Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'd yell, but she has a point...

Me: "I saw _____ in the office this afternoon. Did he get in trouble in class or something?"

Her: "Yeah."

Me: "What'd he do?"

Her: "It's not really any of your business, is it?"

Me: "Umm, well, hmmppff....whatever."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Round Rock, TX: The NEW Melting Pot

Who knew?? Who would have thought that a little old city on the outskirts of Austin would be such a wonderful compilation of people from all ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures?? I mean, this is Texas, y'all!

Kidding aside, I was so impressed by our elementary school's talent show this past week. Not only did the kids display wonderful talents (like our own Ryan, who boldly sang the "Months of the Year" song), but they brought so much of the world right into our laps.

There were classical Indian dances, Tae Kwan Do and Kung Fu forms, a Martin Luther King, Jr. dramatization of his "I Have A Dream" speech, piano pieces as simple as "Twinkle, Twinkle" and as complex as Mozart, lots of unbelievable violin solos, and so much more.

And not one of these kids was over the age of 11. I'm so glad that my kids are coming of age in a time and a place where they are exposed to so many different cultures in such an easy, casual manner. It makes me so hopeful for what their world will be like when we are gone.

Although, judging by the way Jax is chasing Lola around the kitchen while banging himself on the head with an empty coke bottle, I'm not gonna hold my breath.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Macho Man Say What??

Me: "Babe, do you think if we push Ryan as hard at singing and dancing and acting as we're gonna push Jax at sports, that she'll be the next Beyonce?"

Shawn: "She can't sing like Beyonce."

Me: "Well, she's not gonna be Beyonce, she's not gonna be R&B. She's gonna do it her way. If Avril Levigne and Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus can do it, why not Ryan?"

Shawn: "I dunno, Aim, Miley Cyrus can sing. I mean, she is good. You should really listen to her sometime."

I'm THIS CLOSE to busting a cap in his ass

Jax, Jax, Jax.

This child is an amazing collaboration of all things whimsical, charming and energetic. And I'm ready to kill him. Or give him away. Or just runaway, screaming banshee, pulling-my-hair-out stark-naked-running.

Did I tell you we took away the binky a week ago? Did I tell you it's more He (as in Shawn) than We, and that Me is very ready to give it back???? Well, I am. No surprise there -- I have so much lacking in the discipline/willpower department, whereas Shawn is the Hitler of Stick-with-it-ness. Of course he doesn't eat breathe and drink Jax 24/7 the way I do, but he does suffer, and yet, still he will.not.budge. So in that regard, I suppose the title could refer to him as well.

My keen parenting eye has noticed that lately the majority of Jax's Major Meltdowns occur when he's tired but refuses to admit it. Were the binky still in the picture, nap and bed time would be a wonderful, peaceful time in our house, but now that we've abolished it and all it's kind, nap and bed time are the bane of my existence.

Simply put, there is no sleep. Especially when Ryan is around. Just that little extra bit of distraction fuels his fire, giving him longer, more prolific tantrums than normal, the kind that leave me sobbing in a heap on the floor while he's banging his everything on the wall of the room in which I'm holding him prisoner.

In times like these, where else is a desperate mother to turn? Why, to everyone's fave Brit, Supernanny. I was so excited this week to see that one of the children she was helping had trouble going to bed and staying in bed at night, and quickly put her technique to work. It took some time, but by 11:30 on Wednesday night, Jax was sound asleep in his bed.

Until 2 am when he awoke in a fit resembling a Night Terror and I went to work again trying be firm, but gentle, with an English lilt to boot.

Didn't work. Maybe because by 3 am I was ready to give up, maybe because he's the spawn of Satan. Either way, once again, no one in our family is sleeping, and as much as I'm told to "ride it out" and that it's "just a phase", when you're severely sleep deprived trying to remain the only rational (conscious) human being in the house is a little like trying to charm a snake with a bowl of cheerios.

Oh how I wish I had the stamina of those irritating folks who live by the motto, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," rather than feeling like a member of the Walking Dead.

Not only that, but my calm, rational approaches to these bouts of rage have left me with war wounds all over my hands, arms and face. (Yes, I cut his nails, but not to the point that they bleed, which is how short they'd have to be to not be considered deadly weapons.) Nothing like having miniature paper-cut like scars all over your dry, cracking, worn hands in the middle of January. You want birth control? Stick your face and hands in shards of glass, shake 'em around a bit, and that's what it's like having a toddler boy. Planned Parenting 101.

Just today, after Jax threw one of his yelling, kicking, scratching fits (it was naptime) while visiting my mom, she commented, "Remember how you used to say you wanted 5 boys?"

"Oh, I got my 5 boys. God just got all economical on me and rolled them up into one."

And now they're pissed and taking it out on me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Swapa Swapa Swapa

Links and Buttons and Icons, Oh MY!!

You may have noticed the new buttons I've added to the left. If you do nothing else today, click on at least ONE of them!!!

I'm pretty new to SwapStyle, but from all the buzz I've heard, it's lookin' as good as it sounds!

The Swapa-sites (paperback, cd, dvd) are all sister sites that I've belonged to for a while now -- SwapaDVD is the newest one. I cannot say enough good things about these sites! I've gotten so many great books, cd's, dvd's -- from The Kite Runner and The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time to KT Tunstall and Gwen Stefani, and even Freaky Friday, Talladega Nights, Almost Famous, The Best of Percy, and a Yoga dvd I'm going to try out later today. I know I've mentioned the Swapa-sites before, but now that the GREEN MOVEMENT is catching on like, well, Global Warming, I thought why not remind my readers of other different ways to go green??

