When Does the Madness End?

Monkey has clearly become bored with all of the children’s DVDs we own. She’s been dithering over her nightly decision of what to watch before bed. The other day, she said, “I want to watch a DVD that we got from the library.”

We hadn’t been to the library in two weeks.

“We don’t have any videos from the library, Monkey. We’ll go this weekend.”

Saturday morning found her, at 7:40 a.m., about two inches away from my face. I usually get up before my children, even on the weekends, because I like to shower. But the night before I hadn’t gone to bed until about 2 a.m. because we were bottling homemade wine (a post for another day).

“Mom,” she whispered — I think she was whispering, all I know is she startled the crap out of me — “it’s time to get up and put on clothes. Can we go to the library now?”

It’s been a long time since I have ventured forth from my house without taking a shower — something I take a bit of pride in. But Saturday was a definite low for me. When I finally got superficially pulled together, and wrangled the kids into the car, it was about 10:30 a.m.

I was running on five hours of sleep, a bowl of oatmeal, and three cups of coffee. I hadn’t put in my contact lenses, and I was still wearing my pajama top under a hoodie. At least I had put jeans on and wasn’t running around in my (very festive) flannel pajama bottoms. Oh, and I brushed my teeth. But between the mood swings I was undergoing (hormones + lack of sleep = more fun than usual) and my lank hair, I was pretty scary.

But I figured I was just going to the Big Bird and the library. At the Big Bird I was only getting two things I needed for a recipe (dip I was taking to a party later that day). And, you know, the library often is populated by unshowered moms and their kids. Or mine is at any rate.

They were having a party at the library. Cookies and punch, a gingerbread house display, kids crafts, a friggin’ trio of violins playing Christmas carols (high school kids, but still). I would have been mortified to run into someone I actually knew.

Monkey decided on four books (and ended up with five, I think) and two DVDs (ended up with three). I just wanted to bolt, but my girls were fascinated by the musicians (which is being generous) — until they noticed the cookies, at any rate. Bun managed to eat two in about 20 minutes. The DVDs: Scooby-Doo, a Strawberry Shortcake Very Berry Christmas, and some Wiggles.

Aside from the Scooby Doo, which she won’t even watch because she’s so scared of it, the other two make me wish heartily for sharp pointy things to drive into my ears. And in two days, she has viewed the Strawberry Shortcake at least four times (DearDR is primarily responsible for that) and the Wiggles DVD three times.

As a matter of fact she asked about every second of the Steelers game Sunday to “watch the Wiggles now please”. Sometimes, “please now”. By the second half she was only asking every other second, and DearDR finally snapped, “If you don’t get that DVD out of my face, I am going to throw it outside.”

To which Monkey tearfully replied, “Please, daddy, don’t throw it outside. I don’t want the chipmunks to eat it.”

And I hastily retired to the kitchen to giggle madly.

Random Thoughts: Two Things

1. Self-fulfilling prophecy

When I was pregnant with Monkey, I made the mistake of going shopping at Big Box Baby Store with DearDR.

DearDR is the type of shopper who is a browser. I am more like a hunter-gatherer shopper: I know what I am buying; I know where in the store it is; I’m going in, getting it, getting out. DearDR tends to wander — especially toward the DVD department in Target for example.

I have no idea what we were doing in the Big Box Baby Store on this particular trip. Maybe I was showing him what I had registered for; maybe we were picking out a crib and dressing table together. I don’t recall.

What I do recall is that we wandered into the clothing section. And DearDR saw this cute little onsie and hat. He wanted to buy them for our Bug, as we were calling her then.

I looked them over doubtfully.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Sure!” he answered. “They’re adorable! Why not?”

“I’m afraid that if we buy her these, then she will turn out to be one.”

He laughed. “I’m her dad. She probably will be one.”

And now, four years later, I have a child, that when she coughs, it looks like she’s having a conniption fit. Who screams or cries the instant she is told No. Who yells, “It’s not fair” when we can’t go shopping because her little sister is sleeping.

Here’s a picture of her, swaddled to the nines, with that hat that DearDR coveted so strongly.


2. I’m Over It. Really. No, Really.

After this, I promise to stop referencing my car accident — I mean, jeez, you know already, and I’m fine, no one got hurt, I got my car back all shiny from the new paint job, move on, already.

But when the weather is giving me a “wintry mix”, I drive like a little old lady. A little old lady who wears tri-focals and can’t see over the steering wheel.

It’s going to be a long winter. Especially for the drivers behind me.

Two Weeks before Christmas, and All Through the House…

…there were a few decorations scattered about.

