Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Camping in November

We went camping/clamming this past weekend. The forecast called for snow, but did  that deter Jeff? It did not. He simply said "I like camping in inclement weather! It's like giving Mother Nature the finger!" Ok. Well said? Anyway, off we went, and surprisingly, although the weather was bone-chilling cold, we enjoyed some sunshine on  the beach, clammed our hearts out, gave the dogs some much-needed free reign, and had a great time visiting with friends from Spokane and sharing a new hobby with them. BUT.......

It was freakin' cold! So cold, in fact, that Rylie and Arlie chose sitting by the heater in the camper over s'mores and we used up every available extra blanket in the camper despite the heater (p.s. I was totally comfortable, seeing as I chose the prime sleeping spot right next to the heater - heh, heh!). Sunday morning we ventured out by the fire long enough for a s'more or two and our friends headed back to Spokane. The weather was cold, cloudy and dry. For a few minutes. Then, a sprinkle or two turned into a full-fledged snowstorm on the beach! Arlie and Rylie were thrilled beyond words, especially since I had told them it rarely snows on the beach. They bundled up and frolicked on the beach while Jeff and I (mostly Jeff) took down the camper.

 Our Spokane friends, the Kuntz family - Jeff, Shelly, Grant, Elizabeth, Braedyn

 Jeff and his old faithful dog, Shade!

 Clam digging - ewww!

 Arlie, Rylie and Elizabeth freezing on the beach!

 See? The sun really did shine!

 November in the Northwest!

 Moon over the beach....

 This is what it looked like on our car ride home!

 The dogs enjoyed their time!

 Arlie and Rylie elated to find snow on the beach (see sprinkling of snow on the sand)

 Snow on the beach!

Our camper - frozen!

Soaked to the bone, we finally headed back home - only to discover blizzard-like conditions on the roads. Ah yes, the joys of driving in the snow, compounded by pulling a trailer. Pure white knuckle joy! We saw a car spun off the road and resting in a ditch, but fearing for our own safety should we pull over, we simply called 911 and kept on our way. It snowed a good deal of the ride home until turning to rain. Once again, we arrived home with a soggy camper, only to have it covered by snow within hours. Good times, winter camping! Not.

Baby in the middle.....

Most parents can relate to this syndrome I like to call "baby in the middle". This is when the baby (or child, or *gasp* preteen) climbs into bed with you and from that point on, the rest of the night is spent suffering from "baby in the middle" syndrome in which there is five inches of bed space for YOU, your limbs become cramped and painful and your sleep is interrupted every 35 seconds. You wake feeling like you've been hit by a truck and wondering where that crick in your neck came from.

I've experienced more than my fair share of "baby in the middle" syndrome (but that's my own fault for having four kids) and I feel I've paid my dues. My youngest is on the cusp of turning 12 and I have not had to share my bed with a flailing child for some time. HOWEVER.

We went camping this past weekend (yes, in November, yes, I know, more on that in another post) and the "baby in the middle" turned out to be our 13-year-old pain in the ass dog Shade. Because, really, all 75 lbs of him is just one big ball of anxiety and he's a huge baby. Shade does not enjoy being quiet. He likes to make noise - growling, moaning, whining, just breathing loudly - at ALL times. He also does not enjoy being left to his own dog devices - you know, licking his man parts, digging in the dirt, sleeping, sleeping, sleeping. No, Shade enjoys one-on-one attention at ALL times and will let you know if you are slacking in that area. He does enjoy camping, so long as he's fully entertained, not tied up to a lead and able to use his long, slobbery tongue to slurp s'more fixings off the picnic table. Ah, yes, after a long day of this doggie bliss, Shade must be exhausted and enjoy sleeping curled up on a blanket on the camper floor, yes? NO.

Shade insists on sleeping IN the bed with us while camping. Otherwise, he whines and paces ALL night in his attempt to let us know just how high his level of distress is. So, I relent (usually as a result of total exhaustion and maybe because I'm a little bit cold, too) and up he jumps. I sit up to direct him where to go, and the first thing he does is turn in a circle three or four times and plant his doggie ass right on my pillow! I DON'T THINK SO! So, I direct him to lay at the foot of the bed, like a good doggie should, and he does......but only long enough to allow me to drift off to sleep before squirming, much like a human baby, directly in between me and daddy, where he then presses his back up against daddy and his talon-like claws (really, is it so much to ask that daddy trim the nails once in a while?) up against my body, impaling my stomach in the process.

