husband, who is out of the state right now, attempting to move all of our crap up here that we didn't move the first time around, says to me, "Well, if anything wrong was going to happen, I'm, glad it was that. We're better prepared this year, so money-wise, we will be fine if we have to wait a month or more to get that money back." And then he invoked Murphy by saying, "At least now, I know nothing will go wrong with my trip. After this mess, nothing else bad will happen for a while." Shouldn't he know better than to say something like that by now? I mean really, in the 36 years the man has been alive, nothing good has ever happened after saying something like that. And wouldn't you know it? I get a call at 3 am on Sunday informing me that the truck he borrowed is broke down on the highway, and it will cost almost $300 to tow him to the nearest station because they have to tow the trailer also. Then, because the only service place that's open on a Sunday is a dealership, it cost over $800 to replace a part that costs $65 at a parts store. I know, because we replaced the exact same part on our car at home 3 weeks ago. He did the work, it took him 2 hours to do it. But he has never worked on that model before, and it wasn't his truck, so he wanted it done right. Sweet, but seriously expensive. And the best part? The guy he borrowed the truck from refused to pay for any of it, even though it was a part that could not possibly have been damaged by anything John did.

I really would like to know just what it is that I did in a past life that was so reprehensible that I am paid back for it a little at a time every day.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Good Intentions

I have noticed some things about myself, what with all the introspection and blah blah blah. One thing in particular that I have noticed is that while I have great intentions, I rarely follow through. Take this blog, for instance. I had this great idea to make my very own all for me blog to spew forth some of the craziness that inhabits my world daily and to therefore help me keep a tiny little hold on my sanity. And I haven't updated in a week. Sigh. Not only am I just completely incapable of keeping promises to anyone else, now I can't even keep them to myself. I blame this on my increasingly Swiss-cheese-like memory (thank you Quantum Leap - all hail 90's TV). Does anyone know what the early warning signs of Alzheimer's are? Or adult ADD? For the longest time, I've been blaming my horrible memory on "pregnancy insanity" or just general mommy-hood, but I am really starting to think there's something wrong with me.

In other news, this past week has been full of the crazies, so maybe I can be forgiven for forgetting and having to reset my brand new shiny blogger password, twice. My mother in law, who I shall call Dev (short for The Devil), had finally given up on trying to reform my poor housekeeping ways and returned to her very own home in Redneck Hell. After 4 MONTHS in my house. Oh, the tears of joy. That was last Saturday. Then, my mother decided to fly into town. After not speaking to me for over 2 months because she is off her meds and in her own personal Insanityland. Thankfully, she is not staying in my house (I love the woman, really I do, but her mood swings are just too much for me). She did come over for dinner with the friend she is staying with, a very sweet lady I've known since I was a baby and whose children (also adopted) I was very good friends with. I haven't seen her or her kids in 17 years, so that was different, but nice. Her kids no longer live up here in the frozen tundra, but I did get to see pictures. Then on Tuesday night, my husband decided to cash in our last travel voucher and take off that night to go back Outside to take care of some moving and such that wasn't done when we moved here 2 years ago. So my mother stayed with me for two days (shudder), and I had to find a last minute nanny. Which actually worked out surprisingly well - I love love love this girl. She is so exceptionally sweet, and Peanut loves her, which is amazing. He is so shy and completely shuts down around new people, but within 30 minutes of her arriving at our home, he was sitting in her lap, stroking her leg and saying she was "All mine, my Nanny." Since my boy hardly ever talks, and I've certainly never heard that phrase before, I just about fell over in shock. She was hired immediately.

So, things are relatively settled. I'm looking forward to a quiet-ish weekend. I will be moving some furniture around, setting up our (thankfully empty for now) guest room again, and other general housekeeping chores. And watching the entire 2nd season of Bones. Honey, I love you, but you'll just have to watch it yourself when you come home.