Friday, June 29, 2012

To Hell and Back

A week ago, one of my good friends and former neighbors sent out a group e-mail announcing that they were spending two days at Schlitterbahn, did anyone want to join them. In a moment of sleep-deprived insanity, I sent the e-mail to B and asked if he thought I should take the kids. I figured he’d say “Are you kidding me? That place is expensive! We need blinds in the windows before we need to go there.” Instead, his reply was, “Sounds good. Have fun.”

He basically threw me under the bus.

Then I made the mistake of telling the kids about it. And once you tell kids about a trip to Schlitterbahn, there is no turning back. They spent the week singing the song from the commercial, and the big girls regaled Campbell with stories of HOWAWESOMEITISTOGOTHERE!

I decided to approach the trip calmly: I made plans for meeting our friends and parking, packed a cooler with food, and organized my pool bag. And it worked, at first. We rode rides, we met up with our friends right on schedule, we stayed together as a group, the little kids didn’t freak out. It was all mostly good. It was also hot and crowded. And we walked more than we rode. Did I mention it was hot and crowded? I get panicky in crowds and heat, especially when trying too keep my eye on four kids and five inner tubes, and I may have had some not very good moments, but I’m not saying.

As we went along, I mentally checked off items on my Schlitterbahn Bingo card:

  • Women with leathery skin and stretched out tattoos – check
  • Shirtless men with beer guts sitting in tubes scratching themselves – check
  • Walking proof that inbreeding is a bad thing – check
  • A toddler in the kid pool wearing a regular diaper seven times its normal size – check
  • Band aids in the pool – check
  • Teenage boys in packs acting like jackasses – check
  • Shrieking teen age girls who should be told that wearing a fringed bikini top is never a good idea – check
  • Giant fake boobs on display – check
  • T-shirts with horribly offensive drawings and slogans on them – check

But we survived, and the kids had a lot of fun. We all got Slushees and giant pretzels and finished the day absolutely waterlogged. I was so grateful that my neighbor and her family were there with us. They helped me keep track of everyone. Because of them, the big girls were able to go off and ride the big, fancy rides while I hung in the little kid pools with Campbell and Elizabeth. Campbell has decided he wants to live at Schlitterbahn. Shudder.

Now my kids can never ever say, “You never take us anywhere!” ever again. On the other hand, I think I’m going to get asked “When can we go back?” every half hour between now and the end of the summer.

No pictures. I deliberately took myself offline for the day and left my phone in the car. It was nice to be disconnected.

Friday, June 22, 2012

False Advertising

People out here in Dripping seem to have odd ideas about names for their business establishments.

A few weeks after we moved out here, B mentioned that he was looking for a good, local place to get his hair cut. I told him I’d seen a place in downtown called The Barbershop, complete with the striped pole outside. I left for a work meeting and forgot all about it, until a text from B arrived: “The Barbershop you told me about is a bar. I walked in there at 11:00 am asking for a haircut.” I may have snort laughed in the middle of the meeting.

For the past few months, I’ve been driving this place called “Up in Smoke” and figured it was a barbecue joint. One day guys were out back making their own charcoal. So when B asked for barbecue for dinner, I thought it would a perfect place to try. When we pulled in, there were lots of cars in the parking lot, which I figured was a good sign. I left Ella in the car and waltzed into the place to find a dark, smoky honkytonk filled with drunk people. I asked a woman sitting at the bar if there was barbecue there, and she looked at me like I was an alien. I walked out quickly before there were problems, grateful that I hadn’t waltzed into a bar with my 11 year old.

On the way home, we stopped at a second place that had a sign outside that said “Real, Old-Time Barbecue,” and I made Ella get out of the car with me. Turns out it was a liquor store and there was a wine tasting going on. Everyone stared as the guy at the counter directed me to their barbecue section – a cooler of commercially packaged sausage and brisket. We left quickly, and I felt like the mother of the year taking my daughter to her first liquor store.