We attempt to sleep like that for three or ten seconds until Shade decides he really needs to be cuddled. Yes, cuddled, like a baby. Arms around him, scratching his ears. Ahhhh.......yes, that's the spot. And he drifts off to sleep. And for a second, one might think "awwww, that is SO SWEET! Good doggie" but that someone might then wake up with a crick in the neck/shoulder that lasts well past the camping trip (two days, in fact, but I'll update that later when/if the pain ever goes away). And "baby in the middle" syndrome claims another victim. Why can't I have a cat? A nice, quiet, light, tiny, fluffy, aloof cat who hates human contact? Sigh. Ouch.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What is your worth?

I'm frustrated tonight about something said between me and my ex-husband this afternoon. We were talking about modifying child support and working and the fact that, whether you are employed or not, your income is "imputed" by the courts. He mentioned that at my age, my income would be imputed at something like $2400 a month! Which means, you are not actually MAKING that income, but the courts say that a person your age SHOULD be able to make it. Well, that's all well and good, but when you've been looking for a job for almost a year, that "theory" really is just that - a theory. And in the real world, I'd be lucky to make that much a month working full time. It's just not happening..........and that's not the only thing that's frustrating!

What is it worth to sacrifice all of your career goals and aspirations, your discretionary time, your ability to live a more comfortable life with an extra income to raise your own children? My ex stated he "would have been fine" with me working full time. He pointed out there was child care (I pointed out expensive - he said "not really" - has he ever even researched  that? No, because he didn't have to. I did that.) I pointed out that I'm the one who takes the kids to the doctor, dentist, volunteer in the schools, take them everywhere they need to be, I'm the one who's HERE to handle all the millions of "little" things that he never sees. If he (and dads in general) ever knew how many fires moms put out that they never knew about, they'd be amazed. How do they think the laundry gets done, the food gets made, the guests are prepared for, the animals are taken care of, the appointments are made, the schoolwork is done, the teachers are talked to, the problems are solved?  That and so many other things. The ironic thing is we agreed I would stay home to raise the kids. After the oldest was born, I was planning to go back to work - four weeks after her birth. But that was BEFORE I knew how hard it was to have a baby.And how expensive daycare was. So, I delayed it. And we discussed it. And decided I would stay home. I am not sorry for that decision and never will be.

I know I will NEVER do work as important as raising my kids. I've been there for them every step of the way and that's something you just don't get a second chance on. There is only ONE time to "be there" for your kids and then they're gone. And it happens fast, believe me. I am perfectly happy to delay returning to work until they're grown. I probably won't be able to, but I would be happy with that. I have always "needed" to work in the sense that we needed a second income. (And, by the way, I've always made some sort of supplemental income while raising my kids). So, we sacrificed. And we lived frugally. And we didn't get to take our kids to Disney World to swim with the dolphins. But they've had someone who was always there to put their well-being first. And I'm not martyr. I love being a mom! Sure, it drives me nuts sometimes. But I'd never trade it. Still, it makes me angry that it's such a "worthless" job in society's eyes. Especially once you get divorced and that "mom" job becomes even more important. And then you've got the courts telling you you're "worth" a certain amount of money as long as you work outside the home. But you're worth squat if you're raising decent human beings. I just wish being a full time mom was valued more, both by ex-husbands and courts. It's sad that making money is more valued than raising kids. But it's ok to leave them to their own devices and see how they turn out. Because, hey, we're willing to spend money on programs for "at risk" kids or to rehabilitate a criminal or to support a pregnant teen on welfare. But raising your own kids? Being there for them to help them navigate life's ups and downs? Nah, that's not worth much. What a shame!

Monday, November 15, 2010

What's the secret?

