Archive for January, 2013

The Worst Chore

January 28, 2013 19 comments

Let me begin by keeping it real.  All chores suck.  If they were fun, we wouldn’t call them chores.  We would call them hobbies.  But I think we can all agree that some are worse than others.  For instance, I don’t mind mowing grass so much.  If it gets me out of mopping floors, I’ll run outside with joyous abandon.

But even mopping floors can’t hold a candle to what I’m about to tell you.  Not even scrubbing toilets.  I would scrub the toilet with a toothbrush, twice, if it would get me out of this one.  In fact, I might even consider scrubbing the toilet with my toothbrush if I could take a pass on this particular torture.  What on earth could I be talking about?

Waking up my daughter.

I feel a smidge of guilt about this, because she gets her sleeping habits directly from me.  I routinely set three alarms.  On his days off, Hubs sets his alarms for me just to make sure I drag ass out of bed.  I am not exaggerating when I say I sleep like I’m in a coma.  I sleep through vicious thunderstorms.  I sleep through some of the most obnoxious snoring you can imagine.  On two occasions, I have slept through a fire alarm in hotels.  In addition, I wake up angry every single day.  Just the process of pulling myself out of sleep’s gentle arms pisses me off so badly that I literally refuse to speak to anyone until I get some coffee.  I grunt, just like a damn Neanderthal.  I grunt at my kind and gentle husband every morning of his life.  He keeps sticking around.  If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.



So, take all these charming qualities and roll them up with some teenage attitude and the knowledge that what awaits you at school is first period Algebra.  I feel for her, I totally do.  That does not change the fact that this child needs to be awakened each weekday morning at six thirty in the am.  By a cranky ass mother who is running late for work about 99.5% of the time and has been nursing that special morning anger for about an hour.

I’ll tell you how I wake my son.  I walk into his room, turn on the lamp, and say “Good morning, time to get up for school.  What do you want for breakfast?”  And you know what happens?  He wakes up and gets out of bed.  And gets ready for school.

On the other hand, this is how I wake my daughter.  I walk into her room, turn on two lamps, start singing loudly and obnoxiously and shake her shoulder until her eyes open.  Then I ask her questions until I’m certain she’s actually awake and not just feigning wakefulness so I will go away.  Oh, I know the tricks.  I invented the tricks.   Once I’ve ascertained that she is, in fact, awake, I will pleasantly welcome her to another lovely day, tell her exactly how many minutes remain until I have to walk out the door and dare her to make me late for work again.  Then I head back downstairs to make breakfast for the kid who is actually dressed and brushing his teeth by now.

Five minutes later, I beat on the wall of the stairwell, screeching, “Are you awake?  I don’t hear you moving!!”  (On a related note, Hubs discovered a crack in the stairwell wall yesterday, resulting in my being banned from beating on the wall.  Apparently, I’ve been Hulking out without realizing it.)  This will undoubtedly result in a mumbled response.  So upstairs I go, again.  More talking.  More questions.  More lights.

You know what works for this child?  Physically pulling her out of bed and holding her in an upright position until she wakes enough to stand on her own.  (Don’t worry, I’m not yanking her around.  I’m strong enough to do this gently, and hold her up, even though she’s nearly adult-sized.  Please refer to the wall in the previous paragraph for more on my freakish morning-adrenaline strength.)

She HATES this routine, probably as much as I do.  I can imagine.  If someone actually yanked me out of bed every morning, I would probably start throwing punches.  But, from my own experience, I know that there is no way to make mornings pleasant, at least not if they’re going to start at six-damn-thirty and require you to start functioning right away.  So, mornings are going to suck, but the world requires us to deal with them anyway.  In a state of wakefulness.  At some point in this child’s life, she will (hopefully) have a job.  Said job is likely to require her to be awake and present at some time that is earlier than she would prefer.  I wonder who’s going to pull her out of bed then?

Won’t be me, I promise.  I’ll be in the home by then.


Why Southpaws are Better than Everyone Else

January 28, 2013 2 comments

First, let me make this clear.



