Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I made it!

I'm blogging with droopy eyelids, but I made it past midnight! Hooray! Happy 2009 to you all!

I actually have the next TWO DAYS off. Two days off, together. In a row. I'm marveling here, folks. My normal days off are Thursdays and Sundays. Thursdays I have scouts, so most of that day is blown prepping stuff and buying snacks or whatever. But now, I have two consecutive days off and.....oh, wait for it, because it is glorious......nothing to do. That's right, no plans. There's a vague notion about going to my sister's house tomorrow to watch Looney Tunes cartoons and play Wii, but there's nothing stressful about that. Nope, not a thing. My goal is to have no goals - to do as little as possible. To stay in my pajamas until I start to smell funny, maybe. Or maybe not, but you get the idea.

I don't really have any resolutions. I have a few ideas, but nothing so firm that I would attatch the word 'resolve' to it. 'Hope', maybe, or 'possibility', but not resolve. Except for this one thing: for right now, I resolve to get my butt into bed and get some sleep. Happy new year, everybody!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Peeping in

Good morning, all. I just made my daily blog lurk-through and figured I would give a quick post-Christmas shout out. We had a lovely Christmas, and now I am tasked with finding room for even more stuff in our closet of an apartment. I'm not complaining, though, I just don't know quite how I'm going to manage it. But if that's my only problem, then I am doing OK, I think.

Hope everyone is doing well and had a lovely Christmas. For an amusing creative feat, check out Laura's recent post over at Catholic Teacher Musings. Hope everyone is doing well!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to all!

Howdy, folks. Just wanted to stop in and wish you all the very happiest of holidays. For my few readers and those whose blogs I read regularly, I want to say thank you - thank you for making me laugh, making me cry, for sometimes making me do both simultaneously, and for sharing your life.

My plan for the day is work until 3pm, then rush home, change and get to some Mass somewhere at some time, then coffee at my mother-in-law's. Then home to wait for Santa.

The weather sucks. It's humid, cloudy, occasionally rainy and over 70 degrees out, so it doesn't exactly feel like Christmas, but we will do the best that we can.

Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, whatever you celebrate, I hope it's everything you hoped for and more. I am looking forward to the three (three!) new Wii games we are getting for Christmas. Hooray!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Quick takes.....Thursday

I'm quick taking on Thursday since I won't have time to do it on Friday. I'm doing inventory at work, and hand-counting roughly 11,000 items is no small task, my friends. Not at all.

Sunday night a friend of mine called me around 5PM in tears - she had been having contractions every five minutes for a couple of hours and thought she needed to go to the hospital, but couldn't get in touch with anyone who had agreed to help her with her three kids, ages 7, 4 and almost-2. I told her just to bring all three of them over to the house, and she said she didn't want to but didn't really have a choice. I assured her it was fine, and she and her husband dropped them off around 6pm. And it was utterly insane. Her three kids plus my two equaled insanity. I don't know how people do it. At one point, everyone in the house was crying except for the 4-year old and myself, and I was on the verge or tears. It ended up being a false alarm, and they picked the kids up around 9pm, but man. I don't mind doing it, though. I figure it's my karmic duty. I have a lot of family around to help me, and it's the least I can do to help others who aren't as lucky. And there are a lot of people in that situation, with all the military familes around here.

I am blogging from my aunt's house, where I stayed overnight with her three boys, ages 5, 5, and 4. Her daughter is in the hospital, and the bus comes for the boys at the unGodly hour of 6:15AM, so since my husband happened to be off work last night I was able to stay over and not have to drag my kids along with me. And holy moly! My sister was here for bedtime (we were putting together photo collages to give as gifts, and that was an adventure in itself, although we did manage to complete them without cutting ourselves with the scissors or taping ourselves to anything), and I'm glad she was because it literally took hours for them to fall asleep, with the youngest holding out the longest. And he was also the first one up, shaking me around 4:30AM and asking for candy. Um, no. Getting the three of them ready for school was an interesting experience, and I must confess that I was so relieved to see the headlights of the school bus that I performed a Tiger Woods-esque fist pump right there in the driveway.

Bella stayed the night with a friend a couple of weeks ago, and that friend is absolutely dying to stay the night with Bella, but the logistics just aren't working out. I work on Saturdays, so if she stayed the night on a Friday I would have to take her home super early Saturday morning. Saturday nights are out, because of church on Sunday. Since it's a school holiday we could do a weeknight, but my day off during the week is Thursday and both upcoming holidays fall on Thursdays, so that is out. But I'm trying to figure it out, because it's all this little girl talks about. She even mailed Bella a Christmas card and hand-wrote inside: "I hope I get to come to your house soon". I'm working on it!

Today is the last day of school before the Christmas break starts. There is a half day today, and then no school until January 5th. I have mixed emotions about this - it means no more getting up early for school (but I'm up with Bubba anyway), but it also means Bella will be home all day. And since there are really no kids around us for her to play with, she gets a little lonely. And bored. And cantankerous. So I am looking forward to it for now, but ask me in about a week.

I am done with my Christmas shopping. I am waiting for a few things I ordered online to arrive, and I have to ship a couple of packages still, but other than that I am FINISHED. Hooray! Everything is wrapped and ready. Awesome.

I have to go home now, to relieve my husband of Bubba duty and to undo the damage that my two children and husband wreaked on the house without me there nagging them to pick up after themselves. So I am limiting my quick takes to six. So farewell, friends - I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Still kickin'

I am still alive and well (sort of well, anyway) but just very, very busy, like everyone else on the planet this time of year.

If you have a moment and would like a laugh, stop by AU Jen's blog and read about where she has to pick up her Crisco shortening.

I am lurking around and reading other people's blogs, I just haven't had time to post on my own. There's not a whole lot to report, anyway . Hope everyone is well!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Too good not to share

I'm not trying to make this a photo blog about my kids, but....I just had to put some of these up. We walked around downtown yesterday, finding nooks and crannies to shove the kids into and take pictures, and some of them came out very well. Take a look!

These first ones are Bella and her cousin Mac:

I don't think I realized how many cannon we have here in town. And apparently, cannon are magnets for kids. Notice my pretty-pretty princess, always the lady, straddling the cannon at the front. Lovely.

In front of our local history museum.

I love this shot. The flowers, the big oaks and palm trees, the bay and the bridge in the background, and the gorgeous sky. And my smug-looking daughter.

The upside to Florida living - you can't beat the views.


Mad props to Maw-Maw for the pretty dress. Thanks Maw-Maw!

Bubba did make it into some of the photos, although not nearly as many as Bella and Mac:

Bubba, Bella and Mac. I can't help but wonder if the stuck-out tongue is Bubba's commentary on having to wear that suit and sit up in trees.

Good enough for grandparents. I have learned that, when taking a picture involving more than one child, the key to success is low expectations. High hopes, but low expectations.

This was the better of the swinging pictures. Some of the other ones gave my mother-in-law a heart attack because it looks like Bubba is about to fall out. So I will say: no Bubbas were harmed in the taking of these pictures (or, as Phyllis would say, 'pixtures').

I gave up on trying to take away the binky. It just wasn't worth it.

I loved this picture and hoped for some more like it, but then.....(see below)

Oops, pushed my luck. THAT is what happens if you take the binky away for the sake of a photograph. See what I mean? Just not worth it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

You want me to what?

Bella's school is threatening to start mandatory parent volunteer hours, and while I understand why, I'm kind of bummed. I am one of the school's girl scout leaders, so hopefully that counts for something, but the thought of trying to eke out more time to spend somewhere other than with my kids just wears me out. How do people do it?

So, out of guilt....oops, I mean, a burning desire to help, I agreed to sell scrip cards to parishioners after mass. Sigh. I was very up-front about the whole thing, though - I said that I am on my own with the two kids (one of whom is a ten-month old boy), so I will have to be selling with both kids (did I mention one of them is a ten-month old boy?), and that there might be days where I am late or sick, and that I would like to be able to re-consider at some point if it seems like it isn't working out (probably because of the ten-month old boy). That might sound terrible, but I have learned the hard way that I have to be completely upfront, open and honest about things like this, otherwise people's expectations exceed my abilities, not to mention my availability. I'm sorry, I want to do what I can for Bella's school, I think it is a great school, but there is only so much time I'm willing to dedicate away from my family.

