Monday, March 28, 2011

Off Day

I started the morning feeling "off." Not like, odd, like all my internal switches were set to Off. Energy? Off. Motivation? Off. Give a damn? Off.

I stayed in bed for literally hours after I woke up. I wasn't sleeping or thinking. I was just THERE. I realized I was supposed to be getting up so I could go to the dr for more shots. The thought of getting injected again was too much to handle, so I called WP and told him I would reschedule it. Actually, I didn't even feel like talking, so I sent him a text. When I rolled over to put my phone back on the night stand, I didn't have the energy to roll back onto my back. I got tired of being on my right side, so I turned over on my left. That was the most energy I spent until about 1:00.

About that time, my brain started slowly coming back on line. Why was I just laying here? Was I tired? Was I hurting? Was I depressed? I really didn't know. That's when I realized this was usually how an attack by the Gray Monster starts. First, I feel tired, then I feel apathetic, and after that starts the really nasty thoughts and I might have to fight them off for days or weeks before I feel like myself again. Looking over the past few days, I could see the pre-cursory mood roller coaster had been a warning sign. Now, I was staring right into the face of one of my worst enemies.

Screw this! I am NOT going to let this happen this time. I may not be able to totally stop it. I may not be capable of 100%, but I REFUSE to just let myself be a doormat to this monster that I can't even see. It took about an hour, but I finally got myself upright an into the shower. That is always the best thing to start off with. While I was in the shower I realized even larger than usual chunks of hair were falling out. My hair is getting pretty long, so that is a lot of hair to find wrapped in your fingers after you shampoo. I know this is just a side affect of the meds and my getting off of them. It has happened before and so I know, from experience, that right about now is when I will really start losing my hair and new growth will start coming in. I will be looking at skimpy, stringy, thinning hair for the next six months to a year. That is all I need, right now - to look even worse.

Staring in the mirror after my shower, I knew what I had to do. That hair had to go. No matter what I prefer, I will end up with stringy hair at the tips and bushy hair at the roots and there is no style that will work with that. Let me see... no money in the bank to go see a stylist. It is Monday. We get paid on Friday. How am I going to wait that long? Well, I didn't. I grabbed the hair trimming scissors an a comb and I whacked 7 inches off all by myself. No regrets. No panic. Just a pile of hair on the floor.

As I tossed the hair into the trashcan my fistfuls, I wondered why I never did this before? I like the way I look with shorter hair. Because of my round face (no matter WHAT my weight is) my hair just looks cute when it is about chin length. I keep growing it out because I ALWAYS used to wear my hair long before I started losing it because of the meds several years ago. Long hair is how I wore it when I was young and healthy and single. Does that mean it actually looks good that way? Or am I just trying to connect with the younger, happier me in a backwards, twisted, un-stylish sort of way? I really should just embrace the style that looks best on me and stop trying to label myself as a "long-haired person" no matter what I look like. All the pictures of me when I have short hair make me smile. I don't notice how fat the rest of me is (or isn't.) I just notice how cute and bouncy my face and my smile can be.

Then, I realize why I have never done this before. Not the short hair part. The cutting it myself part. Doing it yourself with only a tiny hand mirror to check the back is not the best way to ensure the smoothest cut. It took another 30 minutes of snipping and comparing, but I what the hell. It's only hair.

A few years ago, this whole scenario would have made me feel like I was loosing my marbles as well as half a head of hair. I wouldn't have even contemplated taking a pair of scissors to my own hair even in the case of outgrown bangs. For some reason, I don't feel the least bit unraveled. I actually feel a bit liberated and empowered. And cute, too. I even feel a bit sexy and sassy - two things I desperately need to feel.

Maybe, just maybe., I repelled the Gray Monster by taking matters into my own hands.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mommyhood Rant

Ok, first of all, I love my kids. All of them. There is no "but..." I just love them.
Beyond loving them as fiercely as I do, I want them to grow up and be responsible and educated young ladies. I want them to be proud and strong and self-sufficient and capable. BUT, if they don't get the kitchen clean, I have serious doubts about letting them live long enough to move out.