Today I worked an eight hour day. Which, for most of the world, is just a normal day at work. But not for me. When I work at the school or nanny, it's usually four or five hours at a time (even though it often feels like ten hours!). But today I had to be at work at 7:30 in the morning. Which means I needed to leave my house around 7. That would have meant having Harrison get up on his own, get ready, remember to let the dogs out, and lock the house up while getting to his bus on time. Me, of little faith, decided this was too much of a risk at this stage of the game, and had him sleep over at his dad's so his morning routine would be supervised. I worked my job, then arrived home just a bit after both Arlie and Harrison. I was pretty tired - not that I'd worked hard - but mostly because there wasn't much for me to do so I spent a lot of time finding things to do or twiddling my thumbs. And when I'm bored,  I get tired! (I did enjoy the job a lot though!). Still, I could have easily fallen asleep for a little nap when I got home but instead I........supervised chores, made dinner, had an unexpected guest for dinner, met Jeff coming through the door with a migraine (his are scary and stroke-like so I spent some time debating and ER visit), took Harrison  and Arlie to Starbucks (payback for an earlier day where they did their sisters' chores), made lunches, cleaned up dishes and kitchen, and THEN I had to work on volunteer stuff for the book fair at school. Now it's 11 p.m. and  I'm so tired and I wonder - what is the secret? How do moms who work full time balance their time and fit everything in? Forget about working out - I was booked up all day and way too tired at the end of the day to do anything about my physical fitness. I just can't help but wonder - what "gives"? Obviously no one can do it all, so what things do working mothers skip in order to find time for other priorities? I'm lucky in that I do not work full time so I cannot speak to how to balance a family while working full time. But on days like today when I'm working all day I think about working moms and wonder how they do it all. How do they spend quality time with their kids, find time for fitness, cooking, cleaning, volunteering, and everything else? It just seems like a depressing cycle of being too busy, too rushed, too tired and never enough time. I already feel that way sometimes and I'm not adding in a full time work schedule to the mix. Working moms with families, tell me your secrets!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday, Monday.........

So far this Monday morning I've awakened with a sore throat and run out of toilet paper when I was the only one home. Thank God for those little premoistened wipes that are flushable. Which I still buy even though my kids are out of that toddler toilet training stage by about, oh, eight years now. But I still buy them, because, well, sometimes you run out of toilet paper and NO ONE IS HOME to get you any more. So, thank God for the toddler wipes.

It's funny how I've held on to those "baby" things in my house. Slowly but surely they are disappearing. Just a couple of weeks ago, the baby gate was finally removed from the top of the stairs. Sure, it came in handy for a few years when Harrison was a toddler. But after that? I thought it'd be a nifty way to keep the dogs contained either up or downstairs. Except when we went on a trip this past summer and one of the dogs apparently went crazy and tried to jump over it (Shade). Which, of course, broke it off it's hinges and it was a goner. Still, it took months before Jeff finally removed it for good, patched the holes in the wall, and another sign of babyhood disappeared.

I still have a selection of Tupperware cups with sippy lids. I still use them! Every night for dinner I pour milk for the kids in those, or similar plastic cups designed to hold about six ounces of milk. Except my kids drink about twelve to sixteen ounces at a sitting. So, why do I still have these silly cups? I even keep them in a lower cabinet, you know, so the teenagers who are taller than me can reach them. Crazy.

Just a year or two ago, we finally removed the child safety latches on the knife drawer. I was of the mindset that someone might visit with a toddler and we wouldn't want any accidents would we? To my credit, I did toss all the plug covers several years ago. And I never owned a toilet lock. Indeed! What a ridiculous invention.

And yet.......I still have these few reminders of when my house was teeming with toddlers and preschoolers and things needed to be locked up, latched up and just plain "up" to keep them out of grimy little paws. I still keep boxes of baby wipes around. Those things come in handy! You can use them to remove make up, give yourself a little once over after a workout, wipe off countertops.........they even pinch hit for Swiffer Wet cloths to mop a dirty floor. If there's one thing I will keep from baby days it's wipes. And thank God I had some this morning when I was upon the throne and out of TP and the dog just cocked her head sideways and looked at me and I knew "fetch" wasn't going to cut it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The ties that bind.........

