Monday, August 12, 2013

a tirade about how i am tired of being treated as a free babysitter, which somehow relates to my grief process

It has recently come to my attention that I must have "USE ME" tattooed on my forehead or something. And so I am struggling:

Do I stand up for myself, point out to people when they are being unfair, and/or get angry?

Or, do I turn the other cheek and try to [continue to] shove my feelings aside and [try to] feel glad for the chance to serve these other people?

Normally, when I feel this way, I try to set my angry feelings aside but in my grief and depression my nerves are frayed. I am dealing with a sudden receding of the tides -- a lot has been stripped away at once, not just my grandmother. And I am angry.

The time in the hospital was awful. I feel so glad to have been there, and we had a few nice hours when my grandma seemed like her normal self. The rest was awful, and I can't express the awfulness of it -- of them calling for the crash cart, of them asking my sister and I what "code" level she was, of my grandma panicking as she fought to breathe, of her eyes watching my face so intently as I entered the room after a conversation with her nurses.

I swear to you, blog world, I had it figured out this one day. I had been there a couple days already and had pieced together the exact recipe of care that made her better. I talked her through every muscle spasm in her repaired hip. I talked her through her breathing so her oxygen saturation levels would rise, so she wouldn't have to wear the mask, which had rubbed raw blisters on her nose and cheeks. The one thing I didn't do was make her do her throat and tongue exercises. They were supposed to strengthen her muscles so she wouldn't aspirate everything she ate and drank. That evening I realized I'd forgotten, and I made a note to work on it a lot the next day. I had everything else controlled, and her weakened throat muscles were the one thing standing in the way of her lungs healing, I felt.

But overnight they couldn't get her oxygen levels up and in the morning when I arrived they were calling for the crash cart, and it was all downhill from there.

What my grandma's death and my friends/acquaintances taking advantage of me have in common, I don't know, but in my head they're related somehow. Maybe because now I am too sad to talk myself out of being angry.

Do you ever want to just start making angry Facebook posts calling people out? My sister and I have a Facebook "friend" who does that a lot and it has seemed appealing lately. I want to post, "Hey, everyone. FYI: I work 20-40 hours each week, from home. So while it seems to you like it's a great deal for me to watch your child for free, when you never reciprocate by inviting my child over, it makes me want to invoice you for all the hours I took off work so I could babysit your child." This is but one example, but I seem to attract people who want me to watch their kids for free for a morning, day, overnight, weekend, or week... but they never offer to reciprocate in any way. Maybe this is the mentality of, "You have four kids, what difference does one more make?"

Which makes me want to compose a Facebook post that reads, "What difference does one more make? Well, why don't you take my four kids to work with you, and then add your child too, and then you let me know what difference one more makes."

I do understand the plight of working parents during school breaks, but I would never ask someone to watch my kids on a regular basis without a) offering to pay them or b) inviting their same-aged child over for playdates at times when I am off work. Or c) offering to watch their child or children in return sometime.

I am sorry to complain to you about this, blog world, but Jason is quite possibly sick of hearing about it and I don't want to alienate the handful of actual friends I have left by complaining too much to them about it. What I want to do is call the two (right now -- there have been plenty of others with this same free childcare thing) moms and give them a piece of my mind. But unfortunately I am not built for conflict, which is why these people prey on me. They sense my weakness.

So the question is, do I push to overcome being a pushover, or do I push to overcome the angry feelings of being used?

Friday, July 26, 2013

07-21-13 10:13

On the 16th I went to see my grandma. I caught myself stalling in the morning, inventing one more thing, and another, to do before I got in the car. What must it be like to be old? To know you are dying? To be so acutely aware of when the last time is the last time? To know: I will never drive a car again. I will never step foot inside my home again. I will never be outside, ever again.

"I would like to live just a little bit longer," she'd said to me, from her hospital bed at the end of June. "To get out and enjoy the summer." I had assured her she was getting better, she would get better. Inside I cringed at the thought of 6 weeks in a rehabilitation center once she was released from the hospital. It would be the end of August before she could go home again, wherever home would be by that time, and in northern Indiana there isn't a lot of summer left once September hits.

