Thursday, August 31, 2006


I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced this with their kids. The complete inability to make a decision. Nicholas has recently developed the exasperating habit? quirk? malfunction? of not being able to make a decision. At. All. He completely breaks down. He crumbles. He cracks under the pressure. He melts into a big sobbing puddle of the floor. He's paralyzed with indecision.

And it's making me crazy.

Here are some recent examples: 1) Mr. Chick brings home some cookies left over from a meeting he attended that day. Nice gesture, eh? There are 2 to choose from: a snickerdoodle and 3 bite-sized cookies of varying types (chocolate chip, chocolate, etc.) He asked Nicholas to choose which cookie he wanted. Nicholas stood there, hemming and hawing, for quite some time (10+ min), saying things along the lines of, "this is just so hard!" and "I can't decide!", and working himself into a lather. Mr. Chick was getting very annoyed and frustrated (as was I) and kept encouraging him to just pick one already - geez! We were telling him stuff like, "there is no wrong choice here - they're BOTH good." but he was simply unable to choose one. Finally, Mr. Chick told him he needed to choose one in the next minute or he wouldn't get a cookie at all. This put Nicholas over the edge completely. The time pressure! His wee shoulders couldn't take the weight of having to make that choice AND do it Right Now. He dissolved into a gelatinous mass of baby-like whimpers, crying, screaming, and righteous fit-having. Disaster. Mr. Chick had had enough and sent him to his room, without a cookie. We had a long talk about making choices, etc. after he calmed down, and tried to explain that the worst choice is making no choice, but I don't think the message sunk in.

2) We went to some friends house for dinner last weekend and my friend made a delicious homemade blackberry cobbler for dessert. She offered the kids either the blackberry cobbler with some vanilla ice cream, or a small bowl of cookies-n-cream ice cream. The other kids immediately selected the cookies-n-cream ice cream, but Nicholas, again, was gripped with indecision. He kept claiming he "just couldn't choose! I can't decide!", in escalating degrees of anxiety and pathetic-ness, until the tears started and we (I) was encouraging him to just make a decision already. Good choices - no wrong answer - etc. But he couldn't. He collapsed on the floor in a heap of tears. He's 5 years old, for goodness sake! And we're at someone else's home! My friend said it was just about the saddest thing she'd ever seen, being a big fan of dessert, and couldn't bear him to not get any because he couldn't choose. She asked me, whispering, if she could let him have some of both. I told her she'd be the hero and since we were her guests we would certainly let her do this (normally, at home, we wouldn't cave in like that). So she offered him some of both and you've never seen a kid suck back the tears and perk up so quickly. "Both?" he squeaked, delighted. And that solved his problem. He didn't need to decide on one because he got both. Oh, the manipulation - !

He wasn't always like this. This is a new development. One we're not thrilled with, clearly. It makes everything so.much.harder. Do you KNOW how many choices/decisions you make every day? Tons! He seems to have the toughest time making a choice when the options are both considered "good" - like desserts. Some things he has no trouble choosing between. But when the options are equal in his eyes, paralysis happens. Like having to select just ONE of the free samples of cereal at Costco when 3 different flavors were on the tray. He can't handle it. It can even be something innoculous like, "what do you want to have for breakfast?" and he'll think for a minute, ask his choices, and then tell me he can't decide and stomp out of the kitchen in a huff. As if *I* did something offensive. This happens throughout the whole day, everyday.

We've practiced some choice-making tools, like "eeny-meeny-miney-mo", and that helps. A little. But sometimes he's unwilling to go that route. He'll get that panicked, deer-in-the-headlights look when faced with making a choice, and I'll suggest we do Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Mo to help decide, and he'll freak out even more. "No Mama! I don't WANT to do eeny-meeny-miney-mo!" and yet, he can't decide on his own.

I'm at my wits end.

How can I help him with this? Any suggestions of helpful tools? Has anyone else experienced this with their kid(s)? Please tell me this is something he'll outgrow, because it's really trying our patience. Even when I ask him if he wants ME to make the decision for him (if we're pressed for time), he says no. He can't make the choice, but he doesn't want me to make it for him (which I don't like doing anyway, mostly). Or if I do, he'll disagree with my choice and it becomes A Problem. I'm not sure where to go with this.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Chick Getaway Weekend

Almost a year ago the Chick Family took a trip to Virginia to visit some good friends and attend the swanky wedding of some law school friends. Fun trip. We had the opportunity to be bumped from our return flight, and took it. It meant we got 3 free round-trip ticket vouchers for our trouble (Lauren was under 2 yrs old then and didn't have her own ticket. That's why just 3 tix). But we needed to use the tickets within a year of the vouchers being issued. That time is rapidly approaching.

Mr. Chick has grandparents that live in Michigan with whom he's close. They're getting older and really slowing down. His grandfather had a hip replacement surgery about a year ago, and just recently had a pacemaker put in. So Mr. Chick really wants to go see them. Only, they are now easily overwhelmed by a lot of people, so he's just taking Nicholas for the visit. Lauren and I are staying home. While I'd like to see them, too, and let them see Lauren again, I understand that it's just better to keep the number of visitors to a minimum. So that leaves just one single, solitary plane ticket available for my use. One. Where does one go by oneself? I often pine for some time to myself, like when I'm peeing with an audience of 2 kids, but I don't like the idea of travelling somewhere alone. Not nearly the sort of idyllic vacation I envision.

I had thought of visiting my best friend from high school, who lives up in Alaska. We weren't able to get together on her last visit down here this summer, so I figured I would just go to her. Plus, I've never been to Alaska and would like to see it. But the voucher we have is apparently restricted and travelling to Alaska might not work out. Bummer. Now what?

We had dinner the other night with another friend of mine. She used to be my roommate before we both got married. Like me, she's a full-time SAHM with two young kids. So she's often itching to get away as well. We were talking and I mentioned my free ticket I need to use - soon - and how I'm struggling with the best way to use it if Alaska doesn't work out. She piped in with the fact that her in-laws Winter in Palm Springs (they have a house there), but that Winter doesn't start until around Thanksgiving. We could probably stay at their house if we wanted to go to Palm Springs. Hello - !! Um, YES PLEASE! What a grand idea! I was hoping not to drop a wad of cash on a trip, and this option fits in nicely with my cheap budget: free airfare and free lodging. Sold. She's willing to pay for a ticket to get a long weekend away from her kids, so we're looking into flights now. I hope we can put this together! I was looking forward to Alaska, but since the airline is being difficult about that and it not being in the lower 48, blah blah blah, I'll roll with the Palm Springs option. Mr. Chick and I met in Palm Springs, so it has a special place in my heart (gotta love spring break 1992 - rock it!). I haven't been back since that first (and only) fateful trip.

