Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Magnetic Monkey and Other Vacation Magic

We were just hours from leaving for our vacation.  All the suitcases were packed, and I was in the kitchen, cleaning out the refrigerator.

"Mom, I am SO mad at Monkey,"  Hedgehog stated, in her tattle-tail voice.

"Huh?"  I said as I tried to decide if leaving iced tea for 10 days would be good or bad.

"She broke the magnet off the back of my necklace and swallowed it!"  she pronounced, with much indignation.

I froze.  "What do I do now?"  I thought.

"Monkey!  Monkey, get in here!"  Monkey shuffled in, looking at her feet, knowing she's done wrong, trying to be contrite enough not to be punished.  "Did you swallow a magnet?"

Monkey nods.

"Does your tummy hurt?"

Shakes her head no.

"Did you swallow more than one?"

Again, no.

"Can you breathe OK?"

Nodding again.

"OK, everybody come in here and watch TV while I make some phone calls,"  I call, trying to keep fear out of my voice.

I make several rapid-fire phone calls.  I leave a message for the nurse at the pediatrician's office, Grumppa tells me that Granny Bear is at work, at at Granny Bear's hospital (she's a nurse) she says to take Monkey to the doctor.  The pediatrician's office calls back, they say to take her to the ER for an X-ray.  I call a local clinic and they say they can do an X-ray.

"Everyone into the truck" I announce to the surprised children.  On the way to the clinic, I call the Engineer, who thinks I am overreacting.  "Kids used to swallow coins all the time and no one got an X-ray.  She'll just poop it out".  But everyone else I've talked to says we have to make sure it's not in her lungs, so we continue on.

A 45 minute wait with 4 kids late, the X-ray is taken and it is confirmed that the magnet is in Monkey's intestines.  I am instructed to "inspect" her feces until the magnet is out.  On vacation.  Fun.

The next day, about 10 hours into our drive, the A/C in the Engineer's truck starts stinking.  It smelled foul.  We were driving in the mountains at that point, and see some burned place, so at first we thought it was from smoke.  But the smell continues for the entire next 8 days of the trip.  All six of us in the truck with a stinky A/C.  Fun.

On day 6 of the trip we get to our hotel room and schlep all our stuff up to the second floor and discover the room is 80°.  When I called the front desk, I was told  "None of our accommodations have A/C".  Fun.

From all of my griping, you may think that we didn't enjoy our trip, but really, it was a lot of, well, fun.  But every trip has a few down sides, and the magnet and the $800 repair (heater core) to the truck were two really big ones!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Funk

I've been in a funk lately.  It has felt oppressive, like very high heat and humidity combined.  It's been too heavy to lift on my own and too dark to see through.

It started before school began again.  The Thursday before school began, I took Handsome and Rascal to Grumppa for the school year.  Grumppa and Granny Bear raise the boys during the school year so that they live close to their mother.  Grumppa is 63 years old and works a full-time, physically demanding, outdoor job.   So, when we met up for him to take the boys home, he was coming straight from work, and he looked like hell.  And I knew that there was no way he would get any rest with two boys, 11 and 8, in his house, and it broke my heart.

I went home that night sad, but I didn't talk to the Engineer about it, the situation is just impossible, and I was afraid I'd start crying and not stop.

Friday and Saturday passed in a busy blur of "Meet the Teacher", getting school uniforms ready, converting the boys' room backing into a guest room and preparing for friends to come over on Monday.

Sunday was filled with church activities, making gifts for teachers and well-meaning friends asking if Monkey was ready for kindergarten.  And she was.

And before I knew it, it was Monday.  I took the girls to school, took pictures, got them settled in their classrooms, and left.  I came home and got out the refreshments I'd made for my friends and set out Grammy's china.  My friends came and we talked and cried "first day of school" tears.  And then they left.

And the quiet of my house echoed.

And as the week progressed, and the laundry, grocery shopping and housework started getting "caught up", the silence grew louder, and more frightening.  And I didn't tell the Engineer because I didn't know what to say.