I know that, as a kid, their main job is to go to school and get good grades. As a Mom, my main job is to make sure they are given the best chance possible to go to school and get good grades. It is also to make sure they are able to (God willing) live on their own someday and understand that laundry doesn't magically appear clean and folded in their dressers and that sandwich they left in the living room will not walk itself into the trashcan.

I do, truly, understand that my role as Head of the House(cleaning) is to make sure that all the chores get done and the bills get paid. DH goes to work and wants to spend his free time teaching and volunteering. I have no problem with this whatsoever. The kids have school, and show choir, and youth group. Again, I think it is awesome that they are all in gifted classes and that they all have hobbies to keep their minds busy. It only makes sense for the household chores to fall to me. However, if I spent all my days cleaning up the messes they made on top of cooking and paying bills and grocery shopping two separate results would become of this. First, I would be a raging psycho all the time because I really hate housework and I hate - even more - being tired and sore from house work. Second, my Little Darlings would not be prepared to take on the world on their own. I have no intention of sending my kids to college - let alone to live on their own - without understanding the basics of keeping a house running.

I don't insist that they all become little Martha Stewarts or anything. It's just that some skills must be learned by doing. Laundry is not a spectator sport. Leaving your stuff lying around will cause a mess (as well as your stuff to be lost, ruined, or both.) Shopping for groceries should be more than just milk, bread, and a few frozen pizzas. Food needs to be prepared and cooked if you want to eat anything other than said frozen pizza for the rest of your life. After eating, there will, inevitably, be dirty dishes that need to be washed, dried, and put away.

I didn't have a good handle on all of this growing up. There were some things that I just didn't learn very well. (Probably most if them were taught to me, I just never grasped them until I had my own rug rats to worry about.)  These days I am much better at being a grown-up than I used to be, although, not completely. (I think that's part of my charm) Everyone is a child for a short time, true, and everyone should have a childhood blessed with fun and safety and unbridled joy. Unfortunately, people who grow up with ONLY fun and safety and unbridled joy end up being spoiled brats. To be a well rounded and balanced adult it is absolutely vital that along with all the daydreams kids have, they need to be able to understand that not everything that exists is as happy as they would like it to be.

Things in real life are actually dirty and smelly and hard. Things like dirty dishes.

There are very few things in this house that will cause as much pain and strife as the kitchen sink will. This little Country House has no disposal and no dishwasher (unless you count the three Little Darlings) and this makes dishes a very, very big deal. In fact, listening to my girls, you would think this routine is some sort of daily torture I created just to make their lives miserable. Scrape every plate into the trash so that the food won't clog the sink. Wash every dish, fork, pot, and pan by hand to get the food off. Rinse it well because we have soft water and soap doesn't like to rinse off. Dry the glasses before putting them in the cabinet. Put everything away in the right place. These instructions must sound to them like the insane bellowing of a monster the way they carry on each and every night.

I have done everything I can to try and make this easier on everyone. I have gone as far as to buy paper plates label cups for each person. I tried assigning separate parts of the job to each girl. I let them choose which part they wanted. When that failed I made a rotating chart so that one kid doesn't have to do the same job two nights in a row. If they do it every night there is no more than five or six plates or bowls and two pots or pans to clean. Much to my embarrassment, it doesn't get done every night. At least half the time I will wake up to at least one full day's worth of dishes still at the sink. Usually this is because they started to clean up directly once we were done with dinner and an hour later I am tired of the screaming and yelling and finger pointing and I send them all to bed before I lose my temper and I start throwing things that don't bounce.

When we visit my dad for dinner, the entire kitchen is done - by them! - in less than 20 minutes. At home, we can have a scream-fest for an hour or more and STILL nothing is even moved.

Why is this such a big deal? Seriously! I really don't understand. All I want is a clean sink before I go to bed. It isn't that big a deal, is it? The other chores that they are assigned get done easily, and sometimes without even a reminder. The kitchen? If I didn't stand over them like the slave driver I obviously am, we would be eating take out pizza on paper plates every night (not that I have ever resorted to that simply because the kitchen was a me...)