Stop buying new, stop paying exorbitant retail prices, start removing your footprints on the planet!! Save money, get great stuff, and clean out your clutter all at once!

...and if you've got a few extra minutes, check out some of the books and cd's I've got just waiting to be swapped -- maybe you'll want one, or maybe you'll just enjoy laughing at some of my unfortunate media purchases...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Chunkyrhino Discipline

Isn't is absolutely fabulous when a teacher you've never met escorts your child to the car to inform you that she had to write her up for sticking her fingers in another kid's food and making a mess? And don't you just love that feeling that wells up as the teacher admonishes you to "talk to her about not touching other kid's food"?

Me too! Thank goodness I got to experience it this afternoon -- it's clearly been too long since my child's discipline problems have been brought to my attention by a teacher -- I mean, who wants to wait 3 whole days???

Bless her heart. She's only 5, for the Love of Licorice. And she's a girl. You know how they just wanna have fun and all. Duh.

According to Ry, the little boy MADE her stick her finger in his peanut butter, using what I can only imagine is a new and improved Ry Remote, one of which I would love to get my hands on. Whether or not this was truly the case is the least of the issues, but the fact that I'm in doubt over her story? That feels a little like ripping my toenails off very slowly, then taking a dip in a nice citrus salt bath.

How desperately I wish for the all-knowing power of those tv moms who can just tell from a mere look whether or not their mischievous child is lying. Do they have special glasses? Are the taking extra Vitamin A?

I've been foiled twice lately by my misguided (?) belief in my daughter's word -- the latest event involved her drawing all over the walls, toilet, floor and hall closet and blaming it on her brother. (No idea where she got that...) Thank God she has a logically thinking, reasonable father who refrains from jumping to conclusions.

But that's neither here nor there.

So we're in the car, I'm soaking up all the wonderful, juicy emotions floating around in the air, and I explain to Ryan that even if the kid did tell her to stick her finger in his food, he is not in charge of her actions. Neither am I. Neither is her teacher. It's just Ryan, the one and only, steering this runaway bus, and all the directions and GPS systems given by Mommy and Daddy and Teacher and Barney and God won't lead her down the right path if she doesn't turn them on and follow the annoying voice. Simply put, it's a bout making, say it with me now, 'Good Choices'.

" _____ doesn't make the rules, Ryan. You know that you're not supposed to touch other people's food. That's a school rule. Not a ____ rule. He doesn't get to say when you have to follow the rules. He didn't make them, the school did. And you know that. You did not make a good choice."

"But who made them first?"


"Who made the school rules first?"

"The school did, Ryan."

" Hang on -- the school can talk?"

And lecture time is officially over...

Add Lame Title Here

I've no idea what to write about today.

I could tell you about the cookies that Jax and I made yesterday (Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip -- yummy!!), or about how Ryan is really exercising her free will in ways unacceptable to Mommy. (Me: "Ry, why didn't you wait by the door at gymnastics like I told you to?" Ry: Because I didn't feel like it." uh, 5 yr old say what?? ...And now my Hannah Montana is showing)

I could talk about The Applause of Heaven or The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents or The Kite Runner, or Jane Eyre, all of which I am currently reading right now. (Adult ADD? Eh? Come again??) I could go into detail over the irony of Shawn's employer requiring their managers to read "Stress Less NOW" (on top of their 65+ hour work week), or about how I pushed myself so hard in Spin this morning that I threw up a little in my mouth. (It's not worth it if you don't puke, am I right? )

Or I might write about how I'm having a really hard time motivating myself to do anything other than sit in front of the fire, which is the only warm spot in this drafty middle-aged home. I could write reams on how badly I'm hoping mortgage rates drop to 4% so we can refi and pay all our debt in one fail swoop. Or about how mad Lola gets when she sees Elvis the Squirrel chillin' in the backyard. She's really starting to piss me off. He was here first, after all.

I could go on and on about how sad the whole Heath Ledger thing is, and how I adored him so much Jax was almost named Heath (there but for the stubbornness of Shawn). Or about how depressing it is to hear 3rd grade girls talk about "working out" and dieting. And then I could write about how much I really want a chocolate chip cookie right now.

But, alas, none of those subjects are remotely interesting enough to dedicate an entire post to, so how 'bout I just mush them all together and call it a day?

An just in case you're not bored enough, let me list what my plans for the rest of the day are:

1. Shower. uggh.

2. Clean the bathrooms. Double uggh.

3. Make these with the kids. Not-so-uggh.

4. Make Salmon pizza. From scratch. uggggghhhhh. Why must I always try to be so crunchy???

5. Change poopy diapers. I'm due for at least 2 more today. And I'm pretty sure I'm smelling one now.

6. Sit in front of the fire and convince the kids that putting together 100 pc puzzles is as good as having a play date.

7. Finish the puzzles by myself.

Thanks for indulging me -- it's just easier to go ahead and write my to-do list while I'm on here than drag out a piece of paper, scrounge for a pen, remember all those things I just listed....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My Moment of Zen

I don't think I'm alone in saying that one of the best and worst things about being a Mom is being the #1 Caretaker in the home.

Taking care of all it's inhabitants is only part of the job description, but what a blessing and a curse it is!

Like when you wake up in the middle of the night to a silently crying child standing next to your bed covered in vomit.

Such was the case last night. I opened my sleep-crusted eyes to see my little boy covered in pink puke, standing silently watching me, pleading for help with his sad little eyes. The first thought is, "Oh My God, what happened? You poor baby!"

The second thought? "Oh shit. Now I have to get up and clean piles of stinky vomit off the bed, the floor, any surrounding furniture, and..oh yeah -- off the kid, too."

