Take note of the work clothes, gloves, and garden clogs that we proudly wear, like we are some hard workers. Throw in a few rain storms, about 14 pounds of mud on our shoes that make us walk like Godzilla and you've got yourself a sweaty, muddy mess. We may not have looked or smelled good, but we finished what we came to do. And had some belly-bustin' laughs along the way.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Take note of the work clothes, gloves, and garden clogs that we proudly wear, like we are some hard workers. Throw in a few rain storms, about 14 pounds of mud on our shoes that make us walk like Godzilla and you've got yourself a sweaty, muddy mess. We may not have looked or smelled good, but we finished what we came to do. And had some belly-bustin' laughs along the way.
Friday, August 29, 2008
My first encounter with this fericious beast (bug) was in the driveway earlier in the summer. I came out one morning to find a hole about 1 inch in diameter in the ever-growing crack in the cement driveway. There was a huge mound of dirt that poured the contents of the hole out onto the cement, and a tell-tale trail of a slide mark that looked like a snake hole. Uh oh. I haven't seen a snake in years. Where did this guy come from? Do we even have snakes anymore? I think they went the way of empty lots and prairies in neighborhoods, as that was the last time I saw one. And I think I was about 10 years old at the time.
Anyway, I kind drove around this trail because I wanted the kids to see this hole--it was cool. I'm a great mom at this bug, reptile, furry, and finned world. I love to introduce them to the creepy/cool stuff that this earth has to offer. I am very rarely intimidated by this stuff, on the contrary, I love it!
When I came home later, Em was all in a tizzy cause some "giant bug" went into that hole. She was all excited, scared, and going on and on about how it was "huge" and "scary" and it nearly bit her. Yeah, right. So, as we are standing there, this absolutely HUGE flying wasp-like thing comes flying around us and pops into that hole! That BIG snake hole! Yikes! That was scary! Now what do we do?
Well, I did what other bug-loving human does--I got out the bug spray. As I stood there foaming the bajeepers out of the hole from the recommended 15 feet (like the can says), that big old beast comes crawling out of the hole like Terminator 2! He crawled hand over hand (I'm not sure what bug hands are called, sorry) and pulled that ginormous body out of the hole he had worked on for hours. His 3 inch body was absolutely covered in foam, but it did not seem to stop him. He kept crawling until he was free from the hole and flew away. Flew away! I stood there shooting at the damn thing from a distance and it made no difference. I turned to look at Em and found her peering at me from the inside of the back of the van parked in the garage. That's my girl. So, bravery isn't her strong point.
That silly bug kept coming back to his now foam-filled pad, waiting to see if I was going to change my mind about evicting him. After wasted hours and bug spray, I waited until dusk when most wasps return home, and I again blasted the evil beast. This time he finally died a slow painful, wiggly death. I was ashamed of myself, but I was proud I saved my family from such terror in the driveway.
In the morning when the foam cleared, I saw the most enormous wasp ever. He was literally 3 inches in length and very scary looking--even in death. We put Colin up to the task of identifying this thing, as he wasn't taking any part of coming outside for the battle with and resulting death of the tormentor. Like always, anything on the computer was fine for him and he went to work.
Three more wasps later (in different parts of the driveway), Colin discovers that these are Killer Cicada Wasps. They are harmless to humans and will do everything possible to avoid contact or conflict with us. They refuse to bite, even in the harshest of battles, preferring instead to fly away avoiding contact. Yep. There's me, blasting the thing to bits to save us. I'm not proud.
These buys are so large because they prey on cicadas. They catch them, stun them, and carry them to the giant hole called home. There they lay an egg on the cicada and prepare to die. Their offspring hatch, eat the cicada meal provided by mom, and start their little Killer Cicada Wasp lives happily. Ahhh, isn't that something. How cool. Now you can only imagine how absolutely huge and terrifying these bugs are to catch a cicada. Very scary.
Now that I have wiped out the Killer Cicada Wasp population on Terrace Lane, I feel guilty. Well, not too guilty--they were still kinda scary. I admire these things when I see them in someone else's driveway or buzzing along on the street--but not enough to welcome them back to my yard.
Click here for creepy/cool pics: http://saltthesandbox.org/cicada_hunt/CicadaKillers.htm
Thursday, August 28, 2008
As the days grow shorter, I notice that nature doesn't want to let go either. The katydids are clicking like fools. They are almost obnoxious in their quest for attention and I am actually going out with a flashlight to shoo them away from window sills. What is it about screens that draws those green goofs? And why do they have to sit on them and click like madmen? Do katydid chicks dig window ledges or why else are the boys trying to lure them there? Maybe they just look taller way up there on the sills, making them more attractive to future mates. Maybe it is just a more romantic view. Either way--they are down-right annoying when I'm trying to watch TV in the evening.
Have you noticed the cicadas singing late into the night as well? I know they are fighting the onset of cooler evenings, as that gives them a shorter window of opportunity to find that perfect gal. It's a kind of "closing time" for bugs--the chicks start looking better as the clock ticks in the background. Every one of them competing--who can sing the loudest? The din is deafening if you stop to actually listen to it. It's almost melancholy.