My husband has many endearing qualities, but the one I love the most is his way of being so "rough" around the edges. He's like a little boy in that way - always getting dirty, always being mischievous, always slightly wrinkled and roughed up. Sure, he can clean up when he has to.......and that's when I giggle the most. The reason is, he almost NEVER wears a tie. And when, on the infrequent occasion he does don a tie (usually for a job interview or a presentation) he cannot, for the life of him, remember how to tie it. But being the resourceful guy he is, he's kept, over many years, an illustrated diagram of how to tie a tie. This piece of paper is rumpled and worn, but it saves the day every time he wears a tie. He keeps it stuffed in the bottom of his garment bag and pulls it out, following directions very carefully, when a tie is needed. And he usually gets it wrong. First, it's too short. Then it's too long. Then, the knot isn't tight enough, or the knot is too snug. But finally he gets it to pass as acceptable and he's good to go. I love that he's so casual that wearing a tie is a rarity. Thankfully his work in biotech practically begs for "business casual" because I just can't seem him at a "suit and tie" job. When he returns after his tie-wearing day, he can't loosen it fast enough and slip it off. Off comes the dress shirt, jacket and nice slacks. On goes an old triathlon t-shirt (likely splattered with the results of either his cooking or working on the truck), sweats and slippers. He's a little scruffy, my guy, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Who needs a tie?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dangers of unemployment

I'm a stay at home mom, but I call myself unemployed. Which basically means no one pays me for working about 17 hours a day. And that pretty much sucks, because I work hard, but there's no reward program for raising a family. I do enjoy a lot of perks, like being on my own schedule and getting the computer all to myself whenever I want. I have nearly seven hours a day kid-free. I once wondered - what do people DO with all that time when they don't work? And I've come to the conclusion that you will fill your day whether you work full time, part time or not at all. Because people are just BUSY! I know I stay busy all day long, usually with more things to do than I can even get done in a day, a week or even a month. But there are times when my overflowing "to do" list overwhelms me and I don't even know where to start. So, I don't. I end up distracting myself with any number of other things and never bring myself to do what's on the list. Oh sure, eventually I'll tackle all of those items, but I'm here to tell you some have been "on the list" for years. In fact, some I just plain took off the list, because, really, who wants to be reminded for YEARS that they never got around to doing something? And I'm sure the reason I never got around to it, was because I was busy doing something else.

But on those days, when there is absolutely nothing holding me back from doing "the list", and yet I can't seem to find my motivation anywhere, I find myself pondering really random and stupid things. Like, why do we put our socks and underwear in the top drawer? Why do dogs always have accidents on carpet when half of the house is covered in hardwoods? How do people become famous? Do people really enjoy cooking complicated recipes and if so, why? How can I spend hours on Facebook/the computer and always find one more thing to look up or read or research? Why don't I love exercise as much as, say, chocolate chip cookies? How can I look outside my window at a perfect fall day and still be inside on the computer? Are people really fulfilled at their jobs?

Perhaps there are no answers for these or other stupid, random questions. And perhaps if I had a full time job I would not have time to ponder them. Sure, I take care of my family and keep the house in working order, and make food and sign papers and write checks and grocery shop and run errands and volunteer, so why do I feel like a drain on society? Why do I feel like I have no marketable skills and that my only hope of having a fulfilling career is to go BACK to school, which I've already graduated from and spent thousands of dollars on? It's been nearly a year since I've been looking for "the perfect job" which turned into "a good job" which has now turned into "any job". But somehow I just think spending eight hours a day at a job I do not like or even enjoy, just to come home and try to cram everything I've always done into the rest of the day, and still be a good wife and mother to my kids, just doesn't seem appealing. I guess that's the kicker - you have to love your job. And I don't know what job I'd love more than raising my family. Sounds so old-fashioned and narrow-minded, but it's also been my primary job for almost 18 years. Sure, I've done other jobs, even been paid for some, but I always felt like the job was just another chore. Another something to get through until I could return home and do what I really wanted. Which is mainly just to BE HERE. To be present for my kids until they're grown. To teach them how to do laundry, and cook a meal and manage their time, and be nice and have goals. To basically become good people with compassion and integrity. And after that? Bring on the full time job. What else would I do with my time? But right now it just seems like a lot to balance. And as bored as I might become some days, I'd rather be bored than not here. It's a tough one.

