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.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Our divine neighbors kindly offered us their house for the two weeks that they are in the cool north. Staying here has been a huge help. We’re in our neighborhood, so the kids can see their friends, and B can keep an eye on the work going on at our house much more easily.

Along with taking care of the house, we’re watching their two dogs. Lily, who loves, loves, loves animals, is in absolute heaven having two dogs right here for her to hug and squeeze and call George.


Duncan is a West Highland Terrier and is still a puppy. He cracks me up in the mornings, running out the back door and leaping off the porch after the squirrels and birds that dared enter his yard. Who knew that such short little legs could jump so far.


Rugby is a Scottish Terrier and not so much a puppy anymore. He’s much more dignified than Duncan and lets us know it. He follows Duncan out the door in the morning with a look that says, “We both know he’s never going to catch a squirrel, but what can you do?”

The dogs love Lily as much as she loves them. Any time she sits on the sofa, at least one dog hops up next to her. When I sent Knittergran the picture of Lily with Rugby, her response was, “You’re going to end up with a puppy.” I think she’s right.

Monday, August 01, 2011

One-point-seven miles

My parents have a new hospital just up the road from their house – 1.7 miles away. They know this because they had a house guest get frighteningly ill during a visit, and she ended up riding in an ambulance to the hospital, with my parents following behind.

When the kids and I arrived in Atlanta, mom became convinced that someone was going to end up in the ER. And, quite frankly, with kids’ knack for getting hurt, a trip to the ER was a distinct possibility.

Mom may have gone a bit overboard, though, to the point of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. When I said I had a migraine during my first weekend there, her response was, “The ER is 1.7 miles away.” When my sister had a migraine, she got the same answer.

One night, while my dad was out of town for work and my mom was at knitting, Elizabeth took a tumble off a kitchen chair and came running to me, screaming, with her face covered in blood. My first thought was, “The ER is only 1.7 miles away.” Fortunately, it was just a flesh wound, and I didn’t have to cram all four kids into my parents’ two-seater convertible for the ride.

My dad, Runnerdude in the comments, has been talking about buying a road bike for years – decades even. This year, to celebrate his 65th birthday, he finally put us all out of our misery of listening to him agonize over bikes, and he bought a nice one. His goal was to do an Olympic Distance tri at the end of the summer.

On our last Sunday in Atlanta, he headed out for a ride, intending to scope out a state park at Lake Lanier along the way. About an hour later, he called for a ride home; while tooling through the parking lot at the park, he’d hit a parking bumper and gone over the handle bars. I drove out to rescue him, and found dad bleeding with road rash and nursing a very swollen right hand.

After he got cleaned up and some food in him, he drove the 1.7 miles to the ER to have his hand looked at. The bad news is that it’s broken. The even worse news is that he has to have two surgeries to repair it. He’ll be off the bike for at least two months.

On Monday, I spent most of the day fighting off a migraine. Two doses of imitrex finally knocked it back a little, but I was still in pain. Tuesday morning I woke up feeling even worse. After a few hours, I cried uncle and asked my mom to drive me the 1.7 miles to the ER.

The doc set me up with an IV drug cocktail that was supposed to break the migraine. Instead, it made the pain and the nausea even worse. The nurse told me I had to give the meds time to work, so I curled up in pain for another 15 minutes, convinced there was nothing they could give me that would ever make me feel better.

Turns out morphine is really, really good at killing pain. Two doses later, I was feeling much better, if a bit slow and stupid, and they sent me home.

The final ER score: kids, 0; grown-ups, 2.

My parents may never invite us back.