Thursday, January 31, 2013

Goodbye friend

This morning our almost 15-year-old cat Gonzo died.  We were fortunate that he only suffered briefly and that he was able to pass without having to resort to euthanasia.  (I firmly believe that euthanasia is the kind thing to do for a pet in pain, but I would have had some guilt doing it.....because I'm just so good at guilt.)

We first noticed something was wrong on Tuesday morning, his breathing labored and his lack of movement.  By last night he wasn't able to walk at all.  I found him this morning after I returned home from a meeting at G's preschool while I was on the phone with an end-of-life vet who makes house calls.  There was no need for her to come.

I took Gonzo to a nearby pet crematorium.  For the kids' sakes, we are having him cremated so that we can have some kind of memorial/funeral.  It is simply too cold and the ground too wet for us to bury him in the yard.

I wrapped him in the blanket that I had covered him with last night.  Picking him up to carry to the car was surreal.  The power of that spark that makes us all alive and the strangeness of when it has gone is overwhelming.

Just as strange have been the conversations with the kids about death and me trying to explain what I think happens after a soul has passed on, trying to find a graceful and kind way of saying "I just don't know."  Hoping that my efforts to make it graceful and kind will make up for my lack of understanding of the great beyond.

And there is the guilt.  Because of the "joke" that scrolled through my head often prior to this week...."I have my carpet guy on speed dial just waiting for the cats to kick it so I can get rid of that nasty carpet they have funkified over the years."  Because of my decision to allow Gonzo to grow old without forcing medication/frequent vet visits/procedures on him for whatever chronic conditions he may have developed.  Every person says they want to grow old with their wits still about them and without medical conditions that require constant hospitalizations, doctor visits and excessive medication, and I felt like a cat would say the same thing.  I hope in my old age I will still believe that and not fight tooth and nail for life that may not be a life worth living.

I didn't expect to feel this sad, maybe because it happened so quickly.  Maybe because for many years now the cats have just been two more creatures to feed, tend to, clean up after.

So my sadness is a welcome relief, just like Gonzo's death.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Me and my big ideas

I often get these "great" ideas, which truly are pretty great, but they also happen to be time-consuming.  Having children was one of them.

So my first great idea of the moment is to expand on our very small neighborhood pet-sitting operation.  We have two neighbors for whom we pet-sit periodically.  One of the neighbors has two cats.  N and the boys give them fresh water if needed, love on them and feed them treats while I clean up the litter boxes.  The other neighbor has a freakishly long-lived goldfish whom we feed.  The kids enjoy their job as "pet-sitters" and earn a little money.

I thought we'd send out fliers to the neighborhood for the summer stating that my gang will pet-sit for $10 a day so that the pets can stay at home and the pet-owner doesn't have the expense of a kennel.  We can feed and water them, let dogs outside to do their business, bring in newspapers and mail.  N is old enough that I am going to teach her the fine art of litter box cleaning this year.  I thought we can divide up the payments between the kids, like $4 to N since she will do most of the work, $3 for G, $2 for M and $1 will go towards a charity, maybe the Humane Society?  This would be a little experiment for the kids on earning money and learning how to divide it up into spending/saving/donating.  (We already do this but this would be on a larger scale.)

My other great idea is to contact some larger scale magazines about either 1. selling some of my already-written freelance stuff to them for second serial rights or 2. writing new stuff for them.  I don't really expect anything to happen, but I'm never gonna know what could happen if I don't try.  And it boils down to mailing a letter and making some copies of the stuff I've published.

But that is just one more thing on top of all the stuff I do already which right now is planning 2 Valentine parties for N's and G's classes, making a class project for the school auction, and continuing in my role as Girl Scout troop leader and general cookie dope pusher.

And I still have to paint the kids' bathroom.

I really think I need to develop a tv-watching habit because all this productivity is tiring.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

AP testing and a lesson in walking in someone else's shoes

So the talk among many students and parents at N's school has been the hallowed results of the AP tests that the kids took in the fall.  N told me they were being mailed last Saturday; a friend of hers said last Friday.  I think they were mailed this Thursday.  I can only imagine what college scholarship/entrance stuff is like if AP results are this fraught with suspense.

I had tried to put my anticipation in check.  While I was certainly hopeful that N had done well, I wasn't losing sleep over it.

