Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween and Photos

Happy Halloween to everyone! It is chilly and cloudy here today, with a chance of rain in the forecast, but believe me, that will not stop this mama from hitting the streets with the kids. Sam is a Ninja this year, and Owen is a dinosaur, and I can't wait. We do the Trunk-or-Treat thing, and then we head on over to the nursing home across the way, and afterward there are the stops to see Grandma and Grandma and friends. The ultimate goal for the kids is, of course, to acquire as much candy as possible in as short a time possible. I am like one of the people in the vans following along a bicycle race; there to shout out encouragement, mop the sweaty brow, administer first aid in the form of just one more bite-size Snickers in order to keep the sugar rush going strong. I do it well, though admittedly have ulterior motives. I love me some Almond Joy, and Kit Kats really light my fire, but what I really love is the inevitable crash that comes after the sugar wears off. Last year, both the little boys were comatose by 9:00, and I had the rest of the evening to myself-everyone wins.

On to other things; we had class last night, and wouldn't you know it, the class we skipped last week because I wasn't feeling well was The Sex Class-the ONE class I really, really wanted the kids to go to. The woman is going to come talk to us adults in a week or two, so that will be good, but I really wanted to kids to hear all she had to say. I guess she talked about all of the myths surrounding sex, the things that kids actually believe: that you can't get pregnant when he pulls out (um, hello Owen! and that was with birth control!), that you can't get diseases from oral sex, that anal sex isn't really a lot of simple biology that a lot of kids don't know. I know that the kids and I have talked about the subject a lot, but not in such blunt, matter-of-fact ways about the intricacies of sex. T., one of the instructors, was telling us that one of the girls she knew who was pregnant when she was 12 is now 14 and has TWO kids-and she said that now there are 3 young people who don't have a chance. These are the things I want my kids to know. T. also said, though, that I am more than welcome to go to the Sex Talk in their other English Speaking class, so it doesn't appear that we have missed the opportunity.

In talking about sex, do you remember me telling you all about the man who was adamant that his 14 year old wasn't having sex? The one with hickeys all over herself? He told us this week that not only is she sexually active, but that she has been sexually active with a 27 year old man. This fucking pisses me off. What in the FUCK? I hold the man responsible for taking advantage of this 14 year old girl-and yes, I am sure it was consensual, I am not absolving her of her part in this, but still, what kind of sick fucker DOES this? Well-a sick fucker. And, ahem, where were mom and dad? This girl is already in trouble, but clearly mom and dad are either not capable or willing to impose appropriate limits. In my way of thinking, if she has already proven that she lies, sneaks around, and can't be trusted, then she shouldn't be out of the arena of adult supervision. I am disgusted, angry, and so, so sad for this girl.

However, I am grateful that this isn't our family. With luck and hard work and good kids, it won't be. Moving on....

If you guys have noticed the new icon up in the right hand side, I am going to participate in the NaBloPoMo this year. More for discipline than anything else, because I suck at following through-as is evidenced by the fact that I never got past Day 10 in the Guided Journal. But I am not a quitter, so will try again-but I need some ideas. Please feel free to tell me what you would like to hear from me in the coming month. I am going to get to use the "Scheduled Post" function in blogger, which will be fun (I don't have a PC at home), but I very well may run out of fill up the comments in the next days with ideas, okay?

With that, I leave you some photos of my little guys LAST Halloween-are they not gorgeous?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On a Lighter Note....

On a lighter note than yesterday, I forgot to mention that Sam had his Pack Meeting for Scouts on Tuesday and finally got his Wolf Badge. He ALSO got a bunch of other patches for segments he has completed, and 6 belt-loop things to put on his Scout belt. Very cool. I also got to go up with him and he got to pin this little Wolf pin thingy on my shirt, because of course if it weren't for the moms, the Scouts would never get patch one-we all know that! I have my issues and problems with Scouts, and still maintain that they are neither a working or single-mom friendly group, BUT: he looked so beautiful and proud up there getting all his Bling, and I swear it is worth it just to see that look on his face. He is now a Bear-and even though I am dreading all of the activities and the work involved, for his sake I am also quite excited. It has been good for him, and in some ways good for me, and I just like to watch him interact with other little boys his age. I might not fit in with their parents, but he fits in with them, and nothing could make me happier.

Last night, Owen was on a bit of a rampage, just being two and hungry and it has been a long he was just, how do I say it, acting like a jerk. In and out of the kitchen, throwing things and crying and begging for either me or Eli to pick him up. You all know how they get. I can, for the most part, tune it out-dinner HAS to be made, whether Owen wants to be put down or not, but he was driving Eli nuts. Finally, in exasperation, Eli turned to me and said, "Mom, I don't know how you did it with ONE kids, much less four!" and hefted Owen up onto his hip and walked out. It made me laugh out loud because it was just such an adult thing to hear coming out of his mouth, and it also made me feel a little glow inside. There are times when each of the older ones "get it," and they have a glimpse at times of why I am sometimes short with them or annoyed or just tired. I don't expect them to take care of me emotionally or any of that, I don't expect them to step in and do my job as a parent, but when they can recognize that I can't be in thirty-seven places at once and help-like Eli did last night with Owen-it helps everyone. As the result of his help with the Baby, I was able to get dinner done in a timely manner, and we all ate together and had a rousing time helping Sam with his homework. Have I ever mentioned that we are all quintessential nerds? Sam was assigned the task of finding as many homophones as he could, and between the four of us (because, you know, Owen was just hollering out random words, being only two), I think our final tally was 67 pairs of homophones; pretty awesome, and we had a great time doing it.

I feel really good today. I think the Weight Watchers thing contributes greatly, as does the fact that I am finally, FINALLY, getting over the bronchitis. Whatever it is, the last two mornings I have woken up feeling fairly rested and with this vaguely remembered thing called energy-wow. I had forgotten what that felt like! I have been doing some other things in addition to the Weight Watchers in an effort to take better care of myself; I have been making the time to soak in a tub every night, even if for only 10 minutes, because I read somewhere that it helps the body relax and sleep better-and it seems to work. I might have to stay up a little longer (because God knows that having the door open and close thirty bazillion times by the kids is not relaxing!), but when I sleep better it doesn't seem to matter. I have been walking just a little further and a little faster each day, which also helps immensely.

And emotionally, I feel pretty good today, too. It isn't that anything has changed or is different, at least outwardly. Instead, it is a feeling that I am right where I need to be, and I am working really hard on accepting things as they are right this minute instead of 1. trying to project, 2. worrying about the what-ifs, and 3. trying to take over the reins. This is, as any regular reader knows by now, a constant issue in my life. No, issue isn't even the right word, but it IS something that I have to work toward. It is so easy for me to take on the world's problems, try to fix everyone and help everyone, and as a woman in recovery, it is my job (so to speak) to live the way my God would like me to, take care of myself and my spiritual health, and simply do what is in front of me. When I neglect those things, I go nuts.