Last year I was asked to help out with the annual school fun run, and when I told the woman that I was only available after 5PM because of my job, she actually bristled and said, "Help can't always be on your terms". Hmm, that's true, but help doesn't pay my bills, and my job does. And if I don't have a job, I can't pay what I pay (including the annual tuition increases!) to send my daughter to school here. Sigh. I'm so bitter. It's not that I don't want to help, it's that I can't think of a way I can help that doesn't involve me missing out on time with my kids, time that is rare already because of my job. I guess I'm searching for that elusive balance everyone seems to be looking for. If anyone finds that, let me know.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Irrational rationalization - and a meme!

This morning my husband came home from work with a rented copy of 'Wanted'. I told him I wasn't interested in watching it, and he said he just wanted to watch it for Morgan Freeman (I'm sure it was him and not Angelina Jolie, I'm sure she had nooooothing to do with his interest in the film). The mention of Mr. Freeman got me to thinking, and I was brushing my teeth and mulling a few things over when a thought occurred to me that I had to share. I walked into the living room and said: "Hey, if Morgan Freeman and Samuel L. Jackson got into a fistfight, who do you think would win?". My husband just looked at me for a minute, then shook his head and said, "I will never understand the way you think.".

So, in my defense, I would like to lay out the stream-of-consciousness thinking I was doing to get there. Please join me for a quick ride on my train of thought (keep all arms and legs inside the train at all times, please and thank you):

--Morgan Freeman
--Morgan Freeman was in 'Bruce Almighty', which I watched last night
--Morgan Freeman has been in a lot of movies
--Samuel L. Jackson has been in a lot of movies
--I wonder if they know each other
--I wonder if they like each other
--If they don't like each other, would they fight?
--If they fought, who would win?

See, that's logical! Isn't it? I thought so, anyway.

Oh, and Aimee tagged me for this meme, which was perfect timing since I was feeling a little glum this morning. Here we are: six things that make me happy. In no particular order, of course - while I do love my coffee I don't love it more than my children.

1. Community-brand coffee: IT--IS--SO--GOOD. Rich and hot and it smells heavenly and I just can't get enough of the stuff. On the mornings that I take Bella to school I set the coffee pot to brew while I'm on the road, so by the time Bubba and I get home and get out of our Popsicle car (I have no heat) and into the house it smells delicious and warm and welcoming. And I learned, when my SIL and her husband moved to Virginia, that it is not a nationwide thing. Gasp! Every time we send a package to them it has to include a pound or two of this coffee. For those of you not in the Community Coffee distribution area, I am sorry.

2. Mornings with Bubba. There is a small window of time between when Bella is dropped off at school and when my husband gets home from work that Bubba and I have the house to ourselves, and we make the most of it. I let the dishes sit in the sink while we crawl and roll around on the floor, or Bubba gets airplane rides, or we play in a blanket. I love it.

3. Evenings with Bella. After Bubba goes to bed at night, Bella and I have a half-hour to an hour of time just to ourselves. We will read, or play something on the Wii, or paint our toenails, or sometimes say a rosary (at her urging! my daughter actually asks if we can say the rosary together!), or sometimes we will just sit and watch cartoons.

4. Flavor-Ice or Pop-Ice popsicles. When I have a sore throat (or if I don't), I love these popsicles. 15 calories each. Just don't touch my pink popsicles - that's fork in the arm territory, right there.

5. Our house, all decorated for Christmas. Our tree is pretty, our decorations rock, and the house is all cheerful and cozy. It makes me happy just sitting there, looking at the tree. It makes me feel very fortunate.

6. All the family we have around us. My sister, specifically, who continues to watch my children on Saturdays despite all the better things she could be doing. My dad and stepmother, for helping out my Aunt, even if it is a kind of begrudging help. My sister, again, for helping out my Aunt. It's touching to see how people who can't always stand to be in each others' company will stand up and help out when the going gets tough.

I tag Jen, and Teresa, and AU Jen. Speaking of AU Jen: where are you, woman? Did your roof leak on your laptop? Post already!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Here comes the flower girl

We took Bella to a bridal store last night to get her flower girl dress for a friend's wedding.

She walked into the store and my little tomboy of a daughter was instantly smitten with all the girly stuff to be had there. "Mom, it's like a store for princesses! It's all so beautiful!".

The store staff made her feel like a queen, an experience I think she really needed and appreciated. They took her over to the rack of flower girl dresses, showed her a couple of different sizes in the style she needed, asked for her opinion and took her advice, then walked her over to a dressing room. I helped her change into her little gown, and then she walked out into the fitting area so the sales staff could give her the once over. This is the dress (but not her, obviously):

And my little girl was beautiful. I had tears in my eyes, I kid you not - bedraggled recess hair and all, she was breathtaking. And she knew it. She couldn't take her eyes off her reflection in the wall-sized mirror, and could hardly talk. And if my child is speechless, you know she has been deeply affected. They put her up on a pedestal (literally), the entire sales staff was quite taken with her and came over to compliment her, someone brought her a headpiece and a basket....she was fussed over for the better part of 20 minutes and she loved every second of it.

I will tell you all right now - when I see her at that wedding, in full flower girl regalia, smiling her little smile and with her cheeks all rosy pink, I am going to weep. She's just so pretty, and so sweet, and really such a good girl (she just has bad moments) and I am so lucky to be her mom. I forget that sometimes, or at least lose sight of it. She was just so happy, and it made me so happy to see her so happy, and it was a beautiful moment that I want to hold on to.
Now we just have to wait for Valentine's Day 2009, and hope that she grows a little - just enough - in the places we need her to grow to make the dress fit perfectly. But not so much that the dress doesn't fit at all, that would be bad.
And in the meantime Bella is practicing for her flower girl duties by scattering anything she can find in multiple quantities all over the floor, a habit that was cute the first time it happened but now is irritating and slightly dangerous. Legos and hot wheels do not possess the same charm as flower petals, and they convey an air of clutter rather than one of romance. We're working on it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

7 Quick Takes Friday, late once again

We are praying for the family of one my husband's co-workers. The man was driving home from work on the 3-mile bridge (a bridge my husband travels twice daily) when he was struck head on by a drunk driver going the wrong way. He leaves behind a wife and three boys under the age of 10, the oldest of whom is autistic. I'm sure they could use all the prayers they can get, if you think about it.

People love a fat baby. People love to feed a fat baby. My mother-in-law says all the time, in her lyrical southern-cajun accent, "I love a good eatin' baby". And Bubba is, to say the least, a very good eatin' baby. And does not know when to say enough - can't say enough, so he just eats and eats. And I'm sure everyone knows where this is going - Bubba ate and ate and ate yesterday. Everybody snuck him food before we ate, he ate while the rest of us ate, then people snuck him food after we ate. Then we went to my mother-in-law's house and he ate again there. And last night he had a bellyache and diapers that were breathtaking in a myriad of ways. He couldn't sleep, was doubled over with gas was a horribly long night, for both of us. And I have to say, when he passed gas, it was horrible. I'm talking eye-watering bad. I know it's very juvenile to talk about, but I was literally astonished, more than once, by how very bad he smelled.

Alas, Bubba has fallen ill. And nothing is worse than a baby who can't breathe through their nose and doesn't yet realize that it is possible to breath through his mouth. I was awake for the better part of last night. He would sleep in 20-30 minute bursts, sitting up in his car seat with the vaporizer right beside him. Then he would wake up, wiggle around, cry, and require immediate picking up. Then he would sleep on me (while I was sitting up) until I would try and put him down, where he would sleep for a little while before waking up and starting the whole process again. The only break in this routine took place when I had to use the restroom, and Bubba was mightily offended. Looooooooong night.

If anyone is looking for service project ideas, we are making cards and little gifts for some children on the Make a Child Smile list. This is a great organization on a wonderful mission - they post information about children of all ages, from babies to teenagers, who are ill in one way or another and could use some cheering up. You can get the child's address and a list of their interests (and even their siblings interests) and can send them cards, gifts, whatever. Bella likes sending things to girls her age. We also do this with my scout troop - this year we found a girl who is also a scout, so that should be neat.

