Saturday, July 06, 2013

Karma Is Trying to Help

My mother-in-law has an almost pat response whenever I marvel at life with Fynnie, "That's why you have to have more kids, otherwise you just don't know."

She could not be more correct.

As a mother of one, I felt the weight of my lack of knowledge.

Adding Mad to the mix was ridiculously easy. Everyone should have their second kid 15 years after the first and have her be independent, a great sleeper, happy and well ahead of the curve on milestones.

But you know what a kid like Madelyn does to a mom like me? Makes me think I know more than I do. Turns me into an asshole when people ask my opinion on things like sleep training.

"Best thing we ever did. You just have to be consistent. Pick something that matches your parenting style and stick with it. We did. By choosing the Sears method over Ferber, we picked a good match for us. And us sticking with it led to Mad successfully being sleep trained before the first night was over. And her naps were instantly resolved the next day, too! Just pick the right method. Stick with it!"

Yeah. Fynnie will be three years old in one month and two days. I have been getting mostly solid nights of sleep for about a year now. When she was several months old (I have no clue exactly how old, but the first six months of her life I recall occurring mostly at night), I had to hunt down some poor woman's blog and apologize for being such an asshat when she was looking for help getting her son to sleep.

I can give you an example for almost every single major milestone that I somehow managed to take credit for when Mad hit them early.

"Probably that great, mostly organic, minimally processed diet I maintain during pregnancy. I don't make those jelly babies who are all floppy at birth."

To which Fynnie replied, "Oh, re-he-heally? Check this out: Not only am I not going to be holding my head up and trying to look around at birth, I'm going to have a hard time turning my head at all. We'll practically live at the chiropractor my first four months. And that "look, she's practicing standing!" shit you did with my sister and brother? Yeah, I'm not having that. Although I will roll over three times at just a few weeks old, do not hold your breath for it happening again for months, like half a year or more. I will be the last baby among your circle of August 2010 babies to roll all the way, scoot, crawl and walk. Here's a pin for your ego. It's starting to look infected."

Do you remember a year ago when I thought potty training was going to be so easy? And then Fynnie didn't poop willingly for months. The girl is here to teach me, I tell ya!

A couple weeks ago we were at a party at Kidspace for the girls' friends. Part of the time the girls were splashing in a little pond in swimsuits. Fynnie clearly needed to go, but was just as clearly anxious about using the "weshtwoom." Faced with the choice of a diaper (and no more water play) or a trip to the restroom, she opted for the potty. Following a monumental success, she announced, "I've got to tell Daddy I got this all under control." And that was the end of diapers during the day. The following night she gave them up at night, too.

I am secretly waiting for the urine-soaked shoe to drop.

She is becoming accustomed to me calling her such a strange little bird, although she laughs whenever she hears it.

One of the things that has always left me in awe with Madelyn is the way she knows exactly who she is, what she needs or wants and what's happening around her. Mad, at five can give you at least five options for getting to Grandma and Papa's house almost 50 miles away. Her way of knowing who she is has a familiarity to it that makes it easy for me to understand. She is not like me as a child or young adult, but make no mistake, she is like me.

Fynnie has her own sense of self. It is no less well defined. I just don't understand her like I do Mad. I adore her. I'm grateful for her. But where the hell did she come from?

I, the woman who could live in jeans and long ponytails, have a daughter who has chosen her own short hairstyles for several months now. Fynnie is currently sporting a pixie. She chose this photo of Anne Hathaway and then had to wait almost two full weeks because I got sick days before we went to get her haircut.

My friend who cuts her hair expressed reservations about such a short style and, when we arrived for the cut, offered up her own photo of a cute woman with slightly longer hair. Fynnie saw it and immediately began shaking her head and frowning.

"No. I want the picture I already choosed from your comcuter."

Nothing could make her happier than not having hair touch her face.

I am off for most of the summer. It occurred to me a few weeks before my year ended that I have spent the past two summers just trying to catch up on sleep. This year I have a calendar and have scheduled adventures out of the house for a couple days each week. Thursdays are reserved for the farmer's market and a trip to the local used book store, where the girls can pick up a book for fifty cents to a dollar.

Madelyn's selections have included a book on potty training (she is a very supportive big sister who takes her role seriously) and a Bob the Builder Christmas story.

