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Where Have I Been?

I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t been blogging lately, or why I’m writing now. I never fully got back in the swing after my break, but there are other reasons. Part of it is that I feel like my audience here is entirely duplicated on Facebook, and I’ll be repeating myself. Another part is that life has been so unbelievably difficult for the past 4 months that I don’t want to dwell on it. And another part is that I’m trying to get myself into a new routine and I was going to add blogging in to the mix once more important things were under control, and they are still not under control.

One big blog item I missed was Sam’s six-year-old update. When she turned six, I pretty much hated her guts so I wasn’t in the mood to write about her. The short of it is that Sam has not adjusted to having an au pair or to homeschooling, and when Sam isn’t happy, nobody in the house is happy. Her behavior has been so out-of-control that I’ve considered spanking her more than once – not as an isolated incidence, but as a deliberate policy. I ultimately rejected the idea, but seriously, I considered it. We’ve finally started to get over that hump. I don’t want to write about any of the details, though. I just don’t have the energy.

Then Sam started having “accidents.” Remember, this girl is six years old. And she started peeing all over the house – basically every time she sat down, she would pee on the furniture. She also wet the bed every single night so we were washing sheets every day. (Yes, we made her do the work, but it actually takes longer to manage a child cleaning a stain or doing her own laundry than it takes to do it yourself, so it’s not like that saved time for me.) I spent at least a month experimenting with charts and rewards and punishments and discussions and managing her bathroom habits. I spoke to a family therapist about it (who didn’t really help much). It was an all-consuming project for about a month. I was convinced that it was behavioral, but I took her to the doctor anyway. She didn’t have a UTI but the doctor did notice another problem which he gave her medicine for. I didn’t think it was connected with her accidents, but after a week when we had finished solving the problem, she stopped having accidents during the day. So all of my yelling at her and berating her (which was one tactic I tried explicitly in my experiments), was unjustified and I felt horribly guilty. But you just can’t imagine what it is like to have a six-year-old peeing all over the house. We put our cat to sleep for that behavior, for god’s sake! I was worried Sam would be afraid we’d do the same to her. But really, what I wanted to do was just lock her in her room all day and night until the problem went away. I completely related to every single evil step-mother in fairy tales. Lock her up, lock her up, lock her up, is all I dreamed about.

We’re under doctor’s orders not to allow her to wear pull-ups at night because it gives her serious skin problems that lead to staph infections. But we’ve decided that a risk of staph infections is better than washing sheets, so that’s how we solved that problem. I really could care less if she wants to wear pull ups until she is 10, as long as it doesn’t create problems for me. That is the level of parenting I am capable of right now.

We’ve also had the most astounding streak of bad luck in the past few months: a car accident, a cracked windshield, four other instances of taking our vehicles into the shop for serious problems (this does not include the accident or the windshield), a broken dishwasher, maids who seem to be trying to kill my children by leaving chemicals in their playroom and who needed to be fired, traffic tickets, lice, a couple of illnesses, medical issues for me including (but not limited to!) surgery on my Achilles tendon which now has me on crutches for 6 weeks, a stolen credit card, and I’m sure so much more that I can’t think of off the top of my head. I keep thinking that it has to end, and then it doesn’t. And I don’t know if it is just normal life when there are six people living together. I wish I knew if this was bad luck, or if it is just normal life for six people, or if I’m actually doing something wrong that is causing these things to happen. It’s baffling, and I just can’t get my mind around it or find any way to deal with it with serenity.

Homeschooling has been cancelled more often than not. I took at least two full weeks off in the past two months, plus many other days when I just could not make time for it. When we do school, it is the greatest thing in the world and we are loving it, but we have no routine, which means that I have to argue Sam into doing school each time. But it is simply impossible to get into a routine. I am spending almost all of my time dealing with emergencies.

My idea when our au pair came was that I would begin three new things: homeschooling, exercising, and writing. I mapped it out on my calendar, and I thought I was leaving plenty of time for dealing with all the other stuff of life. But the other stuff of life is close to 100% of my time, even with Ale taking care of the kids 45 hours a week. So I have 45 extra hours of help and I am accomplishing nothing more than I did before she arrived. Well, I’m exaggerating a bit. We have done some homeschooling. I did try going to the gym, but I had to stop when I found out that I had torn my Achilles tendon (it’s been torn since December, but I only figured it out a month ago). And I did do some writing, but I was still trying to create a schedule that would work when the shit really hit the fan.