I've noticed the birds aren't singing as much in the wee hours and the robins aren't peeping around the yard as dusk approaches. They are tired of summer and aren't joyfully singing about it anymore. The goldfinches are scrambling--chirping and hopping from one coneflower head to the next, leaving behind a mess of hulls on the sidewalk for me to sweep up. I'm filling the thistle feeder almost hourly--I think they, too, are making the last charge into breeding before the day fades. But why do we have to sing about it so darn much?! Are they singing or protesting?
The butterflies' wings are looking haggard. I saw a swallowtail that had barely anything left of its wings, but kept on its quest for flowerheads. Monarchs are in their last stages of breeding, as the migration to Mexico starts in September. The milkweed that usually boasts loads of monarch eggs on the underside of its leaves, are now dried up and seeding. The little Admiral isn't buzzing our heads in the evening like it usually does. I'm not sure where they go for winter. Once the weather starts getting cooler, butterflies disappear without a lot of hoopla, unlike the birds.
So, I say a silent goodbye to my summer friends. It reminds me of that last night at the Falls. We share a last square dance, a bonfire, a few cocktails, and lots and lots of hugs, kisses, and tears. I mentally embrace the katydids, cicadas, birds, and butterflies. I sit with Grace in the yard in the evenings listening to summer's last songs. Goodbye, friends. See you next year.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I have been dealing with forgiveness lately. As I get older, I find forgiveness easier as I think I am mellowing. (Ok--quit chuckling.) No, really. I find things aren't worth hanging onto any longer and I spend some time thinking about what forgiveness means.
Take for example, friends. I have learned, most recently, to accept my friends for who they are--limits and all. I have realized that there are people in my life that have very strict limits. Friendship only goes so far with them and if I want them to remain in my life, I have to realize those limits. The other choice is not to have them in my life. I guess some are worth the limits, some are not. I am learning not to be hurt anymore by the less-than-total committment that they have with me. I understand that I am difficult to love, and so, the limits are set--and accepted. I don't need the weekly phone call just to chat anymore. You can be my friend that I see only once in the summer. That is okay. I accept that.
I have forgiveness on a family scale. I have forgiven faults of family members that I have struggled with. I understand who you are and where you came from. I accept that you have faults and drama in your life and it affects your relationships. Hey, me too! But, I also understand that forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgetfulness. Sometimes emotional closeness is not possible under certain circumstances, but it doesn't mean I don't forgive you or that I don't care about you. Forgiveness allows me the opportunity to still have you in my life, but it's okay that we aren't close. Even if you are family.
The worst kind of forgiveness is of myself. Always has been. There are stretches of time that I am angry with myself for the most mundane of things. Today, I completely forgot my dental appointment. Not a big deal for most people. I called a half hour late, apologized profusely, and rescheduled the appointment. Now I spend the rest of the day beating myself up for missing it. Sure I have a cazillion excuses, but mostly--I forgot.
I forgot the poor monarch chrysalis on the shelf last week too--the poor thing is lucky I caught the flutter of it's newly hatched wings out of the corner of my eye so that it could be set free. I was horrified at the thought I almost killed it!
I forgot to call my mother after she wished me a Happy Birthday on the answering machine last Friday. I called to apologize, but I still feel bad.
I forgot to water the plants outside and they all showed their disapproval by drying up and looking half-dead. I didn't feel too bad about that--I just grabbed 'em by the neck and tossed them out. So much for forgiveness.
I spent an afternoon beating myself up because I could not remember where I got $100 to deposit in the checking account. It took me weeks to figure it out and another week to let that go. I think I was more scared that I was losing my mind than anything.
As time goes by and I get older, I find myself less and less willing to forgive myself for forgetting. I berate myself for saying stupid insensitive things to people and not even realizing it. I find myself rehashing things I should have done or said. Forgiveness of myself is not my strong point. Once again, it is about acknowledgement and acceptance of fault. I am used to doing things right and accurately. I don't miss appointments or forget things. If I accept that I am getting forgetful, I admit that I am getting older, perhaps. That maybe I am human after all. I can make mistakes like everyone else. It is a tough thing for me to admit, but I am working on it.
Our community school has changed dramatically since we started 11 years ago. It is a big school, with 3 seperate buildings for primary, intermediate, and the middle school. Each had its own principal, staff, library, cafeteria, and gym that were joined by simple glass hallways. Each step up into the new school brought fresh change and excitement of something new. But over time, things got kind of blended, budgets got tighter, spending got more bizarre, and my enchantment with the system got lost.
I used to be a huge supporter, volunteer, and contributor. But as time wore on and the more I knew, the less enchanted I became and my role as a supporter has disappeared. I became the questioner and the voice of change--something they do not like. I could be on a first-name basis with school board members, superintendent, and staff, although they proceed with caution and use the formal "Mrs. Kautz" for a professional front. They all look at each other with that "Oh God. What now?" face when I show up at school board meetings. I don't care. I don't want their arms to get tired from patting themselves on their backs, so when some thorny issue raises its ugly head, I'm there to speak up for the children, safety, and lately, our minority status in the district as a white middle-class Christian.