I spent an entire half of one day in my sweats, eating Cool Ranch Doritos on the couch, watching "reality" TV.  When I finally got up to get into the shower, I wanted to cry.

I've felt worn-out, worthless and unwanted.  I've felt lonely and purposeless.  I miss the children, sometimes so much that I think I can't breathe.

And the funk wrapped around me like a hot, heavy, wet blanket and I couldn't move or breathe.  But I recognize the funk and am fighting back.  I've told the Engineer and I have a plan.  I'm telling people, and I'm taking care of myself and I'm going to win this fight with the funk.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Top 10 Summer Don'ts

Summer is quickly winding down, but I still thought I'd mention some ideas for you special folks out there who don't seem to be able to enjoy summer properly without getting on the nerves of every blessed person near them:

10.  Do not complain about your sunburn.  Sunburns are highly preventable.  Lotions, creams and sprays with high SPF are in most grocery stores, convenience stores, and dollar stores and they are easy to use.  Double don't complain if you get made fun of for raccoon eyes, or lobster face.

9.  Do not go to the pool and stare disapprovingly down your nose at all the children who are splashing and yelling and goofing around.  If you want a nice, quiet pool to read your book by, you'll have to get one for your own backyard.

8.  Do not go to a community attraction and complain about how crowded it is.  People go places during the summer, frequently in groups.  Double do not ask "where did all these kids come from?", as if you have exclusive rights to the zoo, museum or park.

7.  If you attend a public celebration that involves fireworks, do not take your canine companion unless you are visually impaired.  (In if you are visually impaired, why are you going to the fireworks display?)  Dogs don't like loud noises.  They will be very upset, and since you are obviously VERY busy, videoing the fireworks, there will be no one to comfort your poor doggie.

6.  Do not smoke over the heads of small children, yours or anyone else's. Period.

5.  Don't take your children to a local church for Vacation Bible School when they are outside the ages stated on all of their literature, signs and doors.  They haven't recruited workers to deal with your (non potty-trained) 2 1/2 year old, so you'll need to deal with your own little darling at your home.   

4.  If you MUST plan your outdoor wedding in July, please evaluate the terrain.  Folding chairs, plus a hill, plus sweet Great-Aunt Millie may not be a good combination.  Also, if YOU plan YOUR outdoor wedding in July, you MAY NOT complain about how hot your clothes are.

3.  If you part of a happy couple, keep your happy-coupleness to yourselves.  There is no reason that parents should have to worry that the local pool, grocery line or theme park is rated NC-17 due to your PDA. 

2.  Don't use the temperature as an excuse to gripe about the town/county/state you are currently living in.  Even if you are here temporarily, most of us are here by CHOICE.  We like it despite the heat, crunchy grass and all.

1.  Don't get in my sun, don't knock over my margarita, and don't drip on my book!

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why Yes, Stranger, I'd LOVE your Opinion!

One of my absolute pet peeves is unsolicited advice.  From anyone, but double especially from strangers.  And for some reason, this seems to make me a magnet for well-meaning little old ladies and buttinskis everywhere.  I run into the advice-givers in the grocery store, at church, at my children's school and even in my own family.  Here are some witty* comebacks that I thought up WAYYYY after I was insulted by someone presuming to know more than I do:

1.  To the old man at the grocery store who yelled at me to "stop having children and get off of government assistance":  I ignored you, because I assumed that there is something wrong with you.  However, you should know I get NO assistance, from anyone but the Engineer and half the kids you saw with me aren't "technically" mine.  And we support them anyhow.  Mind your own dern business!

2.  To the old ladies who always said my child was undressed/overdressed for the weather:  This baby has colic.  I've been up for 35 1/2 hours straight.  The fact that the baby and I have clothes on is amazing.  If you would like to take this cute little ball of screaming home with you, I might really let you.  Otherwise, mind your own dern business.

3.  To the lady at church who "complimented" my shorter hair cut while mentioning that the "other way was weighing me down", and "made my face look long".  I grew my hair for Locks of Love.  Obviously, you are too shallow to consider doing something that would make you look in a way you consider less than perfect, but I'm not.  And, you aren't all that.  And, if you can't say anything nice, mind your own dern business.