I feel like I was just about to possibly start making progress with my life when I found out I had to have surgery, and then I went into an actual depression. I refused to have the surgery at first because I felt too hopeless about it. I’ve been trying to solve this mystery pain problem for five years and I was just about to go on medication for psoriatic arthritis. I was so excited. The reason we found out about my Achilles is because the doctor wanted an MRI of my ankle, where I had been having just one of many pains throughout my body, “just in case” there was something wrong there. She said that the Achilles tendon is such a serious problem that she had to rule out everything else before putting me on the arthritis meds. And I was totally shocked to find that I had a tear. I never had any trauma or injury so I just figured it was my usual mystery pain. The doctor told me that I would have to have surgery and that I’d never really get back to 100% and I’d probably never walk normally again. It turned out that she was totally wrong about that, but she scared the shit out of me. But even after seeing the orthopedic surgeon, I could not face surgery. The idea of having surgery and then rehab for 6 months and THEN going back to where I was with trying to solve the mystery pain problem was just too much. I told him I just wanted to try physical therapy, but then I went home and decided I was just going to do nothing at all about it. I was just hopeless. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way before in my life. I just didn’t want to face facts. I just wanted somehow to just not deal with it. I guess that is evasion. After making that decision, I became so depressed that it was a signal to me that I had made a bad choice, and after talking it through with Adam, I realized I had to do the surgery. There’s just no getting around it. So I did. I felt better the minute I made the decision.

So now Adam and Ale have to take up all the slack. It really is much harder on Adam than on anyone else. He has to do more and he gets nothing in return. I’ve actually enjoyed having a break from all the toil of motherhood. I’ve recharged my batteries. I’ve been more relaxed in the past two weeks than I’ve been in years. Since it was impossible for me to do anything for the kids, I just let go completely. I removed all my expectations from myself. And I thought I would get bored in a few days, but it’s only been in the past couple of days that I’ve started getting the itch to do things again. I have this hope that I’ll be able to add all my value-pursuit back into my life slowly, and fully selfishly, so that none of it is a duty, but already I feel the tug of the “oughts” and the “shoulds.” But in the end, I think this surgery experience will end up being a good thing for me, both physically and mentally.

So that’s where I’ve been. I feel like my life has been turned upside down this summer. I won’t promise to blog more often. I’m just taking things day by day right now.

Last night I spent a half hour cleaning 15 pumpkin stickers off of Sam’s wood table that I purchased for her Montessori work four months ago.  The finish of the table is ruined, and I have something to say:

Wood is not better than plastic.

If you’re a new parent, you hear it everywhere: how horrible it is that all children’s toys are plastic, and how we should get them things made of natural materials.  Why?  Well, I’ve seen some good arguments about how important it is to expose babies to a lot of different textures and materials.  And of course, children need to learn what wood is and what it feels like and how it can be used.

So go ahead a get a set of wooden alphabet blocks.  But bemoaning the fact that so many children’s toys and products are made of plastic smacks of anti-technology primitivism.  Compared to wood, plastic is cheaper, more durable, more versatile, more colorful, more lightweight, and does less damage when bashed into a wall (or a face).  Plastic is an amazing material in many ways, but it is especially great for children’s products.

If I want to show Samantha something natural, I’ll take her outside to look at the trees.  Next time, I’m buying the plastic table.

Tell me, please, that this is a hoax.


We’re homeowners again!  I am so tired of moving around and renting.  I’ve really felt homeless since we left Michigan 17 months ago.

Of course, the last week has been hell. 

Thursday: My agent reminds me that I need certified funds for closing.  We use ETrade which does not have branches so that means a wire transfer.  I get the instructions from the title company, print out the ETrade wire transfer form and fill it out.  The cold that I’ve had since October 2 (not kidding!) takes a turn for the worse and I get a very sore throat.  Meanwhile, Sam has diarrhea and is getting a bad cold sore.

Friday afternoon: I fax the wire transfer form to ETrade for a Monday transfer. 

Friday night: We learn that ETrade is close to bankruptcy and worry all weekend about whether our money will be there on Monday.