So I get to have a Chick Getaway Weekend! Yay! Very cool. If/once we arrange the details, we'll look into a couple of nice restaurants in which to dine, perhaps a spa treatment or two, and plenty of lounge time. There is a pool, so we'll be hanging by the pool quite a bit, I'm sure (although I'll be slathered in spf 45 and crouching under a shade umbrella to protect my fair, freckled Irish/German skin from the evil sun. Bad Sun! Bad!). We'll read, laugh, go out, indulge, sleep late, nap, and eat. Perfect weekend, yes? I'm very much looking forward to it.

Gotta love a girlfriend who'll plan a vacation with you around a free voucher and call in a favor with her tricky in-laws. Priceless.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Religious Chick Chat

So a week ago I made some calls to some girlfriends and arranged an impromptu Girls Night Out on the fly. It had been a looonnnngggg week and hey! I had a coupon! Time to go sip some cocktails and split a few desserts with my Girls. It was just what I needed.

The conversation at Girls Night is usually varied and all over the map. Many wide-ranging topics are covered, usually with much humor. I mean, if you can't laugh about your mother-in-law having a complete break with reality and spending 3 hours locked in a bathroom in the fetal position, what can you laugh at? (not my mil, but I wouldn't put it past her) Last week? The conversation took a turn into God-land.

It turns out that the majority of us have all had something to do with the Catholic Church at some point in our lives. Past or present. It seemed as if most of us were raised Catholic, to varying degrees of involvement. Some just went to church on Sundays, but others were steeped with the doctrines and attended Catholic schools through college. Myself, I was a church-going girl with my family every Sunday, did the occasional Sunday School, and did 2 years (5th & 6th grade) of Catholic school. You know what? After all of that I don't know shit about being Catholic. Clearly I wasn't paying attention. Or something. Know what I remember the most about going to church every Sunday as a kid? Watching the shoe parade of the people that walked past my pew on their to or from Communion and deciding which shoes I liked, and which shoes were downright ugly. That and the occasional scruntiny of hair styles. THAT was church to me. Inspirational, no?

But it seems I'm not alone. I've found that MOST "cradle Catholics" (those born into it vs. those who specifically CHOSE the Catholic faith later in life - converts) aren't very educated about being Catholic. You mean there are specific saints for stuff? Don't ask me - I don't know who they are. Quote the Bible? I wouldn't be able to (except for maybe a line or two from the whole "Love Is Patient" verse you hear at I've never read the Bible. Pray? Do I pray? Um, no. I don't. I sort of feel like I don't know "how" to pray and feel very stupid when I try. Plus, I feel very contradictory about that because when I "pray" it's because I want something and I feel selfish about asking for something. Like what I want, even if it's something "good" - (like "please help my mom feel better"), what impact do my meaningless words have in the grand scheme of things?? Isn't God supposed to be all-knowing anyway? Isn't everything supposed to happen for a reason? If so, then my silly "prayer" won't make a bit of difference. I'm more of a woman of action vs. the inaction of wishing hard, which is sort of what praying has always felt like to me. You may as well drop a penny in a fountain, the intent is the same. Praying to me feels the same as wishing and hoping. When I blow out the candles on my birthday cake, am I praying? I wished for a boyfriend, let's say. Isnt' that the same as getting on my knees and praying for someone to love me? Seems like the same thing to me.

So the ladies at Girls Night were all talking about this. It was very, very interesting to hear others have the same confusion and conclusions I do. Most of us who got married in the church did so because we felt we had to for our families. Those of us who've had our children baptized (which is the subject that started this whole line of conversation - that and the question about why do we need to have Godparents anyway??), did so because we felt we "should", not because we really thought we were erasing Original Sin from the souls of our babies. Because that? is bullshit right there. I can't believe a God would punish innocent babies. I believe a God would be all-loving and forgiving. So the notion of Original Sin and baptism seems unnecessary and of a vengeful church I want nothing to do with. And yet, I had my children baptized. Couldn't hurt, right? was my thinking there. And it made my family happy. And Godparents - I see it as more of an honorary thing than really expecting someone to step in and guide my child in the ways of the church if they feel I'm not doing a good enough job in that department. And no, our childrens godparents aren't all Catholic and aren't even the chosen guardians of the kids should something happen to Mr. Chick and I. So what is the point of a godparent, anyway? (back to the original question posed at Girls Night).

Don't get me wrong - my parents are not crazy religious freaks. In fact, now that they have the lake house and are up there most weekends they don't even go to church most weeks. They've really backed off now that the kids have grown and it's not a big deal. My sister who has 3 kids goes to church every week with her family, but I think it's more because they've put the kids in the parish school (their public schools suck, so they went private) and feel an obligation to go to the church as a result. Just a guess, though, I've never asked her about it. My other two sisters? Like me, they don't go to church often, and mostly go when it's a holiday and the family goes together. I find that interesting. Very interesting. Maybe I'm not the only one in my family who is questioning/rejecting the Catholic notions. Hmm....

So all of this has gotten me thinking about what my beliefs really are. Do I believe in God? The word "God" makes me slightly uncomfortable. I find that most things having to do with organized religion and God make me feel uncomfortable. I didn't have any bad or negative experiences with the church, but I find I don't have a lot of faith. I'm realizing that I believe in a Higher Power, whatever that may be, and that "God" is what most of us are familiar with. (although I kind of like thinking of that Supreme Being as Mother Nature) Ok, fine. But there is so much about "church" that turns me off that I can't see ever returning to a church. Do I think there is a heaven and hell? I struggle with this. On the one hand, I want to believe in an after-life. That I will somehow be "rewarded" by my decent behavior in this life. But then again, as a teenager I had an abortion so that should mean I'm going to burn in the eternal fires of hell, no matter what else I do in this life. The fact that I devoted my life to my children and family and raised two good souls counts for nothing. I'm damned already. So why go on? So you can understand why I have a hard time with the heaven and hell idea. The Catholic Church says that unless I confess my sins to a priest I'm not forgiven. I'm sorry, but if God is really omnipresent like we're told, then he "hears" me when I talk to him. When I express my sorrow and remorse in my heart, mind and body, he knows. Why do I need the formality of going to a priest? I don't believe I do. I've had extreme remorse for the abortion, especially since having kids, so I feel like I've asked for and received forgiveness for that. Maybe it's just that I've found some acceptance with myself for what I did and the actions taken by a scared and young teen. Is that God talking through me? Can't be sure.