And so I did. And it sucked, just like I knew it would. But it was wonderful as well, knowing that of all the people in the whole wide world, I was the one put here to help this little angel-monster in times like these. The work is at times wretched, the pay is non-existent, but knowing that you are finally doing something that no one else can do, well, that kinda makes it worth it.

Yes, I did gag (especially when I found Lola licking up bits of barf from the floor), and yes, I am tired this morning, but I just remember all those times my mom did the same for me, without ever uttering a negative word (though surely many were fluttering through her mind) and how safe I felt knowing she would take care of me and I would be alright.

And now that I'm a mom, I miss those days -- having someone else clean up my messes, shower me with love when I'm down, and cuddle with me when I feel sick -- but I keep her right there with me as I do the same for my kiddos, grudgingly or not, because I know that if I do nothing else right as a parent, I can at least kiss the boo-boo's away, hold a feverish hand, and clean up all the vomit they can dish out, because someone else did it for me.

And my Dad? Well, my he was always there, too -- gagging in the background and grumpy from lack of sleep. So I guess I carry him with me, too. And that's just as important, because just because we become moms doesn't mean we become Martyrs -- we don't love doing the dirty work, we just love who it is we're doing it for.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hannah and Ricky and the Little Baby Jesus

Just now, Shawn and I were flipping through channels, when I nonchalantly mentioned that sometimes when I'm up late at night, ummm, I come across Suite Life or Hannah Montana and think to myself, "Hmmm...should I watch?" Seriously. I'm tempted to turn the channel on and see what those rascals Zach and Cody are up to. And the fact that Ryan has outgrown them quicker than me? Yes, that one hurts. Admitting this to the world is what I imagine admitting a porn fetish must be like. At least I still have Hannah -- where would I be without my "Sweet Nibblet!"?

And then there's Jax. And Ricky Bobby. A week or two ago Ryan was spending the night out, so for our Family Movie Night, we popped in Talladega Nights -- relieved to be able to watch a Mom and Dad movie in the company of a child without consequence.

(Remember when we used to watch Sex and the City and The Sopranos when Ry was a baby? Ahh, those were the days, however long gone they are.)

But there we were, provided a rare opportunity to throw caution to the wind, so we did what every normal red-blooded parent would do and popped that bad boy in. Jax loved it, as we knew he would, what with his unnerving obsession with NASCAR and racing and, remember how much he LOVED "Buddy"? It's essentially Buddy's-Red-Neck-Cousin-Driving-Fast. What's not to like about that? There's a special place in Heaven for Will Ferrell, I tell you.

Anyway, since then, he's begged to watch it almost every day - in between viewings of "Thomas" - and usually I'm happy to oblige, especially now that he's all "R-R-R-icky Bobby this" and
"R-R-R-icky Bobby that" (Oh yeah, we're sooooo into the stuttering right now. It's verging on painful.)

But this afternoon, Ryan was standing there when he asked to watch it and she quickly chimed in that she, too, would like to watch the movie.

"Yeah, that's not gonna happen for a while, kid," I answered.

"What do you mean? He's watched it like a billion times!"

"Yes, but he's 2, and you're 5."

"Mom, that doesn't actually totally make sense, you know."

"Sure it does. He only watches the race cars and has no idea what else is going on for the rest of the movie. You, on the other hand, would understand too much."

"Like what?"

"Don't worry about it," I say, walking away and thinking to myself, "I PISS excellence..."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Riddle Me This

If one egg contains two yolks, does that mean it would have been twins???

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Making Good

I know I promised pics from Christmas, and while these aren't the videos I've been longing to upload (one day, one day...) there are some cute ones to behold:

Same old, same old...he's on the phone, she's muggin' for the camera.
"Look, Ma, I reached into the fire and all I got was this bitchin' finger-bubble!"
More to come (as soon as Blogger fixes whatever issue they're having with photo upload...).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Got Rice, B&*%h?

I'm writing to tell you that I may not be able to post for a few days -- I've been taken hostage by and may never make it out.

It's a website dedicated to both abolishing illiteracy (or not) and World Hunger -- all at once! And it's FREE!!!

The site flashes vocab words, and every time you click on the right definition, they donate 10 grains of rice through the United Nations World Food Program.

Originally I went there to "do my share" (insert eye roll here), and got hooked by the vocab lesson. Trust me, stop by for a minute or two and you'll find yourself saying, "Just one more..."


Right, so dental hygiene and all that good, gummy stuff (sorry) has been on mind a lot lately. Even before The Dreaded Dentist Appt, I had resolved to floss every day (at least my teeth would look pretty - even if the kiddos would be reduced to years of eating with their gums) and have been doing so with flourish, especially after that $515 dental bill we got smacked with last week.

All on credit, btw -- way to start that Debt Diet, huh? We rock! (By the way, if certain people at certain companies could get their certain heads out of their certain asses and get our 2008 Medical Flex card to us, that'd certainly be great.)

But back to the F word. Ryan is all about flossing, enjoying it more for the joy of viewing the nasty crap that she pulls out than for the actual health benefits, but whatever gets you to Jesus, am I right?

Jax, on the other hand? Jax sees a mere glint of white string and clamps a vise grip over his mouth, runs screaming into his room, hides under his table curled up in a ball and screams, "No string! No string!"

Yes, the child who's head could stand in for a wrecking ball is completely unraveled by floss. This is also the kid who had his entire dental appointment conducted under the train table at the dentist's office, while she climbed down there with him, flashlight and all.

