Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning Humility

August has been a tough month. Getting the children ready for school is challenging and expensive. Dealing with my own anxiety about it has been really difficult - I am a serial worry wort as it is and when you combine that with my perfectionist tendencies, you get a lot of sleepless nights, stomach knots and hair loss.

On top of that, throw in my fear and trepidation regarding our decision to retain Will for second grade. Many a night I stared at the ceiling playing out all the possible scenarios, all of them ending in catastrope. Simultaneously, my first born was headed off to camp for the first time. That wasn't nearly as traumatic as I was expecting it to be, but again, the getting ready part was stressful. She had a wonderful time and did great, we had awesome one on one time with Will and it all worked out.

Five days after school started, we had our annual birthday blow-out for Will. Which I absolutely do not mind doing, but again, requires a bunch of prep work, time and money. He had an awesome time, our guests had fun and we enjoyed seeing him thrilling over all of his gifts. We added the bearded dragon the next day and have enjoyed that addition to the family as well.

Most recently, my precious Siamese kitty has been diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure. I'm devastated - it's just such an awful way to go. It is requiring a lot of maintenance to keep him comfortable and we have some decisions to make shortly. Focusing on much else has been a serious challenge for me and I feel guilty about being so disconnected emotionally.

The point of all of this is that I am very often too proud to ask for help. Or support. Or prayer. Or anything really. "I do it myself." was my first complete sentance and while I am not ashamed of being so independent, I very often find it hard to be humble and admit when I need other people. I wonder if anyone who reads this could take a minute and just say a quick prayer for me, or if that is not your ilk, maybe just send positive thoughts. I'm drowning on the inside right now and could really use a boost. My sweet husband has been wonderful and my kids are being as understanding as you could ask for from children but sometimes you just need to cast a wider net.

I'm not trying to be negaitve or throw myself a pity party but I have to be sure I don't hide under the shell of superwoman/whodoesntneedanyone/icandoitmyself/ifiamfunnythennoonewillknowimsad and be honest with myself and with the people who care about me. I know this will all pass and that eventually things will be better.

Thanks to those of you who read this blog - it is a huge source of encouragement and inspiration to me and I truly appreciate each moment you spend here.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Weather Men

Disclaimer part one: This is not a post where I bash men. There will never be a post like that on this blog because I wouldn't want to read a man's blog where woman bashing was the deal. That being said, I will share some slightly wise-ass anecdotes about the observed male response to Hurricane Irene.

Disclaimer part two: I survived Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and can now laugh about it. I know where everyone who has suffered from this storm is coming from and I am in no way belittling your experience. There is no way around it - it sucks.

Okay, so now that I've got all that out the way, here goes...

Firstly, every man I know becomes an instant expert on all things storm as soon as a tropical depression forms off the coast of Africa. I don't mean armchair expert, I mean EXPERT. They talk millibars, longitude/latitude, chain saws, emergency supplies, how to do appendectomies with no training or anesthesia. Just. In. Case. Analyzing the radar maps becomes an obsession. And don't even get me started on plywood.

As of last Tuesday, it was still up in the air if we here in the lovely Lowcountry were going to see any serious effects from ol' HI, (that's Hurricane Irene for short y'all), so my husband and I decided during the day that we would need to have a planning conversation that evening. Great idea! This is how smart we are - we're being proactive!

No sweat, I thought, my version of this plan was short and simple: full tank of gas, home insurance, and a couple of hundred bucks in cash. See? Easy peasy. His plan, however, was not so straightforward. There were different contingencies for various categories of storm and what we would do. When I resisted his plan that involved him staying here and me and the kids going to another city, he brought out the big guns.

"There might be looting."

Um. I can assure you guys that the list of what I would fight/shoot someone over is quite short. It goes like this: Kids, family, pets.