I know it would be easier on everyone if I just took that chore over myself. There would be much less cursing and tears and throwing things if I just spent my own time at the sink. Things would be cleaner and frankly everyone would be happier - except for me. There are a few little problems with that. First, it hurts me to do it. A lot. Honestly, if it only hurt a tiny bit and I was able to get over it, I would gladly do it just to be able to send the kids to bed 30 minutes earlier. I can't though, at least not right now. In a family sometimes you just have to pitch in and help out when someone else can't and I want my girls to know that - even if they don't like it very much.

Also, I want them to be able to embrace the fear and loathing that IS dirty dishes. No one WANTS to do dishes. No one LOVES cleaning and scrubbing dirty pots (if someone does, please send them to my house ASAP.) What I want them to learn, though, is that everyone has to do it whether they want to or not. Maybe they will grow up and become rich and famous and they can hire someone to wash their dishes and they will never have to. Until that day, though, I want them to be able to do it on their own, just in case the cleaning lady calls in sick. 

So, whether they like it or not, or whether I like it or not, they will still have to do the dishes every night. Someday, maybe someday soon, I will have a fabulous new kitchen with a garbage disposal and a dishwasher (the electric kind) and my kids will THANK me to let them load the dishwasher simply because I'm not making them do it by hand anymore.

Yeah, I don't really believe that, either.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sisters are the coolest

My little Evil Genius has pink eye. It's a bit ironic actually, because her other nickname is Eyeball, because of her ginormous, big blue eyes (all the better to hypnotize minions with.) In spite of her "evil" nature, she is actually quite bashful and uncomfortable with new events or activities. I guess like all evil geniuses, she is a bit quirky. She is the one who doesn't like roller coasters, swings, slides, or anything else that causes her to be off the ground for very long. Something else she doesn't like? People messing with those big eyes of hers. From the moment I mentioned aloud that she had pink eye, she was in a tizzy about the potential of eye drops. That and feeling guilty because she felt like everyone in the house will have to give up doing cool stuff because of her because we don't want to spread the infection. (I'm still not sure where she gets this whole "beating herself up" thing...)

In any case, I was able to procure the dreaded eye drops without a trip to the doctor in person. I just called the office and they called the pharmacy for me. (There are some advantages to having the same pediatrician for 13 years.) In a very short amount of time WP had gone to pharmacy for me and brought the medicine back. Allie looked at the bag like it was holding a live viper (strangely enough, it was with fear.) I know that the quicker I get the drops started the faster she will heal and the less chance of spreading the infection to the other eye (or anyone else) so I wasted no time in attempting to get her to sit still long enough to let me get the drops in.

I was sure it was going to be a knock-down, drag-out, no-holds-barred kind of fight until (in surprisingly quick fashion) her big sister stepped up to help out. Tiny Dancer assured EG that the drops wouldn't hurt, that Mommy knew a special trick so they weren't even scary, and if she would lie down, EG could hold her hand and squeeze if she wanted to. Sometimes the earnest pleading of someone close to your own age will get through to you much faster than any Mommy could. Amazingly, EG did exactly what I (and TD) asked her to, and then we were over and done with the drops in record time. No tears, no screaming, just a hug and "I told you so" from TD. Then they were off playing like the pseudo-twins they are.

THIS is what being a sister is all about.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The moving bug

I want a new house. Maybe not a new one...just a different one. Don't get me wrong - I love this little house. It is completely beautiful and economical to boot. Compared to some of the places I have lived, it is a castle and I certainly am not being ungrateful for all the wonderful features. The issue is, I know it is a temporary place for us and that makes me antsy. As much as I don't like the actual moving process, I am thoroughly anxious to figure out where we are going to end up for good so I can start relaxing and stop living out of boxes. 

Again, as much I love this little house, I will probably go quite mad if I have to stay here any longer than the one year we have agreed to on our lease. There is just not enough room here. It has only three bedrooms and one living area, but worst of all it has only one bathroom. I thought I would make it more than six months before wanting to throw in the towel, but I am considering packing up all non-essentials just to get a head start on things.

