A Modest Proposal*

Last weekend, Flora complained of ear pain. I gave her some ear drops and some Tylenol, and heard nothing the rest of the week. (She didn’t run a fever, either.)

Both the girls have colds; some runny noses, some coughing.

Thursday, Flora’s coughing stepped up a notch. She went to day school; she didn’t complain of a thing.

I picked up the girls yesterday; we had sandwiches for dinner, put on costumes (okay, THEY put on costumes), headed out for trick-or-treat (why not on Saturday? I DON’T KNOW.) Flora was still not complaining. And she’s a drama queen, but she’s no actress. While I wouldn’t put it past Kate even at her tender age, Flora doesn’t fake being well. Even for candy.

We got back from trick-or-treat with lots and lots of treats… and Flora was suddenly shivering. Hard. She crawled under a blanket, shivered some more. Said her ear hurts. In the space of 20 minutes, I watched her temp jump from 98.9 to 99.9. By 2 in the morning, it was 100.5, and she was telling me she needed to throw up. (She hasn’t barfed yet.)


If I don’t get to go into work tomorrow morning (yes, that would be Saturday), I will have to use the rest of my whole 7 hours of vacation time, plus an hour of personal time. When I factor in Thanksgiving day, that leaves me with NO holiday/personal time until the end of December, and NO vacation time until the end of March.


Additionally, my girls seem to find it convenient to get sick on a Friday or a Monday, which undoubtedly makes my work ethic look just fantastic. (Yes, Virginia, that is sarcasm.)

I know that I’m going to have single and/or child-free parents and/or SAHMs jumping down my throat (play nice in the comments, please), but I honestly feel that there are certain situations that require another 40 hours of time from employers. Call it “sick kid time”.

(This is, of course, assuming employment with paid vacation, holiday, and/or personal time in the first place. Which can be assuming a lot, I know.)

If you are a single parent, whether or not you live near family, you get an additional 40 hours a year.
If you are the working spouse/partner of a spouse/partner without paid time, you can apply for the extra 40. This clearly would require a certain “proof of income” level — on the lower end.
If you are a caretaker of any dependent person (child or parent or spouse/partner), you should get an extra 40 hours of time.

This discounts FMLA time (which, really, America, the best we can do is 12 weeks of unpaid time? But you get to keep your job?). While I think FMLA is an excellent program, for these little dribs and drabs of sick kid time, it is worthless. FMLA doesn’t even kick in unless you’re out for five days.

Other options that simply do not exist — or are so very rare as to not exist — are four-day weeks, telecommuting, part-time work with health benefits. I mean, Flora has not moved from the couch since we got home from the doctor’s at 11 a.m. She’s currently napping. If I had server access, I could be doing some work!

What other other family-friendly options can you think of? The American workplace is, generally speaking, not family friendly. In some industries, dads are punished (implicitly or explicitly) for wanting to spend time with their families. I directly lost a job at a small employer (with no FMLA) because I couldn’t (and was unwilling to, I’ll admit it) find a daycare for my six-week-old baby.

And I say all this coming from a very generous workplace. When we thought Nanny was leaving us, my boss, in so many words, said, “Get lost, and don’t worry about the time.”

I know that there are a lot of untenable aspects to handing out 40 hours of paid or unpaid time to certain employees. But I really wish it were at least a consideration.

*With apologies to Jonathan Swift, as this is not at all intended as satire.


I accidentally taught Flora the definition of sarcasm last night.

She was sitting at the kitchen table, ostensibly eating her peas. Unfortunately, she was also dropping them on her father’s jacket, which was laying on the floor. (Don’t ask me how it got there. Just don’t.)

I walked over, picked up Dan’s jacket, and picked up Flora’s peas. “Your father’s just going to be thrilled you’re dropping food on his jacket,” I told Flora.

After putting things where they belonged (jacket on hook, peas in sink) I went back to sit down. Flora had clearly been thinking.

