Saturday, July 26, 2008

If You are Reading This.... will know that I am not here. Well. I am here in spirit, but not in body. Depending on how early you rise and hit the 'net, I am either still sleeping, yelling at the kids to hurry up and get in the car, eating lunch in the dirt, on the steam engine, or baking my lovely, plump, dimply, drilled ass in the sun. Aren't I lucky?

But I love my readers so much-and know you all love me just as much, right?-that I will not make your reader be empty of ME the whole time I am gone. I am going to have a couple of guest posters! The first one will be the ever-lovely Jillian, to whom I gave an award that she blew off totally...but she has a good reason and I think she just might tell you when she visits. Be nice, be helpful, remember I love her.

And the other poster will be none other than my beloved April. She is in the middle of a move right now so it won't be until sometime next week, but she will be here. And I fully expect her to get lots of love, too. You SO don't want me to give CSG YOUR address, right?

Friday, July 25, 2008

You're Doing It Wrong!

Here is a question for the guys, and be honest: is there REALLY a set way to spray window cleaner? Is it possible, honestly, for someone to do it incorrectly? Because last night we got the Blazer all washed and waxed (and yes, she looks beautiful, if I do say so myself) and I was "in charge of" washing the windows and the interior vinyl shit, and Steve said, as I was spraying the cleaner, "You're doing it wrong! Do it like this." And I swear on all I hold holy that he actually took the can away from me and showed me how to do it. Which was exactly the way I HAD been doing it. Geez, you point the nozzle, push it down, and spray the shit. Then you wipe it up. Apparently there is some special method, some little secret to it that I was (and still am) unaware of. A flick of the wrist, perhaps? A snazzy little sidestep while spraying? A soft shoe routine afterward? I just don't get it. Being the meek, mild, subservient woman I am, though, I very carefully listened, nodded my head in all the right places, said, "Okay, I will do it that way," which appease the Manly Ego, and merrily went on doing it my way. Which was was the same way. Whatever.

In case I didn't mention it before, we finally got the gate fixed, so the dogs can't get out. It involved new hinges, two new 2 x 4's, and a whole bunch of screws and cursing. It also afforded Steve the opportunity to haul out his electric drill and such. Which ALSO gave sweet Owen the opportunity to mess and play and cause all sorts of a ruckus. Like drilling my ass. And yeah, I know how awful and perverted that sounds, but I mean literally drilling my ass. I was holding the gate on the post and Steve was drilling with The Big Drill, and Owen was messing with the smaller one; I was telling him no but couldn't reach down to take it away, and neither could Steve, so next thing I felt was a slight tickling sensation on my nether regions. I raised my voice at Owen, which did NOT prompt him to drop the drill; no, it startled him so the he pulled the trigger and it went faster. Into my ass. Ripped my shorts, drilled a small hole that BLED copiously, and also made a bruise about the size of a quarter around the whole. And even though it hurt, I had such a hard time not laughing; as soon as Steve yelled at Owen, O. ran around and started scratching Steve's back. As if that would somehow make up for it. Yeah, good times.

I started write about the gate so I could tell you all that now the dog is no longer chained up, and last night we left her unmuzzled for the first time. Now, I may have mentioned that we have not had to muzzle her the whole time we have owned her; in fact, she was both chained up and un-muzzled for at least two months before the barking became a problem. The general consensus now is that CSG probably was doing the house-watching at the same time she started barking all of the time at night; poor dog, our first reaction was to muzzle her, because it never occured to any of us that there might be someone out there lurking. Anyway, we left her unfettered last night, and heard not a peep out of her all night long. I went out this morning to smoke (yeah. Those drugs are REALLY working.) and she sauntered out of her house, stretching and groaning and, I swear, grinning. This is a GOOD thing; I have no doubt that she will bark if someone is in the yard or around the perimeter, and I also have no doubt that she WILL bite someone. If he comes back, I just hope she bites him hard enough to draw blood and slightly incapacitate him; I want my chance with the bat. I feel alot better knowing that she is out at night and able to roam the yard, both because of CSG and because I hate to have a dog that has to be chained and muzzled. It just seems so mean, even when it is necessary.

And tomorrow is the day. We all stayed up too late last night talking, planning, laughing. We say prayers every night, and all three of the kids had to keep adding things to the list of things to pray about, so much so that I think God was either up there saying, "Oh, for My sake, enough already. I know I told you to to tell me everything in your heart even though I already know it, but for this one time, I will just read your mind, okay? " or taking notes. The past three weeks, the kids have been sleeping in the living room because of CSG, but last night it was more like a slumber party. I think I fell asleep laughing at something one of the kids said, and what a way to drift off. I will be checking my email while I am gone (hence the gmail account I now have), and may even find time to post a couple of times...but if not? See you all on the 3rd!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Personal Vacation To Do List

I spent $60.00 at the grocery store last night. $60.00 for food and snacks on the trip. We got soda (Coke Classic-one of my many, many addictions, though I prefer to think of it as a tasty beverage that I really, really love. A Lot.), a case of bottled water, some juice and milk, plus lunch stuff and string cheese and GoGurts, etc... I about had a heart attack; that seems like an awful lot of money for food for two days, doesn't it? but then I got to thinking that if we ate lunch out the two days, it would be at least that much even if we go to McDonald's (there ARE five of us), and of course that wouldn't include snacks and drinks. We will eat breakfast on Saturday before we go, then stop for lunch along the way, and I will buy dinner. On Sunday, we will eat breakfast at the hotel (I love me some Continental Breakfast), lunch on the road, and then we will be at C. and D.'s for dinner. So yeah, I think maybe I will still save money that way.

I have made a list for myself, one that doesn't have a blessed thing to do with getting ready or packing or any of that stuff. And it is a pretty good list, if I do say so myself. Good enough that I thought I would share it with you.

1. This is a vacation. I am going to get myself out of bitchy-mom-who-expects-perfection mode and just re-fucking-lax a little. I tend to really ride the kids a lot about behavior and expectations and all of that, and while I think it is a good, necessary thing, I also know I take it too far sometimes and they feel like nothing they do is good enough. This is already something I am aware of and work on daily, but I am making a commitment to be just mom for the trip. Not drill Sergeant, not grammar teacher, just mom (though Miss Manners is and always will be alive and well in me. No burping IN the restaurant, you wait until you are out the door!).

2. I am not once going to look at my ass in my swimsuit and decide to put shorts on instead and just watch the kids swim. I have cellulite and dimples and sometimes my thighs keep moving long after I have stopped walking, but for 9 days I am going to say "fuck you" every time I hear my mom in my head saying, "You really should wear a suit with a skirt." I am also going to look AT my tits, because they are my best quality and kind of balance out the ass thing. I love to swim, love the water, love to play with the kids IN the water, and I refuse to sit on the sidelines and watch because we will be in public places. Shit all over that. Life is too short.

3. I am not going to try to change my parenting in order to make myself look better in front of other people. My friends have actually never met my kids, nor have they seen me parent my children, so it is oh-so-tempting to try to portray myself in a better light, but again, shit all over that. If they need disciplined, they will BE disciplined. I have been around parents who allow their kids to behave like total asshats (stole that word from both Jacquie AND Dingo, thanks!) because they are away from home, and I am neither going to do that to myself NOR my friends. Though perhaps I will refrain from saying some of my choicer phrases, some of which are too embarrassing and terrible to even put HERE.

4. Three of the four kids have NEVER been to Seattle; I am going to let them take as much time as they need to see what they want. I know Sam well-he is going to want to spend a lot of time at the Aquarium AND at the Zoo; if he wants to spend 30 minutes watching the penguins, so be it. By the same token, I am not going to make the kids do something they don't want to do. Hannah is afraid of heights and has already said she has no desire to go up into the Space Needle; I am not going to try to convince her to do so. This is their vacation just as much as it is mine, and I am not going to mar it with memories of being rushed or forced or coerced.

5. I am NOT going to tell my kids they have to hold it when they tell me they have to go to the bathroom. Just-NOT. Although I have excellent memories of the family vacation we took to Kentucky when I was a kid, one of the bad memories is of being told "You can wait," and being in pain and nearly crying by time they would stop to let me pee. Cruelty, I tell you, cruelty.