If DH had any fewer hobbies or if any member of the family was even the tiniest bit less of a geek-in-training, we might be able to get away with this place for a bit longer. The truth is, DH needs am entire room just for his crafts. Making stuff is what he loves to do. Some guys like football and so they have big screen TV's to watch the games. Other guys like hunting or fishing so they have places to put their rifles and rods. My husband likes to sew, and paint, and read, and bead and make outrageously detailed head dresses out of tiny tufts of deer tail and porcupine hair. For him to do this, he has to have plenty of room to work and plenty of place to keep the stuff he uses.

Computer time and space has become quite a valuable commodity around here, as well. LH has a Facebook account and that is the main method she uses for contacting the long-distance boyfriend. TD and EG are still too young for Facebook, but they do enjoy a variety of educational websites (as well as many not-too-educational.) I know it seems a little backwards, but I would much rather give them an hour of computer time instead of TV time, if only because they can hook a set of headphones to the computer. Recently we acquired some used computers and now we are able to have a separate one for each of the girls...we just need a good space to put them. Our tiny office already has four desks in it and not enough room for anything else. We have considered putting up a desk in another room, but the more I think about it the more I worry. Desks mean clutter, and unless I can shut a door on it, it is going to drive me nuts.

Putting a desk in their bedroom is right out for many other reasons, too. First, I don't want any of them surfing after hours. Second, there really, truly is no place to fit it in. When we moved into this place we made the decision to have all three girls bunk together in one room so that we could have all our crafts in an office with a door. Since then, DH has created more incredible things and has been happier than I have seen him in years. Dedicating this space to an work room/office was a little like dedicating a portion of our lives to his happiness. It also is extremely practical because we have far less trouble with damage and loss to his supplies and he is able to work when he wants to instead of whenever the family's schedule allows.

So, DH has been a lot happier in this place. The girls, however... not so much. I get weekly (if not daily) requests for "my own space" from all three of the girls at separate times and for separate reasons. Before we moved Little Heart always had her own room. Maybe I spoiled her a bit in that way, but she just does better when she has a place to go that is her own. Tiny Dancer and Evil Genius have always shared a room. Most of the time they will share a bed if I let them. They are happier when they are together. They are not happy, though, having to share what little space they have with LH. There are three dressers, one twin bed, one bunk bed, and a book shelf as well as a toy box and way too much stuff all crammed into a room that is too tiny to begin with. Most of the girls belongings are still stuffed in boxes and crammed underneath their beds. Looking for something to play with means reliving the whole packing-then-unpacking-then-packing nightmare over and over again.

All of them are constantly pointing fingers and accusing each other of being the mess maker and of breaking or losing things. The truth is that they are all guilty. Yes, when you have too much stuff it is impossible to keep a place clean and tidy. However, there is only so much you can expect from three girls in one room. They all have a right to want their own things and to have a place to put them. When you are living like sardines even the most even tempered person can get frustrated. Even without normal sibling rivalry, having the three girls living like that is just asking for a double or triple homicide (no telling who the murderer might be.)

The living areas of the house are really not much better. There isn't a lot of space to devote to school work or even school supplies. We have one who plays trumpet, one who is in show choir, and one more who wants to play guitar and piano. They don't have the room to learn or practice anything! Keeping my girls entertained otherwise is a full time job (thus, the biggest reason I don't home school)  and it also takes a lot of stuff. I could probably get rid of a lot of the arts and craft supplies that are really for their use, but then I would be at a total loss when it came to school holidays and summer vacation. I would end up wasting twice as much money trying to repurchase it all whenever a school project came up. As much stuff as we have purged over the last few years, I am pretty confident that everything we have left is stuff that we all really want. I don't want to get rid of it. I want to find a place to put it.

So, there's this house in town. It really is all the things I want all rolled into one pretty, yellow package. It has enough bedrooms for everyone as well as extra room for office and play. There are two fireplaces and a roomy kitchen and the whole place has built-in bookshelves as well as huge windows and a deep front porch with enough room for a few rocking chairs. The trees are big and old and the yard is nice and roomy. Basically, if I could design a house, it would look like this. Even better though, it is almost 100 years old so it has the character that only comes with being 100 years old.