Thanksgiving went well. It was nice to spend time with my family, even if we are a large, loud and rowdy bunch. My stepmother was even on her best behavior, for the most part, so that was a pleasant surprise. The food was good, and the company was even better. On to Advent and Christmas! I still have not managed to get candles for our advent wreath yet, and our Jesse tree is still nothing but an untouched piece of poster board. But hopefully I can take care of all that tonight. Hopefully. I'm not going to stress about it, though, because that would be completely contrary to what those things are all about.

My older sister got a pretty cool new tattoo, which means that now all three of us sisters are tattooed and pierced in various and assorted places. Who would have thought that I would turn out to be the mild one, with my single tattoo that is usually not visible and no piercings (except my ears). Maybe now I can pass on that title of the worst behaved child to one of them.

I can't come up with a seventh right now, so I'll just say that I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and to wish you all a safe a wonderful weekend!

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm having a bad day

This morning I woke up, looked at the clock and realized three things: 1.) The alarm was set for 6:30PM, not AM, and therefore did not go off, 2.) It is now almost 7AM and I normally leave for school in 20 minutes, and 3.) my nine-month old alarm clock, who is normally up by 5AM every day, chose THIS VERY DAY to sleep in. Crap.

I went into the kid's room to rouse my sleeping angels. Bella was grouchy and wouldn't get out of bed, and Bubba and everything around him was soaked in pee. Lovely.

I changed Bubba and made breakfast for Bella. I took that moment to attempt to make a pot of coffee, and in my hurry I somehow managed to fling a heaping tablespoon of coffee grounds all over the kitchen. It was so bad that I actually had to pause and marvel at how very aerodynamic coffee grounds are, because they went everywhere. Even though I knew it was only a tablespoon, it looked like more like a good solid cup. And of course, in the thirty seconds it took me to get the broom, Bubba found them and wallowed in them, so I had to sweep the floor and dust him off.

While Bella was finishing her breakfast I went to the dryer to get her uniform out and discovered that the clothes were still damp. It was now 7:10. Crap. I turned the dryer on and hoped for the best. We got everything else done that we could (tooth brushing, hair-fixing, backpack packing) so that all she would have to do is hop into her clothes and we could leave.

While we were waiting for the clothes to dry, I was instructing Bella on her lunch money. Lunch is $3, and there was a $1 fee due this morning for glow sticks for the Christmas program finale (I know, I can't wait). All I had was a $10 bill. So I said, "I'm giving you $10. When you get your change back from lunch, put $1 in this envelope and give it to your teacher, and bring the rest of the change home". Bella paused for a moment and then said, "Why am I giving my teacher a dollar?". Sigh. "I'm giving you a $10 bill for lunch. Hot lunch costs $3. How much change will you get back?". Bella considered this for a moment. "Three dollars?" She guessed. Sigh again. Me: "What is ten minus three?". Bella: "Three, I just told you". Great. "When you get your change back, just put a dollar in this envelope and give it to your teacher". She agreed, but reluctantly.

Her uniform was dry by about 7:30, so she hastily dressed and we ran to the car. I was weaving my way through our narrow little apartment complex road when in front of me, there were three ducks crossing the road. Slowly. Painfully slowly. And a car was parked in front of the building in front of them, blocking me from veering around them. So I had to stop and wait, and I tell you: in my impatience, it was agony. Time was ticking away, and these ducks were leisurely sauntering across the road. One stopped and sniffed at something, the other two paused for some other reason, maybe conversation, who knows. After what seemed like an eternity, they were finally out of harm's way and I zipped past them. Stupid ducks.

Bella's school is about 3-1/2 miles from our house. There are eight traffic lights in those 3-1/2 miles, and without exaggeration, every single one of those lights was red when we got to it. Bella even noticed and commented on that fact, in between bemoaning our lateness. "I'll bet they're saying morning prayer right now, mom, and I'm missing it". And this jewel from about two miles away: "I think I just heard the bell from here, mom". No, I don't think so.

I got Bella safely to school (on time, too, so ha!) and was navigating traffic on my way home when I noticed an odd smell. A glance at my dash told me why: the car was overheating. Looooovely. We made it home without exploding - well, the car didn't explode, but my temper was on the verge. I decided to let the car (and my attitude) cool down before messing with it.

We got inside and I started trying to get everything together to get Bubba ready to go to my MIL's and myself ready to go to work. And nothing was going my way - I knocked a half gallon of milk onto the floor, and the dishwasher leaked everywhere (it was a bad day for my kitchen floor), a fact I discovered when I slipped and fell in the puddle it left. It was not my morning.

I managed to shower and get ready for work, and bustled myself and Bubba out to the car when I remembered the whole overheating situation. I put Bubba in his seat, rolled the window down a bit and popped the hood so I could add some more coolant (I have a leak). I gathered up my coolant and my water and looked down at the engine and.....couldn't immediately recognize where the coolant went. And I got very mad at myself.

In my defense, it is a new (to me) car, and I had not monkeyed around with the engine at all up to this point. I had a basic idea of where the coolant would go, but I wasn't 100% positive, and I don't play around with stuff like engine fluid. With my luck I would have added coolant to the brake fluid reservoir and slammed into a tree later when I tried to stop. So I tried calling my husband, who is in Panama City Beach visiting and playing golf with his old roommate, and of course he didn't answer his phone.

I ended up calling a friend who, after a brief description of where I thought it might go, assured me that I was most likely putting the coolant in the right place. The whole time I was dealing with that, Bubba was in the car screaming his head off, which made me rush, which caused me to spill coolant everywhere (including on myself), which made my mood even darker than it was before. So I was pretty irritated by the time I dropped Bubba off. I was bringing him in to my MIL at 9AM, which is the very time I was supposed to be at work for a meeting.

So I take off from my MIL's house and head for work and get stuck behind a school bus that is stopping EVERY SINGLE BLOCK for roughly eight blocks. And at each stop about 8 kids had to file onto the bus then sit down. It was like the duck situation, only it took longer. I actually developed a little bit of heartburn sitting behind that stupid school bus.

BUT....despite all that, we all got where we needed to go, mostly on time, and we were safe (except that one little slip and fall in the kitchen), so it could have been worse. And if I keep telling myself that, maybe I can get out of the funky mood I've been in.

Here's hoping.


I stopped by Jennifer's blog - The Conversion Diary - and after reading the post there, I feel really small and petty. I whined incessantly for paragraphs and paragraphs about what a rough morning I had, and then you have someone dealing with something like this mother dealt with. I have been thoroughly chastened.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

7 Quick Takes - with photos!

A day late, and a week after I started the post, here are my 7 quick takes, a brilliant idea from Jennifer at the Conversion Diary. So here we go:


Bubba took his first steps last week, and has been taking more and more steps since then. People without children are excited. People with children say things like, "Well, it's all over now, isn't it?". Yes, yes it is. It's terribly cute to watch, though, even though I know the math - increased Bubba mobility equals increased chances of Bubba trouble and/or trauma of some sort. Big days!


Two words: Greek festival. Here is a picture of my dad's dessert plate:

That delectable looking chocolate dessert at the top of the picture is called a kok, specifically a chocolate kok, and let me just tell you, people: it was delicious. If you don't believe me, here's Bella to back me up:

That is pure, unbridled chocolate feasting right there. We couldn't finish it, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Yum. Bubba ate his fill, too, between sharing a kok with my dad and then his lunch of yogurt and bananas. He was very, very full. Bella wanted him to dance with her, but I discouraged any jostling of Bubba as the results could be disastrous, in a pukey-chocolate-yogurt-banana kind of way. Good food, good company, lots of fun.


After the Greek Festival, we loaded up and headed to the navy base for a visit to Fort Barrancas. That was also very enjoyable. Some pictures:

Bella and her cousin Mac astride a very old cannon.

And the view from the fort:

Bubba, Bella and Mac behind bars:

Bella and Mac inside the fort, apparently posing as two of Charlie's underage angels:

Sunday was a very good day. I feel very fortunate to live in the same town as so much of my family.


