Diapers and Dragons

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'd Hire Him As My Teacher Aide, but Those Pesky Child Labor Laws Get In the Way

The freshmen are looking younger every year

Prepping for the school year is less than easy with a Widget rampaging about the classroom. But it sure wasn't boring.

Actually, The Widget did amazingly well today. He was still a little too snot-nosed and congested for daycare, but MUCH better than he was on Saturday. So he tagged along to work with me today, on my first trip back into the building since school let out.

I didn't get up on chairs to tack and staple decorations onto the wall because I didn't want to give him ideas. And I didn't rearrange the room because I didn't want to squish him. And I didn't get syllabi printed off and copied because there's a new printer/copier system and I don't have a clue how to make it work yet.

So what DID I get done? Well, I pulled a bunch of posters and books out of my cabinets so that The Widget could perform the important task of strewing them under the tables and slamming the cabinet doors shut. I also unpacked the gorgeous new desk chair that one of my mentees gave me at the end of the year so that The Widget could help me put it together by using my car keys as his screwdriver. I did manage to do some lesson planning while The Widget rearranged chairs, scattered crayons around the room, and made friends with a custodian or two.

He was a big help.

And I could have eaten him up with a spoon.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I Know I'm Supposed to Love my Neighbors, But It Might Be Asking Too Much In This Particular Situation

If you hear something on the Detroit news about some crazy white lady dressed in baggy sweat pants and a snot-stained shirt going postal with an armful of used tissues and diapers on some neighbors partying in their yard...

...you'll know where I'll be staying for the next few days.

Seriously, they've been playing their dance music with the driving bass that pounds through the earth and into my head with the force of the Millennium Falcon ALL FRICKIN' DAY. And since I looked out the window and saw about ten zillion people dancing under that white tent with about two zillion more climbing out of cars with what looked suspiciously like some 40s in brown paper bags, I'd say they're in for a long night.

This on a day when I've been trying to persuade DramaBoy that he really just wants to hang out in the Skyhouse all day watching videos and trying out some new body art with (non-toxic, thank God) colored markers so that I can focus on The Widget, who has a vicious cold that has turned him into a writhing, whining, whimpering snot-covered limpet who screams bloody murder if I detach him for ten seconds. It's hard enough to convince one's bladder to pee faster than usual, much less when there are spine-chilling screams coming from the other room that cause one's muscles to involuntarily spasm and clench.

Add in the discovery that sometime during DramaBoy's foray onto my desktop (he isn't allowed to touch my work laptop) to play Zaboomafoo he managed to send the computer into a death spiral. It now vacillates between a five second flash of The Blue Screen Of Death and the start-up screen. My brother says either a driver has gone bad or there are two hard drives and DramaBoy somehow managed to convince the Master to become the Slave. I have no information to offer him, as I can't even remember whether it was using Windows XP or Vista, much less whether it had a second hard drive. I certainly didn't know I was possibly perpetuating the slave trade on my PC.

Oh, and of course I can feel the viral hand of doom. Whatever this strain is, it's catchy. DramaBoy and The Widget came down with it simultaneously on Thursday, and if I didn't know my science better, I'd swear it was Jungle Java's fault. They were fine until we entered that madhouse, and they were both starting to drip and sneeze by the time we left. I suppose I should issue a public apology to all the families that will now no doubt contract our Creeping Crud, but I'm feeling too bitter. My throat is scratchy, my sinuses are starting to tickle, and my head was already throbbing before the inconsiderate bast--ahem, individuals across the street decided to crank up the volume.

The timing is, of course, perfect. Wednesday I report for work and we'll be taking our official school pictures as usual. I always love photos that look like I've either been on a three day bender or contracted Ebola. They give one that highly professional je ne sais quoi that just inspires confidence in everyone who sees one's ID card.

Also, church tomorrow is out of the question. This means, with one thing and another, it will have been over a month since I've been to my regular church. They'll start wondering if I've abandoned them. Annie will be lonely in our pew again. And the tentative plans to head to the Renaissance Festival tomorrow for the Highland Fling weekend? Done. Gone. Kaput. Instead I'll be calling up He Who Was shortly and asking him to be merciful and pick up DramaBoy tomorrow so The Widget and I can have some quality misery together. We'll have to see if he can even go to daycare on Monday, which may mean my plans to set up my classroom and prep with my collaborating coworker and tutor in the afternoon are also out the window.

Oh, now they've moved from dance music to rap. Joy. My night is now complete.

Do you think a jury of my peers might consider it self-defense? Especially if my lawyer stacked it with parents of small children?

I'm going to turn up Hell's Kitchen as loud as I can without ticking off my housemates and waking my children. Maybe all the bleeping will drown out my own rage.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

whispers in the dark

it's not that i don't love you
it's that your needs swallow me whole
spit me out with remnants of self
one moment
i'm consumed by adoration of you
the next
wondering how to get away

i stare at your sleeping face
then hear your whimpering cries
and my belly clenches
resentment blooms
more hours to come of little sleep
dreams broken by midnight calls

you strip me of my reserves
push every button and weep
when my patience runs to its end
anger boils over in harsh words
shadows overtake my weary mind
i can only turn away
sure that this time there cannot be
redemption for my failure

how do these others do it?
how do they subsume their beings
into identity defined by
those who have erupted from their bodies
to overtake their lives?

that pretty picture some paint
is mostly lies
or at least half-truths
a veneer over the ugliness
that creeps beneath the skin

or perhaps
i'm flawed in a way
they are not
darkened and broken
fitful and torn

my head drops to my hands
your whimpers fade
a tentative brushing across my palm
i feel your tiny hand in mine
and sighing you crawl into my lap
nestle against the scar of your birth
rest against sagging breasts
worn down by use and Time

bittersweet scent of sweat and skin
damp hair against my cheek
my arms creep to cradle soft limbs
reluctant at first
then gentling as shadowing of soul
brightens with forgiveness

i kiss your cheek
tear-wet eyes closed in sleep
and whisper promises
to try again
and love you always
even through the dark

Not All Massive Indoor Play Areas Are Created Equal

There's something about the scream of a small child that makes you want to simultaneously dash to the rescue and bash your head into the nearest wall. Multiply this by approximately nine zillion children and three-and-a-half hours and you have a decent idea of what my day has been like so far.

