Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pre Murder Syndrome

Just a little FYI to my sistas suffering from PMS. When you reach your thirtysomethings, beware.  'The Change' from pre-menstrual to pre-murder will sneak up on you.

In high school PMS presented itself as a general bad mood that lasted  a few days and ended with cramps that put me in the fetal position. 45 months of pregnancy, 30 months of nursing and at least 162 lady cycles later, something changed.

I woke up one morning and just didn't feel like getting out of bed. Coffee had lost its punch, I decided work could be put off til tomorrow. I felt subdued with no urgency to accomplish the slightest task. In groups I started to withdraw. I believed it was because I was just tired or absorbed in my profound thoughts. The next few days I would grow more on edge. I'd notice how much everyone in the world was so husband, kids, small appliances. If I caught anybody engaged in a pet peeve I passive-aggressively deemed our relationship over. Then I started to bloat, become narcoleptic and crave cake batter. I didn't want to cook so I'd defer to fast food, willfully clogging my family's arteries for dinner. When I scanned the house I pessimistically noticed everything that needed to be done; the cabinets coming unhinged, the food avalanche on the pantry floor, the tsunami of dirty laundry consuming the clean clothes, the baby quilt I started for Audrey six years ago.  Month after month I was demoralized by the indisputable evidence that I'd failed at being a mediocre mom and housewife. 

Then, I'd snap. 

"Stop burning a hole through me with your laser beam star trek vision!...Everyone get out. Get OUT! GET OUT!!!... Fine, If you're not gonna clean, I'm going to my room and YOU can entertain the company" (said to husband while he was cooking dinner).  Or, I'd cry.  It could be at anything...the news, cleaning the litter box, email spam (I don't cry so it's a reliable sign I've cracked).

At some point I'd start muttering substitute expletives and become completely convinced my marriage was a jail sentence, my kids were chaos incarnate, my house was a ramshackle, my clothes were rags, my face was a mountain range and I sing like a kazoo. But  I managed to push through it. Sometimes I'd go to the neighbors and drink her cokes. Sometimes I'd have coffee and eat warm brownie dough, like I am doing now.

But then I'd wake up with a telltale headache and  know labor like cramps would be upon me within 24 hours followed by cursed Aunt Flo.  And I'd remember, Oh silly, you were  just having hormones!

This pattern continued for at least a year before I caught on. 
 I finally went to the doctor.  I begged for a cocktail of anti depressants, Vicodin, and Tetracycline. Unfortunately he diagnosed me as 'normal' and suggested I get back on the pill to regulate things. So I did. It might have resolved my issues but I kept forgetting to take them which threw my cycle into another tailspin. I'm just not the regimented type.                 

It's been about four years since the new developments in my cycle surfaced and I've learned to manage them on my own. I'll warn my family if I start to notice the symptoms.  Though the signs were unfamiliar and not easy for me to detect at first, I still don't usually notice the shift until I've insulted someone and they call me out.  If its too late, I  just apologize, a lot.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don't Knock, No One Else Does

This post was originally written in August 2010. I've since updated it and felt impressed to enlighten you.

Common sense drives the bus of what I do no matter how bad my little feelers bleed all over the steering wheel. Virtually nothing escapes my analytical filters before they reach my heart. Weave my judicious rationale through the tapestry of my life and you will begin to see how I arrive at making choices that don't always appear, um, rational.
For example, my newest revaluation that communal living is the grandest, most fantabulous practical idea. Ever. 

Allow me to expound on a couple of my other major life choices so I may convince you: I married Jeff.  Of course I loved him, he's athletic, good looking, tan and a super nice guy...yadayadayada. Said virtues being standard issue, it was actually his steady job, family values, and o.c.d. work ethic that charmed me into a virtual arranged marriage less than 150 days after we met. Today, it's his killer back rubs and brawny super-human ability to scrub toilets and clean up kid vomit that keeps me wedded.

Fast forward seven years and two more kids later, I became a Realtor. It began as a short term gig. I mean, I had dreams, I was an Artiest. I had journals to publish, grammy's to win, more babies to make! Originally I had assisted my mom at the Real Estate agency to make a few extra bucks.  After a couple months I learned how to do her job.  So, I got my own license! We needed the money, I was good at schmoozing and arguing, it seemed like the thing to do. Poof, another seven years later and I am still working this job I never dreamt of. Literally.  *Sigh*  Well, it pays the bills.  Or so I thought it did until the housing market got diarrhea.  Now it's 2011 and the economy's still in the toilet, sooo I am basically unemployed. Which  got me thinking about this communal living thing. Then, I saw a TV show on plural marriages and I was SOLD. 
Stay with me. 