Last Friday I was driving Bella to school when I found myself being tailgated by a very aggressive driver. I mean very aggressive - not only was he following dangerously close to my back bumper, he was doing that thing where he would accelerate and get really really close before backing off for a second, then doing it all over again. And this guy was driving a HUGE Lincoln SUV - no match for my little Honda, that's for sure. He made all these dramatic arm gestures at me, and I was a little nervous about the whole situation. I was boxed in - cars in front of me and to my left, so I couldn't go anywhere, short of pulling over onto the shoulder so the guy could move up one whole car length to where I was, but I had somewhere to be, too, so I wasn't going to pull over.

We finally reached the light, and the guy pulled up beside me, rolled his passenger side window down and started shouting at me. I rolled my window down a little bit (I shouldn't have, but I was mad and not thinking clearly) and before I could say anything in response Bella shouted out from the backseat, "There are CHILDREN in this car!". Ha! I laughed (again, not thinking clearly) and rolled my window up, then explained to Bella how inappropriate the whole situation was, including my response to it, and how you should never provoke anyone like that, or take yourself down to someone's level when being provoked. But boy, that was funny. She told him.

- 5 -

I drove Bella to school this morning. The older classes are assigned to dropoff duty, opening doors for other kids, helping the smaller kids out, holding their hands and walking them to the cafeteria, etc. When we pulled into the dropoff lane and stopped, a little blond boy rushed over to the car and opened the door. "Hey, Bella!" he literally exclaimed. "Hi, Carson" Bella replied, holding her hand out for him to help her out. And this wasn't just a casual "Hi", this was a flirty "Hiiiiiiii". The tone of her voice actually made me turn around and look at her funny, but she was already halfway out of the car. As she was climbing out another little boy rushed over and said, "I knew Carson wanted to open your door but I wanted to walk with you, too". The second boy closed the car door and the three of them walked towards the cafeteria.

Carson was holding Bella's hand, and the second little boy had his arm around her. And I swear to you, as a mother who can recognize motive and meaning in even the most subtle of body language, Bella was flirting. She was tilting her head, and had her shoulders scrunched up, and I could hear her laughing. I was watching them walk away, slightly slack-jawed at the sight of my daughter simpering and batting her eyes for these older boys, when I heard laughing. I looked to my left and there was the school librarian, who had watched the whole thing (and my reaction to it) and was doubled over, pointing at me and laughing (in a nice way - she's a friend).

I get that this was just friendly conversation between kids who see each other on the playground. Her school encourages interaction between older grades and younger in a myriad of ways, so it's not surprising that they knew her and vice versa. But the way she was acting! I immediately called my husband and told him about it, and his response was that she must have inherited his animal magnetism. Yeah, that must be it.

- 6 -

Bella is, as we speak, on her first non-family sleepover. Her friend from school, whom I shall call E, invited her over to stay the night, and I dropped her off there after I picked her up from school yesterday. And I have not heard a peep from her. I slept by the house phone and the cell phone, just in case I got the late night, "Mommy, come pick me up" call, but it never came. They are going to keep her until I get off work at 5PM, unless she gets bored before then, in which case they will drop her off at my sister's house. I hope it's going well and she's behaving.

Bella is notoriously picky eater - she thinks that the food groups are pizza (pizza rolls and pizza flavored snacks fall into this category, as well), sandwiches (peanut butter & jelly, bologna and grilled cheese) and anything from McDonald's. She will eat food outside of those food groups, but those are definitely her favorite. Last night before I left her friend's house, the mom asked if Bella eats rice (E's mom is from Japan). Ha! Bella does eat rice, but Bella was hoping for pizza. All the moms who do lunch duty at school are always talking about the amazing lunches that E's mom prepares for her - sushi, and so on, so I have been just dying to know what they served for dinner and Bella's response to it. I guess I'll find out later.

- 7-

We are decorating the house for Christmas this weekend. I have to help my MIL next weekend, and if I wait until after that I'll never get it done. And I have vowed to enjoy this year's Advent and Christmas more, since last year I was so very Scrooge-y about the whole season. In my defense I was pregnant, moving into a new place, working full time and doing scouts, so I was exhausted the whole time, but I felt bad that I couldn't enjoy it more for Bella's sake. This year is going to be different. For one, we have a new and lovely 7' tree to put up. Last year we had a Charlie Brown-ish 3' tree that was downright pitiful.

Last year, because of everything that was going on, we couldn't really afford gifts for a lot of people. I know that isn't what it's all about, but I still felt bad, because I enjoy giving gifts. This year, I have almost all of the Christmas shopping finished already. Hooray!

And this year I'm going to do more for Advent. This whole Advent thing is still new to me, since this is only my second one as an official Catholic. We are going to attempt an Advent wreath and a Jesse tree. And we are going to do a couple of service-type projects. I'm planning on attempting those things but I'm not going to beat myself up if we don't get them done. I want to really enjoy this time of year, and just spend time with my kids and my family.

Happy weekend to all!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The conference and the rule

I wrote a terribly angry post yesterday (that had nothing to do with the topic of this post and could be another post entirely but I don't need to go there). I did not get to finish it, so when I pulled it up this morning and read it over I decided to delete it. Time and sleep (not a lot of sleep, but apparently enough) will do wonders for attitude and outlook.

I had a conference with Bella's teacher Wednesday afternoon. These were the major points:
  • Bella was good as gold when the school year started, and then out of nowhere became the biggest talker in the class (although this week has been much better, she noted).

  • When I asked who she was talking to, the teacher answered that she is mostly talking to herself. She is seated between two non-talkers, so she just sits and chatters to herself, hums and sings and apparently doesn't internalize anything - the girl has no inner monologue, it's all out there.

  • When I noted that Bella went on a destructive bent at home, the teacher noted that she has been breaking pencils. Intentionally breaking pencils, but they have all been her pencils so it wasn't a huge problem. I asked if we could arrange for her to speak with the guidance counselor, to see if there's something bigger going on.

So there you go. And when I mentioned the issues I have with homework - how every night there is homework confusion and mix-ups, she said that starting that very day she was having them copy their homework from the board and into homework journals (up to this point the homework has only been available on the classroom web page). And the difference has been just amazing. Instead of being completely removed from the process and never having any idea of what she is supposed to do, she sits down and follows the instructions in her notebook and gets her homework done pretty much on her own. It's wonderful. Homework time has literally been cut in half, and neither Bella or myself are complaining nearly as much. Hooray!

The talking problem seems to be getting better, too. We have tried everything over the last month or so. There was a two-week stretch in which Bella couldn't really do anything fun - she couldn't play outside or watch TV or play video games and had to go to bed early and that did nothing, had no impact on her behavior at all. So what did we find that worked? We made Bella's rule, a rule that is based on the idea that there are times at school in which it is OK to talk (recess, lunch, etc.) and then there are times that you are not supposed to talk.

So now every morning before school she recites her rule for me: "If it is not time to talk, I will not talk to anyone except the teacher if she calls on me, and I will always raise my hand before I talk to the teacher." After the conference we amended the rule to include talking to herself. And since we started the rule and its' recitation, incredibly enough her talking issues have improved considerably. Her teacher actually started sending home a daily behavior reports when things got really bad, and the first couple of weeks she alternated between "I had an OK day" and "I had a bad day but will do better tomorrow". This week she has received all "Excellent Day!" notices. I'm amazed.

It just goes to show me that, in the world of parenting, what you think will work doesn't necessarily do so, and what seems to be the long shot is worth a try. Lesson learned. I'm proud of Bella and very relieved that it worked out. Whew.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A story that must be told

The story below is quite sad, in a pathetic kind of way.

Last night, while shopping at the 6th retail establishment I had been to with my MIL all in the same day, I picked up some Mission-brand tortilla strips. I love those things. Soooo good.

I was driving home with the kids when I had a light bulb moment, and several facts occurred to me simultaneously.

  • My husband was about to wake up to get ready for work and would be hungry and ready for dinner, of which there was none immediately available.

  • When he saw the yummy chips, he would want to eat them and the little bit of salsa left in the fridge, (here's the important part people) leaving no salsa for me to munch on with said yummy chips later.

