Thursday, August 30, 2007

In My Next Life I'm Coming Back As A Billionaire's Dog

I'm sure most everyone who keeps up with crappy pop culture (like me) knows by now that Leona Helmsley, the "Queen of Mean", left $12 million to her dog. Her DOG! And completely shunned 2 of her grandchildren. Which, fine: maybe those grandkids were horrible in her eyes and didn't deserve any cash. I get that. And I know she left the bulk of her billions to charity.

But still - a freakin' dog inherits $12 million??!!?? What could a dog possibly do with money? And, more importantly, what will happen to the cash after the dog bites it? Who was her crazy-assed lawyer who drew up this will and didn't question the whole "being of sound mind" part? Perhaps this was her passive-aggressive way of making some sort of point, although from what I've heard about this lady, there wasn't much "passive" about her.

If you were one of her family members, how pissed would you be? I'd rather have seen her donate every last red cent to charity, where it will be put to good use, than see her give millions to an animal. An animal shelter, yes, but a specific animal? NO.WAY. I just hope that's where the money goes once this dog, Trouble" kicks it.

Leona Helmsley was one crazy bitch.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Childhood Obesity

I'm certain my local paper, The Oregonian, isn't the only paper to have reported on this, so it can't be news to everyone, but just in case....

Did you read about the report that links gestational diabetes with childhood obesity? No? Here it is:

We all know by now that childhood obesity - actually, obesity in general - is a growing trend. Some would even say epidemic. So a study was conducted and they found a strong, powerful link between mothers who had untreated gestational diabetes and the resulting children becoming obese by age 7. The figure the article/study quoted is 82%. Children of mothers who went untreated for gestational diabetes during their pregnancy were 82% more likely to be obese by age 7. They were 89% more likely to be overweight. That's huge!

The good news is that the study also discovered that that the children born to mothers who were treated for their gestational diabetes were no more likely to be overweight or obese than other children. Treatment/management is the key.
The lead researcher says that the study points to some change in the womb that alters the body's feast and famine triggers that regulate whether someone feels full or not. That causes the metabolism to slow down as the body stores fat. If the mother is treated, however, by eating a diabetic diet, exercise, and/or take insulin if necessary, the damage may be reversed.

The article claims that each year, roughly 4% of pregnant women get diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Given how fast our nation is reaching obesity levels, I'd say that likely means a whole lotta mothers are going untreated. The article says it's a vicious circle - we're getting fatter in general, which means there is more gestational diabetes as result, and more gestational diabetes means more predispositions to obesity, and so on. But knowing how critical it is to manage gestational diabetes and what the future health impact it could have on the child, this could go a long way in helping to curb or reduce childhood obesity.

That's good - whatever can be done should be done to prevent kids from getting fat. Of course, ensuring your children eat healthy foods, stay active, and don't overeat after they are born goes a long way to contributing to their overall health and well being, and preventing them from becoming overweight or obese. Good parenting starts in the womb.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Childhood Rite Of Passage

While I busy trying to finish up the painting job in our living room (see post below), the kids were out front doing their best impression of being entrepreneurs. Nicholas begged me to have a lemonade stand, so I finally let him. Only we didn't have lemonade and had to substitute juice. Strawberry Kiwi juice, to be specific. Which I personally prefer to lemonade, unless it's a Mike's Hard Lemonade, of course. So Nicholas got busy making signs and I set up the table and made the juice. He made sure he was able to make change, just in case, and then waited for his first customer. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. We don't get that much traffic on our street. Which was a really appealing factor when deciding to buy the house, but it's a liability when you're trying to turn a profit by selling juice. Thank God for nice neighbors! Nicholas sold 4 cups to our next door neighbors in one fell swoop (a whole dollar!) and another cup to the neighbor across the street (25 more cents!). He was proud of himself for pouring the cups without spilling a drop, was happy with his earnings ($1.25) and wants to do it again. It was a nice time suck, so I'm pretty sure I'll let him.

The sign Nicholas made for his juice stand. "Juice. 25 cents per cup. Yummy". His penmanship is atrocious and I'm hoping 1st grade will improve that... writing is NOT his strong suit. Nor is spelling. I had to write out what he wanted the sign to say so he could then copy it. And he still made mistakes! :)

We made a bigger sign using chalk on the pavement. I wrote the "juice" part and Nicholas took command of making the arrows and the "25 cents" part you can't see here....

Business was a little slow....

Before & After

I spent a fair number of hours up and down really tall ladders on Friday and got the painting job DONE! What a great feeling it is to have that project behind us. It only took us a week.... It was a royal pain in my tush, but we saved a bunch of money doing it ourselves and it turned out looking really great. What a HUGE difference! We liked the space before, but now? Now we love it!

We went from this: BORING and utterly lacking color and style.

To this: WARM and INVITING. Much better, yes? Well, I think so. Now I just need to change out the lights and get some drapes and I'll be set. Can you see that we left the pillars the soft white color? They go all the way up to the big beam that bisects the ceiling at the pinnacle of the vault - they're structural and are weight-bearing. The beam is painted the same white as the pillars and ceiling, so if we'd painted the pillars to match the walls - as they had been before, we'd have to paint the beam, too, which would have looked funky having a big gold beam bisecting the white ceiling. This way, it's a nice accent color, like the red. It's the same color as the walls that go up the stairs to the kids bedrooms, which you can see from the living room, as well as the color of the stairs going down to the playroom and garage. It's not completely random. And it matches the white couches, so it works.