And I can only blame myself.

Not having arranged a playdate today and clued in to today's reality by the number of times my belly/head/back was bounced on this morning as I was trying to convince myself that the boys could handle my lying in bed just a little while longer, I decided to try out the closest Jungle Java. I've been to Castaway Cafe in Howell before, and that was great for both boys and me, but I didn't really feel like driving for more than an hour when there was something similar only twenty-two minutes away in West Bloomfield.

By something similar, we're talking about the level of similarity between a lush, creamy bar of Swiss chocolate and a Hershey's Kiss.

Castaway Cafe is HUGE. You can pack dozens of children in there and still their noise simply echoes dimly and fades away, creating a lively but bearable background. You can sit close up in comfy armchairs or farther away in (surprisingly comfortable) plastic ones at tables. The air space in that place just swallows up the worst of the chaos.

Jungle Java...well, let's just say that it doesn't match up. My rear now has what I fear may be a permanent waffle pattern from the stupid chair I had to use because the comfy ones were only by the tiny toddler area and therefore would completely cut off my view of the larger play area where my discriminating children were playing. That play area was only a fraction of the size of CC's. So was the entire place. As a result, the shrieks and screams of rambunctious tots was amplified as they bounced off the walls. My head feels like an overripe melon.

It's a good thing the boys tired themselves out and are willing to veg on the couch watching Pinky Dinky Doo.

I'm cursing the weather, because if it hadn't decided to be all grey and cloudy and threaten rain all day, I would have taken them to Erwin's Orchards instead, where we could have been outside for just as long with far less trauma to my eardrums. And maybe we could have brought back some raspberries.

I would pout, but I don't need any more wrinkles on my face. Besides, about three million people told me how adorable my boylets are, especially my curly-headed Widget, and that means I just can't be all that grouchy. It's good to know there are so many perceptive individuals out there.

Ah, for quieter times...My adorable boys at Erwin's last week

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm a Frickin' Mess and This Post Just Proves It. Look Away. Or Not. You Decide. I Can't Decide Anything Any More. Including When to End This Title.

So just as I'm settling into this whole summer thing, August is ending. I mean, seriously. So unfair. I was getting used to sleeping until 7:30 or 8 each morning. And meeting friends and their kidlets for playdates. And spending hours and hours online.

My life, it can be difficult.

But next week (NEXT WEEK!) my kidlets go back to daycare full time and I will have to report to school for intro stuff and professional development stuff and setting-up-the-room-again stuff and oh yeah, kinda need to plan things for that new class I've never taught before.

And I'm all Holy crap! because golly gee, September is going to be crazy! There's school starting up again and moving into the new apartment/back into the house/figuring out that whole thing (that'll be on the 19th, by the way). We have to track down things for the apartment on Craig's List and at Salvation Army, cuz we're not spending a fortune for that place. Oh, and I'll probably start attending Bible Study Fellowship on the occasional Monday night for in-depth Bible study. Not to mention needing to track down some sort of affordable classes I can take for the requisite six credits I'll need to renew my teaching certification. I also need to start exercising again, to deal with both flab and anxiety.

Somewhere in there I should really try to eat.

By the way, has anyone seen my sense of humor? I seem to have mislaid it somewhere.

I shouldn't even post this piece of crap. Oh well. There's no way I'm able to write the several posts I'd rather be creating, about my wonderful Girls Only Dinner on Saturday or my trip to pick raspberries or my trip to Eastern Market or anything like that. Though if you head to DetroitMommies.com you can find a little something about the raspberries and Eastern Market. I seem to have used up my skillz over there.

Ack. I'm out.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Every new stage brings anxiety; every move a questioning of the path. Where will this take us? What pitfalls lie down this way? Is this the right decision? My heart pounds, my breath catches, my muscles ache.

Our current living situation isn't working out. We are forty-five minutes apart. The children constantly wonder which house they'll sleep in tonight, even when we stick to a schedule, even when we tell them what will be happening. They mourn the absence of their belongings that are elsewhere, the security of their own space. He Who Was has what amounts to PTSD about his children living in Detroit, the scars of his own tormented experience when he was a child growing up in a neighborhood taken hostage by gangs and drugs.

We found an apartment complex a mile and a half down the road from our house, a well-kept place with tidy lawns and clean pool and uncracked tennis courts and a playground nestled at the center. They are running a special, one-bedroom apartments for $399. We ran the numbers, and if we tighten our belts, we can afford the extra expense. We applied; we were accepted. Next month we will begin a new phase in our journey.

The children will stay at the house: no more travelling back and forth. He Who Was and I will be the ones to travel, albeit only the mile and a half between. We'll be able to do occasional spontaneous visits or activities with the children, no longer figuring in a lengthy commute. We can be backup for each other in emergency. We can each take one child for special time one-on-one. I will no longer have to fill my gas tank twice a week and need oil changes after a mere month. These are good things.

And yet.

We will no longer have our own spaces, our safety zones. I will no longer have my brother close at hand for backup or venting or just hanging out. I will leave the comfort of the beautiful space my parents have created in exchange for an apartment with blank walls and beige carpets, and a house haunted by memories of a shattered life.

There is gain; there is loss. There is uncertainty. This seems the best option for the time being, but it is not perfect. Nothing can be perfect. Nothing can be sure.

So my heart races, my lungs labor, my muscles clench. And I grit my teeth and step forward into yet another day.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Just a Teaser. Don't Hate Me.

