Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I can't think of a title for this.

Feeling a little down today. One of those days where the suspicion that my kids would be better off with another mom keeps quietly testing the walls of my consciousness for a weakness.

Due to a change in my schedule, I now work nine hour days four days a week- nine hours straight, mind you, I don't take a break for lunch. I generally leave around 5:40 am, arrive home between 5:00 and 5:30 pm. Recently, Russell's employer let someone go and subsequently has stuck Russell in a position that requires him to work until 6:00 Tuesdays through Thursdays. His drive home is anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour, so he generally doesn't get home until around 7:00.

Today I worked a nine hour day, came home to two sick kids, and proceeded to do the following:
Put on 'Rio' for Riley
Empty the dish drainer
Feed Zoey dinner
Put Zoey in her walker (The next several steps are done with the walker banging repeatedly into my ankles)
Make Riley dinner because he doesn't like what Russell and I are having
Make my and Russell's dinner (steamed brocolli and carrots and broiled tilapia)
Harp at Riley to eat his dinner
Eat my own dinner
Try to rinse the dishes so food doesn't get crusty
Turn on Johnny Test for Riley and give Zoey a bath
Attempt to put Zoey to bed (fail)
Take off my heels
Put Zoey to bed
Make a pot of coffee
Courtesy of Riley, who knows what's up.
Russell then arrived home, and I slunk off to take a shower while Riley went downstairs to play the Sims and Russell reheated his dinner.

All of my deep thinking is done in the 15-20 minutes it takes me to shower. I spend hours in the car every day, but that's mostly reserved for feeling awesome and singing at the top of my lungs. It stands to reason that it was while in the shower, then, that it occurred to me that the TV spent more time with my son today than either of his parents did, and I cried. I cried because that's fucking sad, and I cried because I don't know what to do about it. It's easy to say "Quit your job and stay at home with your kids like you want to more than anything, anyway", but the fact of the matter is that we need my job. We don't need in the way that if we didn't have it, we'd have to go without cable TV and any extra-curricular activities- though that's true enough. We need it in the way that if we didn't have it, we'd have to go without a house, and food, and insurance.

I'd like to think the time I spend with my kids is quality time, and that it makes up for lack of quantity. For instance, I put Zoey to bed every night. Russell knows this. It is a rare occasion for me to ask him to do it. I love sitting in there and giving her her last bottle and rocking her to sleep, even though it only lasts a few lullabies. For those few lullabies, this rapidly growing, independent, bulldog of a child is just a sweet little sleepy baby with her fingers loosely curled around mine and her long eyelashes all fanned out over her fat cheeks. I would stay in there for hours if I didn't have a million other things to do.

So big.
My biggest fear is that, in the same short amount of time that it took for Riley to be five, both of my kids are going to be grown and leaving home. I am worried that they're going to look back and remember their childhoods as being full of tv shows and toys and computer games, and only a handful of cameo appearances by their busy parents.

Since they've been born, I've tried to keep respective journals for both of them. My mom did it for me when I was a baby and it's one of the coolest things I've got from my childhood. Unfortunately, I am so caught up with just trying to milk the short time I have with them for all its worth that I haven't been great at keeping up with it. I really need to try harder, and I'm going to work on that over the next week or so, and hopefully never stop. That way, even if they don't necessarily remember how deeply and wholly I loved them, they'll have the proof.

That was a bit depressing, huh?

Let's end this on a funny note, shall we? Zoey, while crawling around on the kitchen floor this evening, spit up on said floor AND THEN LEANED DOWN AND ATTEMPTED TO EAT IT. Kids are gross.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

And the Earth Rejoiced...

It's been a busy couple of days. I haven't had two minutes to myself to even go to the bathroom without the company of a minor.

"But Amber," you may say, "Didn't your son start school yesterday? Surely that afforded you a break."

You'd think. Except Riley starting school meant that his little sister had to conveniently decide that she was going to prove her independence as well- from napping. I think she's teething again, because she's also refusing bottles. What this all boils down to is a hungry, tired, crabby baby that wants to pull herself up on everything and then scream because she doesn't know how to get down without falling.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

I am kinda a big deal. I got an award on Tuesday. Myself and a handful of other employees were summoned into a top secret meeting with one of the department higher-ups, on the sixth floor no less, and awarded for some extra hard work we'd done recently when threatened with the government funding ceiling. We were called up in front of the room full of people, embarrassed, and handed a box (which contained a silver plated, engraved, star-shaped paperweight) and a certificate in a nice embossed folder. We then slunk back to our seats beside the gigantic windows and watched as the meeting progressed.

But then the earth decided to applaud us for our hard work.

It started with the ceiling rumbling. We looked up at it and considered it, but ultimately brushed it off. Then the building seemed to sway, and the windows rattled, and the blinds started shaking, at which point we all leaped from our chairs beside the windows and stared in wide-eyed astonishment. Was this an earthquake? There were several people from California in the room, and they stayed seated and looked utterly unimpressed, but I was sick to my stomach with shock. In the short time that it lasted, my dominating thought was "what if it just keeps intensifying until this building crumbles and I never see my kids again?" But then it was over and my fear was replaced by excitement. MY FIRST EARTHQUAKE! Maybe it doesn't seem so impressive to YOU, but I live in Virginia, and have only been familiar with earthquakes via the news. Our building was evacuated so facilities could check for pipes leaking, etc. and then we were let back in, and the afternoon was pretty much shot. Everyone that stayed just talked about the earthquake and surfed the internet looking for information about it.