I am not at Christmas Crazy levels, and I may not get there, but I’m all right with that.

I’ve been reading a lot online about how stressed out people are about Christmas, and how they don’t want to spend time with their families because it doesn’t go well, and even how much some people hate Christmas. HATE Christmas! And it’s been bringing me down.

But then, fortunately, I stumbled over to Her Bad Mother, and my faith (in the blogging community vis-a-vis this holiday) was restored. (My religious faith is pretty sound.) This is the post I would write if I were as articulate as HBM. I also like this post from Rocking Pony, mostly because I really admire her son’s imagination.

I have been facing my own little stressors about Christmas of course. My house has no lights on it; we don’t have a tree yet; I still have gift shopping to do and parties to attend and cookies to bake. My front door wreath is still sitting in my hallway, because I haven’t actually found a way to hang it on the door. (The hook we have there is too small. DearDR usually does this complicated thread pulley system, but there must be a better way.) We are having a cash-only Christmas this year, and we all know how I feel about my budget and money.

I didn’t want to repeat myself, so I went rummaging through my archives, such as they are. Remembering how Bun threw up all over the place around this time last year made me stifle my giggles — funny now, stressful then. Funny mostly because I can still picture the eruption, and my shocked thought: how can someone that little puke THAT MUCH?

Then there is the Santa post, and we’re still right about here. Am I being a Grinch? Is it unfair to not build up Santa? To quote: “Should I introduce the myth of Santa to [Monkey]? How? Should I use Santa as a motivator to be good, as so many people do this time of year? … I have my own mixed feelings about the whole Santa-myth and secular ‘holiday’ time as it is.” Your thoughts are welcome.

I’m not actually that worked up about the lights on the house thing. I decorate nicely inside, and we are getting a tree this year if I have to buy and decorate it by myself. I think outside lights are very pretty — as do my girls — but really, I can’t do it all, people.

My mantra this time of year is something to the effect of: It’s Jesus’ birthday. That is what I am celebrating Christmas day. And all the other trappings are just that: trappings. Donating to others is an integral part of our Christmas; this year, Monkey picked out the angel from our Angel Tree at church. We put coins in the big red kettles (it’s fun!). We leave canned goods in food drive pick-up spots. And we keep our own gift giving to a minimum (three gifts each among the four of us — Jesus got three gifts; thanks to M for that suggestion), and only for Niece and Nephews in the extended family. Well, and lots of homemade wine or lemoncello for the adults.

I have learned my own limits about this holiday, and I live pretty comfortably within them. Keeping the Christ child in the center of it all really helps me. I wish it were that easy for everyone.

Whatever you celebrate this time of year, may you find some peace in it.

Oh, and, Gina: HAHAHAHAHA!

Monday Morning Looks Funnier from Here

When we got my car back over the weekend, DearDR decided that he would drive it for awhile. I would miss my daily dose of NPR (the beat-up station wagon that is “our” second car — it actually still technically belongs to my in-laws) has no working radio. I tend to think of the Camry as “my” car, and DearDR is still trying to convince me that’s it’s “ours”.

To which I say, “Whatever.”

In any case, driving to work Monday morning, I noticed that the gas gauge in the beat-up station wagon was ready to drop below E. Of course. I don’t know what happens in other relationships, but my husband has to be ALL THE WAY out of gas before he actually puts more in the car. He has run out of gas a few times.

To which I say, “Dumma$$.”

Although I often stop right off the Bridgeville exit to get gasoline on the mornings I need it, I decided not to risk it this morning. I pulled off the Crafton exit, into the lone gas station there ($1.99 a gallon, still! I was outraged), turned off the car, and filled ‘er up.

And then it didn’t start.

To which I said, “%$#@&*!” A few times, very loudly. A couple of times over the phone at DearDR (sorry, babe).

After losing and then regaining my shite, I located jumper cables, and a man coming out of the little convenience store offered to give my car a jump. I got to work, but I was already considering that maybe I should’ve, at the very least, started my day over.

And then DearDR called and said, “My dad backed the Cadillac into our house.”

To which I said, “Your Dad crashed into our house??”

Yes, my FIL, backing into our driveway, misjudged something or another (car back bumper in relation to location of brick wall), and hit our house.

The house? Is fine.

My FIL’s Cadillac? Not so good.

I haven’t seen the damage yet (it strikes me as morbid curiosity to ask, “Can I see what ya did to your car, Dad?”). My poor FIL — physically okay, BTW — is apopletic over the accident.

First off, my ILs, although not typically “car” people, enjoyed driving the Cadillac. They had never owned a Cadillac before, and their reasoning when buying it — aside from the fantastic deal they got — was that it was probably the last car they would buy.