6. I am NOT going to call Steve every night (or ever) to make sure that the animals are fed, the tomatoes and flowers are watered, the house hasn't been broken into. I am going to assume that unless I hear from HIM, all is quiet on the Western Front.

I am sure that more will crop up, but this seems like a pretty good guideline to start out with. Anyone else have anything to add/suggest/take away? For once, I am totally open to suggestions, ha ha.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No Drama Today

I woke up this morning with the weight of Owen heavy on my legs, Sam's head underneath my hand, and Hannah's leg flung up on the couch next to my head. Eli was on the floor next to the couch as well, so I had all four kids within arm's reach or closer. There are days, too many of them, when this kind of closeness weighs heavy on me; it is difficult to be the primary source of security and stability for four other people, knowing that they look to me for everything. The basics, of course, like food and clothes and money for the movies, but for safety and guidance and emotional security and love. The other night when Owen was ill, Hannah lumbered into the bedroom after me, carting all of her blankets, too nervous yet to sleep in a room without me. I inwardly sighed, thinking nasty thoughts about not having had more than an hour to myself in the last going-on-three-weeks and resigning myself to being up all night, either with Owen fussing or Hannah waking me up at the slightest noise.

Yet this morning, I felt grateful for the very things that are such a burden sometimes. I know that finally getting a decent night's sleep had something to do with it-I slept for a full, uninterrupted 6 hours of sleep, which is far better than anything I have been able to get thus far-but it is more than that. My kids not only love me, but they trust me. They seek me out in the night when they are ill or afraid or lonely, and as difficult and emotionally trying as it might be, I would not change any of it. I would not change the fact that my 15 year old daughter would rather be with us at home than with her friends. I would not change the fact that all of the kids have other adults in their lives whom they trust and can rely on, but at the end of the day it is mom they want.

I know I come across sometimes as a whiny drama queen who is never happy, but really, that is far from the case. I had a comment about this blog being like a soap opera, and while I know that her comment was not AT ALL intended to be a criticism, it made me rethink some of the things I post sometimes. I am not going to change anything, not at all-but I realize that while everything I post is honest and true and very real, there is a greater number of things that I don't post about; I am guilty of not wanting to come across as the sappy, sticky-sweet, life is perfect mommy blogger, because God knows it isn't. At the same time, I think I sometimes appear to hate my kids or resent them, which isn't the case either. I think the reality is that some days really suck and I won't lie about that, but other days are really, really good.

Owen is feeling better, we had a good night's sleep, and now it is time to get serious about getting things ready for the trip. I strictly forbade the kids from wearing any of their new clothes before the trip, so we can at least get those packed up. I have to go to the grocery store tonight to pick up snack items, water, soda, lunch stuff to pack in the cooler (yeah, yeah, I am cheap-we will be those Joad-like people sitting at the rest area eating sandwiches and playing in the dirt. Sue me.), etc... tomorrow night I have to take the car in after work to be washed and waxed and the tires rotated, and then on Friday evening we will start loading the car in preparation for leaving Saturday morning. The kids last night were saying, "Well, now that Owen isn't feeling better, can't you just call in sick for the next three days and we can go now?" Ha, I wish. The excitement level is high and the days are dragging by, but at the same time, I don't think the kids have any real idea how much work is involved in getting a family of five actually ready and out the door. I should have started last week-three days isn't enough.

And to those of you who have asked, the house will be watched while we are gone. Steve is going to be there twice a day to feed the animals, the neighbors know I am going to be gone, and I am going to call the police station on Friday morning and let them know the house will be empty. There isn't really anything else I can do; Steve finished fixing the gate last night so I was hoping to be able to unchain Mama dog and let her run free in the yard, but the bitch is an escape artist; I still don't know how she got out, but I looked over to the neighbor's yard and she and the pup were lounging under their tree chewing on unripe apples. With hope, I can CATCH her getting out and try to fix the problem before we leave.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday Tiredness

I am so over blogging about CSG; I am tired, tired, tired of totally obsessing about this person's presence in my life, however obvious and compelling a presence as he may be. So for today, I am going to bitch and complain about something entirely different and new.

This is why I am tired today: I am way too old to be the mother of a toddler. Just-way. Last night, once I finally got all of the older kids settled and reassured, after checking the windows and doors three times at their request, after making sure all our defensive measures were in place, after everyone (myself included;four kids=small, weak bladder) went to the bathroom and got our drinks, I was just getting into a good sleep when Owen woke up. He was fussy and feverish, so I comforted him and gave him a drink and some Motrin, and got him all settled again...only to be jerked out of my deepening doze by screams. Not just fusses but out and out screams. Remember that small bladder? I just very nearly wet myself.

A couple of days ago, J. and I found a really cute purse that looks like a spider. Got it for Owen (in which to put his cars and the puzzle pieces he likes and the wing off a plastic airplane that he likes to carry around. And it doesn't LOOK like a purse!), and he has been sleeping with it but for some reason last night it scared the shit out of him. When I went into his room he was hitting it and screaming and trying to get as far away from it as possible. I picked him up and he was burning up (and it took forever for the Motrin to kick in, long enough that I had to give him Tylenol as well before it went away) and shaking, so I got a wet washcloth and took him to bed with me in Eli's bed. The poor kid was, I think, hallucinating, because he was acting like a crack head, picking imaginary things off of the bedspread. And then just as he would start to fall asleep again, something would startle him and he would scream. At one point, he even crawled away from his beloved blanket in fear. He ended up sleeping across both pillows, huddled into a ball so as not to touch the bedspread. Why he would suddenly react this way, I don't know.

I looked at the clock the first time at about two, after we had already been fighting this for over an hour, and thought to myself,"Okay, if he falls asleep right now I can get four hours of good sleep." Then at three, it was down to three hours, and so on. In the meantime, he was restless and fussy and still burning up, until finally, at just shy of five, he fell asleep. So I guess I got one good hour of sleep, if you can call it that.

These are the days when I start to feel resentful of this single-parenthood status. You all know I go in cycles, and this is one of them. I am tired; beyond tired. two weeks of broken sleep at best, averaging about 4 hours a night, and now this. I am close to tears because I am so tired, and I know that I still have half the day and the evening to get through. There is dinner to cook, chores to do, at some point we have to start packing, and of course there are baths to be given and books to be read. We will start to go to bed at 10:00, and by time everyone is settled and reassured, it will be at least 11:00 or later. I am glad that the kids are so reassured by my presence, but I resent the lack of back-up; I don't have anyone to do for me the locking up and the prayers and the getting up at night.

I know I am whining; I am tired, this stupid anti-smoking thing really, really sucks (perhaps under the circumstances this isn't really a good time to quit!), I don't function well with no sleep, and I would perform amazing, inventive sexual favors for the first person who would offer to come stay for just one night and let me get a full night's sleep.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Weekend Update

Soon, the local police officers are just going to build a station right next to our house, with as much as they have been there over the last two weeks. On Thursday night, we just about had a heart attack when at 12:30 a.m. Hannah and I heard the screen door open; I grabbed the bat and she grabbed the pepper spray and were SO ready to beat the shit out of someone...but then the person knocked. And I stopped to think that perhaps Crazy Stalker Guy wouldn't, in fact, stop to knock on the door. Looked out and saw the little neighbor boy run off the porch, which irritated me for a minute; "what the hell is he doing out this late playing pranks? " I thought to myself...but then a few minutes later he came running back, knocking and pounding on the door and crying. He had woken up from a bad dream and couldn't find his parents or baby brother-can you imagine his terror? I brought him in to the house and tried to hug him while he was sobbing, while Hannah was calling 911; there was no way in hell I was going to walk over there and check, not given the things that have already been going on. So the police came and one came in and talked to the little boy while two went over to check on Mom and Dad and Baby Brother (who is just a month or so younger than Owen). They were all okay; apparently Little Boy was still a little groggy when he woke up, plus already afraid from his bad dream, and couldn't see them in the dark. The next day, he very shyly came over and said, "Thank you for saving me," which I thought was very sweet and also kind of sad; I think it made me sad because he obviously has already learned that the world can be a hard, cold place (he told me once that he was afraid of cops because sometime they come take people and send them back to Mexico; I hope our guys reassured him somewhat), and that help is not a guarantee. His dad also spoke to me for the first time since they moved next door when Mom and I were both pregnant, as if he has suddenly decided that we are "okay." Also, it made me sad because Crazy Stalker Guy has got us all freaked out so that I didn't even want to open the door, and certainly would not walk over the house to check his parents. He made it so I was just as likely to look at this 6 year old boy with suspicion as I was him. And I hate him for that, for making me afraid. At the very same time, I am so grateful that this little boy has known us long enough and played with Sam enough that he knew our house was a place he could come for help. I am grateful for that.

