Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It’s getting better

Things are much better around Casa de HOK. The kids are bickering less. The Honey Badger isn’t quite as fierce. Campbell isn’t as whiny. I don’t have a constant kettle whistle of stress going off in my head. B has his office all set up, which means we don’t have to listen to him on the phone anymore.

The day after Christmas was the first one where I felt normal. The rush to unpack before my parents arrived was gone. The panic about whether I’d get Christmas done in time was gone. I could finally relax and enjoy being in the new house.

A lot of my being able to relax has to do with my parents’ being here. My mom got Lily’s entire room – furniture, closet, dresser – all set up and pretty. She has also been hanging artwork, which is something I’m horrible at. My dad is putting up blinds and installing dimmer switches and attaching hooks to doors. I think I may ask them to move in.

In addition to all the help with the house, having my parents means we have man-on-man defense against the kids. My dad has made a daily trek to the park with almost everyone in tow, and my mom has taken the big girls to Target to pick out room stuff.

In the meantime, I’ve been unpacking and sorting books – oh my dog we have so many books – and organizing our closet. And I am purging like my life depends on it. The pile of boxes in the garage that are filled with broken toys, destroyed shoes, incomplete puzzles, dried-out play dog and Happy Meal toys grows by the day. As does the pile of stuff to go to Goodwill and the lady who organizes our school’s used-book sale. It is so nice to get RID of clutter. I may never unpack the rest of the boxes in the garage because I don’t want to bring anything else in the house.

I’m going to go dark for the rest of 2011 to allow myself to get my bearings and prepare for 2012. I hope you all had a happy holiday season. Best wishes for the new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting Settled

If you could hear the noise in my head, it would be a long, slow, high-pitched whistle, like a tea kettle, but more annoying. Thanks to help from dear friends, we are mostly unpacked. The only boxes left are the ones filled with books and the ones I look in and say, “I’ll think about it later.” All the important stuff, mostly, has been found. The kids’ rooms are mostly set up. The kitchen is functional – I have a pot of soup simmering away right now.

And yet. . .

  • There are no pictures on the walls.
  • We have no Christmas tree.
  • All of my books are piled in boxes in my room.
  • I haven’t bought a SINGLE.CHRISTMAS.PRESENT for the kids, or anyone else.
  • I have at least three knitting projects to finish before Sunday.
  • We are apparently hosting Christmas brunch.
  • Three of the four kids seem to be coming down with something.
  • When they aren’t acting sick, the kids drag out every single toy I just put away neatly.
  • I am so far behind on laundry I may resort to going to the Washateria.
  • My clothes are in piles on my closet floor because I no longer have a dresser.

I’m going to go hide in my closet and breathe into a bag now.


And, yes, I realize these are all middle-class, white-girl problems, but I’m still overwhelmed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

We’re moved in

And by moved in, I mean, 90 percent of our belongings are still crammed in cryptically labeled boxes stacked in the garage. I spend my time poking through boxes, looking for something specific, only to find it, set it aside, and never see it again. I swear whole boxes are picking themselves up and hiding. Or my family is trying to gaslight me, again.

Yesterday we did actually make a lot of progress thanks to my m-i-l, some friends of hers, and my divine neighbor L. The beds are all put together and made. My big bookshelf is up and ready for books. Boxes and boxes and boxes of china (“Just how many place settings did your grandmother have? The boxes just keep coming.”) have been unpacked. The TV is set up, but we don’t get cable or Internet until tomorrow.

The kids have had the best time digging through boxes, rediscovering all of their toys. Campbell found his Geo-Trax and spent hours playing with them. Lily is finding all of her American Girl doll stuff and getting Ginny settled in her new room. Quote of the weekend: “Yay! I found Ginny’s wheelchair!” Ella has been sorting through boxes of books and deciding which ones she wants in her room, rather than in the play room.

I’m now at the stage where I’m looking in boxes and thinking, “I don’t want any of this stuff.” In our old neighborhood, I could have put everything out in piles on the curb, and it all would have been taken within hours. Our new neighborhood doesn’t allow stuff on the curb, and there’s no one driving through picking up. I guess I’m going to be calling a charity group to come get a large donation.

If I’m quiet for the next week or two, it’s because I’m still digging through boxes and setting up the kitchen and trying to make Christmas happen for the kids. I did at least manage to get the stockings hung by the chimney with care.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Yesterday afternoon, I was lying down trying to get over a killer migraine when B poked his head in the bedroom. Our landlady, whose office is behind our cute little rental house, had stopped by to tell him that she’d gotten a text from her son that the elementary school had gone into lockdown.

I flew out of bed and to the computer, hoping to find some sort of information on line. None of the news sites had anything, so I texted my friend L, who was in charge of carpool. She texted back immediately that she was with all our kids, safely in a classroom, and asked me to call the other mom in our carpool group.

When I’ve seen reports of lockdowns on the news, I’ve always looked at the parents standing outside the police line and wondered why they had shown up. What were they thinking to do? Stand in the line of fire? Push the police aside and storm the building?

Last fall, when I was at our preschool during the shooting on the UT campus, I was calm and collected the entire time. But I was there, with my kids, sure that they were safe.

Yesterday was completely different. I had no information, other than a few texts, on what was happening. The ONLY thing that stopped me from getting in the car and driving up to the school was the fact that L was with my kids. She’s like a second mother to them, and I knew she’d make sure they were safe.

So I stayed home and paced the floor, stopping to check the news sites and yelling at the Statesman on twitter for not having any information posted.

Finally L texted that it was all over and they were on the way home. I may have started crying. And I may have gotten weepy again when the girls got home and we talked about what happened. And again when I talked to Ella about Columbine and why reports of guns at school are so scary for adults.

In the end, according to the chatter on the school moms’ Facebook Group, the whole chain of events kicked off when someone saw a dad carrying a furled umbrella that looked like a gun and reported it to the office.

I’d like to take that umbrella and beat that dad within an inch of his life with it. Who the f*ck thinks it’s a good idea to take something that looks like a gun on to a school campus.

We never had lockdowns in quiet, little Sarasota, where I grew up. Our most exciting events were tornado warnings, in which we were told to lie down in the street right next to the curb or make a break for the YMCA across the street and hope for the best.

Ours wasn’t even the only school lockdown yesterday – a high school where a friend teaches was locked down because of shots fired nearby. And last Friday, a middle school in Lake Travis was locked down for four hours because someone said the saw a gun.

What is this world coming to?

I hugged all my kids extra tight last night and spent a long time lying in bed thinking of the what-ifs. All I could picture were the films of the injured student at Columbine climbing/falling out of a window. I didn’t get much sleep.

This morning the girls trooped off to school like nothing had ever happened. I gave them a hug and kiss as they left, even though I wanted to keep the home forever.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Religious education

As I have mentioned before, we are not a religious family at all. My kids' only real religious instruction comes from attending a very liberal, tree hugging preschool housed in a Methodist church on the UT campus. We are far from the only family at the school to not attend church, but I’m thinking we may need to, just for the sake of cultural references.

Campbell’s class is doing a little Christmas pageant tonight, which includes a few songs and a re-enactment of a scene from “The Little Drummer Boy.” I got to watch rehearsal, and I spent an inappropriate amount of laughing, but in an affectionate, I love these kids, kind of way. (But maybe not this kid.)

The kids all have roles – angels, wise men, shepherd, Mary, Joseph, drummer boy - the usual cast of characters. Campbell has been assigned the role of Joseph, and as I was helping him into his costume, he asked who Joseph was.

The best I could come up with was, “Joseph was Jesus’s dad. Except not really. God was kind of Jesus’s dad. I guess Joseph adopted Jesus and raised him. He was married to Mary, who was Jesus’s mother.”

I sort of sputtered out about then, and the preschool teacher stepped in, adding, “Joseph was Jesus’s earthly father.”

Yeah, I’m going to hell for sure.