Stuff is just stuff, in my mind. And to be honest, our stuff isn't really all that great. I mean, we have some nice things that I'd be sad about losing but I would PAY a looter to take our 729 pound television. Just sayin'. For the most part it's just not worth it and everything that means anything to me would be with me. In my car. Far away from danger. See? SIMPLE, I tell you.

However. Most of the men I talked to about this did not share my laissez faire mentality. There was talk about being sure to be available for chainsawing. For defending against the looters. For putting out fires. For catching wild game and eating it with their bare hands for dinner. Okay, I made that up. But my husband did make mention of being sure to have enough shells for his shotgun. (that sound you just heard was tens of women all rolling their eyes and sighing in unison)

Next, I was sent to the grocery store to stock up on canned goods, water, toilet paper etc. Never mind that the place I would have evacuated to would have had all these things in great plenitude but go I did. We now have enough canned beenie weenies, tuna, salmon, beefaroni, and bottled water to last a small army a least a week.

Out of all of the above hilarity, my favorite observation has been saved for last. The PHONE CALLS. To me, to each other (brother, father, friends x a lot), to me again, to each other some more, to their moms, their dads and their kids. My husband's planning was in such detail and so intricate I finally just stopped listening, stopped resisting, stopped arguing and just asked him to tell me where he would like for me to be.

By Wednesday evening it was obvious that Charleston would be spared. I think the men were all secretly disappointed as none of their hard learned commando/Chuck Norris/sharpshooting/knot tying/emergency surgery skills would be utilized. Nothing to chain saw. No rising water to sandbag against. No last generators to buy from the black market.

I kind of felt sorry for all of them. But mostly I just giggled behind their backs and filled my tank at Costco.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011


Tai passed away at home today, September 20, 2011. Always a gentleman, he waited until no one was around and crossed the rainbow bridge alone. I believe in my heart that he did this for me, as I was agonizing over putting him to sleep tomorrow as planned. I will always love him and know that we will meet again one day.

So I found out Friday that my beloved 13 year old Siamese cat is in renal failure. I'm gut punched. I knew that something was wrong, but I've always managed to convince myself that he would die in his sleep one day due to his heart condition. We don't know what our immediate future holds but we are going to try to treat him as best we can. And make decisions about him as they come up.

It's a strange thing, the love one can feel for an animal. They can't talk, they don't help around the house and you have to clean up after them. Does anyone know how they touch your heart? I have been trying to get myself together ever since speaking to the vet yesterday afternoon but haven't been terribly successful. My human babies have been so sweet, as they are concerned when Mommy walks around sniffling. Or, as in the case of last night, just lying on the floor with the cat, silent tears streaming down.

Anyone who has ever met this animal knows how special he is. Totally opposite all normal preconceptions about cats, he's personable, friendly, loving, somewhat trained and gorgeous. He's gone from a wild kitten climbing the drapes to a senior citizen content to snooze 23 hours a day. Right now he feels awful, but he still is following me around, wanting me to hold him.

I know some people will say either to themselves or aloud, "It's just a cat." Well, no, he's not - he's much more than that. He's thirteen years of love incarnate. He has been a part of my life since before I was married. He's survived pancreatitis, cancer and a serious heart problem. He has come to cuddle with me every single time I've been sad enough to cry out loud.

My goal is to help him be comfortable and hope some of the interventions help prolong his life some. And when he gets to the point that his quality of life isn't worth it anymore, I'll be the one who holds him while we say goodbye. There will never be another Tai-phung - he is one in a million.

In honor of cats and for cat lovers everywhere...have a look at an old post of mine - you anti-cat people might change your minds. ;-)


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

True Confessions

I have a dirty little secret. Are you sitting down? Yes? Okay, here goes.

I let my kids eat in front of the tv. There, I said it. I'm sitting here as I type watching them watch Shrek while eating their couscous, sauteed squash and zucchini and grilled chicken. They are drinking low fat white milk. We've been interacting since 4:15, we did homework, we did some chores, etc. But we're supposed to be sitting down to a healthy and delicious happy family dinner, right?

