Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mea culpa

Earlier this week, I started looking for a specific picture that I just maybe, just possibly wanted to put up in the living room until we can get our Annie Pennington original framed. I couldn't find it. Not being able to find things makes me extremely irritable and short tempered and unpleasant to be around.

Last night after looking everywhere - closets, garage, utility room, behind furniture, you name it, I finally asked R if he knew where it was.

Hmmm, he said, wrinkling his forehead. I'm not sure. What's it look like?

As I was thinking unkind things about men and genetic coding and even my sweet, kind, loving husband, I answered (in a very short tempered manner) It's a framed picture. With a house, and grassy field, and some bee hives. It's called sourdough honey and it was expensive.

Now, saying this, I totally expected him to look for it too. Which he did in a way, but it was halfhearted. That added to my crabbiness. FOR GODS SAKE MAN! I SAID THIS WAS IMPORTANT!!!!!!!! Yet, I also snapped at him when he looked in the closets, cause I had looked there. And when he looked in the garage, cause I had looked there. And when he went upstairs, because I had looked there too. And then, when he had the audacity to tell me he didn't know where it was, I pulled the "fine" card.

As in:
R: I don't know where it is, B.
Me: Fine
R: Blah blah blah blah
Me: Fine.
R: blah blah blah blah
Me: F.I.N.E
R: sighs heavily and wisely drops the subject.

This morning, we were headed out to the St. Louis Science Center, and I decided to take another look around the garage. After all, it WAS R that did most of the moving around of stuff in there, so it could be anywhere. I still couldn't find it.

R: (unwisely) What are you looking for?
Me: That picture
R: (freezing in his tracks) uhhhh.......
Me: It was with that other picture - the one we hung up in our bedroom. They were wrapped in brown packing and they were both in the utility room.
R: I don't know where it is, B.
Me: It was $250. We can't afford another one.
R: We'll find it. It's got to be here somewhere.
Me: Fine.
R: blah blah blah blah
Me: You threw it away, didn't you?
R: I did NOT throw it away.
Me: Fine.

Me and my big honkin' horrible attitude manage to fit in the car with R and the kids and we go to the science center. Of course I don't believe that he hasn't thrown it away, it's nowhere to be found and there's absolutely no other explanation. That fine. Fine. Just fine. I'll be the bigger person and just let it go. One of the kids probably broke it and he's protecting them from my "money isn't made on trees" speech. Men. Harrumph.

We get home and R says, Hey - is this the picture you're looking for? And he points to the WALL, where the picture has been up since our first week here.

Oooooops. I apologize profusely, and R graciously forgives me (or at least says he does - I don't want to know the thoughts going through his head any more than he wanted to know they thoughts going through mine). I'm sure it's fine.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Legal to drive, legal to drive - thank you Illinois, I'm legal to drive!


Isn't it funny what worries you, the degree to which it worries you, and how you don't always realize how much it worries you until you don't have it to worry about anymore and you realize just how much relief you feel?
Confused yet?

Turns out I had a bit of a drivers license issue. Oooooops. When we left South Dakota for Germany, it never occurred to me to check the expiration date on my license and to investigate whether or not I can renew it early. Because, let's face it, stuff like this isn't on a normal person's radar unless it creates an issue.

Even though R and I got our SD licences the same day and my number was exactly one number after his, they expired on different dates in different years. Interesting. Once in Germany, I didn't need to bother with my stateside license for any reason after I got my USAEUR license. So when I realized it expired, it was already pretty darn expired. Like, if it had been food, it would have been penicillin or the monster from the food mold lagoon.

From that point on, it was a confusing process. R got to renew his through the mail because he's active duty military. As a dependant, I had a very short window to renew through the mail -which I missed. We heard several different scenarios from the drivers license agency over a period of about six months. The website, for whatever reason, would not load for us while we were in Germany, so double checking the info we got was difficult. The last scenario we heard was that I had to fill out all the forms, which included a form signed by an optometrist, and send in my renewal request with copies of my military id, his military id, and my SD license. This didn't happen before we left Germany for a couple reasons - the walk in hours for the optometry clinic were always when I had the kids and kids are persona non gratas at adult medical appointments of any kind on base.

One of the first things I did when getting to the states was going to see my old optometrist and getting that form filled out. Which we then lost. Cause that's how life rolled in the horrible month where nothing went right. Last week I went to the optometry clinic here and got another form filled out - easy as pie and free. I mailed off the paperwork (and decided against sending pictures of me jumping through all the hoops it took to make it happen) and crossed my fingers. Please come back quickly, I wished.

Wish granted - in the mail on Friday was an envelope from the SD agency that handles licensing. In that envelope was everything I had sent them with a letter stating that I would have to appear in person to get a new license. And retake all the tests. And prove my residency. That's a problem since we don't own property in South Dakota and it's not like we can just hop over there to say hi to the drivers license people.

Onto plan B. We called the drivers license office here and I talked to someone that said I'd have to do basically the same thing that South Dakota required. That's within my realm of 'things I can accomplish this century' because I can prove residency, I can certainly retake the tests, and if R would be so nice as to drive me, I can get to the office - which is open on Saturday. Hallelujah! Since I had to take the written test, I figured I'd better read through the drivers handbook, because I have no idea about Illinois specific laws. And that's how I spent my Friday night - reading a drivers license manual.

The office opened this morning at 7:30, and we were there by 7:24. There was already a line. And it had snowed so the roads were bad. I was not looking forward to this. I was petrified they were going to tell me that I couldn't have a license. I had heard that some states would recognize a USAEUR or expired license with a military ID for 90 days after you arrived in the state. Illinois is not one of those states. Oops. As their drivers handbook kept pointing out (and I grudgingly agree it's true) a drivers licence is a privilege, not a right. Yeah, yeah. Again, this goes under things I wouldn't have thought to check. As I was waiting for my turn, I heard a couple of the examiners say that the roads were too bad to do the driving tests. WHAT?!? You guys don't want to be on snow packed, slick roads with inexperienced, bad, or elderly drivers? Unbelievable.

I get my turn at the counter, explain my situation to the clerk, and she tells me that I will only have to do the written and vision tests. I don't know why they decided not to make me do the driving test, but I am extremely and utterly grateful. Like, bake them a cake a day for a week grateful. I took the tests, had my picture made, and we were in the car heading out by 8:16. No lie. And to top it ALL off, it's an awesome drivers license picture. I'm so happy with it that it's posted below. THANK YOU ILLINOIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hilarious converstation going on in my living room

This is proof that a good night's sleep can fix the worst of attitudes, because I actually think this is hilarious.

T: STOP! Don't touch that!
T: It's mines!
T: I'm mad at you!
S: I'm mad at you! I very angry!

Me: Who wants to help me make cookies?

T: Me! ME! I do, I do!
S: I do, Mommy! I do, I do, I do

Me: Then let's not scream and fight. As soon as you stop yelling and start being nice, we can make cookies.

(silence. blessed silence)

T: I still don't like you, S
S: (crying) Mommmmmmmmmmy. T make me sad.
T: no cookies for you! no cookies for mommy! no cookies anywhere for anybody. Only cookies for me. And Dad.

Me: (scrolling through the tv guide) Hey look! It's Yo Gabba Gabba!

(silence, toddler eyes glued to the TV)

Score: preschool on TV - 228
Mommy - 3

The brilliant idea of the behavior bubble

R and I are still struggling to get both cars registered through South Dakota since that's our state of residency. The Nitro was pretty straight forward because we just bought it in December in the US. The van, however, is another story entirely. Since we bought it from another American who lived in Belgium but who apparently bought it in the US at some point, we've been playing registration detectives. However, after three weeks of invaluable assistance from the South Dakota treasurer's office (this woman is amazing), we think we have all the paperwork, affidavits, notarized documents and assorted proof that we need. My temporary plates are good through the end of February, so I'm hoping it will all be done by then.

So, today we had to go by the legal office and get some stuff notarized and then mail off the package at the post office. I don't know what efficiency expert organized things here, but let me just say - excellent job, sir or ma'am! It took us, including a dash home to pick up something we forgot, less than 30 minutes. THAT'S what I'm talking about!

On our way to the post office, R and I were talking about kids and behaviors and such and I had a brilliant idea. What needs to be invented is a behavior bubble. I'm not good with engineering and design, so anyone else feel free to jump on this. It should work like an over sized balloon - but it needs to float because that way you can lead your screaming child about by a string above your head. Or tie it to your shopping cart. They get to thrash and scream and throw themselves about in a safe and soundproof environment. Everybody wins. No dirty looks from all those parents and non parents whose children would never behave that way. No one is dragging around kicking, screaming, hitting, thrashing toddlers because they are safely ensconced in their behavior balloon. No wanting to crawl under the nearest shelving unit or clothing rack out of complete and total embarrassment. No worries about child protective services being called because the child is already protected! The only real concerns are how to get it to float, how to inflate it (and then deflate it) when needed, the obvious issues of proper oxygen supply and cleaning capability - but I think this could be a totally workable idea. Any thoughts?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Good behavior award

T came home from school yesterday all excited. He couldn't wait to open his backpack and show me that he had gotten the "Good Behavior" award at school for listening well and playing quietly. Go T man! Now, can you please teach S how to do that? Scratch that, can we just figure out how to keep her from screaming bloody murder? Honestly, she is the screaming-est child I've ever encountered. She screams when she's happy, when she's having fun, when she isn't having fun, when she's mad, when she's tired, when she's excited.... the list goes on and on.