But at least I have a cute little Joseph.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Ouch, my ego

This morning I worked my shift at our little co-operative preschool. I LOVED co-oping when Ella was little. I still liked it, mostly, when Lily was going through. But now that I’m on my 3rd and 4th kids in the school, I dread my work days. It’s not that I don’t have fun, because I do. But being in a classroom with nine 4 and 5 year olds makes me twitchy and tends to trigger a migraine.


While I was crammed into a little chair at lunchtime, I had this conversation with one of the kids in Campbell’s class, who shall remain nameless.

  • Boy: Are you someone’s mom?
  • Me: Yes. I’m Campbell’s mom.
  • Boy: How can you be a mom? You don’t look like a mom.
  • Me: I don’t? Why thank you.
  • Boy: No. You look like a grandma.

I think it may be time to turn my hair pink again.

And an update on our house nightmare – we’re still in the rental, still waiting to find out when we’ll close on the new one, still driving each other crazy.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The honey badger

So I had planned to write about how we’ve finally sold our house and how hard it was to say good bye and all the good memories like bringing babies home from the hospital. But then Wendi went and posted this, and it’s pretty much perfect.

And now for something completely different.

Remember the video of the honey badger making the rounds a few months ago? The one with the funny narration about how bad-ass the honey badger is? We’ve to taken to calling Elizabeth the honey badger, because she “just don’t give a sh*t.”

She is fearless and stubborn and determined and sometimes just plain mean. She doesn’t care that Campbell outweighs her by at least 20 pounds. If he has something she wants, she will.take.him.down.

Elizabeth has absolutely no fear of me and the consequences I offer. I’ll tell her not to do something, like throw a toy at my head, and she’ll immediately do it. I’ll put her in time out, only to have to sit on her as she kicks and flails and screams.

Friends and family who have not experienced Elizabeth in honey badger mode don’t believe me. Teachers and other parents at preschool don’t believe me. And why should they? I mean look at her . . .

honey badger

How can someone who looks so cute – she was very proud of picking her own outfit – be such a monster?

Approach at your own risk. She might just rip your arm off. Honey badger don’t give a sh*t.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

That didn’t go well at all

Things are kind of rough around Casa de HOK these days. We are all tired of being on top of each other in our cute little rental house, especially knowing that our big, new house is waiting for us. But because of a mix-up with the mortgage company, we had to start the process from scratch with a new company, which set us back at least a week. I had been so focused on moving out of here this coming weekend, that when I realized it wasn’t going to happen, I slid into my dark hole.

If you could harness the combined stress in the house, you could probably power a small city. I keep telling myself and the kids it will get better when we move, but when they ask when that will be and I can’t answer, it just makes things worse. Then there’s the whole list of things I worry about at night. What if it doesn’t get better? What if we hate the house? What if the girls hate their new school? What if . . .? What if . . .? What if . . .?

Thank dog for pharmaceuticals. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning, even with four hungry kids peering at me over the edge of the covers.

Yesterday things got worse.

We close on the sale of our house on Wednesday, and from the beginning of this process, we’d promised the big girls a chance to say a formal good-bye to the house. Yesterday, I had to finish pulling our remaining possessions out of the house – mostly computers and routers and servers and whatnot – so I asked the girls if they wanted to come with me.

Lily burst into tears and said no because it would make her too sad. Which made me cry, too.

Ella went with me and spent her time in the top of her tree and taking pictures of every inch of the yard and house with my phone – 256 at last count. She was mostly fine while we were there, but when we got back to the cute little rental house, things took a decided turn for the worse

Seven years ago, about a month after our cat Badoop died, this little gray kitty showed up on our doorstep. She looked like a miniature version of Badoop, and the girls promptly fell in love with her and named her Gray Kitty. So we have been feeding and watering this cat ever since.

When we first started talking about moving, one of the big questions was what to do about Gray Kitty. She is NOT an indoor cat and barely tolerates people. B and I are very worried that if we move her out to the county, she’s either going to get lost or eaten by something, which would be awful. And there’s no way to turn her into an indoor cat at this stage of the game. She knows her little four-house radius and the people who live there, and everyone knows her. We think she’s attached to the area, not to us. Two neighbors have agreed to take on the feeding and watering of Gray Kitty, and I’ll pay cat support.

After we got back from the house, Lily asked when we were going to get Gray Kitty a collar and a box to move her to the new house. And that’s when I had to give her the bad news. Lily cried as though her heart was broken, which of course made me cry. When Ella heard the news, she started crying, too. She then fled to the tree fort in the back yard to sob about how everything in her life is terrible.

So, yeah, I felt like a spectacular mom.

This morning Lily had recovered from the trauma, mostly, although I’m sure we’ll have some more breakdowns. Ella, on the other hand, was a little cloud of doom, blaming everything on me – the right jeans weren’t clean, she had to take a practice test at school and I wouldn’t let her stay home, we didn’t have the snack she wanted, she couldn’t find her book to read after the practice test. Ella gave everyone the silent treatment on the way to school, and when she got out of the car and I told her I loved her, she fired back with, “No you don’t. Otherwise you wouldn’t make us move.”

Today’s off to great start, especially given that Elizabeth woke me up by projectile vomiting all over her bedroom.

I’m going to spend the day with a mug of hot tea, chanting “It will get better. It will get better. It will get better.”

Maybe if I say it enough, I’ll believe it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Conversation with Ella

While we were watching the weather report.

Ella: Maybe we’ll get snow.

Me: I doubt it.

Ella: But it’s snowing in the east, and we’re east of Florida.

Me: No. No we’re not.

Ella: OK. But we’re east of Louisiana.

Me: Again, no we’re not.

B: You almost had it. You were just 180 degrees wrong.

Ella stomps from the room.

B: What are they teaching them?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A change in lifestyle

As it sinks in that we really are going to move, that this six-month long, slow motion nervous breakdown I’ve been having is close to an end, I’ve been thinking about how much our life is going to change.

B and I have lived in this neighborhood for more than 14 years. We bought our first house here months after we got married. I have always been committed to living an in-town lifestyle. We shop at the family owned, neighborhood Minimax and use the father-and-sons pharmacy. We eat at the local deli and get our hair cut at the neighborhood barber shop, the one where all the old men gather to talk about the war. Campbell loves hanging out in there with them, nodding wisely at their comments.

With the exception of ballet and climbing, nothing we do is more than five miles from the house. The big girls have never ridden a bus to school; they have always walked and carpooled. We hang out at the neighborhood pool and playground.

But when we move, it’s all going to change. The kids’ school is far enough away that they’ll take the bus. It will be a 20-minute drive into preschool instead of eight minutes. The nearest grocery store is 10 miles away, and the only pharmacy is a national chain one.

Every time I start getting upset about losing my in-town life, I think about the benefits of where we’re moving. Like closet space, lots and lots of closet space. And a huge kitchen with cupboards meant just for pots and pans. Then there’s the quiet. I’m used to the noise of being in town – we hear buses go by and the sounds of the freight trains at night. At the new house, there’s no traffic or train noise, just crickets and maybe some cows.

So I’ll adjust. I’ll buy six gallons of milk at a time since I won’t be able to just run to the Minimax when we’re out. The girls will have to get up earlier to catch the school bus. The littles may not stay at their preschool if it turns out to be too much of a commute.

And now I’m getting all verklempt again.

Time to think about closets, lots and lots of closets.

Monday, November 14, 2011

We have a house

and baby jeebus sang Hallelujah.

We saw the house on Friday with all the kids and signed the paperwork last night. Our target closing date is November 30. Because the house is brand-stinkin new, we don’t have to wait for the sellers to close or move out. We only have to wait on our mortgage to go through.

This is not the first house we wanted. I’ve been on a strict online news embargo through the whole process. The first house was earlier this summer, and remains my dream house. Maybe when I win the lottery.

