Nov 30, 2008

Very Thankful this last Thanksgiving

Despite being very thankful for the health and well being of all of my loved ones first and foremost, among the other many things I am thankful for, I found myself being extremely thankful this of the "funny" stories I have permission to share? Not sure yet -- maybe funny in a couple of months....

I was doing the usual running around all Thanksgiving morning trying to pack a lot of things for a day away from home....I pack a few toys to keep the youngest of the entire family entertained and out of mischief since he came so far behind the other cousins, extra clothes in case the cousins want to have a last-minute sleepover, extra clothes for potty emergencies for the youngest, cooking lunch while waiting for my outfit to dry (something is apparently wrong with our dryer), know, the hectic part about the holidays. I had turned on some chicken noodle soup for lunch on the stove so the kids could eat a little something before we left (they don't like holiday meals really-only the treats). I was folding laundry and DH hollered that it was boiling. I responded, "Well, it's ready then. Can you do me a favor and scoop it into bowls for the kids to let it cool?" He did this and then left for work.

I continued to gather things together, gate the dog into the back hallway (parents live 1.5 hours away and it always turns into a 10-hour total trip), load the car, etc. As I pulled into my mom's driveway, I realized I forgot everything I was supposed to bring. Sigh. I left the kids with her and then went about locating a store to repurchase some of those items.

It just seemed to be such a stressful start, worrying about being late, etc. to forgetting that "stuff," and then onto the know, some of the really annoying things that family can do. I don't want to get into details, but I pretty much just sat back and watched it all go down. Some things just really make me scratch my head. I wasn't up for it since I was running on 4 hours of sleep. As others would hear kid noise and ask, "Is that my kids?", I was the one to get up and check it out, etc. At one point, I was sharing a story with my mother as I helped her take the leftovers out to the garage fridge to note, by what she was saying, that my sister had some sort of problem with it. I'm confused, no idea why, as she and I had this discussion only a month earlier. She also happened to be interrupting me with a part of my story that *I* had shared with her and just had not yet gotten to yet with my mother. She came in really condescendingly, and I snapped.....don't get me wrong, when I say snapped, I don't mean lose my cool, but rather I called her on it, which nobody dare do with her. "Why are you saying this? Didn't I say this exact same thing to you a month ago?"

As we get ready to leave and I get everyone and everything back into the car (one of the cousins developed a fever during the visit, so no overnight), we can't find the DVD player remote for the car. So now I'm dreading NOT having THAT because I'm already listening to DH go on and on about how DS lost his Nintendo DS that he only had for 2 weeks, and I just can't imagine having to tack this on. See, DS loses his mind when he gets excited. He's just like his father this way, although DH will never admit this. DS had the remote as we pulled into my parents' driveway. He started squealing with delight and practically jumped out of the car before I had a chance to stop. At any rate, I then turn OFF the car, which has already been running to warm up for a good period, and head back into the house to try to find this remote. My parents look at me as if to say "What's up?" and I just let it go with a bit of a rant -- again, not something I usually do. I was definitely agitated by this point, about 9:30 p.m., about 30 minutes of searching. We found it and we headed home.

As I pull into the garage, DD wakes up crying that her arm hurts. I tell her to hang on because I have to rush to let the dog out and ungate the foyer so the kids and I can get through. As I enter my house, I notice an odd smell. Just didn't smell like our house. I let the dog out, and I can hear my DD screaming about me ignoring her. Couldn't believe my ears, but I was most certainly not going to rush to her side and reward her behavior. I went out to get the youngest first, again, her screaming her head off when I shut the door (I can literally hear her in the other end of the house from inside a closed car!). I went out again to get her, but she was still having at it, so I decided to unload all of our "stuff" first and told her she could climb up front so I could get her when I got back, and if she was still having a fit at that time, she would be walking herself), and on the last pass back by the stove, I definitely smelled gas. DH had turned that burner down to low, which we just cannot do because the slightest breeze knocks out the flames (even just walking by), but he continues to do this for some reason. I can't even believe I'm still standing there, let alone my home....this gas has been running on low for 10 hours! The dog was still okay. I noticed that I had luckily left the kitchen window open about 3 inches. I can't even imagine how much worse it would have been had I not done that. I opened all windows and doors to let the house clear out, turned off the furnace and turned on the fan unit, etc. The smell cleared out relatively quickly this way and now I only had to contend with DD and her hour-long crying fit about now it being too cold to change, don't want a shower or brush teeth, etc. @@