A friend posted this on facebook and it cracked me the hell up:

Maybe we're wimps, California, but I'm willing to bet you'd freak out about snow.

Yesterday was Riley's first day of school. Our county does half-day kindergarten and Riley is in PM. Therefore, the morning went a little something like this:

8:30 am
Riley: Is it time yet?
Me: No. Three and a half hours left.

8:40 am
Riley: How about now? Is it time? How much time has gone by?
Me: Only ten minutes.
Riley: Well, how long is that? How much time is left?
Me: I will tell you every hour, okay?

8:55 am
Riley: Has an hour passed?

Needless to say, the hours passed very slowly for all of us. I can't fault him for being excited, though. I was too. I had his lunch packed at 7:30 am. He was dressed and in his shoes by 9:30.

Russell arrived home from work in time to come with us to drop Riley off at school. Riley tried to not even say goodbye or give us hugs. When the teacher came to walk the kids back to the classroom, he simply took off running. I had to call him back.

I am happy to report that I did not cry. Though I will admit that I worried, a LOT. I also immediately drove all around town doing stuff that would otherwise be peppered with complaints from my five year old- went to the grocery store, got gas, went to Starbucks, drove to my mom's house to drop something off. I stopped by Toys R Us and got Riley a globe to congratulate him on his first day of school (he's wanted one for a while).

When the bus dropped him off (40 minutes late) I asked him how it went and he said it was fun. He chose to not give me any more information (except a tiny tidbit later about having music class and playing the bongos). We then started what I hope will be a new tradition, and picked a place on his globe and then researched that place and recorded facts about it. Yesterday it was the Indian Ocean (which is the 3rd largest oceanic division, accounts for 20% of the earth's water surface and is the warmest of the Oceans) and today we're going to do Egypt. We need to work on his ability to read the globe, though. Yesterday he insisted several times that we should focus on "North". North what? Your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's hard to curse around a child that knows what you're spelling.

I can't remember any of this past weekend. I wish I could say it's because I partied and got super-college-frat-party-drunk, but I think it's because we didn't do anything note worthy. Wait, part of it's coming back to me now.... We went to Target and bought a dish drainer.... and another baby gate.... and a new welcome mat.

Better left unsaid, right? I know, the glamor of my life is unbearable to you common folk. I shouldn't have been so insensitive just then.

Yesterday was "Meet the Teachers" day at Riley's elementary school. I left work at 11 to go pick him up (I had to eat in the car! New milestone! I LIVED!!). When we got to the school, it was PACKED WITH KIDS. They were sticky and dirty and I felt like the construction paper lined walls were closing in on me. That place smells like my childhood. Walking in there is like a slap in the face of memories. I had to go into the main office to ask a question about the bus routes, and the ladies of course all remembered Riley. Especially when he proudly read them the drawer labels, all of their names off of their desks, the sign behind one of them, and the people's names from the 'sign in' sheet. After several long, tense minutes in the packed foyer (Maybe most people aren't tense? But SO MANY KIDS!!!!) they let us back. I hadn't received a letter telling me who Riley's teacher was (got it yesterday when we got home, of course...) so I was anticipating lists being posted outside the classrooms. Nope. So I had to wander in to each of them (which were all notably marked 'PEANUT FREE ZONE', which is going to suck for my PB&J loving child) and ask around like a dumb noob.

When we finally found his teacher's room- Her name is Mrs. Weigel, but she is kindly allowing the kids to call her Mrs. W.- Riley immediately went into his version of coronary arrest. Here is his heaven, this classroom papered with letters and numbers. Immediately he attempted to rip them all down and love them, but I stopped him. As I filled out paperwork and he stealthily tried to remove letter magnets from the chalkboard (meanwhile, the other kids are playing with each other), Mrs. W found her way over and made the mistake of striking up a conversation about letters, at which point she wasn't able to leave to talk to any of the other children because Riley would not stop talking for anything. When she finally found the opportunity to introduce herself to the room, Riley anxiously waited until she finished and then proclaimed "YOU ARE THE BEST TEACHER!" which got a chuckle from the parents. The parents were asked to head to the cafeteria so the teacher could get to know the students, and I watched as parents tried to separate themselves from their tearful children.

"Riley," I said, "I have to leave you here now and go somewhere else with the other moms and dads"
"Cool, bye," Riley said dismissively as he spelled 'School' with foam letters. Well. That's my kid for you.

While the parents were introduced to the staff members, the children got the opportunity to learn about bus safety and ride the school bus. At the end of the hour, we were allowed to go get our child off of the bus. Mrs. W, with a big smile that might have been strained and fake, informed me that she'd started reading something (the posted rules, I think?) on the bus and that Riley had "finished them" for her.

I get the feeling that everyone is going to know my son and me by the end of this school year. I am terrified.

Later that afternoon, Riley asked to play outside with his truck. I stared at him for 45 seconds straight in amazed silence, thinking if I breathed or blinked it would disappear, like a mirage. This is the child that would sit on the computer for 6 hours straight if we let him, and whose version of playing with legos is making the alphabet out of them. I may have yelled "YES" accidentally, in my excitement, and shoved him outside.

Every so often, the stars will align perfectly, and I will do something that makes me feel like a cool mom. Such an occasion took place yesterday, when I was preparing to butterfly chicken breasts for the picatta I was making for dinner, and blew it off to play with sidewalk chalk instead. It was beautiful outside, and I was so happy to fully appreciate the last of summer with my kids. Of course, the first thing Riley did was start drawing numbers and letters- but hey, we were outside! That's at least an improvement!

