Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mother of the Year

Earlier this week, Wendi Aarons posted a hysterical question and answer piece on her blog. When I complimented her on the post, she suggested that I write in to Dear Frannie with a question. I had read Frannie's blog and laughed at the questions, but it hadn't occurred to me to write one of my own. Wendi told me she had submitted two, so I decided to give it a try.

My inspiration was the one white chick on the Real Housewives of Atlanta. She always dressed like a cheap hooker with a bad wig. In one interview she said that fashion was very important to her and that she was known for her clothes and that people always pointed and commented on her attire when she was at the store. I couldn't help but think that the people weren't pointing and commenting because they were impressed with how she looked.

So I drafted a question and sent it in. Last night, I got an e-mail from Frannie letting me know that she had answered my question and hoped that her advice helped. You can read it here.

I sent out an e-mail late last night to a few friends, saying that I had been working on my creative writing and had submitted a piece to a very prestigious site and it had been accepted. Then I included a link and signed myself as "Heather - aka MILF in Midland."

My attempt at a funny e-mail fell completely flat. I got confused responses from just about everyone wondering why I had sent them a link to a woman who didn't know how to dress appropriately. So I had to send a second e-mail clarifying things.


I am taking consolation in the fact that I was able to write something funny enough for Frannie. I'm already drafting my next question for her.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's in my bag

Calicobebop tagged me yesterday. I'm supposed to describe my purse and what's in it. The problem is that I don't really carry a purse. I've never been a purse person - I just found out last year that some people change their purses according to the season. Go figure.

I do own a purse; it's tiny and black, tiny enough that my wallet doesn't fit into it. I stash my debit card, library card, and Costco card in one inside pocket and a handful of business cards in the other. My cell phone and iPod are in the middle. However, this purse rarely leaves my car.

Given that I have four kids, two of whom are in diapers, I always have my favorite diaper bag in tow. It's by a brand called Diaper Dudes, and it's made for men. I love it because it looks like a messenger bag, and I can sling it across me. It has a clip on the outside for my keys and a pocket for my cell phone. And apparently it's the same kind that Brad Pitt carries for his gaggle of kids.

If I'm lucky enough to leave the house without kids (ha!), I usually stick my debit card and phone in my pocket and go. Of course, this means I'm always looking for my cell phone and debit card because I have the bad habit of leaving them in pants pockets and forgetting about them.

So there you go - my purse, or lack thereof.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Science project fail

Well that last post was cheerful, wasn't it? Thank you to everyone who commented or e-mailed with words of support. You all helped me tremendously. I'm feeling a bit better now. I made sure to take some "me" time this weekend, and I fit a run in this morning, even though I felt more like I was swimming, thanks to the fog.

Now if we can go a week without anyone having to have neck surgery, throw up or get pinkeye, I might just make it.

And now for something completely different . . .

The girls' school has an annual science fair, which Ella has never done a project for. Last year her class did a group project, but we didn't do anything solo. This year, the principal tried to cancel the fair, hoping no one would notice. We've had some issues with the principal, who really just needs to retire, and the science fair was, for many, the final straw. The PTA pitched a fit and got permission to hold the fair provided the PTA did all the work. Since I was one of the parents who signed the petition to have the fair, when Ella asked if she could do a project I figured I'd better say yes.

I have bad memories of science projects and science fairs from my school days. Nothing I did for them, except for the potato-powered clock, was ever successful. And the clock only worked because my dad did most of the work.

The town I grew up in hosted the annual county fair, and in conjunction with the fair and 4H, there was always a radish-growing contest. Each year, we'd be sent home from school with radish seeds and instructions for growing them. Part of our grade was based on our green thumbs. Each year, I'd follow the instructions faithfully, and I'd end up with these scrawny, scraggly things that in no way resembled radishes. They'd be put on display along with all of my classmates' radishes - fat, red radishes with big leaves. It was horrifying. I was so glad when I got to middle school and no longer had to grow radishes.