Yesterday I was working in the garage while waiting for T to get home from school. S was playing with the bikes and some toy cars. Once T got home, the kids were riding their tricycles in the garage and on the driveway and she kept screaming like someone was cutting of her fingers knuckle by knuckle, yet she was having the time of her life. I'm getting really concerned that one of the neighbors is going to report us to child services because they think she's being abused. That's what I'd think if I heard screaming like that.

Since we moved into this house, she's been in a 'big girl bed'. Apparently she hates it because she ends up out of bed at one reason or another at 2 to 3 am every morning. This morning, she woke T up around 6 am to boot. She's so tired and she simply will not nap. Have I mentioned that she screams a lot when she's tired? She. screams. a. lot. when. she's. tired.

Today, all I needed to do was mail some packages and run to Walmart. That's it. It should have taken half an hour to an hour tops. But she had a fit in Walmart, I'm still not sure why. I decided to take her into the bathroom and try to calm her down. Wooooooooooo. THAT was a mistake. She was screaming so loud that you could actually almost see the sound waves bouncing off the walls and blasting out the door. In addition to being mortified, I was losing all patience because this has been going on for almost a week now, and it's an easy fix. S L E E P. After taking her to the bathroom doesn't work, I carry her out kicking and screaming, force her into the car seat and head home - all the while repeating to myself that this too shall pass. All of a sudden, I realize that it's quiet in the car. I mistook the ringing in my ear for continued screaming, apparently, and S is now fast asleep.

So, she sleeps for three and a half hours today and is slightly more manageable tonight. Seeing how well she was behaving apparently sent T over the over -tired edge, because homeboy threw a fit over a train, not wanting to eat, wanting to eat, S not throwing a fit, you name it. We finally put him to bed around 6:30 when we just couldn't take anymore, where he promptly falls asleep. R takes that opportunity to put S's crib back together. Come bed time, she goes right in and goes to sleep. Fair enough. So I think this very tired and crabby mom is going to take advantage of this situation and go to bed too. Hopefully tomorrow we'll ALL get a good behavior award.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The far reaching influence of TV

In Germany, to say we had limited channels would be an understatement. It worked in our favor, actually, because we didn't sit like zombies in front of the TV all the time, as we had been known to do prior to moving overseas. I love to have background noise, so I'm probably the biggest offender in our family of wanting the TV on.

When we got to the States and the kids had access to several channels that showed cartoons all day - well - they were enthralled and obsessed. And I have absolutely used Nick Jr to my advantage for unpacking and cleaning purposes. I've even used tv as a tantrum distraction (Look! It's DORA!!!!)

Now, these are the kids that I have to tell not to jump on the furniture about 50 times a day minimum. I also have to remind them every time they take their coats off to hang them up and not throw them on the floor. Other things I repeat incessantly include: cookies are not a breakfast food, wash your hands please, if you are going to pick your nose, at least use a tissue, pick up your toys, no running in the house, sit at the table until you are finished with dinner, I'm not your maid, and every mom's favorite - pick up your toys.

Imagine my surprise when we pulled up at Walmart a couple weeks ago and T sees the Walmart logo and says, "Save money, live better". O-kay. Today, S was sitting on the floor and stacking blocks and she counts to five - IN SPANISH. When we asked the kids last weekend if they wanted to go to Chuck E Cheese, after his enthusiastic yes I tell him it's where a kid can be a kid. He comes back with, "and they are a proud sponsor of PBSKids." Oy vey!

After an episode of Sid the Science kid - which they only watched once - T can tell you about how leaves make food and why they are green. T and S can chime in on any theme song currently used for a kids cartoon that they watch, and if Dora or Diego come on, then you'd think my little ankle biters have won the lottery. S got so excited last week that even T said, "Calm down already. It's just Diego. Go Diego Go."

When I turned of the TV today after S counted to five in Spanish, T asked me why and I said I thought that we'd seen enough TV for one day. His response? "But Nick Jr. is like Preschool on TV."

Oh my.

Monday, January 25, 2010

T can make things happen, man!

This morning I took T to school, hoping that S's insane, piercing scream fest on Friday hadn't caused me to miss anything important (or permanently damaged anyones hearing). Turns out it didn't. Hooray! Because T has an IEP, he is entitled to, and must receive, certain services. When I first started the enrollment/registration process, one of the many people I spoke with said that T would need to be reevaluated. Perish the thought, because from my experience, it's a long, long process. So after a week in his new class, his teacher and his IEP manager wanted to make a few minor changes. The more I see the way this program works, the more impressed I am. I love that the kids are assigned certain responsibilities, I love that the parents are expected to be involved, I love that there is so much communication between the teachers and the parents, and that the program encourages the parents to be a support group for one another. I also love that the reevaluation process is done while observing the child to get a complete picture of his needs and skills.

The main change that started today was that T starts the day out in a different room than last week. This room is where he will receive both his occupational therapy for his sensory issues and the remainder of his speech therapy, which is tapering off since he's doing so well. With this change, there is less interruption in his schedule and the therapy processes can be more streamlined. Cool.

T has been asking to ride the bus since we got here. When I mentioned it to Ms. B, she told me that I needed to speak to the assistant principal about it since T has in IEP. Not a problem, but I wanted to wait a couple weeks and see how T was settling in before I requested it. Plus, I feel more involved taking him to school. I mean, isn't that part of the joy of having a mini van and doing the whole soccer mom thing? When we walked into the classroom and T went through the process of putting his things away, he said something about wanting to ride the bus. Mr. S looked up at me questioningly and I explained the situation. He looked surprised that I was told to talk to the assistant principal and told me he'd check into the situation today.

I didn't hear anything when I picked T up today, so I didn't think much about it. Plus, S who woke up at 2:30 this morning and didn't get back to sleep until almost 5, was just exhausted and cranky all day today. When it was time to leave to pick up T, she refused to put on shoes, a coat, or mittens. So, I had to force her into the car. Again. Force her out of the car. Again. Carry her screaming across the parking lot. Again. It was freezing today and we had snow flurries all day, so the poor little thing had to be miserable as we went to get T. His teacher, seeing me carrying an underdressed, shoeless, screaming, fighting toddler wrapped in my coat across the parking lot (again), just sent T out to me with a wave. T, gets to me, looks at S, assesses the situation and says, "Mom, this is embarrassing." Exactly.

To further add to the irony of the situation, S is crying for T now and he reaches up to pat her back and tells me, "Mom, she really shouldn't be out here without shoes or a coat." Exact-o-mundo. We get in the car and I look back, and they are holding hands. And she's calm. Hallelujah! T then proceeds to 'explain' to me that I shouldn't have let S leave the house without being properly dressed. I agree and tell him this, but I explain that I had to pick him up by a certain time and when S refused to put on her coat or shoes (both of which were in the car with us) that I had to make a choice, and I chose to put her in the car with items she needs and pick him up on time. He thinks about this for a minute and says, "well, next time I'll just wait, then."

I love this kid.

We get home and I make lunch, try unsuccessfully to get S down for a nap, and settle down to play with the kids. Also called tantrum wrangling. The phone rings and it's the bus driver that will be picking T up for school. Starting tomorrow. And, because he's in preschool, they come to our door, so we don't have to wait at the bus stop. I'm in awe. So, I'm off to bed because I've got to have T ready for school in the morning 10 minutes earlier than we leave. He's so excited. I'm totally taking pictures.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Perfect parenting?

Tonight I was lucky enough to catch up with an old friend. It's rare when you can meet someone, hit it off so well, have spotty contact for years, yet still pick up right where you left off. I love this gal, and I admire her in so many respects.

Tonight we were trading parenting frustrations. And we were talking about how we miss our 'used to be' life. I love my kids, even when I want to lock myself in the bathroom and flush myself down the toilet to escape, and I love my life. If I could do it all over again, I really don't think I'd change a thing.

But I really, really miss my old life some days. Freedom! Only being responsible for myself! Having furniture not covered in Cheetos dust and macaroni and cheese smears! Not stepping on Thomas the Train in the middle of the night and biting my lip to keep from saying something that my kids are sure to repeat from subconscious recognition as soon as we walk into my Mom's house or the nearest church! Traveling! Reading a book without having to sacrifice sleep! Getting through a store - any store - without having to say 'hands to yourself', 'no you can't eat that', or 'because I said no' six hundred times. Not having to worry about behavioral issues, sensory processing disorders, or being a good example.

The trade off to that isn't worth it. No sweet good night kisses, no sleepy little snuggles, no one thinking that I know everything (I give another two years before they figure that's not true) and that I can fix anything. No silly songs, no funny faces, no overwhelming, completely encompassing, unconditional love. No being able to tease them out of a bad mood, no laughing at the things they come up with, no color/paint/play dough partners. No, I wouldn't trade it for anything, not even a perma-clean house. Well...let me think about that...nah - not worth it.