Next up? Who knows. Probably the main hall bathroom, which is the kids' bathroom since it's the only one with a tub. It's small and ugly. And while I can't do much about the small part, the ugly I can fix. But probably not for a few more months yet.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Trying To Reserve Judgement

You can't blame the kid. The kid is not the one at fault here. But yet... I'm getting a creepy feeling about this particular kid and I'm not sure how to handle it.

Ok, here's the backstory: A few weeks ago this strange (read: unknown) kid started to randomly knock on our door asking if there was a boy here to play with. He's older than Nicholas, and Nicholas didn't know this kid. He was hard to talk to, tended to mumble, and gave off a generally strange vibe. I made introductions and let the kids play together out front with me right there, supervising like a hawk. Everything seemed ok, except for the weird things this kid would say. Like he's homeschooled (which, fine - whatever. Would explain why we haven't seen him around. Come to find out, he's NOT homeschooled... or saying he doesn't have a helmet but then I see him wearing one the next day.) Or not knowing exactly where he lived ("um, it's down there around the corner. No, I don't know what street....") and wanting to do things like check out the stuff in our garage and asking to go in our house. And asking Nicholas if he wanted to come for a sleep-over. Strange. Then he came over and wordlessly handed us a small scrap of orange paper with his name and phone number printed - as in off a printer - on it. The next time he came by was with a little notebook and all he wanted was our name, address and phone number. Weird, right? The whole time I'm being nice and trying to engage him in conversation, but it's tricky. When he calls, he's hard to understand on the phone due to the soft speaking and mumbling thing - he's terrible. I guess I'm just used to Nicholas on the phone, who speaks very clearly and articulately. Anyway, this kid calls and invites Nicholas over to his house to play. I ask to speak with his mother. We chat, I get their address, and tell them that Nicholas can play for just a short time and I walk him over. I want to meet this mother and know where my kid is before I just send him over blindly - unlike this kids' mother, who clearly doesn't know us or where her kid is. (btw, when this kid kept repeatedly asking to go play inside our house I wouldn't let him, thinking if the situation was reversed I wouldn't want my child to be going into a strange house. I felt a better level of comfort between everyone was needed first.) So we met and the mother expressed her bewilderment over her son wanting to befriend Nicholas because this kid is 8 and going into the 3rd grade and didn't know at first that Nicholas was just a young 6 and going into 1st grade. I guess this kid has a younger brother, age 5 and going into Kindergarten. Nicholas would make a better playmate for the younger brother. I agree. But whatever.

So the kids play and I return in about 45 min. to get Nicholas. It's at this point I get to talk more with the mother. Turns out she's divorced and is living with her parents. Her older son spent last year with his father in Utah and just returned here in July. He's desperate for kids to play with because he can't stand his younger brother (so he goes out and finds a kid nearly the same age as the detested younger brother? Hmmm...). Mom was in school to be a medical assistant and was happy to only have one kid to deal with last year. But I guess the dad didn't want to send the older kid home, so the mom and her father got the authorities involved and took him back. So the kid is being jerked around, moving to new places every year, and really doesn't know his brother all that well having been gone for a year. The mom, while seemingly nice enough, is not someone I'll be seeking out in the neighborhood. We're just very different. She parents very differently than I do ("yeah, I'm going to have to look into the after-school classes and programs. I'm not sure what to do with the kids. Maybe they can just come home together - my dad is here most of
the time.... although I can't afford the all-day kinder and they wouldn't let me transfer him into the school nearly with all-day for free, so I'll have to figure something else out." School starts in 2 weeks. Time to get figurin'!)

I'm anxious for school to start so this kid will meet others his own age. He just plays with stuff very differently than my kids do. He's more destructive. He's pouty. He'll jump on top of stuff, or throw things as part of play, and my kids just don't do that (until they see him doing it, and they copy him.) I made the kids go outside with me the other day and busted out the sidewalk chalk. This kid didn't like it and kept asking to go back inside to play. "No, we're outside right now." says I, the adult. "but I'm hot! and I don't like chalk!" as he squats in the shade off by himself across the yard while my kids draw pictures on the pavement. "Fine, L, but we're outside at our house right now. If you want to be inside, you'll have to go home." met with an ugly stare and a "hrumph!" And when the neighbor girl from across the street (also a young 6) comes over to partake in the sidewalk chalk, this kid wordlessly gets up, gets on his bike, and starts to ride away. I have to shout at him to ask him where he's going - that he can't just leave without telling me, etc. "I'm going home!" he pouts.

I don't know - is it me? I know this kid is just trying to find playmates. I know his home life is fucked up (at least it sounds like it is based on what his mother shared), and my neighbor won't let him play with her daughter because she gets the same odd vibe that I do and she's not comfortable with her just-turned-6 daughter playing with an 8 yr old boy. Why would he want to? She's VERY girl. At least half the time he comes by I tell him it's not a good day to play. He's here right now - Nicholas really seems to enjoy him for some reason (big boy crush?), so I let them play from time to time - but it makes me nervous. However, Nicholas never asks to play with this kid, he just goes along with it when he calls or knocks on our door.

