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April 2011
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June 2011

May 2011

Progress

Our first instinct was to deal with the unspeakable basement flooding ourselves but we quickly realized that this was impractical, inefficient and, you know, gross. So we called our insurance company and - after they checked to make sure that we were indeed covered for acts of ohmygod - we filed a claim. Having never filed a homeowners' claim before we were not sure what to expect and we were pleasantly surprised when they dispatched a clean-up team the same day we called them. We beamed as they ripped up half of our carpet, hauled away the nasty bits, and then scrubbed everything in sight. 

That was four weeks ago and nothing has happened since. We have half a carpet and the rest of the floor is concrete studded with carpet tacks. It is like the suburban version of a land mine field. Since I had just five minutes ago gotten to the point where I could let Caroline and Edward play unattended down there for short periods of time I am feeling cheated. Now they go down to play and I have to go too; a catcher in the rye who keeps snatching them away from the cliff edge of tiny nails. I would like my basement back and I would like to be able to abandon the kids down there without fear of perforation.

We did have a guy come out to measure things and I got all excited and I spent an entire preschool day hauling things into the storage room in anticipation of new carpet only to have the children spend fourteen seconds tossing it all back out again and still no new carpet.

I think the weak link here is Steve. Like most couples, Steve and I have our areas of domestic responsibility. I cook; he takes out the trash. I schedule dental appointments; he climbs on the icy roof and shoots scalding water at the snow covered satellite dish. I buy the kind of toothpaste Patrick likes and Steve handles all basement repair scheduling; unless he gets ridiculously busy with work in which case I still buy the toothpaste and no one schedules anything.

Not that I am complaining. I'm not. We had one unbelievably bad horrible scary year (Steve earned... nothing in 2009. at all. zero dollars. we lived on savings, credit, my HA HA HA blog earnings and gift cards that my mother sent

you know I have been thinking about the lucky/unlucky thing and there is something to be said for a positive perspective. Just the other day I was contemplating how much worse things could have been for us when everything went so abruptly wrong if it were not for my out of control anxiety. Like: oh how fortunate that I didn't do anything sooner about how crazy I was. I was wondering why I didn't see someone earlier because in retrospect I was a tightly wound recluse and then I saw the upside. Seriously, for years and years I have been so worried about financial ruin and living under a bridge that I insisted on what Steve considered to be stringent - whackaloon - economies. As a result of my previosuly unsubstantiated now justified belief that we were one failed potato crop away from starvation; when the Hindenburg of our monetary outlook blew up we were debt free (except the mortgage) with first (cash) second (investments) and third (retirement accounts) tier backup plans in place. 

So on the minus side I have a child who believes they are at risk for abduction if they are not in physical contact with me in public and on the plus side we were able to ride out a depr/rec/ession without losing our house.

That's positive thinking, right there. Little Mrs Sunnysides.

Although you know what? For the first time, um, ever I actually missed a monthly payment. I don't remember if it was the gas bill or the phone or what but we got a late payment notice in the mail and it was as if the Eiffel Tower had suddenly sprouted in our living room. The new, citalopramed, calmer me received a bill, looked at it, and said, "Oh I'll just pay this later" and then forgot about it. This has literally never happened before. Ever.

I confessed this dreadful side effect to my childhood best friend who burst out laughing and said that she was pretty sure there were ways to manage anxiety without damaging your credit score and had I considered automatic bill paying? I hadn't.

Good heavens. Where on earth was I? I just had to scroll up.

Right. Steve is busy working and that is a good thing but he is in Florida for meetings right now and the nails on the floor aren't going anywhere and I don't even know the name of the contractor so I can call and deal with it myself.

Meanwhile the friend of a friend accidentally backed into our car while leaving a birthday party that Patrick was attending so we are just starting our second insurance claim process and it seems to be going equally slowly. Two for two.

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In a moment of misplaced frustration many years ago I wrote something I regretted more or less instantly. I had miscarried or was miscarrying or might have been about to miscarry and I snapped that I didn't find anything remotely comforting about blog comments that assured me that they, too, had worried or suffered or struggled and yet their baby was upstairs right that minute sleeping peacefully in a ladybug onesie.

Not only was this not true - I actually did take a great deal of comfort from these comments - it was so ungracious and petty that I was really ashamed of myself and ladybug onesie has stuck with me as a phrase that epitomizes the bitter and peevish parts of trying and failing to have children.

Don't get me wrong. If my hcg failed to double properly, I miscarried. If the embryo was a few days too small, I miscarried. If there was no heartbeat in the first ultrasound, I miscarried. None of the stories of hope and optimism that were offered ever applied to me. But hope itself and optimism in general? That did. 