Another friend of mine told me once that I shouldn't apologize to my kids. I don't buy that. How am I going to teach them to accept responsibility for their actions if I don't model it? I know that hearing my parents sincerely apologize to me about certain things has made a huge difference in my life, so why wouldn't I want to pass that along?

This all leads me to wonder - are the parents that I've seen out there who seem perfect really perfect? I admire the moms I know that approach parenting with a calmness I have to force myself to practice. I've learned a lot from them just by watching them interact with their kids. Are my kids going to look back in 20+ years and realize that I did the best I could? Is it going to be good enough? I dunno.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The benefits of unpacking

I've been avoiding the remainder of the unpacking since the rest of the boxes got here on Monday. Today, because my husband is the greatest man alive, like - ever, he went into the garage and got the process started. The fact that he'd also like to park both our vehicles in the garage might have helped that along a bit.

It has amazed me as we've gone through this unpacking process what made it through the last five years unharmed and what did not. For example - there was a box of framed pictures from when we moved off base that never got wrapped or packed properly before they were shipped here. Not a single piece of glass or frame got broken. We had lamps shipped with the light bulbs still in them, plugged them up and they worked. Crazy, because the washer and dryer that was sent to storage to, well, sit for four years got damaged. The top part that has the controls got dented and really banged up on both of them.

Today, R unpacks several boxes labeled "tools" and packed around the yard tools and the power tools we didn't take to Germany were all my good clothes we sent to storage. Amazingly, they didn't get messed up. Unbelievable. We found a lot of stuff that we knew we had and a lot of things we had forgotten we had. Among my favorite finds was an ice crusher. This thing has to be from the 1970's or so, and I love it. I washed it up and crushed a bunch of ice tonight, which my kids ironically told me was 'too loud'. I still chuckle at that thought. Of course I laugh anytime S or T tells me that anything is too loud.

So, here I am, sitting here blogging away with my gigantic cup of crushed ice. Life is good.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A bad day in diva land

I'm having a great day. Even though I turned on the interior lights in the van yesterday and forgot to turn them off (which I didn't see until this morning), the van - with it's AWESOME new battery - started anyway. The old battery would completely die in the amount of time it takes to watch a movie (remember that, Laura?)

I got up and worked out, got back and the kids were still asleep. That let me take a shower without straining to hear signs of mass destruction or sibling-cide over the bathroom fan and the running water. We made it to school on time. I was able to get the form to renew my drivers license signed with absolutely no hassle on base, Old Navy was having a great sale on clothes that actually matched what T already has in his drawer, AND it was a good hair day. On top of that, we made it to Sonic for happy hour. I looooooove their ice. And their tea. And half price drinks in general.

T is also having a great day. It started a little rough, but as soon as he realized it was a school day his entire demeanor changed and he was a breeze for me all day. It fell apart right at dinner time, but I'm blaming that on fatigue and hunger. And on S.
My resident diva, the divine Ms. S, however, is having a very bad day. It all started off okay. She made it through the getting up/changed/dressed/out the door process with no problem. She was excellent while we were getting my drivers license form signed. But on the way to Old Navy, all bets were off. I stopped at Sam's to get gas and she was ticked off that she had to stay in the car. In the six minutes it took me to get from Sam's to Old Navy, she tried to fall asleep and didn't want to get out of the car. She fell and got wet on the way in, then got mad because she couldn't play with the dog mannequin and because I wouldn't buy her a small rubber bouncy ball. There was a table with crayons and coloring pages in the kids section, but she'd only sit there if I colored with her. I coaxed her out of the boys section and to the girls section by asking her if she could find some ballerina skirts. Apparently, anything that is pink or has a heart on it constitutes a ballerina skirt - even if it's pants. Or pajamas. Or tights.

It was finally a small pink, polka dotted ball which she found in a corner that made her completely agreeable. But then I wouldn't buy it, as I explained several times before we went to the register and she happily ignored. And irritable got notched up to wailing and flailing. I picked her up to carry her out of the store and then put her down outside, were she promptly sat in the closest puddle and refused to move. That's okay. I had the time to wait her out. Many minutes and stares from strangers later, I teased her out of the funk by giving her a container of gum. She wanted it put in the hood of her coat, oooookay I can roll with that.

Stepping off the sidewalk and headed to the car, she tripped and fell, skinning her knees a little bit and severely injuring her pride, and soaking the few square inches of her bottom half that wasn't wet. Ever the clever mom, I had bought her the cutest dress inside, so we got to the car and changed her clothes. That cheered my little princess up and she was fine until I stopped to try and go to the bathroom. She screamed at being made to get out of the car, she screamed when I had to turn her around and put her back in the car because the bathroom door was locked and I didn't have time to wait. She screamed when I buckled the seat belt and for about 6 minutes solid after that.

We finally got to school to pick up T, where I needed to talk to his teachers about some changes they wanted to make to his morning routine. So I parked the van, forced S into her coat, and had to drag her kicking and screaming across the parking lot because she wanted to put her gloves on, but threw one of them down because it was wet from where she voluntarily parked her own tushie in a puddle outside of Old Navy. The fit continued as I talked to T's teachers, so I hope in the process of losing a few degrees of hearing in my right ear that I absorbed all the info that I needed to. I guess we'll see on Monday. She was screaming so loud that the gate guard was watching us from a pretty significant distance to make sure I wasn't abusing her, cause sure as the world that's how it sounded. T, God bless him, clapped his hands over his ears and continued to be agreeable. Smart kid.

After another session of forcing her into the car seat, we headed for home, where she threw a fit over yogurt, cheese, and T having the audacity to want to open the fridge after she had been denied something she wanted. Once I got her blood sugar up (at least that's my best guess), she calmed down and even 'rested' on the couch. Compared to the morning events, the afternoon went much better until she refused to put on pj's and then cried because she wanted to wear her new dress, her Thomas the Tank Engine pj's and her Dora gown to bed. I came up with a brilliant solution.

And after all, tomorrow IS another day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shame on you, John Edwards

I just read an article that John Edwards admitted that he fathered a child with Reille Hunter. This is the woman he had an affair with, lied about it, got caught, then admitted it. Of course, then he said it was over, got caught again, then admitted 'the truth' version 2.0. Then he denied for a very long time that he was the father of this poor little girl, probably got caught (my guess is DNA) versus just doing the right thing and accepting responsibility which has now prompted him to come out with his current determination of the whole truth - version 3.2.7, addendum 517. Or something.

I mean, really, can you imagine the conversations behind closed doors? Maybe John went to the Bill Clinton school of adultery management, because he seemed to handle this situation in a similar manner as Bill did - deny until proof is produced, but then admit only what you have to. Funny how it never seems to occur to men such as Bill and John that keeping your pants on and zipper zipped would likely avoid all these nasty situations to begin with.

I'm not a very political person. I think the effort of keeping up with what's politically correct these days has just occupied all the available space in my brain that might possibly have once been allocated to the actual intelligent discussion of any political issues. Political discussions lead to lots of arguments. I don't like arguments. You want to debate? Cool. But rarely do people manage to discuss such things in a calm, rational, logical, and fair manner. Of course, then I feel an absurd and overwhelming need to make peace and it inevitably turns me into the bad guy. Besides, I'd much rather read gossip magazines and blogs (like so that I feel entirely justified in being snarky and self righteous. I will go on record and say that specific issues have my complete and full attention. Pro life vs. pro choice, troops in the Middle East, and gay marriage are a few examples.

Moving back to the original idea for this entry (and we're walking...and we're walking) I feel a great deal of sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards. I realize that people lie, spouses are unfaithful, and people aren't always what they seem. But this poor woman has been handed a rather rotten plate full of hardship to swallow, and I can't imagine how much this has devastated her over the last few years. Come to think of it, though, when I saw her on Oprah, I remember thinking - oh, he's totally the father of that child (I mean, we all knew it on some level, didn't we?) and she is one pissed off wife. I've been in a relationship or two where I immediately recognized the smirky, slinking 'I'm not sorry, I'm sorry I got caught' look that was also on Mr. Edwards face. (coughNormancough)Tsk tsk.

But I really feel sorry for the little girl - who is going to be the one to suffer long term. Of course, I'm sure that when Elizabeth passes on that John will have someone from his staff do some sort of climate survey to determine the proper amount of time he can wait before announcing his next relationship - whether it be with Rielle or someone else at that point - that he'll have already been in for weeks/months/years. Frankly, I hope his tongue rots and falls out of his mouth so we won't have to hear any more excuses or revised versions of the truth.

Unpacking and working out

Happily over my "where are they now" funk, it's back to real life. Unfortunately, that includes trying to figure out where all stuff that was delivered on Monday will go. Three times today I've walked into the garage, opened a box, snorted in disgust that I have no idea where to put the contents of this box either, and walked back into the house. Isn't that just the way? And how much Tupperware does a person need? I have a cabinet full that made it with me all the way from NC to SD to Germany and now to Il. And come to find out, now I've got at least one more box full. Oh good grief. Was I thinking that Tupperware might go out of business one day and I'd better get the colors I like NOW because the stuff my mom bought in the 70's and 80's is still around and going strong. Now, that's some quality plastic ware.