I don't think the issues that I have raised in the past eleven years were all that bizarre, quite the contrary--they actually make the changes that I request. Not without a lot of huffing and puffing and stalling, but they do it. I never bring up an issue without offering a reasonable solution and I think they secretly hate that they know that I am right most of the time.
When voters were coming into the gym/lunchroom of our youngest population (kindergartners, first and second graders) to vote, I was horrified at the safety issue that proposed. Moving a voting place is like having the moon moved, but Cicero school districts have instilled teachers institute days on voting days, moving the children out of the buildings instead of the voters. It took me nearly 3 years of protesting and voicing my concern until they finally did something about it. I think it was the "mystery man" in the green car that was circling the schools that year. I mentioned that he could park the car and stroll right in on voting day. Maybe it was the senior citizens driving the opposite way through the drive, making it dangerous for kids to reach their parents cars that made them think. I don't know, but I'm glad that they changed their ways and have institute days on voting days.
We have also volunteered and put a lot of time into these schools--Joe and I have landscaped the front of the primary building. We have made donations and contributions over the years that are not included in fundraising. I logged hours as reading coach and volunteer. I endured numerous years on the PTA and helped in I don't know how many book fairs. I once brought a well-known quilter to have a hands-on experience of quilting to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders for the day--free of cost!
I am guilty of being passionate about my school and of trying to bring change to not-so-nice situations that I don't think administration is even aware of. I fought to eliminate the Santa's Workshop as there were increasing numbers of children who had no money to buy presents. It was sad to see their disappointed faces of not having money, and the teachers were handing over their own to spare them embarrasment.
I currently fight on eliminating Cinco de Mayo and Black History Month assemblies and suggest an Ethnic Celebration instead, where all ethnicities are honored. The superintendent actually admitted he visited 2 such celebrations in other districts to consider it. I truly hope this one passes in this time of such variety of cultures.
I suggest re-thinking their student-led conference idea that replaced the parent/child/teacher conferences of the days of old. This new plan has the homeroom teacher sit in on a faux conversation with you and your child talking about their report card. Hello?! I do this every day. Why do I need someone to witness it? I think this is silly as it only covers grades with a child and not other issues such as discipline, behavior, or social issues. So is Tim going to say in his conference "I'm a total disruption in class and I need to work on my behavior." I think not. So, I refuse each year, politely, and ask to meet with all of my child's teachers. I am met with a great deal of huffing and puffing and "We'll have to get back to you", but in the end, they have to agree as this is part of the requirement of the district to pick up your child's report card and it counts as the parent/school connection that the state requires. It is just plain silly, but most parents love it because they only have to spend 7 minutes at their child's school instead of the hour it used to be. Sad statement on parents today.
Tonight is just another example of frustration. The teachers do not want one-on-one meetings with the parents. They schedule one hour for Open House and sit everyone in the gym, introduce themselves on a microphone, and lecture you on the merits of coming to school regularly, being on time, and eating a good breakfast. I listen to school rules and descriptions of the curriculum from 1985. Afterwards, I can be met with more eye-rolling because I won't sign up for the stupid student-led conference. I get the glaring "Hello, Mrs. Kautz" from the principal. I get the stink-eye from the sour 6th grade teacher who I think should be fired. And sometimes, if I'm lucky, I see the woefully inadequate Asssistant Superintendent darting into a doorway, trying to avoid my contact.
So, I dress smartly, do my hair, touch up the lipstick and kill everyone with smiles and kindness. I am greeted by teachers who admire my stance, love my kids, and who appreciate what I'm trying to do. I am met by the social worker with a hug and a "Please, please run for school board". I chat with the parents who approach me to find out what is going on at the schools because they're "too busy" to keep up. And I make sure I personally say "hello" to everyone of my child's teachers. Including the gym teachers.
This is my year for laying low, though, and I have to remember that. Em is tied for Valedictorian of her class and I am afraid that they will not give it to her because of me. I hope the powers that be do not penalize my child for my actions in the final decision. I think it frustrates them that both of my kids were (and are) ideal students--polite, smart, attentive and participative in class, and respectful. I think it would be easier if they were a pain, that would give them satisfaction.
Whatever the outcome, I have two really, really great kids and they don't need a title for that. I am so proud of them for what they achieve and who they are. I wouldn't change for a minute that I have fought for them, their safety, and education.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Fain's huge love of her life is Mr. Ostler. Well, who doesn't love Jerry?! Geesh. He's probably the sweetest guy ever and I think half of the girls are trying to steal him away from Fain, if not his wife, Pat. Here's me sneaking in on their little moment together. Rats--she wouldn't let go of the poor man.
We put Jerry up to the task of filling Fain with some booze and schmoozing her down to the pavillion for her surprise birthday party and he didn't let us down. As Cheri said "Fain would follow Jerry anywhere!" And to think we spent weeks trying to figure out how to get her to the party!
Fain didn't approve of my blog describing her as a swell gal. Too much like an obituary she says. I told her I would have to trash her another time, but I have to come up with some dirt first. So far the only thing I've got is that she won't share Jerry Ostler with me. That and the fact that "Fain's an idiot" (another Cheri quote) because she didn't figure out the surprise party by the time it rolled around on Friday.