We had to call the police for ourselves on Saturday night. Yep, you guessed it, CSG was back. It was funny, but all three of us (Sam, Hannah, and myself) had kind of a funny feeling, so were up late, feeling restless in general and also a little nervous. Not for any particular reason, nothing had happened, but we all felt it; I think it is true about intuition or premonition, because there have been lost of nights where we might feel a little nervous but are comforted by our locked doors and such. Not so that night. So Hannah was creeping through the house and I was fondling my designated bat as if it were a lover, and damn it to hell, Hannah saw him. He was on the back patio, and while she did not see his whole body, she saw the top of his head (the kitchen window is up high, so to see a whole head or to actually see into the house, you have to be actually on the steps, and he wasn't that far yet). Holy shit, that girl of mine has BALLS. She screeched loudly for me to call 911, flipped on the kitchen light, and we both saw the tail end of him as he jumped over the fence. Within, literally, two minutes, the cops were there, and it was all SWAT-team-ish and shit, I kid you not. Three coming in the back gate, two at the front of the house, all with guns drawn. I about pissed myself, I tell you. My poor dog who has to be muzzled because she barks ALL. NIGHT.LONG and pisses the neighbors off was valiantly trying to defend her territory, but one of them just booted her out of the way and kept running. Did they catch him? No, of course not, so it seems more likely that he was on foot that night; it was dark, and from what little I could see he was wearing dark clothes, and it would be very easy to blend.

So we have been nervous and sleepless again, but at the same time, I am comforted by several things: one, the cops are taking this very seriously and are responding in a rapid and appropriate manner. I would not mind a bit if one of them "accidentally"shot the fucker, REALLY. I am comforted by the fact that my daughter and I are both clearly able to keep our heads during a terrifying event, even though we both fall apart after. I am comforted, too, by this: I pray, and have been praying hard and long about this situation, and this is the answer I keep getting: "They will catch him, and you guys won't be hurt." I don't know if that means he will get in the house but we won't be hurt, or if he will be caught outside our house, or even if he will get caught somewhere else-but I don't need to know today. All I know is that I feel better (at least during the day) knowing that all will ultimately be resolved. I hope we don't have to wait too long; I also hope the cops give me a chance to emasculate the cocksucker when they catch him. Is that too much to ask?

*****We leave on vacation in, count them, 5 days!*****

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's Not Exciting When It's You-Crazy Stalker Guy Update

I just went home on break and pulled into the driveway just as Hannah and Sam were pelting down the sidewalk; out of breath and flushed from heat and exertion, they both started telling me that yes, they think they saw Crazy Stalker Guy. We have a canal two blocks from our house to the west, and the kids were up there swimming; a white Ford F-150 was driving along the canal and slowed way down to look at them, then when Hannah pulled out her cell-phone, he took off north, gravel flying everywhere. When asked, she said, "I can't swear it was the same guy, because it was dark when I saw him the first time, but he has the same hair and goatee, and he made me feel scared when he slowed down to look at us..." Seems reasonable to me, under the circumstances.

I came right back to work (I live just two blocks from where I work) and reported it, and within seconds, four police cars tore out of the parking lot. I work right across the street from the Cop Shop, and I would normally be all nosy and shit, wishing I had a scanner so I could know what is going on and who they are after. Yes, guys, I am a rubbernecker, too, slowing down at the site of accidents (and I don't want to hear the lecture. Yes, I know it's wrong, yes, I know I am a sick person, thanks.). Somehow, though, it is a lot different when you look outside and know they are responding to a call you have made. It isn't exciting at all; instead, I feel sick. And grateful that they DO have such a quick response time, grateful that they are taking seriously this event which has shaped so much of our lives these last two weeks or so. In the past, two weeks ago, I would have laughed and made not-so-subtle fun of the requisite Pudgy Cop as he ran out to the car, commenting about whether or not he would make it without having a heart attack along the way, but today I thought, "Damn, for a fat guy he sure can MOVE!" and was so goddamned GLAD.

They didn't catch him. Detective M. called a few minutes later to let me know that they didn't see him anywhere, which I didn't really expect anyway. Probably ten minutes passed between the kids seeing him and me calling it in. Ten minutes doesn't seem like a long time, but it is long enough if you are running from someone. And we live in a rural, mostly agricultural and manufacturing; do you know how many new white Ford F-150's there are around here?

If this IS, in fact, him (which, like I said, seems a reasonable assumption given his behavior), he is clearly getting MORE brave, not less so. It is full daylight, the kids go swimming there all of the time and there are usually a dozen or more kids around at the same time. Did he just plan on scaring them? I don't' know-but now I know we are going to be on High Alert again for a few days, just when things were seeming to calm down some.

I have to go to an AA meeting tonight. HAVE to. It has been two weeks without any meeting, which is really difficult for me even when things are running smoothly. So the kids are all being carted over to Jacquie's, even the teenagers (Eli is pissed), because it seems CSG might be escalating and I am not taking any chances. At the same time, I can't stay home another night; these are the kinds of times when I need my own support network, because I can't keep giving the kids what they need if I am not getting what I need, either.

Then another long night at home....send up good thoughts, please. I am scared.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Girls and Their Friends

My daughter changed friends like she changes her underwear. She has this constantly rotating cycle of friends, and I can no more keep track of them than I can keep track of, I don't know, an energetic spider monkey. If I had one. There seems to be endless drama, drama which I cannot understand. About a week ago, we saw her friend B. walking down the sidewalk to Summer School, so I honked and waved; Hannah looked at me as if I had grown a third head and said, very disgustedly, "What did you do that for?" Jesus, you would have thought I did something really horrid like take out my false teeth and lick them off in a restaurant (I don't HAVE false teeth, but you get my drift). "Um, I thought she was your friend?" "That was SO last week, mom. That was before I found out she was a skanky slut." While my head was still reeling from hearing my daughter use the words skanky and slut in the same sentence (correctly), she proceeded to give me a minute by minute playback of all of the occurrences that led up to this falling out. Believe me, by the time she finished, I was not only sure that I hated her as well, but thought maybe I needed to go slash her mom's tires just for good measure. She is THAT skanky.

But I went home for lunch and Hannah asked if she and Sam could meet up with B. in the park this afternoon. "What happened? I thought you hated her," I said, very casually. "Oh. Well. It was a misunderstanding. We are fine now." I just shook my head, because this stuff happens ALL of the time. Next week or month it will be someone else, some new problem, and they will eventually come back around to being friends again. I should be used to it.

I still don't get it, though. Is this a typical teenage girl thing? Because Eli is 14, he has had the same friends for the past 5 years, and shows none of this kind of behavior. In fact, he loved his friends so much the three years ago or so, one of his best friends (who was actually more part of the household than friend) moved to Maine and they STILL talk on the phone regularly. The main pack stays the same, and every once in awhile a new person gets added, but for the most part, Eli's friends hang pretty close. It appears to be shaping up the same way for Sam; this little nine year old was reduced to tears when his best friend "all the way since kindergarten, mom!" moved to a town 40 miles away. They talk on the phone daily, and I am sure that next time we go to Costco, I will have to make arrangements for a play date or he will never live through it. So is this a gender thing, or does it simply have more to do with individual personalities?

I said on someone else's post this morning that I didn't have any friends in high school, but that isn't strictly true. I had two really good friends, and a lot of people who thought I was their best friend. and that seems to be the pattern in my adult life as well, and always has been. I have two "best" friends IRL (I don't include April in that, though she is definitely my best Internet friend), and I have always had two best friends. That's it. When my friend Angie died, I actually only had ONE, her, and I now have two again, but it has taken me three years to get this many. And none of us have to have each other in order to traipse through a restaurant to get to the bathroom, I might add. So I wonder what made me immune to the same dramas of teenage female friendships, or the running in a pack mentality of teen boys? I seem to be lacking in something, because I only have enough emotional stability or generosity or whatever you want to call it for two people. That's it; that is my friendship threshold.