Am I just being over-protective? How has anyone else handled the kid you wouldn't pick out as a friend for you kid if it were up to you (which I KNOW it isn't, but still - this feels weird to me.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Scenes From A Weekend

How was your weekend? Ours was very fun and productive, thankyouverymuch. I love it when that happens, don't you? Saturday started out with me going to get my hair done - cut and color. Well, just a trim. But LOTS of color - it had been waaayyy too long since getting a much-needed touch-up and covering up my multiplying grays. yuck. And now? Fresh and new! And I'm not sure what my friend/hairdresser did with the trim, but my curls have responded fantastically! In fact, that night Mr. Chick and I got a sitter and went to a friends' 40th birthday party and more than a few people came up to me with a look of surprise on their face, exclaiming how they didn't recognize me and that it was something about my hair.... So, um, yeah. My hair and the fact that I actually got all dressed up with make-up and perfume and cute hair and looked hot vs. my normal schlumpy-frumpy appearance of no make-up and my hair in a ponytail. Perhaps THAT was the difference more than anything else? Hmmm..

After my hair appointment I was able to meet the family at the dance studio where Nicholas was having his first dance class of this mini-session. He wasn't the only boy - there was one other in the class - and he loved it. No fussing or complaining or freaking out going into it, as he is wont to do at the first of anything. Nope. Instead he just hovered close to Mr. Chick as the class was coming together and then just joined in, big smile on his face, and was fine. Parents weren't allowed in the room but you could occasionally peek in from an outside window, which we did to make sure he was doing ok. And he was - every time. He seemed to enjoy the barre and being able to watch himself and the others in the mirror. At one point they were galloping around the room to the music and he loved it. The teacher commented to us afterwards that he did great and was quite musical. So that's good. And after seeing the prices for ongoing classes there it's a good thing I took on this part-time job. Wow.

I already mentioned our e
vening out on Saturday. It was fun and I won rock/paper/scissors so I was able to have as many cocktails as I wanted and Mr. Chick was the driver. Good system. Most of the people there were folks I only knew as loose acquaintances at best except for my good friend Jen, and she had the cocktail pass, too. So we hung out together the whole night, enjoying our drinks and laughing. We don't get to connect often enough, so this was good for my girlfriend soul. Fun Fun Fun. Towards the end of the evening there was some dancing and even some karaoke, but I wasn't buzzed enough for either. Although I may have consented to running some of the Hood To Coast next weekend... (gulp) Mr. Chick has run it many times and was asked to run it again this year. Now he tells me the teams (there are two with this particular group) are down 2 runners and would I like to do it? Um, yes because it's fun and it would be cool to do it together (at least be in the same van), but it's next weekend and I'm not ready! Not to mention not having childcare set up for the 2 nights we'd be gone (my mother is having knee surgery that weekend and couldn't take the kids). But then it was suggested that perhaps I just take one of the legs - during the stretch in Portland - and help out that way. In my buzzed fog, I think I may have said yes to this plan. Which would be fun, I admit, but I worry I'm not a strong enough runner yet. They have the whole spectrum of runners on these teams - one chick who runs in the 6-min mile range - to others who are closer to 10-min milers. I'm probably in the low 9-min mile range. When I run on the treadmill I'm usually in the 8's, but that's a treadmill and it's easier than running on pavement. But my endurance isn't there for a whole HTC leg. I'm only doing 3 - 3.5 miles right now. Some of the legs go 6+. So, there's that. Which is why just running 1 of the 3 legs could actually be doable. We'll see what happens this week and if they'll need me.

Before the party, Mr. Chick and I started prepping the living room and dining room for paint. I taped off all the trim and he got to work filling holes and trying to improve a few places where there was some shoddy dry-walling and texturing. Lots of mud and sanding were involved (read: d
ust). But we got ourselves ready and on Sunday, we started.

It's a big space
we're painting. We spent the majority of the day on Sunday painting, and we're still not done with the first coat. There is still the high vaults to do, and then we get to do it all over again with a 2nd coat. I did the rolling, Mr. Chick did the cutting-in. The color makes such a huge difference! It takes some getting used to. It's darker than I envisioned, but that's ok. The best way to describe it is a rich golden camel color. But adding color to the space better defines it and gives it dimension. Before, it was nearly the color of the ceilings. And with the vaults, they sort of blended in together. Now with the color you can really get a sense of the height, which is cool. We got the kids in on the act - they soooo wanted to help paint! but only just a bit because, well, they're not exactly professional painters or anything and their techniques need some work. As does their level of detail. But they liked helping out. And when they weren't painting or watching us paint, they were playing with the Giga ball. Which I blew up for them on Friday. And it gave me such a headache to do, not realizing how enormous this thing this. But they love it. It should be played with outdoors in the backyard, but we have it in the playroom for now. And it takes up all the available space in there, I swear. But they love it.

So now the week begins and we're back to our normal routine. I have to decide if I'm up to painting a 2nd coat of paint by myself during the day or if I'll wait to work on it in the evenings with Mr. Chick. My hands - they are beginning to blister. Plus, I probably have some work to do with my job today and I don't want to pawn off the kids too much. And I should probably go for a run at some point, too, just in case I'm called into action.