So it is a good day. I enjoyed my early morning jaunt to the school again, and really, really enjoyed my walk to get the mail this morning. I am glad to be here today, on this earth, living and breathing. I am also really, really enjoying the feeling of anticipation that comes from the fact that our election is in less than a week. I cannot WAIT for the weekend when I can begin calling the people on my list to remind them to VOTE. I can barely contain myself from going over to my voting precinct right this second and camping out until Tuesday. And while you all know that I am totally in love with and voting for Obama, you don't have to agree with me (even though I am right) just get off your ass and cast a vote. This is a pivotal moment in our history, and I will personally be disgusted if any one of you don't vote.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In Which I Explain Why I Am a Bitter, Angry Bitch

Wow. Just-wow. On another one of my favorite single mom blogs, the discussion has turned ugly and some woman has suddenly decided that there are way too many bitter, angry single mamas out there. To give this person (who, by the way, wouldn't even leave a real name) a little bit of credit, I don't think her initial comment was meant to be construed as "mean," even though it came across that way. Her response to some of the other comments, though, WAS mean, and it just makes me weary. I have blogged about this before, I will blog about it again, and for those of you who are T.I.R.E.D. of hearing the same thing over and over again, please stop reading now. I am SO on a rant about this one.

The question was asked, and I have heard it before, "How did you fall for someone like that? You are smart, pretty, etc..." and yeah, yeah, so we made poor choices. Shoot us now because we are human. The thing is, even now, I cannot look back at my choice to marry my ex-husband as a mistake. Regardless of the way we met and the haste in which we married, regardless of my personal issues that drove me to choose this particular man, I went into the relationship and marriage with the highest hopes. I went into the partnership with another person wanting to give him love and affection and caring and support; I loved him. It is so easy for me now, 12 years later, to see that I didn't really love him, that I had all this other stuff going on and so really had no idea what the word "love" meant, and that is true. However, 12 years ago, it felt like love to me, and I really believed that we were going to be happy. I am well aware that I would not be in the mess I am in-5 years post-divorce!-had I not married him, but that knowledge now has nothing to do with the person I was then.

I know that my bitterness and anger (and yes, dear Reader, I freely admit that I am both bitter and angry) is hard both for people to understand and to deal with. The bitch part of me thinks "Oh fucking well. Not my problem." However, for some strange reason I seem to be mellowing just a little bit (and I am sure it will pass) and I really want to try to give people a glimpse into my life and perhaps get a small bit of understanding from them. I want to be able to explain why I am bitter and angry and all of those other things I have been called.

My bitterness and anger stems from the fact that we as a nation do not hold these men accountable. Not just MY ex-husband, but every man in the world who has overnight made the decision to walk away from his children and family. There are court orders and laws in place to "assure" that moms and their kids are at least given some sort of financial support, but that is no guarantee that the absent fathers are actually going to PAY that; the deadbeat dad laws in place look really, really good on paper, but when it comes to implementing them, well, let's just say they are a joke and leave it at that. And there are no laws or mandates or anything in effect that will force a man to be a parent to their children-nothing. I would not bitch about the money part of it were Sam's dad present in his life; I would not complain about having to provide everything for my son if his dad was at least emotionally and physically available for Sam. It would still be hard, of course-but for me, the money is a concrete, tangible thing about which I can complain; the emotional implications of his absence in his son's life are far more pervasive and much less easily explained.

We are asked, dear reader, how we smart and pretty and funny and talented women could ever fall for assholes like we did. How about we change the question: how is it that men can use their fists or their words to batter us, emotionally or physically, and get away with it? How have we as a nation allowed this to continue to happen? How have our parents raised men who think that this kind of behavior is at all acceptable, and even condoned? And here is another little scenario: if we women walk out on our children and don't provide for their needs, we get our children taken away and we go to jail. What happens to the men who have abandoned their children just as surely? N.O.T.H.I.N.G. It is somehow seen as okay for children to be raised without their fathers, despite the fact that statistics show that fatherless children get into more trouble, have more behavioral and mental issues, and further go on to abandon THEIR children; it is a vicious cycle, and while we bitter single mamas are doing all we can, it is often like bailing a leaking rowboat with a teaspoon-impossible.

I just want to weep sometimes with the futility of the battle we are fighting. I have watched my ex-husband go from woman to woman, spending time and money on families that are not his own, and it makes me see red-because in the eyes of the world, it is okay for him to be doing this, but not okay for me to even date. I hear the lies he tells to people about what a bitch I am for keeping him from seeing his son, and never once have I heard someone ask WHY. They take him at face value, and perpetuate the lie. A note for my women readers: when a man tells you that his cunt of an ex won't let him see his children, that should probably be a red flag to you-because believe me, it is NOT easy to keep a parent from a child if said parent wants to be in their lives. It took me two years and a lot of tears and fear and pain and worry in order to get this far-and he did not even really FIGHT the custody issue; the courts sure did. I had to prove over and over again that he was unfit to have even partial custody, and the funny thing is that he didn't even want it. Yet who is there to hold him accountable? The court? Other men? The women with whom he has hooked up? No; it is too easy to blame me.

I don't have any answers; I know that there are a lot of things I think should be different, but they aren't. I wish that the really great husbands and fathers would have the balls to tell their loser buddies, "dude-this isn't right." I wish that more of the upstanding men would be extremely vocal about the way deadbeat dads are leaving a nation of damaged kinds in their wake. I wish more women would stop buying into the "I don't get to see me kid" sob story and instead question the "why" of it; while of course there ARE women who use their kids as weapons, they are not nearly as prevalent as the men would like you to believe. I wish that I would never hear another man complain about how miserable he is with his wife/girlfriend/partner simply because it is "the thing" to do; I know several men who, when they get with their buddies, can bad mouth their wives to beat the band, but who actually adore them and would walk through fire for them AND their kids-it just isn't manly these days to SAY that. I wish-well. I wish a lot of things, but what I wish more than anything is that people would just open their eyes a little bit wider and see that perhaps we bitter single mamas have a reason, a legitimate one, for feeling the way we do.