I drew the sun and the clouds, and a heart, and Riley gave them all faces.

Zoey focused on throwing her pacifier repeatedly on the ground as a way, presumably, to taste the asphalt.
Riley wants to make sure you know your colors.
The artist at work.
(Not pictured: Me in sunglasses, an oversized Samuel Adams t-shirt, leggings and bare feet. Sorry for your loss there.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 19th- Day of Hope

I've mentioned previously that this was a rough week. Today, I am going to delve a little bit into why. This is going to be hard to write and maybe hard to read (especially if you're as sensitive as I am) but I'm going to approach it unabashedly, like I try to do with most topics.

Today is the Day of Hope, founded by Carly Marie Dudley. I accepted an invitation to acknowledge and honor this day on facebook, but I'll admit it had slipped my mind until I saw the following quote mentioned in a status:

‎"August 19th is a day to break down the walls of society that keep pregnancy, infant and child loss a hush hush subject. People view the death of a baby as just a sad thing that happened.These babies that die are not sad things that happen. They are people, much loved and wanted children. They are brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grandsons and granddaughters." ~Carly Marie Dudley~

So that's exactly what we're going to do here. Talk about loss.

Let's be honest- who really WANTS to be sad? All psychological, masochistic issues aside, a healthy human being doesn't generally set out to make themselves depressed on a regular basis. Unfortunately, when you have been affected by loss, you don't always get to make that decision for yourself. The sadness is there, staring you in the face every morning when you wake up, forcing you to acknowledge it and make a decision about how you're going to handle it that minute, and hour, and day.

For those of us that haven't been as close to the loss, it's a bit easier to avoid dealing with it. It's less of a struggle to turn that part of ourselves off and simply not confront our feelings about it as often. Many people take this approach. They acknowledge the gravity and sadness of a situation and then move on. Sometimes, either voluntarily or involuntarily, they will think back and mourn for a while. There really can't be any blame in that. Again, no one really WANTS to be sad.

But making the choice to not think or talk about it doesn't make what happened go away. It doesn't erase the life that was lost, however short that life may have been.

On August 16th, 2010, Simon Maurice Rivers was born to two wonderful parents, one of whom I've been friends with for 21 years. I was pregnant with Zoey at the time. We'd arranged marriage between our children, naturally, before we were even aware of their genders. I'd bought Simon a tiny pair of booties, which were scheduled to arrive at my house any day. Simon wasn't due until October 31st. The circumstances surrounding his birth weren't favorable, but he was a little fighter. We all had high hopes. I ordered a teddy bear from the hospital gift shop with a card that said "Congratulations!". I prayed throughout that day, as I had in the uncertain days before. That night as I settled in to bed, I received a phone call from a friend visiting the family in the hospital. I can remember the phone call in extraordinary detail, telling me that Simon had passed on. He had succumbed to the listeriosis infection that had ravaged he and his mother both. I don't remember the hours after it at all. Nor the day that followed. I remember receiving the booties that week, and all I could think was "I'm so glad I didn't have these shipped to Karen. I don't know what it would have done to her to get this package now." I still have them. I never figured out what to do with them.

I found out later that same week that another friend of mine, due in December as I was, had lost her twin boys. Though we weren't as close then as we are now, the news was devastating nonetheless, especially when paired with the loss of Simon. I was reeling, and heartsick, and confused. I didn't know how to deal with it, what to say to these grieving friends of mine that could offer some solace.

One year later, it still hurts just as much. The pain is less confusing now. It has a sad familiarity about it. It has moved in and made itself at home, but unlike the memories it binds itself to, it will never be welcome. Though I never forget, I am not confronted with the reality of the situation on a daily basis the way the parents are. This abstract hurt that I feel as a bystander, to them is a much more constant and physical absense. It has changed everything in some ways, but perhaps what hurts the most are the things that should've changed, but haven't.

It is important that those of us that haven't experienced the loss of a child directly understand that those that have don't have the option of forgetting it, or not acknowledging it. To them, in place of a child, there is only 'what if's and 'what should be's. We have the ability and responsibility to make sure that we don't forget, either, and don't neglect to acknowledge these lives just because we don't want to feel the hurt.

Today, and always, I hope you can join me in remembering those who never had the opportunity to make their own memories.

All my love to Simon (8/16/2011), Bryston, Colton (8/15/2011) and Elliott (11/28/2010).


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is this why some animals eat their young?

My son is a handful. He's a peculiar, fascinating child that keeps me on my toes, always. Sometimes I wonder if he was sent to me to teach me more about patience, or to shove it back in my face that I thought I had it all together for a little while when he was merely a tubby lump of baby flesh.

Recently, he's gifted me with several grandkids. Before you ponder how the mother of a five-year old finds herself in that situation, I should tell you that these grandkids are numbers that Riley assembled from legos. I believe I am the proud grandmother to multi-colored 1-5. 1 appears to be Riley's favorite. I should have taught him it's not nice to play favorites. 1 goes everywhere with him. It's a matter of concern that these are crappy legos, so 1 occasionally loses a brightly colored foot or a piece of his head, sending his doting father into a rampage.

This is how he rebels when I request a smile.
Riley has been trying to bring his children to visit their great-grandmother during the day when he's at her house. I've unfortunately had to forbid it after it became too hard to wrangle their body parts up for the commute home in the afternoon. But he'll find a way. For as long as we've been transporting Riley to and from Grandma's house, we've been finding things in his backpack, pockets, stashed in the car, etc. that he's attempted to smuggle back and forth.