Monday morning:  I wake up 2 hours early because Sam had another nightmare.  She’s been doing fine with the chaos while awake, but the stress comes out in her dreams.  She fell back asleep but I didn’t.  Later, I check my bank account and the money is still sitting there.  I call ETrade to check and they tell me, “We do not do third party wire transfers.”  I know it’s a lie but what can I do?  After a few panicked phone calls, I find that our title company will accept a personal check.  Again, kudos to our real estate agent, Sharon Chamberlin, for working with good people.

Monday afternoon:  Seller doesn’t show up for settlement.  Duh, he went to the wrong office.  Yeah, right.  Luckily, we were able to close via fax and the upside was that we never had to see his stinking face.  We have a house, yea!

Later Monday afternoon: The wire transfer goes through.  NO!  If the title company has already put my check in the bank, I’m toast.  More panicked phone calls.  The wonderful woman who did our closing actually noticed that the funds were wired and hadn’t deposited the check.  Still, I had to drive out to their office to pay a small balance due and get my first check back.  But not before loading up my car with the first of the moving boxes, picking up Sam from day care (where she did not nap at all), meeting the handyman at the new house to get a quote on some small jobs, and finding that the extra set of keys the seller promised to leave under the mat were not there.  The worst part of that day was that Sam was just miserable, falling asleep in the car just as we’d arrive somewhere and having to wake right back up.  Not good for a borderline-sick child. 

Tuesday:  The plan was to move as much stuff to the new house as possible and monitor the installation of new carpet.  The carpet got installed and we did move some things, but Adam also had to spend 6 hours on IV fluids after puking his guts out all morning.  I’ve never seen him so sick.  Definitely in the Top Ten Worst Days of My Life.

Tuesday night:  My turn.  I got a much milder case of it.  Still, it kept me up until 2am because it takes much concentration to NOT vomit.  Must never, ever vomit.  Stay awake all night and focus, but do not vomit.

Wednesday:  We moved more stuff and got our Internet and cable hooked up.  Adam painted Sam’s room.  It was Sam’s last day at her current day care and saying goodbye was very emotional for both of us.  I don’t think anything horrendous happened.  Oh, except that we were moving, which is one of the most horrendous things in life to begin with.

Thursday:  More packing, painting, and moving.  Brief Thanksgiving with friends which was the highlight of the week.  Up until 2am packing boxes in preparation for the moving company’s arrival the next morning.

Friday:  Official moving day.  We hadn’t packed as much as we’d hoped due to all the illness, but we had done amazingly well, considering.  We knew the movers could pack up the last of our stuff and we’d just have to pay a bit extra for the supplies they provided plus extra time.  The biggest challenge seemed to be waking up at 7am.  In the end, this moving company stole about $2,000 from us.  I can’t describe it any other way.  They wrapped a plastic toy mirror in bubble wrap and said it cost $19.  I’m not kidding.  They held our stuff hostage until we paid.  We knew they had the power to do it – this happens with moving companies all the time (although I had done so much research on this one and I’ve moved so many times that I thought I was smart enough to avoid these problems).  If they say, “Pay me or we’ll keep your stuff,” you pretty much have to pay whatever they ask.  After an hour of phone calls trying to resolve it with a manager, we decided to pay but to note on the contract and credit card receipt that we were paying under protest.  They would not accept this and demanded payment with NO changes on their documents before they would release our goods.  We had to call the police out to our new home on our first night here to get these bastards to allow us to pay the extortion, but with a stinking note on the paperwork.  After the officer made them allow it, I went with the mover into the kitchen to find a horizontal surface to use to sign.  With no shame, with the officer in the next room, this slimebag tried to get me to sign a separate document which signed away all my rights to dispute the charges at a later date.  I brought it to the officer, who forced the mover to call his supervisor to allow us to get our stuff without signing such a document.  Of course, we had to pay the moving company for the 2.5 hours it took to resolve the whole dispute.  Then, at the end, these immoral creatures kept a few boxes in the truck and made us pay another $150 before they’d release them.  We were too tired to call the cops again, and what’s the difference between being reamed to the tune of $2,150 versus $2,000 anyway?  THIS MOVING COMPANY IS CALLED METRO VAN LINES LLC OPERATED OUT OF ROCKVILLE MARYLAND DOT NUMBER 1496324.  DO NOT USE THEM IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.

Friday night:  Drinking champagne (finally!) and loving our new home.  Thanks for listening to my rant.