Tomorrow I'm having several dear friends over for a Girls Only Dinner, something I haven't ever done before. I can't think why. I plan on doing it quite regularly, because I have friends who can't come tomorrow, and I think it's unlikely I'd be able to get all of them together at once! I suppose that can be my ultimate goal.

At any rate, I will be busy busy busy tomorrow with tutoring and a brunch date with another girlfriend and shopping and cooking and all that jazz. So I'm unlikely to get out a post unless there's a miraculous lull in it all.

For the benefit of all of you who can't attend (and to whet the appetites of those who can), here's the menu I have planned:
  • My famous Maple Salmon (hey, I'm famous for making it, not for creating the recipe!)
  • Cranberry-Pear Tossed Salad
  • asparagus
  • Dark Molten Chocolate Cakes with fresh-picked raspberries (I took the boys to pick them today at Erwin's Orchards and managed to pick a basket full despite the boys. They probably ate their own body weight in berries. Good thing I didn't have to weigh them before and after like I did the basket.)
Eat your hearts out, peoples. And try out the recipes yourselves. You just might discover a new favorite.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Tried to Make This Sound Exciting, but I Don't Have Much to Work With (and Yes, I Know That's Grammatically Incorrect)

After a brief kid-filled pool party this morning with a friend's MOPS group (we were rained out after an hour), I returned with my wee whiners to the house. Fun time was over. Today was the day. I had put it off for four months, and there was no turning back.

It was time to Clean the Room.

Back in May, when my parents flew out of the country, I moved up into the Skyhouse, their charming attic suite. Which has since become less charming and more lived-in-by-children. This freed up the second-floor room where I had been staying since January, and on Monday a young couple is moving in there as renters.

The problem is that I am a slob. I am also the queen of procrastinators. Therefore, I moved the things I wanted up into the Skyhouse and left behind a nice variety of extraneous minutiae, such as my winter clothing and my jeans that don't fit any more (they're too big!) and craft supplies and books I'd already read. And there they have sat, collecting dust mites.

So today I put an Imagination Movers DVD on for the kidlets, turned my MP3 player to the Garden State soundtrack, plugged in the earbuds, and got down to work.

I swear my stuff must have procreated, because I don't remember having that much in there.

Today, despite the rain, is stifling hot and, due to the rain, horribly humid. That room hasn't had the windows open or a fan running in months, and there's no central air in this house. So after only fifteen minutes my shirt was sticking to my skin, my bra was rubbing damply beneath my boobs, and my hair was plastered attractively to my face. Great fun.

By the time everything was packed up and the bed was stripped and I could put my brother to work lugging my things upstairs, the soundtrack was over and the kidlets were beating each other up in the living room. So I am now sitting on the couch while DramaBoy complains about the show availability on TV, luxuriating in the breeze sweeping through the windows. Shortly, DramaBoy will have to deal with my own choice of show. And I will cheerfully ignore the enormous pile of clutter up in the Skyhouse until I can't avoid tidying up there as well.

Holy cannoli, but I am pooped. This cleaning thing is so overrated.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In Which I Am Grateful and Also Clarify a Point of View

First of all, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the kind and encouraging words, the virtual hugs, and especially the prayers. They mean so very, very much. He Who Was told me today that he wishes he could be doing just great like I am--apparently just happy all the time, constantly seeing people and doing things, and not struggling with depression. I told him that if he read my blog he'd see that isn't always true. However, I do have some key elements in my life that make all the difference: my faith and my incredible support system. You are all part of that, and I am so grateful.

So, on to a different topic for today (which was full of fun and sun, by the way, and I am now full of Little Sleazer's pizza and putting off cleaning out the room I used to live in and which needs to be ready for the new renters by Monday):

Very recently a new reader (Hi, Baby Murloc! Holy cow, an actual WoW visitor? And what does it say about me that I knew where to go in order to find your guild? :P) commented that he/she (murloc gender undefined in the comment)...

Um. That sentence is just getting confusing. I've been sidetracked by my World of Warcraft geekdom.

Starting again: A new reader commented, I came across your link via the homeschooling carnival and a comment you made. Your comment made me curious as to where you stand on homeschooling but in visiting your blog, I still don't know. =)

Ah. The great Educational Options debate. I figured it wouldn't hurt to air my views. I'm not exactly breaking new ground with them. And it just so happens that I already have such a post written--in an email.

The highly amusing Arby at Boarding in Bedlam and I write snarky emails back and forth, because we both have quite sarcastic and somewhat riske senses of humor, but sometimes we get on more down-to-earth topics. He is a stay-at-home dad who used to be a public school teacher and now homeschools his three kids. The topic of education comes up on his blog frequently, and we've had a few virtual conversations about it as well. Remarkably free of snarkiness, I should note.

So I went back and found my answer to that question in an email chain, and I'm posting it word for word as I wrote it to him. Hopefully this clarifies my stance. Feel free to comment and question. I won't get prickly.



From an email dated August 5, 2009

I'm in a rather interesting situation, actually. I have been homeschooled, attended private day schools (small and large) both in America and England, attended boarding school overseas, went to a VERY large public university, and teach at a large public high school. Pretty much the only option I haven't experienced firsthand is a charter school.

One of the things I love about the education system in America (and don't get me wrong, I have a lot of criticisms) is the many options people have. I love that we do have choices. One could argue that it's harder and more limited for poorer people, but since there are some excellent charter/magnet schools as well as a growing contingent of homeschoolers even amongst the poverty-stricken innercities (such as Detroit), I think that determination and creativity can make the difference.

I am in the position of NOT thinking that one option is necessarily better than all others. I think it depends on the school, on the family, and especially on the child. I think any school or homeschool can be excellent or horrible. I think any child can succeed in one option and fail in another. So I truly do not have an issue with people choosing other options than that in which I myself am professionally involved. I DO have an issue with people, on any side, who claim that their educational way is the only way.