Fynnie's first book was a teen mystery. Girlfriend isn't backing down. Here's what she chose when we went yesterday.
We read a few chapters this morning. Shoot me now.

So here's what I think: Having one child only taught me what I didn't know. Having two made me think I knew more, when I really had no clue. Having three has brought me back round to realizing, with absolute clarity, that I do not know a damn thing. It's a land of strange, beautiful birds, but it's where I belong.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why Don't You Write?

I ask myself this a lot lately. I happen to know the answer.

There is a lot of doom and gloom. Things are kind of hard these days.

On the upside, Tom was promoted last summer and we have been working toward debt elimination. This stuff makes us both ridiculously happy. We've already reduced our non-mortgage debt by nearly half what it was last summer. But that patio cover that we were for sure getting this summer? Not happening. I suspect our backyard will be perfect for the girls by the time they don't care anymore or we move.

Speaking of which, Tom and I formulated a three year plan that would allow us to move back to the other side of the mountain. Well, he suggested I work part-time after those three years and I suggested that reclaiming the minimum 12.5 hours I commute and the roughly 16 hours he commutes would be just as good. Better, even.

Plus, I love my job.

My job. My grant is in serious jeopardy. Someone at the Legislative Analyst's Office would like to take the work we do, helping students with disabilities get job training and jobs, and spread the funding around so that everyone can have that opportunity.

Sounds great. But statewide we spend, on average, $377 per successful student. If the Governor agrees with the LAO's plan, every student in special ed will reap the benefit of almost $6.50 a year. Minimum wage here is $8 an hour, never mind the staff to coordinate such a program. So yeah, that makes sense.

I spend my free time calculating how much debt can be eliminated before the end of June, when our program could disintegrate. And how close that would put us to being able to live on just Tom's salary. Latest stats show us only slightly in the red, but that is with all frivolous spending eliminated. That's right, I am calling the house phone frivolous. Along with cable and charitable donations.

Silver lining? If I keep my job, our new "debt free" date (except the house) could be moved up by several months because of our new found dedication.

Oddball possibility that would be just too cruel for words? I came into this position 10 years ago when California was going through it's own financial crisis. My old job title was abolished, like helping people who were unemployed or underemployed find a new direction through training and education was bad. But I'd held this job title previously, so I bumped someone who had held it less time. She still has the same job title, but works in a different program. No, it doesn't make sense that they didn't just put me over there and leave her where she was, especially since the position was created at the time of all the insanity 10 years ago. So, yeah, there is a possibility that she will get bumped again. By me. I still have more time in the title than she does.

Shoot me now.

What's that you say? But Shan, that's just your job. Important? Yes, but a lot of people are dealing with this and worse these days. Quit yer bitchin'!

I should. I will. Eventually.

But wait, there's more!

My mom left her job four years ago and has done everything possible to not get another job since then. She has been successful, too. Go, Mom!

I am pretty sure she was planning on dying before her money ran out. Because, you know, god will provide. And she is in pretty miserable shape. Extremely obese. Poor hygiene. Crumbling teeth. Body odor that makes me hold my breath when we hug. Yet she lives. And her money is running out while she talks about how she is going to get a job after she gets her hair colored, because the six inches of white hair is a dead giveaway about her age.

And we have this little bedroom downstairs. Next to a bathroom that she could use. That I would probably stop using and which would frequently smell like bleach, because Mom seems to get crap on the toilet every time she goes.

For all the frustration with her about how she got into this situation, I would take her in in a heartbeat. Tom knows this. He is as willing as I am. Which is to say that we hope she gets a job. A roommate. A sugar daddy. But this has always been the deal. If one or more of our parents needs us, we are there. Or they are here. Whatever it takes.

Silver lining for this one? There are a couple. I realized today that we probably could fit her bed in the room if we put her dresser in the closet. So at least she would have that admittedly tiny bit of comfort from her own home. Plus, Mom gets social security now. She could pay for her necessities and, in the event of my job loss, we wouldn't be adding any expenses. And lastly, she could no longer avoid spending time with my girls. I don't really know why Corey was her favored grandchild to the exclusion of all others, but that's the way it's always been.