Yesterday morning I hauled myself out of bed and hit the gym. I was there at 5:30. It sucked. I miss my trainer, I can tell there's been some backslide in my fitness level, and the motivation to go every day isn't exactly consistent. This morning I didn't get up to go because I didn't ask R, who is officially in charge of the alarm clock, to set it for me. My first glimpse of consciousness was when he kissed me goodbye on the way out the door at 6 am. Of course, I promptly rolled over and went right back to sleep. Lucky for me, T came in about 6:45 and said, "Mom? Are you ready to wake up yet?" Well, no, not really, but then I realized what time it was. And that got my feet out of the bed and onto the floor. That also meant no time for a real shower, so I thought - hey - I'll drop T off at school and hit the gym. There's a family room here, so I can take the little diva with me. As S and I were walking to the family room I asked her - "are you ready to play with some other kids?" and she was so excited. Then we actually walked into the family room and she realized we'd be on opposite sides of the gate. It did not digest well. By the time 30 minutes had passed, I think four or five more parents and their kids had come in. All THOSE kids behaved. I'm sure they are more used to it than she is, but the kid area had the trifecta of toddler heaven - dvd (playing the Wiggles), a huge climbing/sliding structure, and soft mats. What else was there to want besides a puppy and an all you can eat snack and juice bar? Obviously something was lacking, because S was NOT happy.

I've got my iPod ear bud in one ear, the other ear trained on her wails of "Heeeeeeelp me! Mommy! Mommmmmmmy! Mooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmy! Helllllllllllllllp me! MOMMY! MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY!!" I don't know the first thing about family exercise room etiquette - do you let them scream for a little bit to see of they calm down and accept the inevitable, do you whisk them out immediately, do you talk to them soothingly from your perch on the torture device of the day, do you put the other earbud in and just smile and wave? I have no idea. I tried encouraging her to climb and slide, to play with the other kids, to watch the Wiggles, to roll the balls around, to grab her coloring books out of her book bag and color...none of this worked. She basically walked around with my keys (the look in her eyes told me "I'll drop 'em. I'll find the smallest space they'll fit through at the top and back of this climbing structure and laugh and laugh while you figure out how to get them back") and ignored any attempt I made to help her entertain herself or play well with others. When none of that worked, she walked over to the little boy eating a snack and did the 'stare down'. When he offered her some of his food, she wailed NOOOOOOO and put her head down on the table. Then she took toys away from bigger kids and tried to throw them over the gate. The other parents were trying not to laugh at this point, and after 30 non continuous minutes on the elliptical, I gave up and switched to sit ups and push ups in the kiddie corral. S tries to cover me up with a blanket while I'm doing crunches and the tries to crawl under me as I'm doing push ups. I mean really! Does the kid not realize I could squish her like a pancake? For crying out loud already!

Lucky for us that the other parents and kids were really nice and understanding. We made it out alive with no harm done for the most part. As per usual lately, I just apologized my way out the door and told S that she may as well resign herself, because we were going to be coming back a lot. I'm already wondering if taking T to entertain her would help me or hurt me more. I guess there's one way to find out.

After leaving the gym, S and I did some errands and then went to pick up T. Since coming home, I've been attempting to organize and unpack the last few boxes. It isn't going as well as I'd hoped. I'm starting to think that if we didn't have to replace it, complain about needing it, or sorely miss it that there should be no problem in stacking it up neatly in the utility room and dealing with it in 3 more years.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Visiting the past

This weekend, a Facebook friend of mine that I know from high school posted a bunch of pictures on her Facebook page from way back when. Who ever doesn't believe that time machines exist needs to be me looking at these pictures because WHAM! I was right back in high school (and it was bad enough the first time).

One of the pictures had a high school boyfriend in it. Oh, man, I had it bad for this guy! For anyone familiar with the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, this guy was the Edward to my Bella. Except I wasn't popular or in demand of any kind. No, really! Ahh...the absorbing, all consuming power of young love. Even after we broke up, we stayed good friends for several years and I exchanged Christmas cards with his mom until she and I eventually lost track of one another in the late 90's. A couple of years ago, I came across a necklace that he'd given me when we were dating. It was his grandfather's and it meant a lot to him. I offered it back when we broke up, but he told me to keep it, and I did -for all those years. When I found it, I just felt this overwhelming urge to give it back. I figured he'd have kids by now and he may want to pass that necklace to his kids since he got it from his grandfather. A quick search of property records and I had his address. It's a little scary how much information is out there on the internet and how easy it is to get. Just sayin'. I sent him the necklace and a note with some pictures I had somehow ended up with, thinking he might want those too. I gave him my email address and said I hoped to hear from him and how he was doing. I never did.

I was surprised to see that someone had tagged his picture on Facebook, so I clicked on his name, and lo and behold he has a Facebook page. Well, get out of town! I sent him a friend request, which he ignored. Color me a little sad about that - but it certainly isn't going to have me lying in the woods in a fetal position or in a depressed stupor until I become best friends with a werewolf. (Which, oddly enough, we spent an entire summer reading books about vampires ad werewolves. How ironic!) I hope he's well, I hope he's happy. C'est la vie.

Coincidentally, the last batch of stuff that was delivered Monday contained a box labeled books. When I opened it, it was literally a time capsule. Junior High yearbooks, letters from friends and old boyfriends, tons of pictures, a collection of journals whose entries are about as consistent as my blog entries have been for the last two years (are we sensing a pattern here?). All in all, it was a big ol' box of memories and I had the best time going through all that stuff, so many great memories from my junior high years and even high school (despite my overall determination to forget as much of high school as possible).

But the journals - whooooooooeeeeeeeeeee. I'm just going to say it. I was a boy crazed, self absorbed idiot. I'm sure that numerous people who knew me then would readily agree. If the journals were any indication whatsoever, it was beyond obvious. What a hoot to relive those years through the eyes of my teenage self. I found myself wondering what happened to all the people I knew back then, and a lot of them were on Facebook once I bothered to look. And all of them that I requested as friends added me. So maybe I wasn't as bad as my private self came across.

So I propose this: anyone out there that ever reads this and has a box o' memories they are ready to put behind them - I say throw a little party, celebrate the you that you were then versus the you that you are now and burn, burn, burn the evidence. Provided, of course, that you want to.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Would you like butter with that?

Last night at dinner we were noshing on some spaghetti and garlic bread for R's birthday dinner. I bought some plain italian bread and was planning on eating that with dinner instead of the heavily buttered garlic bread. The kids saw me eating plain bread and wanted some too. I had no issue with that whatsoever. But then they wanted margarine on their bread. Okay, no big deal. Then they wanted to put the margarine on themselves. Eh - not my favorite idea, but they have to learn sometime and why not let them try if they've taken the initiative, right? Only the last time they were given free reign with bread and margarine, the margarine was put on so thick you'd think they were shooting a country crock commercial. And then S licks the margarine off the bread, which just grosses me out. BLECH. She also insists on calling it cheese. Whateva.

Anywho, they are buttering their bread and being fairly conservative with the thickness of the margarine and I look up and see a strange look on R's face. I look over at S, and she's buttering the already buttered garlic bread. I'm amused and grossed out, and then she leans over the bread and licks it, getting this huge glob of margarine on her tongue. She eats it and goes, "Ummm! Goooooooooood!" and I can't help but laugh as I fight the urge to throw up in my mouth a little. As she goes to the margarine tub for a replenish, I get a bright idea and say, "Who's ready for......CAKE!" And that works great - the margarine with a little bread on the side has been forgotten. We do the whole birthday thing for R, and I realize that the icing is butter cream which means that it's made up of butter, sugar, and food coloring. And what am I doing? Licking it off my fingers. So who am I to judge? And really - is it better to let her have straight margarine or is it better to mix it with a gallon of sugar and pass is off as allowable. Cause sitting in preschool eating butter is going to get a very different reaction than sitting in preschool eating icing. It's certainly something to think about, isn't it?

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Neighbor Diaries, chapter 2

Yep. Yep yep yep yep yep yep yep yep yep yep. Yeeeeep.

So the movers get here this morning around 10:30 with the rest of our stuff. The stuff that, for the most part, we haven't thought about in over 4 years. The stuff that includes a piano that may be the royal and final undoing of any hope we have of ever co existing peacefully with our neighbors.

The truck pulls up and we find out that we are just one of about 5 deliveries they are making between South Dakota and Florida. So it's a very, very big truck. A big enough truck that it blocks our driveway and the our neighbors driveway and hangs over on both sides. Oh NO!

R and I shoot each other a look that says, "uh oh" and try to tactfully speed up the process as much as we can, which turns out to be not very much at all. The two unloaders are the size of a medium toothpick and I'm thinking how on earth are they going to move a piano?

About 15 minutes into the unloading process, I hear the ominous rumble of the garage door next door opening. (duh duh duuuuuhhhhhhhh). This time, I'm outside with the movers and it's BOTH our next door neighbors. He starts in immediately on the blocked driveway and Dennis (how odd is it that both our moving experiences involved men named Dennis), bless his South Dakota heart stood his ground and calmly told our McNeighbors that he had a right to park there to unload us, they'd do it as quickly as possible, and to feel free to call TMO if there was a problem.