What I do hate, with a passion, about the current educational policy in America is the attitude that all children should be able to perform identically, as though they're little robots. That's my own frustration with the testing and the laws and all. I love most of teaching: I hate much about the institution. I do still believe, philosophically, in American education. My own children will attend public school. It helps that I teach in a good district. It has its problems, no doubt about that, but it's a good one.

Besides, I don't have what it takes to homeschool!

I think a lot of the anti-homeschooling perspective comes from the way homeschooling tended to be (and sometimes still is) back in the day--very isolated, with little in the way of socialization. Nowadays there are so many options and opportunities for homeschoolers that I don't see that being the norm any longer, at least in the people I know who do it. I have an uncle (well, really his wife) who homeschooled all three children here in the States--in other words, by complete choice rather than necessity--and their kids had SO much awesome social interaction, including being part of a homeschool co-op that neatly counteracted the common complaint that (at the higher levels especially) the teachers don't have enough expertise in specific areas.

I find myself being the Voice of Reason on the occasions where educational choice is a debate--for both sides!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm Tired, Mind and Body, So Please Forgive My Rambling

Look up in the right hand corner of my blogsite. No, lower. A little lower. Right by the top title of the post...yep! There. You see that photo? The one of the woman who goes by the name of TeacherMommy hereabouts?

She's feeling a little low. A little sad. A little confused and frustrated and where-the-heck-is-my-life-going. A little melancholy, you could say.

It's been a good day. A long day, but a good day. My Tuesdays are always packed with a million-and-one things to do and people to see and appointments and whatnot, and today was a doozy. In a good way, really, so I don't mind, but it's tiring.

So as I was driving home tonight from a GNO (only it was sort of In) at a beloved freshly-retired teacher friend's house, I was thinking about Life and All That Stuff and just felt this wave of fatigue wash over me. Not just fatigue of the body, mind you: fatigue of the heart.

(I don't even know where this post is going other than I need to pour this out or I'll never get to sleep. My thoughts are all over the place; so is this post. Please bear with me.)

I know I'm often annoyingly vague about He Who Was and our separation and possibly impending divorce. I don't feel right about going into details. But I will write tonight that although I have grown immensely this last half year, even though I know I am a strong woman and will be okay in the end: the emotional wear and tear--it sucks. It sucks hardcore.

It's a day to day thing. Daily making the choice to get up and do what needs to be done, take care of my children, take care of myself, sometimes take care of He Who Was. Learn, grow, stretch, fall back a few steps, stumble, get back up, forge forward again. And then do it all over the next day.

Lately I fell back a few steps. I let my anger at He Who Was overwhelm my compassion. I didn't feel like forgiving him for some recent hurts. Then a few good friends (and a very good sister) made some comments and talked with me about things, and I started thinking again rather than just letting my momentary emotions carry the day. And I realized that I've been getting pretty high and mighty lately, picturing myself as both the Victim and the Better Person in our sad little mess.

I'm not the heroine of this story. I deeply wounded my husband. I made choices for which I did and am and will suffer the consequences. I know I'm forgiven by my Father, and I have forgiven myself, but that does not rid me of responsibility for the heart wound I caused. I don't apologize to He Who Was often enough, and something someone said to me today made me realize that he needs that. He needs to know that even though I am not stuck and wallowing in guilt and shame, I am still immeasurably sorry for what I have done and for the choices I have made over the years that contributed to the breakdown of our marriage.

And I'm still struggling day to day to figure out if I even want to be in this marriage myself. There are times when I just want to walk away. There are times when I just want to file the papers myself. And there are times, like tonight as I drove home in the car, when I miss him fiercely, when I want nothing more than to hear his voice and feel his arms around me.

I don't know what else to say tonight. I'm not sure I should even post this. But I will, because it's Truth, and I'm learning to live in the light. It's just hard, sometimes, not to retreat to the shadows.

Monday, August 17, 2009

This One Goes Out to Some Blogs I Love

I thought I had just enough time before I dashed out the door to meet the fabulous Melissa of Rock and Drool for a tweet-up (ye Internet gods! I cannot believe I'm doing this) to dash off a quick post in which I celebrate (drum roll please!):


Heh. Turns out I'm finishing this later. There's just so much of me to go around!

You see, I was notified about a blog award from a lovely follower AGES ago and it was right during a crazy time (because I have SO FEW of those) and I never did get around to acknowledging it and then passing it on. And then today I got ANOTHER blog award from ANOTHER lovely follower, and so I figured it's time to actually do something about these lovely people and lovely awards.

I'd like to thank the Academy for...

Oops. Adolescent daydream moment there.

In reality (or virtuality, I suppose) I'd love to thank the marvelous sAm of I've been set free for her (long ago) "Queen of all things" award:

For which the rules are:

1. List 7 things that make me Awe-Summm
2. Pass the award onto 7 bloggers that I love (except I'm doing eight because I'm such a rebel)
3. Tag those bloggers to let them know they are now Queens too (and link back to the Queen who tagged you)

So here you go--Seven Things That Make Me Awe-Summm:

1. I can wiggle my ears. Without using my fingers or other objects. Sheerly by will and freakish head muscles alone.

2. I have two biological children, both of whom I bore to term, and yet have never had a contraction. Not even Braxton-Hicks. (Of course, I do have a freakishly large scar on my lower abdomen and a nice little belly shelf to hang over it.)

3. Last time I was tested, I could read 1,750 words per minute with a 90-95% comprehension rate. No wonder it's impossible to keep me in books.

4. My best friend when I was three was a West African red monkey named Mickey. No, really.

5. When I watch "Wheel of Fortune," I can usually guess the answers before anyone else even has a remote clue. Sometimes with only two or three letters on the board.

6. When I put my mind to it, I can cook AWESOME meals. You should taste my Maple Salmon. It's amazing. It, in fact, is what got my brother-in-law to fall in love with salmon, which led to him ordering on his honeymoon in Aruba, which led to him having a horrible allergic reaction (turns out he should Never Eat Fish Ever) which made him look like Grimace and sent them to the emergency room. But that was a freak incident, really.