I also had trouble understanding why, when I wanted to get married and have an outdoor wedding, I couldn't. Not according to the Catholics. To have a Catholic wedding, it MUST be in a church. I call bullshit once again. Because if God truly created everything here on earth, then a park could be equated to a cathedral, and what's the difference?? The priest could just as easily bless the grass we're standing on as the alter, and then it's holy. Right? And I remember something about "when one or more are gathered in His name...", but I guess when a wedding is involved, those gathered must do so in the 4 walls of a building we call church. A vineyard won't do. Which bugged, and still bugs, to this day.

Another thing that bugs? When people say and do stupid stuff like they're leaving important decisions "in the hands of God" or other such crap. I believe God has given us all free will and he "helps those who help themselves", so when people check out of their own lives and leave things to God, I get very frustrated. I don't think God will be making that decision for you. I don't think God will be making that next job opportunity come your way. I also don't think God makes life and death decisions about people. I think it's random, and I think it's biology. Why this child gets cancer and survives but this other child doesn't? God had nothing to do with it. It just happened that way. Am I supposed to believe that God loved one child more than the other? Is that why they "miraculously" survived but the other child didn't? Did their family pray harder? No. Just no. It wasn't "meant to be", it just is.

I'm realizing that the parts of the church I liked had nothing to do with religion at all. The parts I liked were the community aspects. The knowing who else would be there. The friends. And let's not kid ourselves: the coffee and donuts after Mass. I never got any comfort or inspiration from the sermon. I rarely listened. I was there for the people. And when I go to church now - usually on Christmas or Easter - it's to be with my family and share inside jokes with my sisters and see what everyone else is wearing. Yes, I guess I am that shallow. The music is nice, but I'm not rushing out to buy the CD. I'd rather spend Sunday with my family, making a big breakfast and reading the paper together. Besides, at the young ages they are, it's a nightmare taking my kids to church anyway. They are busy and would distract not only me but the other people around me from the service. And really, what would they be getting out of it anyway except a lesson on how to be quiet and color in the pew? Why make them do that when we could be taking a walk as a family to the park, enjoying the majesty of Mother Nature?

Maybe I'm too analytical and literal. Maybe I just don't have enough faith. I'm happy if church and religion do it for you, but they don't do much for me. I would just rather keep my spirituality private and personal, I guess. Whenever an ambulance passes by with it's sirens screaming, I think, "please let that person be ok". Whenever I see a beautiful sunset, I stop and admire it and feel peaceful. When I see my children sleeping, I say a quiet "thank you" in my heart. Is that praying? maybe. Is it me being religious? Perhaps. At least, as religious as I want to be right now. But it brings up the question about religion and what to say/do about it as the kids get older. Already Nicholas is asking questions about death and dying. And it's really convenient to say, "when you die you go to heaven". But I'm not sure I believe that. I don't know if there is a "soul" or a "life force" that lives on after our bodies die. I just don't know. A big part of me thinks that we just stop existing. Period. We don't "go" anywhere. We just die. The end. Not romantic, is it? I'm not sure we're reunited with loved ones who've passed on before us. I just don't think it works that way. But what do I say to my child so I don't scare him? It makes me wonder if Heaven and Hell were invented to ease fears. And hell - again - makes me think of the phrase "God-fearing", as in "he's a good God-fearing man". What does that mean?? If God is so great and forgiving and all-knowing, why would we fear him?? Why would you want to? I want to believe in a God that is kind and soft and gentle and not at all scary or worth fearing. Not a wrathful or vengeful God. Wouldn't that be Satan? And THAT leads me to think about these two warring dieties: God and Satan. I just can't bring myself to believe that God is sitting pretty on a cloud up in Heaven while Satan is down in Hell and they're battling for our eternal souls. Does that mean Life is just a game? The one with the most souls wins? I don't believe that. That sounds like a comic book to me. Or a Greek tragedy.

But getting back to Catholicism specifically, I'm at odds with the notion that only men can be priests. Why men? How are they different, or more special, to be better priests that women? I don't believe they are. I think women can be just as spiritual and connected to God as men, so I have trouble accepting that double-standard. Women are the life-givers. We have a direct hand in creating life by bearing babies. How is that not spiritual and God-like? And so I think most priests are really good men, I don't think they are any better than the nuns or lay-women, and don't think they deliver a better message as a relult. I don't think they have a more direct connection to God than anyone else. And the Pope? The whole Pope as a direct link to God? No, it feels political. I mean, he's elected by men, right? But the Pope is a big part of being Catholic and I don't buy it. Just like I don't buy the whole Communion wafer being converted into the body of Christ. Nope. It's just a wafer and it sticks to the roof of my mouth and doesn't taste good.

And the Bible? I don't believe it's the end-all, be-all guide to God. I just don't. It was written my Man thousands of years ago. It's a good story, but not the whole story. There is a good message conveyed by the Bible, but it's not the ultimate authority, in my opinion. I have to believe it's been subjected to many iterations, the fallibility of man. Did you ever play the game Telephone? How the original message morphs into something completely different as it goes on? I think the Bible must be sort of like that. It's changed as it's been translated and re-written and edited by those Men in power through the years until it's something different that it was originally. It's a good guideline, but I don't put stock that it's all there is. And the people who live their lives quoting it and using it as an excuse for something? Utter crapola and the most annoying thing ever. It's like they can't think for themselves. Those who can use the Bible as part of an argument, skillfully crafting a persuasive point of view and the Bible bolsters and supports their bigger argument have a lot more success with me than those who just say, "because the Bible says so! The end!". Church feels a lot like pure Bible study in a literal sense, and I'm just not down with that. It's incomplete.