However, I do live with two, count ’em, TWO southpaws.  You just haven’t lived until you’ve tried to teach a left-handed child to write, folks.  Save yourself some trouble and don’t even attempt it.  Let her left-handed father do it.  Or find a leftie tutor.  Or let the kid fend for herself.  I am telling you, here and now, that a right-handed person cannot teach a left-handed kid to write.  (Or possibly *I* just cannot teach a left-handed kid to write, because, now that I think of it, I’m pretty sure right-handed teachers accomplish this every day.  Whatevs.)

But you didn’t come here to read about that, probably.  I was thinking this morning about how dumb my left hand is.  It’s mostly just there for aesthetics, because it’s useless for any task more complex than holding a wine glass.  What happened was I was braiding my hair.  I realize that it’s probably unseemly for a mom in her late thirties to sport Pippi Longstocking braids, but my hair gets in the way when I’m mopping and it’s either this or that tired old ponytail, or a really unattractive man haircut.  (Man haircuts are cute for some people.  So are baseball caps, but that doesn’t mean they look good on my head.  So don’t get all offended if you have a man haircut.  I am certain that it’s adorable on you.)  Anyway, the left braid went swimmingly.  The right braid, less so.  The right braid had to get re-done three times and it took a good deal of cursing at it to get it to lie properly.  Why?  That dumb left hand.  I don’t mean to be abusive, but it just can’t do anything right.  I have noticed similar shortcomings when I try to paint my nails.  My left hand really just cannot learn to do things.  It has a serious problem.

Now as wife/mother to a couple of lefties, I notice that they don’t complain of similar uselessness with regard to their right hands.  Beyond having to buy a CERTAIN kind of vegetable peeler (which is not the kind I prefer, naturally, but then again, I don’t peel potatoes around here, so it’s cool), I don’t hear much about my southpaws struggling with anything.  Why?  Because they have their right hands trained, my friends.  Lefties will not tolerate a useless hand.  They can use BOTH HANDS effectively.  They take no shit from their right hands.  Every hand must pull its own weight.

So this works for lefties, why do we righties tolerate such nonsense from our hands?  And don’t even, don’t even, start talking about how southpaws have to adapt to a right-handed world because I know for a stone fact that there are any number of products designed exclusively for left-handed people.  Just because I refuse to buy them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  I think lefties are just smarter than us.  They are gifted, if you will.  They can make both hands work properly.  They can braid their hair and paint their nails and even manage the gear shift in a car with their right hands.  I can’t even imagine if I had to shift gears with my left hand.  I would have to stop driving.  Period.  Or get a bulk discount on transmissions or something because there is no way I could expect that kind of performance from my left hand.

I want to take this opportunity to offer my congratulations and my admiration to you southpaws out there.  Kudos to you for getting your money’s worth out that non-dominant hand.  I would applaud you, but my left hand refused to participate.  Lazy bum.



The Cashier Revelation

January 27, 2013 4 comments

There is this one cashier at my grocery store whom I diligently avoid.  She’s crazy slow, mostly because she feels the need to examine and comment on each thing that I am purchasing.  The last time I landed in her line, I was buying an enormous variety of liquids for a very sick child and I was not in the mood to chat about my purchases.  She did not sense my mood.  Things were tense.

Anyway, last night Hubs and I went on our weekly date night grocery shopping and I accidentally got in her line.  When I noticed, there was still time to move, but the other line was much longer (go figure) and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.  I’m mannerly like that.  So we settled in for the long haul.  We chatted about the weather, the quality of plastic grocery bags and other nonsense I can’t recall.  We did not talk about the things I really wanted to discuss, like how you shouldn’t put frozen rolls and Doritos in the same bag or the fact that I was growing old before her very eyes just trying to buy food for my family.  Maybe I was in a good mood, or maybe I wasn’t ready to go back into the cold, cold night, but I found myself reacting better to her than ever before.  Her manager stopped by to tell her to take her break, and she offered to wait until it was less busy, then immediately backtracked, saying that would just make everyone else’s breaks late.  I felt like I learned a little something about her.

Finally, finally, at long last, the last loaf of bread was scanned.  I handed over my loyalty card and my coupons and held my breath.  All went well, and actually more quickly than with many cashiers.  Hey, this is a lady who understands coupons!  One of my own kind!  Then my new coupons started printing, and, boy howdy, did I get a lot of those little gems last night.  As they printed, I noticed my cashier looking at each one of them.  Odd.  Then, as she handed them to me, she shuffled through them and put the best one on top, saying I’d want to be sure to use that one.  Oh, yes indeed.  She sorted my coupons.