I'm not taking no for an answer, though. She already sees red in his gums around his two top teeth, which conveniently turn into each other and make brushing a moot point. I run him down, put him in a scissor hold, clamp his arms with my knees and go to town. 2 seconds later and it's over, but at what cost??? Looks like we'll make up for the $500 savings in fillings and caps with the cost of therapy that he'll surely need to undergo in the future.

I'm starting to think George Washington had the right idea...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dental Drama

I took the kiddos to the dentist yesterday, for the first time is a year, thank you very much. That's the problem with going to the Best Pediatric Dentist Around -- if you miss an appointment, you can't reschedule for at least 6 months, and when they recommend you bring them in every 6 months, well, you can do the math.

I was a little apprehensive about how Ryan's check-up would go. She was not blessed with the healthiest of teeth as a baby, and we have not been doing a very good job of making her floss every day (or any day, for that matter), so I feared the worst. Not that we didn't start off trying to do good with the flossing, but after the newness of it wore off, and after Jax flushed the majority of Ryan's flossy-stick-things down the toilet, the procedure just kinda went down the toilet as well.

And the result? No less than 5 cavities, I'm afraid, one of which has so badly decayed her tooth that she's going to have to get a silver cap for it. So one cap and four fillings all before the age of six. For a mommy who's first cavity ever came about only a few years ago, this was a crushing blow.

While the Guilt Fairy sat singing in my ear, I accepted fault with assurance from the doc that her teeth didn't start out on an even keel with other kids' teeth, and vowed to do better from now on. Especially after finding out that not only will they have to sedate her in order to perform the procedure, but that since the Best Ped Dentist Around is out of our network, the whole thing is going to cost us over $500.

But before I lament too much, I am reminded of this story I heard on the news the other day, and quickly shut my mouth, pray for that little girl's family, and Thank God that at least our troubles are manageable.

Plus, it helps that Ryan thinks the cap is the first step to braces, leaving her all excited and giddy that she, just lilke mommy, will now have pretty teeth jewelry to flash around. Next thing you know, we'll put putting a nice gold grill on layaway for Jax.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fun With Books

Tonight was Family Reading Night at Ryan's school. Tonight is also one of Shawn's "Late Days" at work, which meant one mommy, two kids. I was timid, as is to be expected anytime I take Jax out in public, but Ryan wanted so badly to go, that no battle I could wage would get her to quit begging/crying/whining about it. Trust me, I tried. Not that I had to go looking for a battle, mind you, what with all the attitude being thrown around the house these days. Oh yeah, the girl's got 'tude, and I'm a hair's width away from showing her where she can put it.

But I digress.

Amidst screeches and threats, room banishments and promises of "I mean it this time..." we got dinner, pj's and stuffed animals and were out the door with time to spare.

Arriving at the school early, we were led to one of several "reading rooms" where we told to wait for our reader person, who would be there shortly to read for 20 minutes or so before we would be shepherded to the cafeteria for the main presentation. Slowly, families filed in, and it was with relief that I not only saw a few toddler-aged kids, but also several single parents, so I figured even if he did go full out Jax, at least their would be some sympathetic folks in the audience. Thank God I was right.

I'm not even going to go into all the dirty details of how he wouldn't sit still, wouldn't stop talking, wouldn't stop "shhhushhhing" other kids (who weren't, in fact, actually talking), wouldn't stop walking right up to the reader person to peer over the book at the pictures... No, what I would like to touch upon was how hilarious he was every time the reader person would exclaim a phrase, such as "Boom!" or "Squish!" or "No no no!" Each and every time Jax would stand up, do that funky little twisted-body dance thing he does and repeat the phrase, only louder, and with a binky hanging out the side of his mouth like so many old men's cigars.

The first time he did it, I was still slightly reeling from our horrendous dinner episode (did I mention Ryan's gigantic attitude?), and did the best I could to pierce his little bubble with my "Mommy is so gonna kick your ass when we get home look" (what, am I the only one?) only to be thwarted by peals of laughter from all the parents, kids and even the reader-man.

From then on, every time he pulled a move, I glared, held my breath, and was inevitably met with more laughter. As most of you know, this is not something I'm particularly fond of, seeing as how it makes my job that much harder, but given the night we'd had and the fact that I really am trying to be nicer (Really, I swear. Really. I promise. Shut up.) I just decided to breathe, unclench and let my kiddo have the most non-destructive fun he's had in a long time.

And it was good. It was very good.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Off to the Races!

2008 is here, and already Jaxson is topping his 2007 escapades with a flourish.

As always, we've got the gag-inducing piles of poo (which Lola cannot leave alone, no matter how many times we scream and yell), broken this-and-that everywhere, torn books left and right, and yesterday?

Well, yesterday he ate super glue. Actually, it was more of taste, Thank God, but it was a mess regardless, and being the gentle, nurturing Mama I am, it only took me 10 minutes to stop laughing at him in order to gather my senses and phone Poison Control.

He's fine, and I really don't think he did anything more than bite through the tube just enough to taste the stuff before he ran screaming and scraping his toungue, but who in their right mind ever thinks they'll have to utter the words, "My son bit into a tube of super glue?" Not this Mommy, but then there are so many things I find myself saying or doing that I never dreamed I'd say or do.

Like prefer to wipe poo on my hand rather than let it touch the carpet, or scrape eggs off the wall, or clean toothpaste off the toilet.

I can't wait to see what the rest of the year will hold!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Resolution #1

One of the biggest issues Shawn and I face as a young-ish couple with 2 very young kids is managing our finances. This is especially difficult with only one income -- specifically when you consider that we bought our house and financed our mortgage when we were both working.
Seeing as how that is no longer the case, Shawn's paycheck has an awful long way to go.

