Thursday, March 31, 2011

Breaking up is hard to do

I'm losing my good sleeper. And I'm ready to cry.

This is what Leah was doing six months ago. She would collapse into her bed at nap time and wouldn't move until 1.5 hours had passed. Longer if I was lucky. I never was. The good thing was she couldn't open her door, so she'd settle into her books and toys for a few minutes before hollering for Momma. She slept a solid 12 hours at night without a problem. 

Now she is all of 33 inches tall and has figured out how to open her own door. She's opening her door and peeking out for at least an hour after snooze time should have started. 

Tuesday, the unthinkable happened. 

She didn't nap. 

Today, she napped, but was still up and playing a full hour after her big brother passed out.


I'm not ready! Nap time is my favorite time of day. I can let Nathaniel play Wii to his little heart's content and have 5 minutes of peace and quiet. Sometimes, when I'm feeling really wild and crazy, I'll grab the iPod and fold laundry. 

This is the beginning of the end. By this summer, I will have two children awake for the entire day. I can feel it.  Two kids who will get crazier and crazier the later in the day it gets. Which means Mommy will get crazier and crazier... wait, is that possible?

I don't want to know.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Not It

I'm saying it now, in case I forget in 13.5 years, I am NOT going to teach Leah how to drive.

Uh-uh. No way.

Hubby convinced me I was not going to risk hypothermia by going outside with the kids after dinner tonight, even though that 4-letter "S" word is in the forecast for Friday (Really, Rick, how could you?!).


Nathaniel decided to play (de)"livery" with the gator and drive around with random boxes of outside toys in the back. Leah was dutifully riding in the passenger seat. She'd hop out when he hopped out, follow the box, then hop back in with her big brother to a few more donuts in the yard.

On the third delivery, Leah slid over to the driver's seat. I didn't flinch. She is allowed to drive the little tractor, but really "drive" is being generous. I crank the steering wheel so she goes in a circle in the driveway until she gets dizzy or the battery wears out. She doesn't know how to steer on her own. And she knows it.

Or I thought she did.

While Hubby and I stood in the garage accepting a valuable delivery of 2 sand buckets, old pool toys and gosh-only-knows what else, my darling princess locked eyes with me.

"Leah, move over. You're not driving."

Hubby chuckled. Big mistake. Chuckling at a 2-year-old is like double-dog-daring her to do whatever it is she's thinking of doing. You don't wave a red flag in front of a bull.

Leah laughed and floored the gator across the driveway toward a number of hazards, including the lamp post, a huge landscaping rock, the well head, several pieces of landscape edger and the ends and beginnings of the train wreck that is my flower beds.

While Nathaniel and I hollered, Hubby took off running (still in work clothes) after her. Without actually steering the gator, she managed to miss all of the things she could have hit by taking it across the driveway and onto the walkway that leads to the front porch. Luckily, then Hubby caught up.

And she laughed some more.

I am so not it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Plague 101

We might actually be out of the woods on the latest plague... until Hubby wakes up tomorrow feeling sick. That would be how we roll 'round here. He was aiming to catch it to play hooky from work today, so of course, h'ell get it after the fact.

Look Mommy, I made it just for you.
We've gone through a massive amount of "bless yous" (tissues) around here, mostly from my kids wiping one corner with snot and then presenting the square to me. Like I'm gonna save them all? Right.

Nathaniel may have actually learned how to blow his nose. Yes, I understand he's 4. But really, how do you teach some one to blow their nose? Clearly I don't know. It took dumb luck and the most annoying cold that stuffed up his sinuses so much he couldn't swallow, but he figured it out.

I forgot how much fun it is to yell "Cover your mouth" every 30 seconds when someone coughs. Nathaniel was pretty well trained before last winter's parade of diseases, so now it's Little Miss's turn. Luckily she catches on a lot faster than her brother did. She's catching every other cough with the back of her hand. Victory! Now when do I stop yelling?

And of course the most important thing I learned is that Mommy is in fact not immune to the plague.