Well, so much for trying. They accommodated my pushiness by letting me in on another picture, but it wasn't the same. Damn. I may have to sneak in a trip to the Ostler Farm without telling her.
Friday, August 22, 2008
I'm not big into celebrating this day, not my cup of tea. I like to tease the kids that it is an "event", but other than that I don't care much for harping on it. Maybe because growing up it was always considered an inconvenience because it coincided with back-to-school time and there wasn't time or money to focus on such fluff. I like to go out to dinner and open a present, but I also like the people who send an email, note, or even a phone call to wish me well. It always amazes me that people remember my birthday and I wonder if I do the same for them. I hope so. I'm getting older now and I don't remember.
I spend the day humming "Today is my birthday. Happy Birthday to me." --rewording that song that somebody recorded a long time ago. That is about as obnoxious as it gets. Which for me, is pretty small.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
He loves this stuff--however boring it may be. He yells at the TV. He huffs and puffs at the scoring of gymnastics. He yells to the family that "Phelps is going for it!!"--like any of us care. He has it on the tube at every possible moment that he is home--he watches it when he makes dinner, when he's sitting around, or when he's supposed to be doing something productive around here. It is frightening, this obsession.
I used to like the Olympics. That was waaayy back when they had them only every 4 years. It was an event. The family would gather together to watch the athletes compete and Jim McKay would guide us through various different and new sports. The athletes were not professional back then, and they weren't all about scoring a profitable big endorsement deal after the games. It seemed to be about sport back in the day--or maybe I was too young and naive to see that. Now I cringe when the media is pushing how "handsome" Phelps is, pushing his marketability to the limits. That boy is one ugly dude and that is one giant spoonful of propaganda you are feeding us.
I love a sporting event--I spend many a night watching the White Sox run the bases (hopefully). Nary an evening goes by that I don't have the game on and I am lost if they are off or they are out west and the game doesn't start until 9:00. It isn't that I don't enjoy sports, it is the choice of sports that the networks choose to cover for my entertainment during the Olympics that turns me off. Once again, marketability and the almighty dollar are at work and I am force fed the "girlie" sports of ice skating and gymnastics. Who decided that women like that stuff?! Why do we have that as are only option in the evening schedule? Kill me. Bring me the different sports--I love boxing, curling, dressage, killer badminton, and synchronized swimming. I like to see new things and learn about their rules and scoring. I like people who are compassionate about less-than-popular sports, as they must truly be in it for love of the game. I haven't seen one fencing medalist on the box of Wheaties lately--or maybe I grabbed Captain Crunch that week.
The kids and I are counting the days until the closing ceremonies and we can go back to regularly scheduled programming. We don't care about who medaled today, unfortunately. We don't care about close races and unfair scoring. We don't care if the Chinese girls are actually only 9 years old. Poor Joe will be relieved of his patriotic duty of having to watch every single minute of the Olympics as possible, and actually live his life and talk to his family about something other than sports. His eyes can become normal sized again and he can go back to flipping through the channels during baseball time-outs. And I don't have to hear the word "Phelps" for at least another 10 minutes.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
So, my pally comes with me to fill the pond with some fresh water and feed the fish. He loves to march around me, checking on the status of dirt spots on the cement and small blobs of bird poop that he comes across. The hostas around the pond are in bloom with those butt-ugly stems of not-so-lovely flowers that I usually cut off, and there are big fat bumblebees humming about. Henry cannot help himself and he gives one big guy a swat with his paw. Big mistake. His new bee friend did not think he was being funny and gave him a nice shot to the tender part of his paw with a stinger. Ooooh, that smarted. I saw the little guy wince. Henry, I mean--not the bee. He was long gone after that confrontation.
Hen stopped, licked the offending pink spot and limped, sorely back into the house. Now it really hurt. He hobbled about the family room, meowing softly. Next, Em found him in the living room, on the ottoman, growling at himself for the stupidy of whacking a bee. Either that or it just hurt like the dickens. He didn't learn, as he did the same stupid thing almost the same time last year.
The only thing you can do for a cat with a bee sting is to remove the stinger and let him be. Henry is not the best patient in the best of circumstances, and I sure wasn't looking forward to finding or removing the stinger. We held him tight and looked, but I couldn't find the bee sting or the stinger. I just know his right paw hurt badly and his tail was swishing like a tiger's. I wasn't about to lose and eye over his bee sting, so I held an ice cube on his pink pads until he'd had enough. When his eyes got narrow and his ears went back, I gently set him down and got the heck out of there. He proceded to crawl under the couch and suffer in silence down there.
We did all we could for the little guy--we watched for signs of allergic reaction like swelling, shortness of breath, or odd behavior. I knew he wasn't allergic after last year's event, but we weren't taking chances. We gave him cool water in his favorite bowl and put a couple of yummy treats under the couch. We peeked every few minutes and he just looked at us like a couple of loonies. I think he just wanted to be left alone to die--or just suffer quietly under the couch. I guess I can't blame him. He was tired of my consoling "I hate bees, too" talk and the gentle reprimand not to swat at them anymore. I know he was thinking "Just get the hell out of here" and sending me the message with his glaring eyes.