Or has been until the last year or so, anyway. I seem to have so MANY people in my life now that the mind boggles, it really does. I still have my two BEST friends, but there is a whole other cast of supporting characters whom I can still call friend that it never fails to amaze me. Crazy Stalker Guy and the support and caring-in practical AND emotional ways-I have gotten from people has reminded me again of how blessed I really am in the "people who love me" department. I don't have the drama of Hannah's friendships-in fact, I cannot honestly recall the last time I got into a fight with a friend, beyond a minor annoyance. I don't run in groups-I have several distinct groups of friends, and they do stay pretty much separate due to different beliefs and lifestyles. But what I have is something amazing.

You bloggy people, you people who have been reading and commenting and emailing me to check on me-you are part of it. You are part of this wonderful, messy thing which is my life, for better or worse. Mr. Lady made a comment about being emotionally invested in me, and I snickered but at the same time I get that. I think about you people when I am at home; I remember something you've written, I have had similar experiences and thought of you, I have worried for and about different circumstances. This whole blogging thing has opened my eyes up to so many different people, different thoughts, has expanded my world. So this is, I guess, a half-assed thank to all of you. It really does help.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Planning the Vacation

It has recently occurred to me that in less than two weeks, we will be going on vacation. The first ever family vacation. We will be leaving on Saturday, the 26th of July, and won't be coming home until Sunday, August 2nd. I keep thinking of things I need to make sure I remember to take, and I make a mental note, and yesterday I actually thought it might be a good idea to, know, write them down. So what do I have on my list? Diapers and sunscreen. As if I am going to get halfway to Washington and realize I forgot to pack diapers. Yeah.

We are all getting really, really excited, though, and the planning has provided a necessary and welcome distraction. We are stopping halfway both coming and going (did you all know that Owen gets carsick? Ugh.), so that we don't have a miserable toddler the whole time. That way, we can stop whenever we need or want to, and not worry so much about time. We are staying the night in Baker, Oregon, where we are planning on taking a ride on a restored steam engine. The train takes you up to one of the many ghost towns, and we will have about 45 minutes in which to wander around and look at things before heading back down. None of the kids have ever been on a train, and riding one has been something they have all expressed and interest in at one time or another, so I am excited to be able to give them the opportunity. In fact, this is the real reason why we are stopping in Baker; there is the train ride, of course, and a really neat restaurant called Sumpter Junction that has electric trains running throughout the entire building. It is going to be so much fun. The hotel has an outdoor pool, too, which will be a nice way for the kids to unload some of that pent up energy.

I don't know where else we might stop on Sunday, but we are going to visit Snoqualmie Falls, which is only about, oh, and hour or so from our final destination. I haven't been there before, despite having lived in that area all through high school and beyond, so I am particularly excited about that. There are some hiking trails (again, getting rid of some energy!), and a viewing platform, and of course the inevitable Gift Shop. From there, we will head to C. and D's house. I am a little nervous about that; I know that they WANT us there, and are looking forward to it immensely, but I am not sure how prepared they are to have five people-four of whom are children-descend upon their household. I sure hope they are not expecting quiet during the five days we are there, ha ha.

We are also going to do a ton of great thing while we are there; again, can you say Cheesy Tourist? The Aquarium, the Pacific Science Center, a boat tour of the harbor, the Space Needle, the Pikes Place Market...all of that stuff that I have always loved even long after I moved there. And this is part of it; this is what I want to show my kids, that this place is part of me. I want to show them where I used to live, go to school, point out the different places and things I fell in love with while I was there. I want to be able to give them a glimpse of who I was before I was a wife and a mom. There is one place right in downtown Kent I want to take them, a little oasis of sorts right in the middle of town, with a path and a pond full of huge goldfish, where I used to go sit and journal, or read, or just sit; where my friend Angie and I would go late at night full of bad Denny's coffee, feeling like we knew so much about everything. I am not egotistical enough to think that any of it will be a huge deal to the kids, but it seems important to give them a bit of my history.

I just keep thinking that in a very few short years, both Hannah and Eli will be gone. Hannah will be a Sophomore, Eli a Freshman, and I want to be able to do more of these kinds of things while I can. We have always been good about doing things like going fishing and swimming and camping, I have tried really hard to give them good experiences and fun memories, but never a vacation. And very soon they aren't going to WANT to spend ten days with the whole family; very soon, too soon, they will be off living their own lives and working and starting to pull away from me. I know I am lucky that they haven't much yet, but the time will come. I feel like I need to take every opportunity that presents itself to create good memories for the kids, for myself, and this is one huge opportunity.

That said, I am also going to put duct tape on the list. I mean, four kids in a car? Four kids that can't get through an entire hour without fighting? Surely under the circumstances that wouldn't be considered abuse, just self-preservation.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Double Post Monday

Special thanks go out today to Amanda over at Shamelessly Sassy; I won the Nintendo DS Giveaway she had a little while ago, and it came in the mail today, along with a Crossword Game. Thanks for getting it to me so soon, and for having the contest! Here's to some mindless entertainment, which I sorely need. My son will be sad that it isn't PINK; he was hoping it would be so that I would be too embarrassed to play it! He forgets that the one that finally broke irreparably was actually cobbled together with duct tape-camouflage duct tape, no less!

I also forgot to mention that I started taking the anti-smoking drug, Chantix, this morning. You start out taking a low dose in the morning, and after three days of that you take a larger dose, and by Week Two you are taking the full dose. Supposedly titrating the medicine increases the chances of success, as well as reduces the side effects. One of the biggest side effects is "significant nausea," which boy howdy, is SO true! All day i have felt ill, as if I am either just coming down with or just getting over the stomach flu. Ugh. This first week, you are supposed to follow your normal smoking routine, and then the target date to actually stop is the next week. But what they don't tell you is that to light up a smoke even after just this low dose makes you feel sicker. Like, the world's worst hangover, the kind where you throw up so much your throat bleeds and there is nothing left in your stomach (or am I the only one who has had those?) but raw nerve ends, coupled with not having eaten for three days sick. Believe me, if I keep feeling like THIS, it will either be really, really easy to quit next Monday, or it will be really easy to quit taking the drug and keep smoking.

But there is one other side effect that concerns me more than the nausea:

"Some patients have reported changes in behavior, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions when attempting to quit smoking while taking CHANTIX or after stopping CHANTIX. If either you, your family, or caregiver notice agitation, depressed mood, or changes in behavior that are not typical for you, or if you develop suicidal thoughts or actions, stop taking CHANTIX and call your doctor right away. Also tell your doctor about any history of depression or other mental health problems before taking CHANTIX, as these symptoms may worsen while taking CHANTIX."
Yeah. How comforting is THAT for someone like me, who already feels whacked out and emotionally unstable a good part of the time? Good thing I was smart and got a full two weeks of the anti-depressant on board before starting this. I mean, come on; do I NEED more agitation? However, I was thinking there might be a plus to that. After all, I am already pissed at Crazy Stalker Guy; can you imagine how pissed I might be NOW if he shows up? He will get a faceful of pepper spray and the cops better hope they get there before I beat him bloody and to death with my ALUMINUM baseball bat. Gotta think positive, right?

An Award! For Me! From TWO People!

I got this lovely award from TWO people, which is both amazing AND humbling. So a HUGE thanks go out to Tammy over at My Life and Kristin at JilliJava and the Garden of Eden. Not just because I got another award (this makes TWO, yay for me!), but because I think both of these women are really amazing, and I love to read their posts. Tammy makes me laugh, and takes awesome photos, and always responds to my posts with thoughtful comments. Kristin is a fellow woman in recovery, and it never fails to astound me how similar our life experiences are-both as drunks AND as women in recovery.