And believe me, I don't WANT to be bitter, I really don't. It is something I struggle with almost daily. However, three years ago I fell in love-totally, deeply, the-kind-you-don't-get-over-in-love with someone, with Owen's dad. And part of the reason we are never going to be together is because he has grown up his whole life seeing the ravages of divorce, feeling the same abandonment issues that MY son Sam feels, he has heard the jokes about wife beating and heard the men in his life bad mouth women at every turn, and he will never give himself over to taking a chance on being happy. To taking a chance on loving someone and making a life together. That itself is bad enough. What is worse is that in the eyes of the world, I am not supposed to want that anyway; I am not supposed to date, because I might expose my kids to some sort of revolving door syndrome and give them ideas about sex that they shouldn't have. I mean, when I got pregnant with Owen, it was predicted that Hannah would be pregnant withing the year because I was single mom who had sex and got pregnant, therefore she would, too. Nothing at all was said about Steve, who obviously also had sex outside of wedlock. No kind of prediction was made about his future, no aspersions cast on his moral or religious beliefs, no suggestion was made that he might be at all responsible. How is that possible, and why is that right? It isn't.

It is just so frustrating and disheartening to be blamed so often, for so much. Not just by our nation, but by other women. I am tired of being told that I should not want home and family and husband, how I should be content to sit back and watch other families get together for the holidays and exchange gifts and be with people they love, how it should be enough that I have my kids. It is, and it isn't. I am tired of defending myself at every turn for things for which there IS no defense. I cannot make things any different than they are; all I can do is simply keep going, and hold my head up with as much grace and dignity and beauty as I possibly can. It's like my kids-sometimes it is enough, and sometimes it isn't.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Random Items and I Lost Two Pounds!

Our receptionist is coming back to work on Monday after being gone for 8 weeks on maternity leave. Is it bad, do you think, to keep all of my filing for the week and give it to her on Monday? I hate to file; it is one of the worst things about my job, and when we have a receptionist, I don't have to do it. In fact, when she told everyone she was pregnant (after having been here only a few months, which is an annoyance that would fill up an entire page so I won't go there), one of my first thoughts was, "Oh, fer shiz, that means I am going to have to do my own filing!" The other woman in the office and I have been divvying up her other responsibilities, and it hasn't been TOO terrible, but still, the filing looms. For that reason alone, I will be glad she is back.

Speaking of work, my boss approached me last week about studying for the State exam that would allow me to be licensed to do commercial work. I don't know how I feel about this. For one thing, I really have no desire to have anything to do with the commercial aspect of the agency. I can see why it is necessary, though. We are a small agency, so when my co-worker goes on vacation (she is planning a two week trip to Alaska next year; how fun is that?) or is even out for a day, it would be really helpful to be able to take care of some of her things. As it is, I can basically do the brunt of the paperwork stuff, but I am not legally allowed to sign any document; it can get a little hairy at times. Besides that, though, I can't imagine ever handling the types of things she handles. She is very, very good at what she does, almost to the point of being intimidating, and I don't really have the desire to get that good at it. Still, it is part of my job, and I will do it. At the moment, all I can think is, "How am I supposed to find the time for THIS?" Plus, okay, it is really, really boring. When I was studying for the Property/Casualty exam, it was all mind-numbing boredom; it really doesn't get interesting until you are actually doing it. Still, I suppose if I ever decide to go elsewhere, this will just make that much more desirable; I think I need to think of it that way. I am not planning on moving anywhere else at this point, but when Hannah and Eli are both out of high school, it might be something I take more seriously. Right this minute, though, the whole idea just seems like one.more.thing.

Speaking of moving, I have not heard anything from the Idaho Housing Authority yet. I had my initial appointment, and they sent all the stuff out for various people to fill out...I know that both my boss and my "Financial Advisor" (which is quite funny, it is just the lady in our other office who is in charge of our Simple Plan) received and mailed their forms back the same day, and there were only two other people who needed to fill them out, so I am not quite sure what the hold-up is. I am starting to get a little bit wonky about it; every possible scenario blows through my mind like a hurricane, and of course every scenario is a variation of me not getting approved-even though she told me a fair amount of certainty that I would be. It is frustrating, but I am trying really, really hard to just let things fall into place as they will. As much as I would like to be in a bigger home like, I don't know, tomorrow? I know that from a financial standpoint, after the first of the year would be better. I get my taxes back in January, which with careful budgeting could pay the deposit and moving expenses plus perhaps fund a bed and some dressers-so yeah, there are lots of reasons why it would be better then. Still, I want it now.

And speaking of wanting things now, have you guys all read about the Manuel Uribe wedding? This just strikes me as SO not fair. I mean, come on-I can't even get asked out on a date, and this guy is able to find a WIFE? puh-leeze. So yeah, I know I don't go places where I am going to meet people, etc...but you can't tell me this guy has been trolling the clubs or churches or whatever in order to meet people; he hasn't left his BED for four years! I just have to shake my head at the absurdity of life sometimes. I wish him and his bride happiness, of course, but am I the only one wondering how he is going to go about starting this "family" he talks about? Because how are they going to manage to have sex? And then there is the whole "eeeeewwwww" factor. Let me just say this: if THEY get knocked up before XBox and ET do, I am going to be seriously pissed.

Last but not least, speaking of fat people, I have somehow managed to lose two pounds in the last week; even with spending the weekend eating Grandma Food! I may very well be imagining it, but I think I can tell a slight difference in the way my pants feel, too. I know it is only two pounds, but hey, I'll take it. The whole Weight Watchers things hasn't been too terrible yet; it is a little difficult to figure out the points thing at first, it is a little confusing, but now that I have been doing it for slightly over a week, it isn't so bad. Also, they are all about making small changes and building up, which is good for me. I have been walking to the post office to get our mail (which will no longer be my job when A. gets back to work on Monday!), so every day I have been addings some steps to that-walking all the way around the block instead of cutting through the parking lot, things like that. Little things like that make a difference, or so they say. I will keep you all updated, of course-aren't you lucky?

Hm, I seem to have run out of random snippets, and I just don't have it in me to tackle anything more in depth today. Ah, well, it is good to write, even if I don't say much.

Monday, October 27, 2008

On The Mend

The town my grandma, mom and dad live in used to be home. I was born there, it was the town we always went back to when my mom was between marriages, half of my school-ages years were spent there, and after my own failed first marriage, I went running back home as well. I haven't lived there now for almost 9 years, but on Friday night when we pulled into town, it still felt like going home. There are a lot of mixed emotions there; a lot of really great memories, an equal or greater number of bad ones, and the combination is always strange to me.