In our house there are no extra wives or additional husbands but we do have revolving door policy that begets a steady stream of company at any god-given moment.  Visitors are constant and our hospitality protocol is something outside folk just don't quite get. It is what it is though and I love that people like to hang with us. I learned a long time ago that if you feed your company they will come back! And come back they did. But times got lean and we were trying to get out of debt. Money quit growing on trees when the houses quit selling and we were feeling the pinch.  We needed to do something.

It was time I had to face my budget, or lack thereof, if we wanted to keep feeding all these people. But to have a budget meant we needed to figure out how much of our (my husbands) income should be allocated for food, utilities and debts. This forced me to reveal our my food spending habits. Not the ideal or fabricated spending plan in my head, but the uncensored budget-- the dirty, fat and carb laden truth of what I'd blindly on purpose spent two-weeks wages on every month.
That's right, two-weeks!  I poured over three random bank statements and added up totals from every grocery store, restaurant and drive-thru we invested in. A disappointment of Costco size proportions was unveiled.

I discovered that we didn't generate enough
income to subsidize our open soup kitchen. The fact that we spent equal parts on food as our mortgage meant we had abruptly come to the end of a 12 year era. We were devastated.  How would we be proper disciples of Christ and have Bible study without the loaves and fishes and wine and chocolate cake?!  How were we to reconcile the food bill and desperate lack of funding and function in the reality that there would always be vagabonds at our house anyway??  We were doomed.

(dramatic sobs ensued)

Then, a still small voice. I was reminded about co-habitation.  We could find a house guest or family in need to live with us and start charging!  It would solve everything.   It was brilliant!!  It would only be temporary, we could do it!!!!  And it'd benefit all parties, RIGHT?!  Right?...right?

**UPDATE 3/16/2011**
Ha! We did both!  Erm, the house guest thing didn't end well, but that's another post. The 'family in need'  turned out to be my x-bro in law, Steve, along with my two nephews and niece.

So far so good! My BIL's kids are about the same age as our three so we bunked them all together. They're lovin it.  Steve brought with him another flat screen and uber manly sound system. He goes to school the same time as his kids so he's here when they come home. We split the groceries, house chores and he cooks 2-3x a week! And get this--he also fixes stuff, Hallelujah!!! He's already painted, rotated our tires and installed closet systems.The possibilities are endless.  It feels like I'm in that episode of King of Queens when Doug got two wives (one for fun and one for labor), teehee. Anyway, don't think there's any funny business when you hear me callin' Steve my #2. He knows his place and we're all living happily ever after:)


We converted half our garage into a 'dorm' room for the teenagers... 

 Upstairs are 5 additional bedrooms. This is the girls' room...


Jamey & Colby's room was too messy to post here but you get the idea.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Teacher Conference Day...@#%$#!

@#%$#! as in, Arrrrgh!!! (c'mon, you know I wouldn't say that;)

I dread teacher conference day, even more so than I did when I was the the subject of dissection. The meetings feel more like an inquisition, but what kind of mom would I be to worm my way out of them?  It's my parental duty. Was it in the fine print of the contract I signed at the birth center that I would go, of my own volition, to these lynchings? It really doesn't matter whether my kid has been scoring A's or F's, I know it's all a ruse.

Nowadays, I arrive to the ambush donned in full armor. My defenses engaged, walls up, and already bristled by what terrible slanderous things the teacher is going to say about my child, to which she'll actually project on moi and my careless decision to over-populate the planet with yet another humanoid that doesn't  fulfill their duty to society by spending all their free time studying, brooding, over their ginormous pile of home-work of paralyzing proportions. Unwittingly I'll nod as the teacher gingerly points out how my child is not testing at neighborhood state guidelines and how he/she will degenerate into a complete mental retard within the next two years if I don't start reading to them ASAP