So I am supposed to pick five people to bestow this lovely award to, and my list is as follows:

April at It's All About Balance. This wonderful woman and I met through another online community (you know, the one where I was practically booted out for being an opinionated, Christless bitch. Yes, I am still bitter), and found out that we are, in fact, very similar creatures. Not just due to our single mom status or the fact that our ex-husband's MO are markedly similar, but also in the way we think, the way we parent, who we are. April and I have become real friends, despite the fact that we have not yet met IRL. I think it safe to say that we are a real support for one another, and have helped each other through a whole lot of bad and cheered one another on through a whole lot of good. She is so great I don't have the words.

Laura at Every Path. She is a first time mom to a very, very adorable little guy, and she is so honest and open about the trial and tribulations of being a parent. I love that she writes about her fears and insecurities, because they seem to mirror some of the same feelings I had both as a first-time mom at 19 and an older, unexpected mom at 34. Thanks for your honest, Laura, and it is so refreshing to see someone who is willing to admit out loud that this parenting stuff is often really hard and confusing and overwhelming-yet also gratifying.

Lynn at At Peace With It All. She just recently got a new look, which is very cool and seems to fit her personality perfectly. I like to read Lynn's posts because, again, they are so real and honest. I am constantly amazed at her thoughtfulness, her willingness to examine herself and her life, and to be honest about those parts of her that are less-than-perfect. It humbles me to think that she would consider us similar, because I think she is both strong and brave and very, very beautiful.

Jillian at Petite Gamine. This woman is fucking incredible. She has had several different varieties of crap thrown at her hard over the last few months; she has used blogging (writing as therapy) to share these bits of herself with people, and I find that inspiring. Her recent post about her father was raw and powerful and also thought-provoking, which is one of my favorite things about her blog. She makes me THINK, and that is no small thing.

Single Working Mommy - and no, I don't know her real name. This is a woman who is also honest about her struggles and her triumphs. One thing I really love about her is that while hers is, in fact, a Mommy blog, she writes about her feelings as a woman as well, not "just" a mommy. I have long believed that we aren't just moms, but so much more, and she embodies that well.

This was really difficult for me, because there are so many really great bloggers out there whom I love! Still, there you go. And ladies, don't forget to pick five people, and also link to the Arte y Pico site. Them's the rules, so there!

***For those who are concerned, the weekend at home was uneventful. In the sense that I found some evidence in the form of two beer cans hidden in the weeds by my garbage can where Crazy Stalker Guy was apparently watching my house, in the sense that the cops have been patrolling every 10-15 minutes and have told me that yes, they think he will come back, in the sense that they are also really examining the ex-husband's whereabouts and drug connections. How comforting, right? Still, better than the alternative, that is is some random freak who, for whatever reasons, has picked me. And yes, the cops have also said that they believe I am the target, NOT my daughter. They have also begun patrolling Steve's neighborhood AND the daycare, because they want to know how much he knows. A whole fucking lot, I would say, or how would he have known that my door happened to be unlocked that ONE night? Anyway, we got through, and things feel a little better at home.***

Friday, July 11, 2008

Going Home

Sorry, another week goes by without a Flashback Friday Post (even though I already signed Mr. Linky over at April's!) I have one started but the words just aren't flowing, so I have left it for now; maybe you guys will get a double post today if I start to feel inspired later in the afternoon. I am tired of feeling so consumed by this whole stalker thing, but for the moment it really has taken possession of my thoughts. It isn't as if nothing else has been going on; I want to write about out lovely Fourth of July Weekend (in which I lost my entire bag of pancake mix, only to find it hidden half in the water, empty, where some raccoon had apparently taken it. I wonder if he was pissed when he tried to wash it and it turned into goop?), because we met some really neat people from Vancouver, B.C (Hi there, Mark and Iris!) and Germany, and we got to take their girls out on the boat with us. I want to write about our upcoming vacation, too, which begins two weeks from tomorrow. So I am hoping this weekend goes well and that I feel more normal on Monday.

We are heading back to our house tonight, which is a good thing in many ways. As I said yesterday, I am not willing to let this guy run my life, and part of conquering the fear means taking reasonable precautions and just facing it. I told you all about the things we have done to help ourselves feel safer, and those are all good things. A friend on mine this morning offered me a gun, and for a moment I was sorely tempted. At the same time, I am too afraid. Not of guns in a general sense, and I support people owning guns should they choose to, but in this circumstance. See, if one was to be any use to me, it would need to be immediately accessible-and loaded and ready to go. I can't DO that; the older kids know enough about guns that I wouldn't worry over much about them, but what about Sam? Sure, he knows in theory about how dangerous they can be, but his curiosity may well outweigh his healthy respect. And what about Owen, who climbs out of bed? Nope, having it accessible to me also means putting my kids at risk, and that just isn't something I am willing to do. We will rely on our pepper spray and our bats, and just be aware-and hope and pray that we never have to use them.

But going home seems necessary for a completely unrelated reason as well. Between the Fourth of July weekend and this, we have been with Steve every night for a full week, and it has been so great. Which is a huge part of the problem. It has been necessary, I know that, and I am certainly grateful for his willingness to open his house up to us. At the same time, it has been hard because it makes us feel like a family, when we really aren't one. Owen especially has really, really enjoyed having his daddy around every night to give him a bath and to sit with while watching a movie, and has equally enjoyed having him there when he gets up in the morning; I am almost dreading going home for that reason alone. The inevitable "Where daddy?" will come, as will the tears when it is bedtime and daddy isn't there. It will be hard for Owen when Steve is there to put the deadbolt in and then leaves; it always is, when he leaves.

It isn't just Owen on whom it is hard, either. We all love Steve, and of course we like the feeling of being a family. For me, it has been beyond wonderful to have been able to sleep next to him every night for a week, and to get up in the mornings and do that normal morning stuff with him, and even at night while getting ready for bed: "Did you set the coffee maker? What time is the alarm set for? What are we doing for dinner tonight?" These are the simple things that most people don't think about, but that are really important to me because I don't have them consistently. So I think that the sooner we get comfortable back in our own house, with our old lives back, the better for everyone.

That said, I will freely admit that Steve has been wonderful; he has walked Hannah through the house every night to show her that his doors and windows are locked, he has gotten up more than once to check on some real or imagined noise in order to reassure her. He has willingly welcomed us into his home, despite the fact that his own routine has been completely messed up, and hasn't complained once. He is a guy and therefore keeps a lot to himself, but I think he is somewhat nervous for us to be going home, too-but at the same time, he has to be aware that this little interlude to my real life is hard on us. I haven't talked to him about it, and I won't, because I have enough to worry about without EVEN bringing up the status of things. I just know for now that I am grateful for him, for his support (which has very often not been the case), and I love him more now than I used to. Which is why we have to leave.

So. Tonight I will have all four kids under my roof; I imagine we will all be asleep in the same bed or close by one another, and I doubt either Hannah or I will get much sleep in the next few nights. Still, it is a start. We don't have any plans, per se, other than cleaning up the yard (before I get a citation from the city!), and I finally have the ad in the paper for the free puppies so with any luck we will be rid of them all very, very soon. Please send us up good thoughts and prayers, will you all?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

We Are Okay

I am here, I am okay. We are still staying at Steve's for one more night, but we are going back home tomorrow night. Steve picked up a deadbolt to put in, he unearthed some pepper spray from God knows where, and we also have a heavy aluminum baseball bat and one of those hard wooden t-ball bats (who knew that the absolute misery of schlepping kids to those goddamned t-ball and baseball games would actually serve some practical purpose?). I am well aware that none of this is fail-safe, and certainly will not prevent someone from TRYING to get in again, but if nothing else, they give us a better sense of security, which is sadly lacking at the moment.

However, Hannah is doing better since she spoke with the cop yesterday, and that is really important. She slept very well last night, and that helps, too. I am not averse to getting her counseling, but am willing to wait the couple of weeks that Janet (our doc, as well as a friend, for those who don't know) recommended to just see how she does. I know that going home is going to be rough on her, just as it is on me, but I also know that we HAVE to.