Thankfully, he works hard and has managed to keep us up and thriving these past few years, with the assistance of family from time to time and a certain regrettable dependency on our credit cards.

I think we are very similar to other people our age who left the comforts of mom and dad only to expect those same comforts the minute we stepped out on our own. I'm not sure how much of it is wanting to continue the quality of life we've come to expect, and how much is just wanting to be able to give our kids the same type of comforts we had when we were young, but either way, we've dug ourselves a hole that feels at times not at all unlike that of Alice and her little white furry friend.

We put a lot of thought and consideration into what to do after my Theatre position in San Marcos was discontinued. I'd been yearning to stay home with Ryan, mostly because I was fed up with having to learn all about her daily growth and progress from teenagers, and mostly because the expense was sucking us dry. On a teacher's salary, once you figure in the cost of gas, clothing, etc, you're really just working to pay the daycare bill, which didn't make much sense to us. Not to mention, I desperately wanted to just be a mom like my mother was.

Shawn was as eager as I to have me stay home, and after much deliberation we decided we could make it work. And we have, but not without consequence and sacrifice, those favorite pals of ours who never seem to be too far away when you put together the words "money" and "kids".

Even as I write this, I feel guilty knowing how truly fortunate we are, knowing that a lot of our problems come from my impulsive nature and our desire to treat ourselves and our loved ones whenever the urge arises. Not that we make extravagant purchases, but when you add up a few $30 dinners here and several $20 presents there over the course of 3 years, it starts to weigh on you. And your wallet.

Especially when you get a call from the electricity company stating that they've been ordered to come turn off the power unless payment is remitted by 1 pm.

Yep. Never in my life did I think I would receive that phone call, but sure enough, it was waiting for me when I got back from taking Ryan to school this morning. The man was very nice about it, really, stating that he wanted to give us a heads-up in case we wanted to take steps to avoid disconnection, and boy am I glad he did, because when your husband busts his ass for 13 hours a day 6 days a week, the last thing you as the "Financial mis-Manager" want to have to do is explain why he can't get his computer to turn on so he can work some more, or why the a/c (yes, even in December -- Texas, y'all) isn't working, or why all the food in the fridge needs to be eaten tonight or else. Not something I was looking forward to, let me tell ya.

How could I let something like this happen, you ask? How much time do you have?

We live paycheck to paycheck, as I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before, and those paychecks are never ever ever a consistent amount. Shawn works on a salary/bonus basis, and for completely frustrating and unexplicable reasons I cannot even begin to wrap my head around, his company opted to reduce the bonus checks their GM's receive, despite the fact that they're making more money than ever, enough to even allow them to open up a totally different restaurant concept. But that's not really the problem, either.

The problem is that though we could have dealt with a decrease in bonus, it came at the same time as that wretched term George W. ignorantly refuses to use: INFLATION. It's here, It's queer, and we're bendin' over.

I could go on to lament on the trials of the middle class in our American economy, but I couldn't do it nearly the justice my mom could, and anyway, if I'm honest with myself, it's really because I haven't done my job properly. I haven't put my foot down enough when it comes to meals out or movies watched, clothes bought, or money saved. And did I mention Christmas?

I accept full responsibility for my failures, but unfortunately, electricity bills cannot be paid by acceptions of responsibilities and promises to do better. It can, however, be paid with good ol' American Currency, that root of all evil we chase day after day. Lucky for me, I had enough of the stuff to pay the bill, and had actually done so over the weekend through my bank's Bill Pay service. You know, where you put in how much you want to pay and they tell you when it will be due? That one. Happily, I put in the needed amount, pushed the enter key, and was rewarded with the assurance that they would deliver my payment by, oh would you look at that? -- TODAY.

'Cept the Electric Company didn't see things that way. Although the money was shown as having been delievered, they could find neither hide nor hair of it, and until they did, disconnection orders would remain as-is. Lovely.

So I called the bank, asking them what, if anything could be done to speed up that delivery that was supposedly already made but really hadn't been. They, naturally, informed me that it was in the process of being transmitted electronically and would be received by the Electric Company by midnight tonight. Uh huh. So how come it says it's already been delivered, again? And why does it take so long to process? Isn't that the whole point of this whole online banking nonsense we've been bullied into using -- that payments can be made instantly and without all the hassle of checks and stamps and waiting and all that nonsense? Am I missing something?

Apparently, I'm missing a lot. No matter of begging could get them to stop payment so I could just do it directly with the EC over the phone, and no matter of begging could get the CSR chicks at the EC to understand that the money was floating over to them amidst millions of radio-digital-frequency-whatchamacallits even as we spoke, so couldn't they please hold off on that pesky disconnection business? Everyone's hands were apparently tied, I was told, oh, except for the hands of the technician who would be performing the dreaded operation this afternoon.

Could this blue-collar average working-Joe really be the only one between two mega corporations who could anything about the situation I was in? Really? Really??

Turns out, he was. His name is Mike and if we ever have another child, they shall be named for The Man Who Saved The Day. Having exhausted all other avenues, I made a meek call to the number he had phoned from (thank the good Lord for call-waiting, a feature we will most likely have to disengage now that I'm tightening the purse strings) and asked whether or not there was anythinig he could do to help me out.

I explained the situation about the bits of money floating through the air, out of everyone's grasp until 11:59pm tonight, and he quickly said ,"No problem. It can wait."

Really? Really?