Strange, too, is how even after 9 years of being gone, people still know and remember me, my children, and it is very disconcerting to have people walk up to me and start conversing as if I just saw them yesterday. Better than half the time, I have no idea who they are; I usually recognize faces, at least, but rarely names. This is probably in part due to the fact that I did all of my heavy drinking there-some memories of that time are simply non-existent. I mean, one time I was at a party-this was after I got sober-with my mom and some man came up to me all sorts of mad; I apparently got into an argument with him and slapped him one night at the bar. I have no memory of this incident-none. I vaguely remembered the guy (and silently thanked the good lord that I had actually had sex with this person because eeeeeewwww!), vaguely remembered the night to which he was referring, but have no recollection at all of slapping him (though for the record, even sober it wasn't but 20 minutes before I felt like slapping him again just because he was THAT annoying, so I am sure he deserved it), so I don't know how many of the people I see when I go back home have similar stories about me, stories that I just don't remember. Then there are those who changed your diapers, changed your kids' diapers, left town and moved back, or never left. There are those who know your parents, your grandparents, your sisters, and of course they all have to ask about everyone; no matter that I am now approaching forty, they really want to know if I still like cherry suckers and would I like to take a little something out to the kids. Those questions are the harmless ones; then there are those who are nosy, interfering busybodies who just want to stick the knife in while smiling sweetly all the while. These are the ones who oh-so-innocently ask things like, "Oh, you're still not married? And you have a two year old?" or "You look a lot better than you did last time I saw you, have you lost some weight?" I don't know, though; it didn't seem to bother me as much as it used to, because frankly, none of these people are even a blip on the radar in my "real" life. I didn't care for most of them when I did live there, so it doesn't really matter how many snarky little comments they make. Mostly it made me laugh.

Anyway, the weekend was really good. It was lovely to stay with my grandma; she adores all of us, of course, but especially the kids, and all four of them behaved beautifully. There were a few uncomfortable moments when my mom was being really mean to her "gentleman friend," Joe; I remember that kind of shit from the many times mom was married, and I always feel really awkward and embarrassed. Joe, however, is far too mellow (in my opinion) and just kind of lets things roll off his back. I guess he has to, or he wouldn't be able to tolerate my mom, so he gets major bonus points for not totally walking out on her. If it were me, and she was talking to me the way she did him, I would have gotten up and walked out.

My dad was good; we went to his house and visited before going out to lunch on Sunday, and he was thrilled to see all of the kids; he even willingly hugged Owen, which is really unusual in that he doesn't really "like" toddlers much. Once they get around age 5 or 6, he likes them, but in the past he has never had much to do with the kids when they were little; maybe he, too, is mellowing. It helped that all the kids were in their best behavior, though. Since there are so many of us, we had to take two cars to lunch, so Dad very proudly took two of them for a spin in his Jag; hilarious, really. Sam loved the car, so after lunch dad offered to give him a ride to grandma's house, which Sam thought was the best.

All in all, it was good to go, and I am glad I did. I wouldn't lie and say I got a lot of sleep-we stayed up Friday and Saturday WAY too late playing Pinochle-but I didn't have to cook or do laundry or clean or any of that stuff. Therefore, I feel more rested, although of course am still coughing like mad. Steve was actually thoughtful when we got home as well; I was in the midst of making dinner when he got there ( I had to chuckle a little; he missed us!), so without being asked he bathed Owen and got him ready for bed, and even listened to Sam practice the violin. Small things, for sure, but please keep in mind that Steve is not generally a thoughtful type of person, so I notice those little things.

And now it is Monday, and another busy week is in front of me. However, I am really, really glad that we were able to have a good, fairly restful weekend. I feel much more equipped to look at the week ahead and not just feel tired and discouraged. A day at a time, right?

Friday, October 24, 2008

BlogBlast for Education: Show Me The Money

So many things come to mind when asked to blog about education that I truly have been wracking my brain for weeks about this. Now here is the day, and I am no closer to having cohesive thoughts than I did when April first brought up the subject of having a second BlogBlast For Education.

What I keep coming back to, over and over, is the money. Our elementary school recently received a Federal Grant to serve fresh fruits and vegetables twice a week. Twice a week, the kids in one of our three area elementary schools gets to serve a fresh fruit or vegetable, along with a little pamphlet and fun workbook and some recipes for the featured item. While it is really, really neat that we got this grant, as I am almost 100% sure there are some children here who have never tasted a fresh strawberry, I am appalled that we have to apply for grants in order to provide this kind of food for our kids. Where is the money that it would take to provide healthy school meals-including fresh fruits and vegetable-for all of the kids in the entire district?

Public school is supposed to provide a free education for all children. Period. However, Public Education is not free. Simply to register my three school aged kids cost upward of $250, which does not include school supplies or clothing or any kind of extra-curricular activities; that was simply to get them in the door. In the nine weeks since school has begun, I have also been required to pay additional fees for certain classes for the high school kids, as well as send more money to help pay for the school-sanctioned field trips for Sam. The school supply list clearly states, "The purchase of school supplies is voluntary and is not required as a condition of enrollment. If you cannot afford to purchase school supplies, they will be provided for you." So, okay-voluntary. Except if you don't send your child with the requisite number of notebooks and crayons, you get notes sent home until you DO; that doesn't seem very voluntary to me. And who pays for the school supplies not provided for by the school? Other parents fill in some of the blank spots by bringing in extra items, but the majority of the supplies are not paid for by the school, but by the teachers themselves. Out of their own pockets.

The fact that our school are requiring extra money from parents AND teachers in order to provide the very basic necessities for the children is alarming; the lack of federal funding for education started with certain "non-essential" programs being cut, and this lack of funding has now trickled down to the very bottom of the barrel. Here where I live, in the last four years we have lost funding for Physical Education, Art, and Music at the Elementary level. Those cuts affect every student in the district. What used to be a thriving Talented and Gifted Program is now simply gone-no money. My Sam is in the Elementary Orchestra, but I have to pay for the rental of his violin (a violin provided by the school, but I have to pay). The list goes on and on.

I would understand and support this personal increase in cost were the school channeling all available funds toward increasing the students chances for success. However, in our tri-town area, there are four high schools, NONE of which measure up to the state standards. We have in effect the clause that allows us to switch our child to a different district with no penalty in order to provide them with a higher quality education, but since none of the schools are up to state standards, we don't have any options. Instead of using what little funds are available to improve classroom standards and reduce class sizes, the money is going toward making sure all students can pass the standardized achievement tests AND to make sure that those children whose parents can afford to have them on a sports team get the best coaches in the state.

I would like to have some answers as to how our nation can sanction a war that funnels billions of dollars a DAY to aid another country instead of securing our own nation's children the education that they need to not just succeed but survive. I would like to know when the "free education for all citizens" became "an education for anyone who can afford it." I would like to know what is going to happen to our kids when we set them loose in the world with no education beyond the very, very basics. Our children are going to be competing with people from other countries whose entire focus has been on education, and are going to come out on the bottom. What is it going to take for our government to realize that in order to make our nation once again the place it was intended to be, we are going to have to invest in our children like we never have before? I know some of the most brilliant, talented children-two of my four included-who are falling through the educational cracks based on the fact that they are not getting what they need from public school. Not because they are lazy or unmotivated, but because every door they open is blocked off by an invisible force field called "The Budget." When are we as parents going to stand up and hold our country accountable for the the fact that out country is failing the very commodity we should be making our first priority?