7. I have eaten fried termites. By choice. And enjoyed them. They taste like roasted pumpkin seeds.

And now I tag the following Queens for this award:

1. Melissa at Rock and Drool (where she is, truly, the Queen of her Queendom)
2. Fraught Mummy at Brits in Bosnia (Hopefully this doesn't constitute treason for her, what with the whole monarchy thing)
3. MomZombie at Mom-Zombie (she's not actually the Queen-Mother of the undead, FYI)
4. Monica at And I'll Raise You 5 (anyone who can parent five children and stay halfway sane is Awe-summm in my book!)
5. Beth at BurkinaMom in France (a truly international woman who has a wonderful global view of life)
6. GingerB at Gas-Food-Lodging (who makes me giggle and gives me a dose of red-headed darlings every now and then)
7. Kathleen at Treasured Chapters (who makes homeschooling sound almost fun--almost)
8. MommyTime at Mommy's Martini (who just lost her eyelashes in a near miss but is no doubt gorgeous anyhow--certainly still as well-written!)

Now for the second award. The ever-so-generous Fraught Mummy at Brits in Bosnia once again gave me an award, and once again it contains profanity. I swear (inadvertently), she's trying to get me disowned or something. The good news is that it's only profanity in countries that are part of the British Commonwealth, and that isn't in the good old rebellious US of A! So I don't have to blush when I tell you that she awarded me:

Why thank you, m'dear. Thank you. I try.

There are no rules for this award, and I've decided to award it in turn to a few blogs, either new or very undervisited, whose brilliance may not be as recognized as some, but definitely deserve it. So I give you:

1. Jello Brain at That's Not Jello, That's My Brain: A brand new blog that's taking off like a rocket--THE place to vent in safety and get love and support in return.
2. Heidi at Hortus Deliciarum: She's one of my oldest friends (timeline-wise--we're almost the same age) and her writing is amazing. Oh, and according to her latest post, her dreams are brilliant too.
3. Arby at Boarding in Bedlam: A real live stay-at-home homeschooling dad who writes with wit, wisdom, and a snarky comment or two.

If you haven't already, check them out. They're worth a visit.

There you go.

Oh, and if you live in the Metro Detroit area (or just want to see what's happening in these parts) check out the new Detroit Mommies website! Get recommendations, reviews, and event alerts for the whole area from real live bloggers in the area. I'm a contributor over there, and I just had posts about LebFest 2009 and the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum go up! Come on over and see what the Metro Detroit area has to offer!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

We're Crazy Party Animals, I Tell You. The Eighties Were a Cardboard Blur.

I grew up surrounded by my extended family on my mother's side, all of us out there in the wilds of West Africa. Sundays were always spent at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Holidays too. Since we had large groups of people, no TV, no movie theatre, no parks, no lots of things that people here take for granted, we played a lot of games.

One of the family favorites was, and is, a card game named "Maize." I have no idea where it came from or who made it up or anything: I've heard rumors it's known by other names and with some variations, but have never actually encountered them myself. Since my grandmother would not allow classic playing cards in her house (due to negative associations with gambling and such), we played with Rook cards instead, which worked fine. There are still four suits (colors) and fifteen cards (numbered 1 through 14, no face cards, with the "1" acting like an ace).

We played it on Sundays, on holidays, on vacations. We children could and did play it along with the adults. We were allowed to lay out our cards on chair seats when they became too much to hold, and the adults would politely ignore them. I remember playing it endlessly with my parents on a vacation by the beach, my younger sister running about in the sand and complaining that we were spending too much time playing "Mayonnaise." We have family jokes about my grandfather stabbing his hand into the air and saying Wait! with every card played and staring intently at his cards before allowing play to continue; about my grandmother (a nurse) constantly saying she was discharging cards instead of discarding them.

We still play it these days. My brother and I just played a full game (seven hands) over two nights with our grandparents while up here on vacation. My grandparents are doing very well, but they are in their eighties and sometimes their memories won't cooperate, so we've had to remind them of the rules the last several times we've played. Grandma, exasperated, finally said Just write them down so I can look at them next time! the other night, and we thought this was reasonable.

So my brother typed up the rules, I nitpicked--er, edited--them, and voila! It's only taken forty or fifty years for someone to get around to that.

And because I'm generous and like to encourage social game-playing, I'm sharing the rules with you! They're written for both regular and Rook cards, and you can download the PDF file here.

You're welcome.

(Dark chocolate would be considered acceptable payment for services rendered.)

(I might even share with my brother.)

Just For You: Saturday Snapshots, Lakefront Edition

Just for fun, and because I like alliteration, I'm doing something I'm calling "Saturday Snapshots." I know. My creativity, it astonishes even me.

Really, it's just an excuse to post a bunch of photos because I like them, and even if people don't really read blogs on weekends much, it makes my heart happy to look at them, and I have a feeling there are at least a few of my readers who will also get warm fuzzies. You're welcome.
First, courtesy of my mother and straight from one of the actual and for real frangipani trees mentioned here, a close up of the lovely blossoms (against a palm tree background). I found out, by the way, that these are also called "plumeria," which all of the sudden makes me understand why my sister and I love that fragrance!

They're thick and creamy in texture, almost like they're fake, but so lovely and alive

Next, a series of photos from today's excursion down to the beachfront, with my brother performing the service of Official Boat Paddler:

Heading down to the paddle boat for an exciting excursion

Getting sicht-ee-ated

Apparently, pedaling requires a great deal of concentration, therefore also some special use of the tongue (look closely at the uncle)

Success! And two happy boys, once the "discussion" over who got to steer was sorted out

Small DramaBoy, meditating

Small Widget, considering

My Chosen Spot

Small Thief

(Okay, yes, I broke my "no pop" vow here, but it's only because the water up here tastes so horrible and plastic. Sorry, Grandma, but it's true.)