An email from another mom, whose child was not recommended for AP based on scores, helped me appreciate just how upsetting AP testing can be for parents and children alike.  I didn't get this when I was that childless middle school teacher.

I took the opportunity to talk with N and encourage her not to ask other kids what they got and whether they got accepted.  If someone asks her outright how she did, she can answer them, but she is not to discuss the test beyond the scope of about 2-3 of her closest friends.  We talked about how difficult it can be to hear that other people got accepted for this or that (or that other people got invited to this party or that event) and know that you are not part of it all.

If there is one thing I disliked about teaching AP students is the palpable sense of their own entitlement, that they were better than the other kids.  Smarter.

Smart comes in all forms and styles.  I would gladly hand over some of my book smarts to have a working understanding of my car's innards or how to do basic electrical work.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Not sure if I love the paint, but I don't want strep again

Last week I made the mistake of faux-finishing the master bathroom, which sounds great except that the next day I woke up sick and was later diagnosed with strep throat.  I vaguely remember 2 years ago when in January I painted my laundry room and days later ended up with strep throat.

When it comes to correlation, I'm certainly no expert, and my logical mind tells me that one has nothing to do with the other, but I think I'm going to save painting the kids' bathroom until sometime in May.  Just to be safe.

So the bath painting.....
Prior to painting it brown, I had fauxed it myself with gold and burgundy.  Those colors had been on the walls for at least 8 years so in addition to showing wear, I was ready for a change.
(I am eager to repaint our master bedroom, which is gold, but that paint actually looks better than any other paint in the house so I'm biding my time.)
I liked the brown color, but it chipped often in places and showed many of the wall's imperfections.  So I thought I would faux it.

As always, I'm late to the party, but I still like the look of blue and brown (which was probably popular among those in the know like 3-4 years ago, but whatev).  Always eager to use what I have (and avoid spending more money), I used the blues from last year's dining room painting adventure.

So this master bathroom painting cost me about $16 for the glaze.

These are the walls BEFORE I fauxed.

This is after putting on the 2 different shades of blue.  It was overpowering, and I didn't like it.  

So I mixed some of the brown, some of the glaze and a little water and color-washed the walls.
In person, the swirls don't show up as obviously as they do in the photo.  It looks more marbled in real life.

I'm tempted to go over one more time with the brown/glaze/water mixture but, again, I don't want a strep reoccurrence.

So it's gonna stay like this for awhile.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

This nice span of years

I spend a lot of my time bitching.  It's just my thing.

But I have to say that the span of time since N was in 1st grade until now (3rd grade), and hopefully for a long time to come, has been relatively smooth-sailing.

And that is a most welcome thing after years and years of doing everything for young children and enduring endless tantrums over the dumbest of dumb things (per the mind of an adult).

N is that perfect blend of able to do much for herself, able to understand logical decisions, able to understand that she can think whatever she wants but she doesn't have to and probably shouldn't speak it, and yet still willing to play dress up with her brothers and Mamaw or dress up her Barbies on an almost constant basis.

She is well beyond picture books, which I thought would break my heart since we so loved reading them together.  But reading Little House on the Prairie with her has been a special delight for me.  Talking with her about how Laura Ingalls family lived.  Knowing that she really appreciates and enjoys the book when she says, "Do we have to stop?" even though she sometimes acts like she'd rather read anything else.

I like it that at bedtime she asks me to snuggle with her and "do a garden" on her back (a series of special rubs that depict tilling the soil, smoothing the soil, planting the seeds, etc).

And while there are some unpleasantries, like long division when she is tired from having had P.E. at school and the stink that only elementary school kids can produce, it is mostly a nice, quiet peacefulness before the storm of the teenage years begins.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Why I'm choosing burn-out

So I've been quiet here on the blogging front because I've been thick in the process of stewing.

I was, crazily enough, offered a job.  Out of the blue.  Which brought me a tremendous amount of excitement because I would be teaching again on a part-time basis.

Within 10-12 hours, however, the excitement and enthusiasm was diminished greatly because by that time I was sitting in a vat of hot guilt.

Sometimes I think life gives you exactly what you want just to show you what a dumb-ass you were for wanting what you said you wanted.  Oh, and to make you a better, stronger person.  But mostly the first thing.

I wanted 3 kids, and I got 3 kids, and I love my 3 kids, but I am.....9 years into this stay-at-home mothering gig.....almost SICK TO DEATH OF IT!