There are multiple reasons for said eating situation, one of which is that it's a zillion degrees outside and my kitchen is warm pretty much year round. Having sweat roll down the back of my legs does not exactly make me feel like Julia Child. The other one is that very often, neither of us parents feels like eating at 6PM. We have long days at work and very little time to talk to each other, not to mention much downtime for ourselves. Add that to trying to stay ahead of the eleventy million things on the to-do list and voila' - dinner is served. In the living room.

ASIDE: this is only relevant to dinner. They have breakfast at the table with Lawton while I'm getting ready for work.

I have to say that we do much better about eating together during the winter. Hearty soups, chili, and the like are some of my most favorite meals. The kids love them too and the crock pot is the facilitator of a lot of these favorites. The days are shorter and cooler and it just seems like we have less to do.

It doesn't matter though - I still feel like a loser. Which frustrates me, because I'm about as involved a parent as you can get. I know this is not the best idea but sometimes I just cannot face the sweaty, hasty, frustrating race to the dinner table so that we can all sit together. I'm not saying that this is ideal by any means, but I do think that my kids are better off with a little TV and casual conversation than Dad and Mom being nuts/irritated/perspiring and eating together in the dining room.

What do you guys do about dinner? Is it every night at the table or do you cheat a little? Do you feel guilty too?

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Enter The Dragon

Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows that I do not like "vermin". I'm anti guinea pig, hamster, gerbil, mouse, squirrel - basically any member of the order Rodentia. Compounding this dislike is the fact that we own a Jack Russell terrier, who may actually hate rodents more than I do, as her MO is to dismember/maim/eat them. This means I have gotten away with never having to deal with a squeaking hamster wheel or two supposedly male gerbils showing up in the cage one day with 11 babies.

However. Today we brought home a reptile. The evolution of this process was slow and insidious. It began with an unchaperoned, ie with Dad, trip to the pet store. Next came the aquarium donated from the neighbor, complete with reptile accoutrements. Then a copy of Reptile magazine mysteriously appeared in the mailbox. Next came the begging and pleading. The negotiating. The tears. More negotiating, this time with the husband.

I made my final stand by stating that I would have absolutely nothing to do with it. NOTHING. I said that my only contribution will be that I will try to stop the dog/cats from killing it if they ever come into contact with each other. Oh, and I did promise to make everyone's lives hell if it stinks up my house. See? I'm a giver - can't help it, just my nature.

BUT. Then we went to buy it and he looked right at me while tilting his little head. It was cute. He's cute. And I kind of like him. Shhhhhhh...

So, without further ado, please meet Spike.

PS. Please tell me someone gets my movie reference. I wanted to name him Bruce Lee but no one else thought that was funny.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Oh My Gosh Becky Look At Her Butt

So yesterday I’m at Bertha’s Kitchen with my friend Becky. She is in line ahead of me, and just about to pay. I notice a man kind of standing to my right, just in my line of vision, obviously trying to get eye contact with me. Here goes the conversation:

Me: how you doing? (which is what I say to everyone.)

Him: Soul food, huh?

Me: Yep. I’m here at least three or four times a month.

Him: Well, it’s paying off (looks at my ass) It’s going to all the right places.

Me: speechless

Him: Y’all together? (looking at Becky, who already has it both coming and going and is pregnant on top of that)

Me: Yes, we are.

Him: (eyeing Becky’s rack) Paying off for her too.

Me: Um, thanks?

Just thought I’d share. Happy Friday…

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Construction Zone

PLEASE excuse the blog mess. I am neither a graphic designer nor a code writer and my internet hizzy looks like sh*t. We'll get it figured out but in the meantime, pleasepleaseplease do not judge this book by it's cover. Thank you!