DramaBoy with scaly friend and a rock

The Widget with "bucket" and sand

The joy of splashing!

And finally, this evening we discovered a small puppy had magically materialized beneath the dining room table:

The Golden Re-Screamer

(name--and therefore, caption--thanks to uncle/blessed brother)

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Friday, August 14, 2009

two small boys on beach

Haiku Friday

two small boys on beach
splash through the shallows and sand
shrieks of glee and fun

i sit on a rock
damp granite on sandy rear
content to watch them

once i too ran here
building sandcastles in sun
endless energy

these days i prefer
to simply sit, supervise
and sip lemonade

go play, small boylets
for these are innocent years
and too soon are gone

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's Pretty and All, but I'm Just Not That Into Nature, at Least Up Close and Personal

When I was a little girl out in the wilds of West Africa, I would spend hours each day outside. I'd roam the hospital compound with my younger sister and two younger cousins/next-thing-to-brothers pretending we were a band of lost orphans wandering the wilderness surviving off the fruit of the land. Literally: we'd feast on mangoes and passion fruit and the tiny little limes we'd peel with a pocket-knife and suck until our teeth surrendered their enamel in despair. We'd climb the low-slung branches of frangipani trees, each claiming one as our own "house," then jump off into the muddy ditches below and visit each other for dinner parties of mud pie and beans.

My cousin Stevie was the one who gloried most in the mud and dirt of it all--pigs had nothing on him--but we all would trek home at the end of the day more red than white with the peculiarly rust-colored dust of the Ivoirien savanna. As the oldest by three years, I was the leader of our band and bossed the others around unmercifully. Whatever it was we (I) decided to do, it was usually outdoors, and it usually required a bath afterward.

At some point I decided I was less interested in wandering the wilderness and more interested in perusing the pages of books while my younger compatriots did their "kid" things. Formerly they had protested my dictatorship: now they came begging my mother to make me come tell them what to do. My imagination still ran riot, and I would even venture outside for the occasional game of kick-the-can or freeze tag, but my days in the mud faded into the past.

Today I went down to the shore of the little northern lake on which my grandparents' rather large cabin (we call it "Chalet Shalom") perches. I pedaled my two young sons about in the small blue paddle boat that is the only operational water vehicle at our little dock. I sat on a rock and piled thick lake sand into recycled cottage cheese tubs to create mini sandcastles, which were promptly stepped upon by fat little feet. I watched as small boys splashed through the shallows up and down the stretch of beach.

I remember the days of sun and sand and water I spent here as a little girl, those few years when we were here in Michigan. I remember squatting in the wet sand making my own sandcastles, splashing through the wavelets, swimming with trepidation out to the raft that still floats in reincarnated form some fifteen yards from shore. I never did like the muck and weeds of lake bottoms, so I would swim as quickly as I could and climb the ladder to sit in the sun instead. I remember the occasions when my mother's cousin Ken would bring his speedboat to the lake and we could tube behind it: once, when I was ten, he even let me steer the boat for a little while. I remember Grandpa trying to pull us in tubes behind the pontoon boat, but it couldn't get up enough speed and we were simply pulled under the water, coming up sneezing and coughing.

Today's visit...well, it was nice enough, and I'm glad I did it for their sake, but I soon tired of the moistness in my nether region and the scratchiness of sand on my extremities, and I wished I'd thought to bring a chair and my Kindle and a drink down to the deck. I think that will be on the agenda for tomorrow's excursion.

Nowadays I'm more citified, I suppose. If I'm going to be outside, I'd prefer to sit with a good book and a glass of lemonade, perhaps a Smirnoff Ice if it's a social occasion. I'll don my swimsuit, but I rarely venture in water--perhaps if it's very hot and I'm next to a nice clean pool rather than a lake with who-knows-what lurking below the surface. I dislike the feel of sand in my crevices and weeds between my toes.

I can still rough it when called upon. I have cooked a full breakfast over an open fire, I have taken sponge baths in the woods, I used to be the one people could count upon to have a roll of toilet paper in the car for emergency situations (now I have baby wipes).

I'd simply rather not.

And I think I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's Hard to Wind Down When I've Been Going Nonstop All Day, Okay? Geez!

I just checked my blog stats and nearly fell off the bed when I saw there were only two hits today. I even double checked. Only TWO? What happened!

And then I realized it's 12:44 AY-EM and I really should just go to bed.

Me and my insecurities. I tell you. I mean, I was practically hyperventilating because it's been ages since I've been down in the teens, much less single digits, and here it's just because today started less than an hour ago.

And don't even get me STARTED on the number of blogs I "need" to catch up on reading, cuz I've been crazy busy today. Which is just silly, because those bloggers will survive if I'm a few days delayed in reading their posts, whether brilliant or mundane. Even though I know they sit for hours at their keyboards, tapping the keys anxiously in their desperate wait for a TeacherMommy comment to pop up. (HA!)

OH! And I still haven't replied to bushmanbill's Direct Message via Twitter! Ack! If you're reading this, hon, I'm doing mostly okay and so are the kids. More details later.

Maybe it will be good for me to get away for a few days, somewhere I can't hover by my computer. I think I may be on the verge of running silicone through my veins rather than blood.

Wish me luck (or pray) on our trip tomorrow. It's normally a six-hour drive, but with two kidlets we'll be tacking on a few hours. Sigh.

Since I need to be up in five hours, I need to get OFF THE COMPUTER. Even if it is the first chance I've had to really be on here all day. Peace and sweet dreams!

Monday, August 10, 2009

I Only Took a Little Break to Come Online, Okay? I Swear I'll Tackle the Piles of Clothes in a Minute!