Friday, August 17, 2007

More House Projects

Like many people, we have a long list of projects we want to do to our house. Mostly of a cosmetic improvement / updating nature. Our house is a classic 70's tri-level, but there have been two additions to the house - the kitchen in 1980 and the bonus room (downstairs at garage level) new master suite (upstairs above bonus room) in 1990. That was a big one - a 2-story addition off the back of the house. We've already done a lot of painting since moving in almost 17 months ago: the entire exterior, staining the 2 decks, the family room, the kitchen (and new floor, faucet and lighting), and both kids' rooms. Next up? The living room/dining room.

When the house went on the market it was re-painted entirely in cream. Bland bland bland vanilla with no inspiration whatsoever. Plus light tan carpets. More bland. Put them together and toss in a few light cream/white couches and you have a whole big area of ZERO COLOR. I've hated it for quite some time but have been unable to decide on a plan for that space. It's a big space - tall vaulted ceilings over the living room, which is sunken one step,
and a small-ish formal dining area that shares a big wall with the living room area (hence, it must all be the same color), and the hall/stairway down to the garage and bonus room. All must be the same color since they share walls. It's the center of the house. Where you enter our home. It's the first impression and I want it to be a good one. Warm, inviting, tasteful. And since it's vaulted and sunken and big, a total bitch to paint. I only want to do it once, so I MUST get the color right the first time.

I think I found a color. I got a quart of it and painted small sections on various walls so I could see how it would look with the varying light, etc. We have a bizarre portion of a wall in the dining room that is recessed for some reason. Only an inch or two, but recessed and we don't know why. We have a pretty mirror hung in that section, but we're thinking it would be cool to make that p
art an accent wall. I mean, if you can't fix it, feature it! Good motto. Both Mr. Chick and I like these colors and are going to start painting this weekend. The names of the paint colors are "Pumpkin Butter" and "Spicy Cayenne". Here, have a look-see for yourselves and tell me what you think. The main color is the pumpkin butter - a warm-tone gold color. I was sort of trying to match with the pillow that sits on the chair in the picture. (please excuse the ugly light fixture - we're planning on changing it after we paint... plus, the chairs will ultimately be re-covered as well. I'm not wild about the floral print...) The red is the color for the weird recessed part of the dining room wall. The picture doesn't show it well, but the border of the recessed portion is just where the edge of the picture is. Above that the wall goes up high to the vaulted ceiling, so just the inset part would be the red color and the rest would be the gold. Can you envision it? I like it - I think the warm gold tones blend well with the hardwood floors and will add a nice contrast to the white-ish furniture and boring carpet (all our trim is wood, fyi) So, am I making a huge mistake here? Am I the only one who likes this?

And while we're on the subject of home improvement.... now that I'm working from home a few hours every week I needed to do something about my office space. It's horrible. It's the worst room in the house as we've been terribly unorganized in this room and it's become a gigantic dumping ground. Loose papers that needed to be filed were everywhere. The kids would drag in a toy or two while they played on the computer and the toys would stay in here, scattered and cluttered. It was awful and I hated it. I still don't love it, but I at least finally got around t
o organizing my shit and making the space functional. I made a run to the container store and picked up a grid system for the wall so I could have space to put my work stuff (files, DVD's, office supplies, etc.) The furniture in this room is atrocious: my and Mr. Chick's childhood desks shoved together. No joke. A chair, some file cabinets, a bookcase. Nothing matches. Nothing feels adult or grown-up. But it's all we have and it's what I have to make the best of. Here, take a look at my newly organized work space. It's where I am when I'm on the computer doing things like drafting posts to my blog. Hi! See the new wall organizing thing? Now I can see the tops of the desks. Note the two phones on the left of the desk: one for home, one for work. I have my multi-function machine, my computer (my screen is in the corner behind the desk sitting on a leftover small table, otherwise I wouldn't have room for a keyboard and mouse on the desk. It's that small and cramped. Sucks. The bookcase is to the left on the wall with the diplomas, but it's mostly filled with Mr. Chick's various law books and former work stuff of his that he feels he needs to hang on to. So this is my little corner of productivity. It's not pretty, but at least it's now functional.

Baby steps, baby steps. Every little thing we do around here only makes it nicer, right? Next up after painting the living room? Updating the kids hall bathroom! Oh joy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Crossroads **Edited**

After a fun, glorious day with my kids, my sister and her brood at the beach yesterday, I hit a snag. A horrible, unpleasant, repeated experience with Nicholas that has me confused about which way to go. I'm talking about team sports.

Nicholas played soccer last fall as a kindergartener. It was a so-so experience. Some days he enjoyed it and did well, and others, well, they sucked. He'd cry about something, want to quit, you name it. But we got through it. Then, in the spring, he played t-ball. It went much the same as soccer had. Some days were great, some weren't. He liked being with his friends, but didn't seem to love the sport. Crying and carrying-on were involved numerous times.

Nicholas has always been a sensitive boy. He's prone to melt-downs and crying when things get hard for him. He has a bit of a perfectionist streak, too, which only compounds the problem. If he can't do something perfectly the first time he gets upset. And he doesn't cope with being
upset well. He cries. He screams. He makes an ass of himself by causing a gigantic scene. And then he becomes irrational. He'll say stuff like, "but I don't know what the coach wants me to do!!" with tears streaming down his face, clutching at my shirt like a 2-yr old. So I'll say, "well, how can we solve this problem? I don't know what you're supposed to be doing, either, so let's go talk to your coach and ask him. I'll even go with you." Reasonable, right? WRONG! If you're Nicholas, that message didn't sink in. He'll then default to, "but I don't know what you MEAN! Wah!" Huh?!? What about "lets go talk to your coach and find out what you're supposed to be doing" didn't you understand?? So I'll re-phrase. And he'll still say he doesn't know what I mean. I think it's a defense mechanism on his part. He feels scared and overwhelmed and inadequate - or something - and this is his way out.

