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?