I don't have any answers, and God knows I can't do it on my own. I do try at home to make up for some of the things that the schools can't provide-I try to expose all of my kids to a variety of different cultures and lifestyles, we listen to a lot of different kinds of music, and the monthly arrival of The Smithsonian and National Geographic are eagerly awaited by all of us, even the baby. I try very hard to let my kids be around people who know more than I do about the workings of the world than I do, but I can't alone take the place of a good education. All I can do is my part.

For my part, I have signed up to be a caller to remind people to vote. I have signed petitions and sent email to our state offices crying out for my questions and concerns about education to be answered. I try to keep in the loop about what is happening at school, and I give as much support as I can to my children's teachers, whose hands are even more tied than mine are. I believe that we are powerful, and strong, and have what it takes to make changes, but people, we aren't going to get anything changed if we just sit back and talk about it. Like I said, I don't have the answers, but I am asking questions; don't you think if we all asked the right questions, someone would take us seriously?

All too soon, we are going to be dead and rotting in the ground, and what happens then? If WE don't do something now, the worst thing possible will happen, and that is nothing.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Dinner last night was, by the way, fabulous. Kimchi fried rice (and we made the kimchi from scratch, too, about a month ago) and some marinated pork tenderloin-mmmmmm. I ended up giving Owen his bath while Steve cooked, but he otherwise did everything else with regards to dinner and Owen-it was heavenly. He even brought over a movie to watch, but of course none of us made it through the whole thing. I took a hot bath myself and was cozied up in bed with the dogs by 10:15. Still didn't sleep well, but it was wonderful to just be in bed and warm and snuggled up. I am still not really feeling better, though, which I find odd-I have been on the antibiotics for four days now, and usually I start feeling a lot better within the first full 24 hours on them. My ribs hurt from coughing, my head hurts, and even though I have my little space heater AND my coat on, it is still chilly. April is SUCH a good friend to me that she got sick as well, just so I wouldn't be the only one ill; head on over and send her some get well wishes, too.

Eli has had to be at school early the past three mornings to work on a Power Point thing for one of his classes, so I have had to give him a ride. In fact, I just load up all the kids and we leave the house at 7:25; Hannah and Eli go to the same school, and Sam can walk to his school from Jacquie's, so he just rides there with me as well. It has been a really good week to have to leave early; it is still dark on the way TO the school, but as Sam and Owen and I are headed to J.'s, the sun is just beginning to come up, and the sky is quite literally gold around the edges. The trees with their smattering of leaves look black against the sky, and it feels very quiet and calm and absolutely stunning-the kinds of thing you see in pictures but say to yourself, "Yeah, right, talk about PhotoShopping!" It has actually been nice to leave the house a little early; it is strange, I know, but there is something so ordinary and everyday about taking the kids to school early that makes me feel like I am part of something, part of this league of mothers whose ranks I still often don't feel like I can enter into. I enjoy the illusions while it lasts; I know that I don't "fit in," for a variety of reasons, and 99% of the time I am totally fine with that. Things seem to be rolling along just fine for us, the kids are all basically well-behaved and do well in school and have just enough activities to keep them out of trouble, so it isn't a feeling of jealousy or comparison. However, I do relish those moments of simply being part of the crowd, one more mom in the line of moms waiting to drop their kids off and pulling forward until it is time to let mine out.

One thing I have noticed these last few mornings is that of all the cars I have been behind, mine is the only one in which the two older kids get out, lean over and kiss the baby and Sam goodbye, and all of us say "I love you." I know we can't be the only ones, I just don't see all of them, and also not very many high-schoolers would be caught DEAD hollering, "Love you mom, love you Owen, love you Sam" as they are walking away from the car. How did I get so lucky? Eli went to the Spook Alley last weekend and he called me when they got out to tell me how scary it was and to tell me he loved me-and he is 14. All I can think is that somewhere along the way, I have done a really good job at letting the kids know they are loved, and they will be able to be free and open with that with their own family-that is pretty damn neat.

I am considering calling in sick to class tonight; we get one excused absence, and I would love to just go ahead and let Jacquie keep Owen and Sam and Hannah and Eli and I could just curl up in our jammies and watch movies. Netflix (yes, they took me back!) will be arriving today, and I have coming, "Can't Buy Me Love," "Madagascar," and "Newsies," so I would love to just veg. It's an odd combination of movies, isn't it? YOU try picking movies that will please everyone-two teens, one of whom is a girl, a 9 year old, and a toddler-not easy. I am sure I won't actually call in, but it is nice to think about. The downside would be that I would then have to actually make dinner-hm.

Clearly I am just babbling now; 'nuff said.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Moment is Good

I seem to have had a lifting of the spirits since yesterday; I don't know if it is simply false euphoria brought about by drugs (meaning cough meds and decongestants and a nip or three of albuterol this morning), but I am feeling a little more lively today. I didn't sleep worth a damn, due to the coughing, and also this: Owen comes and climbs into bed with me at some point every night. This, I don't have a problem with. He has also learned how to take off his own pajamas and his wet diaper. This I also don't have a problem with-independence and all of that. What I DO object to, loudly, is him crawling into bed with me stark naked and putting his icy-cold bum right up against my back. I screeched, which scared HIM, which got both dogs up and suddenly deciding that they had to go pee at oh-dark-thirty in the 20 degree weather. Ever since CSG, I am a little leery about putting them out in the middle of the night, so of course have to arm myself with the pepper spray and a bat in order to be brave enough to open the door (I know, I know, it's been over three months, but still....), so I can just imagine how ridiculous I must have looked. Anyway, by time we all got settled again (with a diapers and warm, dry jammies for Owen), it was about 3:30, but man, that two hours from 3:30-5:30 was the best sleep I have gotten all week. There is something a little bit comforting and cozy about being in bed with a toddler who, despite all movements toward independence, just still wants his mommy in the middle of the night. The dogs can't just lay ON the bed, either, but have to be curled up right next to us, so it was toasty warm, and I drifted into a deep, restful sleep. Hey-two hours is two hours, right?

And I had forgotten that tonight is Wednesday-which means that it is Steve's turn to come over and bathe Owen and get him ready for and in bed. I also finagled him into cooking dinner by totally stroking his male ego (yes, just his ego) and asking him to make this fried rice and kimchi dish that I love but can't make nearly as well as he can. We made the kimchi about a month ago, he and I, and it is just now getting to the really sour stage where it is really, really yummy. And yes, I am perfectly capable of making it myself, but it will be really nice to have someone else do it. I have two coupons for a free package of Welch's Uncrustables (I am a BuzzAgent), so that is what the kids are getting for dinner. There will still be the other things to do, of course, but just the thought of not having to wrestle with Owen one night is freeing. He is good, extraordinarily so-but he is also two.