It's sooo hard for me to deal with. Admitting to my own parenting short-comings, I have very little tolerance for this behavior. Every.Damn.Time I have to pump him up. I have to talk him off the led
ge. I have to deal with his freak-outs and the (mostly compassionate) stares, looks, glances from the other parents. Who are mostly thinking they're glad it's my kid and not theirs behaving this way. I hate it. I try to be encouraging, with lots of, "you can do it!", and "well, let's take a quick break and just watch for awhile and see what they're working on" comments. When those fail and he's still acting like a petulant 2-yr old I go to the tough-talk. The "this is ridiculous! Why are you over here crying like this? You're doing fine! Now get back in there and try, try again! I'm not listening to you when you're crying and freaking out for no good reason." type of commentary. Usually, I can get him to go back and finish the practice, but it sucks, plain and simple. I'm so beyond sick and tired of this song and dance we seem to have to do each and every goddamn time. I know he's just this way and try to just deal with it, but it's hard. None of the other kids, by age 6, seem to do this the way he does. He's quickly getting a reputation as the big cry-baby, I'm sure. He doesn't seem to mind freaking the fuck out in front of everyone yet. When does that kick in?

Which brings me to yesterday. Nicholas did great at the beach with his cousins. He played in the sand, jumped the waves, laughed - it was wonderful. There wasn't a tear or a whine all day long. Beautiful day. We get home and move into dinner mode so we can get to soccer practice. We're a bit crunched for time so instead of walking to the park we drive. Nicholas seems fine as I put on his shin-guards and shoes. He's not starting to whine and complain as I hand him his water bottle. He gets in the car and we go. And then it starts. The, "I HATE soccer!" and "MooOOMmMMM, I don't want to go to practice!" whining. We park the car and I pull out the chair and Lauren's tricycle. I'm urging the kids to hurry up and get out of the car so we can get to practice. Look! I see the other kids! Let's go! I hold Nicholas's hand reassuringly and we walk to the practice field. We realize we forgot his ball. I say to the coach, so Nicholas can hear, "Coach, it's my fault that Nicholas doesn't have his ball for practice - I forgot it at home. Could he use an extra one of yours tonight?" Sure, he says, and gets a ball for Nicholas. I set up the chair, make sure Lauren is OK happily riding her tricycle along the path right behind me, and settle in. WITHIN 5 MINUTES Nicholas starts up. He was reluctant to join the practice and something about the stretching tweaked him out and he ca
me running over to me, face crumpling and tears shooting out of his eyes. I have to take a deep breath. The coach is behind him, telling him it's ok and telling me he doesn't know what upset him. He tells Nicholas to come back to practice whenever he's ready. He's a really nice coach. Nicholas is really upset, grabbing my shirt and burying his face into my chest, howling, but not able to tell me what's wrong. I calm him down blabbering some nonsense and tell him he needs to get back to practice, his team is waiting for him and counting on him. Same crap as always. He's unsure, but willing. I walk him to the edge of the field, find him his ball, and return to my seat. He just stands there on the sideline. A parent, someone he knows, squats down next to him and says something encouraging, nudging the ball towards him. Nicholas becomes unglued and rushes back to me, crying. Again. And I'm done.

I stand up, pissed off, and tell him we're done and we're going home. I'm done playing this game wit
h him and won't put up with it anymore. This ups the ante and he's mad. No longer sad, he starts screaming, "NOOO!! We're NOT going home! I WANT TO PLAY!" wah wah wah. He was really making a big spectacle of himself. I mean big. People way across the park started looking over. I simply ignore him and march back to the car to load up the chair and tricycle. Nicholas is still standing in the same place, screaming and crying and making a giant ass of himself. Lauren, bless her, is just sort of confused but doesn't add to my stress. She's so easy. She calmly comes to the car and gets in her seat. Nicholas, on the other hand, is now threatening to hit me. Between choking sobs he's demanding to stay and saying he's going to hit me. I tell him he'll regret it if he hits me. He does anyway - a pathetic bitch-slap on my arm. And he knows he's pushed it too far and immediately starts to run away from me. Homey don't play that, so I catch him in under 10 steps and have to physically carry him back to the car and put him in his seat. Never have I wanted to spank so badly. I didn't, but I really, really wanted to. I'm grim. I'm embarrassed by the ugly scene we've just caused. I'm really angry.

I tell Nicholas that we're going home, he's getting in the shower, and then going immediately to his room for the rest of the night. That I don't want to talk or see him for the rest of the evening. That his behavior was completely unacceptable and he needs to think about it by himself for awhile. He's practically barfing he's screaming and crying so hard.

Of course I can't NOT say something to him. I felt myself being super harsh and then the softer, mommy instinct kicked in and I wanted to help him. I wanted to make it better. He knew he blew it and was trying to be really nice to me as he was getting undressed for his shower. Lots of "thank you, Mama's" and "please's" were forthcoming. After his shower, as I was helping dry him off, I told him how much I loved him. That I would always love him, no matter what. That I didn't think he was a bad kid - he was a great kid - but that sometimes the way he behaved was bad. It was very rational and parental-like. He was no longer crying, but still had that jagged, broken breath you get after a really hard cry. Then Mr. Chick came home.