I know it's been like, two days since I posted and all, but oh lordy. I just don't have the time or energy in all this humid heat (I'm such a wuss these years) to write anything deep and/or witty. At least in reality: you should SEE what I've composed in my head during all the car trips! And this means that I'll be composing even more on Wednesday when I travel up to the Upper Peninsula with the boys in tow--including my bro, who will help keep the kidlets (and therefore me) sane. Perhaps I'll pull out my computer and type some things up while my brother drives. We'll see. Maybe if the kidlets fall asleep.

In the meantime, I'm scrambling to clean house, especially since renters will be moving in this month and I never fully moved all my stuff out of that room, and maybe (or maybe not--stupid credit) I'll be moving back up to that suburb sometime soonish if we can rent a one-bedroom apartment (more on that later), and I have meetings and appointments crammed in tonight and tomorrow. Oh, and I should probably pack at some point.

So remind me to tell you about the following when I have a chance:
My visit back to my childhood church this last Sunday morning (oh the angst! and then not)
My children and their delightful conversations with each other (90% DramaBoy, 10% Widget)
My overwhelming hatred of paying bills and cleaning house which makes me yearn to win the lottery so that I have no more debt and can hire a full-time maid (oh, well that's about it on that one, especially since I haven't bought any tickets lately, so no post needed)

And depending on how it goes, maybe I'll fill you in on the trip up to the UP, too. We'll see.

So, I'll write you when I can...Loves and cuddles 'til then!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Maybe I Should Mention He's Not Normally This Bloodthirsty

(The following conversation took place this afternoon after DramaBoy had some fun playing some sort of spaceship/flying/shooting computer game his daddy has, one that uses a fancy new joystick that takes up more desk space than a keyboard. DramaBoy is already quite good at the game. His daddy says he's destined to be a pilot.

It should be noted that this is only the first part of the conversation, the part I can still remember. It went on for about five minutes, with many gesticulations and facial expressions on DramaBoy's part and only the occasional interjection on mine. Have I mentioned he's quite verbal?)


Mama! he said with a huge grin, I killed all the bad guys!

Good job! I said, and shook his hand.

I killed them all dead because I crashed into a big rock and then the volcano blew up and it got all the bad guys. It was a big volcano in space and it blew up and it hurted the bad guys on the forehead and the ear and the ear and the nose and the neck and the arm and the arm and the knee and the knee and all over the body. Betuz when a volcano blows up it puts out lots of fire and fire hurts the whole body. But it didn't blow up me and my rocket ship betuz Daddy pulled it up.

I see, I said.

And sometimes there are big rocks in space, but there aren't any rocks on Jupiter!

No? I replied. What's on Jupiter?

Oh, Jupiter is full of woooonderful things! he said, his eyes wide.

And so are you, DramaBoy. So are you.

Friday, August 7, 2009

So He Thinks He Can Dance

As much as my boys can drive me scrabbling with my broken and bleeding fingernails at the edge of sanity, they also have the ability to make me laugh like no one else. Even on days like today, when my anxiety and stress levels are ratcheted up to Save Me, Superman! and I keep reciting Psalm 23 over and over like a frantic mantra.

In fact, it's perfect timing for a good giggle attack. Like when DramaBoy and I realize that our view of Phineas and Ferb is being obstructed by The Widget wearing a great big Fulani hat while he does a little shimmy in front of the TV.

You'd think he was trying to cheer me up or something.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Life on Overload

One of the hardest parts for me about depression and grieving--at least in terms of dealing with the World Out There and loved ones--is the sensitivity to everything. I can't speak for other people, but I know that when I'm sitting on the Dark Side of life, I become hypersensitive to every nuance, every word, every action. And not in a good way.

I snap in anger at the slightest provocation--not to even mention the actual button-pushing that comes from, oh, say, two small boys whose worlds have been turned upside down. I suspect dark motives behind each negligent word. If friends and family don't answer when I call or take a long time to respond to a message or email, I think they're avoiding me. If someone doesn't beg me to join them in some event or activity, or doesn't seem overjoyed to see me, I think it means they don't want me.

Intellectually I know this isn't the case. People are busy or out of town. They don't mean something the way I take it. They're being normal in their reaction or reception of me. Intellectually I know that I am loved and that there are many people (not all: I'm not naive) who like to have me around, even actively want me around.

I just struggle to feel it.

For example, today I wrote a comment on a dear friend's post disagreeing with what she had said about a recent hot topic. I wasn't the only one, nor the first, and I think I did so with respect and without attacking her personally. And yet, when I hit Submit, it was all I could do not to have a mini panic attack. Ever since, I've been more than half-convinced that by disagreeing with her I must have offended her and now she won't want to be my friend. I know she's NOT a petty person, nor easily offended, and yet I cannot rid myself of that feeling of doom.

My therapist says this is normal for what I'm going through. I'm feeling grief and anger and rejection, and I'm so overloaded already that the slightest possibility of more sends me over the edge.

So I'm making some choices. I'm going back on Zoloft. Now is not the time to be all chemically independent. I'm going to try to get more exercise into my schedule, because that's disappeared. I'm going to try to eat more healthily and drink more water. And even though I have the urge to write my own post about the current hot topic, I'm going to hold off until I'm a little more balanced.

And I'm going to try, very hard, to just breathe.

UPDATE: I made another choice to stop stewing and actually ask my dear friend about my comment on her post. As I knew (intellectually) she would, she told me (in gentler, much more loving words) to stop being a blooming idiot. I'm going to go put my head under a rock or two and try to take her advice.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's the Hardest One to Answer

Tonight he finally asked the question I'd been dreading.

He's asked If and Will you be before. But not this.

Tonight, after picking up the boys from daycare (after six days of absence) and driving them down to Detroit, DramaBoy suddenly asked me, Why are you and Daddy not together?

I've thought about this question, even though I would rather not. I've wondered what to say to a not-quite-four-year-old about this. How does one answer such a question without lying? Without talking way over his head? Without giving him unnecessary information? Without making him see either parent in a bad light? Without avoiding an answer at all?

And there it was, and there he was, and there I was, and it was time to figure it out. No more wondering. No more rehearsing. No more pre-show jitters. The spotlight's on full and the audience is waiting. Cue line.