I get in such a hurry sometimes that I don’t appreciate the little quirks in the people around me.  Don’t get me wrong, I still need my cashier to be speedy and I’m not seeking out this lady.  But I can appreciate her in a new way now.  She’s trying to do this job the best she can.  She’s trying to do something extra.  That annoying slowness that irritates me so?  Maybe it provides some interaction and conversation for other people who are less cantankerous than I.  Maybe someone else would have accidentally thrown away that really good coupon.  Maybe there are other people who maintain a dead run just to keep up with life who enjoy a little breather to talk about brands of yogurt.

It does me some good to remember that we’re all just doing the best we can, in the best way we know how.  One woman’s annoyance is another person’s pleasant grocery trip, if you will.  Thanks, lady.  I really do want to be sure to use that coupon.

What’s So Great About Home Ownership?

January 27, 2013 1 comment

I have a history of great fear of commitment to a home.  For years, we lived like nomads.  We’d rent a house for a year or two, then something would happen, I wouldn’t like it anymore, or we’d have another baby or something and we’d move.  We would talk about buying a home and it just terrified me.  Not so easy to move out of a house you own if you decide you just simply cannot tolerate those kitchen cabinets for one more day.  But renting is such a waste, and so many of my landlords were complete a-holes…so the time came.  A few years ago we made the commitment more terrifying that marriage or having children.  We bought a house.  It’s a nice house.  I still like it.  And the things I don’t like, I can change.  Because it’s my house.  I can do any damn thing I want to it.

Point 1:  It’s my house and I can do any damn thing I want to it.

  • Pros:  I have pulled out elderly bushes, painted every wall and scratched the shit out of my hardwood floors moving heavy furniture.  No one can say boo to me about it.  I can do what I want.  My kitchen is painted green and yellow.  Cause that’s how I like it.
  • Cons:  My deck has needed replacing since the day we signed the papers.  It now has a giant, treacherous hole in the middle because some dumbass who lived here before didn’t know how to build a deck.  There is no one who’s going to provide the financial backing for this project.  I get to choose my new deck and/or patio, but I also have to pay for it.

Point 2:  Responsibility

  • Pros: There’s no doubt that there’s a feeling of accomplishment in owning something big like real estate.  I am officially a grown up now.  I have homeowner’s insurance, for God’s sake!
  • Cons:  When the main breaker fails and nearly sets your house on fire, there’s no one to call.  You have to fix these things.  You have to worry about the state of the roof and how old the heat pump is and figure out how you’re going to budget for twenty-two new windows.

Point 3:  The neighbors

  • Our neighbors are likely to remain our neighbors for a long time.  It’s nice to talk to the man two houses over about how our Christmas light display has evolved.  I enjoy our friendly front yard conversations.  It’s good to have some neighbor stability and that feeling of community when the power is out or somesuch.
  • Our neighbors are likely to remain our neighbors for a long time, and they still show no signs of trimming their damn bushes.  The ones that encroach on my property.  The ugly, thorny ones with hidden poison ivy and many, many weeds.  My normal way of handling this kind of problem would alienate the people who live ten feet from where I sleep.  I have no skills in diplomatically telling people to do their damn yard work and so I suffer.

Point 4:  Privacy

  • Since I will live here for a long time, people know where to find me.  If I need a ride to work, there’s no hassle in giving directions.  People know where I am.
  • Holy shit, people know where I am!!!  I am not entirely comfortable with this.  I like to maintain a bit of anonymity in my daily life.  This is especially important on a hot summer day when I’m all disgusting with yard work in the front yard when the Karate van cruises past the house, with my youngest screeching to all and sundry, “That’s my house!”  Nice one, son.

Point 5:  Hauntings

  • Maybe it’s a nice ghost that just likes to get your attention every now and then.
  • Whether it’s a nice ghost or something like the Lizzie Borden house, you’re stuck with it.  Better call Sylvia Browne.