4.  To the brother-in-law who advised us on the best time to have children and have "as good a marriage as theirs" pssssshhhhbbbbb.  We've seen your kids and how you treat your wife, you have NO room to talk.  And oh yeah, mind your own dern business.

5.  To the other-brother-in-law who advised us, while WE were dealing with a screaming toddler "not to become upset with irrational beings".  You have no children, and so far, no spouse.  Having two dogs does not qualify you to give parenting advice.  Talk to me after you've lived through colic.  AND  mind your own dern business.

If you don't have enough to do, volunteer at a soup kitchen, go door-to-door spreading the gospel, or watch some daytime TV, but unless I ask you, I don't really want to know what you think.  That is all.

* Hopefully, but even after thought, there is a whole lot of "mind your own dern business"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Misty's Shoes

My friend Misty only wears one kind of shoes. Ever. Seriously, I have spent TONS of time with her through teaching and attending the same Sunday School for years, plus we've coordinated Vacation Bible School together for the last two years, so I've had plenty of time to observe what she wears, and the shoes? They never change.

She's a teacher, of young, special needs children, so you would think that she'd have some boring, sensible, supportive shoes, but no, that's not what Misty wears.

She's a softball coaches' wife, so you would think maybe, sometimes, she'd rock some cute little sneakers or athletic shoes. Nah, that's not what Misty wears.

Easter Sunday usually calls for fancy dresses and teetering heels, but not Misty, that's not what she wears.

Hear young son has medical issues with his brain and his heart, so she spends a lot of time in COLD hospitals, so you would think that some warm, comforting shoes would be in order, but that isn't what Misty wears.

Misty ALWAYS wears sandals or flip flops. We live in a warm climate, but it isn't THAT warm year-round. So why? It's as if Misty's toes yearn to be free. It's like her feet need air to breathe and be free from the constraints that the rest of us put on our feet.

And that is so like her. There is great freedom in being Misty's friend. Freedom to say what you really think, without fear of judgement, freedom to laugh and freedom to be goofy whenever the mood strikes. So if you see a lady wearing sandals in January, you might want to be their friend, my flip-flop friend is amazing!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Happily Ever After

Where did we get the idea that getting married = happily ever after?  I blame Disney.  All the movies end after the wedding!  Ariel gets married, the end.  Cinderella - married, the end.  Aladdin and Jasmine tie the knot and boom - movie over.  Same thing in Tangled, Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood and even Lady and the Tramp (kind of..he gets a collar!)

The fact is, marriage is hard work sometimes.  There is too much to do, and only the two of us to do it, and frequently, we have different ideas of who should do what.  Huge amounts of compromise and forgiveness are needed in any successful marriage.

And I want my kids to know that.  But I don't want to scare or worry them.  How do you do that?

I NEVER saw my parents fight.  In fact, I was in college when I first remember seeing my mom mad enough that she didn't answer my dad when he said "I love you" as he left the house.  I cried all the way back to my college.  I called as soon as I got there and asked my mom if she and daddy were OK.  She sounded confused when she answered yes.  Turns out it was a small argument of no real consequence.

I want my kids to be prepared for the fact that God uses marriage in wonderful ways to get rid of a great deal of our selfishness.  I want them to know that disagreeing doesn't mean that you don't love one another.  I want them to know that sometimes you may go to bed angry.  Some times you might not like each other for a bit, but you can still love each other and work through it.  I want them to not be as bewildered as I felt in the early years of our marriage.  I want them to be better equipped.

But I don't want to try them like adults and reveal to them every discussion that gets heated in our house.  I don't think it is helpful for them to know all the inner workings of our marriage.  Kids need stability, so I don't ever want them to feel that our home isn't solid.  There are so many things that they do have to worry about, homework, bullies and peer pressure are all things they MUST deal with now, and I don't want to add to the stress.

How do you balance educating and equipping versus scaring and stressing?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Mind? I Think I Packed That....