I am experiencing full-throttle burn-out.

I'm tired of being with at least 1 of my children constantly.  Every single day.  From sun-up until sun-down.
I'm tired of not having enough time to complete small projects.
I'm tired of grocery shopping at 10 pm on the weekend just so I can avoid shopping with kids in tow (and spending 25% more of my budget just because of their incessant haranguing).
I'm tired of being in the MOMS Club and doing play dates and playing Lego each and every day.
I'm tired of talking to perfect strangers like they are long-lost friends because they might be the only adult I've chatted with in 7 hours.
I'm tired of feeling guilty going to get a haircut or doing anything that is not in some way chore-related.

And yet, as tired as I am of this, when offered a job I declined to take it.

(Smack your hand to your forehead, if you feel the need.  I'll pause.)

Because to do so would mean I would be away from M during his last 2 years before he begins elementary school.
Because to do so would mean I wouldn't have spent a full 5 years with him, as I have with N and G.
Because even considering doing so made me feel stressed and angry and guilty.
Because if I live to be 90 and I look back on my life, I might regret not having that time with him.  What if he dies at age 7?  (God-forbid, but what if?)

I made my choice to stay-at-home with my kids.  For better or worse.  Right now, I'm in that worse spot.  It seems likely that I've been here before (although I don't really remember because chronic sleep deprivation does that to a person).

A valley.  There will be a peak.
I think it will begin on M's first day of preschool when I have some much-needed and long-awaited time to myself.

(And then once I have all three kids in full-time school, you better believe I'm going to start rediscovering the creative, awesome professional Carrie.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The meaning of this dream

I have had a recurring dream on and off for years, and a month or two ago I had a breakthrough which I didn't really see as a breakthrough until last night's dream.  

In the dream, I have a large backyard and at the back there is a pool that is in complete disarray.  It is covered by shrubbery, weeds and a tarp.  In the dream, I often feel fearful of dealing with it.  It is too much work, and I'm not certain I want a pool in the yard since I have young children.  But it has been there for as long as we've owned the house.

The breakthrough from this fall--
In the dream I cleaned up the mess and restored the pool, although my dream didn't actually show me doing was sorta just something I knew I did.  It is beautiful.  Clear blue water.  In the dream I can't see anything around it, just the water.  In this dream when the pool was finally usable, friends of mine from high school came over to swim.

Last night--
I dreamt that the water was murky and when I tried to swim underwater, I couldn't hold my breath.  The water felt heavy, dense.  I started filling the pool up with more water, which seemed to clear it up a bit but I knew there was more to it, that more work would be involved.

I like this dream because I know it is my mind's way of trying to figure out what I want to do with myself.  The pool, I think, is my professional life....the life that has been covered over and ignored by the demands of being a wife and a mother.  The forgotten part of me.  The aspect of my life that I haven't had the time or the energy or the strength to deal with.

I'm glad my unconscious mind is figuring things out for me because my conscious mind is having one hell of a time.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

In my life, not in my hair

Next month N will turn 9.  While I love the sweet hugs and little voices of very young children, I am finding that there is much goodness in having older children.  Children who aren't so demanding all the time.

Not that it is all fun and games.  We have yet to hit the crazy mood swings and the fight for independence.  I will, I'm sure, have plenty to bitch about as the years go on.

Today I took all 3 kids to a Home Depot workshop to build birdhouses.  We'd never attended one so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I didn't know if someone would lead us and demonstrate or if we'd be handed supplies and directions.

As it turns out, we were handed packets that included the materials and instructions.  The kids grabbed hammers from a bin, and we were off.  I thought this was a great opportunity to let the kids have at it as much as possible.

N read the instructions to us and paid close attention, twice telling me that I was doing something wrong or out of order (she is her father's daughter after all, which is a good thing because I am not a following-directions kind of gal).  She did 100% of her own hammering, and G did 96% of his own.  They both did all their own painting.

Being only 3, M required more help so he and I both held onto the hammer and hammered together.  I'm not sure how many times I had to grab the hammer right before it conked me in the head.  (Evidently, I like to live on the edge.)
M did all of his own painting too.

I was very proud of them, and also proud of myself.....for letting go and allowing them to do it themselves.  I cannot tell you how many dads I saw doing all of the gluing and hammering while their children sat and watched.  I thought to myself, "What's the point of coming to a Kids Workshop if the parent is doing the work?"