So now we have this house. It’s out in Dripping Springs, which is about 20 miles SW of Austin, kind of in the country. Even though we’re moving further out, our commuting times won’t change much because we’ll be going against traffic. We’ve already timed the drives to ballet and climbing practice.

The schools in Dripping are excellent, some of the best in the state. We’ll leave the big girls in their current school until the semester break and then make the switch. Ella says she wants her last day of school to be the day before the last day because people will pay more attention then. She’s also been advocating for letting her take a couple of weeks off school before switching.

And now about the house. It has FIVE bedrooms - each child will have his or her own room – and four full baths. The kitchen is immense, and there’s a butler’s pantry. I don’t currently have a butler, but when I get one, I’ll have a place to put him. There’s an upstairs playroom for the kids, with a giant closet that will be perfect for bins of Legos and trains and puzzles. The kids were thrilled to discover a huge cupboard under the stairs, and the big girls have Campbell convinced that it’s going to be his bedroom.

house2The kitchen is huge and has lots of storage. And we’ll finally have a microwave that’s younger than I am. Seriously. Brandon dug our old one out of the basement at his dad’s house 17 years ago when we moved into our first rental. It has a turn knob instead of buttons.


It’s a terrible picture because of the backlighting, but it does show the view out of the great room – nothing but trees. And cows. I can pretend I’m the Pioneer Woman with cows in my yard.


This is looking from the great room to the front of the house. On the left upstairs are Campbell’s and Elizabeth’s bedrooms and bathroom. The right is the playroom. We will probably drywall over that arch at some point for the sake of noise control. B’s office and the dining room are up front on the right.


The closet in the upstairs playroom is huge – that’s Elizabeth lying on the shelf. It will be perfect for storing bins of Legos and trains and puzzles and everything else.


There’s a nice view from the master bedroom, too. It’s not a huge room, but it is nice and bright.


And finally, the butler’s pantry. I’ll have someplace to store the good silver and china other than wedged on to the top shelf of the bedroom closet buried in sheets and towels.

Given how little storage space we’ve had in our houses – two closets in our first, four in our second – I’m absolutely giddy at how much room I’m going to have to stash stuff away. We may even have empty closets and cupboards!

As this was all coming together last night, I had very mixed emotions. On the one hand, it’s a great house in a great area with excellent schools. On the other, we’re leaving the neighborhood we’ve lived in since we got married. I’m going to miss my friends, and because I worry about things, I worry that I won’t make any new ones.

For now, I’m going to focus on the closet space and that we’ll be in before Christmas and we’ll have a mantel from which to hang stockings and that everything will work out.

Monday, November 07, 2011

I stand with Planned Parenthood

I’ll say it here publicly, even if it costs me some of my 30-odd readers. Sunday night I went to Planned Parenthood Austin’s annual dinner, thanks to my divine neighbor Lisa. Texas State Senator Kirk Watson was the MC for the night, and the keynote speaker was author Anna Quindlen. Lots of other area politicians were there too, like Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who read a proclamation declaring November 6 to be “Planned Parenthood Day,” which is pretty remarkable. Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued Roe v. Wade was sitting two tables away from us. When Senator Watson called out her name, she got a very long, very loud standing ovation.

I left the event simultaneously fired up and concerned for the future. Fired up because it was the call to arms I needed to get involved; I’ve already registered in their system as a volunteer. Worried because the current political and societal trend right now is to deny women rights to health care and fertility services. if things continue on this path, what options will be available to my daughters when they’re of age?

Let’s get the elephant out in the open right away. Yes, Planned Parenthood provides ab*rtions, but they represent a tiny fraction of the services offered. Their primary goal is to help women take control of whether they have kids and when.

The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, a nurse in New York City in the 1920s, saw the effects of lack of information and birth control on women and their families. Women died as a result of back-alley ab*rtions, leaving children without their mothers. She saw women die in while giving birth to their fifth, sixth, seventh child, leaving the remaining children without a mother. She saw babies die at birth and their mothers not mourn because they weren’t able to feed the kids they already had, let alone another one. Her motto became “Every child a wanted child.”

And some days, while watching the news, it feels like we’re heading back that direction. States are cutting Planned Parenthood funding even though not a dime of federal or state money goes to providing ab*rtions. Clinics in rural areas are being shuttered because of a lack of money, leaving women in low-income, outlying areas without access to health care of any kind.

Planned Parenthood primarily provides health care services, to both men and women. Women go there not only for birth control, but also for annual exams, cancer screenings and prenatal counseling. They also provide health services for men, including treatment for STDs. For many, many clients, Planned Parenthood is their sole source of health care.

And it’s getting harder for women to access it.

Our country seems to be bogged down in this puritanical idea that having s*x is bad and that if women don’t want children then they shouldn’t have s*x. Schools are more and more limited to teaching abstinence only, which has been shown to not work at all.

Studies of kids who have received education on s*x and birth control and AIDS and STDs and pregnancy show that the kids are either going to make damn sure they’re protected if they choose to have s*x or wait longer to start. Providing an education is never a bad thing.

Republican politicians preach about putting children first, yet they have no interest in actually providing them with things like shelter, health care or education. It’s like they like the idea of babies, but not the reality of them. And they seem to like women as long as we stay at home, cook, clean and make babies. And before you argue with me, think about this – until recently, insurance companies would pay for Vi*gra prescriptions but not birth control. Even today, pharmacists who object to the “morning after” pill, which does not terminate pregnancy, only prevent it, on religious or moral grounds are allowed to not fill prescriptions – women are told to come back another time when another pharmacist is on duty. I’m guessing a pharmacist who refused to fill a Vi*gra scrip would be unemployed within the hour.

At one point during the evening, a speaker asked everyone who had used Planned Parenthood for basic health care services in their high school and college years to raise their hands. More than half of the women in the room put their hands up. That spoke volumes.

Even though I never had to use Planned Parenthood for health care services, I always knew it was there and available to me – judgment free. I want my daughters, and my son for that matter, to have the same access if they need it.

So, I’ll be volunteering and donating time and money and writing politicians to tell them I support Planned Parenthood. I hope you will, too.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Running Dreams

A year ago today, I was crowded in with 55,000 other runners on Staten Island, waiting to start running the ING NYC Marathon, something I’d dreamed of doing since I first watched Greta Waitz dominate the race in the 80s.


I would love to say that I enjoyed every minute of the run, but miles 13-19 were pretty miserable, probably the hardest six miles I’ve ever run. However, the overall experience was amazing.

After I finished, one my friends asked if I wanted to run it again, and I said no. Turns out I can’t be held accountable for anything I say in the two hours immediately after finishing a marathon.

On the day after the run, I was at the marathon store in Central Park, and there was a kiosk set up for entering in the lottery for the 2011 race. I briefly thought about signing up, but then I got distracted by legs screaming in protest at being asked to walk.

Throughout the winter I dithered over whether to put my name in, taking so long to decide that I missed the deadline. And honestly, the past nine months have been so difficult that there is no way I could have trained for the marathon. And having the stress of training for the marathon during the summer, which was miserable what with the heat and the housing chaos and overwhelming depression, would have just made things worse.

Even though I’m much better now and running regularly, there’s no way I could have gone to New York this weekend. We still don’t have a house to move into, and all of our belongings are in storage.

And yet, how I wish I was there this weekend. I’m watching all the tweets from the official INGMarathon feed and from participants waiting at the start, and I am dying with envy. I’m typing this as I watch a live stream of the race. It’s a perfect day for a marathon.

So I’m putting my name in the lottery for next year’s race. I want to go back and give the course another shot.

Besides, I need a better finisher’s photo, preferably one where I don’t look delirious.

finish line

Thursday, November 03, 2011

One good side to an historic draught

With everything going on right now, including house stuff that I’m not allowed to post about, I feel like we just can’t win. If it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.