We did finally find a real barbecue joint in Dripping, but it took a few U-turns and driving slowly past places to figure out if they were really what they said they were. When we finally stopped, we knew we were in the right place based on the smell of barbecue in the parking lot. I was very relieved to walk in to a clean, well-lighted, family-run establishment. And the food was delicious.

There’s a new place opening up near us called “Pieous.” With the luck I’ve been having, it will probably be a bible store.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Not my imagination

So I haven’t been feeling well the past few weeks, and it’s been getting worse. It’s not that I feel sick; instead, I just feel off. And tired. Oh so tired. Not in an “I have four kids and don’t get enough sleep” way but in an “I don’t think I can actually walk across the room” way. I feel like my body is filled with cement and that I’m breathing at altitude. I have asthma, and this is not asthma related. I just can’t get enough air in. To add to the fun, my hands tremble so badly that I have trouble knitting and typing, and I keep losing my balance and tipping over. Then there’s the whole blood pressure bottoming out stuff. And getting words mixed up; just a few minutes ago I told Ella to help get Elizabeth some groceries. I meant grapes, not groceries.

Basically, I’ve been a mess.

I haven’t said anything about to anyone, not really even B, because it’s just such a vague list of symptoms. There’s no one big thing I can point to. And because, oh my dog I do not need anything else to deal with right now. Between my migraines and depression, and Ella’s knee, and B’s ongoing stuff, I just don’t have the bandwidth for more. I ignored the symptoms and powered through.

And then it got worse. I woke up Monday feeling awful. I couldn’t walk up the stairs without gasping, let alone run. FeeBee is very upset with me. Yesterday I finally called the doctor and made an appointment for this morning.

I felt kind of silly going in and listing the symptoms for the nurse. I told her I felt a bit like a Victorian woman who just needs smelling salts and a fainting couch. She laughed and then sat down to take my blood pressure, which was low. Then she looked at me hard said, “Sweeetie – you look peaky. I don’t know how else to describe it. Peaky.”

I wanted to burst into tears and hug her. The relief that someone saw what I was feeling in some small way was overwhelming.

My doctor has ordered a full complement of blood work, which I have to do tomorrow morning after not eating for 12 hours. He’s guessing that my thyroid’s out of whack, which would make sense given that my mom has had thyroid problems, and her sister had thyroid cancer, and my cousin had major problems. It seems to run in the family. He also referred me to a cardiologist for a heart scan, just to be safe. I’m fine with being safe.

In a strange way I feel better knowing that there really might be something wrong. This isn’t my imagination or my being weak and unable to power through. So I’ll cut myself some slack, rest as much as I can, wait for lab results, and hope for conclusive results.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Running again

I’m running again, have been for weeks now. But I didn’t want to say anything and jinx myself. The difference now is that I’m not keep track in any shape or form of how far or how long or how often I run. I have set absolutely no goals in terms distances or times, and I haven’t registered for any races. I even pulled my name out of the lottery for the NYC marathon. The thought that I had a chance of even getting an entry was making me panic.

It’s all because of FeeBee. When I get up in the morning, she expects me to take her out for a walk. And those walks slowly morphed into runs. Now when FeeBee sees me get my running shoes on, she does backflips around the house and howls. I have to get her out the door to keep her from waking up the entire house.

FeeBee is the best coach I’ve ever had. She does not care that I didn’t get enough sleep or that it’s dreadfully hot and humid. If I don’t put her on the leash and take her for at least three miles, she follows me around all day, heaving big doggy sighs.


I’ve even made it down to the Trail the past two Friday mornings to meet up with running friends. I have no hope of being able to keep up with them, but it’s nice to see other people. Plus, Friday runs now end with a dip in Barton Springs, which is a lovely way to start the day.

For now, my only goal is to keep running, or even walking, through the summer. That way when things cool off in October, I won’t be starting from scratch. I think I can handle that, with FeeBee’s help.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or you don’t have at least one astronomy-obsessed kid, you knew that yesterday Venus went between us and the sun. It won’t happen again for another 105 years. (Ella is sitting next to me making sure I get the facts right.)