Well, needless to day, our McNeighbors did not enjoy hearing that and the verbal assaults began. I remember Mr. McNeighbor calling him a smart ass, and I can't repeat what the wife was saying. R went in to call security forces, because 1) we wanted to cover our own tushies and 2)we were very concerned that this would escalate. And you know, we are lovers, not fighters. heh.

The McNeighbors go inside, then Mr. McNeighbor comes out and moves Ms. McNeighbors car out of the garage and parks it on the street. He does this by driving through their yard. Sigh. At this point, R has talked to security forces who tells him to call the local police department since it's their jurisdiction. The local police department tells R they will come out if there's a disturbance, so I guess our neighbors didn't bother to call the police after all - but let me assure you they sure threatened to, among other things.

As Mr. McNeighbor is walking back to his house from parking Ms. McNeighbor's car, I walk over and say that I'm really sorry they are so upset, but that we'll get the stuff unloaded and the driveway unblocked as soon as possible. I have to say, even though he was obviously angry (and I'd be angry too if I had to listen to MsMcN as much as he probably does) he was nice-ish to me and said that his problem wasn't with me, it was with the guy who blocked his driveway. Which of course restarts the verbal tit for tat until Mr McN goes in and shuts his garage door. Jeez.

Once we get all unloaded, the kids start banging on the piano keys. There is no way - NO WAY - that this is going to end up positively.

Piano, anyone?

Stuff, stuff, and even more stuff

Today we planned to get up and take the kids to the zoo. Notice I say planned. Unfortunately, we talked about it yesterday with the kids and they are all excited about it. Now being excited about going to the zoo is not a bad thing in any respect.

However, last night we get a static filled phone call on my cell and I get about every 20th word or so, enough to figure out that whomever is calling is talking about our stored goods in South Dakota. Since I generally use up my daily allotment of patience by 9 am, and that's if I get up after 7, I gave up about 45 seconds in when the guy wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise to tell him that we had a bad connection and I couldn't understand him.

I hand the phone to R, telling him that I think it's about our stored stuff, because I'm supportive and wonderful like that. He does the cell phone jig, walking around to stand in front of doors and windows - anything to get clearer reception - and the guy finally lets R say something. At the same time, S is upstairs yelling "Mooooooooommmmiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeee" and I hurry up there to see what she needs before she wakes up T, who will increase the loudness factor times two or two hundred, depending on his mood.

Now would also be a good time to mention that we were TRYING to watch the season premiere of 24, which we got completely hooked on when we could borrow DVD series from the base library in Germany. Which, just a quick side note, when we left the states DVR was just starting to show up and our attitude was 'meh - that's why we have a VCR'. Then I experienced the utter joy of DVR while visiting in 2007, and gave it the respect it rightfully deserves. When we got cable hooked up here, we never even thought to ask for DVR because we figured it would be an additional fee and really, the last thing we need to do is get re-hooked on a bunch of tv shows. But the other day when the kids were playing, my two year old (the divine Ms S, resident diva) managed to hit the record button when Dora the Explorer was on, which is how I discovered we even HAD DVR. So as 24 was coming on and we were trying to get the kids to bed, I suggested we record 24 so we wouldn't end up frustrated with the constant interruptions. I toss the remote to R, who is like, "We have DVR?!?" and I'm all, "yep, S hit the button the other day, which is how I knew". So R looks at the remote for a bit, tosses it back to me and says - "I don't know how to do it." Oh. Well, me either. So I take look at it, shrug, and push the record button. And folks, it was actually that simple. Made me feel kinda silly that I thought it would be some complicated process like programming your VCR used to be. Just sayin'...

So anyway, it turns out that the rest of our stuff is on it's way from South Dakota and will be here in the morning. Supposedly. R comes upstairs and says, "That was the company that's storing our stuff, and they are about 80 miles west of St. Louis."And because we are such brilliantly effective communicators, the following conversation takes place:

Me: "They are coming TONIGHT?!?"
R: "No, they are 80 miles away from St. Louis right now."
Me: "So......."
R: "What?"
Me: with great impatience "When are they coming?"
R: "They. Are. Outside. Of. St. Louis."
R: "OH! They said tomorrow morning about 9."
Me: "But we are taking the kids to the zoo tomorrow. And we just finished unpacking today. Crap."
R: "I know, I know, but there's nothing I can do about it. They said we have 33 boxes. "
Me: "33 more boxes"
R: "Yes, plus the piano, and washer and dryer."
Me: "Oh."
R: "yep"

So here it is, 10:30 am, no men with a truck, kids that want to go to the zoo, and me (and probably R) with a big knot of tension in the tummy area just wishing we could get it over with already. I can't decide if I want them to just put it all in the garage and let us sort it out later or if we should try to deal with it all today. The poor kids. To top it all off, it's R's birthday and I went out this morning to get the cake - which turned out to be an awesomely cool cupcake cake decorated like Spiderman - so the kids are all, if no zoo then cake! And I'm all like, no way, Jose am I pumping you up with all that sugar when we have to try and orchestrate the second coming of the boxes.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

What do you say?

For the last few weeks, blog entries have been coming easy to me. But tonight I find myself staring at an empty screen and a blinking cursor and I'm wondering what it is that I really have to say.

There's a lot going on right now in general, lots of it I pour out to this blog such as the school issues with T, my frustrations about certain things (coughcrankyneighborscough), my uncertainty of being in a new state at a new base, and so on. But some if it isn't mine to talk about even though its weighs mightily on my heart.

So, staring at a page that isn't so blank anymore and following this basic train of thought, is it better when you aren't sure what to say to say nothing or do you fumble ahead and hope that you don't seriously mess it up? I haven't figured out the answer in the short time it's taken me to type this out and I'm not sure I ever will, but let me just say this: for all of you - friends and family - that I'm lucky enough to have in my life, know that I love and treasure you, even when I don't know how to express it well.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Easy entertainment

While we were in North Carolina, we ventured bravely into the mall there several times. I feel the need to mention that I'd rather do almost anything than go to a mall. I think the invention of online shopping has saved not only my sanity, but the health and general well being of many of the folks I'd be forced to interact with.

Sad to say, but the older I get, the less I enjoy being in large crowds of people. Of course, having two kids than can, when motivated, run faster than the speed of sound contributes greatly to this. I didn't understand the danger of strange people/strange places when I was five so I'm not surprised they don't understand either. But the world is a lot less safe these days than it was back then, which is I'm sure the exact way my parents felt at this point.

At any rate, my uptight, overprotective self took the kids to the mall a couple of times anyway. We all survived. (golf clap, please) At said mall, T sees this bungee jump type attraction. He begs and begs to do it. R and I are not sure if this is such a great idea, but in all honesty, it's an activity that overall plays right into T's sensory needs. We eventually decide to let him try. He gets hooked up to a harness that is attached to bungee cords. He's supposed to jump on the trampoline and the bungee cords will allow him to jump higher and higher.

Our little control freak (I wonder where he gets THAT) got off to a bit of a shaky start, but the jumping and sensory input of it all had him bouncing with delight (sorry, couldn't resist) in no time. Seeing her big brother having the time of his life made S want to do it too. So we made sure she hit the minimum weight and let her try. Parents have to stay outside the jump area, and S took off her shoes and socks and climbed onto the trampoline thing really easily. But when the guy went to hook up the harness and she realized it wasn't the equivalent of a open air bouncy castle, she wanted none of it. Fortunately for us, the guy running it was a good sport and gave us back our money.

T talked non stop about it for days. When the kids and I went to the mall in this area, that was he first thing he looked for, but this mall doesn't have it. I'm not sure if I'm glad or disappointed about that yet.

But today, we found a car wash off base because the ones on base are still closed. R's car has been filthy ever since our trip back from Oklahoma but the temperature didn't get above freezing for about 10 - 12 days and all the car washes were shut down. We were just looking for a spray off one, but happened upon a qwik lube/detail/car wash that ended up being one of the ones that you drive through. And there we were as the car slowly went through the auto wash process and the kids were laughing and squealing in the back like we hadn't heard in weeks. I would have never thought in a million years that going through a car wash would be the most fun we'd have as a family but there ya go. I guess you just never know, do you?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Judge not yeast ye be judged

Wednesday the kids and I headed to the commissary. I loooooooooooooooove this commissary. Right after we first got to Illinois, I went into a grocery store to pick up a few things and I was really surprised at how expensive everything was. I moaned and groaned about the commissary in Germany being so expensive (I still think $1.78 for a two liter of Coke is just silly), but turns out that I had no clue how expensive food is in normal stores these days. A box of Apple Jacks - the small one and not the big one was $4.98. Ouch. Especially since the kids are capable of eating half a box a day if I'd let them.