And it’s a nice car. Very pimped out. If you can say that about a Cadillac.

Second off, the Cadillac features rear sensors in the bumper that let you know when you’re getting close to something back there. They make a very audible noise inside of the car when the bumper is, say, six inches away from, oh, I don’t know, a brick wall, for example.

To which I say, “Hmmm. Maybe Dad does really need Miracle Ear for Christmas.”

Random Thoughts: Weekend Highlights

Some nice things happened this weekend. It didn’t all suck.

* We had a lovely dinner with my husband’s partner and his wife on Saturday night. It was very relaxing, and the food — wow. I need to get this woman’s recipe for black beans and Cuban rice. They are a nice couple — in so many ways like my parents, and yet in so many ways different. It will be fun getting to know them better.

* Because of Monkey’s insistence upon eating at Bella’s on Sunday, Bun and I had a couple of hours to ourselves. This never happens, and it was actually very nice to hang out with my very sweet and very funny second daughter when she wasn’t terrorizing her older sister. We sat on the couch together during the opening minutes of the Steelers’ game, reading books. After three books, Bun apparently decided that I was not going to disappear on her, and was content to play on her own.

* I got done eleventy seven million loads of laundry. Including the folding. Although not the putting away. I’ll just chip away at that as the week wears on.

* When Bun saw the Mrs. T’s box (Sunday’s dinner: veggie chili and pierogies), she said the word, “Pierogi.” I am not kidding, and I am not exaggerating. And then she kept saying it — “I want pierogi; more pierogi; pierogi, pierogi” — and tried to eat a frozen one.

* We went over to Bella’s house at half-time. Watching a Steelers’ game on a 64″ television screen in HD is quite an experience.

* While at Bella’s Bun came up to me with her sippy cup. She climbed in my lap, handed me the cup, and said, “Imma baby.” She then threw herself backwards in my arms so she was lying down. And I had to “feed” her her “bottle”. Tadone and I laughed and laughed. Bun was delighted.

* Surprisingly — nay, shockingly even, given the way the game was going, the Steelers won. And fittingly enough on a defensive touchdown.

* I viewed Juno while folding laundry. What a surprisingly sweet, affective movie. I want the soundtrack. It reminds me of the greatest mix tapes I used to receive from one of my first boyfriends. A repeat viewing may be in order. And I wish that when I was in high school, there had been a Michael Cera for my RPM.

Although I guess I wasn’t an ‘M’ back then, was I? RPV, then.

Figure it out for yourself. *smile*

Keep Telling Me It Gets Better

Weekends are tough. I vaguely recall when weekends were times of relaxation and fun — of movies to see, beers to consume, Steelers games to watch uninterrupted while noshing on nachos, sleeping in. Weekends used to be mine to do with what I wanted.

And I know, I pretty much signed up for this, yadda yadda yadda, but still, weekends have caught me completely off guard. Lately it feels like weekends are spent fighting.

I fight for enough time to do everything I have to do: shopping, cooking, decorating, laundry.

I fight the craving for a cigarette.

DearDR and I fight to have time with each other. Or, conversely, DearDR and I fight for time to ourselves, usually to get something accomplished — paperwork in his case, laundry or cleaning in mine — and it’s like a giant tug of war with the mud pit in the middle labeled POD: “Parent on Duty”.

I fight for sleep. Saturday morning Bun woke up at 3 a.m. I simply brought her in bed with us hoping and praying that she would just sleep until her usual 7:30 wake up. Instead, she woke up at 5 a.m., and simply would NOT go back to sleep. She squirmed, she asked for her sister, she kicked my kidneys, she cried. The coup de grace was when she rolled over my head in a bid for freedom. I honestly thought about getting up and going to work. Because after a wake up call like that, it wasn’t going to get any better.

I fight with Monkey. And sometimes I lose.

Monkey has moved into an… oh, let’s call it an interesting phase of development. It is marked by pouting, foot stomping, crying when things do not go her way, and exclamations like, “It’s not fair” and “You’re mean”. Accompanied by the lower lip pooch and arm crossing. And did I mention foot stomping?

Sunday, she was “helping” me decorate. And she was actually doing pretty okay unpacking things and exclaiming over them, and watching me decorate. But there was a lot of, “Monkey, don’t play with that; it’s very delicate”, “Monkey, stop throwing the peanuts” — packing peanuts — “Monkey, easy with that; it’s delicate”, “Monkey, please stop tearing the peanuts into little pieces”, and after about an hour, we were both pretty fed up.

