Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mid-Life Crisis

Looking back on the past few months, it would (mildly) appear that I am going through somewhat of a mid-life crisis. I got a tattoo on my shoulder blade on a whim (I think I just heard my parents gasp... actually I can picture my dad, at his computer, reading this, shaking his head and sighing... much like he did when he found out that I was piercing my nose... hey, but that was for cultural reasons:) ), dyed my hair red, and bought a pair of Dr. Marten boots that I haven't had a desire to wear since high school. Now, the tattoo is there to stay. Inkers remorse or not, it ain't going anywhere- and it is kinda cute. It's a somewhat abstract version of a dandelion but Hanna immediately knew what it was, so I guess it's not as abstract as I think it is. She is my go-to girl for all of these difficult questions ("Hanna, which shoes do you prefer?"... of course she is the girl who would sport the red shirt with a blue skirt, green socks, and purple shoes and think nothing of it... hmmm, perhaps I should start getting second opinions...). Now the red hair dye didn't come out as planned. I toiled over which shade to get even though in the back of my head I knew that nothing would look like it did on the box since my hair is so dark to begin with. My hair has no hint of red whatsoever, unless I am in direct sunlight, at which point it looks like a deep red beanie on my head. The Dr. Martens are totally adorable, except I look like a really old Avril LeVigne wanna-be, and not as cute. I haven't had the courage to sport them yet, but in my head, they look amazing and I am intent on bringing back the punk meets posh look... wait, was that ever a look? Hmmm, that may explain the stares when I was in school... but all in all, this is a pretty cheap mid-life crisis... some people buy new cars, go crazy, change careers, etc... me? Mine is hardly noticeable and so far, it hasn't cost much. Perhaps this is just the pre-crisis. I am somewhat on the young end of the mid-life crisis average, so there is still time yet to add to the drama. Oh wait, I've got three kids, a dog, a puppy, a spouse, and an old house... who has time for drama? On most days, I'm really just too exhausted to have a real mid-life crisis, and on the days I am not, I'm busy looking for ways to wear Dr. Marten's without looking like a fifteen-year old goth chic. So perhaps the crisis will have wait till more time comes along which will be... ??

Time, Oh Time, Where Art Thou?