I'm finding I put more "faith" in the scientific theories of evolution and life in general. That makes more sense to me than "God created the earth and everything in/on it, including Man, and on the seventh day he rested. Period." So when my child asks me something, like, "who made the moon?" I tend to tell him that the moon was made when the Earth was made and that it's a big rock orbiting our planet, blah blah blah, than to tell him that God made the moon, end of story. Somehow, that feels like a cop out to me.

I'm having a hard time finding an appropriate label for myself. I don't feel I can claim to be a Catholic, since obviously I'm at odds with too many of their beliefs. I'm not sure I can even sincerely claim to be a Christian, since I struggle with that as well. I don't feel Pagan applies, since I don't believe in many dieties. I'm not an Atheist, since an Atheist doesn't believe in any diety at all. I can't fully commit to that... yet. I guess that leaves Agnostic. Websters defines Agnostic as "
a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god." That seems to fit me at this point in my life: Agnostic.

I don't feel like I've adequately explained myself in this post, having just re-read it. I'm scattered and just scratching the surface. I lack clarity. I wasn't even sure I should publish this post and put it out there. It seems to go against the grain if you admit to not necessarily believing in God, per se. A black mark against me - so be it. It seems to go against my upbringing as well. But I can't help it. A big part of me wishes I was a believer, because I think life might be simpler that way. And a lot of people obviously get much comfort in their faith. What do they know that I don't? I guess I'm a Doubting Thomas (look! I DID know the name of a saint - wait? WAS he a saint or just someone in the Bible? See? I'm useless in all matters of religion. No interest in it.) I'm not quite willing to admit that I don't believe in God at all, because that's not true. I just can't buy into the notion of Jesus as God as described by Christians the world over. I sort of see God as a nameless, faceless Supreme Being entity who set up mankind and the Earth and gave us all the tools we'd ever need. Enough rope to hang ourselves, so to speak. What we do with our lives is up to us. I don't need a church to worship in, or a doctrine to believe in. I only need to see the beauty of Life and respect it. I believe life is random and full of beauty as well as pain. I don't believe in a God who would "save" one here but let millions die there. There is no logic to that. So I believe it's random and not pre-decided by God.

I think we each need to live our lives as fully and gracefully as we can, live and let live, be good and honest and respectful towards others, and we'll do just fine. I don't need to go to church every Sunday to do that or to prove anything to others. And what surprised me is that most of my friends have arrived at this very same idea as me, independently. I think it's more common than you might think. There are many former church-going kids who are no longer part of that scene as adults. It's not that they reject the church outright, it's that it no longer has anything to offer them. There is no value to us. And so we create value elsewhere for ourselves. In our families. And friends. We all recognize that churches do many many good things for people and communities. We are NOT knocking churches. If it works for you - great. It just doesn't work for us at this time. Maybe we're the ignorant ones. We are not preaching our way is the right way. I don't believe there IS strictly one right way. And I pretty much hate preaching. I think what we're rejecting is the rigidity of church and the contradictions. Too many scandals. Too much "do as I say, not as I do" stuff.

Does this make me a bad person? No. If you think it does, please go away. Please don't try to get me to change my mind or illuminate the virtues of religion to me. I don't want to get into it. I've never had a bad religious experience, but all things Church have simply never resonated with me. And I don't care enough to force the issue. I tried, many years ago, to explore other churches with my friend who was also born Catholic but willing to explore something else. We tried Presbyterian and Unitarian and a few others, but ended up back at a Catholic church, mostly because it was familiar. But we didn't stick with it. It couldn't hold our attention or interest very long. It didn't resonate. Mostly I think we were investigating churches because we were anticipating getting married and wanted to find a place for that. Silly, huh? Not really the actions of the Faithful. And so I don't want to hear that I've just not found the "right" church. I have the right church: the world around me. I find and recognize the beauty of "god" in the flowers and the trees and wonder of my kids. I don't want to sit for an hour on a Sunday in a building singing songs and listening to a preacher, hoping to find enlightenment. Not my idea of inspiration. If I want inspiration, I go to a lake and admire the scenery. Or I cuddle in the arms of my husband. Church feels impersonal to me and I've never connected with a church, so please don't try to convince me otherwise. If your experience or reality is different than mine, great. Good for you. I'm all about whatever makes you happy and fulfilled and satisfied. So let me have my beliefs and I'll let you have yours. Because that? is the only "good word" I need.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Getting Ready, Family Style

It's that time of year again when you are bombarded on all sides screaming about BACK TO SCHOOL!!! shopping and whatnot. The Sunday paper is fatter than usual with all the inserts and flyers and such announcing major sales and deals to be had for Back To School. Right, like Junior needs a new stainless steel refridgerator to excel in 3rd grade. Uh-huh.

Anyway, since Nicholas will be starting Kindergarten in the fall, while not technically BACK to school since he's never been in the first place and therefore is not going BACK, he's starting and we must get ready. So shopping for the necessary supplies is on my to-do list.

Speaking of supplies, does anyone else's PUBLIC schools have insanely long lists of supplies that parents must provide?? Are we not paying taxes for this stuff? Must we also outfit the whole classroom with supplies? Isn't this the sort of thing that used to be provided by the schools? I don't remember the need to bring 80 tubes of glue on the first day, unlabeled. I mean, c'mon! Ok, slight exaggeration there, but not by much! I remember having to bring a box of crayons, some pencils, some markers, an eraser, and maybe some glue. Enough for just me. A quick scan of last years supply list for Kindergarten includes:

12 #2 pencils
2 8-ct crayons
2 16-ct crayons
2 rolls scotch tape
Baby wipes (for chrissake, I need to provide baby wipes for my child at school??!)
100-ct tissue (again, I need to provide the tissues for my child should he develop a runny nose. I think these sorts of things should come from the school. Is it just me??)
1 roll of 24-exp film. Now I ask you, does it seem ridiculous to ask parents to provide film for a classroom?? Give me a break! Remember, we're talking public school here, not private. Will they be taking 24 pictures that include my son?
18 glue sticks (see? Not 80! We're getting a break!)
Fiskars round-nose scissors. Fiskars. Not some other brand. The nice scissors.