Any homeowner will tell you, there are moments when we say silent prayers for a landlord to appear and deal with this leaky damn faucet.  Overall, of course, it’s nice to own a home, but some days, what I wouldn’t give to not have to worry about what I’m going to do about that dying tree in the back yard.  My current plan of action, bitching about it, isn’t netting satisfactory results.  Maybe the ghost will do something about it.

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Eliminating Sick Days: A Guide

January 27, 2013 4 comments

I am something of a difficult mother.  I have high expectations of my children.  I expect them to do more than they think they can do.  I have been known to tell toddlers to “suck it up, buttercup.”  I don’t have a whole lot of softness in me.  This is not to say that I’m always harsh and demanding.  I have a couple soft spots, and I am capable of being warm and nurturing.  I just feel strongly about teaching these kids the virtues of sucking it up and getting through stuff without collapsing into a quivering heap on the sofa at the first sign of a sniffle.

Yeah, this only works on stupid parents who don't watch movies.  via

Yeah, this only works on stupid parents who don’t watch movies. via

Enter the child too sick for school.  This rarely plays in this house, especially not this year, when we have endured an entire semester of homebound school for the oldest while she battled gastroparesis.  I now have everyone back in school as normal, and, by God, they are going to GO TO SCHOOL.

Disclaimer.  My kids really are troopers and they make me proud.  Recently the only calls I’ve gotten from the school nurses have been because teachers have sent my kids there.  Please.  I don’t send fevering kids to school, I don’t send kids with strep or the flu or Ebola to school.  If they’re dealing with the cough, you can, too.  Everyone here is old enough to cover their mouth and wash their hands.  Don’t freaking call me at work for this ridiculousness.  If your fifth graders are coughing on each other, sharing drinks, or licking one another, then perhaps you have an issue bigger than my kid’s cold.

Anyway, the kids are familiar with my stance on this issue.  They have been told (jokingly?) that if they’re not bleeding from their eyes, they go to school.  I have developed the following guide for all other parents who just need their kids to man up already and go to school.  At 6:30 am, I am full of lies and trickery.  There will be people who tell you that it is wrong to lie to your children.  These are people who either do not have children, or prefer to spend their days with kind-of-sick children.  There’s no shame in my game.  I’m a mom.  I do what works.  (Don’t feel bad for the kids, either, they know I’m a liar.  They’re just not brave enough to call me out on it.)

General malaise

  • Was the kid sick last night?  No?  Then it must just be a little morning discomfort.  Once you get up and have breakfast you will be fine.  At the very latest, you will be miraculously healed by lunch time.  Just muscle through the morning and it will get better.  Certainly you’ll be fine by dinner time.
  • Was the kid up late last night?  Yes?  Oh, I know you’re tired, you have a rough night.  Once you get up and move around, you will feel better.  Would you like a Red Bull good, healthy breakfast to get you going?  Go on to school and you will be fine.
  • Are you feeling a little poopy today, too?  I know exactly how you feel, I’m not feeling well, either.  I know we can both get through the day, then we’ll have soup and rest tonight.  (Faking illness on mom’s part is acceptable for this approach.)

Sore Throat

  • Is there fever or spots?  No?  The air in the house is very dry, I bet that is making your throat hurt.  Come have some tea with $10 honey, that will help you, then you can get ready for school.  As a side note, I should mention that I bought the $10 honey for a special recipe and have since discovered that it’s a remarkable item for bribery of all sorts.  I suspect my children were honeybees in a previous incarnation.  And, I refer to it as $10 honey because that’s what the boy calls it, lest I accidentally give him “regular” honey.
  • Can the child talk?  Yes?  You just need a drink.  Come have some water and I’ll pack you something soft for lunch today with an extra juice box.

Stuffy/runny nose, cough, congestion of any kind

  • No fever?  Come have some cold medicine and a hot breakfast.  Here, you can take these cough drops and a tiny box of tissues to school today.
  • Congestion?  Would you like some Vick’s Vaporub before you go to school?  No?  Then you must be okay.  Have a good day.  (This only works if your children hate Vick’s like fire, as mine do.)


  • Sorry, parents, there’s not much you can do here.  I have, however, had some success with my daughter, since she currently vomits a minimum of a dozen times a week, on a good week.  I have been forced to send her to school puking all day.  Not nice, not pleasant, and makes me feel like a real turd, but honest to God, she’s got to go to high school next year and since her lame doctor insists she return to school, we don’t have many options.  Fortunately, she’s a good sport about it and the middle school nurse knows where I’m coming from on this.  Unlike the elementary school nurse, who chooses to make snide comments to my son about the choices that I make for my own children…but that’s neither here nor there.