Last week, I stood in front of my classroom door clicking the "unlock" button on my car remote. I was confused for way too long before realizing my error. Of course, then I had to head back out to the parking lot to make sure my car was indeed locked with the sliding door closed. I've been known to lock the car with the sliding door open - luckily even in my "transitional" neighborhood, neighbors have rung the doorbell to tell me that the van door is open... again. Sigh. This morning I called to cancel a doctor's appointment scheduled for today, only it turns out it wasn't today, it is next week. I also showed up a week early for a meeting with my Head of School. Clearly I am having a tough time adjusting to the "back -to -school" life I was free of over the summer. It seems like so long ago, and yet, I almost feel like I have more "me" time now that school is in session (note that my last blog entry was in May!). Summer flew by but it was nice- for once I felt like the kids did a fairly good job of entertaining each other with minor disagreement, which was great considering the heat. As claustrophobic as our house seems with everyone and the plethora of stuff that ends up everywhere, there weren't a lot of places to go and run around and not risk a heat stroke. I braved taking the kids to Creve Ceour Lake on my own one day- we hiked up a waterfall and once at the top, I realized that Silas wouldn't be able to get down the hill on his own. So I picked him up and began the descent when Hanna saw a tiny, tiny, spider and began screaming hysterically and crying. I could see the older couple (either they never had kids or they didn't remember the days of having younger kids) at the bottom of the hill judging my decision to allow my kids up the hill; in retrospect, rightfully so. They also seemed annoyed that Hanna's dramatic rendition of Little Miss Muffet was ruining their peaceful moment with nature. Whatever. Ella, in the meantime, continues to climb up the hill convinced that she was born to be a rock-climber. I hold Silas, trying to keep my footing, while calmly telling Hanna that I've "taken care" of the spider, though honestly, I never saw it. I realize that this will add to the "lie-count" I've racked up since becoming a parent. "Yes, honey, that is the best picture I've ever seen." She begins to slip and refuses to move unless I hold her hand. I wonder why neither one of the couple, who are still witnessing this whole event, come to my aid. Clearly I have overestimated my super-mom abilities and am in a bind. But no one is coming to my aid, and heaven knows where Ella is. So, Silas on hip, Hanna in hand, I inch my way down, sliding down at points. Ella joins us when we are at the bottom claiming that "that was the best climb ever!"Um, okay. However, indoors or outdoors, three kids is still a lot (if you have two, stop now, if you have more than three, you are nuts... but I secretly envy you since I have always wanted a big family...) and as if that wasn't enough... we decided to throw a puppy into the mix. So, now we have Jack. He is an 11- week old Border Collie/ Blue Heeler mix- both high energy and both herding dogs. I have plans to train Jack to herd the kids before bed- time and nip their heels all the way into their beds. But for now, we are working on the basics, like not to run Silas over (I really think he considers Silas his litter-mate, which as you can imagine, Silas is not thrilled about) and nip at fingers and toes. I can't wait for jeans and boots weather. The other day Ella came down in a skirt with a large hole in the back- courtesy of Jack. We've had to pull out the mini steam-cleaner many, many times, and that's only for the accidents that happen on the carpet that we actually see. Jack is almost like one of those Baby Alive dolls that have a hole in the mouth and then one on the other end- whatever goes in almost instantly comes out, which should make it more predictable, but of course we haven't seemed to pick up on that yet. Paper towel usage has skyrocketed in our house, and honestly, we should be composting it, (along with the leftover food, liquids, etc...yes, I've got the "green guilt" thing going on). Jack likes to chew on everything other than his own toys and this morning he was up at 4:45 am to go outside (the frustrating part of it is that after I dragged myself out of bed and took him out, he didn't even go! Manipulative little mutt!). I am pretty sure that Jack was Dave's solution to me wanting a fourth child and he knows that when Jack is gone in 15 years, I'll be way past the age of asking for another child. And it may just work. I guess we'll have to wait for the blog in fifteen years to see where I am with that :).

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Simple Stop

The weather is nice and Hanna has been bugging for a smoothie stop for about a year now... well, not really, but when you have to hear about it every day on the ride home, it sure feels like a year! Ella had a school event so I thought, one kid down, I should be able to handle two and some smoothies. My plan was to stop in the Loop, sit outside, relax, drink the smoothies, and then return home (some of you are laughing already...). If you have kids, you know that on most days, there is only a small margin of a few minutes between things being fine and then quickly turning into chaos. We sit for awhile sipping our smoothies and then decide to head back and finish the drinks along the way.  With less than a block to go before making it to the car, I am pulled into Hats 'n' Stuff by a straw hat (technically a fedora) in the window. Hanna seems confused because I was clear to explain that we were not stopping anywhere on our way to the car. Nowhere. I try on a couple of hat and Hanna seems into the whole dress up idea so she doesn't protest the detour. I end up finding a small purse which would be perfect for my upcoming trip to Chicago. I take it to the counter realizing that my margin of control is quickly about to disappear. While exchanging pleasantries with the man at the counter, I hear Hanna crying back by the purses. I round the stack of hats and find her in tears, clearly confused, looking back and forth between her cup and the somewhat large puddle of smoothie on the floor. I am immediately thankful that I split a smoothie into two cups for each of them. Mortified, I ask the man at the counter for paper towels and assure him that it didn't get on any merchandise. Skeptically, he hands me the roll and I get to work, squatting with Silas on my hip. Note to self: next time leave the cups outside... or just go home. Silas is obviously not thrilled by this, and he squirms and squeals enough for me to set him down for a second. That's all it took. He darts out the door. Hanna, who I had told to stay outside, comes back into the store, dripping smoothie from her cup, which I now realize is broken at the bottom. Paper towels in hand, and on my knees, I end up cleaning most of the store floor. Had it been water, the store person may actually have been thankful with the mop job, but in this case, sticky smoothie hardly makes for a good floor cleaner. I manage to hold on to Silas somehow, handing him some paper towels and pleading for his help,"Silas, help Mama?" He did long enough for me to finish up, explain to Hanna that she must drink over the trash can ("Forever, Mommy?"), and go to pay for my purse. This in of itself becomes an ordeal. I am holding Silas' smoothie cup, he is on my hip, and as luck would have it, he manages to extend his arms and grab the sunglasses for the mannequin's head on the counter, which tumbles to the floor. Luckily it is styrofoam, so other than a dent in the head (which the Cardinals hat conceals well), no harm done. On the way down, however, it knocks into the smoothie cup in my hand, which immediately starts dripping on the floor. I look at the man who instinctively hands me back the now almost empty roll of paper towels. "I bet you are going to print up a "no drinks allowed" sign, aren't you?" I say with a nervous chuckle, hoping to break the awkwardness (and embarrassment) with some humor. He remains fairly composed and nicely says,"Don't worry. It's not as bad as some I've seen." Really??? Because it is pretty bad. I hate Smoothie King. Their cups are cheap and every time I see the store, I just see puddles of disaster. Of course it isn't their fault, but I need something to appease my embarrassment. I promised the salesman that I would leave my kids at home next time. Better yet, I'll leave myself at home next time! Sheesh.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Haircut Remorse