Her hospital room was nice, but the window, of course, did not open. Each time I walked out the hospital doors, I was hit by a wave of warm, humid air that smelled like flowers and rain and soil and grass. The thought that she might never smell that again brought me to tears.

During my drive on the 16th I stopped to gas up the car. It was a hot day, sunny, with big, flat puffs of cloud feathered here and there across the sky. I leaned against the car and closed my eyes. A warm breeze barely stirred across my face. And I thought, "This is perfect." There, under the carport at a service plaza gas station along the Ohio Turnpike, even with my heart breaking, I had found perfect. And I thought, if this can be perfect here, maybe it is not *so* bad if she never gets to have another summer. Maybe there is something better.

At the hospital, I found that she was awake, responsive. She knew me, and she nodded or shook her head to answer my questions. She seemed less confused than she'd seemed two weeks before. It was a gift, a bittersweet memory I'll always treasure. When I kissed her goodbye and told her I loved her, she mouthed around her ventilator tube, "I love you too."

She died Sunday morning at 10:13. That seems unreal to me, because she was life and also security, love, safety, peace, happiness, Christmas, summer, and a host of other things too grand to be iconized in one regular person. But that is the burden of our dearly loved grandparents and parents, I suppose! And she, for all of my almost-40 years, stood up to the challenge.

With her obituary, they ran a picture of her from 15 or 20 years ago. And when I saw it, my first thought was, "Why run that old picture when she looked so much prettier this year, before she got hurt?" To be more beautiful at 93 than you were at 75, or 50, or 20, you have to be a pretty amazing person. And she was.

Monday, July 15, 2013

too quiet for too long

My kids are at my mom's for the week. Especially as they've gotten older and easier, this is less awesome than it sounded to me years ago. Now, I am typically very excited on Sunday evening after dropping them off. By Monday I am fighting off depression, adrift. The house is too quiet, for too long.

Four weeks ago my grandma fell. She is 93, and lived alone, and mowed her own lawn with a push-mower, and drove, and was independent. She used to say she wasn't scared of dying, she was scared of living. She hoped to die quickly, in her sleep -- she didn't want to be like my great aunt, her sister-in-law, trapped inside herself at a nursing home for almost 8 years now.

She fell, or had a small stroke and then fell. She called my uncle and was calm and coherent on the phone, and he came over to find that she couldn't move. He called for an ambulance -- she asked that they not use the siren. She didn't want her neighbors to think of her as frail.

She'd dislocated her hip, and broken some ribs. But she began aspirating what she ate and drank as soon as she reached the hospital. She developed pneumonia, and from there we went into a downward spiral of medical interventions that were effective enough to hold off death but ineffective at preserving life.

My grandma was a person who saved things, where "save" can mean either "to retain" or "to rescue." Like her, I struggle to part with things. For a long time, I was a thrift store fanatic and couldn't pass up anything that reminded me of my grandma's house. The best part about her house was that nothing changed. Things she had when I was small are in the exact same places, still. It was very soothing to go from room to room, item to item, confirming that yes, the glass deer family is still on the end table. Yes, the little gold clock is still next to my uncle's photo on that same shelf. Yes, the little card with the swirling lenticular design and a saying about miracles is still pinned to the bulletin board. Yes. Everything is still okay.

I hadn't been in the house in years, until two weeks ago. She didn't like to have people in, because she had trouble cleaning and clearing out. My mom let me come over with her one night, when she went to feed my grandma's cat.

I went from room to room, item to item. The giant king-sized bed where my sister and I slept with my grandma when we came to visit. The room where the baby crib was, for my brother and my little cousins. The basement, where we could pull out the Little People house and airport and school, and play for hours. The backyard, shaded and quiet, where the pool used to be. The dining room, where we had so many holiday meals. The piano, where my grandma used to play and sing "Back Home Again in Indiana" and "Moon River," as if she was by herself, singing only for her, as if she didn't know we were there.

This afternoon the nurse at the hospital called my mom, because she felt she ought to know that even without sedation, my grandma is now completely unresponsive. Up until now she fought anytime the sedation was turned off.

Tomorrow I get to go and hold her hand one more time.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

i finally understand what "better living through chemicals" means

I honestly don't know how Mrs. Duggar gets her children to do anything if they aren't allowed to play video games. (Disclaimer: I have only seen the show a handful of times so maybe they do play video games.)