No matter what the illness, the common theme is, just get through the day.  This approach is much more manipulative kinder than strong-arming them to school and it cuts down on a lot of calls from the nurse.  However, if you continue to receive calls from the nurse, I would encourage you to tell your child, “Do not call me today.  I will not come get you.”  (This is only acceptable if you are 100% sure that the kid isn’t sick.  Otherwise, you are guaranteed to get a call from the nurse reporting that your child has a fever of 118 and has contracted diptheria.  Karma’s funny like that.)  I have previously been known to have moments of weakness and let them stay home when I knew they really didn’t need to, but having a child miss an entire semester of school has hardened me a little.  I need them to go to school.  I am desperate for some kind of normalcy.  I am also desperate for children who grow up and manage to get themselves to work even if they’re feeling bad.  I want them to know how to suck it up and do what needs doing.  And if I have to get creative to accomplish this, then I’ll lie my ass off.  It’s for their own good, after all.

When Doctors Can’t Help

January 21, 2013 11 comments

I’ve written a lot about my daughter’s fight against post-infectious gastroparesis.  I’ve written criticisms of doctors.  (And a lot of other people, too, but that’s irrelevant at the moment.)  You may be tired of hearing it.  If so, this is not the post for you.

Look, I’ve done a lot of research about gastroparesis.  I know that it is not well understood (yet) by the medical community.  I understand that it’s often misdiagnosed.  I realize that it’s nearly impossible to treat.  What I can’t stomach (ha. no pun intended) is the feeling that our doctor conveyed that she sees this often and could offer us support to get through it.

I give her credit for recognizing it.  That’s about all the credit I’m willing to give.  I repeatedly called the office as things got worse, and, without fail, I felt that everyone thought I was exaggerating.  I pushed and I questioned and I damn near begged for help.  Granted, there wasn’t much they could do.  When push came to shove and my child was on the verge of literal starvation, they did what they could.  I give them credit for that, I guess.

Then, then!  Six weeks after the hospital visit, we returned for our follow-up visit.  The doctor decided that we could try to start introducing foods.  We met with a dietician to formulate a plan.  It sounded reasonable, and the diet closely mirrored all my research.  We were told, at that point, that if something made her sick, no big deal.  Just don’t eat that thing anymore.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.  Here’s what they should have told us.  “We don’t know what to tell you.  Everyone is different.  You’re in for a long, tough road and we’re sorry, but we can’t help you.”  That, at least, I could respect.  I wouldn’t like it, but at least it’s honest.  The diet they gave us?  No dice.  Most of it makes her throw up.  You know what she can eat?  Not liquids and applesauce and mashed potatoes.  She can eat Easy Mac.  It’s not low-fat, it’s not especially squishy, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s what she can tolerate.  And what happens if she eats something that she can’t tolerate?  A minimum of three days of vomiting and a complete inability to keep any food down.  Then we start over with Easy Mac.

We had another follow-up appointment last week.  I canceled it.  I have no intention of going back.  The doctors don’t have anything to offer us.  We are on our own and I could have saved myself a whole lot of frustration if they had just told me that from the beginning.  We’re very, very slowly getting her back to normal.  She’s getting through the setbacks and picking herself up and trying again.  That’s all we can do.  Although I find it hard to believe that modern medicine can’t do anything about it, that is certainly the case.  I just wish they would tell you that.  If I weren’t a rebellious, skeptical kind of mom, I would have never given her the one food that she can dependably eat, because it wasn’t on the list.

There is a part of me that knows I’m not being fair to the medical community.  I am sure that there are a lot of doctors out there who might have handled this differently.  I wish I could meet some of them.  No one likes it when a doctor can’t help you, but it’s much, much worse when you’re led to believe that they can help.  Then they don’t.