What helps is that I am starting to get pissed instead of numb. I am pissed that some fucker made it so my home feels unsafe to me. I have lived alone for over 5 years, and not once have I been afraid to walk into my home, or sleep with the windows open, or lay on the couch at night with the door open. Not once have I been afraid to let the kids sleep outside, and not once have I worried (beyond normal concern) about the kids going down to the park to play. Now that has all changed, and I am so fucking mad about it that I could scream. Don't worry-I am not mad enough to be stupid and forget that this person is still lurking out there; I am very well aware that if he is a stalker in the truest sense of the word, he will be back as soon as the police quit patrolling regularly. But I am mad enough to not want to let that asshole rule my life. We will take reasonable precautions, and we will report anything suspicious no matter how small, and eventually they will catch him. But pissed? Yeah. If by any chance he ever gets into the house again, he will have a lot more to worry about than whether or nor he can get his dick into me or my daughter.

Ah. I know how that sounds, but I am ANGRY today. And it feels good, it really does. Because it is far better than feeling victimized and nervous all of the time, and it is also far better than feeling guilty. You are all right; this has nothing to do with anything we did or did not do. I had no reason NOT to let the kids sleep outside, no reason to worry about whether or not I should lock the door. I cannot and WILL not allow him to make me feel ashamed and embarrassed and dirty; HE should.

Tomorrow I might feel differently, but today, this feels like a good place to be. We will worry about tomorrow when it gets here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Crazy Stalker Guy Update

It is only Wednesday? Fuck me. Not possible. Because it totally feels like it should be about Thursday of next week. I am wiped out, physically and mentally and emotionally and any other "-ally" you can think of.

Finally, finally, I got to talk to a detective this morning about the doings at our house early Monday morning. not Captain Ron, who no matter how well he handled my daughter (and he DID do a great job), apparently dropped the ball because he did not dust for fingerprints that night. When I talked to Detective M. this morning, it occurred to me to ask if it was possible there might be fingerprints this many days later, and he said, "What? They didn't already do that?" No, asshole, I was just asking to hear myself talk. I shouldn't say that-he isn't an asshole, not so far as I can tell, it just seemed like a stupid question. Anyway, on his agenda today is going over and dusting for prints, talking to the neighbors, and also going to talk to my daughter at Jacquie's. He asked me a ton of questions-about if I had been dating anyone prior to this incident (I wasn't, and Steve and I have been "together" even though we aren't "together" for almost 3 years), if Hannah had been seeing anyone, if there were problems or issues with any of the daycare parents, at work...and that last question made me laugh a little, as what kind of problems might I have at work? Someone is pissed off at me because his premiums are too high so he decides to sneak into my house in the middle of the night? But really, I might not be the most likable person in the world, but I also don't have any real enemies, not that I am aware of. Since that night, I have been racking my brain trying to think of any incidents in which I pissed someone off and they are now retaliating, but I honestly can't think of any conflict I have been in that was memorable enough to cause something like this.

One other thing that DID come to mind (and I could almost hear Detective M. thinking, "Psycho paranoid here!" when I told him this) is that on Saturday when we came home to check on the dogs, my neighbor came over and said, "you know, your dog's chain was wrapped all the way around the tie-up and she was laying there choking. I got her loose, though, and she is okay." I didn't think anything of it at the time, but in retrospect I am now wondering if Crazy Stalker Guy actually DID that. Because she has in the past gotten tangled up, but not on the tie out; it swivels, you see, so that even if she ran in circles repeatedly, the chain itself would just swivel right along with her. AM I paranoid? Most likely, but I also think it bears thinking about.

I could spend all day thinking about the possible motivations, what could have happened, what may happen in the next few days, but if I do that, I am going to go crazy. For me, it is just like not drinking; I have to get through today, and then I will worry about tonight when THAT comes. And then I will worry about tomorrow in the morning. I did talk to Steve today about staying with him again tonight and tomorrow night, and so far it seems like that is going to work out. It is hard, because even though we do a lot together, we aren't officially "together" anymore, and I hate for him to feel put upon or obligated. I mean, of course he should be worried about his son, who is part of the mix and therefore vulnerable, but it isn't really his responsibility to be our Protector and Refuge, you know? To give him credit, he hasn't given any indication that this is, in fact, the case. Surprisingly, he has been very good and supportive. But I can't reasonably expect him to continue to put us up indefinitely.

And like I said yesterday, at some point we are going to HAVE to go back. Last night, the boys were staying the night at Jacquie's, and invitation that had been extended a couple of weeks ago, so it was just Hannah and I. We were both dreading going home, so after I picked her up from Jacquie's, we killed some time by going to Pizza Hut and lingering over a meal neither of us felt like eating, went and picked up a few things we didn't really need at the grocery store, and finally went home. We fed and watered the dogs, I returned a couple pf phone calls, and then we just sat on the porch and waited for Steve to call to let us know he was home. I hate that I feel so weak, and I hate that I am clearly unable to be strong enough to just deal. I am afraid when I am home and it starts to get dark, but the rest of the time I am just numb. Haven't cried. Haven't gotten angry. Just-numb.

I would like to say that Hannah is doing better, but she isn't, either. She has been sleeping okay at Steve's, though once each night has woken up in a panic. Steve has both times walked her through the house again to show her that the doors and windows are all locked, has reassured her that Hallie will bark like mad if she hears anything, and she settles down and goes to sleep. At home, though, or in public, she is close by me at all times. I can't go outside and smoke without her, nor can I shower even at Steve's alone. At Pizza Hut last night, she went to the bathroom with me. And while I don't care in the sense that it is bothering me-it isn't, I totally understand-I care because I am worried about her. Detective M. said that he will give me some phone numbers to call to access some Victim's Counseling, for one or both of us as needed. I know that Janet said to seriously worry after a couple of weeks, but that is SO hard to do. I just want her to be okay, you know? Not necessarily today, but in the long run.

So, I think now I am just recapping the whole event; I could have just posted that Nothing Has Changed, or He Is Still Out There, and that would have done it. Thanks to all of you for your kind words; I really do mean it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Crazy Stalker Guy Was Back

You guys all remember Crazy Stalker Guy, right? Well, he paid us another visit on Sunday night/early Monday morning, this time much more terrifying than simply driving past the house a dozen times and parking in front of it. He actually came into my house this time.

The kids were all sleeping outside on the front lawn, so I had the door unlocked in case they need to come back in. Keep in mind, please, that we live in a small town and the kids-not just mine but the neighborhood kids in general-sleep outside fairly regularly, and since Crazy Stalker Guy hadn't been back, I didn't think twice about letting them sleep out. Sometime after midnight, Hannah woke up to hear someone walking on the lawn; she had her head covered, so peeked out from under her sleeping bag to see who it was. He had a flashlight, like one of those pen lights, and went over to the back gate. She heard him trying to get over it, but they had earlier blocked it closed so the puppies wouldn't get out, and it apparently kept him out as well. However, what he did was just come right up to the front porch instead. Hannah was laying there quietly with her head covered again, thinking, "Okay, he is going to leave," and she thought he DID until he stepped on a popper thing that Sam had thrown on the porch that didn't go off. She heard the door open and stay open for a little bit, then heard it close very quietly. She looked up and didn't see him any longer, and I still can't piece together what she was thinking; did she think he was gone, or did she know he was in the house? She thinks she remembers running up the porch yelling, "Mom, mom, there's a man in the house!", and when I think about it I think I remember that as well, but it all happened so quickly that neither of us is 100% sure. What we ARE sure of is that when she opened the door, still yelling, the man WAS, in fact, in the house, right next to the door and about a foot away from my bed. Hannah began screaming as loud as she could, and the man actually pushed her out of the way and took off, pushing Eli as well on the way through the yard. He then disappeared around the corner.

In the house while this was going on, I didn't hear anything except the door opening and closing very quietly; I didn't even really wake up because I was expecting one of the kids to come in, so thought it was one of them. I never did actually SEE the guy, because the rest of it happened so freaking fast, I don't know. Like I said, I think I heard Hannah yelling about someone being in the house, but am not 100% sure. The thing I remember most clearly is the sound of her screaming; never have I heard anything like that from one of my children, and the sound is going to haunt me.

Of course we called the police, and we got an immediate response-as in within a matter of minutes. See, two cars happened to be doing a routine patrol, and one of them saw a white pickup pulling out of my alley with his lights off, so was beginning to follow it; the truck took off, lights still off, with one patrol car after it with lights and sirens on. This was happening while my 911 call was going through, so the other car who was in the area came right over. After going through everything with Hannah and getting her description, I told the cop about Crazy Stalker Guy, and he got a funny look on his face and said, "I think that is the same truck my guys are after right now!" and sure enough, it was. They lost him, though, somewhere along one of the back roads where a truck with no lights on can easily disappear.