Immediately the flood gates opened and I sobbed my thanks, not because I was oh-so-terrified of losing electricity, though it certainly would have sucked ass, but because I hate not being able to control a situation, especially when I'm desperately trying to do the right thing. The fear of that happening had welled up inside me, clawing it's way to the surface and with one phone call to Mike the Power Guy, it's protective bubble had been burst and Good had overcome. Or something.

Bless his heart, I'm not sure he knew quite how to handle this blubbering idiot on the other end of the line, but he did so with grace and assurance that as long as people were willing to work with him, he was willing to work with them.

So here's to Mike, the Human Being who was not controlled by a computer or a 3 piece suit in Manhattan, but by the Grace of God. I wish him only Good Things, and I hope that somewhere down the line when he finds himself in trouble there will be another Human Being controlled by nothing but the Grace of God to help him out.

And yes, I have learned my money-management lesson, and yes, things will remain tight for quite a while more, and yes, Managing Our Finances is right up there on the list of resolutions -- right behind letting Grace, Compassion and Goodwill control my actions as a Human Being.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Jude & Rita, my new BFF's

The Saints are Marching In my house and I'm so very grateful. They've always been kind of hanging around, peeking in the windows, knocking on the door, yelling at me from across the street. I've always been happy to welcome them, as well, as long as they weren't too intrusive, too nosy or too time-consuming. You know how some house-guests can be.

I was especially happy to open my door to them in times of great need (mine, of course), and they've always always come through, but it wasn't until recently that I truly made up the guest room, vacuumed the floor, set out some flowers and begged them to stay a while.

It started when a friend of mine found herself in deep peril a few months ago. Her teary phone call to me stopped my world, made me re-evaluate the things I most valued in life, and immediately I found myself praying.

While I'm always in constant one-on-one conversation with The Big Guy (I've got him on speed-dial, don'tcha know), there was something so indescribably comforting about having these two friends to talk to as well, to share my worries with, express my concerns through, and basically beg of them for aid and assistance.

I know those of you reading this who are not of the Catholic faith have all kinds of pre-disposed ideas and convictions about us nutty Catholics and our Saints, and I am in no way going to attempt to teach you a lesson on the Saints or try to convince you to think otherwise -- that's not my job. I will say, though, that we in no uncertain terms do not "worship" them. They are just other vessels we use to pray through. Just like Mary, we know that they have a special seat in God's kingdom and we feel that if they hear our petitions, they might just tug on The Big Guy's ear for us a little.

So this is what I did. I turned to Jude and Rita, because that's who my grandmother and mother always turned to. Jude is known as the Patron Saint of such things as Lost Causes and Rita tends to help out those who are Ill, Lonely or Suffering. I found a website selling their devotional candles, bought a handful, lit 'em up and hit the ground.

My friend turned out just fine, her problem was taken care of, but whether or not that had anything to do with the prayers I offered up on her behalf, I have no idea. What I do know is that they helped me feel as though I was doing the most good for her at a time when she needed it. The gave me solace when I couldn't find it within myself, and they brought me closer to God in ways I hadn't experienced before.

I continue to burn their candles and pray to them in times of need, and I feel comforted just knowing they are there.

Why am I devulging this in public? I owe them that much. I owe them a public declaration of gratitude, an acknowledgement of the ways they've worked in my life. I am happy to call them my friends, and happier to know that they are available to all of us, any time we should need them, whether we light a candle, kneel in petition, or just drop by every now and then to shoot the breeze.

So, no, you haven't typed in the wrong web address, and unclench, this is not becoming a "religious" blog, but if from time to time you see a post of thanks to my buds, maybe you'll understand that it's part of my growing as a woman, a wife, a mother and a Christian, and if I were none of those things, I wouldn't have such hilarious tales of woe for you to laugh at, and wouldn't that suck just a little?

I'm just sayin'.

Excuse me while I wipe the sleep from my eyes

Oy vey. Oy vey Oy vey Oy vey.

The kids are fighting bedtime at the House of York, and we're not taking it lying down. Literally.

For, oh, the 5th night in a row now, we've all been up in the middle of the night, yelling, screaming and crying and not sleeping at all.

It all started when we began letting Jax sleep in his room with the door open. Going to bed is not the issue (most of the time), staying in bed is.

Night after night I wake up with Ryan nuzzled up next to me, Jaxson curled around my head, and Shawn sprawled out on the rest of the bed. A happy Mommy this does not make.

Most of the time I have no idea when the kids actually enter the bed, my body clearly trying to get as much sound sleep as possible when possible, but gradually I will waken, whether due to the 32 pound butterball covering my airways, or the elbow of his sister wedging between my ribs.

I never really minded when it was just Ryan, but now that it's both of them, it's becoming annoying -- especially when you consider there's an entire spanse of free bed space on Shawn's side that neither of them will cross.

So we've been relegating them back to their beds this week, no easy feat, I'll have you know. Mostly because I can't spend one more night crawling into Jax's empty bed, which unexplicably constantly smells like syrup or urine, sometimes both, regardless of how many times a week i change the sheets.

First they refuse, arguing, stomping, whining, almost getting me to give in, until Daddy starts to get up, then they go flying in tears to their rooms where they scream and yell until they eventually pass out from exhaustion.

So wracked with guilt am I that by the time they end their fight, I find myself lying wide awake next to a snoring Shawn, who though in the process of being confirmed into the Catholic church, has not yet been inducted to the Guilt Guild, a rite of passage I can only assume takes place after his first confession.

The best part about these midnight melees is that they effect the kid's waking hour not at all. 6am hits and there they are, pulling the sheets off of Mommy, demanding I get up and fix breakfast, or in Jax's case, "Cheetos! Cheetos!".