We use a system where, by performing various chores or good deeds, our kids can earn points, which can be used for video game time OR traded in for cash. 1 point = 1 minute of game time = 1 penny. Walking the dog twice around the block is 20 points, for example. One of the older kids walking Haney over to her friends' house so I don't have to worry about her being kidnapped is 10 points.

Typically we get to the end of the week with about 100 points, because apparently video games aren't *enough* motivation, but it's the best I can do.

On Saturday mornings they have to clean their rooms, for which they can earn maybe 50 points. Either that or they get 50 points for their room plus one chore, like cleaning a bathroom or wiping down all the kitchen cabinets. Jason keeps track of that so I forget.

Anyway, last Saturday morning our house was especially squalid so we hatched a plan to enlist the kids' help for more of the cleaning. Aside from playing video games, our kids are motivated by the chance to use something that sprays, and the chance to use what we refer to as "bad chemicals" (all cleaning fluids -- my excuse when refusing their help when they were toddlers). So we passed out Windex, furniture polish, a Magic Eraser, and the Swiffer WetJet, and provided some guidance and supervision. And a crapload of reassurance that yes, the floor did look shiny, and yes, the windows looked amazing, and yes, that sure is disgusting, what you wiped off the wall with the Magic Eraser.

They cleaned the entire first floor. Without complaint! By the time they had tired of their jobs enough to complain, they were finished, so we sent them on their way with a ton of bonus points. Which is win-win, because while they are parked in front of the tv playing video games all day, the house barely gets messy at all.

Monday, June 3, 2013

where my fantasies and reality collide, and reality runs over my fantasies and drags them several hundred yards down the street

Today was the perfect storm of motherly hormones, emotions, and expectations.

It was kindergarten recognition day for our online school thing. And when I signed up for this shindig, it was scheduled for 10-12 this morning.

We got up, rushed around, skipped the gym, took time off work, tried on multiple outfits, purchased new clothes, put on make-up, skipped breakfast, worked on Sunday, wrestled our filing cabinet (it is stuck closed) in the hope of finding a piece of H's artwork for her to display (because I didn't read the follow-up emails that said her artwork should be mounted on poster board -- seriously??), gathered Plan B artwork, and drove across town to arrive at the library for kindergarten recognition at 10. I was full of excitement at getting to see whatever this was going to be, and over the idea of getting pictures of everyone dressed up.

Sort of.

Well, P was wearing jeans and his shoes that are falling apart and a shirt that is "nice" only by the standard of it doesn't have words or pictures on it. And his hair was crazy. And G's hair was a little weird too, if we're being honest. And I would have liked our outfits to coordinate a little more. But anyway, there was the potential for a decent picture.

And that right there is where I went wrong. I allowed myself to get carried away in my fantasy of a decent picture of a happy event. So when we walked into the library at 10 and we were the only family there, I had a sinking feeling. We came to discover that the event had been changed to 1-3. I took a deep breath and adjusted my expectations. We can still get some pictures.

I looked about for a suitable setting. I found one. The kids refused to leave the children's play area. I tried once again to ratchet down my expectations. I handed Jason the camera, thinking we'd get a few pictures then leave to my more suitable setting.

"Your battery is about dead," he told me. Of course it is. He was able to snap a few pictures of the kids before it died completely. This is the best one.
Not a bad picture, if you're able to overlook Babe and his Conestoga wagon. Almost suitable for framing.
Then we left the library, and at that point I was still feeling cheery. It's a pretty day out, my baby is done with kindergarten [possibly it was at this point that my ability to keep it together got a little dicey] and we're going to go out to lunch and everything is going to be awesome!

My confidence surged, and I asked if we could take a few more pictures on one of our phones before we left.

This was met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Certain of the children protested that it was cold. I said it wasn't that cold, and asked if they could please just take a few pictures. They said no. I said yes. They begrudgingly came to the spot I'd designated. They lined up, and I asked them to smile.

They grimaced. My younger three struggle to produce a natural looking smile on demand, so I have some grace for them. My oldest is an actress. She photo-bombs any chance she gets, with a gigantic smile. So I know she can do this. But the look she gives me is a disgusted face with her lips pulled away from her teeth, as if I'd said, "You have a bunch of spinach in your teeth. Show me your teeth and I'll tell you where it is. And also I hate you."