I called DH to tell him what he had done. I said "Umm, you left the stove on, and we're very lucky our home still exists after 10 hours." You know what he said?--"I didn't touch that stove today." (and this isn't the first time he has left the burner on, although I usually catch it within about an hour) @@. I just hung up. I just didn't have it in me to go into the explanation proving it was in fact his doing. I then called my dad after thinking about the "what if".....picture having a bit of a fit, more frustrated than anyone has probably seen me in a long while, news coverage....."local woman suspected of killing herself and her 3 children by blowing up the house....her family members tell us she was a bit off her rocker this evening, but they can't imagine her doing something like this." I told my Dad what happened and said "Dad, I just want you all to know that no matter how off my rocker I may seem at any given point in time, I would NEVER 'off' my family, OK?"

Nov 23, 2008

Might I recommend a solution now?

Well, I admittedly went off on a huge rant about not being able to easily locate and purchase things that magically appear in excess on E-bay....I got my undies in such a bunch I forgot to share how I deal with not being able to locate and purchase that one item the kids have specifically asked Santa for....

Create a letter on your computer in a really cute font that you feel best represents the magic or whimsy of Santa.....type your child a note and personalize it with compliments about some good things, such as doing so well with their manners, etc. and also with just a little reminder for improvement in any other area such as "Please try to be nicer to your sister next year." Add in a little thank-you for the Santa treats you plan to leave out, comments about how much the reindeer enjoyed their carrots, maybe even a little story about how worried he was as to whether or not Comet would get over his cold in time for Christmas Eve. Find some cute Santa and Rudolph style clip art and put it where you feel it fits best. Sign your letter from Santa, Mr. C, etc. with a colorful marker. After all of this, whichever parts you may choose, you can do 1 of 3 things, depending on the age of your can include an explanation of how the item your child asked for was so popular the elves just couldn't keep up and he is therefore including the coupon you've made to get that item from the store when it first becomes available (which you find a way to pay for, of course, on the sly somewhat), you can also include the cash for that item or a gift card to the store you plan to get it from later and entrust your child to safeguard it, or you can include a note for your child to hand an included envelope to either parent to be in charge of the cash for the more expensive item that is just too much money to hand to a young one.

Hope this helps for those times you just feel like a failure for not getting that one possibly year-long coveted item asked specifically of Santa!

By the way, I got my ornaments after a few phone calls and a short drive! Yeah, me!

Nov 18, 2008

Taking Yet Another Stand This Christmas Season

I don't know about anybody else, but putting aside the free enterprise BS, those e-Bayer sellers who constantly run around buying up products just because they know they are the "in" product, or discontinued product, or the last item in a series so they can grossly overcharge an innocent consumer who wants nothing more than to see their child's eyes light up upon discovering that much-coveted toy is now theirs or to hand them something meaningful to pass on to their own children some day are yet grating my last nerve again this season.

I took a stand when the Hallmark Polar Express Bell was gobbled up by the greedy opportunistic e-Bay sellers in the hundreds of listings on e-Bay by the same sellers instead driving 30 miles away to buy them in-store (and buying some and holding them for other family members who also could not find them) as my children fell in love with the movie magic created by the movie release a few years back at the precious ages they were then. They were oh so happy to wake and find those tell-tale red and white striped packages under the miniature trees we keep in each of their rooms.

I took another stand a couple years back when they did the same and when my daughter desperately wanted the Butterscotch life-like pony that you could sit on, feed, and brush that made galloping sounds, chewing sounds, whinnies and neighs (sp?), etc. that already cost $230 in a regular store instead calling a local retailer every single day two to three times a day for weeks, having the manager take my note to place upon one in the next shipment to arrive, etc. - BINGO. I even called stores 100 miles away trying to find one.