Last night, as he happily created his "21 Hoppy Place Family" on The Sims (21 indicating that they are, in fact, the 21st family he's made with the name 'Hoppy Place'. There is an entire neighborhood filled with Hoppy Places. Inbreeding. Also, probably 60% of them are named 'Joe'), I realized it was bedtime, and informed him. He was understandably angry- who likes to be torn away from starving simulated families to death?- and as he stormed through the playroom towards the stairs, told me "I am going to take some of these number magnets upstairs." I told him no- we had to remove toys from his bedroom because he hordes them in his bed and ends up sleeping on piles of plastic and metal. He raged against me, and I continued up the stairs and talked to Russell briefly. I glanced over my shoulder to the playroom and noticed that he had formed his beloved blankie into a makeshift satchel, and was smuggling number magnets into it. I watched in silence for several moments and then cleared my throat and said "Sneaky".

Getting caught obviously hadn't entered his mind, and caused a tempermental explosion. He threw the magnets and stomped past me, stopping only to punch my hip, and up the stairs.

Is this the face of someone that may need an exorcist?
I'd be lying if I said that I haven't evaluated his actions a million times in my head, trying to figure out what it says about me as a parent and what it is I'm doing wrong.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm not doing anything wrong. He's got an absolutely explosive temper. He's as sly as a fox, and headstrong, and argumentative. He doesn't like to be told what to do. He thinks he's as smart as an adult and will challenge everything we say, and constantly demand to know where we're coming from when we ask him to do something. Maybe these are things that frustrate me when I am attempting to have a smoothly running home, or embarrass me when I compare him to better behaved children, but the fact is that they're not BAD things. He's not a little robot, and for every undesirable response we get from him, he makes up for it with something hilarious or tear-jerking. He writes us little notes- so many that I can't even keep them all- about how much he loves us. He tells us regularly that we're the best parents in the world. He treats his make-believe children with such tenderness and care, reading them books and stealing Zoey's toys to give to them. He constantly compliments us- tells me my dinners are "the best" and tells Russell that he's doing a "great job" filling the pool or mowing the lawn. These are the things that are important. He may not always say 'please' or 'thank you'. He may speak what's on his mind with complete unchecked abandon, but his ability to tap in and express what he's feeling, good or bad, is admirable. It's watching him lovingly assuring his lego children that he'll always take care of them that lets me know I've done something right. We learn how to parent from our own parents, after all.

Thanks Mom : )

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'Quirky' is just a nicer term for 'Neurotic'.

Today, I am going to talk about me. -------> ME <--------. Now's your chance to click that little red box with the "X". No? Then let's talk about what a freak I am. Was! Was. Okay, and am.

So, it took me a while (*cough* 13 years) to move past my fear that I was going to either a- die in a fiery car crash or b- kill someone, whenever I got behind the wheel of a car (To be honest, I am still 98% sure I am going to die prematurely in a car accident, but now I think it's worth it). Each time I celebrated a birthday, I would be staring at the candles while people sang, hearing "Happy Birthday to you!" and thinking to myself "Now I am 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and I still don't drive". Needless to say, the effect this had on my self-esteem wasn't great. I am not certain why I decided 2011 was the magical year. Maybe I knew that on my next birthday, I would be 30, and that it would usher in an entire new decade of sadness if I wasn't independently mobile. Whatever the reason, I decided to take control of my life and just do something about it. I had read 50 books about driving by this point, trying to identify and work through the reasons behind my fear (none of them worked) and even gotten to the point where I was considering hypnosis. In the end, I decided that the only thing that was going to help was to just do it.

I started in the parking lot of the high school across from our house. We would swing by there on our way home from picking up the kids after work, and I would attempt to swallow the vomit rising in my throat and wipe my sweating palms off on my pants and move over to the driver's seat. I would then drive jerkily around, park crookedly over multiple spaces, and only when a dizzy, sickening span of 10-15 minutes had passed and I couldn't take anymore would I stop suddenly and get out. I almost always realized afterwards that my teeth had been clenched the whole time and that my knees were weak, and was usually assaulted by a crushing migraine for the rest of the night. We did this for months. To give Russell credit, he was incredibly patient with me, though he did lose his cool a couple times. One day, we were away from home and couldn't find a parking lot, so I drove through a quiet neighborhood. It was a bunch of culdesacs, so I would drive down a street, turn around and loop out, and do the same on the next street. When we got back to the mouth of the neighborhood, I simply kept going, out of the neighborhood, through town. Neither of us commented on it while I drove. We talked about inane little details that weren't related to the car or driving- music, work, etc. When we got to our destination, I giggled wildly for a good 10 minutes and smiled till my face hurt.

After that, my confidence grew. I tackled highways, drove in the rain, navigated crowded parking lots. I clipped Russell's car once while parking and got knocked down a couple pegs, but was otherwise unshakable. When the day came that I felt ready to venture out on my own, I drove myself to and from work, alone in my car for hours. I felt as though I could fly if I wanted to. I was no longer scared of anything (except Sharks. I'm freaking terrified of those bitches).

At least I can laugh at myself, right?
 I may be the only 29 year old that regularly excitedly exclaims to my coworkers "I MADE A U-TURN LAST NIGHT!", "I am PARKED PERFECTLY! COME LOOK!" and "I am STILL ALIVE!". Every trip in my car is its own amazing and death-defying experience for me. Still, sometimes I feel that fear there, just under the surface. When I make a stupid decision and risk myself (or my kids!!!) even a little bit, I feel it bubble up slightly, threatening my confidence. To combat this, I have developed a list of huge positives that I go over in my head when necessary. Let me share them with you and perhaps you can apply them to your own irrational fears.