When I had to surrender the reins last week to Hubby, I also remembered why it's sometimes nice he goes to work every morning. He had to make lunches and do all of the things that I normally do... which meant the next day, I couldn't open the peanut butter or jelly jars. Sure, I keep him around to open tight lids, but really, when he's not here, there are a lot fewer tight lids.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Find a friend

Ever have those days where you stop and try to look at yourself from the outside? I have some amazing people in my life, and part of the reason why they are so amazing is because they put up with me.

I am hard work. I overanalyze. I obsess over things I can't control. And I'll want to talk about it for days at a time. I forget conversations 5 minutes after they take place. I can get caught up in the everyday and forget to call or email for days weeks months. When I do make contact, what else do I have to talk about besides my kids? Lord knows I don't do anything exciting anymore.

An acquaintance told me that the friends I make now when my kids are small are the ones that I will keep for a lifetime. I think she may be onto something. It's not that my friends that don't have little ones aren't sympathetic. They are. Who else can I rely on for the "oh crap" babysitting or crisis moments? But like childbirth, you forget a lot of the stressful, not-so-great parts about having little kids. It's better that way.

But seriously. Friends With Kids are doing the same things I am. Like laundry, cooking, cleaning, fixing toys, refereeing fights, reading stories, wiping noses (and other parts), preschool runs, snack assembly, and pulling their hair out, all simultaneously. They know I'm crazy. They also know some of the crazy came from my darling children, and it really shouldn't be held against me. 'Cause my kids are pretty cute. It's gonna get them far in life. 

But being my friend does have some benefits. I can bake a mean banana bread. If you need something written, I'm your gal. If you need me to worry or fuss about anything going on in your life, I'm all over that. Even if you don't need me, chances are I'll do it anyway. I am a pretty good listener (when not interrupted every 30 seconds by a small child), and occasionally I remember enough adult words to offer advice. I am loyal to a fault, but cross me once and I'll never forget it. Yes, I hold grudges.

I found a quote once: "Be the friend you'd like to find." I'd like to think I'm a pretty good find. But for a lot of my life, I worried about who didn't appreciate what they had with me. Not anymore. Being a good friend is hard work, but at some point, you cross a line where the effort and result don't match. So I am trying, most days, to focus on what I can do for my friends - the ones who freely offer and accept help. Because I know I am not perfect, so I will need a hand every now and then.

Friends are those who know your faults and love you anyway.

Love you guys.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Waving the white flag

A plague descended on my house last weekend, while I wasn't looking. I have been fighting crazy allergy symptoms for a month now, so I figured that was it. I'm kinda getting used to being miserable.

Then Nathaniel started coughing.

And coughing. And coughing. With a crazy high fever. And then I got the crazy high fever. We were quite the pair.

This was me. Minus the teddy bear.
We didn't leave the house Monday or Tuesday and spent a lot of time watching cartoons and laying on the couch. I have now seen the Imagination Movers in concert a dozen times. I can't ever get those hours back.

By Wednesday I figured we would both be feeling better.

I have never, ever been so wrong.

But as bad as I felt, I tried to drag myself through the shower to wash some of the stink off and get dressed for the day. (And by dressed I mean yoga pants and a sweatshirt. I know, a vision of loveliness at all times. That's how I roll.)

But every time I tried to stand up, the room started to spin and get fuzzy. I crawled out, wrapped in a towel and made my way to the bed, where I managed to get the phone to call Hubby without picking my head up off the pillow.

I'm sure he was thrilled to get a call 10 minutes after he got TO work telling him to jump in his car to drive 30 minutes BACK home. But the alternative would have been to leave the monkeys in charge of the zoo. No good can come from that.

It took every ounce of strength I had to shuffle downstairs, pour 2 cups of juice and 2 bowls of cereal and fill 2 animals' bowls before collapsing on the couch under the world's warmest and most awesomest quilt.