We are going to be headed to see my grandma this weekend. My dad and my mom also live there (though not together! They have been divorced since I was about Owen's age, I think), so we will do the rounds. I called my dad last night to let him know we were going to be in town, and he was really excited; it is odd, because dad doesn't generally GET excited-about anything. It appears that we are going to meet him for lunch on Saturday, and it will be good to see him. Also my grandma-she is getting old and can't hear and drives me insane a lot of the time, yet I love her so completely that it isn't even funny. We haven't seen her for a really long time, and while I know that we shouldn't spend the gas money to go over there, I am so worried-with her and my dad both-that they will die and we will have all of this wasted time between us. I am not close to my dad-but I love him, and though I tell him that every time I talk to him, my goal is to get him to say it one time and mean it. I don't mean that in an "I hate my dad" kind of way-he just isn't like that, never really has been. While we are there, duty dictates that we will have to go see my mom as well-and I don't really know how I feel about that, so am not going to really spend too much time dwelling on it. I love my mom, too-but we are in the down cycle, meaning that we haven't talked for months. Whenever we go through a cycle like this, I am never quite sure of the reception we will get; she will either be overly effusive and go out of her way to appear the be the world's best mom/grandma, or she will be pissy and sullen-hard to say.

To sort of balance the lifting of the spirits, though, is the rather depressing realization that I picked a really shitty time to start Weight Watchers. Come on-turkey and stuffing and pumpkin rolls and fudge and sweet potatoes? What the hell was I thinking?

All in all, though, life really is good. I know that my post yesterday, or even all my posts recently, haven't given a very good indication of that, but I am not an unhappy person. I am not unhappy with who I am, and while there are certainly things in my life that cause me pain and worry and fear, I ALSO know that there is much to be grateful for. I complain about the kids, or how hard it sometimes is, and that is true-but it doesn't negate all of the really GREAT things about it, either. So today, I am just living in the moment, and the moment is good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Exhaustion Schmemaustion

I went to the doc yesterday afternoon, and the verdict is in: I have bronchitis and exhaustion. Um, yeah. So I got some drugs for the bronchitis, and J. told me I need to take better care of myself or I am going to be really ill. Let's see....cut out the coffee so I can sleep better at night, cut down on evening activities, that kind of stuff.

And it makes sense-of course it does! But it's a vicious cycle, really, all of it is. I have absolutely no trouble falling asleep at night, I just don't get enough sleep. All the kids are in bed and hopefully asleep by 10:00 (unless it is a night like last night where Owen went to bed at 8:00 but fought me every step of the way and finally fell asleep at 9:30 after crying on and off for that hour and a half. And of course he wasn't crying for me, but for Daddy; nice, isn't it?), but then there are other things to be done so I can't just go right to bed. I have been getting up between 5-5:30, not by choice but because Owen is an early riser, and usually the puppy wakes me up to go pee at about 3:00 or so. So I really need my coffee in the morning to get me up and going, and honestly I don't think I would be able to make it through the day without it. I am not even willing to TRY, either. I don't DO a lot of stuff in the evenings-on Mondays and Fridays I have AA, which I need (and since I wasn't feeling well, I did not go Friday OR last night), on Thursdays we have the class, and the other nights the most I have to do is give one of the older kids a ride to their youth group stuff.

Anyway, I was a little mad at J. yesterday when she said that, because it's like, what? What the fuck am I supposed to do with that information? I can't do anything any differently than I am, you know? I feel like I am getting all of this pressure-well intended, of course, but pressure nonetheless-from all of these different areas in my life, and instead of helping me, it just makes me feel stressed out and inadequate.

And yes, tired. It makes me tired. I think that part of what made me mad about J. was that she is right. For some reason, though, placing a name to it-"exhaustion-" and hearing that it will make me sick (er), well, that somehow just makes it all the worse. Of course I am tired-aren't we ALL? But tell me what I am supposed to DO about it. REALLY. Give me a practical way to do this. Because believe me, I am out of ideas. My kids help me out a ton, they really do-but they are not the adults of the household, and they are NOT going to carry any more of the brunt than they already do. They are expected to do their chores and help out with the younger kids when I am in the middle of making dinner or whatever, but their real job, so to speak, is to do their homework and work hard at school. So after dinner and dishes comes the homework time; while they are doing their homework is my time with the younger boys-bathing, going over homework and listening to violin practice (if he sticks with it, I think Sam has some natural ability there), reading all know how it is. I am totally preaching to the choir here, I am aware of that.

The only option here is to keep going; I don't want to put a name to something I cannot do anything about, so I choose to think of it as just part of life. I have something to look forward to; on Thursday, Jacquie is going to keep Sam and Owen overnight, so I can just come home from class and perhaps go straight to bed, or shortly thereafter. I will also be able to sleep in, since I will have two less children and also won't have to make the trip to daycare. She is a good friend to me, this Jacquie, and while it might seem like a small thing to some, it is huge to me.

To take a real quick political detour here, my life is why I hate Sarah Palin so much. Not taking into account the fact that she is completely incapable of running our country when Mcfuck inevitably keels over, I hate the fact that she looks right into the camera and winks at me and says "I am just like you; just another soccer mom." I swear, that makes me fucking gag. Number One, I am not a soccer mom-I can't afford soccer, thanks much. And no, bitch, you are nothing like me. Take away your husband-and no, he isn't allowed to DIE, because then people give you sympathy and casseroles and encourage you to date people; he has to divorce you. Then take away the job and the house, because single mothers still make something like 60 cents to the dollar of their married counterparts and are fired much more often for poor attendance-because there is no Fair Pay/Paid Time off to care for ill children (and I am not talking about the Family Medical Leave Act-it only applies if you work in a company with 50 or more employees). Then apply for State Medical help, but kiss goodbye any chance you ever have of getting health insurance for yourself-but at least your kids will be covered. Even though you will then be accused of living off of the government and taking free handouts-you will be considered just another drain on society, like every other single "welfare" mother in the world. Last, but certainly not least, take away any kind of family or social support, because all too many of us don't have that safety net underneath us. Then, and only then, you will be like me-and I am certainly ill-equipped to run a country!