Patrick picked out the dress. The ladybug motif was an accident. But I smiled as I went through the pictures I had taken and I realized, hey, I tried for nine years to have the family I wanted. I miscarried ten times and terminated once when the baby could not live. I did IVF three times, a FET, and had sex more or less every day for a decade. I spent thirteen weeks on the couch, many nights in the hospital, and I got so adept at giving myself shots that I have a preferred method depending upon whether I am injecting my ass or my stomach. It was hard. I cried, I got angry, I alienated people and I once bit my husband on the leg.

I realized a year ago that even if it had never worked, even if we had never had children at all it would have been fine. Really. We would have felt sad and we would have picked ourselves up and done something different. Sailed around the world. Gone to New Zealand. Written a sketch comedy. 

I think we have a happy ending but I acknowledge - now in a way that I just could not see before - that it was not the only happy ending available to us.

That said: we have three children and one of them wears ladybugs.

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We are so very very lucky.

PS I completely distracted myself but I had a question for you and I am really interested in your thoughts.

Let's say you have a friend. A good friend who has always been there for you. Then say this friend does something pretty dreadful, but not to you. Let's say he cheats on his wife and abandons his three small children in order to follow his new girlfriend to her freshman year of college. Or he willfully defrauds an orphanage. He left a box full of puppies on the side of the road. Something that most people would agree was beyond the pale. Can you, should you, continue the friendship? 


2WW2q1~@`w~!q

Title courtesy of Edward who likes to type.

I once told Steve that anyone who refuses to use a neti pot has no right to complain about a head cold. Like when Patrick used to say, "I'm bored" and I would make him clean the playroom (do you know what Patrick never says anymore? that's right; I'm clever) every time Steve started to complain about being congested I would ask, "Well, have you used a neti pot? Then shut up" and he would slink away to call some male friend who would no doubt gasp, "A COLD? MY GOD! That's terrible! You should go to bed and stay there for at least a week." But he wouldn't moan to me about it so... self-righteousness and efficacy, the gin and tonic of a happy marriage.

And then, this winter, he DID. Steve DID use a neti pot and he realized that I had been right all along (not that he said so, exactly, but I could tell he was awed and humbled in my presence) and suddenly the implication of my edict was realized. He has a head cold. He uses the neti pot. And he not only gets to describe his minute by minute respiratory issues in hideous detail, he gets to whine about them. On the plus side I fully expect the neti pot to reduce the time of my suffering (his suffering, whatever) by half. On the minus side the illness will seem four times longer.

Hmmm. You know, when Edward woke me up at three in the morning on Sunday he said, "Oh Mommy, Mommy, hold me. There's an owie in my ear. This is terrible." I thought it was adorable and compelling but it occurrs to me that in 40 years it'll just sound like whining to someone.

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The whole family went to the farm this past weekend (my first time with Caroline and Edward since last summer; Steve and his friend have been de-deathifying it all winter) and it was extremely pretty. It has taken me over a decade to appreciate a Midwestern Spring. When I first moved to Minnesota I thought it was the sorriest excuse for a season I had ever experienced. I was used to DC where Spring shoves its tightly corseted daffodils right up into your face, the azaleas leave embarrassing marks on your collar and every dogwood you meet tries to grope your crotch. Here Spring is coy; just out of the schoolroom. It might offer you a glimpse of a grassy ankle but then weeks will pass before you get so much as a peep at its shy violets.

Three hours south of here and just across the river we didn't get the full burlesque of a MidAtlantic  *M*A*Y* but it was cheeky nonetheless and the kids (ours and theirs - they being our co-farmers) filled plastic cups with enough picked flowers to make our mothers' day breakfast table look like a parade float.

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Next time I'll take pictures inside the house, if you're interested. It's amazing what Steve and friend accomplished with a million weekends, craiglist and a whole lot of paint.

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Edward is a sweetheart. A loaded baked potato with extra butter and bacon. He gives spontaneous kisses with both hands cradling my face. He says things in the middle of reading a book like, "Oh I yub you SO MUCH." When Caroline started crying in the car because he had 40 cars in a case on his lap and she had none he said, "Oh I can help you!" Then he asked her about her favorite colors and what kind of car she would like and although in the end, of course, he never gave her one of his precious cars he did manage to distract her for at least five minutes with his cheerful conversation about cars he might give her if he were so inclined.

He also wants to be just like Patrick. I'm biased like a directional error but I think there are worse ambitions.

I love this picture. And I'm fascinated by the unintentional similarities.

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More Edward in all his fake-crabby glory.

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Just to add a data point or two to my theory of fluctuating electronic doomy doom doom doom:

- A few days ago the babysitter had just put the kids to bed when our security system spontaneously short-circuited, causing the fire alarms to sound without ceasing. A few minutes later the monitoring company called to check our status and when the sitter was unable to provide them with our secret password they called my cell phone. Me? I was watching Rio (meh) with Patrick in a movie theater and had courteously turned off my mobile electronic device. So ADT dispatched the fire department - as was right and proper - giving Edward a thrill, the babysitter a heart attack and Caroline... I think Caroline got ideas for her next performance art installment.

