Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Dog Days of Motherhood

So, I've been thinking. We have the boys. We have the girls. And then we have Gunnar. Since my comparison of my family is to that of a sports game of sorts (see blog title), what does that make my adorable Australian Cattle Dog?

I think the streaker that runs across the field at an inappropriate time is what he would be.

Gunnar came to us this spring, on Cinco de Mayo. A farm dog from Mississippi, he flew into T.F. Green airport via Delta, and we fell in love with him at once. And it's a good thing we love him, because he is FULL of challenges.

Let's start with the house breaking. That was challenging, but that was the easy part! Not too unlike potty training. You know, just when it seems like you are going to be cleaning up bodily fluids for the rest of your life, all of a sudden it "clicks", and you look back and say, "That wasn't so bad!"

Chewing! Chewing is a different story. I try to keep him supplied with rawhide and chew toys, but there's always going to be something he wants more. I have learned to hide the shoes. But, to date, we have lost a pair of flip flops, my glasses, a futon cover, and a chair leg, amongst other things. He hasn't eaten any of the children yet, which is good, but he has eaten a couple of poopy diapers which is the main reason I don't let him kiss me anymore. He is now half-and-half with the puppy teeth to grown-up teeth, so I'm hoping this teething thing ends soon.

Dori is not Gunnar's biggest fan. You would never know this if you saw her sleeping on him, but when they are both awake, it's a true brother-sister rivalry with them. This is good for Logan, as it takes the heat off of him. Gunnar has absolutely no control over himself when it comes to stealing Dori's toys. He also knocks her over trying to kiss her, and tries to steal food from her. I try not to laugh, but it's kind of comical watching her get mad and yell "Gunnar!!!".

If Gunnar was a human, he would be Logan. They are exactly, EXACTLY the same. I sometimes even mix up their names. They have the same personality, and the same purpose: to make everyone else crazy. Neither one is happy unless they are causing trouble.

Gunnar is still a puppy, and we got him at 10 weeks old. Have I mentioned this is our first dog? I have no idea what I'm doing. And I have to do it while raising 4 human puppies. Nuts! In my puppy search, I found a nice 2-year-old ACD up in Maine, named Blue. Blue was house broken. Blue had basic training. Blue was what I'd like to call a Certified Pre-Owned Dog. Easy. But nooooo...Pieman HAD to "raise a dog of our own from puppyhood!" Which is easy to do while you are at work all day and your wife does it! Bull crap!
But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I Miss Mayberry(field)

Part of me is going to have a hard time leaving this little town. I've lived here for almost 13 years, and have spent a great deal of my time here since I met Pieman 15 years ago. But as I was driving toward home yesterday, the umpteenmillionth time I've made that ride, I realized something else:

The little town I fell in love with already left.

I won't say I haven't noticed it already. Since the kids have started school, I've become increasingly aware as to how much this former blue collar town has become an "exclusive community" for commuters to Boston who live in $750,000+ McMansions. The air reeks of entitlement. I can't deny that I've noticed the chance. Pieman hates it most of all. He's lived here his whole life, so you would think that he'd be the least eagar to leave. Nope. HE didn't want to look at homes in this town. Lucky for him, we couldn't afford one.

Back to my ride home yesterday. Maybe it's because we moved to this particular neighborhood around this time of year, or maybe there was something else that made me nostalgic...but I found myself noting all the changes, just on this one road.
"I remember when that house was pink. I remember when that house was red."
"I remember that house when it was smaller, before it burned down and they built one twice its size in its place."
"I remember when that lot didn't have a big colonial house on it. I remember when there was a little run-down post office in it's place, with the old man who used to sit outside and wave to you as you drove by."
"I remember when that house they call the "church house" was a church. Now it looks less and less like a church and more and more like a house."
"I remember when Castle Dr. and Karen's Way (ooooooo...private drives!!) weren't even here."

Yes, I have a lot of memories of this little neighborhood. Unfortunately, that's all they are. Memories of the way this town used to be. I guess it's like a friend or lover that you find you have nothing in common with anymore.

So, I bid Mansfield farewell. Mayberry, I'm coming to chase you down.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The House Blog: Part 1

Well, it is and isn't a secret that we decided to buy a house. I say that because I speak about it frequently, but not in the great detail that I would like to. The main reason for this: I'm afraid I'm going to jinx us, and if things don't pan out, I'm going to look like an ass.

"House Hunters" (on HGTV), is a big pile of b.s. Even "Property Virgins" doesn't show our headache in a true light. There's no way you could capture the true essence of shopping for your first home in a half-hour (not counting commercials) episode. We would require a mini-series, with a 2-hour premiere episode.