I tried to distract her with hot chocolate. This was a tactical error in that we had no whipped cream for the hot chocolate. I tried to convince her that she could have hot chocolate without whipped cream, but you can all imagine how that went.

“Just go over to Bella’s and get whipped cream,” she told me.

“Monkey, I don’t want to go to Bella’s. I was just there for something else. We’re in the middle of decorating. I’ll call Bella, and you can go get it and bring it right back.”

“You have to come with me.”

“Okay, forget hot chocolate. Let’s have a different snack.”

“I’ll have an apple.”

Hmmmm. This would be a problem, since I didn’t actually have any apples at the moment.

“Uh, we don’t have any apples. Let’s try –”

“Well, let’s go buy some.” After all, we needed whipped cream too!

“We can’t go out right now, Monkey. Bun is still sleeping.”

“It’s time for Bun to wake up.”

“No, honey, Bun’s going to sleep for another hour at least. She needs her nap, still.”

“It’s not fair!” Stomps off.

Another tactical error on my part: I went back to what I was doing. I figured she was sulking in the next room or figuring out which arts & crafts she wanted to do. Wrong on both counts.

Over the baby monitor, whispering: “Buuunnn. Bun, don’t you want to wake up?”

I flew up the stairs, and dragged Monkey out of Bun’s room, where she was whispering between the slats on Bun’s crib. After putting Monkey in her room and closing the door (screaming ensued, of course), I went back in to settle Bun back down. At first I thought she wasn’t going to go, but she fell asleep so quickly as I rocked and sang to her, I wonder if she actually woke up all the way in the first place.

Monkey seemed to de-escalate after that. DearDR wanted us to go over to Bella’s for dinner (he, however, was at the office — it would have been just the girls and I); I decided instead to make chili over pierogies. Monkey staged another mini-revolt, deciding she wanted to eat dinner at Bella’s. I just gave in. After checking with Bella (and picking up a can of kidney beans — you know I haven’t been shopping for a long time if I need to borrow a can of beans), I left her next door for dinner.

I had to fight with Bun a little bit, too, of course. But since I had figured out that she is cutting her molars (hence the early wake up call Saturday), I tried to take it easy on her. For example, she wanted to watch something on the computer, and I wanted to watch the Steelers’ game. I won that one by reading books to her on the couch with the game on the TV.

Check back soon for more exciting posts like, “Weekend Highlights”; there were a few. And, “The Day My FIL Drove His Car into My House”. The fun never stops at Casa di RPM.

I’m hoping the fighting will taper off a bit, though.

For the Benefit of Mr. P

Sorry, it’s a reference to my Dad, and a Beatles song. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band album. I grew up listening to it.

First of all, thanks to everyone who came out and supported me those last two posts. That’s one of the reasons I do this blog thing (can I confess: I hate “blog” — can we come up with something better? I know online journal is long, but “blog”… it just doesn’t sound pretty). The community is awesome.

Second: Dad, to address some of your concerns: DearDR and I have talked, we do talk, and as much as I plan and budget and so on it seems there is one week that I still feel short. I am hoping as DearDR gets more patients and gets into the billing cycle habit, that will stop happening. But yesterday was that day, and I had a doozy of a bad dream last night, and I was venting. It’s what I do. That is the other purpose this forum serves for me. I hope you understand that. Acutally based on our conversation, I know you understand that.

I do think financial anxiety is the worst. And in our case, at least lately (and I’m hoping into the future), it’s mis-placed anxiety. We aren’t going hungry; we are not in foreclosure; we’re fine. I just panic. I don’t know what that is.

I think the other sucky thing about financial anxiety is it can really wear at a relationship. When things get tight, it’s so easy (and tempting) to blame someone: why did you freelance all those years; why did you stay home; why did it take you so long to get your license. It’s unfair, and it’s insidious. And I’m pretty sure DearDR and I are above such things. Although I feel guilty about some decisions I have made regarding work and money, DearDR has never blamed me for them, or said they were the wrong decisions. I hope I have been able to be as kind to him.

I went back and fourth yesterday about posting about my anxiety attack. In the end, I decided this online journal I keep is for me. I started out thinking I would “just” be a mommy-blogger, and write about my children. But then I realized I need a place to write about the things that bother me or things that are on my mind. Like anxiety and debt and hormones and smoking. So many fun subjects!

But I feel better when I write about it and post it. It helps me process what I am going through. It keeps me grounded. And hearing from all of you helps too. It helps to know I’m not alone.

My stress levels are approaching normal today. DearDR and I had a good talk about money and about my anxiety. He suggested that when I get anxious, I say a rosary. I think it’s a good idea, and I’m going to try it. It’s not just the act of prayer, but it’s such a soothing meditation. I think the combination will help derail the anxiety train.