That would not do. So how did I solve the problem? I rushed into the house, hustled into the kitchen and started looking around for a hiding place for the chips, thinking to myself, where can I put these where Brian won't find them?

The dishwasher. Yes, I opened the mostly-empty dishwasher, tucked the chips in and quickly closed and locked the door, thinking as I did it that he would never look there for dishes, much less chips. And I was right - the chips went unseen, the precious salsa was safe, and I happily munched on them after I finished my housework for the night.

Hey, I'm not proud. Obviously.

Post-post note:

My older sister asked, upon hearing this story, why I hid the chips and not the salsa, since the salsa is what I was so concerned about. That is a fine point that I never even considered. Duh.

Stuff I like (and of course, some stuff I don't)

Yesterday my MIL bought this outfit for Bubba for Christmas (at Sears, on sale for like $20). The tie is about 4 inches long. It is possibly one of the cutest things I have ever seen. He will hate wearing it, and will somehow damage it while wearing it, but that's OK, I'll just be quick to take pictures.

I love my dryer balls. I was highly dubious when Brian first brought them home, but now I can't imagine running clothes through the dryer without them in there, banging around (for the first few minutes it does sound a bit like rocks, but then they soften up a little). It is AMAZING how well they can work - I can dry an inappropriately huge load of towels in 35-40 minutes. I highly recommend them.

Butterball now makes a sliced deep-fried turkey breast lunch meat that is THE BOMB. I got the Thanksgiving style, but the other flavors sound yummy as well. I love fried turkey. Maybe it's just a Southerner's appreciation of fried food, but that's good eating right there. And it's 97% fat free. Hooray!

I love this website for online shopping. You type in what you need, and it comes up with a ton of options, pictures, and prices, all on one page. The best shopping page I've found.

Stuff I don't like:

There was a PTA meeting last night, a meeting that was being billed as HUGELY IMPORTANT and YOU REALLY, REALLY WANT TO ATTEND. The did an automated phone reminder on Wednesday night, and all the teachers in morning dropoff were holding posters that said, "VERY IMPORTANT PTA MEETING TONIGHT - 7:00PM". I was considering going, but then I had a crazy, non-stop day yesterday between ferrying my MIL around town and girl scouts and then ferrying my MIL around some more. And Brian had to work and I didn't have a babysitter, so the thought of having to bring both kids to the meeting sealed it for me and I did not go.

I got the kids in bed and was puttering around the house when the phone started ringing at about 8:45PM. It was Bella's teacher, calling to re-schedule our conference that was scheduled for this afternoon. One of the first things out of her mouth was, "I thought you were going to be at the PTA meeting.". Oops. While I was wrapping up with her my cell phone started ringing, so I ended the call with the teacher and answered the cell phone. It was the first grade room mom, calling to say something about needing to give me something and how she had really been hoping I would be at the meeting and was disappointed that I wasn't. I didn't even try to offer an explanation - I just told her to send the item home in Bella's backpack. Geez. As soon as I hung up with her the house phone rang again, and it was yet another person asking why I wasn't at the meeting.

Now, prior to Bubba's arrival on the scene, I attended PTA meetings pretty faithfully, and I know for a fact that no matter the hype or buildup for one of these meetings, you might get about one-third of the parents attending. So surely I cannot be the only person who did not go. But you would have thought so, from the reactions. And the worst thing is, none of the people who called mentioned anything about these huge announcements that were supposed to be made. So I got all of the chiding with none of the pertinent information. Great, just great. I still have no idea what went down. I'm sure it wasn't the 'we are raising tuition meeting' - they usually save that for after Christmas, so I'm not sure what happened.

I could go on and on in the 'don't like' section, but I think the PTA grumbling is enough for one day. We shall see. Happy weekend to all!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What's goin' on

Halloween went OK. Bella was an enthusiastic Barbie Mariposa, Bubba a reluctant and petulant monkey. I went as a grumpy mother who hung back at the curb and let my husband do all the door knocking with the kids. We were out waaaay too late - Bubba has a self-imposed 7:30 bedtime that he likes to stick to, and by the time I pulled up to the house at 9:30 he was a screaming, snotty mess. However, the mini Hershey bar that my husband had given Bubba kicked in around 2Am, when Bubba decided to wake up and play for three hours. He fell back asleep around 5AM, and I was miserable.

I worked all day Saturday on minimal sleep, then after work I took the kids and my MIL to the hayride where my FIL works. I was sick, tired, and very, very grumpy. The games and food were open for 15 minutes after we got there then promptly closed down. We got in line for the hayride and waited for an hour for our turn. And after the hour wait, with a fussy eight-month old, the kids hated it. Bella spent the time time with her head buried in my MIL's sweater, and Bubba screamed almost the whole time (the other people yelling and screaming scared him) and buried his face in my neck. I had done a wonderful job of not complaining up to that point - I did not want to be there but kept that to myself. However, when Bella was cowering under the sweater and Bubba was screaming into my neck I could take no more, and looked over at my MIL and said, "Boy, this was worth the hour wait, wasn't it?" She just kind of laughed and nodded.

Bella has seemingly lost her mind. I am completely at a loss. She has not only kicked the general bad behavior into high gear, but she's also suddenly on a destructive binge - just over the last few days she has started breaking things. And she has never done anything like that before. She cut the pre-measured yarn for a needlepoint thing she is making into teeny-tiny pieces that are not usable for sewing, despite being told not to do it. And when I told her she wouldn't be able to use the yarn she just kind of shrugged and said, "Throw it away, I don't care". Yikes! She has broken multiple toys, the towel rack in her bathroom, the plastic kitchen colander.....I could go on, but I don't want to relive it.

I am alarmed. Something is brewing. I and don't know what is up. Her teacher sent home a note Monday with a circled frowny face and a note that said, "WILL NOT STOP TALKING". Yikes. I e-mailed her and asked her for a conference, because something is going on. Every bit of my maternal instinct is screaming with alarm. I don't know what is happening, but something is awry. I can't get Bella to talk to me, so I'm thinking at the conference Friday afternoon I might see if the guidance counselor at school will meet with her, and see if she can discern anything about what might be at the root of this sudden 360-degree behavior change.

Bella has never been an angel, understand, nor do I expect her to be. I don't expect perfection, but for the last month or so things have just gotten really, really bad. I have come up with a plan for around the house, I think - here are a few ideas that I have been kicking around:
  • To get into a routine that we will attempt to stick to as much as possible
  • Make rules for the house, that will be somewhere in plain sight and that everyone will have to follow - grown-ups included
  • Establish set consequences for rule-breaking
  • Make Bella more responsible for her own day-to-day care - making sure her bookbag is packed, making her own lunch, laying out her uniforms, etc
  • Actually make her do the chores on her chore list (gee, what a novel idea)
  • If we are home together, we eat dinner together - and no television
  • We are going to move ahead with the TV coupon idea - I think it's kind of lame but I also think it is necessary - the child has toys and games and anything else you could imagine to play with but all she wants to do is watch television
  • Sunday is going to be family day - it generally has been, unofficially, but now it's official
  • Bella is going to start getting an allowance, but bad behavior at home or at school and/or not completing her assigned tasks can cause the amount to drop

Those are just a few notions I've been considering. We'll see, but at this point I am willing to try anything. My sweet little girl has been replaced by this sullen, angry, belligerent, destructive child that I feel like I don't know, and I didn't expect that to happen at least until she was a pre-teen or so.

I think, in my heart of hearts, the place where you know the truth but don't want to admit it, that it is a matter of attention, or rather what she is perceiving as a lack of attention. The whole 'negative attention is still attention' school of thought, on her part. I don't think we are paying her enough attention, and I think she is acting out because of it. And my reaction to that thought is mixed - on the one hand, I feel horrible and guilty, but then on the other hand I just think, that's life. People have siblings, you have to share the attention, that's just how it is. I think I need to find balance between the two.