We started back in October with the same first steps we have in the past: get a pre-approval, view some homes, and start making offers. After all, housing prices are at an all time low! Want to know why? Everything on the market in our price range is either a short-sale (a.k.a. pre-foreclosure), or bank owned.
Short sales are a special kind of headache. Basically, you are trying to buy a house that no one is really going to sell to you. The first one we put an offer on got foreclosed on the day after we made the offer. The second, a house I truly fell in love with, waited for us in limbo, between an approved offer from the seller and eternal indecision from their bank. A bank that would frequently pass the "We're going to P&S soon" message to us. After all, they wanted to hold on the their potential buyers, just in case they did want to let this one go for less than what was owed on it.
Then the post-foreclosure, bank owned homes. A great deal. Such a great deal, that after you show up and make your offer for asking price, someone who has money to burn can decide that they want the house, but they are willing to offer $50K over asking. Just to be a tool. People like that are the ones that screwed the housing market in the first place. "I want it, I have to have it, and I'm going to drive the price of homes up by paying more than it's worth!" Combine that with dishonest lenders, and it's no surprise that we're all porked.

Well, after (or more like during), the perpetual "sale pending" tragedy, we found the house that we will soon be calling home. I am confident about this one, as we have made it past Purchase & Sale, and the inspection. We've also had a contractor come in and get us an estimate on the rennovations we plan on doing. But it's been crazy. There is so much to arrange in the way of appraisals, inspections, consumes your life. I don't know how people can buy and sell at the same time. I couldn't do it.

Next step: Closing. I can't wait for this part. Once it's over, the rennovations can begin!!! And then I'm going to have a whole new blog, complete with before and after pictures!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Mother of Four's Guide to Holiday Shopping When You Aren't Rich

It is now one month from Thanksgiving, and "Black Friday", THE day when the insane and desperate sleep over in the mall parking lot after gorging themselves on turkey and pumpkin pie. (Or, pumpkin cheesecake, in our house). That's one month to save up the thousand-plus dollars that will be needed to fund the year's biggest shopping extravaganza, and yes, WalMart has stopped doing layaway.

But I'm not worried. Heck, last year I had everything bought, wrapped, and sorted into large bags tagged with the recipient's name by now. The only thing I bought the day after Thanksgiving was a latte. I owe some of that to nesting, but the rest has come from years of experience, and a strong desire to NOT be shopping with my credit card on Christmas Eve. In the spirit of giving, I will share what I know with you.

Tip #1: Set up a "Christmas Club" account at your bank.
If your bank doesn't have a program like that, just set up a savings account and religiously deposit $10 or $20 a week into it. You probably won't miss that money from your weekly spending anyway.
If you can't pull that money away from your budget, be creative. Pick up a childcare room job at your gym. Not only will you get some extra cash to put away, you might also get a free membership. Or, watch a neighbor's child one day a week. $20/week makes a huge difference.

Tip #2: Shop year-round.
Sure, in July you don't know what the flavor of the month is going to be for toys once the holidays roll around. Most toy manufacturers like to wait until the leaves start to turn before they start brainwashing kids, and if you've done all your shopping by then, you can count on waiting in the returns/exchanges line before you break out the heavy socks. But you can fill those stockings from Easter to Labor Day, especially if you do what I do: stuff the sock with things they NEED. Maybe we're a bunch of sickos, but my kids look forward to new socks, underwear and toothbrushes every year. I also include a new shower pouf, a Hallmark ornament, and a Chocolate Orange. And, of course, Santa always throws in a couple of small toys and games.
Pick up these items throughout the year when they are on sale/you have a coupon, and you won't even notice the money was spent.

Tip #3: You get an "extra" paycheck twice a year. Use it.
I have a motto: "There's no such thing as extra money." But twice a year, those of us that get paid bi-monthly get a magical third paycheck. And when you batch and cycle your bills like I do (stop calling me anal!), that third paycheck eventually puts you at a point where you are ahead of your billing cycles, and you have to skip over it! This happens to me once in the spring (summer vacation money!) and once in the fall (Christmas money!). This comes in handy not only for gifts, but for those holiday dinners that you didn't put money aside for.

Tip #4: Consider the aftermath.
We all love our kids, and love to spoil them, but when you're reeling every December 26th because it looks like someone looted Toys R Us and dumped the stash in your family room, you reconsider. When your playroom is full of stuff your kids just had to have and never touched, you think twice about what you are doing giving your kids everything they ask for. Let's not forget that grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends are also buying your kids presents. There's no way kids can play with that many toys.
To avoid over-gifting, I try to limit four gifts (not including stockings) for each kid: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. This cuts down on toy overload, and gives me a chance to buy the kids some clothes and necessities I might not have picked up otherwise.