1) Everyone around me is my friend. Not that guy that just cut me off, okay, but everyone else. See how happy we all are? How we flow like a dangerous metal river together? Look at that car with it's turn signal on, almost like it's winking at my car. They are sharing a secret, and that secret is happiness and independence and love for each other. We are cool in our ability to operate motor vehicles.When someone has the opportunity to pass me, and they don't? That's because I am doing a good job and they love being behind me.

2) Sometimes, you don't die. I know this is a tough one to believe and accept, but I am not dead yet. I manage to log around 15 hours of driving a week and I am still around to talk about it. I also haven't killed anyone. Just a snake, and that's unconfirmed.

3) You don't want to be 30 and having to beg people to give you rides. Not sure that one needs any additional explanation, but I'm me, so you're getting some anyway. Do you know how embarrassing it is to be invited somewhere and have to make sure you can find someone to bring you and pick you up, and oh yeah, you're 29? What about being the second oldest in your family out of five kids, and being the last to drive?

4) You will feel like a superhero. I am not sure I'll ever not be afraid of sharks, but there was a huge part of me that was sure I would never drive. Now it's my bitch. Make your fears your bitch too. I might make sharks my bitch someday. Just maybe from the other side of a thick glass pane.

If you'd told me even 6 months ago that I would be a great driver (I am pretty sure everyone thinks they're great at driving. But I really am) and would delight in such things as a simple trip to the grocery store, I would've locked myself in a closet and cried, assuming you were being patronizing. This morning, though, after deftly avoiding hitting yet another wandering deer, parking absolutely perfectly, remembering to turn my headlights off BEFORE the chime sounds as I got out, and glancing back at my license plate, I realized how far I've come. I will never be the one to judge others for their fears. I know what it feels like. But fortunately, I know what it feels like to give it a big fat middle finger, now, too. And that feels a crapton better.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Is this what normal people feel like the morning after?

Hi. Did you miss me? What do you mean you didn't notice I was gone? I took the whole three-day weekend OFF from the internet. Well, with the exception of hours of research I did trying to figure out why my home computer keeps crashing. This is a big deal. I mean my break from the internet, though my computer crashing is a close second. You see, if it weren't for the internet, I probably wouldn't have friends. I am really bad at keeping in touch, but I'll be damned if Facebook doesn't make it a crapton easier. Since it's obvious that you've all (I mean you, and you. Thanks for reading) missed me terribly, let me entertain you with a summary of my weekend.

Friday, I finally hauled Riley in to register him for Kindergarten. Zoey, too, but she only wishes that she were being signed up for an opportunity to get away from me. For those who haven't met my son, it is an understatement to say he's not shy. He's also not even the slightest bit intimidated by adults. We walked into the school's office (cute school! The sidewalks are all decorated with illustrations of the school's values, Riley and I had fun on our walk up to the door) and Riley immediately steamrolls those sweet, unsuspecting personnel. He walks in, past the front desk, back into an area that I'm sure is typically reserved for staff, and starts questioning a lady there about what she's doing on her computer. She thought it was hilarious, thankfully. I was a little worried he was going to be banned before I'd even gotten him registered. She offered him a job as her personal assistant, and I practically had to beg him to come out and sit beside me while I filled out forms. I talked him into playing with my phone instead (and found out later he'd started a game of Words with Friends with Russell). Zoey started chanting (ehhhhhhh-UH! ehhhhhhhh-UH!) in a tone that grew progressively louder, until everyone in the office was cracking up and my face was burning. Riley then impressed the ladies by loudly reading everything on the bulletin board in the office for them as I tried to drag him out the door. I get the feeling they might remember him.

It was absolutely lovely outside that afternoon, so the kids and I went out into the backyard to play. Zoey and I set up camp under a tree while Riley played with his "Stomp Rockets" that he'd gotten from Grandma Crossley for his birthday.

You put the styrofoam rocket on the tube and then stomp on that pink thing.
Or, if you're Zee, you eat grass.
I was fortunate enough to capture this heartwarming action shot.
Saturday, we went grocery shopping, then school shopping. Riley had fun picking out a lunch box and backpack, and I even let him help pick out his clothes. He doesn't have bad taste, for a five year old.

Sunday, Russell smoked a chicken and some baby back ribs, and I drank some beer. I think- THINK- I might have my first hangover ever this morning. I've got one of those headaches that saps all your strength. I wasn't even able to get the deadbolt to lock on the door when I left the house, and I had to cut open the package my breakfast was in even though it's perforated for tearing. Pretty lame.

Seriousness coming-

All those things having been said, my heart is heavy today, and probably will be throughout the week. I am remembering three baby boys that left this world far, far too soon, and am so heartbroken for their families. Please take the time to appreciate your families a little extra today, and if you pray, try to remember to ask for peace for those who have holes in their hearts that can never be filled. All my love to those who have felt the pain of losing a child, particularly to the Cortez and Rivers families this week. My thoughts are with you and your sweet baby boys.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy End-of-the-work-week-Thursday! Oh, this isn't the end of your work week? Sucks to be you.