Since it's a new place and the other kids that we've seen haven't been running wild, my kids are behaving pretty well - so far - when we've been in the commissary. This commissary is always, always busy. Compared to the prices off base, it's understandable why that's the case. We were almost done getting the things on our list and we were in the bread section. T picked that moment in time to get upset. I'm not sure what upset him, but he decided we didn't need bread. While I applaud his umm....steadfastness and determination, there are times when it's rather annoying. Like then. So I walk to get the bread we usually buy and leave T standing where I can see him, but where he wasn't right with S and I. I grab a loaf of bread and wheel the cart back to where T is standing, being observed by an older lady with a very disapproving look on her face.
I smile at her, not sure what exactly is going on, and she announces that T has ruined the bread displays. Sounds about right if he's in a mood, so I apologize to her (cause I'm sure she's the one who created the displays - and seriously? Bread displays? Really?!?!? When did putting bread on shelves become a display?) and thank her for letting me know. Which, you know, I did appreciate because displays or not, T doesn't need to be picking on poor defenseless loaves of bread that can easily be squished and not speak up or fight back for themselves.

At any rate, it took me a minute to figure out what exactly she meant. Mollified by my apology, she stalked off after picking up a loaf of bread from a display that hadn't been destroyed by my personal Tasmanian devil. But I finally saw what she was talking about. There were two affected sections - the first section had two loaves of bread stacked up per shelf. T had pushed the top loaves to the back of the bottom loaves. The second section was the Sara Lee/Pepperidge Farm bread that's a wider but shorter loaf, so it was actually standing on it's end and he had pushed them over and then to the back of the shelf. Okay, I agree with the lady that that was unnecessary, so I explain to T that he needs to fix the loaves back.

That, naturally, starts a bit of a power struggle/standoff. He screams and cries a little bit, I stay calm despite the crowd of retirees that has gathered to see the morning show and insist that he return all bread loaves to their rightful positions and places. He tries the "But I caaaaaaaaaaan't" argument, which never works with me, and then he starts to go into full meltdown mode. I'm awfully embarrassed at this point, especially since S is adding to the fray by leaning half out of the shopping cart shouting, "NO T! NO NO NONONONONOO!" That never, ever, ever helps. Ever. The angrier he gets, the danger the bread is in of being domestically abused. When I see him go after the first loaf, I react without thinking and pop him on the head like Little Bunny FooFoo. Not hard, but enough to get his attention and change his focus.

Ten minutes later, the bread displays have been restored to their former glory and we are getting ready to head to the checkout aisle. T is finally actually talking to me and it seems the displays offend his ocd tendencies of how bread should be stacked or presented or whatever. I mean, it's really bugging him - especially the loaves that are on end. I have no idea why. So I tell him that when he grows up, he can work in a commissary and ask to be put in charge of the bread section and he can fix it any way he wants. A lady that had been standing to the side of one of the bread aisles bursts out laughing and tells me that that's the best answer she's heard a parent give a child in a long time. T, seeing her laughing, starts laughing too, and says, "Yeah, my Mom is silly."

No, no honey. Your mom is trying to come up with creative yet effective ways of dealing with public meltdowns where she doesn't leave a store in either tears or handcuffs. But silly works.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The school of hard knocks

Poor S. She had a horrible day on Tuesday. Waking up at 4 am, she was just grouchy and hyper tired all day. When R came home for lunch and we were discussing the horrible, terrible pricing at the local Honda dealership, the kids were literally running around in a circle from the kitchen to the living room with doodle pro boards. Somehow, and I don't know how, S either fell or got hit with something (methinks perhaps it was a doodle pro board since they were swinging them around) and her top teeth bit into her bottom lip. Poor thing - it was a painful, swollen, bloody mess.
This is what her lip looked like last night, which is a huge improvement from the day before.
She was a great sport about letting us clean her up and put ice on it to keep the swelling down. Two minutes later, she was running again and tripped on the toy box lid and scraped up her leg and arm. We calmed her down from that little adventure and she runs into the corner of the wall on our way to the car to register T for school. Just. not. a. good. day. But she sure looks cute with a ponytail, doesn't she? Gloves and bracelets courtesy of Grandma R.

And the winner of the most interesting Christmas gift goes to....

R's Mom.

Yesterday we got two packages from her -one addressed to R and one to the Dahl Family. I let the kids open up the family package which contained:

An adorable felt bucket Santa (see picture) for each little ankle biter
T's had: an unpainted wooden helicopter and truck (the craft kind that you paint yourself)
a toothbrush that has a suction cup on the bottom (cool idea!)
a gummy finger with candy bones and a lollipop ring (no comment)
some matchbox cars
a plastic candy cane filled with Hershey's version of M&M's
a cute personalized picture frame ornament with T's name on it
a whistle - a metal one on a string. not that it should cause any problems in this household.
a nerf type football

S's had: a package of bracelets in pastel colors
a two pack of gloves (which she has worn pretty much nonstop since finding them)
a package of barrettes
a plastic candy cane filled with Hershey's version of M&M's
a suction bottomed tooth brush
another gummy finger
a whistle (again, on a sting - yay)
a nerf type ball
a personalized picture frame ornament with S's name on it.

R and I got a lovely ornament from Pigeon Forge

I got a salt and pepper shaker set. The shakers are shaped like wrapped Christmas gifts and sit on a festive holiday sled.

R's package was a scrapbook of his soccer playing years from 1978-1980.

I think the felt Santa buckets are the cutest things I've ever seen. Unfortunately, the kids love them so much that they are already starting to come apart. Never fear though - I've got glue and if I run out, I've got about 1,000 places to buy more.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Here we go again, I think...

I finally got my s*** together enough to get T registered at the base elementary school yesterday. It only took 3 phone calls to talk to about 5 different people (none of which told me the same thing other than what I'd need to bring to get T registered). They have a preschool program which seems pretty similar to what T's former school offered but they have four classrooms as opposed to one. Hallelujah! From what I saw yesterday, they try to separate the kids by age and abilities, which means with any luck T will be placed with the more mainstreamed group. Of course, they also said they wanted to get him started as soon as possible (as in they would let me hear something hopefully by yesterday afternoon, but definitely by this afternoon), and I STILL haven't heard anything back from them.

At one point yesterday, a person told me they would want to completely re-evaluate T to determine what services he needed. My heart sank to my knees, because the one thing I've learned is that the evaluation process takes much longer than they say it will. I don't want to have to go back to work so the kids can go to a decent preschool, but I sure am thinking about it and I'll do it if I need to. This is just a continually frustrating process. Harrumph. I need to figure out what T's rights are and the services that those rights guarantee - I got the feeling yesterday that with an IEP, we were guaranteed services - so I need to do some research tonight so that when I end up having to call the school in the morning I'm prepared to have a calm, informed, coherent conversation with the preschool program staff.

I dislike this part of it. I always feel like my insisting on anything with T will end up hurting him in the long run. Then again, I can't just sit by and do nothing. Ahh, parental dilemmas. Where would we all be without them?

To completely change the subject, the temperature here today was at least 40. 40!!!!!!! It was almost warm enough for shorts. Just kidding. The kids and I went out this morning to do errands and when we came back it was nice enough that when they asked to play outside, I had no problem with that. T really missed his bike. I have to laugh at S, because while she most certainly CAN pedal a tricycle, she most certainly has no DESIRE to do so. At the preschool program she attended in Germany, she was quite successful in getting others to push her or pedal for her (there were a lot of double bikes there). She got a bit frustrated when I made her pedal herself today, but we are on flat land, so there's no reason she can't propel herself.

Lucky for all of us, she handled the frustration well because (dunh dunh dunh) our neighbor opened her garage door and parked her car in the driveway so she could clean off the concrete in her garage. I did not make eye contact and neither of us spoke to each other. I did, however wisely, keep the kids on our side of the driveway and then I took them to the play ground ASAP. At this point, I view her as a kind of Medusa, making direct eye contact may turn me into stone or mush. I'm not sure which and I don't care to find out. But I take it as a positive sign that she didn't ask me to stop the kids from moving, speaking, or breathing in the few minutes we were in the same immediate space. heh! It's progress, right?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Well, blah.

Yesterday was such a great day. Everything just seemed to flow well and easily. I love days like that.

We got the van back yesterday, and as we expected, the battery was totally dead. We'd been having problems with it before we left Germany, and for goodness' sake, it's a 2003, so it's time for a new battery. As I got in to drive it home, I noticed that the TCS (traction control system) and the engine light were on. I'm guessing that the engine light may have something to do with how little gas it had in it for shipping, so we filled it up and we'll see if it resets. The TCS light was much easier, it was just a switch that got flipped. I like easy fixes. I also like easy fixes that are inexpensive, such as pushing a button, tightening a gas cap, or flipping a switch.

The van needs an oil change, new wipers, and to have the tires rotated too. In addition, one of the remote entry fobs died a horrible death in Germany and needs to be replaced. So I'm figuring that I'll just make an appointment and take the car in for well-deserved once over from the local Honda dealership. They have a great website - you can make appointments online and everything. You can also see the pricing. I'm in sticker shock. The 75000 mile service is $250, which covers the oil change, checking the belts, fluids, rotating the tires, checking the air pressure, etc. To check why the check engine light is on is $99.95. If the timing belt needs to be replaced, that's another $800 plus change (all prices are approximate, of course) and a new battery will set me back another $100 +.

This is turning out to be one expensive, stressful, frustrating move. Enough already. Geez!