I did another big science project in high school for marine biology class. To study tides and currents, I floated two dozen packets with a pre-stamped postcard asking the finder to send the postcard with information on where and when the packet was found. How many did I get back? Exactly zero. So I had to put together my big display board with my theory and hypothesis and method and no results. Sigh.

So when Ella came home asking about doing a science project, I wasn't exactly enthusiastic. Fortunately, she wanted to do a joint project with a classmate, a classmate whose mother offered to spearhead the project. Score!

The girls decided to grow three kinds of crystals - salt, Epsom salt, and sugar - and observe which kind grew faster. I thought it was a cool project because I had always wanted to grow sugar crystals.

Unfortunately, Ella seems to be cursed with my bad luck with science fair projects. We've only grown salt crystals successfully. We've done two batches of Epsom salt and have gotten nothing but salt water. We did two batches of sugar crystals and have gotten mold. Sigh.

B was adamant that the girls had done the sugar solution incorrectly, so he mixed up a batch last night with Ella and Lily, separate from the science fair stuff, and so far his hasn't worked either. I'm taking an unfair amount of joy from that, given that I've listen to him tell me for two weeks that we had done it wrong the first two times.

Tomorrow Ella and her project partner will be putting together their display boards and getting ready for Wednesday's submission and Thursday's judging. I'm guessing they'll get a participation ribbon.

Next year, I think we'll take advantage of the option to make a model of something rather than do an experiment.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How are things going?

I get asked that question, or a version of it, at least twice a day - always by a well-meaning friend or acquaintance. And I always answer with as much of a smile as I can muster and some version of "Things are going OK." But really, most days I don't mean it.

What I really want to say is this:

Things are not going well. I'm barely holding myself together.

I knew having four kids was going to be hard, but I was not at all prepared for just how hard it is. It is constant, constant work. There is always someone needing something, and it's usually not the baby, who is pretty laid back. Campbell is in constant motion and in constant danger of falling off of or under something. Lily is coping with the shift in the family's dynamics by turning up the waterworks. I want to scream each time she starts crying over something like a shoelace that's not tied correctly. Ella has reacted by suddenly throwing tantrums that could peel paint and by arguing with us over EVERYTHING - from whether she can have another chocolate-covered strawberry to spending an extra night at her cousins' house.

I am so busy keeping the house and kids and B going that I don't have time for anything extra like running or showering, let alone using the gift certificates for a pedicure and massage that I got for Christmas from my darling husband, who really is tremendously helpful.

I also don't have time for projects at the house - like cleaning out closets - that have been nagging at me. I cringe each time I have to go in Campbell's room because it needs to be repainted before we put Elizabeth in there, but I know it's not really going to happen.

I am so far behind in my paying work that I don't know how I'm going to get caught up. And I'd give up the work, but we have mountains of hospital bills coming in from Elizabeth's delivery and NICU stay, and that's after insurance.

I cry at least once a day from exhaustion or frustration or both. I know things will get better eventually. I'm just not sure if I can hold on until then.

But people really don't want to hear that sort of thing when making polite conversation in the pick-up line after school or at a social brunch. So I grit my teeth and smile. But one of these days, some poor nice person is going to get more of an answer than he or she bargained for.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What a great day

I woke up this morning and felt so hopeful, despite a lack of sleep. While I was at the grocery store, I wanted to hug every one I saw in celebration. I sprinted through my errands so that I could be home in time to watch the inauguration.

When I got home, I decided that the event was too big and too amazing to watch alone, so I went to my neighbors' house and sniffled along with them.

I had been looking for a good picture to express how I feel, and provided it.

Farewell, President Bush. You have wreaked havoc on our country that will take us decades to fix. But today, I'm optimistic that with President Obama (how wonderful does that sound?) running things, we can begin to get back on track. For the first time in years, I feel hopeful.

Today is for celebration. Tomorrow the real work begins.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Like mother, like son

Campbell loves driving Martha, too.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Surgery Centers

Having spent more time than I care to think about in out-patient surgery centers this past year, I've come to a conclusion: They're depressing places. It doesn't matter how new and high tech they are, they're still depressing.