He'd gon
e straight to the soccer field from work. Another parent filled him in on what happened and he came home (this mom suggested he bring me flowers, having witnessed my level of pissyness first-hand). He took Nicholas down to the playroom to have a talk with him, man to man. Mr. Chick is just as sick as I am with this type of behavior from Nicholas. His immediate default to crying at every practice. After he sent Nicholas, crying again, to his room for the night we sat down and talked it over between us. I told him I was giving serious thought to withdrawing him from soccer and sports altogether. Clearly it's not something he enjoys enough to continue if this is how he continues to behave. When he's in a good mood, he's great. He plays and tries hard and has fun. It a joy to see. But if he's even a little bit tired or off, G-A-M-E O-V-E-R. We don't want to torture him - sports are supposed to be fun. A good way to learning teamwork, plus the sport itself, and a way to connect with and make friends the other players. And that's how it seems to be for the other kids. But not Nicholas. At least, not every time. So it's tricky. We want to teach him responsibility and commitment. He committed to this team and said he wanted to play. He needs to see it through and try his best for the team - they're counting on him, blah blah blah. But on the other hand, we don't want to scar him and make him hate sports too early. Maybe he's just too young. He's not overly athletic and isn't driven to compete naturally (not that the sports he does at this age are really competitive - they're not. But he doesn't "lose" well). It's just not in his nature. I'm not sure it ever will be. He's just young and taking longer than most to embrace this. It's hard on Mr. Chick, who IS athletic and loves soccer. He grew up playing it. He coaches it. It's his sport of choice. I think he was hoping Nicholas would be a player, too, and it could be something they could do together. A father-son bonding thing. Mr. Chick will take the kids to the backyard to to a field around the corner to kick the ball around on the weekends. Lauren loves it, Nicholas not so much.

So, we need to decide what to do. Do we pull him and leave our team a player short? Keep in mind
there are only 6 kids on the team, so losing one has a big impact. Or, do we continue to encourage and prop up Nicholas for the season and hope he comes to develop a level of enjoyment for the game and team over time? Is it worse to force him to continue, or let him quit? These are the questions we're wrestling with and there are no clear answers for us. A big part of me feels that we need to expose our kids to a variety of stuff so they can figure out what they like and enjoy and want to do more of. How can you know if you like something or are good at it if you don't try it? Nicholas is registered for a trial dance (ballet) class starting this Saturday with a very good dance academy. They're recruiting young boys and girls and offer a free 4-week trial for the kids - every Saturday for an hour for 4 weeks. We let Nicholas decide if he wanted to try it, and he thought about it for a day or so and said he did. He's nervous he'll be the only boy - a distinct possibility - but wants to do it anyway. I'm more than happy to let him, as is Mr. Chick. I don't know - maybe dance will click for him. Or maybe he'll pull another freakout meltdown in the middle of the studio. It could go either way.

So I'm asking: does/has/did your kid do this stuff? Should we push Nicholas to stay in soccer this season and see it though, or do we pull him (let him quit) and re-visit team sports in another year or more? What would you do?? Gah - parenting can be so HARD!

Just wanted to give a quick update for those of you following along at home. After the Big Meltdown '07, we had ourselves several long conversations about where to go from here. Resolution is/was hard to find, but for now we're thinkin
g (and so far, Nicholas is in agreement) that we'll see this season out because we said we would. I want to teach and reinforce commitment and the honoring of obligations. I told Nicholas he didn't have to like it, but he had to do his best to get through it with a good attitude. And hey! Maybe, just maybe, he'd have some fun along the way (keeping fingers crossed here). But that once this season is over we wouldn't sign him up for another sport if he didn't want us to. We could take a break for awhile. He's down with this plan. So, last night was another soccer practice (2x/week schedule). I felt like I spent the entire day subtly prepping him. We had some stuff to do during the day, but I kept it low key. I noticed he was yawning in the car and forced some "quiet time" in the afternoon - in his bed - where I laid down with him and rubbed his back and blessedly he fell asleep and stayed down for a hour. Good power nap. We ate dinner a little earlier than usual so as to not be rushed before practice. All that stuff, which is good to do but gah! makes me feel like I'm walking on eggshells anticipating another "scene". Like our whole day revolved around him and his delicate moods. But whatever - it must have worked because that practice was worlds away better than the previous one. He did fantastic. He was chipper and engaged. He smiled and kept at it. He even scored the first goal in the scrimmage. I did make him apologize to his coach for his behavior - I felt it important that he acknowledge it and make amends - and he did. Good boy. Then he cheerfully set about doing the drills and practices and whatnot. I got lots of thumbs-up's from across the field. The other parents offered lots of praise to him throughout the practice, which he thrives on for reassurance and confidence. It sort of seemed a little to ass-kissy to me, but again, I just went with it. One mother, the one who had told Mr. Chick what had happened when he showed up last practice, actually complimented me on how I'd handled it on Tuesday, claiming to be impressed with how consistent I was in the face of his tantrum. That blew me away because here I was thinking I just looked like a giant asshole the whole time. So anyway, it was a really great soccer practice and we really gave him good, positive strokes for handling it so well and doing such a great job. I told him that he needed to try to do that at every practice from now on and life would be golden. We'll see....