There's more, but you get the point. Does the school provide nothing? I guess they provide the paper, because that seems to be the only thing missing until you reach higher grades. Gah! How do some parents afford to comply? Does my child really need all this on Day 1, or could I work out some sort of payment plan approach? Will my child be using the supplies I provide, or are they going into a big community pile for the entire classroom, as I suspect? Will he get sent to the Principals Office if I send him with the round-nose scissors he already has if they're not Fiskars? Will he get beat up on the playground if I short him the obscene number of requested glue sticks and only send 15 instead?

So you can imagine why I'm now watching those Sunday ads like a hawk so I can outfit my child (and apparently the neighbor children, too) with the necessary (?) supplies and not spend what is tantamount to a mortgage payment doing it. And that doesn't even include the more fun supplies, like clothes. Nicholas is due a MAJOR clothing hit for fall, so this makes me nervous.

In comes my mother to the rescue. Well, not rescue, but in on the whole Back To School scene. She wants in on the action. She has 2 grandsons starting Kindergarten this fall and thought it would be fun and nice to take them each Back To School shopping individually. Some good Gramma/Grandson bonding. She ordered each of them a full pencil case of pencils with their names pre-stamped on each pencil in gold lettering (not sure if that's "allowed" at the public school - we'll find out), and took them each out for a morning of shopping with her. She even downloaded the school supply lists so she'd know what they need.

She hit Target with Nicholas. They picked out an outfit for him. His first official "school clothes". Some really ugly jeans and a polo-style shirt. And shoes. Diego character shoes. It never dawned on me to inform my mother how much I HATE character shoes and never buy them for the kids. I steer clear of them like the plague and think they're terribly tacky. But of course, she didn't know and Nicholas started drooling over the Diego shoes and Gramma only wanted to make his day. And now I'm stuck because how can I return those shoes after Gramma bought them as a special back to school treat? Answer: I can't. So I'll have to watch Nicholas trot off to the bus everyday wearing those awful character shoes. My eyes burn just thinking about it. But it was a really nice gesture on her part, so I can't complain. Too much. She also got him a jacket and some of his school supplies. He came home with his loot and was so excited to show me everything they got. He packed away his school supplies with care, and didn't want his new clothes mixing in his drawers with his old clothes. They are that special.

I'm grateful to my mother for doing this. For making such an effort to spend one-on-one time with Nicholas and do something with him that he'll remember fondly. She wants to make it a tradition, I suspect. Which is cool. But on the flip side, there is a tiny part of me that feels robbed. I mean, this is my first baby going off to school for the first time, and I don't really get to have the whole "getting ready for back to school" experience with him. I didn't get to pick out the clothes and supplies and everything and share in that excitement. Sure, he'll still need a few more items of clothing and a few more supplies, but the initial thrill is gone. Well, maybe not gone entirely, but diminished.

Of course, I'll get to be the one who walks him to the bus on that first morning and bask in the nervous excitement we'll both be feeling. Then I'll probably sprint back to the car and beat the bus to the school and be waiting for him to get off the bus so I can walk him into his classroom and get him settled at his desk. No one else will get to do that. That's a job for MOM. A privilege no one else will step on. I'll get to take his picture in front of the school. I'll get to ease his nervousness and make sure he feels ok before leaving. I'll get to drive back to the school a couple of hours later to make sure he gets on the right bus to go home (probably hiding in the wings, ready to present myself if he needs me), and then beat the bus home again so I can be there waiting for him at the bus stop so we can walk home together and let him tell me all about his first day of school.

So, I'll gladly share this "Back To School" business with my mother and anyone else who wants in on the action, because I'll still get the best part of it. And if there's one thing I learned in Kindergarten is to SHARE.

An important life-lesson I've never forgot.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Practice Makes Perfect

A lovely weekend was had by all over here. You? Very good. For me, this weekend's theme was "Practice Makes Perfect" on many fronts.

First, Lauren continues to rock my world with potty training and how easy it's been. We really didn't even plan to start her on the path of potty training, but it just sort of happened. She lead the way. And she's really embraced it. Sure, we've had a few accidents, but she's able to be in her big-girl (err, make that boy. She's insisting on being a boy, remember?) panties for most of everyday. I even dared to take her out of the house in said underwear on more than one occasion. I like to live on the wild side and tempt fate as much as possible. But she's remained dry on all of these outings, so really, how daring am I now? I'm very proud of Lauren for learning to go in the potty so consistently this quickly. But mostly, I'm proud of her for....

...staying dry at night!! Yes, that's right. Lauren has had 2-3 dry nights already. A completely wasted diaper, and I couldn't be more thrilled. Because this? is something her 5 year old big brother has never done. Ever. Not once. Ok, maybe once. But that's it. He still needs to be in a stupid Pull-Up at night. I swear, I should've bought stock in Pull-Up's - I'd be rich. Nicholas seems to have a very small bladder and sleeps like the dead. Plus, wetness doesn't bother him or make him wake up. Bad combo. So even when we restrict his fluids after dinner and make him pee right before bed, he still wakes up with a wet Pull-Up. Sometimes not very wet, but he peed in his sleep nonetheless. But here comes his little sister, not even 3 years old, and she's able to stay dry at night right off the bat. We don't make a big deal about him wearing Pull-Up's to sleep because it's clearly not something he's doing intentionally. He's just one of those kids who will be on the older side before his body is able to concentrate the urine and hold it in his bladder. It's completely normal.

But now it's tricky because we want to praise Lauren for her accomplishments without making him feel badly. During the day, Nicholas is her biggest cheerleader during this potty training effort. He willingly gives up his beloved Bambi stickers to her when she successfully visits the bathroom. He gives her high-fives and hugs. He's proud of her. It's the cutest damn thing I've witnessed betwee them in a long time. But how do we acknowledge her dry diaper in the morning without drawing attention to the fact that he's not dry? Tricky.

We're off to buy some more panties today for Lauren. She's earned them. Only we might have to shop in the boys section of underwear because she really really really wants Spiderman panties. I don't think they make Spiderman panties for girls - I've checked. So my daughter, my impish, tomboyish daughter, will be proudly wearing boys Spiderman underwear she can call her own. I'm tired of her digging through her brother's drawers for his SuperHero underwear. I don't mind her wearing his hand-me-down clothes, but I draw the line at my kids sharing underwear. Call me crazy.