Poor Hen. Tough lessen on tender pink paws.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
The economy has spawned enough garbage-pickers to start a whole chain of Sanford & Sons. I swear they are hiding behind bushes, just waiting to see what people are putting out in their garbage that they can salvage. I'm not knocking them, I'm actually grateful that someone takes the time to dig through whatever I'm not willing to, to save the landfills from unnecessary overload. It's great that they recycle, re-sell, or just keep for treasure--either way, I'm glad someone can use my garbage/junk. They just crack me up in the meantime.
I love the perusing of the hood, slowly examining each can or stack of crap in front of houses. There are the ususal who look for cans or newspapers, and I try to stack that on top so they don't have to dig too deep through the nasties to get their prize. There are the tried and true that have been around for years--scrap metal guy, appliance guy, electronic guy, etc. But now, there is an all out war for their claimed territories and it pretty much is "you snooze, you lose". It is a regular traffic jam out there fighting for my trash.
I was posting on the blog the other morning, enjoying the solitude and my 7th cup of coffee when I hear the car pull up. There is a whole procedure which includes the slow drive-by, eyeing of the stack, the gaze out the window to see if anybody is around, the slow opening of the car door, the approach, the archeologist "dig", and finally the claiming of treasure, the dumping of my garbage into the back of their car. It is a hoot to watch them. I'm standing there behind the blinds, giggling, drinking my coffee, and humming the theme from Sanford & Son in my mind. The kids don't think it as funny as me as they don't even know what Sanford & Son is. The joke is lost on them.
I have a special favorite picker that I look for on garbage day. It is Sanford & Daughter, as it is an old guy about a million years old and his fat daughter that fight all the way down the street. They have this puny car that holds a whole lot less than they think it should. He sits in the passenger seat pointing out treasure and directs the babe to where he thinks they should go. Apparently she is sick of his directions and loudly debates every direction he gives. You can hear them coming for 2 blocks. They bicker, they yell, they fight over every treasure they find. They fight over the merits of such object, they fight over the money they could get for it, and my favorite--they fight over whether or not they can get it into the car. There was quite a scene last spring over my neighor's loveseat that wouldn't fit into the back. There was swearing and shoving, pushing and heaving, and finally, the loveseat ended backside up, thrown on the curb in digust, cushions left on top as a footnote of dispair. It was all very dramatic and funny to watch. Never was Sanford & Son as good on TV as it is on the curb. Redd Fox has nothing on these two.
Our garbage this week was exactly that--garbage. We carefully taped together sheets of broken, yellowed vinyl siding with nary a thought that someone could find this useful. There was a full blown traffic jam on Terrace Lane on Wednesday morning for all of the gawkers and investigators. I think we were even on the traffic report on WGN. I guess everyone thought it was metal siding--when was the last time you saw that?! It was the motherload! It was heaven! It was going to be big time cash! But alas, it was not to be. Just plain yucky vinyl that is of no use to anyone. Vinyl with a billion holes in it yet. They picked through it. They examined it. They threw it down in digust. Except for one man--he took the faded black vinyl shutters. He carefully pulled them out of the can, rearranged the rest of the garbage around it, and shoved those rickety things into the back of his vehicle. What he was going to do with those was beyond me.
I wished him luck and was relieved that somebody found something useful in all of that crud. But now I felt guilty that I didn't wipe off the 35 years of spider eggs off the back. I can only imagine what treasure he'll find in a week or two in the back of his car.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I took the kids to the pediatrician on Monday night. The tried and true, Dr. Feinstein, retired last year and handed his practice off to a nice young fellow. This was our first real visit with the new doctor as last year was only an introduction. I was apprehensive, as Dr. Feinstein had been there for me the last 16 years and I grew to trust him completely.
Dr. Feinstein was a seasoned sage of a doctor. He was married for a second time and they had this yours-mine-and-ours kind of situation and I think between them, they had something like 200 kids or something. He was calm and informative. He was patient and understanding. Nothing rattled the guy, as he had seen it all. When I freaked out because my newborn didn't poop for 3 days, he didn't laugh at me. He looked very serious as I explained that something was supposed to come out. Wasn't it?! He took the baby, weighed him and advised that I continue to breastfeed and wait. He's new after all. It may take a day or two for something serious to come out. I bet they totally cracked up when I called the next morning, gleeful that I finally had a soiled diaper to change! They were kind and didn't laugh in my face or giggle on the phone.
Dr. Feinstein had been there from day one. He introduced himself at the hospital and told me what a beautiful baby I had. He encouraged me in those new mommy days and always patiently listened to my worries and concerns. Yes, he will poop. No, cracked and bleeding breasts will not harm the baby. No, don't EVER use a walker. Yes, it is okay that he sleeps on his back. No, it is not funny that you claim to need a cocktail after the screaming baby visit to the doctor. He was soft with his opinions and always, always trusted mother's instinct. He was exactly what I needed as a nervous mom--a calm voice and demeanor. Even though the kids are now 16 and 13 and really don't need a pediatrician per se, I was confident Dr. Feinstein would choose someone similiar to replace him.
I was wrong.