The place B had surgery yesterday is brand-spanking new; it's been open less than a year. It has comfortable chairs and lots of magazines and nice art work and plants. But it was still grim. Everyone there looked miserable and stressed - and those were the people waiting on loved ones. I won't even go into the people waiting for surgery - except for the one toothless man in the corner, sound asleep, snoring with his mouth open. He didn't even wake up when the nurse called him back for his procedure.

B was told to arrive at 1:30 for his 3:30 procedure. At 3:30 I asked the receptionist if she had any idea how much longer it would be before he was called back and was informed that he was sixth in line for surgery with that doctor, who had arrived more than an hour late. At 4:30 they finally took B back for his procedure - three hours spent waiting for an operation that took 45 minutes.

I was glad that I had my knitting with me. I am now six inches into a sock for B - it's lovely gray Arucania wool. The knitting helped to distract me from the drivel on the TV, which was tuned to FOX news. Blech. Fortunately, the coverage of the plane crash in New York ended the conservative propaganda. But then I had to listen to the two women across from me discuss how unfair the media had been to that poor, poor Sarah Palin. "They just kept focusing on her personal life. I mean who cares what magazines she reads. She's the governor of a big state!" Double blech.

Any way - the surgery went well. B is up and around this morning, pain free so far, but that may be a result of the heavy-duty meds he was given after the procedure. The doctor told us that it make up to a week for the effects of the nerve deadening to kick in, but once it does, it should last for 12 to 18 months. I hope the doctor is right.

So B is perky today - he even volunteered to drive carpool this morning - and I feel like I've been hit by a bus as a result of the stress.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nerve ablation

As I've written before, B was diagnosed last year with arthritis in his neck, a result of his diving career. Turns out that hitting the water head first from 10 meters up does bad things to your neck - who would have thought it.

Last winter he had several rounds of facets injections to deaden the pain in his neck, allowing him to function. The pain relief lasted for about 10 months, but about a month ago the pain returned with a vengeance. He had another series of injections last week, but they didn't work.

So today he's having nerve ablation in the hopes that this will stop the pain. The next step is for a neurosurgeon to go in and shave down some of the bone in his vertebrae to relieve the pressure on the nerves. After that, I don't even want to think about.

Please keep your fingers crossed that this works. He's too young to be having these kinds of problems.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Digging the hole deeper

Sunday morning was a bad one for Ella here at chez hok. There were tantrums over clothing and chores, complete with foot stompings and screaming. Ella spent much of the morning in her room while Lily played outside with Campbell and the kids next door.

After much discussion, B and I decided to let her go to a birthday party with her grandmother. Turns out maybe we shouldn’t have done that.

Neither of us had noticed the sign in Ella’s window, facing out. I saw it this evening when we came home from ballet and pointed it out to B. I think it’s kind of funny, but B is taking it personally. He told her that if he really was the worst dad on earth maybe he shouldn’t take her to the rock climbing competition in Dallas this weekend. Ella looked suitably chastised and scrambled to take the sign out of the window.

But then she made things worse by dropping a note in B’s lap that said:

I wrote the sign because I was really mad and if you act like the worst dad you wont get any love.

As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well. Ella got put in bed with the threat that if B heard any noise out of her she won’t be going to Dallas this weekend. B retreated to the back the porch to stew. I kept reminding him not to take it personally and that if we don’t make our kids mad at us once in a while we aren’t doing our jobs. He just kept grumbling at me.

Things were better this morning. B made sure to give Ella an extra hug before she left for school, and she was on her best behavior.

But I still wonder what Ella thought would happen when she gave B the second note. Did she really think it would make things better? I also wonder what our neighbors must think of us.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Conversations with Campbell

We are still working on increasing Campbell's vocabulary, and it's going well. He's adding enough words now to ease my worries that he would never talk. The girls have been big helps with this quest, getting him to repeat things after them.

The other night Lily was working on the alphabet with Campbell, and he was doing a good job of saying all of his letters. Since he was in a cooperative mood, I decided to see if he would say his sisters' names.

Me: Campbell, can you say Ella?
C: Ehwah!
Me: Campbell, can you say Lily?
C: Yee-yee! (exactly what Ella called Lily)
Me: Campbell, can you say Elizabeth?
C: BeeBee!