I called Steve after the cops said I could use the phone to see if he would come over, which he did. In the meantime, the main cop (who will be known from now on as Captain Ron) was doing such an amazing job with Hannah, helping her to calm down by speaking very calmly and quietly, having her close her eyes and tell him what her impressions were, how he looked and dressed...and then he did an equally great job of knowing when she was starting to lose it and stop questioning her. The whole process took what seemed like a really long time, and then Captain Ron went down to the station and got a photo montage for her to go through to see if he could identify him. She picked two that it could have possibly been, one of whom was my ex-husband (and even after looking closely, she didn't recognize him as her previous step-father, thank God; they had the names covered up), but still, we don't really have any idea for sure who it was. Which somehow makes it worse; if it was someone we knew, then maybe we could find an explanation (and if it WAS, in fact, the ex, of course we would at least have an idea why), but right now, the very randomness of it is even more frightening.
While it is now obvious to everyone concerned that we were the target, we don't know WHY.

Neither Hannah nor I slept on Sunday night; Steve was there, which helped a little bit, but not much. Hanna was right next to me, her head on my shoulder, and just as I would feel her start to relax and fall into sleep, she would wake with a start and begin to shake and cry. Both of us were alert to every single noise, and all I could do to soothe her was to rock her like a baby and stroke her hair and tell her I was there. What an impotent feeling, knowing that I could not give my daughter what she needed; I could not restore her sense of safety and security, and I will never be able to give that back to her.

I worked for a few hours yesterday after taking all of the kids to Jacquie's, but I couldn't function. Lack of sleep, fear, adrenaline, and the combination served to make me feel slow and thick witted. We spent the afternoon at Jacquie's, and I was able to take a nap, and then we went home. It was really hard to be there; even though he never got further than the living room, it still felt as if the entire house was tainted. We did up the dishes and dumped the garbage and such, trying to restore some sense of normalcy, but it was nearly impossible to do. We had already planned to sleep at Steve's, but ended up going earlier than planned because it was just too hard to be there.

And that is the thing: I know that at some point we will HAVE to go back. We can't live in fear the rest of our lives, we can't just move in with someone else indefinitely. We are going to have to go back to living our lives, and I know that. Intellectually, I know that, but emotionally, well, that is a different story. I keep imagining how Hannah must have felt while all this was going on, and she keeps saying, "All I could think is that I wasn't going to have a mom anymore," which has to be a terrifying prospect. I feel physically ill at the vision of her huddled up under her sleeping bag with her head poking out, watching someone come into our house where I was asleep and not knowing what was going to happen. Selfishly, too, I feel afraid of what would have happened to me had Hannah not been so brave. The fact that he had a getaway plan in place already, the fact that they eluded the police, the fact that the fucker was standing a foot from my bed when my 15 year old daughter ran into the house to help me just terrifies me; he had obviously planned this, it wasn't just a spur of the moment thing, and that intensifies the fear.

I don't know where to go from here, I don't know what to do. Eli is, in typical male fashion, completely over it; he thinks of it as more an adventure than anything else. Which actually pisses me off, because he was making fun of Hannah last night for being a baby, telling me, "I don't know why this is such a big deal, nobody got hurt." I am trying to be understanding, but really, I don't understand his lack of concern. Steve says that it is because he is a guy, and guys don't think the same way we women do. That guys don't always have that underlying fear of being violated like women do (incidentally, most of the photos Hannah was shown were those of convicted sexual predators, with a few drug dealers thrown into the mix), so cannot really understand why something like this has such long term effects. And so I try to understand that, but I don't.

The kids are all safe at Jacquie's again today; I won't let them be home alone yet, and Hannah doesn't WANT to be. She needs to be around people who are totally there for her, who can help her work through this. She needs to have people who are going to let her talk, even if she repeats herself a thousand times. She needs people like Jacquie and Steve, who are willing to walk through the house with her and show her that all of the doors are locked, that the windows are secure. She needs me, too, but I can't be with her during the day, so I am grateful that J. is there. I feel so proud of her, and so sad for her, and afraid for both of us. I know it is going to take time, but I just want to feel safe again.

I just want to have Sunday evening back again, so I could tell the kids no to sleeping in the yard. We had such a lovely weekend over the 4th, I just want to have that one evening back so I can change the outcome. I would tell them no, not tonight, and I would have the door locked, and this wouldn't have happened. And yes, I know I can't, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Parental Anger

Jillian over at Petite Gamine wrote a really great post yesterday about her father's, um, disciplinary tactics; I am not going to give it all away, but will encourage you all to head on over there and read it. And this is why: because the point wasn't a "poor me" post about how she was raised, but how it affected her as a parent, and I though it was a very powerful piece. It resonated with me on several different levels, which inspired me to post about my own thoughts and feelings and how my parenting skills have been influenced by my own parents.

See, I made a vow when I had kids that I would never do the things my parents did. I would never expect them to be perfect in all things, or ground them for 9 weeks if there was anything less than an A on their report cards. I would never treat them as my personal slaves, expecting them to have dinner on the table and the house spotless when I get home from work. I would never manufacture work (not chores, but WORK) for them to do the exert my control over them. I would never make them pull down their pants and spank them with a belt. I would never force them to eat their dinner warmed up three days in a row because they didn't finish it the first night. I would get the hint. Some examples: we used to have a fireplace, and we had a huge stack of wood. One memorable summer, my sisters and I had to move the stack four times. Not for any reason, not because it was not in the right place, but because my parents could make us. My stepfather was in the Air Force, and we were in charge of ironing his shirts. If he pulled one out of the closet and it was wrinkled, he pulled every item out of the closet-hundreds of items-and make us iron them all again. I clearly remember being in first grade, standing on a chair and crying while I ironed-because I knew that no matter how carefully I did it, the shirts would wrinkle as soon as they were hung back up. One of many lessons in futility I learned at an early age.

I could go on and on about the travesty which was my childhood, but one thing I have learned as an adult is that you make whatever peace with it you can, and move on. Part of moving on has been, for me, therapy at different times in the past, my recovery from alcoholism, and my firm desire to raise happier, healthier kids than I was. The problem as I see it is not that I want better for them, but that I don't always know how to go about doing things differently. I was raised to believe that The Adults were always right, even when common sense dictated otherwise; how do I encourage my own children to question me when there is a legitimate reason for doing so? And how do I effectively say, "This is non-negotiable and I don't need to give you my reasons," without having it be heard as "Because I am the boss?" How do I tell them it is okay to question some things I do or say without also giving them permission to run amok and not have respect for me? I was also raised to handle anger by watching my sisters and I become the whipping post for very adult fears and frustrations and angers; how do I handle my own feelings of anger and rage and inadequacy and hopelessness without my kids bearing the brunt of it? Because God knows that in MY house, it was "Hit first, ask questions later," only later never came. Of course we got the lecture "This hurts me as much as it does you," or worse still, "Why are you such a fucking baby? I will GIVE you something to cry about!" All of this and more, disguised as discipline or teaching respect or whatever euphemism came to mind first.

There are things I have learned over the years that work, though. One of them-maybe the biggest one-is that when I am genuinely angry, I do NOT touch my kids. Period. If I have to spank-and I have-I reserve it for the times when they were doing something clearly unsafe about which they had previously been warned. Like running out into the street (ahem, and sticking the their tongue out at me). I have popped all three of the bigger kids on the mouth one time each, all three for letting some unspeakable obscenity come out of their mouths at very young ages (and despite my language elsewhere, at home? We don't say bad words much.). But if I get furious enough to really spank, I know that if I touch them, I might hurt them.

I also believe in time-outs. Not for the kids, but for ME. I refuse to pretend to my kids that I don't ever get angry; I refuse to tell them they can't get angry. But they have to have an opportunity to see an adult handle anger before they know how to, so I think it is important to verbalize: "I am so angry right now that I need to take a time out." Screaming into a pillow, or hitting a punching bag, or taking a run-I think they work, thought some may not agree; in fact, one of the comments on Jillian's post likened such behaviors to an adult temper tantrum. I respectfully disagree; because anger is a human emotion, it SHOULD be felt and dealt with, and whatever it takes for each of us to deal without hurting ourselves or someone else is okay in my book. Because I learned well how to hide what I was feeling and thinking and going through, until I thought maybe drinking and fucking strangers obsessively would somehow mask those feelings. Not so, my friend, not so.