When Hubby walked in an hour later, I took said quilt and shuffled to our bed where it was quiet. The next thing I remember was looking at the clock that read 12:40 p.m. I haven't slept off a sick like that... well... I'm guessing middle school. I came downstairs for lunch and parked myself on the love seat. I proceeded to sleep through my darlings doing what they always do - everything at full volume.

Man, I needed that.

I thanked Hubby for rescuing me, which may seem unnecessary, but really, as a SAHM, there is nothing worse having well kids when you're sick. I don't get to cancel meetings and tell my bosses I'm sick. My "bosses" still expect 3 square meals, a minimum of 2 snacks, potty help or diaper changes, stories to be read, games to be played, and all in all, my undivided attention. When you can't lift your head upright without wanting to yak, that ain't happenin'.

Whenever I mention to other mom friends that one of my kids is coming down with something, they feel my pain and dread. Because there is no such thing as one person out of a house of four being the ONLY one to get sick.

Because now that Nathaniel and I are almost better, Leah has a fever. And a cough. We'll be couching and cartooning it tomorrow, too, to round out the week.

It'll be Daddy's turn to join us next.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Songs of lowest praise

I've let the news sink in for 24 hours, but I can honestly say I am still baffled.

I admit I had a preconceived notion of what a "failing" school was and what kinds of students they produce: poor, inner-city, low socio-economic class, don't amount to much, blah, blah, etc. 

I had no idea all I needed to do was look in the mirror.

Pennsylvania has revamped its system of tracking graduation rates to better account for students who don't finish in four years. The news does not bode well for my dear old alma mater, Washington High School. Preliminary numbers for 2010 have 47.54 percent of students graduating. That is by far the worst in its area and third-lowest in the ENTIRE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA. 

Yes, I said third-lowest in the state. Worse than Pittsburgh or Philadelphia city schools. Beat only by charter cyber-schools.

Facebook was lit up like a Christmas tree last night as my high school classmates starting finding the initial story and sharing it. And sharing and sharing. Most had the same reaction that I did: were we really that bad 10 years ago? And what has happened since?

Even then, I knew our drop-out rate was high. We lost 100 students between my freshman year and graduation. Someone told me we were among the worst in the state, and looking back, I believe it. Although some of those were transfers, not nearly as many as I'd like to believe. If my fuzzy memory is correct, that means in 1999, the rate was 49.5 percent. 


To put it into the context of something I know now, South Bend schools have been in the news with a state takeover looming for a few of its struggling schools. Their graduation rate for 2010? 73.5 percent.

*Now to be fair, I don't know if Indiana and Pa. use the same kind of crazy calculations, but that's a difference of 25 percent. I'd say it's a close enough comparison. You get the idea.

So what happens now? I don't know. The superintendent was quoted in the local paper by saying the numbers were unfair, that Wash High has a lot of students take more than 4 years because of a transient population. She oughtta be glad I don't live there anymore, because that is exactly NOT what I would like to hear if my kids were in that school district.

I don't care how many kids move there after failing 9th grade somewhere else or need to make up extra credits to graduate. Handing diplomas to less than HALF of your students in a given year is an effing EMBARRASSMENT. I don't want to hear excuses, I want to hear how you're finally going to do something about it. Because this isn't a new problem. But somebody is finally going to call you on it.

Want to be even more informed? Read this.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My ears are buzzing

I was going to try to write about how no one in this house but my 4-year-old likes getting up early, but tonight was one of those nights where extra information entered my brain and now I can't think about anything else. Some of it was stupid Mommy drama that really isn't worth fussing over. The rest is gonna take some time to process.

I need to stew on it for awhile, but I definitely sense a post coming from this. According to the great state of Pennsylvania, my high school has the third LOWEST graduation rate in the STATE. Yes, worse than Pittsburgh city schools and every other school in the surrounding counties.

I can't wrap my head around that. I knew it was bad when I was there - we went from 180 in my freshman class to 98 graduating seniors. A few were legit transfers, but a lot weren't.  And there was no NCLB or AYP or PDQ or whatever other alphabetic mumbo jumbo we want to use to try to evaluate children's education.

But before I hop on my soap box, I need some allergy meds and sleep.