Yesterday morning I had a work meeting downtown. The parking lot at the office is tiny and narrow and difficult to navigate, especially in a Suburban. I found one space at the far end, and carefully made me way to it, only to find that it was blocked with cones that I hadn’t seen. So I backed out, ever so slowly, making damn sure not to hit the cars behind and next to me. I concentrated so hard on not hitting the cars that I completely missed the tree that was growing at an odd angle.

Suddenly there was a bang and an explosion of glass. I had backed right into the tree, and it took out my back window.



While shaking uncontrollably, I managed to edge myself into another space and go inside for my meeting. I’m pretty sure I was white and shaking for most of it.

Today we’re calling around to get the window replaced. And my project manager is looking into getting the company to reimburse my deductible, which is above and beyond awesome.

In the meantime, I’m glad we’re in no danger of getting any rain.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

I have been working on the Unisono socks every chance I get. I finished the first while Ella and I were at Enchanted Rock, and I’m sure I confused the heck out of the other climbers by taking art shots of the sock on the rocks and in the bushes. I cast on the second during dinner at Enchanted Rock and started knitting away.

But the more I knit, the more I realized I have a problem.


There is absolutely no way there’s enough yarn left to finish the sock. And I am supremely pissed. I love this yarn – it’s the loveliest I’ve ever worked with. I love the striping and the colors, but my love of it is diminished by the fact that they don’t include enough yardage to knit a whole pair of socks.

I sent that picture to knittergran and several other knitting friends, asking for reassurance that I had enough to yarn to finish. Barb’s suggestion that I “KNIT FASTER” made me laugh out loud. I keep catching myself knitting as fast as possible in the hopes of making it to the toe of the sock before the end of the yarn. Kind of like when you drive faster in hopes of making it to the gas station before you run out of gas.

For now the sock is sitting in time out, and I’m working on Christmas gifts. I haven’t decided what to do about this revolting situation yet. Any suggestions?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Picking my battles

Elizabeth is firmly in her “clothing optional” stage of life. It all started with potty training*. We’d let her run around without any bottoms to save on laundry, and she got a little too used to it.

We went through this with Ella when she was the same age. We eventually had enact strict rules about not being naked in the front yard and wearing panties at the dinner table. She outgrew the phase, so I’m confident Elizabeth will, too.

Requests to put on panties, let alone actual clothing, are usually met with shrieks. Then she runs away, making me chase her down, pin her, and forcibly dress her. All this makes getting out the door for preschool drop-off a real challenge, even on the days when Elizabeth doesn’t have preschool.

But then there are the days when we don’t have anyplace to be or anything special to do. On those rare days, I don’t even bother to try to get her dressed. I’m happy if she’ll agree to wear panties.


Yes, she does have three pigtails. She has to have exactly three of everything because she’s three. Even if I hand her five M&Ms, she’ll only eat three of them. Goofy girl.


Today I managed to get her dressed, which was good. Our weather has changed, and it was all of 60. Brrr. An added incentive was getting to wear her new hat from Knittergran.

*Blatant mommy-blog stuff – after a week of peeing everywhere except the potty – the floor, the porch, in her car seat, on the main square in Comfort, TX – it was like a switch suddenly flipped, and Elizabeth was potty trained overnight. And the baby angels sang hallelujah.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In her happy place

This past Saturday, Ella and I woke up before dawn and drove out to Enchanted Rock so that she could climb in the Granite Gripper, her very first competition in the wild.

The climbers were released to climb at 9:00 am and told to report back with their score cards by 5:00 sharp. And off we went. Our coach, who was one of the event’s coordinators, rounded up a great climbing guide for our group since we had lots of younger kids and no adults who climbed. All the other climbers teamed up in groups of at least three.

It was such a good day. The weather was perfect. We hiked up and down and back and forth. I felt pretty good about being able to hike past a group of Boy Scouts who had collapsed in the middle of the path about halfway up.

The best part, though, was watching Ella. She smiled the entire time. She also climbed the entire time, even when she was supposed to sitting, waiting for her turn to climb. Ella climbed all of her routes, and some were tough, without falling.

When she was in the bouldering area, she pulled off a climb that had stumped a bunch of 20yo guys. The clapped politely and then started muttering something about Ella’s being able to climb the problem because of her muscle to weight ratio. That’s when our coach’s wife rounded on them and said, “I am so sick of guys like you claiming the only reason she climbed that problem was because of her muscle to weight ratio. You know that was a hard climb.” They had the good sense to look at their feet and kick rocks in an embarrassed manner.

Once the climbing finished, everyone gathered back at the Pavilion for a group dinner, raffle, and silent auction. Ella won a great messenger bag in the raffle that B and I keep trying to steal. We also won a Metolius Hang Board in the silent auction. Ella plans to hang it over the door in her new bedroom.

Ella ended up winning her division, which meant she got a cool trophy and $100 in cash. I could see the smoke coming out her ears when people asked her what she was going to spend it on. She thinks she might buy a slackline, because what else would an 11 yo girl buy with her loot?

As we drove home at 8:00 pm, Ella declared it “the best day ever” in her life and made me promise she could go again next year.

I am beyond grateful that B and I have found, with the help of a neighbor, what Ella loves to do and that we are able to support her doing it.

Pictures like this one taken by one of the team moms, make it all worth while.

enchantedrock1She was truly in her happy place. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

House News

We’ve sold our house! We actually accepted the offer two weeks ago, but B put an embargo on any online discussion of the sale until we got through the 10-day option period. He knows of people who have had house deals go south because the seller said something like, “I can’t believe they didn’t notice all the mold in the shower!" and the buyer found the comment online.

Accepting the offer was very bittersweet. On the one hand, we were very glad to have a decent offer and to have the house sold. On the other, we loved living there, and we love our neighborhood and neighbors. We’ve lived in this area since we got married. Three of my babies came home to that house and slept in the cradle in the closet. We’ve spent years building amazing friendships with the neighbors, people we could call on in an emergency, even at 2 in the morning, and vice versa. I’m worried we won’t find that sense of community again.

We’ll close on the sale of the house on November 30. Which means we need to get our rears in gear finding a new one for us. B spent yesterday sorting through hundreds of possibilities and narrowing the candidates. We have a couple of areas we’re focusing on, based on the neighborhood, schools and styles of houses.

We’ll be spending every child-free moment we can manage this week looking at house. Our goal is to find a house this week. Yikes.

The good news is that it looks like the months-long nightmare of uncertainty and worry may be coming to a close. If things go well for us, we’ll be in a new house at the beginning of December and be able to celebrate Christmas there.

Keep your fingers crossed, light a candle, say a prayer, dance in the moonlight – whatever you believe in – that everything goes according to plan.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oh yeah, knitting

It’s been a long time since I’ve bored my non-knitting followers with pictures of my finished projects. But I’m going to do it anyway.

Two weekends ago was the annual Hill Country Yarn Crawl. I made it to six of the nine stores on Crawl, skipping those in San Antonio and Marble Falls. The highlight of the trip was driving out to Comfort to visit The Tinsmith’s Wife. It’s a great little store, even if it does take two hours to get there. I went out there with Elizabeth and Ella, and we made a fun day of it, eating lunch on the main square in town, where Elizabeth left a puddle on the sidewalk. I don’t know that I’ll ever make the trip out there again just to go to the yarn shop, but if I’m ever within 30 miles, I’ll make a detour.

I also drove over to Paige, which is between here and Houston. I stop in at Yarnorama pretty much every time I have to make the Houston run. It’s a nice pit stop. Plus they have angora bunnies in the store, and they are so soft and sweet.

I drove back from Paige through Bastrop, and I was stunned speechless at the devastation from the fires. I was on the phone with Knittergran, and I honestly couldn’t come up with the words to describe how bad it was. I knew it would be bad; I had no idea it would be THAT bad.

But now back to yarn.