Lord knows, I am not the greatest at encouraging my kids to be uber-responsible, but I am trying.  I am asking the kids to clear their plates after dinner, taking them over to the sink.  I don't ask them to rinse them or even put them in the dishwasher, just walk it over to the countertop by the sink.  I periodically insist on living room clean-up of the toys.  N showers by herself now without any help from me (although I do sometimes have to do a re-rinse of shampoo out of the hair).

Even though it is often a royal pain to do this, I almost always let the kids help me with whatever chore I'm doing if they ask to assist.  The boys want to throw clothes in the washing machine, so I let them.  G often asks to vacuum or run the Swiffer or mop when he sees me getting them out of the closets.  I allow him to as soon as I go over the floor first.  His job is to ensure I got everything well enough.

In the thick of rearing young kids it is difficult to remember that the goal is to get them to a place where they don't require my assistance.  A place where they can manage their own money, maintain themselves and their living quarters, cook their own meals.

A place where I can be proud of them for being responsible adults and enjoy their company.

Because I don't want to be actively raising children for the rest of my life.

Friday, January 4, 2013


My goals for 2013 are to paint the kids' bathroom and do a little makeover.  I want (my husband) to install new hooks with the kids' initials over them that they can actually reach and perhaps begin the fine art of hanging up their own towels.  I'd like to get a new shower curtain if I can find one that doesn't cost a zillion dollars (why are shower curtains so expensive, anyway)?

I also want to add a little blue faux painting to our bathroom.  I have not been pleased at all with the  Sherwin Williams HGTV-Home paint I used in there.  It flakes like crazy and is not nearly as good as their SuperPaint (but I couldn't get the color I wanted in SuperPaint).

Other goals are to take the kids to church once a month (that's right, I have started taking the kids to church, but that is a whole other blog well as one that I'm getting paid to write so I will wait until after publication before I write anything on here).  I want to walk on the treadmill 3 days a week since I was able to manage 1 day a week last year.

Like our finances whereby I do the bank account version of the "envelope system,"  I like to compartmentalize things so that I have personal goals, mom goals and house goals.

It's a wonder I found anyone willing to marry me and all my goal-setting/organizational nerdiness.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The things I would indulge in

I have actually thought that once our children are gone we will have very little in our house.  Most of the stuff we have is kid-related.  I'm not a chatzky/knick-knack/whatmenot person in the least.  The stuff I do have on my shelves and walls has meaning to me.  A travel souvenir, a book I love, a photo album, some pottery.

But if I weren't so cheap, there are some things I would buy often.

The first is anything from The Company Store, like this.  OMG!  Their sheets are outstanding.  Very pricey, so I only buy on clearance.  But there is no shrinking and stretched out elastic on fitted sheets.  The colors are bright and don't fade.  And you don't have to buy entire matchy-matchy sets.  You can coordinate and be creative and oh, it is simply wonderful.

Or would be if I could/would indulge more frequently than I do.

The other thing I would buy more of are witty t-shirts that are usually about things English-related, like this or this.

And that is it.

These things and a newly opened jar of peanut butter are 3 stairs on the path to heaven. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

1 year piano anniversary

Tonight marks 1 year that N and I have been taking piano lessons.  I hadn't really given it much thought until our lesson this evening, when our instructor remarked on how far we've come.

A year ago tonight I didn't know musical notes.  I didn't know sharps or flats, the bass or treble clef.  I didn't know piano, forte or mezzo piano/forte.  I didn't know the difference between 3/4 and 4/4 time signatures (or what a time signature even meant).  I didn't know D.C. al fine or ritardando I didn't know chords or what it means to play a certain chord in the key of C or G.

I began taking lessons with N for two reasons:  as a means of supporting and helping her as she learned (because how can I possibly assist in her practices if I have no clue what she is doing) and because I'd started and stopped guitar lessons twice since I graduated college and thought it would be nice if I could actually stick with something longer than a New York minute.

We've hit a groove, N and I.  I've figured out a good system of motivating her.  I've learned how she needs to practice to get the most benefit and not become frustrated.

I've learned that my butt hitting the piano bench has the exact same effect as me dialing the phone and conversing....I am suddenly the most in-demand person in the world.

It's been fun and rewarding, and I hope it continues.