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Monday, August 15, 2011

This Is Not What I Had In Mind

I'm a mom who also works outside the home. While I am very thankful to have a stable, steady job, the work/child challenges that come with it can be extremely difficult sometimes. And since school starts tomorrow, I was looking forward to staying home and hanging out with the kiddos today. We busted hump all weekend to make sure that the laundry was done, the school stuff was ready, the uniforms prepped, so that the kids and I could do something fun together. Not only did my children want to stay home, they wanted to stay home and do nothing. NOTHING.

Refusing to see the writing on the wall, I decided that we would at least do a couple of errands because I'm GOING to be organized dammit. I even grouped them together in order to make better use of fuel. (yes, somewhere along the line, I've lost it)

The first stop was at school. Those of you who I am in regular contact may remember that the reigning 2011 Mother of the Year, yours truly, forgot to go the meet the teacher last week. Not only was that cause for a diatribe against and to myself about being more organized and prepared, but it made me feel terrible. The other side effect of this was that I was not able to drop off school supplies, and since half the parents supply for basically the entire class, the load of stuff is not small.

So we go today, so that I can hopefully drop of the supplies and write the bazillion checks for who knows what all before the absolute craziness that is the first day of school amplified by 1000 because of severe overcrowding plus no parking. Nope. No entry. Access denied, which almost caused me to swear. Almost. Well, maybe I did, but it was just in my own head.

Not to be deterred, we go to the next stop, which is the library. That was an adventure for reasons I'll keep to myself for fear of being crucified in the comments (if I had any).

Next stop - the post office. All I wanted to do was park, go in, and use the machine to buy stamps. That is it. No packages, delivery receipts - nothing! Turn into the parking lot and there is nowhere to put the car. Not one single solitary spot. I mean, is it Christmas and I missed the build up? WTH? However, I force myself to remain calm and not start muttering under my breath like I usually do because I'm the new and improved Mommy. Who is organized and has patience to infinity, right? Right.

We swing by the dry cleaners and everything is cool. Things are looking up, so we press on to Costco, where I've decided that we will lunch as well as shop. Since my stomach is growling, lunch is first on the agenda. We approach the door where the customer service counter is so that we can make a direct approach to the snack bar. The woman at that door insists that we enter the other door and walk all the way around. Which bugs me because it's pedantic and there is not much that chaps my ass more than pedantic-ism or whatever.

Aside: Cecilia has had the worst time sleeping since about May and had a bad night last night. I woke her up at 8 so that she actually had a shot at going to sleep tonight. Therefore she is tired, grouchy and emotional. So she's dragging around Costco, whining and slouching and just generally being completely disagreeable.

We get a couple of things and head to the self check, which actually works, unlike pretty much everywhere else. Works except when Will is with me and can.not.keep. his hands off the rollers at the end of the belt, which causes my register to go berserk. Get that taken care of and decide to skip lunch because of someones rotten attitude. Go home and make sandwiches.

Guess what we are doing now? Nothing. At home. Just like they wanted. I should listen to them more often, I suppose, because the two hours we spent fighting the universe just wasn't worth it.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Small Town Frivolity, or Thirteen Events You Should Not Miss!

I love going to the country. I love traveling back roads and wandering through out of the way places. One of my favorite things, however, are small town festivals. Here is where the real colors of a one stop sign type place are truly flown. So, in honor of small towns everywhere, I have compiled a Thursday Thirteen "must see" list of festivals from rural communities and small towns across South Carolina.

13. The Yemassee Shrimp Festival in Yemassee. Not only is the food sure to be outstanding, anything that has a "Battle of the Shrimp" event has GOT to be good.

12. Puddin' Swamp and Stripe Bass Festival in Turbeville. Three days of celebrating Bass Fishing. Hell to the yeah!

11. Flopeye Fish Festival in Great Falls. Got it's moniker from the nickname of a gentlemen with unfortunate eyelids. You can bet that any festival with origins in ridicule has my name alllllll over it.