Argh. Should NOT have gone there. Still, it livened me up just a little, and I am grateful for that. At this point, I am willing to take what I can get. This morning via email, a buddy of mine told me I deserve a medal, and I have to disagree. On a political level, what I deserve is health care, paid sick leave, a support network in place that is there to catch me when I fall with no social stigma attached. On a personal level, I deserve someone who loves me enough to bring me soup and put my kids to bed for me so I can take care of myself. I deserve a the life I see other women have, other women who treat those precious commodities "husbands' with complete disregard and get to write out a check for the groceries without even thinking twice. I deserve all that, and more. This is what I am working toward-well, not the husband thing, as I have totally given that one up a long time ago-but the rest. And I have so many good things that they can't be forgotten, either, or go unacknowledged. I have great friends like C. and Jacquie and J. and April and M. and many others who are here to help prop me up-emotionally, physically, mentally. I have the Big Guy who seems to enjoy fucking with me regularly but also is always there, I have a job I truly enjoy. I am just-I am tired. Sick. Exhausted.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Stream of Consciousness

I started Weight Watchers today. Well, I didn't OFFICIALLY start, as I can't afford to actually join, but two of the women in the office have joined, and they are generously providing me with all of the information. I am doing the Points System, which basically means you can eat what you want, you just can't go over your allotted points for the day. I weighed in at Jacquie's this morning, as I don't even OWN a scale, and will weigh in on Mondays when I drop Owen off for daycare. It isn't quite as depressing as I thought it would be, but is depressing enough. I have 34.4 pounds to lose to get down to my ideal weight. Ugh. Still, I thought it was much worse, so there is a little beam of light there.

Speaking of depressing, I am in a slump lately. I am not moving to Seattle, guys, but it sure is nice to think about sometimes. However, my desire to move has little to do with actually wanting to move, it has to do with not wanting to be where I am. My life is not so great right now, but moving somewhere else isn't going to change any of that-I will just have to deal with the same things in a different location. No, what this discontent signifies to me is that there are things I need to be doing to make positive changes in my life. It isn't about where I live or how much money I do or don't have or whether or not I am in a relationship, but instead has to do with some very internal things. And even though it feels and sounds like a slump, I also know that these times are necessary for personal growth. For me anyway, these periods of restlessness and discontent are a sure sign from the Big Guy that I need to take a closer look at myself; they are quiet times of the heart and soul, and I have to go through them in order to grow just a little bit more. So instead of looking at the feelings as negatives, I am choosing today to use them as tools in order to get just a little further along in my personal journey.

And speaking of personal journeys, I wish the lady at the gas station this morning would be more aware that HER personal journey really fucks up everyone else's morning. The store is busy from 7:00-8:00 every.single.morning. People are stopping for gas or coffee or cigs or a godawful sausage egg whatever in order to get to work. So at least one morning a week this woman comes in on her personal journey toward wealth and takes for-fucking-ever to choose her damn lottery tickets. She brings in all the ones that she has scratched off in the preceding days, and has to find out how much they are worth before deciding whether or not she can afford to put gas in her car or buy more tickets. Usually buying more tickets wins. So yeah, whatever, I know she has a sickness (gambling addiction), and I should feel compassion for her but I don't. Instead, when she says things like, "Oh, I'm not in any hurry, I have all day," I want to reach over, slap her fat ass and tell her that I DON'T have all day.

Fat asses reminds me that the holidays are coming up. This is going to be the first year where Steve and I have to figure out how we are going to "share" Owen; the very prospect of this fills me with dread, because of course neither of us "wins." Any way you look at it, we both suffer, as does Owen and all three of the other kids. In addition to the effects this has on Owen, I also feel sad for myself. I have already had invitations to go to other places with people I really love, but it is also going to hurt terribly to not be able to be with Steve and his family this year. There is part of me that wants to just get on my knees and beg him to maintain the status quo through one more holiday season, but it really just postpones the inevitable, and I think I might as well get used to it now. I am angry that I have to basically lose everything in order for Steve to get what he wants, but then this is the nature of the game-we women lose far, far more than the men do. Time for me to just suck it up.

The holidays coming reminds me that I need to find out just how many points I have at various websites that I can redeem for presents. I have all the kids this year for Christmas, which means more $$ out. I try to save up various points and use them at this time of year, and it really does help quite a bit. Still never enough, but-well. You all know how THAT is. I got a rather funny question in my email this morning about how the Presidential Election is going to affect my holiday spending-it made me laugh, because I think it really strange that anyone would spend more based on the possibility of an economic upswing. No WONDER we are in such a national financial crisis!

I have to go to the doctor this afternoon because I am ill; coughing up some really gross chunky green shit, and I feel terrible. It hurts to breathe, and it hurts to move, and it basically hurts to simply sit here at my desk. Let's hope that this little venture doesn't cause an economic crisis for me.

With that, I will say in closing that it is definitely a Monday, right?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Making Sacrifices

These are the things I would have to give up.....

In order to have this.....

And yes, sometimes it would be worth it.

The Ex-FIL Passed

Day 10 in the guided Journal can be seen here.

It is a sad time at our house right now. My ex-husband called me yesterday to let me know that his dad passed away early yesterday morning. It sounds as if it was peaceful; he had only been out of the hospital for less than a day last week before having another stroke. He had been in the ICU for about a week, then, going in and out of consciousness and just hanging on. Finally, finally, he just went, quickly and quietly.

Hannah and Eli have never had to deal with the death of a loved one. They have known people who have died, of course, but have never experienced it first-hand, so their reactions are perhaps typical. Hannah is devastated, Eli is taciturn, and both are just trying to get through it as best as they know how. Eli was quiet all night, he did not want to talk to his dad or grandma or even me, but before bed he came up and wanted a hug. He held on for a really long time, this boy that is taller and bigger and far tougher than me, needing some kind of comfort that I really can't give. And then he very resolutely pulled away and went to bed. Hannah, on the other hand, wanted and needed to talk; to talk about her vast memories of her grandpa, to talk about what will happen next, and to be able to cry. She slept with me last night, just needing to have someone with her.

I would like to say the first day for them is going to be the hardest, but I don't know. There are some other things going on such as the fact that for whatever reasons, their dad is refusing to let them go to the memorial service. I am trying to be understanding, even generous, but it is proving to be very difficult for me. I offered to pay for half of the plane tickets, even, and God knows I can't afford THAT but I will find a way, because I think it is really important that they are there. Still, even with that offer on the table, he doesn't want to let them come. I don't get this, I really don't. I don't know what his rational is, I don't know if in the thick of things yesterday if he just wasn't thinking clearly, I don't know. I talked to him again last night and tried to make is clear that I think they should be there, and he is supposed to call me this morning and let me know. It doesn't sound like he is going to give in, though, and I am really angry with him about that.