Aaand yes, let's speak about Corey. Who texted my mom last month saying he was going to be kicked out of Audrey's mom's place (yes, in North Carolina) and could he come stay with her (mm-hmm, back in Southern California)? Mom said she wasn't sure how much longer she'd be in her own home, so she couldn't commit.

Ten days later he called me to say that he was being kicked out that night. Susan was dropping him off at work and then he had nowhere to go. Could he please come home? He'd changed a lot. Knew he had more to change, but was willing to work on it. His job might let him transfer and he would go back to school. North Carolina wasn't really for him after all.

Tom and I talked about it for about 30 seconds around dealing with Mad and Fynnie and the madness of weeknights around here. I had posted about it in my favorite mommy group and was surprised at the suggestions and opinions. Tom sort of agreed with one person, but there was no time to clarify before one of us was asleep. Corey called in the middle of that night and asked again. I had no answer and very few brain cells functioning so I could explain where things stood. I asked him to call me again so we could talk when it was day.

In the meantime, Tom and I talked and I shocked us both by saying I was willing to give Corey another chance at home. Was Corey's move across the country rash? Yes. The relationship with Audrey likely to fail? Yes.

But he had gotten a job. He had kept it by then for more than two months. Without medication (because when he realized he does need it, we found that it's nearly impossible to get in North Carolina through our insurance. He would have to go to a state with Kaiser... Ohio and Georgia are the closest... or come home). As far as I am concerned, that was huge progress.

Tom, who is apparently striving for sainthood, agreed that we could take him in with some extremely strict guidelines. All I had to do was reach him.

I tried calling the number he'd used to call me in the middle of the night. Left a message then and again a week later.

Broke down and called Audrey to see if she could please have him call me. She texted a number I could try and said she would try to pass a message to him through friends or coworkers that he should call me.

When I couldn't hold off any longer (I wasn't sure if Corey was avoiding me), I tried the number from Audrey.

Chris answered. Told me that he had helped Corey find three coworkers who each let him stay a night on their couches. Then Chris paid for a hotel room for my son for the next three nights until payday. Another person from work, a manager, had a three bedroom house all to himself and was willing to rent out a room.

Chris was going to tell the manager to let Corey know I was trying to reach him. He said I could keep his number and call any time I had questions. I asked him to keep my number, too, in case Corey needed me.

Sounds so good. Right?

Yeah, so two days later...

Mm-hmm, just two days.

Friday morning at the stroke of 7:00 my phone rang. Showed a number from Michigan.

I honestly thought, "Hey, maybe it's someone from the Batcave (my favorite mommy group, in case you didn't know). So many people in there are from Michigan. Except, wait... I didn't post my cell phone number. Hmm..."

Isn't it amazing how much can go through one's brain while lifting phone to ear?

It was the manager from Corey's work.

"Corey made a mistake. He made a big mistake and I don't know what to do."

In this case, mistake translates into, "Corey stole money from me. He stole it, put it in his account and used it to order a computer online. I'm not sure what I should do."

"You should exercise your full legal rights."

"I'm just not sure if I can trust him again."

"You cannot. I am sorry he has taken advantage of your friendship and compassion, but you cannot trust him. When he lived here, every thing of value was locked up and things still went missing."

And so the conversation went. I also spoke briefly with Corey. He admitted it and gave a stupid reason for doing it. It was apparently impossible for me to avoid pointing out that he had not only jeopardized his home, but his job as well.

Sunday night I received a text from Audrey saying that Corey had been arrested for stealing and that she wasn't sure if he had been released yet.

He had not. For the bargain price of $15 I got to hear my son's voice again. For 10 minutes.

Aside from the rest of our conversation, I got to say what had been eating at me since he'd left Audrey's and the cell phone her mom had lent him.

I told him I love him. That, for a while there, I had been really proud of him. Because I had been.

Two days ago I received a letter from him where all remorse and sense of guilt has virtually disappeared. It was full of how he plans to press charges against the guy he stole from if said guy doesn't give his belongings back. And how Corey's valued his own property at $1000, which puts the other guy in felony territory, much worse than what Corey stands accused of ($420 according to Corey, $790 according to the now ex-boss).

The same night I received the letter, I also got another $15 call from Corey. He still wants to come home. But first he wanted me to call Audrey's mom and ask her to pick him up from court after his next appearance in early May.