10. Mighty Moo Festival in Cowpens. This one actually has patriotic roots and celebrates the distinguished service of the light carrier USS Cowpens, nicknamed the "Mighty Moo". I just love the name so much that I had to include it.

09. Allendale County Cooter Festival in Allendale. Calm down perverts - this involves turtles, who are for some reason nicknamed cooters. There is semi-pro wrestling and turtle races. Does it get any better than that?

08. Lamar Egg Scramble Jamboree in Lamar. I don't know the back story, but I do like scrambled eggs, so I'd definitely check it out.

07. World Grits Festival in St. George. Firstly, grits are awesome. Secondly, one contest involves rolling in grits to try to accumulate the most on your body, which I cannot decide is fantastic or disgusting.

06. SC Poultry Festival in Leesville. (If you are sensing a food theme here it's because hello?! we're Southern and eating is serious business in these parts.) Anyway, this festival celebrates the largest agri-business in South Carolina - poultry!

05. The Schuetzenfest in Ehrhardt. I'll give you one guess as to what this is all about. Coincides with the opening of deer hunting season, for those of you whose German is rusty.

04. Pine Straw Festival in Patrick. No idea what this is about but it celebrates pine trees. Sounds groovy, man.

03. Central Railroad Festival in Central. Yes, that is the name of the town. This one is GREAT if you have sons - it is TRAINTASTIC. The town was formed at a railroad junction and this festival is a little boys paradise.

02. Hampton County Watermelon Festival in Hampton. One of the oldest continuous festivals in the state, it's just a darn good time. Street dancing+mud runs+pet shows+watermelon seed spitting contests=FABULOUS.

01. Aynor Harvest Hoe-Down in Aynor. Small town hosts a BIG festival that includes everything good thing you can think of and then some. Another long running event that has grown over the years to have about 26,000 attendees and has contributed ongoing financial support to various community projects.

So, there you have it. Year round fun in small towns all around the lovely state of South Carolina. Check it out!

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Worry Wars

It was about 12:45 PM when I realized that there was a junior member of the household sneaking into our room. I called her over to ask what was wrong and got the usual answer of "I can't sleep". While Cecilia has been struggling with sleep issues this entire summer, I knew what this one was about - she was going to "sleep-away" camp for the first time today and was having a hard time settling down. I put her in the bed with us, more for my own comfort than hers, as she was not the only one having anxiety about this. At 1AM, she whispered, "Mommy, you know that feeling when you're half excited and and half nervous about something?"

Remember that? When you couldn't sleep because of Christmas morning, or because the next day was your birthday or even because you were so excited about the first day of school? I remember wanting to literally crawl out of my skin at those times, both dreading and hoping for the day to come. Finally falling asleep only to be awoken again what seemed like a mere moment later to start living the day that seemed so out of reach only a few hours before.

I'm sad to report that my sleeplessness generally involves only the "nervous" part of that feeling. Stress, anxiety, despair and hopelessness like to attack when the house is dark, quiet and you are the only one awake. Then the apprehension of sleeplessness resets the internal clock and next thing you know, you are awake EVERY night at 2:35. The worst part about this is the mental monologue that starts on cue the instant you open your eyes. You know, the one that can only seem to count your worries instead of sheep, the one that goes down the list of every failing you've had, both current and distant. The one who hits below the belt, telling you that you're a bad parent and that your children are going to be ruined for life because of your mistakes. Then you start wishing for the morning, but not for any reason that is good.

I have a number of tricks to try to win these nocturnal battles, regardless of the fact that I'm losing the war. Counting, visualizing steps on a staircase, listing everything I'm grateful for and finally, medication. I know everyone has stress and life is hard more often than not. I know that I have it a lot better than some, and some better than most, but that doesn't help me at 4AM, to be honest. But to find a way to hush that slithering, whispering voice in my head would be so wonderful. To not turn on myself with cruel words and harsh criticisms. To not worry about everyone and everything. To sleep peacefully, and to dream dreams that I remember and enjoy.