So some of you who are reading this are people who see me somewhat regularly, perhaps daily. Let me be clear. I don't want any comments about how "great" I look, or how cute my hair cut it. I am not fishing for compliments. I am growing it out. Contrary to how it appears. I've gone to the same hairdresser for over 10 years, and recently switched. After today's cut, it appears that this new one and I are not exactly on the same wave length. No pun intended. I clearly stated, "I don't want to lose length. I want the back short and the front to remain the same." As I watched him cut away like Edward Scissorhands going to town on a bush, and stared at the pile of hair on my lap, I knew something was going terribly wrong. Yet I was secretly hoping that he would comp this one since it was somewhat uneven from the last cut he gave me and I felt like I couldn't complain. Who I am to judge the professional? So I allowed it, praying that his vision for me was more than mine. Sadly, it was less, and I have the loss of hair to show for it. He even showed me pictures, and they were exactly what I had in mind. Either he needs new glasses or I do because it seems we were not looking at the same thing. And now, every time my computer goes to sleep and I catch a glimpse of myself in the blank screen, I repeat my mantra: it will grow out. In a year or so. Maybe more. I almost took a pair of scissors to my hair myself this evening, something I've done before on several occasions. Sometimes it works out. And of course, every woman I see now on tv or in magazines, has long, flowing hair. Rub it in. Throw vinegar on my wound. But realistically, there isn't anything I can do, short of taking an extra dose of prenatal vitamins (no not for any other reason than I want my hair to grow faster!), to undo it. Hair extensions? Hanna would be thrilled. Every time we pass Hair City, she asks if she can change her hair. I've considered it, along with the option of going back to my Winona Ryder (not sure if it was pre or post shoplifting days) haircut. Probably not my finest moment. I love shoes, and and free returns are a great thing. You buy a pair, try them on for a bit and if it doesn't work out, send them back. No such luck with haircuts. Sure, there are iPhone apps that can show you what you'd look like with different hairdos, but I always know what I want and how it will look on me theoretically. The problem, well, truth be told, there are several problems. My hair, shocking news to most people, is not straight. It's curly; not the cute curls that bounce and spring like my sister's (another shocker- her's isn't straight either!) but unruly and messy curls that may only be fitting for someone emerging from a windstorm. Or waking up from bed after a night of tossing and turning. Either way, it isn't a look that is stylish to sport. I've been fighting it for a long time. I go through phases of embracing the mess and then revert back to my flat iron wondering who saw me and whether or not they thought I was insane. OK, so I'll admit it. I am vain. But not in a bad way. I don't like attention, I don't like people looking at me or saying things, and a messy do will certainly draw more attention and comments from people who feel like they should comment because it's the polite thing to do. I normally just smile, say thanks, and think in my head,"I know what you're doing. I'd have done the same thing." So modeling my hair after the picture of the girl who has naturally straight hair is a disaster to begin with. I told my hair dresser this evening that I didn't want to be that "high maintenance client" and he said that it wasn't my fault. That I had the most "high maintenance" hair of his clients because I refuse to let me hair be the way it should. Touche. I laughed but knew it wasn't really funny. It was true. The grass is always greener on the other side, and I've had my eye on the other side for some time. People with straight hair complain about it being flat and dull. Puh-lease. We love your hair. The fact that you roll out of bed and it's the same as the way it was when you went to bed. Just brush it upside down and you'll be fine. Curls on the other hand frizz in summer humidity and frizz when it's wet and snowy in the winter. We can't win either way. Thank goodness for the advancement in hair products, which I should note that I don't use. I always feel like it makes me break out, which is probably psychological. It's probably from the worry that the product will cause a break out. At least concealer and time get rid of that. Other problems have been tougher to remedy. I tried to relax my hair once with a product made for African Americans. It was supposed to turn from light pink to white (or the other way around?) as you work up the lather and you rinse it off when it changes color. I just couldn't see the change in color. It fried my hair and I spent three hours under a heater with conditioner in my hair and probably the entire salon laughing at me as I sat there, head heating, wondering what on earth I was thinking. There was also the time I tried to bleach my hair sitting next to the radiator and it turned my hair carrot orange. I went to school with black hair the next day since it was the only thing my mom had on hand at 11 pm. No 24- hour Walgreens in Chile. So there have been plenty of hair mishaps on my end and somehow, I doubt it's over. I continue on the quest for the perfect hair style. The perfect cut. I am certain that this isn't it and will anxiously await the days when a rubber band and some bobby pins will mask it. I've got awhile to go. Green grass looks oh so good right about now!