Tip #5: Leave your credit card at home.
You can't save for next year, if you spend 364 days paying off your high-interest Visa!

Tip #6: Make the day after Thanksgiving "buy nothing day".
Yea, I already admitted to buying a latte. But in my defense, I was on my way home from the aforementioned gym job, and hadn't had my healthy daily dose of caffeine yet.
In addition to making it through the day without stabbing yourself in the jugular with a candy cane, you won't buy things just because they are a "good deal". Make a list waaaaay in advance of what you are buying for holiday gifts. Chances are, none of those are "door-buster savings!". If they are, I stand corrected, and you should lace up your running shoes and slap on your boxing gloves before the turkey leftovers are cold. More power to you. But if you are buying something for no other reason than the price is unbeatable, if you are going to figure out who'll get that great deal under the tree, you probably shouldn't buy it.

So, there you have it. Holiday shopping made simple. I promise that even without aggravation, the holidays will still be special.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A-Camping We Will Go...

I can hardly contain my excitement! Our camping trip is less than a month away!

This is our first time tenting it. We've outgrown the 4-man cabin, and really don't desire to pay twice as much for the 8-man cabin (even if it does have a kitchen and air conditioning; what kind of camping is that anyway?) So, we'll be pitching an 8-man tent on a site with nothing more than a water faucet, an electric hookup, a picnic table, and fire pit.

I can't think of a better vacation for a large family of widely spaced children. We can do everything or nothing. We're going to be staying at Lake George Escape Resort. There is so much to do on and off the campground. I can take Logan to the playground. Dori and I can relax by the lake while the boys go fishing. Palmer and Aidan can explore around the site, or ride their bikes. Pieman and I can enjoy a bottle of wine in the hammock by the campfire, after the kids go to bed. Ahhhh...

Our tent is awesome. It has 2-3 rooms. One of them is a screen porch, where we can eat breakfast or play cards or read a book. The main part of the tent has a divider, so we can put the boys on one side, and we can have our "own room", with the baby. We also got an airmatress (because we are getting too old to sleep on the ground. :(

One activity we have planned is Geocaching! I have friends that do it, and I've been dying to try! We got a GPS for Christmas this past year, and I've already started plugging in coordinates. We did try a local cache this past weekend, but sadly couldn't find it. Turns out that the cache has been missing for over a month. But we're going to try a few others on Friday, there are TONS hidden here in town! I want to get good at this before we try in the Adirondacks!

Stay tuned; I will make sure to post lots of pictures of our trip!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wanted: Not Me

Alias: It Wasn't Me

Wanted for the following acts of petty mischeif:
Stealing my towel
Spilling stuff on the floor
Leaving socks on the deck
Writing on the walls and floor
Smearing shit in the bathroom (that means "shit" in the literal sense, not a reference to beauty products by Daddy)
Smearing beauty products in the bathroom
Stealing straws off of the juice boxes
Leaving every light in the house on
Turning the heat up to 90 in the bathroom on a 90 degree day
Dumping the trash can

Word has it that we aren't the only house "Not Me" has hit.
He/she may try to frame our children. But they are quite adamant that "Not Me" did it.

If this has happened to you, please contact me about forming a support group for victims of "Not Me".

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I remember the day you were born.

I recently read an article about a woman who had this super-keen memory about everything that had ever happened to her since childhood. For every day of her life, she could recall exactly what she had done that day, even if the day was uneventful for the most part.

The article did not mention the woman having any children, and I thought to myself that this ability, this extraordinary memory, would be a wonderful gift for someone with children. How I would love to remember every day that I spend with my children. Not just the family trips, but the days we sat on the couch and got it greasy with popcorn as we watched a movie. The days that were so hot we played in the sprinkler for hours. I remember some bizarre events, but oh, to remember them all.

Somehow, though, there are four days that I can remember the best. And they are the days that my babies joined me in this world. Palmer is ten years old today. And I remember every detail like it was yesterday...

My due date was May 11th. A Sunday. It came and went, and when I showed up to work the next day, I put a sign under my name plate that read: "Yes, I'm still here." Because I ended up hearing that question at least a dozen times in my first 15 minutes of work. My doctor told me I would be induced on the 19th, Tuesday of the following week. I settled in and planned on having the baby then.