Call me a bad example but I didn't sign up for 'Teacher" classes in college. I'm not good at teaching academia and I don't pretend to be. I'm a concrete learner, I learn by doing. Unfortunately, I birthed children who learn different than me and my knee jerk response to them is to lose my ever-loving mind when they don't get what I'm trying to explain. It frustrates me to the nth degree. I boil on the inside and call my kids mean schoolyard names and banish them to their rooms for not understanding what I said the first time. I want to spoon out my eyes and shave my head with a potato peeler.  But I have, however, embraced imparting morals, values and ethics into my kids, illustrating love and relationships, instructing them on manners, and disciplining them on accountability, integrity and self control.  I presumed there was a perfectly good public school system in place my tax dollars were paying for that would teach them all the reading, writing and arithmetic stuff. I'd depended on it. Apparently I was mistaken..

A teacher told me once in a conference how brilliant my son was in school.  He was a natural whiz, a truly gifted and bright child. He aced all his advanced math tests and showed utter genius on his written science exams...but...he never turned in his homework so she was forced to FAIL him... Eh? You mean, he's proficient in all the material and he's learned what you taught him but he's, failing? "Yes. And its your fault. You have failed him by not helping him do his homework."  But I don't know how to do his homework, I flunked pre-algebra three times. "Well, Mrs.Frey, how can you help me solve this problem?" about you don't give him homework?!  *big pitiful grin*

Last week I attended my daughters first teacher conference.  She's in kindergarten.  I was just coming down from an unfamiliar high after wrapping up a rare, glowing five-star conference with my son's 4th grade teacher.  I should have known better than to frolic into my daughter's classroom on that glittery bubble of merriment and delusion.  There sat her teacher, just waiting for me with her pitch fork. Crap.  I'd left my armor in the other classroom.  So on she went, tersely telling me how my daughter is behind national world levels and giving me lots of helpful tips on how I could teach my daughter how to read...Eh? You mean, she's here in your class for 8hrs, 5 days a week and she hasn't learned how to read yet?!  "Well, you'll be amazed at how fast she will learn if you'd just go over these 17 worksheets, have her memorize these 9 pages of  sight words, practice her handwriting, plus have her read aloud to you the 3 books I send home with her every day and then just read to her 30 minutes every night!"

I left that conference totally dejected and angry with myself for not having taught my 6yo how to read before she started school. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Now she's bombing Kindergarten and in imminent danger of becoming an illiterate homeless person and I was all to blame. How did I become such a base and shamely slug of a mom? Who was I to ever reproduce?

But then I got over it. And then I was mad. It can't all be my fault?!  There's just got to be something wrong with the way our schools are teaching our kids when we are 7 months into the school year and my daughter, who spends most of her waking hours with her teacher, cannot phonetically sound out words!  When; my neighbor home schools her kids, spending just 2 to 4 hrs a week with her 4yo and he is basically at the same reading level as my daughter. Based on this pathetic fact alone, I would home school my kids if I had the patience. But I don't...besides that someone would eventually call CPS on my arse. So, kudos to you home-schooling moms! I envy you.

FYI, I am picking up the slack now and reading to my daughter more. *Let us all exhale now* She is sharp as a tack, smart as a whip and I know she's gonna be fine, just like her older sister and brothers. Perhaps I'm a little jaded and the teachers aren't as awful as I depict here...they seem like nice people I might even be friends with otherwise. Under the circumstances though, may have to quit going to their interrogations, bad parent or not.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Manchildren Like These

Most of my friends have smaller kids closer to the age of my younger ones. I am in a weird place in my grown-up life. Not quite middle-aged, not young-n-dumb, just...thirtysomething.  But Jeff and I have already raised and released two kidlings from our nest with three to go, ages 14, 9 and 6.  My friends still have yet to discover what their relationships will look like with their soon-to-be adult children. It's hard for them to imagine, but what they can count on is this: The way their kids are as babies is the way they will be as grown-ups, just more refined. I am fortunate to share a glimpse here of what inevitably awaits least, I hope it will be as glorious.

I was young-n-dumb once, that's how I ended up having a baby at the tender age of 12. OK...that's just what I tell people, though I was barely of legal age when I gave birth to my first child. Because my boyfriend and I were 18 and in careless, ignorant lust, we created a beautiful little son.  It was a hard path I chose and if I had to do over I'd probably do things differently.  But thank God He knew my future and the plans He had for that sweet baby.  Precious little Elih turned out to be my most favorite mistake. 