This is some of my haul from the Yarn Crawl. There’s some Dizzy Lettuce, Noro, Rasta, Unisono, and Ella Rae in there, along with some skeins of indie dyer yarns. Yum.

Going to all the yarn stores inspired me to just finish Elizabeth’s dang sweater already. I had gotten stuck with 25 rows to knit on a sleeve, and I just couldn’t make myself sit down and knit. I even tried not allowing myself to knit anything else until I finished, but it turns out I don’t follow my own directions.

finished sweater

Finally, though, I sat down and knocked out the last sleeve. Just in time, too. Today’s high is in the mid—70s. Positively frigid.

Last Wednesday, I carefully packed a bag of stuff to take to keep everyone entertained during Lily’s ballet class. I included snacks, spare clothes for Puddles, and a new skein of sock yarn for me. My swift and ball winder are both in storage, so I had hand wound the ball the previous night, and it took forever. At the last moment, I also threw a bottle of water in the bag.

When we got to ballet, I pulled the bag out of the car, and water came flooding out of it. The water bottle had leaked and emptied itself all over the bag, its contents and the car floor. Including my precious ball of Unisono sock yarn.

I fired off a few frantic e-mails to knitting friends, asking if they had any tricks for drying the yarn without unwinding the whole skein. Unfortunately, they didn’t. So I spent half an hour unwinding the yarn around the back of a chair on the porch. It turns out the thing was soaked to the very core. Waiting for it to dry in ball form might have taken years.


And then the next day, I wound it all back up again. But the results have been worth the effort. I am totally in love with this yarn and the way it’s knitting up. I was expecting stripey socks, not color blocks.


I am having so much fun watching how the stripes turn out. I’ve already ordered two more skeins of the stuff in different colorways.

Finally, during the past month or so, I’ve kept myself knitting washcloths. One of the local yarn stores was collecting them for Bastrop fire evacuees, so I went to Hobby Lobby and bought way too much cotton yarn. I knit four for the collection and then another three that I gave to friends. I’ve discovered they’re the perfect project to carry around.

I’ve also cast on a Clapotis shawl, but it’s sitting in timeout right now. I tend to get resentful of any project that requires four pages of spreadsheets with instructions like “Knit rows 1-12 another 12 times.”

Now I need to get busy on Christmas presents. I think it’ll be washcloths and locally made soap for everyone.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

11 years

Today, as is tradition, I’m going to bore Ella by telling her the story of her birthday. Of how my water broke at 1:00 am and then it took another 21 hours for her arrive. Of how the on-call OB, the third of the day, had light-up skeleton earrings and a scrub cap with pumpkins. Of how Liz came and hung out with me two different times because things were taking so long. Of how her granddaddy was so thrilled that she arrived on his birthday. Of how her great-grandmother drove all the way to San Antonio to buy her a special doll. Of how technology was so slow then that we had to take film from the camera to the store to be developed and then overnight the pictures to Knittergran and Runnderdude so they could see what their first grandchild looked like.

But most of all, I’ll tell her story of how she made me a mom – the most terrifying and amazing experience of my life.

And I’ll tell her how I still feel like she is connected to me and that everything is right in the world when she sits in my lap even though she no longer fits there.


Happy birthday my Ella-bella.


May 11 be a wonderful year for you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You’d think I’d be a pro by now

Warning, this is a blatantly mommy-blogging post about potty training. My apologies in advance.

At the beginning of the summer, I made a few half-hearted attempts at getting Elizabeth to use the potty. She didn’t seem ready, so I didn’t push. I learned with Ella that turning the process into a power struggle just makes it take longer.

Then we went to my parents’ house, and I wasn’t willing to let Elizabeth run around naked and pee on the Oriental rugs (You’re welcome, knittergran). After three weeks there, we came home to absolute chaos, what with the moving from house to house for a month, and I decided not to add to mess by trying to potty train Elizabeth then.

We’ve been in our cute little rental house since the end of August, and we’ve all settled into some semblance of routine and order. That, coupled with the fact that Elizabeth turned three last week, made realize it’s time to get her out of diapers. Her preschool teacher, who is an angel, was completely on board. Elizabeth is the only one in the class who still wears diapers.

So, on her third birthday, we took away the diapers. And it did not go well. She wore panties all morning at school, and held her pee the whole time. She must have a bladder made of steel. Despite my sitting her on the potty every fifteen minutes and offering lots of bribes, she didn’t do anything. But she did pee on the floor three times. Our floors are really clean now, thanks to all the bleach wipes I’ve been using.

It’s been a week, and things haven’t gotten much better. When she’s not at school, Elizabeth runs around bare-butt naked, refusing to put on underpants. Yesterday she was outside playing with Ella and her friends, naked as a jaybird.

She’ll sit on the potty without a problem. We have it in the middle of the living room like a throne. We let her watch TV or play on our iPhones while she sits on it. And the rare times she does actually do something in the potty, she gets happy dances and cheers and M&Ms.

Most of the time, though, she’ll sit on the potty for 20 pointless minutes, get up, walk across the room and pee on the floor. Each time she has the nerve to look surprised – “Mama, I peed?!”

I am running out of ideas. Bribes of M&Ms don’t work. Sticker rewards don’t work. Doing happy pee in the potty dances with her doesn’t work either.

People have suggested we take a break and go back to diapers, but I hate to go that route now that we’ve already started. I don’t want to use pull-ups because Elizabeth thinks they are just fancy diapers.

So I continue to let her run around naked and to mop up the puddles she leaves behind. You’d think that on the fourth kid, I have this whole potty training thing down cold.

Friday, October 07, 2011

A Rodent in the Kitchen

From the first time Ella asked for a pet, I have sworn up and down and backwards that we would never, ever have a rodent in the house. That meant no hamsters, no gerbils, no guinea pigs, no rats. I loathe rodents, even “cute” domesticated ones. There’s just something about their rodent feet and their rodent tails that gives me the heebie-jeebies.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when Lily made this announcement last night at dinner: “Guess what! I have the best news! I won the gerbil lottery!!!!” My heart fell, and I understood how a townsperson in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” must have felt drawing the black stone.

Instead of death, winning the gerbil lottery means that Lily gets to bring home the class pet, Fluffy, for the weekend, the long-extra-day-off-school weekend.

Lily is beyond thrilled. She loves, loves, loves animals of all shapes and sizes. Fluffy is in definite danger of having Lily hug her and squeeze her and call her George.

I, however, am not so thrilled. I will spend the weekend making sure the kids don’t let Fluffy escape and make a break for the sofa cushions. The creature could live the rest of its life in there quite comfortably.

My other fear is that it will get into the sofa and have babies. When Lily heard me say that, she rolled her eyes and said, “Fluffy needs to have been around a boy gerbil for that to happen.”

Fluffy got sent home with an exercise ball that allows her to roam the house. Having a rodent roll past my feet while I’m working is not my idea of a good thing.

If you need me, I’ll be sitting on top of my desk to work until Tuesday when Fluffy goes back to school.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Not a baby anymore

The weeping you hear is me, facing the sad truth that my last baby isn’t a baby anymore. This is the first time I’ve had one of my kids turn three without already having another baby or having one on the way. It’s sort of a rude awakening. Not only is she not a baby, my baby days are done. No more babies for me.


Elizabeth is really not a baby or even a toddler. She’s a little person with her own definite personality, and boy is it a doozy. She’s got a temper that can peel paint; a giggle that can melt hearts; and a smile that can light up a room.

Even though she was very much our surprise baby, I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world (although right now I might be willing to loan her out to anyone who can get her to use the damn potty already).


Here she is, five weeks early and a whopping four pounds, nine ounces.


And here she is today, full of sass.

Happy birthday Teenie Beanie. I love you more than cake.

And now I’m going to go sob while I clean up puddles of pee.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How did this happen?

Campbell turned five on Saturday. It seemed like just yesterday we brought this little guy home from the hospital.