Friday, March 23, 2012

A sad entry.

Kenna (1996-2012)

Yesterday was just flat out depressing. I came downstairs after getting Silas dressed and Dave mentioned that Kenna had pooped in the family room. He said her back legs weren't doing to well and he had to carry her outside. When he brought her back in, I could tell that something had changed. Her body was somewhat curled and her eyes were moving back and forth. Being the "want to be informed" dog owner that I am, I made the #1 mistake (which admittedly, I have made before)- checking the trusted source for all questions: Based on my extensive five minute research, I concluded that she had "vestibular disease" which is basically where your body feels completely disoriented, unable to tell up from down, left from right, etc. She wasn't able to stand, and I knew we were in trouble when she refused a bagel. Typically, when I have suspected she will go, I break down and cry, and take her to the vet, only to be sent home with some medicine. This time, looking at her, I knew it was her time, and that I would be coming home alone. I didn't cry for her, necessarily, I cried because I knew I would be screwed without her. For the past fifteen years, she has been through it all with me. Add to that that I pretty much cry at the sight of any dead animal (other than squirrels; those I just think that is one less squirrel that may end up in my attic), and I knew this would be hard. I told the girls to say bye to Kenna and surprisingly, they took it well. Even Ella, who has broken down at the thought of Kenna not being able to attend her wedding, kept her composure. She held Hanna's hand as my friend picked them up for camp and was strong for her. At that moment, she seemed years older than she is; I was proud of her. I prayed that I would be able to be that strong when I picked them up.

I took Kenna to the vet and didn't even ask to see the vet. I knew they would be able to put a band-aid on her ailment, but for how long? And at what expense? Her quality of life was only going down from here, and knowing her, she wouldn't have wanted that. She was seemingly human at times. Once, tired of overpaying for her haircuts at Petsmart, I bought a pair of clippers and went to town on her fur. She was so humiliated by my lack of skill with the clippers, she hid under my bed for hours, refusing to come out. I had to coax her out, telling her it really wasn't as bad as she thought it was. It was pretty bad. But she forgave me and allowed me to cut her hair from then on. She preferred it to the groomers since they always attempted to cut her nails, which she hated. We eventually resorted to filing them with a dremel tool, which is extremely time consuming; she hated that too. Newman on the other hand could care less about his nails, his fur, any of it. He is easily bribed with anything peanut butter. He, too, has been at a loss for the past 24 hours... yes, it has been just about that, but it feels like she has been gone for much longer. As sick as it sounds, I would clean up all the poop and pee she could produce to have her back. And it does sound sick. I miss her greatly and the house feels empty without her, even if for the most part she was a lump of fur either in the family room or in the living room.