On Saturday the 16th, I started to feel ill. I thought "Great, another UTI", since I had several during the course of my last trimester. I told Pieman I would be going to bed early, around 9PM or so. Even though we usually stayed up to watch SNL, I couldn't do it. I felt crappy.
At 3AM, I woke up with the mother of all bellyaches. I woke Pieman up and told him. He said "Go back to sleep, and let me know if you feel crappy again." I did. At 3:10. And 3:20. By then, we knew it was time.
We tried calling the doctor's office at 4AM. Busy signal. We kept trying. I was starting to freak out. We were watching music videos on TV. To this day, "Closing Time" will always remind me of the birthday of my son. And true, it was a new beginning, and the end of an old one.
We eventually got through to the doctor's office (I had been reading the number off the business card, and dialing the area code, but not the one before it. Back then, that would get you a busy signal). They said "Come in at 7" And so we planned to do so.

During contractions, I would pace around my kitchen table, chanting "I'm walking around the table, I'm walking around the table." It worked for me. I went up to the bathroom, had a contraction, and when it was done, took a shower, knowing I had 10 minutes, and nothing more. I shaved my legs.
I finished packing my hospital bag, using the checklist in "What to Expect". What a dork.
As we drove to the hospital, in our powder blue VW Golf, I was still chanting "I'm walking around the table". Hey, it worked. It was the mantra I needed for the natural childbirth I wanted.
My MIL was already there when we got there. Pieman had called both our mothers. To this day, I could kill him for that. She had scratch tickets with her. She was schmoozing with the nurses. I was told by the nurses that I would be put on a Pitocin drip, because if I didn't, my labor would "Last forEVER, and you'll be EXHAUSTED." Young, inexperienced and wearing out from labor, I didn't question it, even though a natural birth was my plan. Contractions immediately became unbearable. My baby was "sunnyside up", and I was now having intense back labor. I wanted to get on all fours and rock. The nurses caught me, and said I wasn't allowed to do that because it was messing up their monitors. We compromised, and I sat in a rocking chair. I rocked back and forth, breathing, focusing. At this point, my mom and my friend Kat (who would be my son's Godmother) had shown up. I spent time with my visitors. I rocked. The nurses insisted on an epidural every time they checked on me. I told them no. They offered something to "take the edge off" instead. I accepted. It ended up being Demerol. I became cold. And nauseous. I closed my eyes and continued to rock. My labor was officially no longer a "natural" one. Eventually, I was told I had to lie down. On my back. I couldn't handle it, because of my back labor. And then, it happened. A nurse approached Pieman "Tell her she needs an epidural!!" He told them it wasn't part of my birthplan. Then, mid-contraction, "You need an epidural. I'm ordering you an epidural" I gave in. I was more pained and exhausted by their badgering than the labor, so why the hell not. It was waiting for me the second I gave in!!! I felt a crunching while they were putting the needle in.
I passed the time not doing much of anything. Waiting. Talking to Pieman and my visitors. Pieman left the room for a quick bite from the vending machine. (This would happen again with the next birth, which is when I called for a “no food for daddy rule”.) When he came back, I was on oxygen. The baby's heart rate was dropping. Then I had a LOT of pressure. I felt like I had to take a 7lb. dump. That was the urge to push, they told me. And I did. For an hour and a half. I needed to get him out quicker! Then, holy splitting vagina Batman!! “You felt that?” asked my OB. My epidural wasn't working. It had run out. The doctor was trying to give me the episiotomy, and owwww...They called the anesthesiologist back in. She gave me more medicine in my epidural. During this time, I hadn't stopped pushing. I told the doctor to hell with the episiotomy. He told me he wanted to get the forceps in. I started to tear. The doctor said “Well, since you're tearing anyway...” and made a quick cut. My baby flew out before the doctor could reach for the forceps.

“It's a BOY”

We have it on video. Dear Pieman had it on standby, and was kind enough to shoot from my head, down. He ran down the hall, to tell our moms. They weren't allowed in the delivery room, thanks to MIL. The nurses told my mom “We usually let the mother's mother in, but I didn't want to upset her." (her being MIL). I held my new, naked son on my chest.

“I want four” I said. He was perfect, with his red face, folded elf-ears, cone-shaped head, and layer of little white hairs. I was still out of it from the Demerol, cold and dizzy, but I pushed through the fog of it all so I could enjoy my little boy in his first minutes of life. I nursed him. Our visitors poured in. At 3:17 PM, on Sunday, May 17th, I became MOTHER.

I might not have a super-human memory. But I remember almost every detail of the most important day of my life. The day Palmer was born.