The security company could not determine why the main board fritzed so they replaced it and did not charge us for the service call. The fire department, however, was less understanding about their wasted trip. So as a cautionary tale - if you have a security system you might want to consider giving people who have your permission to be alone in your house the necessary codes to stop the shrieking should the alarm commit seppuku. You're welcome.

- I was going to add that my return to the farm this weekend was marred by the water pouring through the ceiling of the house where we had been planning to stay but considering the fact that the most recent inhabitants were a family of raccoons it hardly seems fair to attach cosmic significance to the plumbing failure. Less misfortune than inevitability.

- However, the fact that I came home from the farm on Sunday and found that our DVR had died ("Oh!" the Directv minion said brightly. "I know that error code! That's a fatal error!") taking five episodes of The Killing, the entire season thus far of Upstairs Downstairs, 62 episodes of Little Einsteins and heartbreak of heartbreaks the Turkish Grand Prix... all gone - that was clearly a continuance of our bad luck streak.

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Speaking of performance art Caroline was clearly just born this way. Every goddamned day she seems to come up with a new way to do something ordinary.

Want to see what I discovered when I went upstairs to wake her up the other morning? She had gone off to do her morning closet shelves climbing exercise but this was what her bed looked like [click here.]

Honest to Betsy what do you DO with her?  

 I mean besides dress her in all the bright colors I have never been able to wear.

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This is my favorite series:

Ah! A spring blossom!

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Nature's first green is gold et cetera.

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Splendor in the grass... glory in the flower

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Aaaaaaaaand done.

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So she tossed it over her shoulder and most likely stepped on it later.

Revel in nature's majesty? Check. Next up: flight!

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Bite Me

Patrick's new art class is testing the boundaries of my maternal devotion. I am trying to decide how it could possibly be more inconvenient - Monday nights, dinner time, thirty minute drive, and then I have an hour and a half to kill.

So hello from a school parking lot and I'm sorry for borrowing your WiFi, anonymous stranger within a couple hundred yards of me. I didn't mean to steal it; my Mac just helped itself and the next thing I knew I was downloading email and now it seems like a waste to not write a mini blog post as long as I have a connection. What else do I have to do? Pick up the crumbs in the car?

Actually Steve and I have slight but persistent coolness between us around this very subject. He doesn't understand why I refuse to starve the children during our commutes and I don't understand why he's such a tool about the occasional pulverized Cheerio. Has he met Edward? The child needs to eat a little something at regular intervals or he'll just waste away; and as for Patrick he could be a poster boy for low blood sugar related hysterics and it is only by feeding him the instant he gets into the car that I am able to drive him home from school without banging my head against the steering wheel. Without an apple and something in a carbohydrate he is unbearably obnoxious. So I feed him.

A few weeks ago Steve came in from the garage clutching a handheld vacuum and announced, "There will no longer be any food allowed in the car."

I said, "Don't be absurd" and then we circled each other, hissing, until Steve realized that the only practical way to enforce this rule was for him to drive the kids to school in the morning and - hey imagine that - he has better things to do from 7:45 until 9:30. He said ok fine but you have to clean the car and I said yeah sure I'll be certain to do that as soon as the mess starts to bother me and he said grrruhh and I said I'm so glad we are able to agree to agree, love you baby.

The next day the children really enjoyed the Cheetos and chocolate fondue.

He hasn't brought it up since but I was amused (and irritated. but mostly amused) when we had my family in town and were expecting another ten people for dinner and egg hunting and I was getting a little anxious about finishing the food and finding all of Caroline's discarded underpants before our guests arrived and Steve chose that moment to go vacuum the car again. Seriously. My beloved sugarmaple, putting the passive in our passion and the aggressive in our aggregate since 1996. I find him adorable and he - no doubt - loves the fact that I eat croutons in bed. 

So I'm a slattern and he's a tyrant. Peeves? You? Yours?

Edward has taken to wearing monklike hoods all. the. time.

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Caroline was ready for the royal wedding

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And although I would swear I have absolutely no gender agenda (agendera) and it really really is free to be you and me 365/7/24 around here -

I signed Edward up for midget basketball and Caroline is taking a tumbling dance class. Why not put them both in ballet? Why not a family basketball team? I... I don't know. It might be the tulle. Patrick selected her outfit including the wee pink slippers (not pictured. probably lost) and I was done for.

It is astounding to me that he only weighs five pounds more than she does. He sometimes seems like a whole child and a half compared to her little rose-leaf frame.

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