Dr. Young (I named him that because he was, well.....young) came bounding into the exam room. There we were, the three of us, crammed into this little room with Lil' Tykes toys taking over corner. Back in the day, the kids thought this was grand, but now, we hardly fit for the mear size of these things. Maybe it was us who outgrew the room, and as I look back, maybe that's the sign to move on.
He was friendly and bubbly enough. He did the usual nose-checking, blood-pressure taking, and lung-hearing that they usually do. We had the chat about height and weight and "what sport are you in?" kinds of questions. And then it started the downward slide. "What kind of car did you get for your 16th birthday?" What?! Where did that come from? I'm doing this finger across the neck thing that is signalling "knock it off, dude" but he continues. "Didn't you get a car?!" Like I'm this loser mom. Thank you very much, doctor--I'm going to kill you now. I try to explain myself because I don't think 16 year-olds should be given a car. Might as well hand them a gun, is my theory. I know, I'm out of it, but too bad. That's what I believe, as uncool as that may be.
"When the college fund is overflowing and when he gets a job to pay for it, he is more than welcome to get a car" is my reply. That's not enough for my friend, he keeps going. "Well, aren't you tired of driving him everywhere?" is his smarty-aleck response. I'm thinking about physically hurting him now. "And you know, they have to have a few accidents under their belt. That's what teenagers do." Are you kidding me?! Where did he come from?! What the hell is he thinking?! I'm absolutely mortified and if you know me, you know that it showed on my face. Should I buy him cigarettes and beer too?! That's what I was half expecting to come out of his mouth next.
"So, what are your kids' ages?" I ask. Dude cannot be serious. I know that he has never rode white-knuckled with a teenage son. There is no way he has spent hours upon hours screaming at his kid to avoid the cement pylons on the highway. He has not experienced the fear of imminent death at the hands of your child at the wheel. He needs to live a little before he starts passing off "cool" suggestions to parents of teenage kids.
"My daughter is 3, " he says proudly, "and we are expecting a son anyday now." Sheesh. Dude isn't even a "parent" yet--it doesn't even count until you have at least two. He hasn't begun to live. He cannot imagine what is ahead--things like kids fighting in the backseat while you drive, and the littlest one doesn't even speak yet! He hasn't had a full rebellion over what is to eat for dinner. Nobody is fighting for your attention at the end of a busy day when you would rather watch TV than read 5 books to each child individually in their bed. He hasn't experienced the fun when you ask what they want to do on the weekend and they both yell something different and you are forced to side with one child, making the other child infuriated. I could go on and on, but the truth is, homeboy doesn't know what the hell he is talking about.
The visit was amicable, but it didn't end there. We went round and round about when Em should get her Guardasil shot. "You know, Mom, girls become sexually active at 14 now, as much as you don't want to hear that." Emma is mortified at this comment. She hasn't really liked any boy seriously yet, more or less thought about having sex with one and she is 13. I imagine she is got a long way to go in a short time as 14 is right around the corner.
We settled on that both kids needed meningitis shots and Em needed a tetanus too. He nearly fell off his chair when I told him that I would go to the clinic for them. "Why on earth would you go to the clinic?!" he was clearly disgusted at the thought. "Because the shots are $5 instead of your $15 a piece." was my reply. So, there was a huge discussion on the benefits of his office versus the clinic that he had never visited. He didn't remember the day when my children were babies and there were no well-baby visits covered by insurance. Immunizations were not covered as well, and quite frankly, the $1 charge at the township clinic sounded good to me. I continued to go there because it was closer, quicker, and a lot cheaper than pediatrician. I could never understand why more people didn't take advantage of this as your taxes pay for these benefits. It is a clean, modern building and you can walk right in, no appointment necessary, with a friendly nurse just waiting for you. It worked for me in the past, and it works for me now as Guardasil is over $200 for the series of 3 shots. I couldn't believe that he wouldn't encourage his patients to take advantage of such opportunity. I guess the bottom line is his pocket. Why else would he deem it unfathomable?
So, I was friendly, thanked him, and said my good-byes. My face must have said it all as Joe asked what happened when we came out. Dr. Young was pleasant enough. He seemed knowledgeable and efficient enough during the exam. I didn't question his abilities, just his opinions. He was too green as far as I was concerned. It isn't good when I was more seasoned than he, and maybe it is time to move on. I need someone I can lean on, someone who knows more about this kid stuff than I. Someone who doesn't get ruffled or swayed by what's cool. Someone who will back me up or at least mediate when we have issues or concerns with the teenage kid. Yeah, Colin thought he was cool, but I didn't. And he wanted me to part with my money waaayyy too much.
I guess I have to let go of the pediatrician thing now. It's hard enough knowing that my school supply shopping is quickly coming to an end, and now this. I guess it is time to move on to a family doctor instead of the "baby doctor" when they start suggesting your kid should have a car. Maybe he is the wise one after all. Maybe he was giving me the hint it was time to let go. I seem to be getting these subtle hints more and more these days and I'm not sure I like it. As I think about it, was it my dollars he wanted me to part with? Or my babies?