I took yet another stand last year and got really miffed as I tried to locate, and well before Christmas, still in November, the 3rd baby ornament in the series for my youngest. I started a first Christmas through fifth Christmas series for each of my children. It was frustrating to discover that the series was being ended early and if you wanted the fourth or fifth Christmas, you had to buy all three. I managed to find the third and fifth Christmas, but not the fourth. Wouldn't you know it, TONS of them on E-BAY! Completely infuriating. Nope, I'll just tell my child what happened to his series when he is all grown up. He'll live. No way on earth I would pay someone 3 times the price plus shipping when I believe their tactics to be wrong.

I went out today to try to buy the eighth in a series Hallmark ornaments for my two oldest--Gone already. I won't even look on e-Bay. I KNOW they will be listed there and will continue to be listed there for the next couple of years. Who knows, maybe longer. Another stand.

I will start my city-wide and then state-wide search in earnest tomorrow. I would rather drive 300 miles or pay a gift store $300 to obtain them than I would pay an e-Bay seller.

I estimate it wouldn't take long for everyone to follow suit for the dream crushing and keepsake-prevention to cease. It is the over-eager, competitive, and/or willing consumer who enables this practice to continue.

Put it this way, I'd much rather see someone with the wrong intentions get saddled with a deficit/loss each year, and a few phrases jump to mind because it frustrates me to no end.....sit and spin, take that ___ and shove it, and I hope you choke on it.

I will, however, buy interesting, unique, one-of-a-kind, handmade, original items on e-Bay.

Sorry, as I don't really mean anyone any harm--just being as blunt as I can be and honest about it.

I fantasize that one day as my children help my grandchildren hang those ornaments and share memories of hanging them themselves long ago, part of the story will include something like "Back when I was a kid, there was this online auction/selling company where people tried to buy up things they knew others would want just so they could get paid 3 times the amount it cost in the stores, but not your grandma - oh no - she was stubborn and strong willed and she took a stand! She hoped enough people would do the same, and they did! That's why my fourth Christmas ornament is missing."

Nov 5, 2008

Working at Home & Isolation

What happens when your husband lands a new job 100 miles (and more) from all of your friends and family just before you give birth to your first child and quit your full-time office job to move that far away with him?

You run the risk of people acting like you live on another continent altogether. People hardly come to visit. Over the years friends have even reverted to e-mail contact rather than telephone calls. Let's face it, talking on the phone with little ones is challenging on a good day, and since I became a mother later than most of my friends, once they achieved telephone-talking-with-ease status they then entered the overscheduled-child phase, which to this day does not afford anyone spare time. Still e-mail contact. Sigh.

Now compound that situation with working at home in a digital/internet era....practically no adult interaction/contact. My life literally consists of upstairs, downstairs, school, and the grocery store. You can throw in the doctor and dentist outings and only 1 sport each per child.

It is isolating enough that when my mom called at the last minute to invite me to travel to Illinois and camp out overnight in freezing temperatures to try out for Deal or No Deal, I actually jumped at the chance - it was actually appealing! Luckily, the folks at the Pier let everyone who could fit inside into the building so we wound up non-sleeping warmly on the floor of a public building with complete strangers. We met some funny folks and did have a good time. (Didn't make the show though). My husband was dumbfounded that I said, "It sounds like fun. Why not?" As soon as I said it and knew the weather forecast, I knew I was truly a desperate woman with a skewed perception of fun these days.

As a work-at-home mom whose job is computerized, including most communication with clients, you take chances to get out whenever they present themselves whatever the opportunity.

I've made new friends in this city, but I am forced to keep my distance somewhat, for my own sanity. The downside to being a work-at-home mother is that it is a rare person who understands that you have a real job to do and that you still have deadlines. If they could stop asking me for bogus play dates at my house wherein they arrive and announce as they wave goodbye they will be gone for 6 hours to another city or quit copping out on the kid swaps we've tried to plan (I keep their kids for 2 hours and they keep mine for 45 minutes or can't do it), I'd probably have more of a life, but that is not, nor has it been, my reality in the 10 years I've been working at home unfortunately.