Flora: What does thrilled mean?
RPM: It means to be excited about something.
F: Why would Daddy be thrilled about me dropping food on his coat?
RPM: I was being sarcastic.
F: What does sa… that mean?
RPM: Sarcastic means saying something when you mean the opposite. Daddy would be very upset that you were dropping food on his jacket. Not thrilled.

This morning, the girls were up before I was out the door. This makes my mornings so much more difficult, as I am trying to get ready for work, and my girls are busy being all dependent on me and crap.

In the midst of dressing myself, they butted heads about something. Shrill little girl voices were being raised.

“Oh,” I exclaimed, “I just love when you guys get up before I leave for work!”

“Mommy, you’re being sarstastic again,” Flora pointed out.

Note to self: The older one is retaining information now. Be careful what you decide to explain thinking, “She won’t remember this.” Thanks, Me


(Dad, you really don’t want to read this post.)

(Oh, it’s about sex. So anyone else can opt out now, too.)

The thing about back and neck pain, of which I have had my fair share as of late, is that it seriously interferes with an already problematic sex life. I don’t mean that Dan and I have problems having sex, except if you count the fact that it is very difficult to find the time (or, primarily on my part, the energy) to have sex. (As Dan put it, “I would have sex during surgery.”)

I never would have foreseen this 10 or 15 years ago. I used to read magazine articles about ‘keeping the spark in your marriage’ or ‘how to prevent children from ruining your sex life’, and I would scoff.

Scoff, I tell you!

Now I want to go out and buy Babyproofing Your Marriage to find out how to do exactly that.

Ah, I look back on those innocent days quite fondly. (Dad, seriously, you’re not reading, right?) I never would have pictured becoming a married woman with children who would choose sleep over sex. Not as a lusty 20-something, whose libido sometimes outstripped those of my boyfriends. One of the things I wished for in a partner was one with a high libido.

Well, be careful what you wish for.

I like sex with my husband very much and (as it’s the only sex I’m having these days, and presumably, the rest of my days) I would like to have more of it. Dan and I are very compatible in many, many way, including sexually — which, don’t let any lame advice columnist tell you otherwise, is vital to a marriage.

Yes, the ardor cools, the passion wears off. The heady early days of getting to know another person physically change into the attraction and comfort of a known quality.

And I am totally cool with that.

What I miss is the fact that by the time I am dragging myself to bed, I am too tired — and these days in too much pain — to invite my husband to come upstairs with me. Most of the time. (We both still get lucky, thank heavens!). If Dan is home “early” on any given night (early defined as 8 p.m. in my husband’s case) I would like to exercise my marriage rights, for him sometimes even more-so than for me.

I do a lot of stuff in the evenings. Not even counting the whole feeding-bathing-putting to bed of the children, there is laundry, kitchen duty, lunches to pack, bills to pay, etc., etc., etc. What I call here ‘the daily’.

And that’s all fine. If it’s been long enough and/or I want to feel intimate with my husband, I can (sometimes) muster up the energy for lovin’.

It’s when I do all ‘the daily’ while having back and neck issues. Or if I don’t do any of it (aside from the feeding-putting to bed of children) because of the pain.

Then Hugh Jackman could show up at my door with a bottle of Viagra, and I’d be like, “Hugh, not tonight, babe.”

What the heck chance does my poor husband have?

Snippet: Sweet

As is noted, the Halloween extravaganza has begun. As a result, the girls have some candy already.

Yesterday I packed them each a 3 Musketeers “fun size” bar in their lunches. Flora saved hers — my children often “save” a part of their lunch to eat on the ride home…because it’s such a long 5 minute ride.

So yesterday when I got them in the car, Flora opened her lunch pack, and got out the chocolate bar. She opened it, broke about a third of it off and handed it to Kate.

I hadn’t asked her to share. Kate hadn’t asked her to share. Just, “Here, Kate. You can have some of my chocolate.”