If anyone has a suggestion - teacher, parent, whom or whatever, I'm open to it. And eager to hear it, because I'm baffled and fresh out of ideas.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Oh, crap

I called my mother-in-law just now and said, in the least enthusiastic voice possible, "Did you still want to go to this Halloween thing tonight?". (My FIL works for a military MWR site, and they do a Halloween hayride for the kids). She was kind of hesitant in her answer, so I told her, "Well, I won't get off work until probably 5:30, and then I'll have to go pick up the kids from my sister's house, then go to my house and change clothes and pick up stuff I need for Bubba, then finally come to your house and then drive out to the hayride. Plus, Bubba doesn't need to be out late since he was out so late last night, and I think I'm getting a cold".

Then I paused, hoping she would change her mind, and waited anxiously for her reply.

And then she said: "Yeah, I still want to go. See you when you get here."


Friday, October 31, 2008

Bah-Humbug Halloween

I am not feeling the spirit of Halloween, if there is such a thing. Frankly, I just want to sit in front of the TV with some almond amaretto coffee and watch the live GhostHunters episode (my guilty pleasure TV show) and get some laundry done. There is so much dirty laundry in my house right now - I was pondering it this morning (not washing it, merely pondering it) and I just had to wonder if there are maybe some people who are living in the apartment when we aren't home, leaving their dirty clothes behind for me to wash and using all the towels. Two adults, a six-year old and a baby just can't produce that much dirty laundry, they just can't. Or maybe they can and I've just fallen behind. Either way, I have a marathon laundry session coming my way.

So since I am such a Halloween grinch, I thought I would share this delicious selection of clever baby costumes. There you go. I dig the walrus, but the flamingo is pretty darned cute, too.

I hate Florida weather. Two nights ago we had a frost, and for a couple of days the weather was cooler during the day, but it seems we are right back to our normal autumn, or at least what passes for it here in FL. At night the temperature drops into the low forties. I have been wandering around the house at night doing my chores in a sweatshirt, and have actually turned the heater on a couple of mornings. So you have low forties at night, but yesterday afternoon while running errands the temperature was 77. Ridiculous. You can't dress for that kind of temperature change, unless you layer to the extreme. And it's impossible to dress Bella for school, too. If I put her in tights, a long sleeved shirt and a sweater she gets a heat stroke during recess, but if I send her in socks and a short-sleeved shirt she freezes all morning long. And on PE days it's just ridiculous, but I'm not alone in my weather frustration - all the children in Bella's class look like little blue Grimaces because they have on their PE shorts and short sleeved PE shirts underneath their winter sweatpants and sweatshirts. Bulky little things.

I had a brief Bubba-related scare this afternoon. My husband works overnights, from 8PM to 8AM. When he came home from work this morning (it's his birthday today) he said he wanted to spend some time with Bubba, and that he would watch him for a while instead of me taking him to my MIL's house like I usually do before work. I agreed, but reluctantly - Brian is almost a narcoleptic (understandably so) when he has worked all night, and can fall into a deep and heavy sleep without warning from which he is very difficult to rouse. On the drive to work I had a nagging feeling that I shouldn't have left Bubba, but I pushed it aside.

So around 1PM I called my MIL's house (since that is where my husband said he was going to go shortly after I left for work) and not only were they not there, she had not heard from them. Hmm. I felt uncomfortable - all I could picture was Brian snoozing on the couch while Bubba explored the contents of the cabinet where I keep all my toxic chemical cleaning supplies. I called the house, and there was no answer. I called Brian's cell phone, and there was no answer. I was feeling rather panicky. And it isn't because I don't trust Brian, that's not the case at all, but I didn't trust the circumstances.

So the lovely people I work with agreed to hold it down so I could drive the fifteen minutes home. And it was an anguished drive, I have to tell you. In typical maternal style, all I could think about and picture was all the things that could have gone wrong if Brian was asleep and Bubba was wandering around the house. I drove too fast, made a few rude gestures, and used some very bad words, but after what seemed an eternally long drive I made it to the house, pulled sideways into a (handicap!) parking spot and was out of the car before the engine had shut off completely.

I unlocked the door and burst into the house, and there was....nothing. No one. No sign of Bubba of Brian. So I explored a little further and heard the shower running. And there they were, in the master bathroom. Brian was showering, and Bubba was standing on his tippy-toes and sucking on, of all things, the toilet flush handle. When I walked around the corner Bubba froze, then removed the handle from his mouth and smiled. Then he flushed the toilet, and kept flushing the toilet. After about four flushes, Brian (who was not aware of my presence at this point) said, "Hey buddy, the water is getting cold, stop it" which, as you all know, makes any eight-month old baby stop doing something as fun as flushing a toilet. Riiiiight. So Bubba kept flushing, and Brian kept saying, "Hey!".

I finally spoke up, and Brian stuck his head out of the shower and asked what I was doing there. How do you answer that? Because I couldn't just wave it off and airily reply, "Oh, I didn't trust you to not fall asleep while you were watching the baby so I rushed over here at top speed because I was fairly certain Bubba was drinking Lysol or maybe the bathroom cleaner". No, that is not a good thing to say. So I just said I was on my lunch break and thought I would swing by. Whew. I felt bad, but Bubba is just at that age where he gets into everything, and he's starting to climb now, and you just can't leave him alone for a second, much less fall asleep and leave him to his own devices for an extended period of time.

Today is going to be crazy. I get off work at 4PM, and then I have to:
  • Pick up Bella from after school care
  • Stop by the store and pick up Brian's cake
  • Run to my house and pick up the kids' costumes and Brian's present
  • Go to my MIL's house for dinner and trick or treating

Sigh. Ghost Hunters, coffee and laundry are still pretty appealing, but alas, such is life and motherhood. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Be careful what you wish for: Bubba speaks! and speaks and speaks and speaks

Bubba has said "da-da" twice now. Both times he was not prompted, he just sort of blurted it out and then promptly forgot about it and no amount of encouragement can make him say it again. I had actually been a little concerned lately because Bubba hasn't really been a vocal baby. Crying, yes, he can cry like a crying machine, but he didn't coo, or gurgle or make any of those noises that babies make. He will grunt at you, if you have food that he wants (which is pretty much anything), but the grunting has been it so far. I wasn't dwelling on the idea that he wasn't vocalizing, but it was in the back of my mind.

Then two days ago, while eating dinner at my mother-in-law's house, Bubba said "Ma-ma". My heart leapt. I was thrilled. And he hasn't stopped saying it, either. My concerns were for naught, because the boy won't stop chattering now. He crawls around the house chanting, "Ma-ma, ma-ma, ma-ma". When he's not actually saying it, he's mouthing it. He also added his own name to the mix: "Bu-ba".

Yes, we really do call him Bubba. I have felt the need to defend myself for that since a woman at school asked me if I thought I was perpetuating or encouraging the stereotype of the dumb southerner by calling my son Bubba. Um, no, it's just his nickname. But I digress:

So now he crawls around saying, "Ma-ma, Bu-ba, Ma-ma, Bu-ba" over and over. He has started yelling (mostly at his sister), shrieking from the sheer joy of playing with barbecue tongs (his favorite toy, currently), and doing all the giggling and cooing and such. It's charming.

Yesterday he was following me around the kitchen while I was trying to prepare a bottle. He was, as he usually is when he's waiting for a bottle, absolutely certain of the fact that he will never be fed again. The theatrics he lays on are impressive - moaning, and big tears, and laying on his stomach and rubbing his face into the floor from sheer agonizing hunger. Now he has added to his repertoire the forlorn and pitiful "ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma....." on and on into perpetuity. Constantly, until he has what he wants. Not quite as charming. But still good to hear.

Bella has also added to her vocabulary and has been busy peppering her conversations with some lovely new expletives. The other day she asked her brother: "What the hell do you want?". Not charming at all, I have to say. We are working on it. She's really been pushing her limits at home lately. I don't know what is going on. She is regularly being belligerent, and blatantly not listening, she is talking back.....I am rapidly approaching my wit's end (which is not a long trip). Last night I asked her to do something to which she replied, "No, I'm not doing that". I was astonished and replied with a well-thought "What?", at which point she fled the room. I tracked her down - she ran away from me again and into another room, and I asked her what was going on and she laughed, she laughed and said, "Nothing, why? What? Geez." I had to take a moment to regroup. This is not my well-behaved daughter.