So, we're going on "vacation", the Engineer, Hedgehog, Monkey, Handsome, Rascal and me.  The packing and planning, I am good at, I think we have all we will need and we will have a good time once we arrive.  The climate where we are going is a good 20° cooler than where we are now, so I'm excited about that.  However, we are DRIVING.  15+ hours on the way there, and 17+ on the way back.  All of us, in one vehicle.  Yes, I know, that makes me certifiably crazy.  Nuts, nutso, insane, bonkers, unhinged.  I agree!  Pray for me people!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Am Not Like the Others

Did you like that song on Sesame Street, One of These Things is Not Like the Others?  I used to, until I realized that it was completely talking about me.  My friend Kassidy and I have been talking about that a lot recently.  Whenever she calls, the kids all just go find something to do, cause they know it'll be a while.  We usually talk so long that I have to switch phones, because the battery is dying in the one I'm on.

I used to think that the song only applied with how my family related to me.  I am the one that is not like the others in my family.  Always have been.  Mom used to have to PRY books out of my hands to make me bathe.  Neither of my siblings like to read.  They both smoke and drink and party.  Me?  Well, I have an occasional drink, but even people who love me think of me as uptight and nerdy.  They've both held, and lost dozens of jobs, but I worked my way through college and kept one job after college until I married, and the next job from one week after the wedding until we left the country for the Engineer's job.

But the bigger thing is our differing attitudes towards our parents.  My parents pay my brother's and sister's bills routinely.  I would throw up if my folks had to pay my bills once, much less every single month.  And my siblings seem to believe that they are entitled to this type of treatment.  They seem to think, that my parents should pay for their bills and still give them gifts at holidays and, in my sister's case, raise her children for her.

I don't really fit with the Engineer's family either.  One reason is the physical differences.  I am short.  The Engineer is 6 foot 2, as are both of his brothers, his brother-in-law is 6 foot 7, and two of my sister-in-laws are over 6 foot tall.  The other sister-in-law is at least 4 inches taller than I am.

Also, there is the whole Engineering thing.  The Engineer, one of his brothers, one sister-in-law are all Engineers.  The other brother thought about being an Engineer.  Me?  Well, I like words, but numbers, not so much!

Kassidy has been frustrated with her family and her in-laws lately, too.  Sometimes we'll talk for the first 20 minutes about how nuts our families are, and spend at least the last 5 minutes reassuring one another that we won't become like our families.  I may not be like the others in my family, and I may not be the same as the Engineer's family, but me and Kassidy?  We are the same!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Growing Up

I've seen lots of posts lately about how we know when our kids are growing up, and it happens in the blink of an eye, but what about US?  Are we growing up and maturing and progressing right along with our children?

There are so many of us out there that just aren't growing up.  Failure To Launch on a nationwide scale.  So many people still depending on mom and daddy, or even living on their own but living like children.  So many people living outside of their means to have grown-up toys.  (The above soap-box was free of charge...)

While I was pregnant with Hedgehog, I prayed, and prayed and prayed for her not to be like me.  And God laughed.  She is a mini-me.  She looks JUST like me, and in so many ways, she acts just like me too.  And that frightens me.  I don't want her to have to fight the same demons that I fight.  I don't want her to have the emotional immaturity and social retardation that I struggle with.  I want her to be better.  So, I HAVE to grow myself up.

My growth, like that of my kids, comes in fits and starts.  Sometimes I do better than others.  This weekend, I was proud of myself.  I don't, in my own personality, like big gatherings.  I would rather be with one or two friends.  But this weekend, there were THREE family functions for Engineer's family.  One of them he wouldn't attend, but I needed to be there for all three.  I dreaded it.  I thought of all kinds of excuses not to go. Engineer's family contains some people who cut loose in ways that blow my skirt up, so to speak.

But KNEW that I would eventually enjoy myself.  When my imagination started going overtime, imagining horrible scenarios where people could possibly be unkind, I told myself that was not going to happen.  I pushed past my fatigue and actively loosened up to enjoy spending time with people.  And my kids benefited.  They enjoyed the family and played with all their cousins and even danced in public (which I practically NEVER do).

How do you know that YOU are growing up?