Although I was utterly flabbergasted, I simply said to her, “Flora that was a very nice thing you did. You’re a good big sister.”

Sometimes, my kids just blow me away.

Ladybugs and Butterflies and Candy, Oh My

Yesterday was the first of several Halloween parties/events that my children are attending this week.

Wednesday is the Halloween party at St. J’s for Flora. Thursday is trick-or-treat in our neighborhood (and WHY it’s not on the actual day is a post for another day), Friday is the Day School’s party for Flora and Kate, and Saturday is actually Halloween (ironically, we have no plans right now for Saturday).

I am ready for the onslaught of Halloween activities, although we are, sadly, without carved pumpkins. I don’t know if that’s going to happen this week. The girls will be decorating pumpkins tomorrow evening — permanent markers on small pumpkins that we picked at the Pumpkin Patch.

I have treats, stickers, treat bags (although I have to put them together — twice), and the girls have costumes. I love their costumes this year, for a number of reasons:

1. They are not trampy little-girl versions of trampy adult women costumes.
2. I got them at a consignment store weeks ago.
3. They cost $10 (Flora’s) and $5 (Kate’s). Talk about getting our money’s worth.
4. The girls love them.

Of course, the very fact that I am so very prepared for this week’s festivities, combined with the fact that my girls have had multiple exposures to H1N1 in the past week, means we’ll probably all be sick by Wednesday. I put the chances at about 75 percent.

File Under: Things I Will Undoubtedly Regret Writing About But Am Writing About Anyway

Dear Body o’ Mine, you have a choice to make.

Option 1: Get so sick that I cannot get out of my bed. Run a fever, make me vomit, give me a splitting headache so that the tiniest sliver of light or slightest sound from my children causes agony. Whatever you choose. If you’re going to get sick, then get sick already.

Option 2: Stop feeling like crap warmed over.

Yes, you are run down. You aren’t getting quite as much sleep as you need; I understand. I’m feeding you pretty well, though, so there’s that.

Yes, you sprained your back a couple of months ago. That’s why we go see the chiropractor once a week, and do those ridiculous exercises (almost) daily.

Yes, this back sprain has probably contributed to your neck pain and tension headaches. Another contributing factor to your neck pain and tension headaches is your stress level. I am working at dialing that down, I really am. Unfortunately some things are out of my control. Can we move on, please?

You’re cranky, and achy, and I know you don’t want me to do any more cleaning or laundry this week. That’s too bad. Ain’t no one else going to do that stuff. You’re on the hook. Get over it.

Body, please keep in mind the following things:

1. Dan is going out of town this weekend.
2. You will get no assistance from next door. The MIL has way too much on her plate already, plus she can’t be transporting germs over there.
3. You have a much-anticipated field trip with your older daughter tomorrow morning.
4. Additionally, you have grocery shopping to do, Nephew’s birthday party Saturday, and a child’s Halloween party Sunday.

So make up your mind, body. I’m tired of feeling this way. I’ve got stuff to do. Either succumb or throw it off.

The Rest of Me

(Dad, if I call this weekend, you may not want to answer the phone. Unless you and Mom are up for another trip to the ‘burgh. You’ve been warned.)

What I Am: Thematic Indulgence

Theme for the month: Spooky

The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love
Colin Meloy is either brilliant or really, really creepy. Probably a little bit of both. But if you want a soundtrack to October or just the week or two before Halloween, you would do well to listen to the latest from The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love.

It’s got everything: an overbearing mother, a rake, a rape, dead babies, ghosts of dead babies, pining, lust, revenge, and a wicked guitar part. I cannot wait to see this thing staged as a rock opera, ala Tommy by The Who.

The Prestige, by Christopher Priest
I found the movie version of this book to be fantastic — an ending I didn’t see coming, plus Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale (and Michael Caine and David Bowie). Oh, my. And they ACT.