Today, just for kicks, I checked the listing on this house which has been on the market since before we ever moved to the town. I have had my eye on it, just casually noticing, but never really, seriously, thinking I could ever have it. Apparently, the bank really wants to sell it even worse than before because they just whacked another chunk off their asking price. It is now priced down where I could possibly afford it. I know I still have six months left in this lease, and I know I am just now getting to the point financially where I can pay my bills on time, so I don't really have any business thinking about buying a house right now. But, gosh darn it, I want this house.

I started really looking online for every bit of information I could find out about this place. I found more pictures listed in a few different places and it appears that the majority of the house has been renovated, but a few of the rooms still need the final, cosmetic touches. That means I could use my fabulous handyman skills to paint and decorate the way I want to, but the house is most likely livable the way it is. I say "most likely" because I haven't actually seen the inside of it yet. Photographs can hide a whole lot and make things look very much different than they really are.

I want this house more than I think I have wanted any other house ever. This weekend, I am going to try and get on the inside and take a look around. Its so hard not to completely fall in love, but it might be too late. I have to keep telling myself that it might be a dump and that it might need too much work. I have to keep an open mind and see things for what they are, not what I could make of them. Also, we don't have the money or the credit to actually BUY anything right now. It could be months before we are ready to actually start the buying process on anything. Somehow, I think the house will still be waiting for us when we are ready.

Please, God, don't let someone else buy my house before I can?


Friday, March 4, 2011

Flip flops

I read in a few articles this week that there are many changes happening in the workforce and social scenes of America. Not wanting to scientifically quote this stuff, I'll just say that both CNN and MSN have both run a similar (if not the same) article stating that there are more women than men in the work force and in college currently. The population percentages aren't exactly the same, though. There are roughly the same number of men and women, but the percentage of successful, money-making professionals has tipped toward women.

The article had plenty more to say about this, as well as what all this means for the balance of power in our country, but there were a few other articles that got me thinking and making connections that I really don't like. For instance, I ready that unemployment is at less than 9% nationwide. How do they figure those numbers? Are they counting every adult who isn't working, or just those that haven't given up looking for jobs, yet? When does someone stop being counted as "unemployed?"

So, if more women are working than men, and unemployment is dropping, and there seems to be a recovery happening economically, how do those figures add up? Here is another little fact to think about - women STILL make less than men across the board. For the same job and time in position, women still make a much smaller paycheck than their male counterparts - sometimes 20-40% LESS.

I can see what is happening here. Employers have gotten wise to the finances of the sexes. If two people interview and they are equally qualified for the position, they apparently are hiring the woman instead of the man because they can pay them less for the same job. There really isn't a huge recovery happening around here at all. The American workforce is getting the short end of the stick because employers are trying to save a few bucks.

What pisses me off the most is that they are getting away with it and American women are letting them. We don't have a choice. We all need our jobs and we can't afford to negotiate for more  money when we simply need whatever money we can get. Women are less likely to negotiate for a higher salary when offered a position and less likely to ask for a raise once they are hired. In general, women start off at lower salaries and stay lower than their male counterparts even taking into consideration things like maternity leave and other issues unique to women.

Fifty years ago women were more likely to stay home and raise kids once they got married and men were more likely to continue to work. Thirty years ago, stay-at-home dads were something that was novel. Twenty years ago two incomes began to be necessary to make ends meet so both parents were more likely to work than stay home, but women still tended to stay home more than men. Today people - especially parents - find jobs where ever they can. Single people often work more than one job to pay their bills. Both halves of a couple work before and after they have kids for the same reason.

The economics of both parents working really don't add up, though. When you take into count the cost  of daycare, commutes, lunches, and all the other costs that come from working for an employer (other than your kids) it is difficult to break even, let alone get ahead. Both parents need to have great paying jobs if any of their kids are under five. Once they start school, it is only marginally better. I'm not going to take out "work-at-home-moms" from this equation either. Whether you have a home office or office away from home most parents still need child care of some sort. Parenting is work. Working for another boss is work, too - you just get paid a little more money by other people.