I talk to my "working mom" friends and many say they would rather be home, or at least working part time. Some enjoy their jobs and can't imagine being a full time mom, or not having their own income. Almost all express regret that they "miss" certain parts of their kids' lives while working. Most say they "need" the money, and I'm sure some do, while others can't imagine scaling back their lifestyle to live on one income. I've yet to meet a working mom who doesn't have some anxiety about the whole work/home balance. And maybe there isn't one? Maybe it's just never "perfect" but we do what we have to just to make ends meet, or get through a difficult time, or save up for something. A lot of working mothers say they need their own life, their own identity, and do not feel guilty in the slightest for having their own career and life outside of family. I think it's what you know. For someone like me, who has been there for their kids every step of the way, I have NO idea what it's like to work full time, to juggle daycare and the responsibilities of raising a family while working. And the task seems especially daunting. However, for someone who's worked since their babies were old enough for daycare, a life like mine might seem unimaginably boring. I once asked a working mom friend if she missed her baby terribly during the day. She replied, rather flippantly, "no", as though the question was ridiculous. And maybe to her it was - while I was cringing at the thought of a stranger raising my baby while I worked, she was probably secure in her decision to place her baby in a quality child care setting and felt confident that he was well cared for during the day.

A lot of new moms like the work/home balance because it gives them the "me" time they crave from taking care of a baby (a demanding task to be sure) all day. But when your "babies" are old enough to stay home alone, you end up having a LOT of "me" time. At first, as the kids went off to school, I made the most of the two or three or four hours I got alone, depending on the schedule. But most of that time was spent running errands or cleaning house or on otherwise mundane chores. Besides, with only one income, who has time for shopping or a manicure? Now, my kids are gone almost seven hours a day, and I still feel like the time flies. When I AM working, I am constantly watching the clock and bored out of my mind. I guess nothing entertains me quite like my own company (haha), but when I'm alone I feel the time whisks by and before I know it, the kids are home again. When I'm working I'm fully aware that I'm not "busy" enough to keep me from counting down the minutes until I'm free and can manage my own time again. Maybe that's because I could never be busier than I am at home. Or maybe I'm just doing the wrong job for me. Either way, I don't know what the right job is, and I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up. I can't imagine any job being as fulfilling as what I do right now. And yet, I NEED an income. It's as simple as that. I just need a job so I can bring money into the family. Which is a lot easier said than done. I know there's no perfect balance. But it would be nice to know some of the secrets.

Great news!

We got approved for a trial loan modification. What that means is that for three months, we will pay a new, reduced amount for our mortgage and after that, if we pay on time, etc. the modification can become permanent. I say "can" because we've heard stories about our bank, Chase, in particular, going ahead with foreclosures even after people have spent months paying their modified amount on time. I'm REALLY hoping that does not happen to us, but since it was 19 months to the day since we started this process, I have a good deal of skepticism about the entire thing. However, it's such great news and really a break we needed, especially right now. Things have been looking so bleak lately, and we were not even sure we'd be able to keep our house, and now it looks like we can make it work. We'll still be on a VERY tight budget, but at least we've been given this much-needed break. Yay!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Break a leg!

Colin (The Interviewer) and Hannah (Elizabeth, the practicing vampire)

Part of the cast of "Thirteen Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview"

Hayley (Sean) in "The Long View"

Geena and Hayley "The Long View"

Red-carpet ready!

Celebrity in the making!

Being inducted into the Thespian Society

Laughing as she's introduced as a new thespian

The frenzy! "The Long View" wins best play!

The cast of "The Long View"

Hayley was SO happy!

Max won Best Supporting Actor!

Whisking her away.....



Cousins Makayla and Maiya came to see the show!


Another scene from "The Long View"

Harrison, Hayley, Maiya, Arlie and Hannah after the show


This past weekend Hayley and Hannah performed in Dramafest, a series of One Act plays that were student directed.  Hayley played Sean in "The Long View" - the best friend to the lead. She gave a very dramatic and believable performance, and earned a nomination for Best Actress!! She didn't win that award, but her play won for Best Play and now they get to take their performance on the road to the state competition! Hannah made her acting debut in "Thirteen Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview" playing Elizabeth, a "practicing vampire". She gave an amazing deadpan and hysterical performance as a seemingly normal, accomplished potential college student who just happens to mention that she's a practicing vampire. Both plays were amazing and we were so proud of the girls for their incredible performances. Hayley was inducted into the Thespian Society after the final show. Can't wait to see what's next for these two budding actresses!