It is with a hardened heart that I regard my friends who have to wake up their kids in the morning. I'm not proud of this fact, but it's hard to pray for patience and an open heart when you fall asleep before you even get a chance to cross yourself.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Another Beautiful Day in the Land of Plenty

I don 't care who you are, where you're from, or where you've been -- there is absolutely nothing so lovely as an average ordinary day compiled of average ordinary moments that are each in themselves perfectly perfect.

Luckily, for me, today was one of those days. Granted, I was rudely awakened at way too early an hour, but seeing as how said crime was committed by the two cutest kids ever, who just so happened to be snuggled up next to me in bed, I've decided to overlook their transgression.

I needed to get up early, anyway, and seeing as how no alarm clock on earth seems able to solely get me up at any unnecessary hour, it was just as well. Being the Grumpy Bear I am when I wake before the sun, I quickly put the kids to work getting dressed and cleaning their rooms before they could receive their pre-promised donut run.

Less than an hour after they pulled me from my cotton coccon, their rooms were cleaned, they were dressed and in the car, and we were off to get donuts and on the way to visit Menana and Big Daddy.

Having left them the day after Christmas on not the happiest terms, I was eager to repair some of the damage I had done, both for their sakes as well as mine.

The sky was quickly lightening up to the prettiest blue you ever did see, helped along by the most beautiful sunrise, and we were able to enjoy it all as we drove on that most perilous and beloved of roads, Highway 71.

I'm going to take a second here to explain the painful infatuation I have for this beautiful stretch of highway. Having traveled it almost every summer as a child, I feel like the curves, hills, and vistas are ingrained deep in my skin. For ten years now, I've been traveling it if not on a weekly basis, then most certainly on a monthly one, and it is a route I never ever tire of. Ever. No matter what measure of construction, what degree of traffic, or what nightmare weather conditions I may have to abide, I feel reborn every time I take a nose dive into a gulley surrounded by walls of limestone and climb to the pinnacle of one of the many hills dotting the so-named Hill Country, overcome with awe at the sight of browns, greens and blues all mixed together in the most perfect example of God's love. I am grateful for every mile I travel over this road, actively grateful, literally muttering my thanks every 5 miles or so, and it is beyond my meager grasp of the English language to verbalize how much I loathe the seemingly instantaneous surrounding growth that has become unbearable over the past few years. From the bottom of my heart, I have no idea how the local ranchers, generation upon generations of them, deal with the annoyance and hatred they must feel for city slickers like me who were not delivered here at birth, but who keep coming just the same. The new strip malls and million dollar condos that are suddenly everywhere make me physically ill, and although I know my hatred is somewhat true in it's foundations (ie: hatched from disgust over the raping of this glorious land in an effort to either make or flaunt a buck) I have to be honest and admit that I am also a culprit in this massacre, just one who got here quite a bit earlier, and during the innocence of childhood. My mom thinks I'm insane for actively boycotting the new "Hill Country Galleria" , but even when my glamour-seeking shopaholic alter-ego itches to forego my principles, I need only listen to Randy Rogers' They Call It The Hill Country, and my resolve returns two-fold. It's times like these that I feel most guilty for what our Founding Fathers did to the Native Americans. I don't know if I'm right or wrong for feeling this way, I just know I do, and as cheesy as it is, I feel it every time I drive this stretch of highway. But then I come upon another beautiful view and immediately my feelings of guilt and anger are replaced by the most calming, I'm-exactly-where-I-need-to-be feeling of okayness and I once again utter a prayer of thanks as I pass up yet another newbie who has no idea how to handle the curves and hills that I adore.

But I've said too much. Again.

My point, quite simply, is that even though the kids were clawing at each other in the backseat between Jax's shouts of "Fuck Fuck Fuck!", I was able to stay sane and in that much craved Zen-Zone and it is singularly because of that wondrous road. Have I mentioned how much I love it?

Anyway, my tawdry love affair ends as we turn off and wind our way to the lakehouse, where another love affair immediatley commences: the one between me and my folks.

I'm not sure which I enjoy more, seeing my parents as they walk out to greet us, or seeing my kids run to them as all their faces light up from within. It doesn't really matter, either way it makes my heart sing.

We spend at least an hour just sitting on the deck, chatting and laughing and loving, until Big Daddy decides to get on the golf cart, beckoning the rest of us to join him. The kids jump on, and Mom and I follow on foot, up the steepest hill you'll ever climb, over the rocky pavement as it twists and turns, and I allow myself to just listen to her talk as we watch them drive away ahead of us. Listening is not a skill I was born with, so the few times I find myself graced with the ability to do so, I get all happy and excited, to the point that in the middle of her conversation, I find myself completely ignoring her words in favor of mentally patting myself on the back for finally being able to keep my mouth shut long enough for someone else to say their fill. The irony is not wasted on me, and I snap out of it and listen some more and am happy to do so just because I know she needs it.

We catch up to the kids and Dad at the small local airport, where the kids laugh and point, teasing us for taking so long to catch up, and exclaiming their excitement over having touched every airplane in the lot.

Then we're off again, until we come to the campground where the kids jump and sing and play and we watch and laugh and remember embarrassing stories about me as a child, to the point where Ryan is overcome with sympathy for my younger self and hurriedly comes over to give me a hug. And the Jax yells "Shit!", the magic is broken, and we continue on.

The next stop on our Perfect Walk is a plot of land that Shawn and I desperately wish was our own. Hidden away in a nook overlooking a creekbed, it has no lake view, no prestigious "look at my cool house" vantage point, just a lot of trees, brush, river rocks and creek. It is the most perfect plot of land and though I'd never admit this to you in person, I secretly believe God carved it out just for us. Unfortunately, the people who actually own the land do not see things my way, as they have ignored every attempt at contact we have made in an effort to purchase it from them. That's fine. As long as they stay far away, we'll keep tiptoeing back to climb down the cliff, pick our way across the rock bed, and splash our hands and feet in the tiny little waterfall right below where I imagine our bedroom would be.