It appears to me that the change happened because when things started to go sour in the economy about 10 years ago, men and women both lost their jobs. Heads were cut where ever money could be saved. Did men lose their jobs more often because they made more? I'm not sure whether that was the case (I've never read research to that point) but it makes sense. So, people still had bills to pay whether they lost their jobs or not. So everyone kept looking, but only women were rehired? It sucks, but that seems to be the case.

Has anyone else seen this happen?

In my house, my husband and I have actually  taken turns working since the babies were born. He actually spent more time at home with  them as babies than I did. The last five years, he has had a steady job and I haven't. He was laid off and spent more than a year looking for work at one point. He still makes less than he did before he was laid off, even though he has worked for this company longer than any other company before. But, I know that if I were to have found a steady, good paying job, he would  have become Mr. Mom instead of me. I don't believe that is unique to just our relationship, either. I think that most couples would have done the same. When you have kids, you do  what you have to.

These days, it appears that the work force is taking less than they used to, because they have to. Reports of national spending are down. Businesses are still closing down, stores are reducing the number of store fronts, home prices are still down, and even the medical profession is paying their clerical and support staff less than they used to. More women work than men, but women make less than men. That logically means households are bringing home less money than they used to. What used to be considered a necessity is now a luxury. Who still buys a DAILY cup of coffee - or three - from Starbucks anymore? Not everyone, or else they wouldn't be shutting down a quarter of their shops.

So, if women are working instead of men, does this mean that American kids are being raised by their dads instead of their moms? Are we going to see a change in the values and personalities of our youth as they become older and join the workforce because of this? It is well known that fathers and mothers bring different and unique perspectives to child rearing, so what happens when the other half is put in charge not for a week, or a month, but for the majority of child rearing years?

I guess we will find out soon enough.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011


This month is going to be a tough one. Something that wasn't really explained to me before I started getting these knee injections was that I would need to be off my feet for 48 hours following each injection. So, I get a shot in the left knee on Monday morning and I'm out of commission until Wednesday morning. Then, I get a shot on Thursday afternoon and I'm stuck on my butt until Saturday afternoon. Yeah...that gives me two days of activity per week, and that still hurts. This had better be worth all the hassle.

The girls have been supportive and understanding so far. Well, they were at first, anyway. Speaking to them frankly and directly I thought was really important. It at least got them to improve their attitudes, if not their actions. They aren't very enthusiastic about my being immobile for even MORE reasons than before and they are trying to take advantage every chance they get. Not being up and around to verify that the chores are actually getting done has been a much bigger problem than I thought it would be. It seems that when I am in my room (because sitting on my bed with my knees propped up is the most comfortable place to be) the girls seem to take me much less seriously. After the first few days, I was pissed that they were saying, "yes, ma'am" but doing the opposite. After the first week, I started to feel invisible.

Yesterday, DH came home from work to a messy house, dirty dishes, and no dinner. He had a bad day at work, had to fight road construction and bad traffic, and still had several hours of work he needed to before bed. That was the last straw. Yelling, screaming, and tears ensued. Dinner was rushed, bedtime was delayed, and no one was happy about anything.

Today has only been a slight improvement. I spent the day shopping for easy dinners that can be made with little to no supervision, so now I am worn out and sore from that. Little Heart is riding mood swings like a bad carnival game and is trying to avoid working by hiding behind the computer in the office. Tiny Dancer and Evil Genius are attempting to stay on task, but they are distracting each other more than they are helping. I am sitting in my room hollering across the house at them to finish their chores every 5 minutes when I hear them playing and dancing instead of what they should be doing. On one hand, I am just thankful that they are getting along and not fighting. On the other, I really, really would like the dishes done sometime before midnight.

I really had hoped that getting my knees fixed would not cause more trouble than they had before. I guess I was a little too optimistic. I have another full month of treatments before I can go back to regular activities. If I make it that long, I will be surprised. If I let my kids live that long, it will be a miracle. I'll probably have to just let some things slide around the house until I can do them myself. Once April gets here, I will be so very glad, but until then, I think I will just have to put off dinner parties and such. Heck, I might just cancel DINNER all together.