We planted a tree for her in the backyard and will leave Newman in charge of the "watering". Dave spent a lot of time yesterday digging a deep hole for the tree. We made a border around it and filled it with stones. Then we each shared the thing we loved most about Kenna. Dave: that she loved me (Nina) with all her heart. Ella: that she always seemed happy. Hanna: that she always licked your hand when you put it in front of her. Nina: that she loved to be outside; on snowy days she would lay in the snow and just stick her nose out as if inhaling the cold winter air. She was playful and loyal.

After her memorial service, we cleaned up and looking at her tree, I noticed it was crooked. I didn't have the heart to tell Dave to redo it, so this morning, I dropped the kids off, and to commemorate the 24 hour mark of her passing, I redug up the tree and straightened it out. I told myself that if we sell our house at some point, we would have to note that the eastern redbud does not stay with the house. I can picture myself moving- all of our things packed in a UHaul, and a 12 foot redbud strapped to the top of our minivan. There is no way I can leave it here. It is connected to me now. Not in a "we are all part of the earth"/ hippie kind of way, but emotionally. I can picture her laying under that tree, her blue eyes staring off, waiting for an unsuspecting squirrel to wander into the yard. Actually, I see her out there with or without the tree. I feel like I should tell myself to grow up, and stop making myself miserable thinking about her. I have cried incessantly for the past 24 hours. Except in the presence of my kids. I will be strong for them. Losing her has been much harder than I thought. Actually I knew it would be hard. She has been through it all with me: boyfriends, marriage, houses, babies... my loyal companion. She even helped with the kids, herding them... sure sometimes they would get nipped on the heels, but she was only doing her job. I will miss her greatly and believe she is in Heaven. I've painted a great picture of a dog's life in Heaven, so much so that Ella thinks that Kenna is lucky to be able to be there. I tell myself that too. Lots of dog bones, peanut butter treats, and endless squirrels and sheep to herd. She is a in a good place, a better place, and free from the old age that limited her here.

I will miss you, Kenna. Now, go get those sheep!
Kenna's tree- don't tell me if it is crooked!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The culprit... I suppose this whole episode wasn't easy on him either...

Yes, literally, this is a blog about crap. What a great start!

I remember when we first told my parents that we were pregnant, my mom was immediately concerned about the mix of dogs and kids. Her concern was somewhat justified; Newman is a mutt (though we refer to him as a Humane Society Jewel) and their best guess for his breed is pit bull... I mean, American Stafordshire Terrier, mixed with chow, possibly shar-pei, and who knows what else. The media seems to hate pit bulls (maybe Pit Bull, the singer, will bring some respect to the name... ok, who I am kidding?) and my mom would send me articles about children being mauled in parks by random pit bulls. In our case, we felt the need to defend Newman. He is far from being the perfect dog (like his non-biological sister, Kenna, a sweet border-collie mix) but vicious and aggressive he is not. Our dogs were part of our family before we had kids and they were not going anywhere, at least not until they proved to be a problem, and then too, it would be toss up between getting rid of the children or the dogs (we struggle with this more on some days than others).

Three kids, and still two dogs, later, life in our home has gotten a little bit crazier. It seems like one of the kids is always fighting some illness, and when they aren't, we are busy getting maximum use out of our Bissell Little Green Steam Cleaner, cleaning up after my now senior dog. As much of a hassle as it is, at least she is predictable. Same spot and same time, if you don't let out her beforehand. Some nights, Dave hears her nails walking across the hard wood floors at 5 am and tries to run down and let her out before she squats. Still, most mornings, I still wake to the sound of the steam cleaner and laying in bed, I think to myself, "I am married to a good man." It is now part of his morning routine, much like the coffee he brings me. If I had to guess his love language, I'd say it is "acts of service".