Monday, August 06, 2007


Wow - I'm really starting to suck at this. My plate feels very full these days and I'm finding I just don't have the time to blog like I used to. And not that I really spent all that much time blogging in the first place. But in addition to not taking the time to post much I'm also finding my blog reading time diminished as well, and that is a hard pill to swallow. I love reading blogs! . It's hard when life gets in the way sometimes.

I have so many things I want to mention that I'm not sure where to start or how to make this post seem thoughtful, creative and organized vs. chaotic and jumbled. I fear it's just going to be a giant brain dump, messy as that will be. Topics like our recent weekend at the beach, an article I recently read about MS, going to court, my job, the kids, marital questions to ask, etc. See? Messy.

OK, first things first: my job. It's going well, I think. I've been at it a month now. I billed my first month of time last week and the payday will be nice. Over $700 for the month of part-time work from home. I like my boss - he seems like a straight-forward guy who peppers his phone conversations with me with bits of humor, so it's pleasant working for him. I've hired a "mother's helper" last week to help me with the kids during the 2 hours or so that I need to be at the computer uninterrupted. It worked out very well! She's 11 and babysitter certified, and has a disabled younger sister that she looks after for short periods, so I feel she's well trained to tackle my two rugrats. She lives down the block from us. Plus, she's very polite and cheerful and cheap: $4/hr for mothers helper. Hell yeah! Sadly she's on a 2-week vacation with her family and I'll have to muddle through without her until she's back. In the meantime I hope to have to lean on Mr. Chick's 15 yr old cousin (male) who lives about 1.5 miles away when he's with his mother and gets bored in their apartment by himself all day. He'd rather hang out with us and play with my kids than be alone with nothing to do. For food and company in exchange for entertaining kids here and there, it works out. When I don't have help, which is the vast majority of the time, we've been making more frequent trips to the library to get videos and books for the kids. Yes, I'm using the electronic babysitter in my family room so I can get some work done. I feel guilty about letting the kids have that much TV time (and extra hour or so while I work), but I try to make up for it by planning something fun and active for the afternoons to off-set any slothiness that might have taken root. So far, no-harm-no-foul. I think. It could be a lot worse - I only work maybe 2 hours per day, on average, broken up into smaller chunks of time, so I'm not putting them on "ignore" for super-long stretches. I've brought up the subject of working out "office hours" with my boss so I could set up more of a predictable schedule for myself where work was concerned, but so far I don't have such a thing. I check in with him every morning and get a feel for what he'll need from me that day, and then tackle it right away. I feel like I want to make myself available whenever something needs to be done, and that's just not efficient for the rest of my life. In another month or so I think I'll naturally develop a work schedule around the kids' school schedule, but until then, I'm winging it.

Topic 2: soccer. HOLY BURNOUT, BATMAN! Oh my holy hell - practices for FALL soccer have already started for Nicholas. That's right, you read that correctly. He now has soccer practice 2x per week for an hour. The first game isn't until mid-September, but practices have begun in earnest. For 1st graders! 6 kids per team! This is not uber-competitive soccer - this is supposed to be fun! Yikes! It seems like overkill to me. Especially when you figure Nicholas is going to a week-long (mornings only) soccer camp this week. He's going to have soccer coming out of his ears by the time school starts.

Topic 3: traffic court. Something like 6 months ago I was cited for a traffic violation: failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Or something like that. I thought it was crap, as did Mr. Chick, so I plead Not Guilty and requested a hearing, with my attorney representing me (aka Mr. Chick). The first scheduled hearing got pushed back because the officer who cited me couldn't make that date, so now the hearing is this afternoon. Mr. Chick has a whole folder prepared for my "trial" - it's pretty funny. But finally all those years of law school are paying off for me! :) See, the officer cited me under an old, repealed statute that's no longer on the books. By like 4 years. Right there I should be let off the hook because of that technicality. But if they decide to re-cite me under current statute, then Mr. Chick has more weapons in his arsenal. For example, the fact that the pedestrian wasn't IN the crosswalk (an un-regulated crosswalk - no traffic light controls it), he was standing ON the sidewalk. Also, he was wearing a construction-worker vest and I thought he was doing some work there (there had been quite a bit of construction in the area). The motorcycle cop had stopped in the opposing lane of traffic to let this guy cross, but me and the car in front of me didn't read him as a pedestrian and kept on driving down the road. The officer pulled a u-turn and got me, the unlucky last car in that string. Mr. Chick is pointing out that even the officer couldn't tell if that guy even crossed the street because of how quickly the cop came after me and when he pulled me over you couldn't see the crosswalk anymore. So was he really a pedestrian trying to cross the interesection?? I love it. Mr. Chick and his cross-examination questions. AND, even better, the cop who got me is the same cop who actually wrote an article which came out in our local newsletter telling about the new traffic laws pertaining to pedestrians, yet he cited me incorrectly. Under the new law, a pedestrian must be IN the crosswalk. This guy wasn't. Slam-dunk - I'm not guilty. At least, I shouldn't be found guilty. And at a minimum the gigantic fine such a citation charges should be dramatically reduced just for showing up to court, right? I mean, initially it's nearly $300! Even if everything goes against us, it should be at least cut in half, right? Wish us luck!