Then I call the school system to try and figure out what to do about T. One transfer, two phone calls, and a lot of "I'm not sure"s later, I'm waiting on the assistant principal to call me back. It looks like T will have to start the evaluation process all over. ALL OVER. You have got to be kidding me. Of course there's no comparable program to the one he attended in Germany here and I'm ready to just run screaming down the street in frustration. Only I'd probably just slip on the ice and end up in some cast on a part of my body, which would make the rest of the unpacking and the constant freaking cleaning a real pain.

We are out of bread and T is refusing to get dressed so we can go to the store. S got up at 4:45 am and made noise (no matter what we tried) until T was awake too. So it's 10:30ish and the three of us are Grrrrr to the ouchy. I can't decide if I want a drink or a nap more. It's not a good sign that I'm opening the fridge to eye up the amaretto.

But this attitude isn't going to get me anywhere but in a worse mood and all stressed out. So! Here's the way I'm going to handle this. I'm heading to the nearest Advance Auto (or similar store) after I Jackie Chan the T man into his clothes. Or, maybe I'll just take him out in his pj's. It's certainly not the worst thing that could ever happen, and it appeals to me more than a fight does. I'm going to get a battery and wiper blades and ask if they can diagnose the check engine light for me. I'll make an appointment for the 75000 mile service at Honda because I know that the van really needs it and I'm hoping that this will catch any issues before they become catastrophes. Then we are going to the grocery store whether the kids like it or not. After we accomplish that, I'm going to start calling FCC providers. The kids need some playtime with other kids and if I have to pay to make that happen, then so be it. I need a mental break from the fighting and they need a break from my brilliant, incisive parenting style of snapping, "STOP YELLING! GEEZ!!!!"

Oh, and Publishers Clearing House? Any time you are ready to deliver that $10 million check is good with me. The sooner the better. Just sayin'....

Monday, January 11, 2010

No one really wants to hear the unedited truth, do they?

Since coming back to the States, we've discovered Redbox, which is like the best idea ever. It's a self service kiosk that rents and dispenses movies for $1.00 a day. Loooooooooooove this idea. This weekend I got an email from Redbox with a code for a free rental. Well, heck! Sign me up for that! I remembered it last night so T and I took off looking for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which was in stock when we left, but gone when we got there. Oh well....

Instead I ended up renting a Tinkerbell movie for the kids and Julie and Julia for R and I. I actually saw this movie at my dad's but the kids were rowdy, and R ended up taking them out of the room since Dad and Susan were going to be charged for the movie. Even though it's a movie about cooking, I thought there was enough there that it would be worth renting again - especially for $1.

Just in case you don't know, the movie is based on Julie Powell, who decided to cook and blog about all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the course of one year. I haven't read the blog or the book, but I loved the movie. I can easily identify with how adrift both Julie and Julia felt at a certain point in their lives. I still wonder at what point I'm going to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I'll be sure and share the news as soon (if ever) as I figure it out. But I'm very content, so maybe my life now is where I'm meant to be. Don't know. But I am very, very fortunate and am glad that I realize it while I can enjoy some of it.

In the movie, Julie and her husband have a fight and he tells her that with this blogging/cooking project, she thinks she's become the center of the universe. Hmmmmm. Is that what I'm after too? Feeling like I'm at the center of someone, anyone's universe? If so, does that mean I'm a narcissist or have (in general) a bloated idea of my own self importance? I mean, seriously, why should anyone that doesn't know me care about the day to day life of my tiny little life? I started this blog as a way to keep my friends and family updated on our life while we were in Germany. I was feeling isolated and blogging seemed like a good way to reach out and 'be present', if that makes any sense. The downside to blogging? Everyone already knows what's going on, so there are fewer emails and general communications - which was an interesting dilemma for me. I was hoping for more interaction, not less.

And then there's the whole editing issue - I've already ticked off my mom enough that she doesn't read this anymore, and I'm sure she's not the only one I've offended. While offending someone is never on my agenda, where's the balance between sharing how you truly feel and avoiding hurting people's feelings unnecessarily? I do realize that it's not possible to make everyone happy, but I'm not the kind of person that would intentionally hurt someone's feelings either. I feel like I'm fairly direct, but I try really hard to be tactful. And, I really don't want to end up with this as some ongoing complaint session. There's enough negativity in the world as it is.

With that in mind, I was on FB today and looked up my sister in law's page. Sigh. She's pregnant again, which isn't a bad thing at all. But when did FB take the place of any other form of notification? As I'm scrolling down to catch up with what's going on in her life, I remember why I originally hid her posts. She and my brother make fun of everything and everyone. I don't believe they do it to be purposefully hurtful, but they also don't care that it can be and often is. It's just not my thing. You can be funny without making fun of people. You can make your point without trying to make someone else look wrong or silly or stupid.

My brother and dad have a strained relationship and have for a few years. It is what it is, and I'm not in or getting into the middle of it. My brother and I don't have a good relationship either. He was horrible to me when I was younger and he has no use for me at all unless he needs or wants something from me. In all fairness, that's how I see the relationship. So I had to laugh out loud as I scrolled through her FB posts and read about how my brother tries so hard with his family but is still alienated. Then again, that's how he apparently really feels. How sad for all of us that it's come to this. I'm not sure there's a solution to any of it.

If we were all to sit down and try to work this out (which would totally, absolutely never happen), it would be an ineffective disaster of, "I'm fine, I don't have a problem" on most sides while everyone truly felt differently. But, let us all take the red pill and be totally honest about how we feel, then everyone would hurt everyone else's feelings and we'd all get defensive and declare that no one else understands us. It would be funny if it weren't so real.

But the thing is, life is short and you never know what's going to happen tomorrow. So I think I need to get a running start, jump over the hurdle that is my ego or pride or whatever about my brother and sister in law and try again to build a better relationship - especially since our kids are going to be fairly close in ages. Wish me luck. I'm SO going to need it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Oh, the weather outside is frosty....

Quite a cold snap we are having. It started about a week and a half ago, and it's been a long time since I remember it being this cold for this long. When I was in high school, I remember the temperature getting down to a little below 0 degrees for a couple days, and hearing the lady I babysat for talk about the last time she remembered weather this cold. A week or so later, and the cold snap ended, and we went back to more 'normal' temperatures. I was waiting for the school bus thinking that 32 degrees almost felt warm compared to the week before.

Yesterday, we were out running errands and getting to know the area a little more. Side note: we stumbled on downtown Belleville yesterday and I can't wait to go back once it's warm enough to walk around outside with small children without worrying about frostbite. Maybe I worry too much. Hmmm... At any rate, I think it was 15 degrees and I found it to be bearable. Now that's kinda scary. Of course, the leather coat and the gloves helped tremendously.

When we got home, R and I shoveled the driveway and the sidewalks associated with our house. Our neighbors park a vehicle in their driveway, so R and I debated on how far over to shovel because they park as close to 'our side' of the driveway as they can. So while we want to keep our area up to code, so to speak, I have no intention of shoveling any part of their driveway. (Especially since the spectacularly negative meeting with Ms McNeighbornotsofriendly.) But, I also have no idea how strict the show shoveling police are here. In South Dakota, we had 24 hours from the time the snow stopped to clear our area. While R mostly shoveled the driveway after our snow on Thursday, all the blowing wind resulted in a tiny little snow drifts in front of our garage door and on the sidewalk leading to our front door. Since we didn't know, we just shoveled it all, and luckily there was a dividing line in the concrete between our portion of the driveway and the one next door. R made a good point that we should avoid anything that would get our neighbors upset - like shoveling too close to their car - but then I, the queen of second guessing everything, decided they'd more likely be upset if we didn't shovel our full half. Translation: I thought we should shovel our entire half so that every time we pull out of the garage and see their mostly unshoveled side, I'd feel justified in smirking that we did it right and they didn't - even though we are a bunch of driveway blocking, satellite disconnecting mutants. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Vanilla and Chocolate

The first time I got married, the current home decor trends consisted of a lot of bold colors - ones like hunter green, navy blue, and burgundy. I am totally, completely, helplessly untrendy. When I try to dress in trendy clothes, I look like 'that woman' who is 60 trying to relive her 20's. Not. Pretty.

I also have no concept of patterns and fabrics and how to blend, match, or pair them. I love to watch HGTV or any other home improvement show and I'm always thinking, "hunh! I had no idea you could do that - or that - or that." These people have talents that I don't think I'll ever develop. In the very early 90's, I had an outfit that I loooooooooooved. It was a rayon shirt that was red, black, and white in a funky blocky pattern and a pair of shorts I always wore with it. I felt so pretty in that outfit - it was comfy, it was similar to what people with any sense of fashion were wearing at the time. I was so proud of myself. I was GETTING it. As my room mate and I were about to go out for the evening, she asked me, "Ugh! Are you really going to wear THAT again?" Apparently mixing a rayon shirt and knit shorts was a big no no. So all this time I'd been walking around thinking I was hot stuff, I apparently looked like an idiot. Which, you know, I think I realized on some level because heavy into my Duran Duran phase in the 80's, I actually went to the mall in black pleated Limited pants (that snapped at the ankle - remember those?!?), a blue and black large checked plaid shirt that was basically a shirt mullet (it came to the waist in the front and had a tail - for lack of a better description - in the back), black leather fingerless gloves, a blue fedora with a black band around it, and to top it ALL off I was wearing blue granny ankle boots with a black lace overlay. Oh the horror! I'm literally mortified just describing the outfit. Thank the good lord there are no pictures. The outfit, paired with my appallingly big hair, my generous 80's makeup (frosted pink lipstick, three inches of foundation, and three coats of BLUE mascara - ugh!) had people laughing at me as I strutted around the mall. Sadly, I didn't care because I KNEW I looked good (insert eye roll here).