And now I have this big guy.


Time moves entirely too quickly.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Dream Job

Since posting last week that I’m looking to up my work hours, either with a full-time job or full-time freelancing, I’ve had several wise friends suggest that I sit down and think about what kind of job I really want and then work for that job.

Of course, this has be within reason. My real dream job of being Neil Patrick Harris’s super-secret girlfriend is never going to happen. (sob) And my daily hope that I’ll open the mail to find a large check from a long-lost, fabulously wealthy relative probably isn’t going to happen either.

So what do I really want to do?

I want to be an editor. I love reading other people's words and helping make them better. I live for finding errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation – it’s like a constant treasure quest. I read The New Yorker each week and learn from their editing style. I read Strunk & White at least once a year, just for fun.

So I’ve decided I want to set up shop as an editorial consultant, offering my services to freelance writers, academics, bloggers (ahem), companies that don’t want to hire a full-time editor – pretty much anyone who wants help making their writing more polished and professional.

My concern, though, is whether enough companies and writers place enough value on editorial services. So many people call themselves writers, and have great ideas to get out there, yet haven’t got the first idea of proper punctuation or grammar. I cringe every time I see someone write “her and I.”

Has today’s language become so informal, so texting based, that no one even notices improper grammar? I hope not.

I know this won’t be an overnight career change for me, and I’ll keep on with my regular writing gigs in the meantime, but I’m going to work on getting the word out. I’ll be posting on Craig’s list and on UT’s job boards. I’ll be spreading the word among my freelance writer friends and folks who run their own consulting shops. Basically, I’m going to go against my basic nature and become an outgoing, glad-handing self promoter.

So if you want some help making your writing better, or know of someone who does – like another writer or consultant – please pass my name along. References and rates available upon request.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My little angel

Last Saturday, Lily auditioned for the Ballet Austin production of “The Nutcracker” for the very first time. She has been looking forward to this ever since I took her to see the show as an almost-four-year-old. She’s kept going through all her creative movement, pre-ballet and, now, ballet 1 classes with the goal of making it into the cast. This is a big, professional production, complete with live music by the Austin Symphony

The auditions were an exercise in controlled chaos – 85 girls in purple leotards with their hair in buns milled around the big studio talking and giggling, while nervous moms, dads and grandparents hovered on the periphery.

Parents were absolutely NOT allowed into the theater during the audition, and during that time, the ballet school’s director came in to tell us about the process. She explained that there are four rotating casts of angels, and our packets will have all of our performance dates.

She also made it very clear that parents are absolutely NOT allowed backstage before, during or after performances. There will be a drop-off lane outside the Long Center, and we will pull up and push our kids out the door. Ballet Austin staff will escort them inside and chaperone for the rest of the time they’re there. Many moms, myself included, did a little cheer at not having to hang around through every performance. And even better, we don’t have to find a parking place. But there were more than a few moms who looked very concerned at the idea of leaving their girls. I wonder if their parents will let them participate.

The casting lists were posted today, precisely at noon, on the door of Ballet Austin. They warned us many times not to call or e-mail to ask about casting. The only ways to find out were to check the cast list on the door or wait for the cast package to arrive in the mail.

I headed down there at 12:30, hoping to avoid the crush. I checked the list very carefully and was relieved to see Lily’s name on it.


To be honest, there wasn’t much doubt about whether she’d make it. The program director said that they had four rotating casts of 15-22 angels, so there was plenty of room for everyone auditioning. And Lily’s teacher said that the girls knew all the steps that the director would be asking of them. She said that the audition was mostly to make sure the girls could follow directions and not act crazy while standing around waiting.

Even knowing that . . . when I got back in the car, I burst into tears, so relieved that she had made the cast. I guess I was more worried than I realized. When I called my mother to tell her, I got all choked up again. Sheesh.

When Lily got home from school, I showed her the picture of her name on the cast list, and she screamed and did a happy dance from one end of the house to the other. She is beyond thrilled. All of her years of dance class finally have a tangible payoff.

I can’t wait to sit in the audience and see my baby girl on stage. I’ll probably start crying all over again. And I’m just fine with that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Polishing up my resume

I am seriously considering returning to work full time or upping my freelance hours to equal full time work. There are a lot of reasons why, including the fact that I’m getting closer and closer to having no kids in the house for most of the day.

My dream job is as a proofreader at a publishing house. I dream of reading all day, looking for mistakes in texts. But then again, I am a nerd.

It’s been more than a decade since I’ve had to actually look for a job, and I’m not even sure where to start. Yesterday I began with putting the word out to friends and former co-workers and freelance clients that I was open for business. I spent this morning updating my LinkedIn profile.

Ideally, I’d like to find something that would allow me to put my researching, writing and editing skills to good use. I have experience writing for a text book publisher, writing continuing education modules for medical professionals, and writing for government agencies. I’ve done everything from chatty newsletters to dry legal briefs to letters to angry constituents.

I’m an excellent copyeditor. I live for grammar and punctuation. I even have a whole shelf of style and grammar guides that I refer to on a regular basis. Don’t even get me started on the whole Oxford comma debate.

Research was often my downfall in college and grad school. I’d get so wrapped up in resources that I’d run out of time to actually write. Getting paid to sit and learn new things is a great way to spend the day.

So, I’m looking. If you know of anyone who needs to hire a writer/researcher/editor, either full time or freelance, let me know. I’ll knit you a pair of socks if I get the job.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The boy ain’t right, part 427

Thursday afternoon, B had to work, so I was stuck dragging the whole crew along to Ella’s climbing practice. I bribed them with dinner from P. Terry’s if they behaved, and it turns out, my kids will do just about anything for P. Terry’s.

When we finished dinner, the little three and I went back to the gym to hang out while Ella finished climbing. I had fun chit-chatting with some of the other parents. Things were good.

Then Campbell announced that he needed to go to the bathroom. For the first time ever, I told him he could go in the men’s room all by himself. After a few minutes, I noticed he hadn’t come back, so I sent Lily to investigate.

She came back immediately and told me she could hear Campbell crying in the bathroom. My heart sank. All I could think was that the first time I let him go to the bathroom by himself, a child molester walked in.

One of the dads volunteered to go in after Campbell, but when they didn’t come right back out, I barged in to investigate.

I found Campbell standing at the sink, shirt tucked into his backwards underpants, which were pulled up to his ribs, sobbing hysterically while the poor dad tried to wipe off all the tears.

Me: Campbell, what happened????

Campbell: I locked myself in the locker.

Me: (trying not to laugh) But why would you do that?

Campbell: I wanted to see if I could fit. And I did. But I couldn’t get out.

Other dad: I couldn’t tell which locker the crying was coming from so I had to open all of them to find him.

When I called B to tell him about the incident, he roared and said, “That is the perfect illustration of the difference between boys and girls. A girl might climb in a locker, but she’s not going to lock herself in.”

At bedtime I asked Campbell what he’d learned that afternoon. I was pleased that his answer was, “Not to lock myself in lockers.”

But that doesn’t mean I’m betting he won’t ever do it again.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

For Sale–Cheap

One almost three year old

  • Curly hair
  • Green eyes
  • Incredibly long eye lashes
  • Dimple in her right cheek
  • 28 pounds
  • Fully fluent in English
  • Knows her ABCs
  • Can count to 14
  • Knows how to take pictures with an iPhone
  • Loves to snuggle
  • Loves to sing and dance
  • Very good at drawing people who look like turtles
  • Favorite words are “I don’t want to”
  • Has a mean right hook
  • Has incredible grip strength, especially on hair
  • Can chuck a sippy cup record distances
  • Skilled in throwing tantrums
  • Very demanding
  • Extremely bossy
  • Likes to lie on the floor at Target
  • Refuses to be potty trained


Any takers? Please? I’d even be willing to pay someone to take her.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

He’ll kill me for posting this

But it is so worth it.