Some come back tomorrow for what I hope is a fantastic rant. In the meantime, read this:

Washington graduation rate 3rd lowest in Pa.

Or this. We didn't even make the P-G's radar.

State releases results under new way to calculate graduation rates

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A new leaf, pt. 1

I am not what you would call a "morning person."

I trained myself to drink coffee my freshman year because I could not stay awake in my 9 a.m. class. Believe me, I tried. I took diligent notes for about 20 minutes, and then you could see the lines fade as I dozed off while trying desperately to form one... last... word... Needless to say, the coffee didn't help.

I may or may not have taken to throwing things at roommates in college who attempted to rouse me before the reasonable hour of noon. (Don't worry, nothing breakable.)

Once I started my "real" job, I was surrounded by people who were as chipper as I was in the morning. We all stumbled into the office by 7:30 a.m. You knew better than to offer anything more than a grunt and nod until at least 9 a.m. or 2 cups of coffee, whichever came first.

Motherhood sealed my dependence on coffee and late night wake-ups did nothing to help the whole "good" morning thing. And I have good sleepers! I will never understand how my friend survived, since both her boys did not sleep through the night until they were 2. They're 2 years apart, so that's 4 straight years of sleeplessness. She deserves a medal. Seriously.

Admittedly, I have an extra reason to have trouble in the mornings. We live in the allergy capital of the world (okay, slight exaggeration, but it's bad!) When I wake up, my head feels like it weighs about 20lbs and like my sinuses are about to explode. So I lay in bed, wishing I was still asleep so I didn't feel like poo.

Somewhere along the line Nathaniel started waking up before everyone. Once he heard his daddy in the shower, he'd come into our bedroom and sit down with the dog, who sleeps on a blanket next to our dresser. When Hubby would come out of the bathroom, he'd jump a mile when two sets of eyes were staring at him in the dark. But he'd give me a peck on the cheek and on a good day I'd reply with "uh." Then he'd take the kiddo downstairs, and set him up with cartoons and juice before leaving for work.

I usually need an episode of fill-in-your-Disney-cartoon to peel my face off my pillow, stumble through the shower and into the waiting arms of my Keurig. By then baby girl is usually awake and hollering for Mommy, so the chaos begins.

I've had a few years to practice this routine and get it down pat. But last week I got a wake up call. This time next year, we will have already gone through kindergarten round up. The school bus rolls down my street at about 7:20 and most mornings I don't even hear it. I have to be ready to put my pint-sized-oh-my-gosh-is-he-really-5-years-old child onto a bus in August 2012.

I may not survive.

If I want to be conscious and at least pseudo-coherent at that time of morning, I'm gonna have to start, uh, well, yesterday.

That hasn't gone so well so far... be continued...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Basketball fever

It's that time of year again - March Madness.

When you got to a college with no football team (Marquette Football - undefeated since 1963), basketball is a Big Deal. Add to that I was am a band geek and this time of year brings back memories of long bus rides to conference tournaments and hoping and praying for a trip to the NCAA tourney.

My senior year was 2003, when Marquette made a miraculous run to the Final Four in New Orleans with Dwyane Wade. And I was there... when we got absolutely shellacked by Kansas (...I F-ing HATE Kansas...) and the band got unused tickets to the championship game to watch Carmelo Anthony and Syracuse whoop some Jayhawk behind.

But man was it a fun ride. We took out Holy Cross, Missouri, Pittsburgh and Kentucky to get there.

This year we'll be lucky to see our team make the tournament. By some fluke, MU beat Providence last night in the Big East tourney to match up against my hometown sentimental favorite West Virginia tonight. Here's hoping they can hand Huggy Bear a defeat.

Ring out ahoya!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Scaredey Cat

I tortured my oldest child this evening. I made him watch a movie. Not a DVD with 4 Diego or Backyardigans episodes, an actual-honest-to-goodness full-length animated movie. 

I'm happy to report he survived. When asked what he thought about Disney's "Robin Hood"? 

"It was kinda little bit good."