A few weeks ago, Silas was fighting an ear infection and a cough and he was having trouble sleeping. He was up at all hours of the night, mostly because he couldn't fall asleep with all the coughing. I tried several times to explain to him that when he felt that glob in his throat that was making him choke, he needed to spit it out, but he made little effort to follow my instructions. Finally, he is asleep and after what only seems like five minutes of sleep for me, Dave comes in and says that there is a mess in the family room and he can't clean it up. If we are analyzing the English language here, "can't" really should have been "won't" since he really IS capable of cleaning it up. We both assumed it was "my" dog, so down I went. Half way down the stairs, I realized it was going to be bad. Worse than I thought. There was one large clump of poo, surround by a pool of diarrhea. I was choking as I tried to scoop it up with my rubber gloves on and what was clearly not enough paper towels. After the worst of it was done, there was still a large green spot on the rug that required lots more blotting and scrubbing. I went back to bed an hour later, and laying in bed, I couldn't help but wonder if I there was a large smear somewhere on me. I couldn't escape the smell... somehow it managed to permeate everything... I thought that I should change, shower, maybe scald myself with boiling water to disinfect myself, but fell asleep before I got the chance to do any of it.

I let both dogs out later and watch for their bowel movements... somewhat gross, but I was curious as to whether or not the spell had passed. Kenna wandered around and did her usual thing... Newman, on the other hand, looked nervous... finally, he squatted and the evidence emerged (literally). It was him! He spent most of the day outside while I apologized for blaming Kenna for the incident. She stayed indoors being hand fed grapes and fanned with large palm leaves.

On Monday, I get a call from Dave. Newman had spent the morning in the basement because we weren't taking any chances with him destroying the living room, or any room with fabric. Dave went home for lunch and reported that Newman had squirted everywhere! I told him that that was a bummer and how sorry I was that he had to go home to that. I went on with my day, grabbed the kids and went home as usual. I opened the front door only to be hit by the worst wave of poop smell. I sighed thinking that Newman had pooped again after Dave had seen him that afternoon. I walked downstairs, and as described by Dave, there was poop everywhere... on the washer and dryer, deep freezer, trail-a-bike tire, carpet, bags of clothes for Goodwill (I am pretty sure they won't want them anymore), floor... almost like a Jackson Pollack painting gone bad... and over several canvases... I couldn't believe it. It became clear that Dave had surveyed the damage when he came home earlier and thought to himself,"Heck no! I am not messing with this!" I left Silas under the watchful eyes of his big sisters, grabbed my gloves, 409, Resolve, and other cleaning supplies. Sadly, a face mask was not on my supply list. If you have ever had to clean up feces, you know it is bad. If you have ever had to scrape dried feces off of uneven surfaces, you know it is just plain disgusting. Rubber gloves on, I had to scrape some of the poop off with my nails to remove them from the crevices of the concrete. I had told Ella to tell Dave not to come downstairs when he got home; I was not ready to forgive him just yet and was really upset that he had just walked away from it and allowed the crap smell to spread through our house. I am a smell-sensitivie person; I love perfume, fabric softener, scented candles and in a pinch, Febreeze. This seemed like a sick joke.

I heard Dave come home, followed by Ella's warnings for him not to come down. But he did anyway. I continued to scrub knowing he was standing there. I knew that if I spoke, it wouldn't be good. He tried to make his case: he had limited time, he was wearing a suit, he didn't want to go back to work smelling of diarrhea (dog diarrhea no less), etc.. All were valid reasons but it didn't change anything or make the smell less rancid. I nodded and told him to leave. I think I was polite.

An hour later, I surveyed the area and felt a slight gleam of satisfaction. Although there was a slight residual odor, the smell of Mr. Clean was starting to permeate the basement and I had managed to remove most of the poop- I figured what I missed may end up being food for whatever bugs are down there scavenging. Now that it was over (the smell was still lingering throughout the rest of the house though... time to refill the Glade Plug-Ins), I had to laugh, only because it was the only thing I could do. Being upset wasn't going to undo anything, though I do think that the next time he encounters a room full of poop, he will think twice about walking away from it. So perhaps, some good came of it:).