So now I'm having to rethink my parenting policies. Not that I have them listed - there's no parenting mission statement in my house, although maybe there should be. I have really been thinking about this a lot lately and I think I know what I need to do.

I feel so overwhelmed, a lot of the time. And there are so many people who have so much more going on than I do. The librarian at Bella's school? She has 9 children, the youngest of whom (twins!) are in kindergarten. She is the school librarian, and she used to be parish education coordinator until the Salesian Sisters came into the parish. And did I mention that she has 9 kids? I have two children, a part-time job (30 hours a week) and an apartment the size of a closet and I am having trouble coping? I bet she would just laugh. Well, probably not, because she is too nice to laugh, but I bet she would want to laugh.

I'm just in a rough patch. Things will smooth over. They have to! Tomorrow is another day, and all that. And if I say it enough, I might just believe it. Happy weekend, all!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Am I Wrong? (Because I usually am)

I e-mailed my cousin in Pennsylvania the other day, mentioning that we were going to be visiting family in Virginia around Easter and that I wanted to try and get together with her and her family. I mentioned that we were planning on trying to hit up an amusement park during our visit, and she kindly reminded me that amusement parks aren't open year-round up there. I was shocked.

I am such a Florida girl - the only thing that closes for the winter down here are water parks. And lo and behold, I checked the web and both big parks are closed while we are there. And the amusement park was the only thing we had really planned to do while we were up there, so I decided to scope out a plan 'B' and discovered that there is an aquarium right there in town, and a really cool children's museum nearby. And of course colonial Williamsburg (which I love), and we could go to Washington, DC. I am so excited now! I have requested visitor's guides from Williamsburg and Washington, so we can look through them and Bella can get excited.

I really want Bella to enjoy this trip. I am ashamed to say she has never been on a real vacation like this, ever, in her entire life. This will be our first real vacation as a family. She has taken little weekend trips here and there, to Tampa to visit family and to Louisiana to visit family and so on, but never with my husband and I - always with her Auntie or Maw-Maw & Paw-Paw. She has never done anything like this, and I am very excited for her, and for us. She has been to the museums and little attractions here in town, and that's really about it, as far as all that goes. This is a chance for her to see things she has never seen before, things that will be new and exciting and educational and a chance to make memories that she can hold on to for the rest of her life. Bubba, too, of course, but at 14 months he won't remember much of the trip.

There is a slight problem, though. My sister-in-law, who is currently pregnant and due to give birth around Valentine's Day, feels a little out of sorts about us making plans for these day trips (except DC - we would probably stay overnight there, for one night). When I mentioned to her the places we are interested in going while we are up there she reminded me that we will be up there to see her and her husband and their new baby.

I get that, I do, but I don't think she has anything to worry about - we will all be spending plenty of time together. I'm actually thinking of her and her husband, too, and the fact that they might appreciate having some time without all of us in their house, especially since they will have a (roughly) six week old baby. There will be six adults and three children aged 6 and under all in the same house. And those nine people will be crammed into a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment. For eight days. So yes, I think getting out and about and doing something fun will be necessary to stay sane.

When I mentioned the above to her she said that there is all kinds of shopping in the area that we could do. I'm sorry, I'm not going to ride in a car for fifteen hours with my kids, my husband, and my in-laws to go to a mall (unless it's the National Mall in DC). I can shop at home. I said something about them coming with us on one, or more, or all of these day trips - after all, 6-week old babies are portable. But my in-laws are old-school catholics that don't believe in taking the baby out (further than the mall, apparently) before it's been baptized and they aren't certain if the baby will be baptized by that point.

This is her first baby, though, so I don't think she gets it yet. How your life is completely and utterly turned upside-down, no matter how much you think you know what to expect. How your hormones are still supercharged even six weeks after giving birth. How difficult daily life will be with a new baby and six extra people, making noise and making messes. How after two days she will be ready for us to leave, possibly almost desperate for us to leave. Wasn't it Benjamin Franklin that said something about "guests, like fish, smell after three days"? That Ben Franklin was a smart guy, he knew what he was talking about. I'm shooting for a nice blend of activity and leisure. Enough time spent around the house to relax, and enough time spent out of the house to see the sights, burn off some energy and hopefully avoid killing each other.

So am I wrong? I mean, seriously, am I? I'm not looking for validation here, I genuinely want to know if I'm possibly overlooking my SIL's feelings and selfishly forging ahead with a plan that makes them feel like we don't want to spend time with them, or that we won't spend time with them. My goodness, we will be getting there on Friday afternoon and will be together all of Easter weekend, with no plans but church, so that is a great start right there. And by the time Monday rolls around I have a feeling she will agree that we all need to get out. But I don't want to make her feel bad. We'll see.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hooray for the fair!

The fair is in town, and my sister was kind enough to take the kids on Saturday. A good time was had by all. Except for my poor nephew, whom I shall call 'Mac' for internet purposes. Bless his heart, he is an only child and has been for all of his nine years, so he is having to adjust to having Bella around. They could be mistaken for siblings, the way they argue and pick at each other. Anyway, here are a couple of pictures thanks to my generous and thoughful big sister:

Bella and Mac waiting for the elephant ride to start. He's such a good cousin, however reluctantly.

Bella in the 'Ag-Venture' area making a jack-o-lantern out of radish seeds and mulch.

Bubba making a move for the mountain dew (that's actually diet pepsi). Nice try, fella.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Need some advice

I was a little early for my teacher conference yesterday, and while I was standing in the hall waiting a little head poked up into the glass window of the room door - one of my girl scouts was inside while her parents were doing their conference. So I checked the hallway to make sure there was no else around, and then proceeded to engage in a lively bob-and-weave peekaboo game with her and her younger brother. We were making faces at each other and giggling when I realized I was busted - not only were the adults in the classroom laughing at us, there was a woman who had quietly emerged from the office and into the hallway and was standing near me, amused. "Are you encouraging them?" She asked me, laughing. "I'm keeping them busy." I answered defensively. Oops.

So Bella's teacher and I sat down, and once settled in (she said a pleasant hello, I returned her greeting and apologized for the copious amounts of smelly baby spit-up on my shirt that I didn't have time to change) she got right to the point. She said that Bella is academically strong, indeed there are no areas that she is having problems in. She said the Bella talks too much, and she does need to work on that, but her talking is almost charming because she's generally so excited about what they are learning that she just wants to talk about it. She said Bella finds so much joy in everything that she is one of those children that reminds her why she got into teaching in the first place. Bella is well behaved, well mannered, works well with others, and has a good heart and a sweet disposition. We talked about the items I was concerned with - some homework issues and whatnot. My mind was put at ease, and I feel better about the whole situation now. However....

There is still a problem, and that problem is at home. Specifically, with me, and how she behaves with me. It's funny - I have had a nagging feeling lately that there was some sort of problem, and there was, but not at school. And a very good friend of mine had the courage and the honesty to tell me that Bella doesn't take me seriously, doesn't listen to me, and doesn't do what I tell her to do. It was hard to hear but at the same time was good to hear, in fact I think it was what I needed to hear because it made me acknowledge what has been a growing problem. So we will just have to buckle down and tighten up at home. I think I've been a little adrift and over my head from a combination of things - managing an increasingly mobile Bubba, my increase in hours at work, losing my sister-in-law, my husband's schedule change....and I have let things get away from me. I've been taking the path of least resistance, and it shows in her behavior at home. Now, at school she's apparently great. And when we were out at dinner the other night, a couple stopped us to tell us how well-behaved our children are (I actually had to look around to make sure they were talking to us). So at least I know she can be good, she just chooses not to be at home.