Thanks for all the virtual love, internets. And thanks for the phone calls from those who wanted me to hear their voices. Today will be a better day.

Where I Am Right Now

It’s 9:22 a.m., and I am trapped in an anxiety loop. The money issue is the biggest problem right now. Unless we get some serious co-pay action from DearDR’s patients in the next three days, something or someone is not going to get paid. There will be no shopping this weekend in any case. No shopping of any kind. If DearDR’s billing finally comes through, we’ll be fine. But I have no way of knowing if that check is even on the way.

I am looking at about three days of work piled up on my desk, and I cannot concentrate on any of it. All I keep seeing is the figure in my head after two big bills and the girls’ daycare places are paid off.

The figure is very low.

I don’t know how to talk to DearDR about this. He is working so hard, and such long hours between two offices, and 10 (or 12?) private patients, and a full-time job with mountains of paperwork. And it seems unfair because it sounds like: you are not doing enough to support our family. And he is, he is, it’s just the whole bill-pay timing sucks. Even with a budget it sucks. Why can’t I make this work?

I keep getting interrupted. And it’s hard to concentrate on what people are asking of me.

All I want to do is go outside and get in my car (my rental car, I might add, as I won’t actually have my car until Dec. 10; and don’t ask how I’m paying that bill, either; some parental assistance may be called for) and cry. And then drive home, curl up in a ball on my bed, and cry some more.

Is this why people take anti-anxiety medication?

It’s 10:09 a.m. now. I’m doing some deep breathing. And trying to focus on one positive thing: the kids and I will be able to decorate this weekend. It’s not as if we’re going to go out and do anything else. Shite, I can’t even pay a babysitter for Saturday night. I guess DearDR is going to have to go to that dinner party alone.

How do two professional people who work full-time — more than full-time in DearDR’s case — end up here? I never say this, but: WTF??


I am feeling cranky.

It’s not that it’s the Christmas season. I generally like the Christmas season.

It’s true that I’m feeling all kinds of crankiness and stress over all the things I have to do that I don’t know how I will find the time to do. Between my work hours, the children, and my husband’s work hours — oh, and my love of a full night (between 7 and 8 hours) of sleep — and all I want to get done… sigh. I just don’t know what to do. Plus a small health issue (not the one below); plus the tedious busy-ness at work; plus unusual side drama…. yadda, yadda, yadda.

The real issue on my plate lately is this: I am addicted to cigarettes. And I cannot seem to find my way into wanting to quit, let alone quitting.

And this, clearly, is a problem.

Because cigarette smoking is bad. Unhealthy. Smelly. Inconvenient, now that winter is here and most places are non-smoking. Embarrassing, even. I mean who wants to stand out in the cold indulging in a bad habit?

I do not smoke in my house. I do not smoke around my children at all. I do not smoke at all, as a matter of fact, until I am “done for the day”. Meaning, I have no more chores, no more laundry to fold, no more kitchen cleaning. I finish up for the night, grab a book, grab a smoke, bundle up (embarrassing), and go outside for my lone cigarette of the day. And about 20 to 30 minutes later, I go to bed.

I have quit many times before. Three pregnancies aside, I can count about five other times I have stopped smoking for months or years. I kept telling myself that I would quit again this winter. Because it’s idiotic to go outside in the cold to smoke. And since Allegheny County technically has gone non-smoking, it’s not as if I can wander to the nearest bar or restaurant to indulge. (Which would be challenging in any case — I’d have to find a babysitter and all.)

Since the weather has changed, I have gone a few days here and there without a smoke. I think I even made it to about 10 days at one point since, say, October. I smoked one night over Thanksgiving weekend (we met some friends at a non-smoking bar). Two cigarettes.

And when I don’t smoke, or I don’t have cigarettes in the house, I stress about it. I miss it. I crave it.

I keep telling myself not to buy that next pack. But then I do. And about 20 days later, they are all gone. And I go a few days without smoking. And tell myself not to buy that next pack. And then I do.

Anyone else ever in this situation? What did you do? What do you do? It’s obviously as much as a habit as an addiction. It’s like checking something off my to-do list. Kids in bed, check. Laundry, check. Dishwasher running, check. Nicotine fix, check. Half hour of reading, check. Wash face, brush teeth, bed.

I actually feel good about writing this post. I feel like it’s a positive step in freeing myself from this addiction. Isn’t that the first step, admitting you have a problem?

Hi, my name is Red Pen Mama, and I am a smoke-a-holic.