On more "Practice Makes Perfect" news, we spent a fun 24 hrs at my parents lake cabin this weekend. Mr. Chick took the kids on the jet ski - both of the kids at the same time - for some practice. Nicholas loves being on the jet ski with Daddy because Daddy lets him drive it. Yes, my 5 yr old rides jet ski's. And he's good at it. He's scared of learning to ride his bike without training wheels because it would mean going too fast for his liking, but he'll gun the jet ski to full speed without blinking an eye. Have I mentioned Nicholas is quirky? Anyway, Nicholas and Lauren were getting much too comfortable on the jet ski. Cutting turns and going fast. I, on the other hand, am still tentative when I drive it. I make wide granny turns and chicken out at the thought of going too fast. What if I dump it? But the competitive nature of my personality took over and I asked Mr. Chick if he'd take ME out on the jet ski for some lessons. This tickled him immensely. "Afraid of your son kicking your ass?". "um, yeah. Now show me how to make turns without falling over."

And so he did. It was tricky with the two of us on the jet ski at the same time, but he got me going fast and cutting tight turns at high speeds so I'd get the feel for it. Practice makes perfect.

And just to put my fears to rest, he dumped us. Twice. I don't know whether it was on purpose or accidental, but into the lake we went and I got a lesson on flipping the jet ski back over and climbing back on from the deep water. And now? Now I'm not so freaked about it. Then, Mr. Chick purposely slid off the back and gave me the jet ski all to myself and told me to prove to him I learned something. So I did. I showed off. I gunned that sucker and cut some turns. I jumped some wakes. I kicked some ass. Because I? won't let a 5 yr old show me up. I don't care who he is!

Practice Makes Perfect.

Friday, August 11, 2006


I think memory is fascinating, don't you? I've always been interested in memories, enjoyed the occasional trip down Memory Lane, and been floored when a random, deep, early memory suddenly pops into my head. And nothing is more annoying to me when I know I know something but can't remember it on command. Like when a word is on the tip of your tongue but you just can't get it out. Or when you know you've seen something in your house but you can't remember where. AH! So when I had the opportunity to help out a local grad student and take a memory test, I said YES! (and the nominal $15 for participating in the study didn't hurt, either.)

The grad student is a fellow mom the same age as me. She's studying memory and pregnancy, drilling down into memory in each trimester as well as in women who've been pregnant but aren't now, and had healthy pregnancies. That's the category I fell into. I saw her flyer at the YMCA and decided, on a whim, to call. She called me back and arranged to come to my house to conduct the tests last night. It needed to be on the later side so the kids would be in bed and wouldn't distract me, so she knocked on my door at 8pm. I had just gotten the kids down.

I don't know why, but I was nervous for these tests. It must go back to my school days and my desire to perform well. It's not like these memory tests were graded per se, but still, I wanted to demonstrate good memory. Maybe I wanted to prove to myself that my memory wasn't completely shot because, let's face it, you DO suffer some short-term memory loss when you're pregnant (at least, I did) and I wanted some reassurances that it wasn't permanent and that my brain hadn't completely gone to pot since being home with the kids for the past 5 years.

The first few tests were paper tests. I wouldn't even call them tests, really - more like assessments on your own personal take on your memory. Stuff like "in the last month, how often did you find yourself not remembering where you put simple items, like car keys" and "how often do you notice celebrities or persons with faces you should recognize being unfamiliar to you". That sort of thing. They also wanted to know about my sleeping. Thankfully on that front it's been a decent month and I've been feeling mostly rested. Lastly, she inquired via paper assessment about my mental state (aka depression) in the last week. Again, happy to report no serious signs of depression. Off to a good start!

Then came the non-paper tests. She started off with listing a series of words, random, that I was to listen to and then try to repeat, in any order, as many as I could remember. Words like: bell - curtain - drum - coffee - hat - color - house - school - parent - farmer - nose - turkey - moon - house - garden - river. I think I missed a few the first time through. Then she repeated the list of words and we went through it again. I did a little better, this time remembering a few more words (I think - they give you absolutely no feedback at the time. Very frustrating.) We went through this exercise 4 or 5 times, exactly the same. Notes were being scribbled after each time.

Then she threw at me several things to remember all at the same time. Stuff like, "remember these two questions - blah blah blah - and ask them of me when this alarm goes off in 20 minutes." and at the same time she's grabbing two random items from my family room and stashing them, telling me I'll need to remember the two items she took and where she put them. And oh yeah, look at these faces, here are their names, and I'll ask you to tell me their names later. Yikes! Then I had to replicate a route/tour she took through my family room/dining area/kitchen (easy), and look at a laminated sheet with probably 40 black-and-white pictures of random things on it for 15 seconds, trying to remember as many of the pictures as I could. Not an easy task when you're trying to remember 3 names from the faces you were shown, the two questions to ask her when the bell went off, and everything else. Then after my brief glance at the laminated card I was shown maybe 20 faces, one at a time, and asked to say whether I thought each face was older or younger than 40 (this was to help me concentrate, I was told). After glancing at each face and making my age determination, I had to re-walk the route/tour through my house like before to see if I could remember it. Then I was shown, individually, a series of black and white pictures and asked to say whether I remember seeing that image on the laminated card I got to look at for a whopping 15 seconds. THEN I was shown a bunch of faces and asked to say whether I had seen those faces before (from the over/under 40 thing). Then the bell went off - questions? check. Items? Check. And here are the faces I showed you earlier - what are their names? I could remember only 2 of the 3 names (first AND last), but with prompting of first letters only I was able to pull out the name I couldn't recall cold. And oh yeah, before we wrap this up, how many of the words from that first list can you remember now? (um, coffee - bell - moon - river - turkey - etc...)

Then, feeling bombarded and half loopy, she asked me what should be some simple, no-brainer stuff, "what year is it?" and "what month?" "what day of the week is it?" - I actually had to pause and think about it! Then she busts out with "who is the president?" and "who was president before this one?" and "who is the current govenor?" and "who was govenor before this one?". These I nailed. Don't ask me the date or day of the week, but ask me who was govenor 8 yrs ago and I'm golden. Apparently, I was the only testee (so far) who was able to correctly answer all of those questions. How sad is that??