"Come on," I pleaded, "Just do this for me. I do a lot of things for you. I live for this stuff. Please just smile nicely so I can get a picture."

The younger three tried a little bit harder, now producing something almost as cheery as their usual grimaces. Miss A gave me the same face, but modified her lip aperture somewhat.

And then I broke. I said forget it and I walked back to the car and got in. I started to cry before we even left the parking lot. I turned on the radio when it became clear this was going to be a loud one.

"Mommy, are you crying?" asked G. Miss A was riding with Jason -- she had swim practice at noon and we'd intended they'd go straight there. My younger three have varying amounts of empathy for me, and they were concerned. I didn't even know what to say.

"I really was trying to smile," he said.

"Me too," chorused H and P.

"It's not that, it's just-- everything," I said.

It sort of is everything. I am tired of working, tired of never feeling caught up, tired of making so much effort only to have it amount to nothing, tired of having something to do every single minute. But it also is just Miss A, and I should have predicted this, because any day that is sort of about someone else is a day when she can't keep it together. She can be really sweet and encouraging and kind, and then she can be someone else entirely. Mother's Day she spent much of the afternoon texting me (on her iPod) rage filled missives from her room. So I spent at least an hour, probably more, writing her back and then sitting with her in her room trying to calm her. Birthdays, anniversaries, special days celebrating someone else's accomplishments, all can be guaranteed to be spoiled by Miss A throwing a fit. This wasn't even bad by her standards, it was just one more episode of her needing to make sure we're all clear on what she feels about any given thing she's asked to do.

It makes me tired.

I cried for a while longer once we got home, while I worked. She went to swim practice. She came home with her hair drying crazy, tangled across her head and folded forward into her face, and changed into sweats. And that was when I finally let go of the idea of taking a "nice" picture. Why bother? I wanted the picture so we could look back on it in 10-20 years and say, "Oh, that was the day we went to H's kindergarten thing! I remember that!" And now I'd rather not remember it anyway.

i have deep misgivings about potential woolly mammoth cloning

Blogworld, I am deeply concerned about this whole issue of scientists digging up a woolly mammoth carcass with [possibly] liquid blood, and making big plans to clone it. Am I the only one thinking this is a bad idea?

Possibly so, since I thought the woolly mammoth was bigger than an elephant, but last night during a "debate" with Jason I learned it was not.

Jason thinks cloning a woolly mammoth is an awesome idea. I do not, and please allow me to lay out my points below.

"Grigoriev called the liquid blood "priceless material" for the university's joint project with South Korean scientists who are hoping to clone a woolly mammoth, which has been extinct for thousands of years. The controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation is headed up by Hwang Woo-suk -- the disgraced former Seoul National University scientist who claimed in 2004 that he had successfully cloned human embryonic stem cells before admitting he had faked his findings. Hwang, who also cloned the world's first puppy, was forced to admit he had fabricated the stem cell data and apologized in January 2006 after a panel of scientists found he had not derived human stem cells from eggs, as he claimed." -- Source
So we are not dealing with a normal person here. We are dealing with a nut who told a wild lie to the entire world. Hello, mad scientist anyone? I tell you, internet, Hwang Woo-suk is going to be the first comic book style super villain. Why are people still allowing this guy around magical science-y equipment? (Dr. Woo-suk, if you are reading this, please know that all the above is a colloquial expression meaning I hold you in the highest regard and please don't destroy us all.)

2) Taking this to the next logical level, if this dude is successful (which I'm certain you will be, Dr. Woo-suk!)  there is no way he is making just one. Because what good is one woolly mammoth? They'll need to make another one, and then once they* have us used to the idea of woolly mammoths, they'll announce that they're in partnership with some zoo to create the world's first woolly mammoth breeding program.

They'll need to have Jack Hanna on board. People love him. He'll do the talk show and late night circuit and there will be baby woolly mammoth stuffed animals everywhere. If you see no other reason to be concerned about this, think about your kids begging you for woolly mammoth crap everywhere you go. We do not need another animal, people.