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
What is it about Joe--or should I say men? He doesn't see that the paint is peeling or that the driveway needs to be replaced. He doesn't notice that the garden is overcome with weeds or that the birdfeeder needs to be cleaned. He ambles about, peacefully oblivious to neglected parts of our house and yard. I call them the "Fatima Projects"--they appear only to me. It is only when the screen falls off into his hand that he notices that the latches need to be repaired. And then, it entails huge drama and lots of huffing and puffing about his imminent project that needs to be addressed.
Me? I can spot things that need to be done in my sleep. This house is an endless stream of repairs and updates that we will never complete in my lifetime. The driveway is buckling, the shed is ratty, the windows are old, and the garage floor--well, that is just a daily irritant. There isn't enough time or money to update the kitchen as college is directly in my headlights. I have to settle for more simple, less expensive updates so that we don't live like slumlords. This weekend was no different--we were tackling siding the front of the house.
Five years ago we put on an addition off the back of the house, which also included updating the front entrance as well. The architect added a cute little front entrance so that our place didn't look exactly like all the other houses on the street. To save a few bucks on the project, Joe and I did as much of the work as we could physically handle and the contractor would allow us to do without screwing with his schedule. We laid the wood floor, painted the walls, stained the wood trim, chipped mortar off used bricks so that we could use them again. We peeled old brick from the outside of the house, we dug up landscaping, and we sided the new gables in the back and front. I was clean-up crew and beer provider for the sub-contractors. I was busy-body extraordinare and dug my nose into every project, taking pictures for future reference. We even dug the new pond to add to the ambiance! We are pretty handy and are used to some difficult home improvement projects, so I was in hog heaven.
By the time the addition was completed, we were fried. Every part of our house was dirty and drywall-dust covered. It was six weeks of clean-up hell and I had the swollen knee to show for it. So, when it came to doing some of the finishing touches like replacing the front door and re-siding the front, we bailed. We were sick of doing anything around here and the yellowing vinyl would just have to wait. And wait it did. Until this weekend.
We headed off the Menards, Lowe's, and Home Depot. Siding is very inexpensive and it drives me nuts to pay someone else to do the job. What would have cost me $1000 to have done cost me less than $200 to purchase. Oh, and the cost of losing my whole weekend to 70 feet of vinyl siding.
Home improvements fall into two categories: 1) Easier and cheaper to do than expected and 2) Harder and more expensive to do than expected. This one fell somewhere in between. It was cheap to do financially, but it was hard on my body. Maybe I'm getting older, but criminy, did the previous owners have to use so many nails?!!
We pulled and pulled on the old siding. We used hammers and crow bars to pry and pick at every single of the cazillion nails that they used to install the exisiting vinyl. I'm not sure why you would need five nails in a 1 1/2 foot span, but they did. I guess I could say that I have never lost any siding in the various wind storms that we have had in the past, but I could also say it was a little overkill. I was afraid that if I pulled one more nail, the whole house would collapse like the one on the weekend news. (Joe and I laid in bed, stiffly, laughing at the sight of it.) The dude that owned this house before us was an engineer, and god bless him, everything--EVERYTHING is jerry-rigged. The siding was no different. I did not have pleasant things to say about him come Sunday night.
So, the project that cost me less than $200 nearly killed us. It took us two solid days to complete the front of our little bitty house. We could hardly move for the amount of prying and pulling that we had to do. I think it took us about 2 hours to measure, cut, and install the new stuff--it was getting the old stuff off that drove us to the brink of despair. We didn't even attempt to take off the corner piece as that was really rigged. I was afraid of what we would find, so we left that piece and the gutter covered anyway--who cares. We had to cut our losses on that one.
It looks lovely. The new white vinyl matches the new gables. The mailman is actually looking forward to putting mail in the new mailbox as the old one required a tetanus shot to touch. The flower pots have been repainted and the light is going under renovation as well. We spiffed the old place up and it looks good for now. Until I get another great idea.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Our aggravating flooding garage gave me a little wink this morning and smiled that I'm-still-here-to-annoy you smile. I don't know what fool concrete guy decided to pour the concrete for the garage floor to drain towards the house door, but they did. So now, whenever the car is wet and drains water, snow, ice, etc. , it all congregates in a huge deep puddle smack dab in front of the entrance to my house from inside the garage. This has been very convenient for the last 18 years since we moved in. It's one of those subtle, yet always there to annoy you kind of things.
We've squeegeed. We've shop-vac'ed. We've swept. It keeps coming back like a wetland. I half expect to find fish and waterfowl to appear some day. We finally succumbed to drilling 2 very deep holes into the concrete to drain the water back to the soil underneath the floor, but that doesn't seem to work very well. It may be time for more drastic measures--either a 6 inch hole in the concrete or a whole new garage floor.
This morning I came out to a ring of dirt circling one of the holes, and a militia of ants marching around their proud establishment like it was a military parade. I swear there were formations. Maybe a little ant band playing too--just to really annoy me. Ugh. I hate this house.
