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.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Post That Is Way Too Long

Last night Bella asked me if she could take her baby rosary home from her Maw-Maw's house (it was a gift for her baptism). I said no, but told her she could take her purple rosary home (a gift for her 4th birthday, and bigger and far less delicate). She was so excited, and when we were in the car she said, "Mom, can I say the rosary in the car?". I told her if she waited until we got home we would say the rosary together, and she got even more excited. She then explained to me which prayer was said on each bead (awww), and went on to say that if you say the whole thing together you are praying to God in a beautiful way (awwwwwwwwwwwww). Then she added that she wanted to say the rosary for her great-grandma from the farm (who passed away years before she was even born) and that she said a prayer to great-grandma just the other night to tell her that she loves her and she hopes that she is OK.

So after we got home and got Bubba settled into his bed, we sat down on the loveseat and said the Rosary together. I must confess to being dubious that she would finish a whole rosary - I thought for sure that two decades in (at the most) she would get bored and would run off to do something else, but she did the whole thing. I was astonished - she's 6, she's in the first grade, and her attention falters at the best of times, but despite being tired and up past her bedtime, usually a recipe for disaster, she said an entire rosary with me. It was lovely, and made me love her even more. What a good girl! I'm telling you, those sisters of St. John Bosco know what they are doing.

And from heavenly matters to more earthly things: Bella asked about her brother's boy parts the other night, wanting some specific details. I'm honestly surprised that she hasn't asked before now. I was at the sink washing dishes when she started inquiring about the differences between boys and girls, and I spent the entire conversation holding firmly onto the counter top in an attempt to counteract my overwhelming urge to just slide down and hide behind the counter until she found something else to do. I know, I know, it's normal, bla-bla, and I was actually somewhat prepared for what I thought of as standard questions along those lines, but she was asking some whoppers, one of them particularly funny....but I am hesitant to share - someone, somewhere could be offended by it, even though I later laughed until I almost cried. We made it through unscathed, though. I handled it decently. Whew.

Scouting is not going well at all. Well, it's not going that badly, but it's no walk in the park (13 girls between the ages of 4 and 6 - enough said). I had some parents who were rather upset at the amount of time it took me to get meetings started up again, and engaged in some behind-my-back complaining - whatever. I let it go (but not before saying, multiple times, "If they think they can do it better then let them do it!"). And then the same parents who were so demanding of my time are the same parents who suddenly have a million excuses as to why they can't help. I got a lot of "I'll be there, but I can't really help in any official capacity....". Again, whatever. There are all these new training requirements that I am having trouble meeting. And then there was the real morale breaker - some field supervisor at a meeting the other night was apparently not in the best of moods, and said a few things that just absolutely killed me. She complained about how the area our cluster of troops operate in is economically depressed (what area isn't economically depressed right now?) and that there is no growth or future in it. So the organization should just give up on the area? I'm sorry, to me that seems completely contrary to what Girl Scouts is all about. Scouting doesn't necessarily cost a lot of money to participate in (depending on age and activities, of course), and in a time where money is tight and not everyone has the cash flow to shell out $80 bucks a month for dance lessons or tae-kwon-do, the $8 a month (give or take) for meeting dues is a very affordable option.

The woman is question is an actual paid employee of the scouts, as opposed to the rest of us who are volunteering our time out of the goodness of our hearts. I don't have anything against the woman being paid - good for her, but she really killed me when she complained about her quota, that she gets paid by the girl and our area doesn't have enough girls and we aren't recruiting and doing enough to make sure she gets paid. There are women in this group running troops of 30-40 girls. They aren't turning anyone away, they are taking on as many girls as they can and are at their wit's end because of it. Especially some of the troops in lower income areas - they are operating virtually without any kind of dues because some of their members can't afford to pay. It's a challenge for me to come up with activities and ideas with 13 dues paying members, but these women are heroes. They are coming up with creative activities and ideas that relate to and/or teach the values of girl scouting in a fun way with virtually no money. I know I have dipped into my own pocket for girl scouts several times over the course of the last year or so, and I can only imagine that they are doing the same.

Her comments and attitude really made me wonder again why I'm going through so much trouble and spending so much time doing this. I could easily quit and spend the time I spent working on scout projects (shopping, prep work, planning meetings, details, running meetings, cleaning up after meetings) with my children, but I really don't think anyone else would step up and do it. I wanted to do this to spend some time with Bella, and over the course of last year really came to know and love the other girls, and for that reason I won't give up and quit, but it is awfully tempting. It's disheartening to spend so much time and effort to have it all reduced to cash and quotas. Cash and quotas are an fact of life, I get it, but what about the girls? Whatever. I will keep on keepin' on. I will muddle through this, trying to stay below the radar and try and show these girls a good, sneakily-educational time.

On another less-than-cheery note: I didn't realize how scared I was that my hours at work are going to be reduced again until I found myself doing some early Christmas shopping for the kids. After some thought, I realized that I am getting the shopping done early to ensure that the kids will have a thing or two under the tree to open. And that is if my hours are reduced, that's not even thinking about being laid off. Which is a possibility we have to consider, in all honesty. Times are tough, and when the going gets tough the tough don't go and buy pianos. Which effects me in a kind of trickling, crap-rolling downhill kind of way.

I am going to try and be optimistic, though. I don't know how successful I will be at optimism, but I've got to try. The holidays are coming up, maybe business will pick up, I'm a lucky woman, and I know it. I just need to look at the bright spots more than I look at the bad spots.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the weekend - I have some new pothead neighbors who look promising. I don't mind stoners - they are, for the most part, pretty calm people. Our other neighbors are all young, blustery military punks or young, drama-fraught college students - the weekends are soap operas around the building. There is a lot of drinking, a lot of shouting, a lot of fighting - I don't seek any of this crap out, either, and I'm not standing with my ear to the door listening - these people will stand in the outdoor breezeway and scream at each other, or in the parking lot right outside my patio and scream at each other. They never seem to be able to fight in their own apartments. Stoners are mellow (again, with some exceptions), and we need some mellow. They seem like nice guys, and they offered to bring me doughnuts back from a munchie run, which was thoughtful. I politely declined, but it was a nice thought.

Bella is spending the night at my MIL's house tonight, and tomorrow my FIL is taking them to eat breakfast at Cracker Barrel and then shopping at Kohl's. I get to spend the evening doing the chores that I haven't done over the past week or so. There's laundry piling up, the kitchen floor is crying out for help, in a dirty, sticky kind of way, and the carpet is so filthy I'm thinking we should just tear it out and start over. And now there's a strange drunk man in the store accosting us, so I'm gonna go. Happy weekend to all!