You get the requests to let so-and-so's child ride the bus home with your child until they can pick them up 2 hours later from those you hardly know because they merely heard you work-at-home and must therefore just simply be at home, whether it be due to an older sibling's appointment for which they don't feel 2 or more children should be pulled out of school early, or not being able to greet them at the busstop for any reason, to the parent who is trying to accommodate the child who just simply does not wish to attend their sister's cheerleading competition or sports event and hearing a mother of a boy making a play date with your daughter while saying "Every Wednesday we need him to have a play date due to *this reason.*" Hmmmm, a/k/a free babysitting service. (Just FYI, if the play date is with your middle-child daughter who has a "cool" older brother, there is nothing but trouble, as that child will inevitably ignore what was supposed to be his playmate as he gravitates toward the boy stuff and older boy). It can get really astonishing the requests you receive with no attempts at hiding the true motives behind them, but worse, with no real consideration as to how this request will impact you. (You might not know it moms, but we're onto you!) It drives me absolutely crazy when a parent allows their too-young children to play with mine on days I have hired a baby-sitter to help me out - I still can't get work done worrying about whether or not my sitter can appropriately tend to my kids, let alone the 3 extra small ones who don't belong here, and on my dime picturing the other mother accomplishing her dish washing, laundry, or simply having an uninterrupted telephone conversation with her friends).

Don't get me wrong here either. I do readily do things out of the kindness of my heart such as snatch up the neighbor's older 4 children under the age of 6 just so that she and her newest baby can nap together, etc., but I have to do those things when I am able to, not because other people think I am able to or should be able to. I'm the first one to offer to take a child, even if it is inconvenient in someone's time of need, but I don't consider your schedule, other child's appointment, or your social life a time of need. When one of my children has an appointment, they all come with when there is only one parent available. I once sat here with 3 children down the street whose parents had to rush to the hospital to have a baby. This was no problem for me. I was happy to do it. It became a problem, however, on this school night, to learn that grandma and grandpa were also at the hospital rather than caring for these children. Couldn't they see that all of these children were going to be exhausted for school the next day, as it was now 11 p.m.? Couldn't they see that because they couldn't get to sleep due to the excitement (their children and mine at the novelty of a sleepover on a school night), that this was setting my work back hours and that I would have to stay up later to get it done? The answer is "No." The work-at-home life seems a breeze to outsiders.

For me it got to a point where I knew not to answer my phone, that I had to outright say "I'm sorry, but I can't because I have to work." and NOT buy into the child-swapping ideas with just anyone. Funny thing is, out of all these people, those who only required my friendship to serve their purposes no longer call at all and are therefore not a true friend. Because I can't tell who these people are or are not in advance, I have to keep my distance.

It is important to take into consideration that a work-at-home mother does have a job to do and that while you think she is always available, she is not. A work-at-home mother would LOVE to be your friend because she craves adult interaction due to her isolation, if friendship is all you expect or demand of her. Talented at juggling, time-management, prioritizing, and sacrificing is the work-at-home mother, and she will be there for you, and even offer to be there for you, whenever you need it or could just use a helping hand regardless--if you don't abuse her. She could certainly use a helping hand herself some days.

Has this been your experience being a work-at-home parent? How have you dealt with those who just don't understand? How have you dealt with the isolation or how do you combat it?

Nov 4, 2008

Even the Best Laid Plans.....

It's been crazy here lately. I've been getting lectured by other working mothers about how I should just buy a store-made cake, store-made costume, etc., but the fact of the matter is that I WANT to do these things. I actually ENJOY them. I actually believe I was meant to do them. I get such satisfaction from doing them as well. I hate that my "life-n-stuff" gets in the way. I do the best I can.

I know my 3-year-old doesn't mind what his cake looks like as long as it had some train tracks and a Thomas engine on it and I know he didn't even care what he was for Halloween, other than avoiding scary since he's a big ol' Halloween chicken. lol.