Elih is all grown up now.  My job raising him is done, he's accountable for his own mistakes and something magical has happened.  We have become friends! Don't misunderstand, I still get to be his mom, boss him around and guilt him into obedience but, he likes me now.  And when we walk hand in hand, people think I'm robbing the cradle, teehee.

He makes me laugh, he's goofy and silly and I'm convinced he will always be a boy at heart.  He's generous and unpretentious, the homeless love him.  His heart barely fits inside his 6'1" frame that suffocates me when we cuddle now.

Sometimes he's too sarcastic and gets misunderstood but he's pretty witty and talks himself out of a lot of trouble..what is it, like 9 traffic tickets now, Elih?!  He's always been a charmer.  He was terrible in school but somehow managed to trick his teachers into taking pity on his adorable brown puppy eyes.  Conferences usually went the way of  "Elih doesn't do his homework and really needs to apply himself, oh, but I just looove Elih, he is such a sweet boy, such a joy..."

Growing up, Elih was also the family guardian, the first on the scene of a scraped knee or bruised elbow.  He would console his younger siblings for their booboo's and confront their bullies. He was just an all around good kid. The only time I was called by the police to come pick him up was when he jumped in between two strangers engaged in a fist fight at the skate park. "your son isn't in trouble ma'am, but you may want to remind him that kind of behavior might get him killed one day."

Elih was always strong willed and determined to win. If he didn't think he could ace something he wouldn't attempt it. He loved free raffles when he was little but he'd cry bitter tears if he didn't get the prize. He was definitely a child persuaded by positive reinforcement. Unfortunately, he was my Guinea pig 1st born and got the tar beat out of him until he was 10yo before I realized money and bribes worked better.

He was always a bit of an independent and a self teacher, too.  He knew how to rationalize pain and make the best of his situation so authority (and punishment) didn't really intimidate him, neither did high cliffs or deep water.  He was smart and his inflated self esteem fed into his assumption that he should already know how to do stuff without reading the instructions.  I'm sure that's why he loved Lego's.  That kid could just look at the box from the age of 5 and put a set together perfectly.  As he grew up that self determination, coupled with a progressing adrenaline addiction, he excelled at video games, skate/snow/wake boarding and driving a stick shift.  Elih spent his senior year in HS switching out the motor of his Honda civic with the help of a couple friends.  It didn't surprise me he taught himself to do it all.

So I wasn't shocked when the day came he told me he wanted to join the United States Marine Corps.  Something inside me knew all along he'd choose the military as a's why I threw away every mailer the USMC and ARMY sent him through high school.  This time my threats and pleads made no dent in his decision.  Elih always had a pension to be the best, a hero-mentality about him.  I'm convinced a traumatic event he witnessed as a toddler jaded him from wanting to be a police officer and he's never been able to stomach blood or gore so being a paramedic was not an option for him either.  Becoming a mechanic or something in the field of putting things together was more his forte but that wouldn't satisfy his innate need to save the world.  However, the Marine Corps embodied all that Elih found appealing, the few the proud, the brave...and free college!

He just graduated USMC boot camp and is finishing up his MOS training.  In a few weeks he will be stationed somewhere on the globe, far away from family but his heart will always be at home, with me.  He still asks his ol' mom for advice and he cares what I think. He still calls me 'mommy' and saves those big alligator tears for me to wipe away. I still lecture him and he still doesn't tell me everything so he can 'protect' me. And now that he's Mr. Moneybags, he likes to treat me to lunch, buy me candy bars and expensive Christmas gifts--that he feels he must constantly remind me of.

He recently forbade me to get a nose ring or tattoo and insists I'm going through a mid life crisis because I got my eyebrows done and started wearing bikinis, I worry him. Ha! I think what he actually sees is his mom as a real-life person and it weirds him out. He'll get used to it and one day we will share a real drink together. Baby steps. For now I am happy to let him buy me a latte while he slurps on his mocha java freezie with extra choco-locolate to drown out that yucky coffee taste.

The military has been good for my manchild. I'm having doubts whether they will ever be able to cut the umbilical cord between us but I am so, so proud of my son and the man he is becoming.

I have plenty more tales to tell about my grown daughter from another mother in a future post. Just never doubt the 6th sense God placed inside you to raise your children up in the way they should go. The rewards are bountiful and I am so excited to see how my other ones turn out.