Yea for three day weekends! Knowing that I don't have to drag my ass in here tomorrow almost makes all the 9-hour days worth it. Maybe you don't think 9-hour days are such a big deal, but my total daily commute is approximately 105 miles, so it's actually almost a 12-hour work day depending on traffic (or would be if I didn't enjoy my commute so much. It's the only alone time I have). The couple hours I have with the kids when I get home are actually more exhausting than my entire work day. From the second we walk in the door it's this explosion of things that need to be done, and mouths to force food into. Yesterday, Russell didn't get home until 8:40ish, so I was single-momming it all night with the kids.

Zoey tries to escape from the reality that is her life, but finds herself unable to break the barriers I've placed.
 This, sadly, resulted in french toast for dinner. Even that was potentially a parent fail. Smarty-mom didn't take the cat food and water off of the floor, so Zee immediately up-ended the water bowl while I basically cooked glorified toast. This may have been the fifth time. Does that disqualify me for mom of the year? Also, if she ate cat food? Is that a problem?

The poster child for neglect, Zoey plays with those ugly curtains, for which I'm not responsible.
It was Russell's bath night, which only makes sense, being that he wasn't going to be home in time to do it. So I took care of baths. On the bright side, this allowed Riley an opportunity to continue the saga we've been composing out of foam bath letters. I think it's about a fly and his tendency to throw lavish parties. The first book was called "Flys Farty Party" (I wish I could say that Riley came up with that name, but it was all me). The second was called "Thanks for the party Fly" (they don't make foam bath punctuation). Last night, as I got Zoey ready for bed, Riley continued the series on his own:

Apparently Fly's back at it.
 You read it here, folks. Party over at my place- if you don't mind flies.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No Preservatives.

Do those of you who have kids remember back before you had kids, when everyone warned you that "they grow up so fast" and you kinda rolled your eyes and thought "Get out of my face and also eat some tic-tacs"?. Well, then, you probably also know that you eventually find yourself saying that same annoying thing, because it's the truth. As I prepare for one of the scariest days of my life, August 24th- Riley's first day of Kindergarten (incidentally, I must point out how ridiculous it is that school starts on a Wednesday), I find myself becoming one of those stupid high-strung parents that I used to want to push down a flight of stairs. I am going to be that mom clutching on to her child's arm and sobbing as he tries to wrench free and run into the school to escape. Nightly, thoughts of how I will handle a situation in which he comes home sad because someone called him a name haunt me. Then the thoughts of "what if HE'S the bully?" crop up, and suddenly I'm some two headed worry machine, confused over which situation to cry more about.

It doesn't help, either, that this coincides with Zoey deciding to be Little Miss Independent. Seems like just a week ago she was still relying on us to get where she wanted to go (actually, I'm pretty confident that it WAS only a week ago) and last night, she climbed a stair all by herself. Actually climbed it. Then sat down and promptly fell backwards off of it. Do you know what this means? I mean, besides that we need to keep a better eye on her and possibly put pillows at the bottom of the stairs.

It means that I'm already missing having a baby. Which gets my uterus all whiny and shit. This is bad news. Everyone knows it's bad news. Craigslist, currently featuring several baby items that I hope to free myself of and profit from, knows that it's bad news. (Does anyone need a baby swing? Barely used.)

Today it's this little plastic cart, but tomorrow I'll learn to work the lawnmower. (The blurriness indicates the speed at which time is passing).
 Riley seems generally unphased by my decision to live on the precipice of lunacy. He's just being his comedic little self. He is obsessed with this "Lean Cuisine" commercial where the two ladies are eating Chinese food.

Lady A: What's that you're eating?
Lady B: Oh, it's (insert chinese food dish here)
Lady A: Oh, me too, except mine's from Lean Cuisine, so it has (while motioning her utensil over the dish in a circular fashion) no preservatives.
Lady B: Say WHAT? (I may have added that)
Lady A: That's right. (Circular utensil motion) No preservatives.

What does this commercial mean? It apparently means that Lean Cuisine has no preservatives- BUT! It also means that my son takes frequent breaks while eating, and random trips to the utensil drawer, just so he can spin a fork or spoon in a circular motion and repeat- in an appropriately nasal tone- "No preservatives". I'm talking at least four times in the course of an hour. Every night. I am boycotting Lean Cuisine.

"No preservatives" may or may not be the first name of his latest Sim child, in his latest family (The "sunny day blonde" family) that resides in the latest neighborhood that we've had to make up in order to accomodate another starving, full-bladdered family and their small house full of counters. What breaks my heart is how much he loves each and every one of his Sim's families, and is so concerned about their well being. Perhaps he already understands, at five, how fleeting life can be.

Again, the blurriness is the passing of time, not an indication of my phone's crappy camera quality.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Downsides to Five-Year Old Texting

This past weekend promised to be a busy one. DirecTV was coming on Saturday (between 8 and 12, they said) while Russell worked, we were supposed to go school shopping, and Riley and I were going to see the Smurfs on Sunday. I am not in the habit of setting my alarm on the weekends. Why would I? I leave for work between 5:30-5:45 am during the week, I try to appreciate "sleeping in" when I can. "Sleeping in" these days generally means being woken up by a screaming baby at 6:15, or having a five year old bolt into our room chasing the cat at 6:30. I am accidentally becoming a morning person, and I hate it.