Topic 4: MS. I've mentioned that one of my sisters has Multiple Sclerosis, haven't I? Thankfully, it's not dramatically affecting her at this point and she's only had 2 "episodes" of difficulty since her diagnosis 4 years ago. As you know, there is no cure for MS. No one really even knows what causes it. It's most common in women, and usually strikes between the ages of 20-40. I know several people with it - it sucks. Early last week I was reading the paper and came across an article about MS and how researchers may have found a gene that increases the likelihood of getting MS. This finding may make it more possible to come up with better treatments and hopefully, a cure, for this horrible disease. I was so thrilled when I read that article. As a sister, I worry for my sister and feel so badly that she has to deal with this. But I also have a nagging worry that it's perhaps genetic and my chances of getting it have now increased. No one knows for sure if it's genetic - they've never been able to prove it. But now they've identified this gene. So, I guess it IS genetic to a point. But - BUT - now they're onto something to make it better. And that hope is wonderful. It would be the greatest thing if she could lick this before something really bad happens.

Topic 5: Beach Weekend. This past weekend we went to the Oregon coast with some friends. Our two families are similar and it was good fun for all. The house we stayed in is owned by our friends' parents. The same people who own the place in Palm Springs I went to last fall. Yeah, they do quite well for themselves - it must be nice. They live very well. On Saturday we took the kids down to the beach (the house is beach-front) to play. At one point Mr. Chick decides the 4 of us should walk to the place he'd found earlier on his run that was a goldmine for finding whole, intact sand dollars. So we went, and it was a glorious walk with the kids. We were completely unencumbered and content. Everyone was in a good mood - no cranky kids, no whining. Just fun. We ran and skipped and chased waves. We found sticks and dragged them in the sand. I marveled at how free and perfect our kids are. How happy. I was enjoying just watching them in all their golden, childhood glory. Just running on the beach without a care in the world, completely living in the moment. And, as a bonus, we did find 5 or 6 perfect sand dollars. The beach was littered with their broken remains, but we unearthed a few and protected our treasures all the way back. I couldn't have scripted a better hour. The night before we had a wonderful bonfire on the beach so we could roast marshmallows and make s'mores. Yum! I think Nicholas ate 3, at least. The last day (yesterday) we went to a different beach and this time immersed ourselves in making sand castles. Only we'd forgotten our buckets and shovels in the car. So we improvised and in doing so, taught our children to be innovative. We found rocks to help us dig. We used our hands. Nicholas found a discarded bottle and after he admonished whoever left it on the beach for littering, set about using it as a tool. We created a "good" castle, complete with moat and lookout tower and bridge and wall, and the neighboring "bad" castle, more forbidding. We envisioned elaborate attacks and came up with defenses. At one point Mr. Chick, who was the lead architect of the evil empire, had Nicholas out scouting for a suitable disco ball. Because what bad castle would be complete without a disco ball??! He nicknamed the bad castle the "Palace of Pimp" (just between us, of course) and elaborated on that theme. He ended up with satellite dishes and a disco ball and all sorts of embellishments that the "good" castle went without. I gave my compound such things as gardens and protective walls made from rocks and pebbles. The bottle upended became the lookout tower that doubled as the prison for the bad guys. I was more era-specific in my imaginings whereas Mr. Chick was quite contemporary. And the kids ate it up and we consumed a nice chunk of time with our industry. The kids completely forgot that we didn't have any sand toys after 5 minutes. I savored the imagination and creativity.

Last topic: A marital question. At one point during the weekend Mr. Chick and I got into a heated discussion. It didn't help that he'd had a few drinks more than me, or that I'm pre-menstrual and feeling hormonal and extra-emotional. A lethal combination. Mr. Chick asked me to identify what I do specifically for him to show my love and affection. What gestures to I make to show him that? He told me that he feels he does a lot for me - unexpected backrubs and foot massages if we're sitting on the couch, for example, whereas I don't seem to do ANYTHING for him and he was feeling pissy about it. And lately he's started making me my coffee in the morning before I get up. Which is lovely and I appreciate it and have told him so numerous times. But of course talking about all of this got me on the defensive immediately. And I can't think straight when that happens. Unlike a lot of women, I can't recall a damn thing when we get in a disagreement. My mind goes blank. It took me a bit to play catch-up and start to identify all the little ways I try to show him that I'm thinking about him and love him, etc. But his argument was that the stuff *I* do also benefits me and/or the kids as well. I don't do anything JUST for him - just to make HIM feel good. The only example he could come up with was massages. My take-away was that I needed to offer more spontaneous foot rubs when we're sitting on the couch watching television. Sexual stuff doesn't count, according to him. That topic was off the table. He mentioned it would be nice if I programmed the coffee pot so there was coffee for HIM in the morning, but just this morning I asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee to-go and he said no, like he always does, which I know, so what would be the point of ensuring he had some before work?? So, I'm asking anyone who reads this - what do YOU do for your spouse or special someone to show them that you love them? I'd love to hear about it so I could generate some new ideas - I'm fresh out and apparently need to up my game.

So that's it for now. Sorry if your brain feels scrambled after reading all this mess from mine. I need to get in a bit of work before it's time to go pick up Nicholas from soccer camp and then get dressed and ready for court. And hit Costco at some point. Geez - it never ends, does it?!

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