Elizabeth may forever be called BeeBee.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Martha the Maroon Moose

Or, what I will do to avoid driving a minivan.

When I found out I was pregnant with Elizabeth and I had stopped crying hysterically about having to be pregnant AGAIN, one of my first thoughts was that I'd have to get a minivan. And then I cried hysterically some more. I just don't like minivans. I've driven them. I get that they are easy to load kids in and out of. I just don't like them. I don't know why, but I just don't.

I had almost reconciled myself to buying one. Almost, but not quite. Every time I thought about it, I'd just sigh, knowing that I wouldn't enjoy driving it.

So yesterday we bought a Suburban. And I.LOVE.IT. I can't believe that I do, but I do.

I've railed against people driving huge SUVs and their environmental footprint and how they are so big that you can't see around them in traffic. Blah, blah, blah.

Then I test-drove this one and started to change my mind a bit. I was worried it would feel like I was driving a huge truck, but I didn't. The thing handles really well, and the mileage isn't much worse than what I was getting in my little cross-over. Plus, since I drive all of thirty miles a week, I'm not going to suddenly have a huge gas card bill each month.

After much debate and discussion, we picked it up yesterday, and I immediately had to load four kids in and drive to far south Austin to take Ella to rock climbing. It was the best thing ever. I was able to get everyone in without rearranging car seats and pinching my fingers trying to get everyone buckled. I could see both girls in the rear view mirror, singing along to Jack Johnson songs, which did my heart good.

While driving to rock climbing the girls and I decided to name the car the Maroon Moose, mostly because moose is Campbell's new favorite word. We added Martha because it sounded good.

And the best thing of all? It's not a minivan!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

One hat and 10 toes

I finally finished the last of my Christmas knitting. This is a hat for my sister-in-law. I love the hat - it's a cabled band at the bottom and then plain knitting to the top. I'd make another, but it took me forever to get through 21 inches of cabling. Plus picking up the 88 stitches along the edge of the cable was a bit of a challenge. Campbell has such a big noggin that the hat fits him, even though it's made for an adult and fits me without a problem.

One "problem" with having a fall/winter baby is that she spends most of her time in footie jammies, which means her sweet little toes are hidden away. We've had some unseasonably warm weather lately, so I dressed Teeny in a pair of pants rather than footies. Then I gobbled up her fat little toes.

I just loves me some baby toes.

Monday, January 05, 2009

16 Things

Kate tagged me over on Facebook and asked me to write 16 random things about me. I tagged a bunch of folks on FB, so I'm not going to here. If you decided you want to, tag yourself and let me know.

So here I go, in no particular order.
1. I'm left handed and very proud of it. So far all my kids are right handed.

2. I sucked my thumb until I was 8 years old. To this day, when I'm sick or in pain, I put my right thumb up to my mouth without even thinking about it.

3. I currently have 8 pairs of running shoes in my closet. Some of them are more than four years old. I just can't get rid of them even though I never wear them.

4. I graduated from college in three years. I wasn't old enough to go out for a drink to celebrate. Fortunately, my father arrived soon after my last final with a bottle of champagne for me and my roommate.

5. I coached swimming professionally for seven years - four as an age-group coach and graduate assistant coach at the University of Florida, and three as an age-group coach here in Austin.

6. I used to row competitively and teach rowing to children. I also coached a group of novice rowers.

7. Even though my husband is a former national-level diver and diving coach, I've only jumped off the 10-meter platform twice in my life. And I've never jumped off the roof of our boathouse even though Ella has done it lots.

8. I'm not afraid of heights. I just don't like jumping off them.

9. I moved to Austin on a whim after spending a week on vacation here. I walked away from graduate school with only three classes and a master's exam in literature left to go.

10. If I went back to graduate school it would be for something in history, not literature.

11. I have a tattoo of a dolphin on my left ankle. I see myself getting another tattoo some day.

12. I've always wanted red hair.

13. I am painfully shy in person. No one ever believes me when I tell them that because I've worked hard for many years on getting over it. But meeting new people is still tremendously hard.