Anywho, why WOULDN'T this be the Saturday that Zoey decides to sit quietly in her bed and play after she wakes up, and Riley decides to sneak downstairs and play with my phone? I woke up at 9:00 to Riley yelling "I'M DONE!" (code for "I need someone to wipe my butt for me") and had a series of small, instant heart attacks (Did someone come into my house and kidnap my baby? Did Riley put a pillow over Zoey's face? Why is my 8 month old so quiet?!?). I bolted into the bathroom with the intent to help Riley along and go check on Zee. Unfortunately, Riley had attempted to do it himself (which is great! We've been encouraging that) and has made a complete mess of himself. Further, he decided it would be best to not dispose of all of the toilet paper in the toilet- smart thinking, since he's used a ton of it- and has been dropping it all in the trash can beside the sink. Lovely. So after about 10 minutes of having tiny heart attacks while I clean up Poopapalooza 2011 (Hands were all washed), I throw Zoey's bedroom door open to find her sitting in her crib happily munching on a pink elephant's leg.

So much for my human alarm clocks.

I didn't remember about the DirecTV installation until Russell texted me, conveniently the minute I arrived downstairs, saying "Sorry you couldn't sleep in longer. Did the installer come yet?" Installer... Installer... Shit. I had two missed calls, and a voicemail. I called it and got "Mrs. Bartell, this is Christian from DirecTV calling to......" I could hear him fumbling around with his phone for about 45 seconds before he hung up. WTF was that? I went into my history to find the return number, and saw that I'd received calls at 8:15, 8:17, and had sent a text message to the number at 8:19. It wouldn't let me access my sent text messages, kept bringing me to a browser on which Riley had attempted to buy a Sara Bareilles CD (wtf again?), a search he performed in my address book looking for "Jilly Bartell", two emails he'd attempted to send to sdsklrsgbxgjsdrssl@sfsdrhysglxnalsdg, and the calorie and fat count for a standard piece of "Apple Pie", which he'd managed to search for in my Calorie Counter app (which is, incidentally, the best dieting app ever, and I highly recommend it).

So I called the number in my history, and apologized to 'Christian', who promised they'd be there between 10 and 12 because their first call was running late (lies. They didn't get there until 1) and confirmed that my son had called him back earlier and told him I was sleeping, and had followed it up with a text message that "Didn't make sense". I apologized again and got off the phone. Finally, the text message Riley'd sent popped up on my phone, simply reading "Uh my grandma's tv." (yes, he used punctuation. I was proud). That's what I get for sleeping in.

DirecTV sent three installers, one of which spent 30 minutes of the installation hanging out on the floor of the playroom with Zoey and I and talking with me amidst periodic wonderings of "what they (his co-installers) are doing up there". As they left, they thanked me for "hanging out" and pointed out that Riley's phone call and text message were the highlight of their day. I nodded and ushered them off, simply hoping that it was enough of a "highlight" that they'd be willing to forget the fact that they had to run a cable through my bedroom and office walls and I hadn't cleaned my discarded bras and underwear off of the carpet or changed the kitty litter box. I'm high class, folks.

Zoey found this weekend that she is delighted by her newfound ability to climb stairs (and off of stairs! Don't worry, I caught her) so I had to run out and purchase a baby gate.
Zoey ponders whether to proceed up, or just eat lint off the stairs.
Sunday was Smurf day. I was never a fan of the Smurfs, even as a child, so it was double stupid for me, but Riley enjoyed it. And I got to eat fried pickles, so that was nice.

Riley also found a new hobby this weekend- he is OBSESSED with the Sims 2. He doesn't really grasp how to play it. If you were to take a glimpse into one of Riley's Sims neighborhoods, you would see several families with last names like "Happy Place" and "Izzy" (which is my car's name) and first names like "Smiley Owen" and "9th Street Love Monster" (I'm serious. And I am claiming that as my imaginary band name, so back off), with 6 kids, and interesting houses.... Most of his HUGE families occupy 2 bedroom houses that are literally stuffed, wall to wall, with counters. No beds, no toilets, no couches- counters. Counters in the hallways, the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the yard. Oh, and maybe one room filled with lamps. But that's okay, he doesn't want to actually PLAY with the families, he just enjoys making them.

He told me last night that he wants "10 million more" little sisters. I am venturing a guess that he'd want their names to be something along the lines of- and these are some of his actual Sim's names- "Baby Joe", "Joe Hank", "Smiley Face", "Pretty Princess" and "Frank Rose". I'm not sure I could handle more kids.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What's in a name?

So this morning on my way to work, I almost hit a vulture. It was sitting in the middle of the road with four of its homies, who intelligently flew away as I approached, and it just stared at my car. It was playing Chicken with me (identity crisis much?). Little did it know that I never back down from a game of Chicken, even if it means running over bunnies, squirrels or your kids (I'm totally lying. I've only run over a snake so far, and I cried afterwards). Anyway, I ended up winning. Sissy-ass bird flew off at the last minute.

I was still pondering this victory when I passed a sign for "Blue Mist Pet Grooming".

"Blue Mist?" I thought to myself, immediately considering what this mythical place must look like. Perhaps it is situated on an island, surrounded by a mysterious azure fog. Perhaps they employee the legendary "Blue Mist" grooming technique, which I've heard tell leaks from a hose and simply shears all of the hair off of your pet in seconds. Seriously, though, what the crap kinda name is that for a Pet Grooming business? Or any business, at that? Did they think it sounded cool?

Not that I am not guilty myself. Growing up (and I mean when I was like 13-15, not 5 as I might make you all believe in a less honest moment) I used to tell everyone that my parents named me "Persephone" and that Amber was my middle name. I supposedly just went by Amber because I found Persephone to be crazy. In truth, I thought it made me sound unique and bad-ass, rather than like a stripper (you KNOW Amber's a stripper name, don't even lie). I even had my spanish teacher call me "Persephone" ('Per-step-a-nie' is how he pronounced it) for my entire freshman year of high school, and acted like it annoyed me, making a big show of rolling my eyes. Everyone just assumed that my parents were big into Greek Mythology, or "hippies" and shrugged. I was convinced that I was a master manipulator, and also the coolest person in school. No one else was named Perstepanie.