Last night, as I was pulling off Campbell’s shorts and underpants to put on a pull-up (he stays dry nine nights out of ten, but that tenth is a doozy), he covered his crotch with his hands and wouldn’t move them for me. When I asked why, he said, “I don’t want god to see my p*nis.”

I was stumped and ended up gasping trying not to laugh. Those who know me, know I am not at all a god-fearing, church-going person, and aside from sending my kids to a very liberal Methodist preschool, religion doesn’t play a role in our family. So I have no idea where this whole “god is going to see me” stuff is coming from.

After a minute or two, I collected myself enough to be able to tell Campbell that there are billions of p*nises in the world, and god has too much to do to look at his.

That seemed to make him happy.

In the meantime, Elizabeth was bouncing around the room chanting, “goddammit, goddammit, goddammit.”

I’ve one kid who believes god is watching him all the time, and one who loves using his name in vain.

Yeah, I’m going to hell.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Seventeen Years

Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of my moving to Austin. I had actually been here already, visiting for two weeks, but it was Labor Day weekend that I made the official move.

At 4:00 Friday evening, B and I attached a trailer to the car and headed eastward. We drove through the night, which was miserable, and rolled into Gainesville at about 3:00 in the afternoon. B and I got all my stuff out of the storage facility, and then spent the night at my former roommate’s apartment.

Sunday morning we got an early start and made it to New Orleans early enough in the afternoon to be able to have some fun. We slept in a little on Monday before getting back in the dreaded car. Finally, we made it to Austin in the early evening and unloaded everything.

Seventeen years, and I’ve never questioned my choice to just pick up everything, drop out of grad school, and move here. At the time I had been coaching swimming at UF, but I’d let my contract expire and had declined the chance to be the head age group coach. Despite applying for several other coaching jobs, I had no other prospects lined up, so my plan was to move to Atlanta and live with my parents.

So after visiting Austin for two weeks and falling in love with the city, I figured it was time to make a leap of faith. I had money saved up and no other responsibilities. If I was going to do something completely unplanned and unexpected, this was the time.

I did temp work to start off, and volunteered as a coach for the local swim team. It wasn’t easy going, especially as I watched my savings dwindle, but things eventually worked out for the best.

Everything good in my life – my husband, our kids, our friends, my work – comes from my decision to move here. It’s been a great 17 years, and I look forward to many, many more.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My assistants

Now that school is back in session (thank the baby jeebus), I’ve had high hopes of being more productive in terms of the paying-kind of work

Turns out I was wildly, overly optimistic about getting anything done around here.

Friday Lily woke up with a headache and sore throat, so I let her go back to bed with the intention of taking her to school a little later in the morning. I got the littles up and dressed and ready for school and went looking for my car keys.

Uh oh.

B walked out with my set of car keys. He was on his way to a closing and couldn’t come back to return my keys. So I was trapped in our cute little rental house with three kids.


Shockingly, I didn’t get a whole lot accomplished.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Which one’s Pink?

Every once in a while, I get the urge to either get another tattoo or to do something radical to my hair. I always end up doing something to my hair, mostly because I can’t decided what or where I’d get for a tattoo.

Last summer I tried to turn my hair red and ended up with a purpley, magenta mess. In November, I lopped 10 inches off my hair and donated it to Locks of Love.  I am totally of the opinion that “it’s just hair, and it will grow back.” My husband, however, wishes I’d just let it grow long and leave it alone.

While Ella and I were at climbing nationals, I noticed that all the girls on one team had bright striped of color in their hair, and I decided I wanted to copy them. I asked two of the “big girls” on our team if, given that I’m a 41yo mother of four, I could rock a hot pink stripe. They both told me to rock on.

I dithered for weeks and then finally took the plunge. I’m not totally happy with how it looks, mostly because it’s kind of subtle. Next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll put the dye in closer to the front so that it’s more visible. The one downside is that the dye doesn’t seem to work on gray hair, so I have some noticeable streaks of white in the middle of the pink. The contrast doesn’t show up well in the picture, but in person, it’s more visible. 

pink hair

Ignore the fact that I’m not wearing make-up and that I’m running on about four hours of sleep.

Once this stripe fades or grows out, I’ll be experimenting again. Perhaps next time with purple.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It’s always something

We’re settling into life in our cute little rental house and back into the routine of school/ballet/rock climbing, and I couldn’t be happier. I thrive on routine, much like a toddler.

Even though things are somewhat “normal,” life is by no means dull.

Sunday night brought this exchange.

Campbell: Mom, can we play in the tree fort?

Me: No!

B: Why not? Why can’t they go out in the yard?

Me: Because it’s too frikken hot out.

Campbell: Mom, I just felt outside, and it’s not frikken hot. It’s warm.

B: You are SO busted.

Monday afternoon, Elizabeth managed to lock one of the bedroom doors and pull it shut as she left the room. Ella and I spent ages monkeying with the knob, trying to pop the lock. We even experimented with the other door knobs and were able to successfully unlock them. B got home and gave it try, muttering under his breath the whole time.

He wasn’t successful either.

So I called in the local locksmith, who showed up two hours later. And really, there are not many more discouraging things for a locksmith to say than, “Wow. I’ve never seen one like this before.”

After 15 minutes of messing with the knob, practicing on the other knobs, and lots of muttering, the locksmith finally popped the lock open. The mechanism inside the knob was warped, which is why it was so hard to open.

We have now removed all the little screws that lock the doors shut and stored them someplace out of Elizabeth’s reach. And the $80 locksmith fee is so coming out of her allowance.

Monday, August 22, 2011

All in a Row


This morning I packed four lunches and sent all four kids off to school. And the baby angels sang Hallelujah.


Ella started 5th grade. Notice the stripes.


And Lily started 3rd grade. She chose long pants for her first-day outfit, despite the heat.

I was a bad mom and didn’t take pictures of the little kids before they went back to preschool, mostly because I was desperate to just get them out of the car and into their classrooms already.

I had four child-free hours to myself this morning, and it was divine. I read, I dozed, I did some paying work. I can’t wait for Wednesday, when I get to do it all over again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Today it finally happened

The wheels officially came off of the Gardner Family whatsit today. Everyone pretty much collectively lost their sh*t at least once during the course of the day, myself included.

The kids are tired of not having a schedule or a settled home or a routine of any type, and their behavior is reflecting it. Ella is being meaner and meaner to Lily and very rude to me. Lily bursts into tears anytime someone looks at her funny, which just makes Ella more prone to picking on her. Campbell has stopped listening to me at all. Today I told him not to do something, and he immediately did the very thing I’d just told him not to. When he’s not being blatantly disobedient, he is whinging almost nonstop. This afternoon was Meet the Teacher day at the big girls’ school, and I couldn’t talk to Ella’s teacher because Campbell kept pulling on my arm and whimpering. Elizabeth is just a mess. She veers wildly between clinging to me and crying and fighting with her brother.

And with the unending heat, the stress of six weeks of living out of suitcases, the lack of a routine, and continued depression, I’m not exactly equipped to deal with the kids and their misbehavior and bad attitudes. I’m far more short-tempered and cranky with the kids than I should be, and every time I lose my cool, I feel even worse about the job I’m doing as a mother.

B’s been working undogly hours and is now in a bad place with his neck pain, so he’s cranky too. The house still isn’t ready to be put on the market, which makes me very, very nervous.

It’s nothing shy of a miracle that I didn’t cook and eat the registrar at the girls’ school today when she informed me that they didn’t have Lily enrolled for the coming year. Her life was even more in danger when she told me that she’d put Lily in the one class I DID NOT WANT her to have. I pitched a very small, amazingly polite fit in the office, and the registrar reversed course, putting Lily with a different teacher, pending approval by the principal. Which means anything can happen between now and Monday.

So yeah, things aren’t good right now. If it weren’t for my prozac, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.