And it helps to have people to talk to; people who can say "I have been there!" It helps to admit that we have those feelings of anger and also the desire to act on them. It helps to be in a place where we can say, "I just can't do this and I need some help," and then take it one step further and listen to the advice. I mean, we don't like to admit we are anything less than perfect, so our first reaction tends to be, what? Anger? Defensiveness? "How DARE you tell me what I am doing wrong!" But, well, isn't that why we say we need help? So for me, I have to not only swallow my pride and admit that I am fucking up, and then I have to really humble myself and listen to some solutions. Maybe, if ten people tell me something, I might get one good nugget out of it, and that one bit might make a huge difference in how I do things.

I also have people I look to for help; friends, other people's families, books-not just about how to deal with my own anger and how it affects my kids, but other things, too. I look to my friend Janet for strategies that allow my kids to express their individuality (blue hair? It's just hair; it grows back. Tattoos? Not while you are in my house, it's permanent) without my own perceptions and judgements getting in the way. I look at the woman in my office who has excellent relationship with both her grown children, and I ask her what worked for them and I listen. I have learned how to give a genuine apology when I have been wrong, because that is another thing I have learned from another friend who is a really great parent.

Another thing that has worked for me is to use the tone of voice I use in public; pretend that someone is listening and watching me interact with my children. I would no more yell or chastise or scream at my kids in public than I would pick my nose and eat it. We all know the voices we use around teachers or in bookstores, where other more progressive, more gentle, calmer mothers hang out with their literary kids; I talk to my kids so far as is possible the same way I speak to them there. For one thing, if I talk quietly, even when I am reprimanding, the kids respond a lot better, and also, I never want the kids to see the same kind of hypocrisy that I saw-presenting one face to the public and unleashing the monster behind our closed doors.

And I cannot demand respect from my kids if I don't respect them. I can't expect them to behave like normal productive human beings if I can't show them how to do with that. I can't expect them to learn how to deal with negative emotions if I don't know how to do it myself. I fail-often. I sometimes say things to my kids that I can't believe, and I yell so loud at times that my throat hurts. I look at myself in the mirror sometimes and just can't stand what I see, because for however brief a moment, I was my mother. It is so hard sometimes to be a parent, and it seems to me there is a lot of the "one step forward, two steps back" going on.

Still, I know that as long as I am aware of what I am doing and how I am feeling, as long as I keep making an honest effort, we will be okay. In the dark of night, I question my abilities as a parent and worry that I am harming them irreparably, but somehow I get up in the morning and start again. I also think that is an important lesson the kids can learn from me; that we make mistakes, we react badly, we say things we don't mean, but we keep trying. We try every day to make the world a better place, to walk in peace and calm. When we are around people who genuinely love us, we want to do better and be better, and this is what I strive for. Not perfection-I would be crazy if I thought I would NEVER YELL again, never say something that hurt someone. But it is progress, and that makes all the difference.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Back to Work

It is a Tuesday that feels like a Monday, since I was off yesterday. And what a good day it was! Sam had Bible School all day, so he was gone from 9-3, but Owen and Eli and I hung around the house all day together and it was pretty neat. Mowed the lawn, filled the pool, basically just putzed around, but it was good putzing. Then when Sam got home, we went swimming with Jacquie and her boys to a place called Bishop's Hole. It was so much fun; the boys are all different ages: mine are 14, 9, and of course the baby is 2, and hers are 16 and 12, so there is just a good mix. The big boys all ganged together and had a great time (and as a mother, I pretty much just had to ignore what they were doing. Because I worry too much about them getting hurt, and I hate to ruin their good time. Actually what I ended up doing is taking my glasses off; that way I could neither really see nor hear them.), and Jacquie and Owen and I hung out on the sand. Owen is fearless, which is both a good and bad thing; he has a life jacket that he has to wear AT ALL TIMES when he is near the water, because he thinks nothing of just jumping in. So we swam for three hours, and it felt really lovely to sit out there and watch the pelicans, hear the roar of the water and the kids laughing and yelling, and talk with a friend. I also felt like I was doing something very decadent, going swimming and playing on a work day! And getting paid for it!

And the childcare thing has kind of worked out. I say kind of, and it has been worked out, but not as well as I would have liked. I admit to being somewhat of a control freak, and I LIKE to have a plan, need to have a plan, so any type of uncertainty is hard for me to deal with. For example: "Well, we are going to be doing this, this, and this, but I am not entirely sure where we are going to be when you get off work. Want me to call you?" This is totally NOT okay with me. When Tammi told me that this morning, it was all I could do to stop myself from plugging my ears and singing Jesus Loves Me in order to not hear those words, "I am not sure but..." I did well, I think. I told her to talk to Steve when he got there with the boys, as he is the one picking them up. It's funny; I trust her, I trust any of the family to watch the kids, I just don't like not knowing exactly what is going to happen. Like, I need to know tonight what the plan is tomorrow. This is a major character defect for me, in all honesty, and it sounds crazy and a little laughable from the outside, but it really isn't. So I have had to let go of some of the control and trust that things will work out. Now if Steve would just grow up and try to make a fucking plan, we would be in good shape. We could, you know, compromise.

A little update: Crazy Stalker Guy is gone. He came back the next night, and all of us went outside with our phones in our hands and he took off; hasn't been back since. That was just too strange, though. Strange enough that even though it was at least 190 freaking degrees in my house last night, I didn't feel comfortable sleeping with the door open, which two weeks ago I would have.

Also, I talked to the boss this morning to verify that I could, in fact, have the week off at the end of July for the vacation. And I can. Which is good, since my friend called on Sunday to tell me that she already had the hotel rooms booked. Now for the extra money: I am thinking about the whole E-Bay thing; like I keep saying, I have a bunch of baby stuff, even some really nice clothes that don't fit my fat ass any more, so have any of you guys had good luck selling things on E-Bay? It would help, of course, which is my primary motivator, but damn, this stuff is way to good to donate, you know?

The woman, M., about whom I posted? Whose house we went to for a 12-Step Call? She has been sober for about two weeks now. She was at the meeting last night (and I hadn't seen her since the Monday after our call, when she showed up at the Monday meeting drunk), and looked really good. Meaning, you know, clean. And sober, because I think it takes us a awhile to start looking really good; we lived hard, we alkies. Anyway, she had in her car a little post of pansies for me, which I thought was very, very kind-for helping her in her time of need, she said. I felt vaguely uncomfortable, but also delighted at the same time.

Sam has been dancing with a group during the intermission of a melodrama they are having all week here in town. The dance is this very simple little Western dance, and Sam is the star. Last night, Steve took him down to his performance, and he told me that he overheard someone say that they had been to every single show just so they could see Sam dance (although they didn't know his name and said, "That little boy," which can only BE Sam as he is the only boy dancing). How cool is that? This kid is a born performer, and practiced on one foot while he had the stitches in. What a trooper! The first night, at the dress rehearsal, I teared up watching him, I am so sentimental about some things. He is such a funny kid, though. Odd, yes, but also funny as in he makes me laugh. At the dress rehearsal, everyone in the theater laughed when he did his solo, and afterward he said, "So, um, everyone laughed. What I was doing was supposed to be funny, right?" What a kid. I think next year I am going to find out who to talk to so he can try out for the actual play; it would be so great for him to find something he is good at, so he can embrace his individuality now so it doesn't kill him in high school. Now if I could only get Eli to stop telling him that only guys who are faggots dance, all would be well (and rest assured, that is HIS word, not mine). He is so mean sometimes, and the two of them fight so much, that I often feel like I am in a locked room with two people from enemy camps, and I am the United Nations. I struggle.

So it was a busy but good weekend, and I am looking forward to another long weekend over the 4th. I get my Hannah back from her dad's early, on the 5th, so I am excited about that, and then we have the vacation to plan for. And then before I know it, summer will be over and school will start the second week or so of August. The time sure does fly, doesn't it?