3) While people are distracted visiting woolly mammoths in zoos and thinking how cute they are, Dr. Woo-suk will be moving forward with his true plan. First, he will give three woolly mammoths Larry, Curly and Moe haircuts. Because what else is a guy going to do with a new kind of animal that has hair?

Next, he will try breeding woolly mammoths with elephants, to get everyone thinking he has great and reasonable ideas. Once he's gained our trust, he will totally splice together a woolly mammoth/shark hybrid.

You know I'm right.

Next think you know the world will be on lockdown because there will have been an unpredictable breach of the security fences around Dr. Woo-suk's North American research facility, and the animals will have escaped. We will have mammoths with insatiable appetites for meat and plants -- think what they will do to your landscaping -- roaming around eating deer, cattle, and family pets with their razor sharp teeth.

These hybrid woolly mammoths (which will come to be known as sharkephants) will become to skiers what sharks are to surfers. It will be brutal.

Even though I don't ski, I feel it is my duty to raise the alarm so we can protest this crazy idea before it goes too far. Because sharkephants are just a gateway animal to even more frightening combinations like shark-scorpion-pterodactyls.

*"They" refers to Dr. Woo-suk's team of evil scientists and/or lackeys and/or minions and/or other good scientists who are about to be taken in by his success and charisma.

Friday, May 31, 2013

let's talk about sleep, shall we?

The time change this spring totally screwed me over. I had gotten the kids on a great schedule where they were in their rooms playing quietly* beginning at 7, and theoretically lights were out at 9. It was wonderful because, as I've mentioned before, my patience runs out at 7.

Then the time changed. And the days started getting longer. (Which I could feel with the exhaustion that grows exponentially every minute after 7 that the kids are up.) And sports started. And now they are sometimes downstairs with me until almost 9:30! These are usually nights when Jason is home and has additional patience from being away from the kids at work. But I rarely get them to their rooms before 8, and on sports nights it's 9.

But according to my meticulously crafted schedule, I am supposed to get ready for bed at 10 so I can be asleep by 10:30 so I can get 7.5 hours of sleep and wake up well-rested at 6. Then I can work until it's time to get inappropriately dressed for my fitness class. That allows precious little time for, well, how can I put this delicately? Doing it. And also stuff like watching TV that is not Nickelodeon-related, and eating ice cream that we don't want to share with the kids.

Plus, now that we don't have to wake up early for school, the girls sometimes sleep til almost 9, and the boys occasionally sleep til 8. So they aren't even tired at 9 p.m., which means the boys wrestle and cackle and have stuffed animal battles (this involves a lot of throwing) until about 10 or 10:30 even if I get them into their rooms by 8. I can hear all of this loud and clear through the floor and large air return vent in the living room, because we moved their bedroom to the basement.

Every second their shenanigans remain audible, my annoyance grows. And while they probably can't hear me or the TV over the sounds of their own joyful shouts and cackles, the lack of sound-containment might become a problem when "Breaking Bad" returns.

Do I just ride this out, hoping it is a summer-related problem that will abate with the reappearance of school buses? How do you (all two of you, my beloved faithful readers!) deal with the excessively late bedtimes caused by summer and sports?

*a relative term

i have neither the wardrobe nor the body for group exercise classes

Blogworld, I am nearly 40. I have managed to live my whole life not working out or exercising, except for small bursts of activity for months at a time here and there.

Jason joined a fancy gym, thinking that the sheer awesomeness of it would make him want to go. It did, then it didn't... and at some point I thought, "Maybe if I join too and I go work out, he'll feel more encouraged!" and "I need to make my health a priority!" and other stuff like that. So I joined.

Part of joining is that they give you a fitness test. I got "good" or "excellent" on everything, which was mostly because they didn't make me do any cardio and I could do "girl" push-ups. When I got that fantastic bill of health I thought, I guess I don't need this gym after all! And I pretty much stopped going. There was life stuff that got in the way too, like a heavy workload and my friend's daughter being very sick and then passing away, but I went exactly once in two months.

Then I decided I needed to go to some classes, because having to be there at a certain time would make it easier to show up. There is a basic 30-minute class of some kind each day at 9, so I'm going. And that's where it gets interesting.

I am totally goofy and have no idea what's going on. I position myself in the back of the room with this one older man who I think is probably 80 or older. Some things I can do. That's the best I can say for myself.