The book is even better, albeit different. The ending is much, much spookier. I am still getting chills thinking about it, two days after finishing it. Very satisfying.

The Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks
I should not read zombie books. I simply should not. (Or see zombie movies.)

My mind churns into overdrive. I wonder if I could survive a zombie attack; I wonder how I will (WILL, mind you) protect my daughters. I think about stocking up on water, canned goods, and toilet paper (Kate is going to have to get potty trained, and fast), and consider what kind of gun or guns I am going to buy.

I despair a little bit. My basement is barely defensible — and Brooks says to forget about the basement in any case; go upstairs and destroy the staircase. I do have a machete, although it’s not very sharp. My pantry is stocked with lots of soap, paper towels, and lunch snacks. (And about 24 cans of chicken-type soups for Dan. When the zombies come, we will no longer be vegetarians I guess. And we will have very clean hands.) It’s been some years since I used a gun.

In other words, I turn into a crazed, militant-minded nut job. What the government is to a guy in a militia, zombies are to me. To my credit, I don’t own a gun (yet). (As far as you know.)

Reading The Zombie Survival Guide, most of me recognizes that it is satire. Yet it is so well done, that part of me — the militant minded, “this could really happen” part of my brain or gut — thinks, “I gotta go get me one of those. And learn how to use it. Because WHAT IF.” The tone is serious; the tips are practical; and Brooks peppers his advice with just enough “real-life” examples and scenarios, that I think, “See, now, that’s good to know.”

I am seriously considering ordering this book. In hard cover. And learning how to shoot flaming arrows.

Because, WHAT IF?

Feeling Fuzzy

Unfortunately, not warm and fuzzy.

I was going to update on the various health issues around the RPM compound (FIL doing well, Nanny at home with in-home care, my back still a problem, the Incredible Coughing Girl — aka Kate — no longer coughing so much, but oh the snot!), but I’m having trouble with complete thoughts today.

I keep thinking it’s Monday, though I don’t know why. I was at work yesterday, so I feel I have no excuse.

My brain refuses to engage. And I’ve had caffeine.

After we bombed the house, I slept in the guest room for about five nights. I wanted to change the sheets on our bed before getting back into it. (We still do not have a door on our bedroom.)

I slept GREAT in the guest room. I did not wake up in the middle of the night. I was sleeping from 10 or 11 at night until about 6 the next morning. It was exhilarating.

Last night, I slept in my own bed. Or I should say I didn’t sleep in my own bed. I woke at 1 a.m., at 3 a.m., at 4 a.m. I tossed. I turned. I stuffed earplugs in my ears to keep out Dan’s snores. (I had to do this in the guest room, too.)

And today, I feel terrible. Not I’m-getting-sick kind of terrible — which considering how many times Incredible Coughing Girl coughed directly into my open mouth this past weekend, is itself quite incredible — but like “I can’t think” terrible. And super irritable terrible too.

Why? Why is my own bed so difficult to sleep in? My room is dark, and cool, and comfortable. Dan and I share a queen-size bed (when he doesn’t fall asleep on the couch in front of the television) — the guest room bed is only full size. Granted, the guest room has a door, and our bedroom does not yet, but could that make a difference?

My house needs some serious feng shui. Or, I just need to eat lunch. Low blood sugar could account for this funny feeling.

It does not account for not sleeping in my own bed, though. And, knock on wood, my children are sleeping through the night too, so I can’t even blame them!


Flora is fascinated by spelling out words. A piece of paper, a marker, and a willing adult, and she goes to town.

“How do you spell dog?”
“How do you spell cat?”
“How do you spell Nonna/Bella/Pap-pap/Tadone?”
“How do you spell May I please?”

On her own, she can spell her name, Kate’s name, and Mom and Dad. She puts these words on almost all of her school paper work. Also: Boo.

Yesterday, she asked about another word. And she’s putting that on a bunch of papers now, too.

The word? Love.

I think we’re doing a pretty good job.