Well, I said. I paused. Well, Mommy and Daddy had a lot of problems.

And accidents? he asked.

Well, no, not really accidents. Problems. We made some very bad choices.

Why? he asked. Why indeed? I ask myself that all the time.

We were not doing what was right and we were stupid and we made some very bad choices. And Mommy and Daddy hurt each others' hearts very badly.

Sometimes I make bad choices and I hurt my heart, he said. But I don't hurt my heart as bad as you and Daddy did.

That's right. We hurt each others' hearts so bad that even though we are sorry, there was too much hurt already. And, well, sometimes when that happens, when they're so hurt in the heart like that, Mommies and Daddies can't be together anymore.

There was a short silence.

Can I watch TV when I get home? he asked.

Yes, but only if you give me lots of cuddles, I said.

Okay. I will give you cuddles! he said, and there was a touch of joy in his voice.

I wish that would always be enough.

A Letter to my Readers

Dear Faithful Readers,

In case you couldn't tell from my last few posts, I've been stuck in serious mode lately. Part of this is the lack of kidlets in my immediate vicinity (I haven't seen them in a week now) because having them around drives me crazy and funny at the same time. I think they're linked--I believe finding the humor in being a parent is sheer self-defense.

So with no kidlets around for almost seven days now I've instead been plunged into my own head, facing my hope and my sorrow, my dreams and my fears. When I am struggling with emotion, poetry is my refuge, which is why there's been a good bit of that lately.

I've made it a sort of unofficial policy of mine not to air too much dirty laundry on this blog. There are two reasons for this. First, I'm not the only one involved. I don't want to delve too deeply into other people's stories without their express permission. I happen to know that He Who Was would rather I didn't mention our divorce at all: I'm compromising by not going too deeply into details, particularly where he is directly involved. And there are details that other family members don't know and, really, don't need to know. There is such a thing as being too transparent.

Second, while I am technically anonymous on this blog, it wouldn't take too much for people in my workplace to find me and know immediately that it is me. I mean, there's my picture up there. And they've seen me with pink hair because I did that look for an '80s Day at school this last year. I'm probably all over MySpace and Facebook in my pink hair, eyeliner, and punk clothes, considering the number of cell phone cameras whipped out that day. And let's face it, there's a certain amount of danger in airing personal information on the Internet, particularly when you're in a position of some sensitivity, like an educator.

I'm still learning the balance. I've lived most of my life being too secretive, keeping people at arm's length as far as the Real Me was concerned. I now am trying to live a life of honesty and transparency, but in some ways I tend to go too far in the opposite direction. Amazingly, I now find such freedom and exhilaration in telling people the truth that I have to watch my tongue. There have probably already been cases of people pulling away, wondering who this crazy lady is who shares all these personal details with everyone.

I guess I feel like I don't have a lot to lose, and there's so much to gain.

However, not everyone needs to know everything, and so I'm learning the balance. If you have questions, please ask them--and enable your email in your profile!!!!--and I am happy to share specifics in personal emails. Just ask Arby about that. ;) And if you think I might be going a little too transparent and overstepping boundaries, please give me the heads up. Sometimes that's hard to see from where I am.

I'm relieved to see that my recent string of serious, if not downright depressing, posts has not (as far as I can tell) lost me readers. I will be picking up my precious boys this afternoon (oh how I miss those cuddles and kisses!), so you may be getting more Adventures of DramaBoy and The Widget coming your way to alleviate the darkness!

In the meantime...thank you for reading. And thank you, as always, for your comments and love and support. My online support system has been incredible, and I'm very grateful for you all.

Yours, as always,


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

and in this time

and in this time
of loss and sorrow
as i walk through this valley

teach me to turn to You
to rest in Your arms
to trust in Your love

the love that never fails
never dies when i cause You pain
never fades with time

teach me to stand in Your light
rather than seeking the darkness
rather than hiding in the shadows

remind me that You took my shame
upon Your own shoulders
and suffered my pain as Your own

that i may walk free and clear
with new life and new hope
in the light of Your loving gaze

and in this time
teach me to hope anew
that i may be more one day

than i ever dreamed to be

Monday, August 3, 2009

sometimes it's worse

sometimes it's worse
to hope in the first place
it hurts more
when reality proves

the Book says
faith, hope, love
are the centers of life
but the greatest of these
is love
and without it
the others are in vain

and there's the rub
the missing piece
that tears my hope to shreds

when pain has killed the love
or at least
buried it so deep
that mountains would have to be moved
before one could even start digging

then hope
has no room to grow

I May Feel Like a Zombie, but at Least I'm a Well-Loved Zombie

You know what?

I'm tired.

Just plain old tired, both in the physical and mental way. I could sit here and try to come up with some clever and gorgeously written post on my long weekend in Chicago and all the people I met and learning about how to hold real conversations instead of just trading monologues and hanging out with some awesome twenty-somethings who let me pretend I'm not well on my way into the next decade and dancing to live Egyptian music and staying up late sharing life stories and all that sort of exhausting social stuff.

But I'm not. Maybe later.

Right now I'm physically drained from staying up late so much and walking a lot and the long trip home (which didn't end until 2:30 ay-em, peoples) and the energy it takes to interact with so many strangers. Even if many of them aren't strangers any more.

Right now I'm emotionally drained from having (again) interacted with so many strangers in a non introvert-in-her-shell sort of way, and from having been away from my kidlets for so long with two days to go, and from many bouts of tears as I shared my story and heard others', and from coming back into the reality of my uncertain life.

I do come back, however, with the comforting knowledge that I am not alone in my uncertainty and sense of being in limbo. I am not alone in my struggles and my desire to understand what God wants from and for me in this time. I am not alone, for God continues to bless me with gifts of love and support and friendship, every way I turn.

So thank you, friends and loved ones, old and new. I love you too.
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