I don't know that any (responsible) adult will ever be as carefree as a well-loved child, but wouldn't it be great if we just got a little closer to it? To sleep the way our kids do when you check on them before you go to bed - arms and legs all akimbo and sheets thrown all over the place? I'm not sure how to get there but I am sure this world would be a much better place if we could.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

School Year 2011-12 and I'm Terrified

While a large majority of parents are looking forward to school starting again, I am not. You see, my son has some major learning challenges and school to this point has been hell for everyone involved. He's miserable, we're desperate and the teachers are insane. Will and school have not mixed well and we are all wearing the battle scars from five years of fighting to help him learn, fighting to help him control his behavior, fighting to keep him out of trouble for things he is unable to control. By the end of last school year, we were all out of fight. We have a team of nine professionals that we work with on this. NINE. Nine people to schedule appointments with, Nine people to repeat myself to, Nine people to push push push as hard as I can to do everything they can for Will. We have jobs, another child, pets, family - a life to run, and Will's struggle overshadows all of it during the school year. All we want is for him to have a moderate measure of success in school and to feel good about himself. I don't care if he is a Rhodes scholar or a dump truck driver, I just want him to be happy.

He is barely old enough to be in his grade, he's immature socially and emotionally and has the aforesaid learning challenges that have yet to be entirely defined. We always planned to "red-shirt" our late August baby boy...until we realized his IQ is 148. Yes, he is so damn smart that he is literally the most intelligent child most of his "team" has ever known. He is so smart that no one knows what to do with him. He has no interest in subtraction, spelling or social studies - he is too busy rattling off the life cycle of some random insect that no one has ever heard of until he speaks the words. Or constructing a Lego structure that would make an architect blush.

This is both amazing and discouraging, as how does one challenge and engage a child like this, while simultaneously fostering and encouraging the part of him that is scared, timid and lacking confidence? What do you do with a child who sounds like a tiny professor but has no idea how to make friends? Or one who cannot seem to understand how to write a complete sentence, but can tell you anything you want to know verbally? One who cannot tell time or tie his shoes, but understands what "pixilated" means and can use it correctly in a sentence? One who was not invited to A. Single. Birthday. Party. last school year but who blows the top off his MAP test?

I'll tell you what it means. It means that I talk to his teacher four/five times a week and not because it's good. It means that he hides his daily report so that he doesn't have to tell me about his day. It means that he gets angry with his classmates for not wanting to play the same things he does. It means that he has such a lack on interest in his schoolwork that he could have failed the second grade. It means so many things, and very few of them are good. It means that Will himself thinks he's worthless and stupid. It means that he literally hit his head against a steel post out of frustration at his lack of self control during a social conflict. It means that my gifted, beautiful and amazing son was withering away on the inside.

The last nine weeks of school were so awful that I cried off and on constantly - it just got worse by the day, each more painful and frustrating than the one before it.
So, this past spring, Lawton and I made the decision to retain Will for second grade. Our perspective is that we cannot keep trying the same approach and expecting a different result. Then began the "he's so smart, he'll be bored" chorus interspersed with the "boredom causes behavioral issues" refrain. But he has not mastered some of the fundamentals for second grade, and as the parent of a third-grader last year, I know what is coming. I cannot imagine him doing the work that Cecilia did - stories, projects, discussion questions, etc. Maybe I'm selling him short. I hope that's the case. I would love for him to prove me wrong, prove me to be some kind of moron - I would be thrilled. But I don't think that's going to happen. Not without some kind of miracle. Maybe it's a stupid decision. Maybe things will get worse. My biggest fear is that he will be so traumatized from the social aspect of retention that we will lose him forever. Or that his innate love of learning will be destroyed. If there is one question I would die to know the answer to, it would be this one. We would give anything to help him. Anything. I just wish I knew what it was.

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