Finally, dying of curiosity, I asked her how many of the words she gave in that list did I remember. Most of them? Did I consistently remember or forget the same words? She told me, much to my relief, that I remembered ALL of the words on the last 3 or 4 run-throughs.

Sweet Jesus, my brain is not completely shot!

The whole thing took about 1.5 hrs. She was a nice woman and it was sort of fun to do this. It gives me hope. But then again, she was asking me stuff from short-term memory in a setting in which I could cram and focus. If she were to ask me what I had for lunch 3 days ago I would surely fail.

The last test, I'm convinced, was remembering to ask for the $15. THAT I could never forget because duuuudde, $15 is $15, and I'm too cheap to forget something like cold, hard cash.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What Is Gross?

Gross is coming home after a lovely morning at the park to find that the dog has gone through your entire bathroom wastebasket, strewing the now-chewed contents all over your bedroom.

What's grosser? Knowing that nearly everything in the garbage can had something to do with STILL bleeding after the m/c.

The grossest? Beyond having to pick the filthy mess up is knowing that the foul dog has willfully injested a large portion of used sanitary products.


And, I'm having to forcefully prevent myself from throwing up just thinking about it.

I hate my dog.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Admitting You Need Help Is The First Step

Uncle! I'm ready to admit it. I've been sort of in denial about it for awhile and realize now that help is likely needed. No, I'm not an alcoholic or drug abuser, although that would make for a more interesting and tantalizing post. Sorry to disappoint. I'm talking about getting speech therapy started for Lauren.

She's 3 months shy of her 3rd birthday and still the majority of people who meet or know her have trouble understanding what she's saying. She's a non-stop chatterbox, but few can follow what she's talking about. Mostly just Nicholas and I. Progress has been made in recent months, most notably her ability to make the "ck" sound at the end of words ("milk" now sounds like it's supposed to vs. "mit", although "car" still sounds like "tar"), but the progress is slow. S-L-O-W. Agonizingly slow. And so I'm ready to admit that she likely needs some help in this area.

Never having needed to access these types of resources before, I wasn't sure where to begin. I checked with our insurance and found a place that accepts our particular coverage and specializes in speech therapy for kids. I called them first. They were more than happy to make an appointment for an initial evaluation next week(!), but we'd need to meet our medical deductible first. To the tune of $200. Just for the evaluation. Ongoing therapy, if necessary, would be on top of that. Up to $1000, our deductible, and then insurance would kick in. So while we're not starving or behind on our bills, this was more than we were hoping to spend right now.

A friend mentioned that various speech therapy services were available through the school district. I checked their website but found no such resource. Thankfully, a casual conversation with another friend revealed to me my mistake: resources are available through the county in connection with the various schools. Silly me. So more checking online and a few more phone calls (why is this stuff never easy?? Why are there never links to the specific stuff you're looking for??) and I finally was able to talk to someone who could help me. A very nice someone who spoke my language and wasn't trying to rush me off the phone government-style. Going through the ESD (educational services district, for those of you not in the know) is free, paid for by my taxes, but a much slower process than private. Naturally. They have no possible openings for her to be evaluated until late September. But we're willing to wait.

Maybe she won't be too far off-track. Maybe the evaluation will show that she's doing ok overall and won't need much, if any, therapy after all.

Maybe I'm smoking crack.

But the deed is done. Packets are in the mail and we're in "the system" now. Navigating the murky waters of government run services isn't fun, but I'll persevere for my daughter. Because going through life unable to say words that begin with the "G" sound or the "ck" sound would suck. Sure, you could tell someone to fuck off, but you couldn't tell them to kiss your ass. And what kind of life would that be?

Monday, August 07, 2006


I'm finished, finally! After 4+ mos after moving into this house, the last box has been unpacked and broken down. That didn't take long (sheesh!).

This weekend I finally convinced Mr. Chick to help me move the last remaining file cabinet from the garage where it's been (erroneously) stored to the office, the biggest disaster of an unpacked room ever. That file cabinet was the last remaining lynchpin to the whole room getting sorted out. And I was in no hurry to tackle that room. Obviously. But after 4 months of the kids strewing important papers and various craft supplies all over the room (why oh why must kids follow you into every room? I get on the computer, they come hang out in here. Gah! You'd rather spill my gift wrapping ribbons on the floor than go play with your legos in the playroom? Geez!) I'd had enough and was ready to pull it together. So I did.

It doesn't look great, but it looks organized. Our "office" furniture consists of two mis-matched desks from our childhoods. You know those kinds of desks. Each is nice, by itself. Wood, solid. Decent quality. But they aren't a set, they just play one in our office. We have a tall 4-shelf bookcase, crammed full, and the two 2-drawer file cabinets with a countertop across the two to form a table. That's it. Definitely not glamorous, but it gets the job done, I suppose. The room itself is the original master bedroom, so there is a full bath in here. A random, ugly, 1970's bathroom. I pretend it doesn't exist and I've never used the potty in here. Never. This would be bathroom #4 in this house, and that's just one too many potties to clean. So the sliding pocket door that separates the toilet and stall shower from the vanity part remains determinedly closed at all times. But having a big counter with a sink near my crafts IS nice, I must admit. And having two closets in this room for storage kicks ass as well. You see, we have no attic space, so the various closets in this house are some of the only storage areas we have. Plus, when you shop at Costco as frequently as we do, you need to have someplace to shove the ginormous bag of 72 rolls of toilet paper.

And now those closets are meticulously organized. There is a bin for everything. All my wrapping stuff - neatly tucked away where I can find it. My discarded scrapbooking materials? In a bin. My sewing stuff? Bin. My crochet and jewelry making supplies? Organized by craft on my very own (small) craft table. It took HOURS to do this, and really, we're still not done. There isn't a single picture or diploma or anything on the walls. Nothing. But they're neatly stacked against the walls! Also, I had to sort through and make piles of various important papers and misc. crap that hasn't been filed since we moved here. That's a lot of paper to sift through. So there are neat stacks of papers and documents (and bank statements and receipts and loads and loads of untold crap) on these mis-matched desks, but nothing as been actually filed yet. Baby steps.