I know not every working mother encounters the same issues as I do because circumstances vary so greatly. For me, however, I've learned that with working opposite schedules as my spouse so that there is always one of us with our kids, the days of the week an event/holiday falls on combined with his rotating schedule really impacts whether or not I can accomplish what I have planned. See, if Halloween had been on a Monday or Tuesday this year, I could have had "my" weekend days to tend to finishing the costume, baking the cake/decorating it, creating those mummy cookies my oldest son unknowingly volunteered to bring to class for his party, etc., but Halloween was at the end of the week and DH wound up having all sorts of last-minute overtime last week on his "weekend days" that I was counting on, including "my" whole weekend prior. Since I work around his schedule, it drastically cut down on my available hours to accomplish work, let alone all of these other extra to-do items I added to the list.

To complicate matters, my parents decided to come out for a visit on Halloween day for the first time in 18 months! Now instead of pizza and on-the-go foods (parents have dietary issues), I needed to cook a meal! I needed to have my 3-y/o's birthday party between 4:30 and 5:30 (the time the older kids get home and he wakes from his nap), serve up a dinner, finish sewing that bone on the costume, cake and presents, get 'em all dressed and go trick or treating in a one-hour period!

So, the cake didn't get decorated the elaborate way I had planned. Instead I did it in 20 minutes flat - thank goodness for green icing spray paint--I didn't have to tint the frosting myself to cover the top only for grass! Heck, he didn't even say a word about the pink frosting that should've been red!

I didn't get to make a new loin cloth for the Bamm-Bamm costume that was too tight for my little T-o-T'er, and the fleece body suit I made from a jammie pattern in a large size was now too big because the weather was so nice and we didn't need the extra clothes beneath them. This in turn meant that the red drape over his shoulder also fell down frequently. There was no pattern for the Bamm-Bamm parts - I just winged it. I think it was pretty darned good considering that was my first crack at sewing since 7th grade home ec! (the costume dilemma was also compounded by the fact that since the pattern actually fit all 3 of my kids I decided that I could make them all jammie bottoms, but this meant I needed to start with cutting out the largest size first and then reducing the pattern to the smallest size before I could get to the costume for the smallest kid!)

The foam DH bought from the craft store to carve into a club and a bone for the costume couldn't take the spray paint. The spray paint ate the foam, some sort of chemical reaction I suppose. I had to scramble to find a paper mache recipe, which is surprisingly easy - messy, but easy. Flour, water, and salt and newspaper strips. Set onto a heat register, it dries relatively quickly. This could now take the spray paint. (Beware of dogs, however, as ours wanted to eat them in a bad way - couldn't stop trying to lick them before the paint was added!)

I also did not make a salad for the dinner. Instead everyone settled for the cornish game hens with sausage stuffing and garlic asparagus only.

I also didn't get to send in the mummy cookies with my child to school that morning because we ran out of white chocolate chips and I was 2 cookies shy of making the class count (would have only been 1 shy had I not eaten 1, but they are so good and fudgie AND it seems some pantry gnomes were munching on the white chips, hence the shortage). The night before, I knew I was going to be cutting it close. I asked my son if it would be okay to have Dad stop and buy a store treat for the school party, but his eyes welled up and he explained that he had bragged about those cookies and another kid who had them had chimed in on their deliciousness, so all the kids were looking forward to them. Sigh. Yummy mummy cookies it is then. The cookies were finished the following morning and dropped off at school by noon.

I got it all done somehow, but my back and feet were aching from being on them for 2 days straight. Wouldn't you know it, all that work on the costume, which wasn't too bad, just stressful timewise with a little stinker who liked to sneak up on me and step on the sewing machine pedal, and my little real-life Bamm-Bamm decided after about 40 minutes that he wanted to go home and play with his new birthday presents. lol. Where are the Flinstones these days anyway? I had to find an online Flinstone episode to show my baby who Bamm-Bamm even was! It was the episode he got adopted and my baby loved it - took to clubbing items right away while saying Bamm-Bamm. He was really impressed at how strong he was. lol.

I took all day Saturday, a weekend day DH had in common with me for a change, and we both just recuperated from our week together as a family, which doesn't happen but once a quarter it seems. Sunday I worked all day catching up what I had to ignore on Friday, cleaning up, invoicing, etc., then back to the usual. What is really important to me is that all 3 of my kids were happy and have no idea what I went through just to see those smiles on their faces!