So I need some advice. I don't care what you are - a parent, a teacher, a cat lover, whatever, chime in: I need to know how I can curb her talking at school. Earlier this year we tried a long-term plan, telling her we would check back in with her teacher in two weeks and if she had not stopped talking too much that she would lose her Wii privileges. It apparently worked - when we checked back in with her teacher, her teacher said that Bella had made an improvement. Should I just do the same thing again? Any other suggestions? Because I will drive her teacher crazy writing her notes every two weeks asking about her talking. I'm out of ideas. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

They do exist! A picture of the kids

My sister took this on her fancy-schmancy new blackberry, and while it's not the best picture of Bella, it is photographic evidence that my children are real and not just a figment of my imagination:

Because if I was going to make up some imaginary children, they would be far better behaved. I.E, they wouldn't lick everything, they would shower, they would listen, they wouldn't pick the first choice on multiple choice questions just to be done with homework. But despite all that, I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday nattering

I got gas Friday for $3.14 a gallon. On Sunday, gas at the very same gas station was $2.85 a gallon. I have to confess I felt a little glimmer of hope, a little bit of, "ok, maybe things are going to be alright". And I'll take hope wherever I can get it these days.

Wednesday of last week was a big day for us, in a dental sense: Bella lost her first tooth (first tooth excluding the one that was surgically removed while under anaesthesia at the age of 3), and Bubba's first tooth triumphantly emerged. It's the circle of teeth in my house - lose one, gain one. I had to leave the house at 11PM because *ahem* I had to make change for the Tooth Fairy, who seemed to think, and I agreed, that $10 was a bit excessive. So the tooth fairy left her $2, which I thought was a good amount but did not impress Bella. The Tooth Fairy did redeem him/herself, however, by also leaving her money at her Maw-Maw's house.

If you ask Bella, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause are pretty tight, and apparently Santa told the Tooth Fairy that she also gets gifts at Maw-Maw's house, and that's why the tooth fairy left her $5 there. She also said the Tooth Fairy left more money at Maw-Maw's house because she knew that we would make Bella use the money to buy her own hot lunch at school. Which we do sometimes, but come on, I don't need the Tooth Fairy busting my chops. Hot lunch at school costs $3/day, and there are two days of the week that we always plan on her buying hot lunch (because she tells us: "I only want hot lunch on cheeseburger day and pizza day"), but there are days in between that she just decides she wants it. If, on those days, I do not have cash, then I will tell her that she can use her own money, or she can bring lunch. I think that's fair.

Saturday night I was determined to enjoy and make the best of my evening. I got Brian off to work, Bubba off to bed, got Bella settled, and then started preparations for my own evening. I made myself a nice, strong cup of coffee and polished the whole thing off while sitting outside and enjoying the mild weather. Once I was finished with my entire, large cup of coffee, I headed inside and started a load of laundry. My plans for the evening were laundry and reading, because I have a new book (hooray!). I settled in on the soda with my new book, and then the next thing I knew, I woke up, looked at the clock and it was 4:30AM. The lights were still on, the TV was on (I like and need the background noise), and I was still in a seated position. bleary and half-awake. And then I had a horrible realization: the caffeine didn't work. What do you do when caffeine doesn't work anymore? Yikes.

Bella and her father are both sick this morning, and they are running neck and neck for whiniest sick person, ever. I think my husband should be given special consideration for the award, due to his his age and his ability to quickly revert to an incredibly rotten and whiny child. Last night I made a quick run to the store, and was gone for about forty minutes. When I got back I could hear him in bed, hacking and coughing. After about ten minutes of listening to him, I walked back to the bedroom and asked if he wanted some medicine. I got a very weak and wan, "Ye---cough, cough cough--s. Yes. cough cough". After I got him the medicine he said, "I've been coughing and coughing the whole time you've been gone". So you didn't get up and get yourself medicine? You just laid in bed, "coughing and coughing" and not doing anything about it? Even Bella will get up and come get me to tell me she doesn't feel well. And then today, when I called to check on them from work, I got in trouble because I finished off the last of the ice cream and ice cream really helps his throat. Then he ventured that, since I pass by multiple grocery stores on my way home, maybe I could stop and get him some more throat-soothing ice cream before I come home and make dinner. I suggested that a nice cough drop or throat spray, items which are already in the house, might I add, would be vastly superior for the job, but he was certain that nothing but ice cream would do. Hmmph. I'm thinking I might go home, make dinner, clean up and then go to the store for ice cream, so I can get out of the house and away from all the teething (Bubba) and the coughing (Bella) and the whining (my husband).

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I've got the first grade blues

Last night it took Bella a full hour to finish her homework. And that was just to finish it; she had actually completed a worksheet and a half at after school care. At one point I actually said out loud, "This is taking forever!" - (not in an angry way, just kind of not believing that her homework was taking so long) to which Bella responded, "Well I'm the one actually doing it!". Point made and taken.

My homework policy is as follows: I am available at homework time. I don't hover, but I make sure to be nearby. I am available for questions that help her to arrive at an answer herself, but I refuse to provide the answer to the actual homework questions themselves.

I do check her homework to make sure that she has completed it, and I also check it to see what is right or what is wrong so I can gauge how she is doing, but I don't correct it for her. If I correct all her mistakes at home, how is her teacher supposed to know what areas she is having problems with? I will say things like, "Do you want to look this over one last time before you put it away?", and then I will discuss things with her - for instance, she has a problem with capitalization and punctuation (hmm, wherever does she get those pesky grammar problems? It must be from her father). When she writes sentences at home I will talk about capital letters and periods and whatnot with her, and she still forgets and leaves them off. So I send them back to school that way. I could be wrong, though - I'm open to thoughts on the subject.

I do my best to support her. I know education doesn't stop when school ends, so I try to make our home life as educational (yet fun) as possible. We read all the time, do science experiments together, we cook together (and I make her measure and read), we do workbooks and we write stories. I'm doing my part, or at least trying to.

I have been really, really bad about doing an the additional activities that are on her worksheets. Her math worksheets sometimes have this little section at the bottom with a suggested 'Parent Activity', and a box beside it to check if you actually did the activity. The first time I noticed it, the instructions were to take out forks and have the student count them. I confess that I did not bother. Right now, per her teacher's instructions, we are learning to count to 100 by 3's. So the same kid who is learning to count to 100 by 3's is going to somehow learn something by counting our 8 forks? Well, I guess with the salad forks that would be 16, but that's still not going to do much.

Then the next time I noticed the 'Parent Activity' the suggestion was to take down cans and other dry goods and have the student sort them. I see the educational value in that, I really do, but on that particular evening we didn't get home until after 6PM, so we had to eat dinner first, and then we got to homework. By the time I noticed the suggested activity it was going on 7:30m and the last thing I felt like doing was pulling cans and boxes out of the cabinets for her to sort. I have a tiny apartment, no pantry, and cabinets that were built to accommodate the height of NBA players - I have to get on a chair to reach them, seriously. I did have her play with some wooden blocks and instructed her to sort them by shape, then by size, then by color, but since I was busy trying to get Bubba to bed I think she just built stuff - a castle, a bed, then a chair. When I was finally able to offer her my undivided attention she had made a road and was driving hot wheels around on it.

So I didn't check either box to say that we had completed them - the first time because we didn't even bother, and the second time because we sort of attempted it but didn't really get it done. And when the homework came back home, the teacher had circled the little boxes in red pen. D'oh! I felt like a terrible mother. Last night when I was looking over her homework I noticed another parent activity, and I swear to you this is what it said:

Find somewhere one, two or three pictures of someone or something or someone using or doing something that can be used or done at sometime - morning, afternoon, evening, or night. Bring them to school with you tomorrow.

Say what? I had to re-read it three or four times before I actually sort of understood what they wanted. The irony in this was that just the other day I threw away about six magazines that I had been saving for cutting purposes but got sick of them just sitting around. So we were left with my husband's old magazines to look through, and we ended up (thanks to Florida Saltwater Fisherman) with a picture of someone driving a boat, someone fishing from a boat, and someone on a boat holding a fish. Not a lot of variety, but it fit the requirements. Anything would have fit the requirements.

Report cards come out next week, and Bella's school always does teacher conferences for the first report card of the year. I'm looking forward to talking to her teacher - there are some issues that I'm slightly concerned about. My slightly concerned is much more mellow than some of the other parents, who seem to be on the verge of some kind of classroom mutiny. I personally think the problems are mostly organizational and will work themselves out - at least, I hope so. I've heard from people that she is very good at actual teaching, but she isn't the best with details. And neither am I, so I can sympathize.

My conference is Thursday at 3:15, so I guess all will be revealed then. Hopefully. But in the meantime, I hate first grade and it is hard.