Don't hold back, kid, tell me how you really feel. 

We've tried cartoon movie after cartoon movie, only to have him declare 15-30 minutes in that it's too scary and he doesn't want to watch it anymore.

I would get that if I subjected him to the same Disney movies Hubby and I grew up on. Looking back, some of those movies were pretty heavy stuff. Uh, hello evil witches/villains? Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty... Think about it. How many of them start out with death? Yikes. "Alice in Wonderland" still gives me the creeps.
Seriously. She looks like she eats
children for breakfast. Oh wait, that
was Hansel and Gretel. 
And it isn't just the oldies - I tried to get him to watch "Finding Nemo" a few times and ended up skipping through half the movie because it was too much. 

For more than half of his little 4-year-old life, the only full-length animated feature that passed muster was "Cars." I was a little worried that Frank the Combine might freak him out, but since he's loved tractors and combines for longer than he could SAY the words, it was no biggie.

And as movies go, he could have latched onto a more annoying one. Who doesn't love Mater/Larry the Cable Guy? "I don't care who you are, that's funny right there..." I can recite more lines than I'd care to admit and my character voices for when we read the Cars books are dead on.

On a side note, Nathaniel saw a trailer for "Cars 2" and my darling, lovely Hubby told him we would take him to see it. But that is in JUNE. It is now MARCH. This is a kid that has no concept of time, so if you tell him to stay in his room for 10 minutes, he counters with "No, 1 hour." Doh. It's gonna be a long, long, long 3+ months.

I tried not to worry about it, really. I figured, like everything, he would come around in his own time. But this past weekend, while his "baby" sister and I were staying home with her mysterious disappearing-reappearing stomach bug, I turned to "Monsters Inc.," to pass the morning. He had declared it too scary on numerous occasions.

She loved it. Of course. She crawled in my lap when it got a little scary, but there were no tears, no pleas to turn it off, nothing. She was quite proud to tell Daddy and Brother what we watched while they were running errands. I thought maybe that would push his buttons.

Nathaniel hasn't fallen victim to sibling pressure yet, because he made sure to tell me he didn't like that movie. So much for that plan. 

Fast forward to tonight. Hubby was gone for dinner, so what else to do with two kids who got a taste of the out-of-doors and were wired as all get-out? PJ 'em up and turn on a movie. We sat together under blankets with some of the lights off. When he didn't like a part, he didn't cry or even ask me to turn it off. He simply picked up his giraffe and put it in front of his eyes. 

There is hope for him yet.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Winter blues timewarp

You know that song "I Left My Heart in San Francisco"? Yeah, my version would be "I Left My Brain in Colorado."

I am all about beating the mid-winter blues by taking a vacation ANYWHERE. But timing is essential. Two years ago, we took a cruise in November, before the Holiday/Birthday Craziness. It was the best week EVER, but the following 3 months were straight from you-know-where. It's hard to come back to reality after that one.

So next time we do a winter vacay, it's gonna be in February again, I'm sure. But that doesn't make the weeks after any better. We've had 2 ski trips, 3 or 4 illnesses, lots of snow days and somebody turned our normal crazy up to 11. I'm about full up, thanks.

The result of all of our fun escapes is that I feel like I am eternally behind. I mean, I have two small children so I am always behind, but even more so now. Example? Monday is normally laundry day. I spend my morning shoveling clothes through the machines and by the afternoon, everything is through (or close to it). Then the clothes sit and sit and sit, until about Wednesday, when I start folding. Thursday we start digging for clean items from the pile. By Sunday I'm putting stuff away so I can have the baskets empty for laundry day. And we start the cycle all over again.

But today is Friday AND I AM JUST STARTING LAUNDRY. This is not good. This means I have to do my normal "shove 12 loads of clothes/towels/sheets/etc. into two craptastic machines in the shortest amount of time," but my folding and putting away time is totally screwed. I may have to actually do it... *gulp*!

Now that's just crazy talk.

Maybe I left my sanity in Colorado too...

...if I ever had it to begin with.