Fast forward to today. My color preferences are all neutrals. Does anyone remember that commercial about vanilla being boring? I don't remember if it was for ice cream or something else, but somehow in my mind, I equate beige shades with vanilla and with boring. But hey, I'm kinda boring and it does go with everything, so there ya go. Plus, vanilla is my absolute favorite flavor of ice cream. So, in JC Penney yesterday I'm looking for thermal curtains and I realize - I have no idea what color to choose. The walls here are a yellowish beige, the carpet is a grayish beige, our sofa's were straight up vanilla before all the crayon, apple juice, marker, dirt, food, Cheetos, chocolate milk, and ink pen accidents. Before we left Germany, R shampooed the furniture, which made it look 1000% better, but I guess the stains came back because the couches sure looked nasty to me when they were unloaded. Sigh. The kitchen has a beige base tile with some green and brown thrown in. Since our living room and kitchen flow together, I wanted to get a color that would work with both rooms since the doors we are covering are just about in the middle of it all. So, what colors did I buy? Chocolate brown and vanilla beige. I think the color description on the panels may actually say chocolate and vanilla as the color description. We put the panels up, and decided on the brown curtains. So our house can now literally be described as vanilla and chocolate. At least it's not harvest gold or avocado green, right? Any one else for some ice cream?

Friday, January 8, 2010

No knocks = good news

Yay! Even with hanging up pictures and screaming kids for the last day or so, our neighbor hasn't come back over, left any nasty notes, or (that we know of) complained to anyone that's going to get us in trouble. We hope. I just re-read this so let me clarify - I'm not hanging up screaming kids, I'm just living with them. ha.

I spent several hours this morning putting together a framed photo collage after unpacking yet another box of pictures. Where in the world did we put all these things in our small apartment in Germany? Yeeesh. How is it possible that we can be in a house this big and I still feel like I need more space? It just makes no sense.

And, it's still freakin' cold here. Our heat is on overdrive, even though it's only on 70. It feels more like 62 downstairs and 80 upstairs. I'm convinced that a large part of the problem is due to the amount and size of windows and glass doors downstairs. So today, after R came home for lunch so I could have the car for the rest of the day (our van still isn't here....sigh), the kids and I headed to purgatory, also known as the mall. JC Penney was having a sale on thermal curtains that are supposed to help block out heat or cold and help reduce energy costs. I sure hope so!

I also found some super cute curtains for S's room that were really, really reduced. I can't wait to put them up tomorrow and see how they look. I tried to get T interested in the curtain choosing process, and to my huge amusement, he picked out really frilly, lacy, or fringed curtains. But he wanted them in navy blue. That kid is hilarious. He also loved the bead curtains but there's absolutely no way that's happening. Since the kids went along peacefully (for the most part) with the shopping experience, I let them ride the carousel on our way out. I love how excited they get at stuff like that, and getting out of the house was good for the three of us. Even if it was to the mall.

I feel like I'm starting to get a good feel for the area now. I can't wait until the van comes so we don't have to share a vehicle and I can take the kids to do stuff without having to coordinate the timing with R - even though he's really understanding about things like that. As soon as the weather will allow, I really want to go to the zoo or take the train into the city and explore. Well, on second thought, perhaps I don't want to drag them through the city on foot. I think having them secured in car seats is a much better idea, especially since S's new idea of hilarious is to try and run out into traffic. Of course, I think it was this time last year her idea of hilarious was to try and drink water out of puddles in parking lots. I suppose that's progress.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Testing our upload speeds with pictures

While it's good I'm in some sort of blogging groove, I realize it's been awhile since I've posted pictures. Let's see if this high speed internet we are investing in is truly faster than the dsl we were using.

Wow! Yes it is. Much, much faster.

The divine Ms. S, resident diva looking awfully grown up waiting on our flight in Germany

Time to make the doughnuts at the Children's Museum

T and his great grandmother at her 90th birthday

Winter weather blues

Dear Mother Nature,

I have to say, you are impressive. Everywhere we've been since returning to North America has shown us it's version of a winter storm. North Carolina, Illinois, Oklahoma, and now Illinois again. I don't think I've seen this much snow since I was in high school. Kudos. Now, please stop it. Or at least turn up the thermostat enough so that the kids and I can go out and play in it.

The cold front that blew in last week (that is apparently digging in and putting down roots) is miserable. It's too cold to take the kids out to play and since we are having issues finding preschools, the kids are in dire need of some outside play time. But alas, taking them out in this weather would inevitably result in my having kid-cicles? munchkin pops? or at the very least a close brush with frostbite. I. am. going. crazy.

I know you've got your own problems what with the Al Gore pronounced global warming and all, but I think you need a nice vacation and possibly a massage. And while I realize I'm barely a blip on your radar, I hope my plea reaches your ears - the wind is sure gusting hard enough here to carry right on over to you. Just sayin'.

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Howdy, neighbor

SO - yesterday as the movers were unloading the crates that contained our household goods our doorbell rings. R and I get to the door at the same time and when we open it, the lady that turns out to be our neighbor is standing there. Thinking that she's coming over to introduce herself, I smile widely and say, "Hello!" I'm so naive.

Instead of a hello or smile or even a friendly look back, all we get is "Y'all need to move that truck. I can't get in or out of my driveway or house."

A couple snarky thoughts have occurred to me since she said that. First, it's a moving truck. They tend to be big. Big trucks take up a lot of space. We live on a bit of a curve and neighbors all around us park on the street despite the double garages and double driveways, so it was probably a bit tricky for the movers to park in the first place. My thinking is that you work with whatcha got in these situations.

Our driveway isn't big enough for the truck to pull into, so that means they had to park parallel to the house. And, I'm so sorry but I don't think the movers should have to park down the street and cart all our stuff back up the street, up our driveway, and into our garage. Besides, now matter where or how you parked the truck, some one's driveway would have ended up being partially blocked. Now, if it was completely blocking her driveway, she has a legitimate complaint. Maybe she had to be somewhere or had something she really needed to do. It could be that she didn't know how long it would be there, or about a million other reasons that it upset her. But the truck certainly wasn't blocking her front door, and even if it had been, the front door key opens the patio door and while I'm sure we've missed a lot of technological developments, but a truck being able to wrap around a house through a gate isn't a likely one.

Before we could really even reply to her, she turned on her heel and stalked off. Oooooo-kay. One of the movers was bringing in some boxes and said, "Wow. She was rude, huh?" Agreed, Dennis. But he went and talked to the supervisor and we ended up moving our car further down the street and they cleared as much of her driveway as possible. We were busy so we didn't think too much more about it. The movers finished up around 1 pm, which worked out well since the cable people were due between 1 and 3. And, holy cow, they showed up when they said they would. Go Charter cable!

So the cable guy is here and is trying to figure out why he can't get our cable to work. He's in and out of our house trying different things. As he's getting it figured out, the doorbell rings again. And here's total proof of how naive I am - I see our next door neighbor and think, 'oh, I bet she's here to apologize for being so short tempered earlier."

Yeeeeah. I open the door and say "hi!" and she plants her hands on her hips and tosses her head around on her neck and demands, "Is the Charter guy here?" Okay, not exactly an apology. I wonder briefly if she needs help with something as I say 'yes, he is. Would you like to come in?"

I'm partially blocking the entire experience from my mind, but I think it went something like this: "NO I don't want to come in. I don't know what ya'll think you are doing, but now you've disconnected my satellite and you need to fix it."

So then I say something to the effect that the Charter guy is right there (like, within earshot) and she's welcome to talk to him. I may be mistaken, but I think at that point he was tempted to crawl into the washer from the look on his face. I mean, it was an honest mistake and I'm sure it was easily fixed. Methinks he's had a run in or two with her before.

But that was apparently the wrong thing to say because she got angry. Which means I only THOUGHT she was angry earlier. She started what I can only call fussing and all I can remember catching of the conversation was that "this is ridiculous", "this isn't going to work", and while the rest escapes my exact recollection, I do remember the tone of her voice and the look on her face. She'd be a great addition to a haunted house because she sure enough scared the pants off me.

Again, she turns and stalks off, muttering all the way. The poor Charter guy goes out and makes it right and when he comes back in tells us, "That's one great neighbor you've got there." We are getting that feeling too.

The rest of the day passed without incident. I have to say that we tried to be really, really careful what we did, and I admit that when I went to the commissary later that day, I checked to make sure she wasn't outside first. I also kept scanning the crowd to make sure I wouldn't end up with my cart in front of something that she might want or the path she wanted to travel. How's that for a first impression? Yikes!

I'm hoping that she was just having a really bad day. There's got to be a reason that she was that angry yesterday and I don't think what happened would normally be enough to push someone over the edge. We'll see.