Any way I look at it, even taking into account all the machinations of death and the high feelings involved, I can't understand why he wouldn't want the kids to be there. I don't think it is going to be good for the kids to be kept from something so important as the memorial service for their grandpa; he has been a huge part of their lives, even despite the divorce, and I think they deserve a chance to go, to grieve with the family, to get what comfort they can from it. To say goodbye. I really think it is vital to be able to listen to the inevitable stories and memories, to be able to cry with people who loved him as much as they did, to be PART of it. I can't give them that; I liked R. quite well, have nothing but good to say about him, but I am not grieving him as a person. The memories I have of him are 16 years old, and while of course it helps to an extent, it isn't what they need. I can't hold onto Hannah and cry with her, because from my emotional and physical distance from the situation, all I feel is grateful-grateful that he is gone, and that it was peaceful, grateful that the rest of the family can now begin to move forward instead of being stuck in the stasis of waiting for someone to die, grateful that the poor man is no longer going to be kept alive in body but certainly not in spirit.

So please, all, send up some thoughts and prayers that he will bend, and also that it will work out financially for them to go. Say a prayer for their family in Spokane, because no matter how elderly or ill the person was, it is never easy to lose someone you love. Pray for them to have strength and peace, and for the inevitable family squabbles to blow over and not turn into something ugly. Just-send up good thoughts for all of them, but especially for my Hannah and Eli.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Finally! Vacation Pictures!

Day One: We leave for vacation!

Eli retrieving his shoe from the top of the rest area shelter.

Kids at the Steam Engine Depot

The interior of the restored steam engine; those seats are actually really comfortable, and the wood through the cars is absolutely gorgeous. This was in Sumpter, OR

I had to bribe the kids with treats-this is at a roadside fruit seller just outside of Yakima-in order to get them to pose in front of the sign. They did not think it was nearly as cute as I did, as is indicated by the looks on their faces.

See that little tiny space on the bed to the left of Owen? Yeah. This is at Camille's house, and that is as much room as I had that first night there. Hannah sprawled all over the one side, Owen on the other.

The view from the top of the Space Needle.

Sam and the Guitar

Sam and the bronze ape at the Woodland Park Zoo.

Hannah and Owen. This was O's first carousel ride, and it was a hit. You can't see them, but the other boys-Eli, Sam, and C. were also on the carousel, but were looking much less decorous.

And these? The BLUE ANGELS. The flew over us while we on the harbor tour, and I couldn't have asked for a better shot.

No explanation needed, I am sure!

I don't normally post photos of myself because I am so self-conscious, but this is one of the only photos I actually have of Owen and I.

All of us in front of the the ORIGINAL Starbucks. I don't know who took the photo, and no, Caleb is not REALLY smoking. It is a fake cig he got at the magic shop.

Saltwater Park at dusk; this is where we met Shawn and the kids (he is the husband of my friend Angie who died) for a picnic dinner.

C. asked Owen if he wanted to get the dogs a cookie. We weren't really paying attention and turned around to find this....

Let's see...Caleb, Hannah, Sophie, Grace, Eli, Owen, Sam, Peter, and Daniel.

Caleb, Sam, Owen, Eli, and Hannah. This was the last trip downtown.

Sam, Hannah and Owen, eating lucnh at the park when we were a few hours from home. We had already dropped Eli off with his dad.

Owen; those are Sour Patch Kids stuck to his head, and he did that

Monday, October 13, 2008

No Apples For Me

Day Nine here.

I missed the window of opportunity so far as the apple picking went. We woke up to about 4 inches of snow early Saturday morning, and it did not abate throughout the day. When all was said and done, we had 17 inches of snow within 24 hours. Talk about crazy; I think in the one day we had as much snow here in the valley as we had all season last winter. This morning, it was 9 degrees when I got here to work-but it is supposed to be near 70 again by Friday. I hope that the snow and freeze didn't ruin the available apples, but I bet it did. I mean, the carrots that always freeze in my fridge because I can't get the temperature regulated right never taste or look good after they have thawed, so it stands to reason that the apples won't either. So that is a bummer, really.

It was really neat, though, to be all cozy at home and watch the snow fall. The two big boys spent the majority of the day outside, and even Owen got to go out for awhile-until the snow got so deep that he couldn't walk in it without doing a face-plant. I realized that we don't have a single item of winter clothing save a pair of snow pants for Sam from last year; poor kid was outside with three sweatshirts, socks on his hands, the snow pants, and his sister's boots on (Yesterday we came down to the office and used the Target gift card that someone who shall remain nameless sent me to order Owen and Sam both coats, boots, and hats/gloves-so THANK YOU, over and over again. They aren't undies or bras for me, but are instead even better). Hannah and Eli both ended up being gone on Saturday night, so Owen and Sam and I got to hang out. I love love love the feeling of frosty little faces pressed up against mine when they come in from playing in the snow, running a bubble bath and making hot chocolate while they are in there, I even love putting the towels in the dryer so when they get out they can wrap up in a warm towel, sit in front of the heater and drink hot chocolate (and FYI, the trick when you are making it with the Hershey's Unsweetened Powder is to actually add the salt the recipe calls for, in case anyone wonders. And vanilla. And a touch of cinnamon). I don't do it all of the time, because I certainly don't want them to start EXPECTING that kind of treatment, but on days like Saturday, it was necessary on a very fundamental level. So before bed we ate buttered toast and hot chocolate and the two boys went to bed smelling fresh and clean and toasty. I got the unexpected luxury, too, of having peace and quiet for THREE hours, which was amazing. I took my own bubble bath, I painted my toenails and slathered honeysuckle lotion all over, and it was absolutely wonderful. It was so nice to curl up in bed with the dogs in between clean sheets and read until 11:00-pure luxury.

I actually had to venture out of the house yesterday, which I had been trying to avoid doing. However, for some odd reason the kids were complaining about having to use baby wipes for toilet paper (yeah, yeah, I know....), we needed a few groceries, Hannah and I went to the store. In our pajamas. But what happened then was quite amazing. I oh-so-casually asked Hannah if the girl whose house shy had stayed at the night before had "hit on" her. See, she came over on Saturday and while she did not act at all inappropriately toward Hannah or cause any trouble (in fact, she seems nice enough all the way around), Eli told me that she goes around telling people that she is bi, and she sometimes has a girlfriend and sometimes has a boyfriend....anyway, same-sex relationships or how to deal with advances from someone of the same gender is not really something we have discussed, but Hannah and I were able to have a really great discussion about it yesterday. I also found out some things about this girl and her family that I didn't know, and while I won't go into detail, this girl B. is welcome to come to our house anytime but Hannah will definitely not be staying the night there again. How lucky I am, that Hanna was able to TALK to me, and be honest about what happened, and also express concerns about what she should do as a friend to this girl. She is so brave and strong, I can't begin to express that enough.

Last night Jacquie and I went into the Juvenile Jail to take in an AA meeting; it was-well. I don't have the words for that, either, not really. Not today, anyway. I will just say that there is a lot to process, my heart hurts for these kids, and I will definitely be going back. Once I get my head and heart around things, I might wrote about it, but I might not. It was good, though, and I am grateful a thousand times over for having been given the opportunity to go.