My sisters and I used to spend the majority of our non-water-skiing time at the lake hiking in spots just like this when we were kids, so you can imagine my enjoyment at seeing Ryan and Jax learn to do the same. Alas, this portion of our walk must also come to an end, and we embark on the last leg of our trip, which is inevitably the moment Mom and I start discussing religion and the nature of life in general, a favorite choice of topics between the two of us, seeing as how we are both so uniquely of one mind when it comes to our faith. I'll spare you the actual meat of the conversation, but for me it was the Perfect End to the Perfect Walk on this Perfect Day.

Having spent almost 2 hours on our trek, it is time for Jax and I to head back to Round Rock, leaving Ryan to spend some quality time overnight with her grandparents. Jax sleeps most of the way home, as I lose myself in some random opera on the radio, and, of course, the scenery that surrounds me.

Although I'm a little pooped when we get home, Jax finds a way to pull the energy from me, and we enjoy lunch and Thomas (in that order) while I spot clean here and there until Shawn arrives to take me with him on his Mobile Loaves and Fishes run.

Ninny shows up to watch Jax, and we head to church where we help make sandwhiches, load the MLF truck with chips, fruit, candy and drinks, and head off to Austin to provide a small amount of assistance to those less fortunate who will accept our help. The entire time, as I pour coffe and cocoa over and over, I can't escape two thoughts: that God has truly blessed me by allowing me to help others, and that I don't want to ever forget any of these homeless faces I see, lest I forget the real reason we're all here -- to help each other. Yes, I'm laying it on thick. No, I don't really care.

We finish much too quickly, having less food than those to feed, and return to the enormous comforts of our own home, and the very comforting knowledge that while we were out Ninny had to change not one but two dirty diapers. Not that I'm happy that she in particular had to mess with THE POOP, but that for once that wretched task wasn't mine for the doing. (Sorry, Nin. Don't be too quick to begrudge me -- I just finished changing the 4th poo of the night.)

Dinner was short and sweet, Jax and I shared a lovely bubble bath, Shawn is ending the tuck-in routine, and I am doing my best to record the day's moments in the most honest way possible, however mundane, cheesy, and irritating it may be.

Forgive me for this completely selfish post, but I just couldn't sleep without recording the best day thus far of 2008. Completely ordinary, completely perfect.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Promises, Promises...

Ha! You thought I'd forgetten, eh? I didn't forget, I just got carried away playing and eating, sleeping and reading.

Playing with the kids, of course, eating organic pizza and dark chocolate gelatto (yes, I am still sticking to my res -- this was my FREE DAY!), sleeping snuggled up with my youngest late into the afternoon and reading the current bandwagon fave, "Eat, Pray, Love", which explains the pizza and gelatto. My other book is "Pure Skin", which explains the sleeping, "organic" and "dark chocolate".

And while I've mastered the art of reading two books at once, I still haven't figured out how to make a movie out of our video clips, but I'm taking the kids with me to Menana and Big Daddy's tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get a little assistance from my Redneck Tech-loving Dad. That, or I'll just give up and post each.clip.individually.


Hello? Anyone out there??

I know, I know. I've abandoned you all and for that I apologize. Don't get those panties too tightly wadded, though -- I've pretty much abandoned everyone lately.

The kitchen is decorated in a nice shade of hovel, the "Big Room" has been completely overrun by a vagabond band of inflatable toys, motorized cars, race tracks and dirt, and the rest of the house is just depressed.

Meanwhile, I finally caught up on our vacation laundry, cleaned the oven from an unfortunate pound cake incident, and have enjoyed many hours of Playhouse Disney, Hannah Montana and football.

In my mind, as long as the kids are on vacation, I am too. Shawn may not agree with this, but he's at work, so I'm pretty sure it's just blatant jealousy.

We had a very active holiday, traveling to the lakehouse, Houston, Port Neches, back to Houston, and then on to Katy.

We visited everyone who would deign to let us in, and then some. We saw museums, movies, parks and dogs, and even lit a sparkler or two on New Year's Eve. We are such party animals.

I've been trying to pull myself out of the sink hole of depression and despair that covered me around Christmas, and thankfully, I am beginning to see daylight.

Resolutions have been made, budgets are in the making, and the kids and I are enjoying our $15 box of firelogs while we wait for Daddy to return and make us whole.

Our upstairs toilet flooded and leaked into the kitchen...mmmm... soup, anyone? And no one even yelled, cursed or stomped their feet -- we truly are evolving, no? That, or we're just too worn out to make the effort.

Mom and Dad got us an awesome flip video camera, and I am working on putting together a movie montage of the holidays for all of you faithful to look at and laugh. Or cry. Or hide your eyes in embarrassment.

I miss my parents and my sisters terribly -- I wasn't very good to them on Christmas, shame shame, and if there is anything I could do differently it would be to not have had all those beers on Christmas Eve. Alas, Santa did not bring me the Time Machine I've so fervently been wishing for all these years, so I'll just have to settle for remorse and guilt. That sounds about right.

My resolutions are numerous and I really hope I can keep them, although I've already broken one, but that's okay because I didn't really care about that one anyway. Who wants life without coffee???

So I'll leave you all for now, with promises of more posts today and tomorrow and the day after that, and wishes for a wonderful New Year to you and yours.