Last week I wore a pair of shorts. Unfortunately, the class was some core strength thing where we were doing planks and leg lifts and hip thrusts and I became acutely aware that my shorts were not tight enough around the thighs. I tried to do all the moves without actually moving my legs, which was really challenging. As I left the class I scanned the other attendees' faces so I could take note of all the people who have now seen my crotch, and avoid them or pretend to be my own twin sister if I ever run into them in public.

On the way home I contemplated dyeing my hair, cutting it drastically, or getting major cosmetic surgery before the next class. Fortunately I was spared having to see them again for a while because my legs were so sore I had to go down stairs on my behind, and then it was the long weekend and I was out of town.

I went back yesterday (wearing pants) and we had to do some crazy move where we lay on our backs with exercise balls between our calves, and lift our legs/the balls from the floor to over our heads. Naturally, on about the 2nd "rep" of this move I lost control of the ball. It bounced off my face and then off across the room. A fit teenaged girl who was nearby started laughing. (With me, not at me. Or sort of at me, but not in a mean way.) So now my fellow core strength participants have seen my crotch as well as a spectacular display of my lack of coordination.

I've determined that I need tight capri yoga pants (which won't look right until I work out a LOT more) and fitted tanks that include a sports bra. I don't own these things, but when I wear t shirts people can see my pizza dough belly when I do downward facing dog, and long yoga pants are hot and also go creeping up my leg and bunching up above my knee when I'm doing three-legged dog. And I've already covered the problem with shorts. Either I need new clothes, or I need to stop working out. For the sake of modesty!

This morning is another core strength session, which I and probably all of my classmates are dreading.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

i am so over this school year. like all school years.

Blogworld, I have SO MUCH to say. But let me start out with, "I just realized I forgot to put on deoderant today. It was 87 degrees. Inside my house. So, sorry, everyone I've encountered today."

First off, I am giddy with joy that school is over. G and H finished a few weeks ago and P and A finished at the beginning of last week. I clocked out a while ago and haven't logged attendance or entered test scores in forevs. So when A's teacher* all-of-a-sudden called me Tuesday afternoon, I had only the faintest idea who she was and no idea at all why she was calling.

It turns out she was calling because she'd scheduled our end-of-year conference via k-mail (internal school email) and since I haven't logged in for weeks, I missed that. But she called at 2:15 for our 3 p.m. conference, so I'm hoping she thought that was why I seemed confused.

Anyway, for next year we are going to forgo the online school and kick it Duggar-style. Online school is way too test-y for me. I'm all for tests and you can't imagine how much I love hard data about each child's progress that I can then compare against his or her past results, his or her siblings' results, and the results of the country at large. I love it so much. But clicking every single bubble for every single answer on every single test which is given at the end of every single lesson? Is too much for me. That's a lot of bubbles. Up to 400 bubbles per day that I have to click. And that's a waste of my time.

Also, as much as district funding for gifted programs have been cut, they still would have gotten accommodations of some kind -- more challenging material, or pull-outs, or something. While this school (k12, Ohio Virtual Academy) touted having a gifted program and a lot of flexibility, they don't have a program any longer. And there is a lot of flexibility in grades k-2, but for my 4th grader there wasn't. Her high test scores didn't allow her to skip anything -- she had to just pass the unit and semester exams for everything in order to move forward. So, she dutifully took every single spelling test, and read the novels assigned, etc., which took her til February or March. It was essentially a wasted year for her, as far as literature and language arts goes.

This weekend will be a marathon of bubble clicking as I try to make up for about a month's worth of ignored tests and assignments, and enter something like 90 days of missing attendance. And then I will make our plans for what the kids will do over the summer, academically. And then I'll probably watch a marathon of Alaska-related programming from the Discovery Channel until after midnight, and fantasize about a life where I don't have to interact with people and I have magically acquired hunting and wilderness survival skills. Because I got mad parenthood survival skills, y'all.

*To review, since I haven't posted in a really super-long time, my kids "attended" an online school this year. They have official teachers who call me when I haven't entered attendance, and administer tests (conference call/LiveMeeting style) 3-4 times/year for the younger ones. I am the "learning coach."