Four Battles I Will Not Fight

January 21, 2013 12 comments

I have been a mother for thirteen years.  To say that it has not turned out as I expected would be the grossest understatement of all time.  Not that it’s a bad thing.  There’s just no reality in the daydreams and plans you make when you’re eagerly anticipating your firstborn.  You have no idea what you’re getting into, no matter how much advice you get, experience you have with other people’s children or how many “What to Expect” books you read.  Your kids are going to come out with their own idiosyncrasies, personalities and unique skills for pushing your buttons.  I could write my own “What to Expect” book right here and now.  Expect everything you’re planning to go sideways on a regular basis.  Expect nothing to go as planned, ever.

Hubs and I had a perfectly choreographed parenting plan, designed to handle the most thorny situations our kids could throw at us.  Oh, how cute of us.  What our parenting plan actually became is a more reactive, shoot from the hip, make it up as we go along conglomeration of what we’re pretty sure is the best thing for our family.  I might feel a little bad about this, if I weren’t absolutely convinced that every other parent who ever lived is doing it the same way.  Kids have a way of instinctively sensing parental intentions and morphing into Stewie Griffin and you find yourself back at square one.



So, the most important skill I’ve gained as a mother is the ability to pick my battles carefully.  In my weaker moments I wonder if I’m just being lazy, but for the most part, I’m pretty sure that I’m teaching my kids valuable lessons.  Or something.

  • Winter outerwear.  I spoke of this at length in my last post, so I’ll not belabor the point.  I make sure my children have winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves available to them.  If they choose to be cold instead, that’s on them.  I barely have time in the mornings to put on my own coat, let alone wage a great battle with my kids about what they’re wearing.  Any kid who’s reached double-digits is old enough to know they should wear a coat in January, and also old enough to live with the consequences.
  • Haircuts.  I have a ridiculous amount of trouble scheduling haircuts.  I work Tuesday through Saturday.  My hairdresser is closed on Sundays and Mondays.  So you see the issue here.  I have quickly found that we girls can get away with infrequent haircuts.  The boys cannot.  My solution was the triumphant purchase of clippers.  I can tend to their hair at my own convenience, and since they favor buzz cuts, there’s no real skill required.  However, as soon as the chill of autumn hits the air, my son decides that he will need no further haircuts until spring.  This is difficult.  I am tempted to clipper his shaggy little head whilst he sleeps.  He has thick hair with a weird cowlick and just enough curl to guarantee some funky alfalfa sprouts.  However, he feels really, really strongly about it and it’s so not worth the fighting.  It’s his head.  He’s not hurting anything.  So, whatever.  In May, my son will have neat and clean hair and until then I will bite my tongue.
  • Medicine.  I am not, of course, referring to medicine needed to combat any kind of serious illness.  But a stuffy nose, a headache, a minor cough?  I will not fight them about taking medicine.  I did enough of that when they were toddlers.  My daughter, in her babyhood, routinely required a two-man team to hold her down and dump amoxicillin down her gob.  I’m over it now.  If your head hurts, I will give you some medicine.  If you choose not to take it, of your own free will, then you are free to carry on with your headache.  And woe betide you if you dare utter one complaint to me about it.
  • Sibling fights.  My children are two years apart in age.  We planned that out pretty carefully and it seemed like a perfect age difference.  Well, I don’t know if there is a good age difference to reduce arguments, but I definitively know that it’s not a two-year difference.  Oh, how they fight.  I gave up on this a long time ago.  I figure they need to learn how to resolve conflicts on their own, and I can always use practice at tuning out shrieking.  I don’t get involved in this nonsense anymore, unless one child dares to lay a hand on the other one.  Then they get a face full of angry mom, and nobody wants that.

It’s hard to strike a good balance as a mom, especially as your children get older and don’t really need you anymore.  It hasn’t been easy for me to let go of tiny bits of control and let them make their own choices about things, but I do think it’s necessary.  If not for their development into functioning members of society, then certainly for my own sanity.  I miss the days when I could pick out the clothes that I wanted them to wear and when I could choose any cutie little hairstyle I wanted for my daughter, but I have to admit, it sure is a lot easier now.  I’m sure there are any number of people wondering why I won’t cut my son’s hair, but we don’t care about them.  Yes, I’d like him to have a nice and neat haircut, but, in the big picture, it’s a lot more important for him to learn to do what’s right for him.  As long as what’s right for him isn’t punching his sister in the head.