We failed in our quest to have solar film delivered to the house in time to see the transit, which Ella has reminded me of about every 5 minutes since she found out that overnight shipping isn’t always overnight.

Anyway. There was an article in the paper about how the UT Astronomy Outreach group was sponsoring a transit viewing on the roof of one of the buildings on campus. Thinking it would be a great field trip, and remembering my resolution to actually get out and do things, I loaded my four into the car. Then the new neighbor, who isn’t actually a neighbor but is just housesitting and boy are we going to miss them when they leave, said that her oldest son had really wanted to go, but she just couldn’t get herself together, so she promised them barbecue for dinner. So I did what any sane, reasonable mom of four would do, I offered to take him with us. Because really, once you are dragging four kids, one of whom is still on crutches, on an insane adventure, what’s one more? For the record, he was the best behaved member of our group.

We made it in to UT with time to spare and hoped to find street parking near the building. There wasn’t any, so we had to park in a garage a few blocks away and then hike uphill. Poor Ella was struggling on her crutches and had to rest every few minutes.

I knew we were in trouble when we walked into the building and found ourselves at the back of the line just to get on an elevator to the top floor. And then it got worse. We got off the elevator into a packed hallway, where the lined doubled back on itself. Ours was the last group that was allowed to stay in the hall, everyone after that got herded into the stairwell, where the line went down multiple floors. If we had been five minutes later, we would have been in real trouble.

Fortunately, the kids, even the little ones, were really good, much better than I expected. I can’t say the same for some others in the hall. It was crowded and hot and humid, but there were interesting posters on the walls, and we saw some friends.

At one point, when the line doubled back next to a window, there was a volunteer with specially coated glass letting people look at the sun. I was amazed that we could see Venus, no magnification required. The distances and sizes just baffle me.

After more than an hour, we made it on to the roof, where we stood in more lines. The astronomy group did a good job, though. They had lots of volunteers and telescopes, plus binoculars with special filters, eclipse glasses, and a pinhole viewer. The kids kept busy and were able to see the transit several times.

Despite the lines and the heat and the crowds and the broken payment machine at the parking garage that wouldn’t let anyone out, it was worth the trip. Ella, Lily and the boy next door had a good time. Campbell and Elizabeth got P. Terry’s for dinner, so they considered it a successful trip.

And I get “Mother of the Year” award for making it all happen.

Monday, June 04, 2012

I can’t keep up

I am so far behind on so many things that I’m kind of paralyzed. I don’t know what monumental task I should attempt first.

Before we moved, back when we were living in a tiny house, I thought keeping a big house clean would be easy. I told everyone that it would be so much better when I had a place for everything and everything in its place and I wasn’t trying to cram six people and their belongings into too small of a space.

Oh how naïve I was.

Yes, we do have places for everything. But I can’t get the kids to put things in those places. We have tons of storage, but we moved in so quickly that everything just got thrown in closets with little to no organization. I’m still rearranging things. And the kids have their own rooms in which to keep their own stuff, but their stuff still wanders the house.

I feel like I spend my days constantly picking up the stuff they drop.

Then there’s the actual cleaning. Just vacuuming the downstairs takes forever, and I have to do it almost daily thanks to a black dog and four messy kids. Keeping four bathrooms clean has defeated me. A new neighbor came over today for an impromptu playdate, and it occurred to me that I didn’t have a single bathroom that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have her use.

My dining room is filled with folded laundry. B, half joking, asked if I wanted him to turn the whole room into laundry and craft space. I’m still considering it. The laundry on the dining room table is just the tip of the iceberg. The laundry room itself is piled with clean laundry, most of it not in baskets. My kids have gotten used to digging through mountains of clothes to get dressed.

This Sunday I mowed the lawn. One of my friends asked why I wanted to mow the lawn considering everything else I need to get done. My response: “It’s the only chore I do that stays done for more than five minutes.”  Another friend suggested hiring a cleaning lady. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. Because she’d clean, the house would be spotless, and then one of the kids would spill something on the floor and I’d lose my mind.

I think unfolded laundry and a little dirt is better than a nervous breakdown. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.