Because he won't have any way to get around town once he's out of jail, ya'll.

Tom is still willing to allow him here briefly, although the old "very strict" parameters seem luxurious by comparison.

I am considering Tom's offer. I'm honestly not sure I'm up for it.

Corey bites the hands that feed him. And then blames them for it.

And that, my people, is why I don't write. This shit ain't fun and it isn't funny.

(Well, okay, I did laugh a little when I wrote "Because he won't have any way to get around town, ya'll." That was an almost direct quote from Corey.)

It's not really true that everything has been hard or bad lately. The girls are hilarious. Awe-inspiring. Time consuming. I will write more about them later. In the meantime, here are a couple photos to show you how they've grown.

Fynnie before her first haircut.

And after.

Madelyn waiting to "grow to five."

And finally having it happen this past Friday.

Sunday, February 03, 2013


I know, I know... so much time passes between posts these days. I would like to lie say that this is going to change soon. Honestly? Those "I'm gonna get back on the ball!" posts annoy the crap out of me almost as much as the obligatory "this is my blog and it's going to be awesome!" posts. Chances are good that things will be spotty for a while yet.

Although I've considered writing a bunch of posts to catch you all up (because I am sure you've been waiting around for just that thing), that's not going to happen. 

Okay, so I tried to write something and it turned out awful enough that I'm surprised it's still in my drafts folder.

Instead, here are some snippets of my life over the past few months (in no particular order):

Tonight while rocking Madelyn (and convincing her that it's okay to pretend to nurse through my shirt if I'm wearing a bra, but on braless nights such as tonight she shouldn't because it tickles like crazy) the topic of school came up. "When you're five you'll be in kindergarten. Do you know what that is?"

"Yes." (This is her standard answer for everything.)

"What is it?"

"It's a school with plants."

"It is?"

"Yeah, kinder garden."

Of course.


Fynnie, who is still nursing. She calls it Booboo and recently took a second to pop off, pull back and say, "Booboo, I think you're perfect."

That's right, I'm 41 (and three quarters), have spent over six year of my life nursing (OH MA GAW!) and someone still thinks my breasts are perfect. That's totally what I'm taking from this.


On the other hand, against all odds, my nipples are ridiculously ticklish. I learned this because of Fynn's new thing, which is to attack my chest with wiggling fingers while yelling, "Tickle tickle, Booboo!"


And yes, that thing with Mad. She's going through a struggle with becoming independent and trying to climb back into my womb.

Tom and I are going to be taking a parenting class in a couple weeks. It's put on by someone at my work. I told her, "We're not taking it because of the two year old. It's the four year old, oh my freaking god!"

To which she responded, "It's not the terrible twos, it's the fucking fours."

It's good to know we'll be guided by someone who understands.


Sometimes it is the terrible twos. Take this conversation over dinner one night, for example.

Madelyn said,  "I need more," so I refilled her bowl.

Fynnie, who still had a full bowl, said, "I need more, too!" 

I took her bowl away, moved food around and brought it back, only to have her yell, "That's too full!"


Last fall Mad had this observation, "The firework booms its paint into the sky with beautiful colors, like a tear coming out of your wet eye from crying."


Yesterday I realized something critical about my special blend of two flavored coffees, one regular and one decaf. They are both decaf.

This explains why I didn't get to sleep until 2:00 in the morning the other night after stopping at Starbucks on my way to work.

On the other hand, now that jig is up, I'm not sure how I'll make it through tomorrow morning. 

Oh, yes, I do. I made a pot of my other coffee, which truly is part decaf and part regular. It's not as yummy as the flavored stuff, but it'll certainly do the trick.


Fynnie and Mad know how much Mama loves her coffee. Fynnie has begun asking for coffee in her cup. Thankfully, she's willing to pretend that water is coffee.

But the other night as I was moving her from my lap into her bed, she must have been in the middle of a dream. Arms and legs flailing wildly, she insisted that I put my coffee "right there!" Right there would have been the wall next to her bed, in case you were wondering.


During last week's staff meeting with our new boss, I heard the best, most Dilbert-worthy quote of all time come straight out of her mouth, "We need to be compliant with whatever I was just talking about." Yes, yes we do.
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