I just hope I can keep the kids from sweeping the stacks of paper off the desks and making me start over. I might not survive that.

But for now, I'm in love with this random office room because of all the effort it took to get it to this state. I could sit here and admire the tidy closets for hours. I know where everything is!

And being organized is a good, good state of mind. I thrive on organization. I'm usually quite organized in my life, so you can imagine how much I loathed this room. Let the guests arrive! I no longer have to shut this door in embarrassment and can include this room in any tour we give. Shoot, I might just invite the neighbors over just to show them this room!

We're finally finished moving. What a relief. I never want to move again. Ever. I hope I never have to.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Mr. Chick and Nicholas are out with fellow guys enjoying a soccer game. This leaves Lauren and I home for some "girl time". We ate noodles together, did a puzzle, and she enjoyed a rare solitary bath. Then it was into bed for stories. A nice, pleasant evening with my young daughter, right?

We read a couple of books that had various animals in them. Typical childrens book fare. The last book was "Jungle Jamboree" - a real page-turner - and Lauren was demonstrating her ability to identify each animal and make it's corresponding sound (although she was stumped, as was I, as to what sound, exactly, a hippo makes. Anyone?) She roared for the tiger and lion. She "ooh-ooh'd" for the monkey. She trumpeted for the elephant. All was going swimmingly and she wasn't missing a beat. "Lauren, you know all the animals and their sounds! Good girl!"

And then...then... well, I farted. I let it slip and it was rather loud. It's what we girls do during Girls Nights, right?

"That's the sound Mama makes!" squealed my delighted daughter, giggling.

I'm so, so proud.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Feelin' Fifty

1950's, that is. I'm sure you've all seen this by now. It's been floating around cyberspace for quite a few years. It's the "How To Be A Good Wife" checklist from Good Housekeeping from the 1950's. And for some reason, as I was drying my hair just now and decided, oddly, to spritz a little perfume on because Mr. Chick likes it, it popped into my mind.

So I did a quick search and found it. Upon review, I realized that I'm sort of a throwback. While I don't do all the things on that list, I do some version of more than a few of them.

Suggestion 1: Have Dinner Ready. Umm, not every night, but more nights than not. It's usually nothing fancy (like never) but usually I take the lead on dinner around here and at least have something started when he comes home. Even if it's defrosting or even left-overs. Like I said, nothing fancy. And really, I'm a decent cook, but Mr. Chick is often times better at it than I am. Score: 1950's.

Suggestion 2: Prepare Yourself. This can be interpreted many ways, if you thing about it. But the whole "make yourself nice for him" is totally what I was doing just now that made me think about this whole 1950's list in the first place. But normally? I don't worry so much about this. I don't "fix myself up" just before he comes in 99% of the time. Score: 2006.

Suggestion 3: Clear Away The Clutter. Ok, I do this most days. I like the house to be tidied up before Mr. Chick comes home. It's just nicer and calmer that way. Right around 5pm I go through the "public" parts of the house and do a quick pick-up so it's cleaner when he gets home. Score: 1950's

Suggestion 4: Prepare the Children. Um, no. He's gets 'em as they come. Score: 2006

Suggestion 5: Minimize the Noise. I go 50/50 on this. Somedays yes, somedays no. Oftentimes the "noise" of the washing machine or the vacuum can be heard when he comes home, but how else will he know that I've worked that day?? (kidding!) But I DO greet him at the door with a smile and a "I'm happy to see you!" most days. Score: neither.

Suggestion 6: Some Don'ts: I usually don't do these things. Or at least I try not to. Score: 1950's

Suggestion 7: Make Him Comfortable. Yeah, no. He's pretty much capable of fluffing his own damn pillow and fetching his own drink (although I've been known to offer...), thankyouverymuch. Score: 2006

Suggestion 8: Listen To Him. I do this. I talk plenty, trust me, but I work hard at inquiring about his day and listening and paying attention to what he says. He needs to vent, too, and once I get started sometimes it's hard for me to stop. So better to let him get his words in edgewise first. Score: 1950's

Suggestion 9: Make the Evening His: Complain about not being taken out? The notion of spontaneously going out to dinner or someplace of "entertainment" is so far out of my sphere of reality that it doesn't occur to me to complain about this. If I want to go out, I make the plans. Score: 1950's

Suggestion 10: The Goal - try to make your home a place of peace and order and a place where your husband can relax. That's my goal, too, most days. But not just for his sake, for all of ours. Score: 1950's.

Final Score: 1950's: 6 2006: 3 Tie: 1. So what does that say? I guess I AM a throw-back traditionalist wife. A true SAHM, I suppose. I put my family first. I take pride in being Mr. Chick's wife and want to honor that by showing my respect. I take care of the kids, the house, and many of the details of life that come our way. I take care of myself, and by extension, him. (especially on mornings like this morning when I woke him up a little early in order to, um, tickle the pickle and get the morning off on the right foot. It worked. Duh!) Sure, we have our moments of contention and annoyance - I'm no Pollyanna - but for the most part we have a happy division of labor and our priorities in order. Do I feel oppressed and like a 2nd class citizen because of my role? Not in the slightest. I am college-educated and have made the CHOICE to have the lifestyle I do. I think my marriage and family are better for it. It was the right choice for me/us. Everyone has to make those choices for themselves and their family - I"m not trying to make sweeping statements that my way is the right way for all. But it's right for me. Do I have days when I LONG for a "real" job outside the home if for no other reason than to escape the relentlessness of staying home with 2 young kids? Are you high? Of COURSE I do. I'm normal. But in the grand scheme of things, this works for me.

I think in many ways the suggestions from the 1950's are sound. Sure, the language is outdated and even slightly offensive to today's more enlightened woman, but the root core of what is being said remains true. Men don't usually become unhappy in their marriages and tempted by other women if they're made to feel honored, loved and respected at home. If a man feels important and needed by his wife he's less likely to become unsatisfied. And it goes both ways. That's the lesson of more recent decades. A wife, too, needs to be honored and respected by her husband. It is NOT a one-way street. If two people go into a marriage with this kind of attitude and devotion I'm convinced there would be fewer divorces.

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