So, things are not swell. I absolutely lost my cool yesterday on some fool blacktop guy screaming at me. It's a long story and one that is not particularly good, but I am feeling like Worst Mom of the Universe as I totally lost it in front of my kid. This wasn't the first time, and it definitely won't be the last, but it doesn't help my self-esteem today. Yes, I can tell myself that it was a good example of not taking crud from anyone or sticking up for myself to some condescending man, but why don't I feel better? My last button was pushed and I said something I have never said, or thought of saying before. I was mortified of what came out of my mouth, but I tried to justify it by saying that I didn't swear at him--which is my usual forte. Colin said that I was "moving up in a downward fashion". Not good.
I'll be hanging low today. I'm going to absolve my sins by helping out at the band uniform fitting day. I'll be cordial and nice. I'll be accomodating and helpful. I'll be watchful of my words and behave myself. Nobody will ever suspect that I was evil and spewed hateful words yesterday to a jerky stranger.
But I will also secretly kill every single one of those damn ants.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
She approaches slowly, tentatively, almost like she is used to being shunned. She flies in to the lines above head and watches the action for what seems like hours. She gets up her nerve and flies down to the shed, where she perches like a weather vane--proud and tall. She grooms. She strains her neck to see what is going on. And she gets ready for her big approach to the feeder. Once there, all the little guys scoot out of the way, as there isn't enough room for many other than Bernice--she is a large gal.
Bernice is a typical gray pigeon. If you look closely, she wears a ring of irridescient rainbow colored feathers around her neck that reflect the sunshine. She wears some funky orangey-red socks and her eyes mystically match her footwear. She is awkward, but endearing. She looks at me, crooked like, when I talk to her. She is getting used to us now, and doesn't fly away when we do our usual puttering around the yard. She even stayed with us through a whole dinner outside the other night--Disney's got nothing on us when it comes to dinner shows.
I'm not sure why Bernice likes us so much, as food is plentiful this time of year. Maybe she likes the welcome she gets here--"Hey! Bernice!" is often heard loudly. Henry chatters away from his window perch when she comes, and everyone stops to look at her when she sits on the shed. Em's friend, Caroline, thought she was great, but that doesn't surprise me, Caroline likes all the funny stuff we do.
Bernice is part of the family now. She made me laugh when we were down about Freddy. She watched from the telephone pole as we scooped her lifeless body out of the water. She stayed for the burial and kind of hung out for the rest of the evening. It was like she was home, with family. I was glad she was there.
Welcome, Bernice. Welcome to this weird, wacky conglomeration of frogs, fish, tadpoles, snails, cats, caterpillars, and god-knows-what-else that we call family.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
After my hike in the woods in Kentucky and my little pally here, I've found some subtle message of peace with my new friends. They don't appear all that often, and when they do, it is sudden and quick. They don't linger and watch you. They are out of there, with better things to do than visit with you or they don't have much value in humans. Either way, I am honored when I catch a glimpse of my newfound pals. They are soft and sweet, don't make much noise, and if you blink, they are gone. Kind of like peace I guess. In our crazy everyday lives, it is easy to get caught up in all things noisy and demanding and there isn't much time to just sit and be still. My chipmunks remind me that the only way to see them (and peace) is to do just that.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
~ Chief Tecumseh (Crouching Tiger) Shawnee Nation 1768-1813 ~
Freddy is not doing well today. She has encountered an infection and it does not seem to be clearing up in spite of medication and numerous salt baths. She has stopped eating and is just slowly drifting today, warming her body in the sunlight. I fear she will not make it to tomorrow. The other fish have distanced themselves and don't swim with her, a subtle sign that she is very sick. Emma and I sat with her this morning, encouraging her to either get well soon or go to the light. Either is better than this in-between stage of not knowing.
They say that animals, and especially fish, don't feel pain--but I'm not convinced. She does not look in pain, but when I scoop her up she does not fight me anymore. She fusses only if I touch her wound, and I try not to disturb her if I don't have to. It is hard, you know, to save fish. I am only comforted by the knowledge that the experts at the Aquarium cannot do any better with fish than I. Fish are difficult as they only show signs of distress when they are usually too far gone to save. I have done all that I can, and I have to just wait now, for whatever will happen. Although I already know what is going to happen.
It has been a hard year with the pond. Too much death for me. I lost 5 or 6 frogs in the spring, 2 more to a weird frog fungus that led to very slow agonizing deaths, and I had 2 frogs eaten by, I believe, a cat. More have gone missing and 1 went the Flat Stanley route--dying and drying up in the far garden. I'm tired of crying and feeling bad. Losing Freddy is not easily accepted. Facing the reality that I cannot control this or make it better is difficult at best.
On a more positive note, there are zillions of baby fish just starting their little lives as we speak. Even the minnows have joined the population explosion this year, laying eggs on the bottom of the fake turtle that floats happily in the pond. If you look really closely, you can see the new lives swimming inside their clear bubble homes, and it reminds me of "Finding Nemo". Such joy! Such sadness! All in one little 8 X 8 world.
As I write, Freddy is singing her noble death song. She floats in the warm sunshine, breathing heavy to keep alive. She is a hero going home. Home to a deep pond of warm waters and plenty of green delicious algae. Home of minnows, Big Fish, Dottie, Speckle, and all of my frogs that went before her. Small tragedy on a big world scale, but huge in our small pond. I will miss her dearly.