14. I never, ever thought I'd have four children. I figured I'd have two, max.

15. Given the chance, I'd willingly move back to upstate New York. Maybe not Albany, but somewhere near Lake George or Saratoga. Or Hadley, where my dad's family's farm is.

16. Once, when trapped in a hotel without a book to read, I read the AA handbook that I found in the desk drawer.

There, 16 extremely random things about me. If you'd like to post your own, please tag me back.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Knitting update

I had set out a rather ambitious holiday knitting plan for myself, especially when you consider that I have four children, one of whom is a newborn, and I had taken on some freelance work. Needless to say, my plan didn't work.

First on the list was this scarf for Aunt A. I had intended to have it done by Thanksgiving as a thank you gift for hosting the meal. I ended up taking it with me to prove to her that I was actually knitting something for her. I finished it a week later. And my plan to knit scarves for lots of people went out the window.

Knitpicks Yarn of the Andes in Williamsburg. Cast on 40 stitches (if I did it again, I'd only cast on 30), knit seven rows, purl one. It's called a Puzzler's Scarf.

Then I planned to knit and felt lots of these little snowmen from the Knitpicks December catalog. One lumpy guy later, I realized there was no way I'd get 7 done for the neighbors. So now my kids fight over Lumpy.

These mittens are actually my success stories. I knit two pairs of them, but I only took a picture of one pair. They're a quick and easy knit. If I could knit for more than 15 minutes at a time, it would probably only take me a day per mitten. The pattern is from Ann Budd's basic knitting book. More Yarn of the Andes from Knitpicks.

My sister wrote a blog post a while back about how she thought people should wear special hats to sleep in - like sleeping caps. Ages ago, my neighbor gave me these cool knitting pattern books from the '50s, and one of the patterns was for a "Snug Cap." I thought it looked like the perfect sleeping cap for my sister. So I went to Joanne's Fabrics and bought the biggest, chunkiest acrylic yarn I could find, all the while wanting to tell people in the yarn aisle that I don't normally buy yarn by the pound.

One night before Christmas, my sister saw the knitting book and the picture of the cap and went to get her phone to take a picture of it. She said it was exactly what she wanted for a sleeping cap. So my "gag" gift turned into a real one. Except I didn't get it finished before she left, so now I'll be mailing it to her (I'll be shipping a box next week, Keeffer).

I have one Christmas project to finish, a hat for my sister-in-law. I'm almost done with it, and then I get to start on some other projects that don't have deadlines. A friend gave me a gift certificate to Hill Country Weavers as a baby present, and I used it to buy some yummy Arucania wool to make Teeny an Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket. I had enough left over on the gc to buy some gorgeous sock yarn for me, too.

To think, I once figured I'd run out of things to knit. But here I am, planning three projects ahead.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year's!

I have never been one for heading out to big New Year's Eve parties. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually been awake at midnight on New Year's Eve - most of them while I was in high school, raking in the big bucks by babysitting.

Last night we celebrated exactly how I wanted to. We went to our beloved neighbors' house for dinner and champagne. The kids tore around the back yard like the hooligans they are, and the adults had a chance to sit and chat and decompress after a hectic few weeks of holiday and travel. At 8:30, the adults toasted the new year with champagne, while the kids had sparkling grape juice.

I was at home by 9:00 and in bed by 10:00.

B and the girls stayed next door long enough to watch the ball fall in Times Square at 11:00. When they got home, Lily changed into her pajamas and climbed into bed "just to rest for a few minutes." Of course, she was out cold in a matter of seconds. Ella struggled to stay awake until midnight, falling asleep at 12:02.

Today is a quiet, lazy day here. I went for a New Year's run and then changed back into my pajamas. The girls are "cleaning" their room. I don't really care what they're up to as long as it's quiet. Campbell's noodling, and Elizabeth is sleeping. B is cooking up a big brunch.

All in all, it was a good end to an interesting year and a great start to a new one.

Happy New Year everyone. May 2009 be filled with good things for you and yours.