We move into our cute rental house on Saturday, and I’m hoping against hope that things will get easier once we’re there. School starts on Monday, and we’ll be back in the school/rock climbing/ballet routine. We’ll be able to sit down for regular meals. The kids will have places to put their stuff other than suitcases. B will be able to get his home office set up and get his work schedule under control.

Life will return to some semblance of normal.

I hope.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Phantom

Yesterday afternoon, the kids disappeared with my iPhone for about an hour. Every once in a while, I’d hear screams of laughter or an evil cackle, but since the kids were leaving me the heck alone, I didn’t investigate.

Turns out, if you give my kids a camera and an hour, they’ll make a pretty funny little movie.

Hell. I wanted to embed the video, but YouTube isn’t letting me. Or my blogging program isn’t letting me. Whatever.

Click here for a few minutes of silliness.

Please ignore the mess in the background. We are camped out at my father-in-law’s house, which is always neat as a pin when not filled with our crud.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


On Saturday, it felt like things were finally going right for us. We rented an adorable little house in our neighborhood, walking distance to the school, for at least a month. We move in this coming Saturday. I can’t even express how much stress finding the house lifted off me. Just knowing we will have one place to live, where we can put things in closets and dressers, where I can make lunches for kids, where I can cook normal dinners, is such a relief.

On Sunday, I kept my cheerful mood as B, Ella and I braved 100+ degree weather to look at more houses. The three little kids had spent the night with B’s mother, but Ella had opted to stay with us and go house hunting.

We saw some good houses and some not-so-good houses. And then we saw THE house. It had dormer windows, a laundry room to die for, custom pecan cabinets throughout, and a great playroom for the kids. It was on more than an acre in the neighborhood I’ve dreamed of moving to. Ella and I did happy dances around the living room while B walked the property line.

After B dragged us out, we looked at two other houses, both of which were great, but neither of which compared to THE house.

That night B ran all the financials and figured out that our mortgage would essentially stay the same even though we were buying a house with more than double the square footage. I sent out an e-mail to friends asking them to say prayers or light candles or dance under the moon – whatever they believed in – that everything would work out with this house.

Yesterday afternoon, B delivered the bad news: the house was under contract to other buyers, and there were several others lined up in the wings. Negotiations had started before we even saw the place.


I should have known better than to get all worked up about the house. Ours still isn’t on the market – end of the week says B – and we can’t even think about making an offer on a house until ours is under contract.

Double sob.

Even though I’m not at all religious, I am fairly superstitious, in some strange ways. So on the advice of several friends, I buried a statue-ette of St. Joseph of Arimethea upside-down in the garden. He is the patron saint of real estate because he gave up his family tomb for Jesus to be buried in. I had always thought he was a saint because he was Jesus’s dad. Whoops.

So, if you pray or light candles or dance under the moon, will you do it on our behalf once in a while to help us? I’d really appreciate it. And when we move, we’re having one heck of a house warming party, and you’re all invited. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

House hunting, Round 1

Sunday at noon, B and I bravely ventured forth, with all the kids in tow, to look at houses. We need to get going with finding a place to live – the neighbors whose house we are borrowing return Friday night, and I think they’d like to have their beds to themselves.

I packed a ton of snacks for the kids, and they rounded up DVDs to watch, and we hit the road. Considering that they spent four hours being loaded in and out of the car and in and out of houses where they weren’t allowed to touch anything and it was 100+ degrees, they all did amazingly well. We got barbecue for dinner as a reward.

B will kill me if I give out any specifics on the houses we saw. But here’s a very general rundown.

House 1

Perfect house! It has everything we want. It even has a media room. And look at the view from the back windows. Awesome.

But the location isn’t the best. And the yard is small.

If we buy this house, I want the green room.

No! I get the green room. I’m oldest.

OK, moving on.

House 2

Who designed this place? The layout is terrible.

Back in the car.

House 3

Yes, Campbell, I know it has a pool, but you may not go swimming. Because I said so.

Get back in the car now, we aren’t going swimming.

House 4

Well, it’s definitely not on the main road.

There’s no office or second living space, I don’t care what the listing says.

Get off the swing and into the car, NOW!

House 5

This could work, especially with the garage. But, the lot across the way is zoned multi-family. And do we want to be on the main road?

Maybe not after all.

House 6

I love, love, love the location. The kids could ride on the cul-de-sac without worrying about cars. You can’t really see the neighbors.

But the house doesn’t work. There’s no office and no second living space.

Yes, but did you see the master closet?????

It’s not going to work. Everyone back in the car.

House 7

I don’t like it. I’m not even getting out of the car.

You have to at least go in. I have to register my key in the lock.

I don’t care. I don’t like it.

At least look so you have an idea of what houses are like on the inside around here.

Fine, but I’m not going upstairs.


I must say, it was interesting seeing people’s taste in home decorations. We saw some houses that looked like a design store exploded and others that looked barely a step above frat house living. One place was fully furnished by a stager, down to fake popcorn on the poker table and plastic cheerios on the kitchen counter. Ella and Lily thought the fake foods were particularly funny.

In all seriousness, the first house had everything we wanted, and then some. But the tax rate and the location worry B a bit. I still covet the one cul-de-sac lot, but the house really wasn’t what we need, especially at the price.

So we’re back to square one, pulling more possibilities each day, hoping the one perfect place will come on the market soon.

In the meantime, all our possessions are in storage we’re looking at renting a furnished house in our current neighborhood to make it easy for the girls to start the school year with their friends.

The kids are handling all the transition and uncertainty about as well as can be expected. The big girls alternate between excited about having their own rooms and distraught at moving away from their friends. Campbell thinks the whole thing is a great adventure, especially visiting all the houses. He explored every cupboard and closet in the empty houses. Elizabeth is just confused.

I, on the other hand, am having a nervous breakdown in slow motion.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Sleeping is for suckers

While we were in Atlanta, Elizabeth decided that she wanted to be an all-night party person. Most nights, I was lucky if I got her to fall asleep by 11:00. Part of the problem is that she discovered, on our first night there, that she could climb out of the pack’n’play crib. She appeared in the upstairs hall, looking quite pleased with herself, about 15 minutes after I put her in bed.

Thus began our nightly struggles.

Some nights, I’d start her out in my bed, but she’d wander around, and I’d have to put her back in bed repeatedly. Other nights I tried putting her in one of her sisters’ beds or on Campbell’s blow-up mattress, thinking it would be a treat for her to sleep in them. She thought it was great each time I put her in bed, but she quickly popped out and wandered around.

I took to sitting on the floor in the upstairs hall, outside of whatever room she was in, and keeping a stern eye on Elizabeth, which she did not appreciate.

Most nights I ended up with her in my bed, which was not a good solution for me, so I moved her into her little crib once she fell asleep. It was a long three weeks, and I dreaded bedtime each night.

Some nights Elizabeth gave me a break and wore herself out so much that she fell asleep in my lap or as soon as her head hit the pillow. But those nights were few and far between.

Now that we’re at our neighbors’ house, I’m trying to get Elizabeth back into a good sleep routine. They have a son who’s about a year older than Elizabeth, and he has an adorable little toddler bed in his room, which is where Elizabeth is sleeping. I had hoped that she’d be so thrilled to be in her friend’s little bed that she’d stay put. Ha.

B and I have been taking turns putting her back in bed and closing her door, while ignoring her insulted screams. Each night gets a little easier.

Last night we let her have some books in bed while she fell asleep.


That’s my girl! Asleep with a book open on top of her. I checked on her again before I went to bed, and cracked up. Even though the little bed has rails on the sides, Elizabeth still managed to wriggle out of it.


At least she doesn’t have far to fall. I can’t believe she didn’t wake herself up doing it. I popped her back in bed, and then placed a chair backwards next to the gap in the railing. I was going to buy her a little bed like this for the new house, whenever we manage to move, but I think I may go for a big bed with a cage over it.