Which brings me to the name of this blog. I wanted something that sounded much cooler than "Amber Bartell's Dumb Blog That No One Will Read Ever", even though that probably would have been far more accurate. I picked 'Pretty in Puke' because I actually made this when Zee was still a wee little baby, and I was still a hormonal wreck trying to establish myself as a new mother-of-two while still looking good despite my freshly flat-ironed hair being crusted with spit up. After my first post, I promptly googled my blog name- partially because I'd forgotten my blog address, and admittedly, partially because I wanted to see if I'd somehow achieved instant internet fame. I hadn't, but I'll be damned if there aren't five million things out there called 'Pretty in Puke'. Bands, other blogs, a bunch of other shit that meant nothing to me and therefore was instantly forgotten. My blog wasn't anywhere on the first five pages, by the way. I may have muttered explitives at the screen and gone back to the drawing board considering blog names. Thinking I might incorporate "Blue Mist" somehow. Maybe "Persteponie's Blue Mist Blog"?

This basically sums it up. Notice Zoey's bemused golf clap.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Man that Didn't Know About Heaven

So, I've decided to finally go ahead and start a blog, because it's cheaper than therapy and can be done on the sly while I'm at work. Win-win. I won't bother introducing myself because a) who cares? and b) if you read this, you're probably one of maybe two people. You probably know my address and possibly my underwear pattern. Though that does make you a sick freak, for the record.

I've been doing some serious contemplation this weekend (*cough* read: every 15 minutes for the past five years) as to whether or not I am competent enough to be a parent. I feel like every exchange between Riley and I sometimes is an argument. This past weekend was a three-day weekend for me, and I was really looking forward to it. I recently had a five-day-straight vacation from work to move (it speaks volumes of my life that moving is considered a "vacation") and I felt in that time, I hit my stride as a housewife and mommy. By the close of my time off, I had a routine in place. The kids and I were getting along beautifully. We'd hang out together in the play room while I watched Riley draw every letter of the alphabet on the Wii uDraw for the eightieth time (oh, but this time they're bubble letters! And it's an under-the-sea theme!) while simultaneously trying to prevent Zoey from cutting her teeth on every wire she could dig up from between the carpet and the wall. I was calm. I was patient. I thought to myself "If I didn't need the money, I could be happy with this, surely."

Cut to this past weekend. Friday was Riley's last day of art camp! I felt like such an official parent, dropping him off at camp, kissing his head and telling him I'd be back in a couple hours. Then I RAN ERRANDS! I know, right? Supermom. The last hour of camp was dedicated to showing off the kids' artworks, so I picked up my mom and brought her with me to check them out. They were pretty neat. So then we drop Grandma off and go home afterwards, and it's like passing through the door of our house is passing into another dimension, where fun is not had and niceties are few and far between. I won't get into the particulars of it, just imagine that it's a somewhat boring movie in which a five year old boy insists on thwarting his infant sister's every attempt at happiness, set to the soundtrack of my impassioned mommy voice chiding him, and frequent trips to sit on the stairs for timeout.

Using that analogy, the pivitol point of the movie would have been Saturday, when the infant sister's tired fussing reached a fever pitch and the five year old brother's shouts to silence her were drowned out by my yell- I'm not proud of this- that I couldn't wait to go back to work on Monday. That's the part of the soundtrack where you realize that you have the volume up to loud, and possibly that this movie sucks. Riley came upstairs, then, and wrapped his arms around his sister in one of those progressively tightening hugs that I eventually have to scold him for.

"Zee's crying because she's waiting for a REAL mommy" he said, and my eyes stung immediately. I don't remember what I said. Something out of anger, doubtlessly, and hurt. Then I slammed the pantry door open, and like a 17-oz glass bomb of karma, a full bottle of olive oil toppled from the top shelf and landed directly on the top of my bare foot. I paced the room for a few moments, breathless and sick to my stomach and overwhelmed, before leaning my head against the dishwasher and bursting into tears. Where the hell did Supermom go? Here I am, back to square one, where I am clueless and ruled by emotion and two steps behind my precocious son. Here I am, crying with my head on a broken dishwasher and a blue knot the size of a baseball rapidly developing on my foot. Not so super. The movie just continued to suck from that point on, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that my own attitude probably didn't help.

Don't you wish your girlfriend's foot was hot like mine?

Last night, while Russell had his own not-so-super parenting moment and brooded on the couch, Riley and I went downstairs. I started up Word on Russell's computer, as Riley's been obsessed with typing, and sat down on my own to do awesome things (don't ask). Riley has been learning to understand the red zig-zagging line that indicates a spelling error, and trying to correct it himself, but he asked at one point "How do you spell Heaven? It's not H-E-V-E-N, because it's got a red line under it." This got my attention, and after correcting his spelling, I asked what he was writing.

"It's a story about a man who doesn't know about heaven."

"Oh yeah?" I asked, "What happens?"

"Well, he asks God to tell him about it. You're in this story, you're God's wife, and I'm God's son."

God's wife, eh? I guess I can't be too bad a mom, if I'm given a role like that. Now I just need to figure out what my son is trying to teach me about heaven, and I'll be set.