Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Teach Now, Reap Later

OC is playing softball for the first time this spring. There are two games per week come snow, rain or shine, but no practices. She takes one gymnastics class per week for an hour. All of a sudden, we are going somewhere nearly every night. When I imagine if I had more kids, I don't know what I would do. Drink more heavily to numb the cold weather that is spring softball in central Oregon?

Which brings me to ask, what do you do to motivate your kids to do what they're supposed to do? I feel like the town crier, and a redundant one at that with as many times as I have to repeat myself to see any action. "Five o'clock! Time to tidy up!"

I wrote on notecards her chores, bedtime routine, and expectations and posted these on the fridge. The idea is to give her the power to complete what she needs to do each day without being asked multiple times. This way, I am not Taskmaster Mommy. If she chooses not to do them or to leave them incomplete, then we move on to the next paragraph.

I created a smiley-face/frowney-face reward/consequence system. For ten smiley-face stickers earned after completing everything for the morning and one for evening, she pulls a reward out of the reward jar. They are things like, a trip to the ice cream store or baking something special together. The consequence happens after only three frowney-faces, and are things like cleaning something.

What I want to know is, what are you doing to motivate your kids? Does it work? Kids are different and respond to different incentives. So far, this seems to be working. The down side to it is that it's something we have to do every day, twice per day.

The idea I don't like is giving a reward for what should be done normally every day. But then again, this is time to teach good habits.

Unlike SSRI's and a good bottle of wine, won't be necessary to use forever.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dreams Are For Suckers. Allow Me To Introduce Myself...

There was a time when I had a recurring dream about an ex-boyfriend. Nothing erotic, mind you. In those dreams we would be somewhere together, the location was always changing but there we were, talking. For hours! This was very satisfying because it was something we didn't do, which I always wanted to do. After a dream like that I would wake up feeling fantastic.

Last night, the dream was about my dad, and the house where I grew up. My dad died five years ago, and the house was smashed by a tree two or three years ago. Talk about never being able to go home again.

The worst thing about losing someone you love is that the whole world doesn't stop with you. Jobs still need hours put into them, kids need your attention, bills need to be paid, etc. Everything else happens while you feel as though nothing can ever be accomplished again. Your job? Who cares! Your kid? Well, yes you take care of them as best you can. Bills? Who needs lights and heat when your life was just ripped apart and will never be the same and you can't hardly breathe much less get up, go to work, and write checks to the electric company! Those acts seems so meaningless in the face of human loss.

It's been five years. It's gotten a little easier, day by day, to resume normal activities and deal with the hurt from the loss(es) - my brother died the year previous to my dad's passing - and move forward so it doesn't hurt quite so acutely. Eventually, the hurt is not the first thing to knock you down when you wake up in the morning, but it's still there. It becomes manageable.

And then, one night my stupid brain goes off to LaLa Land then I have to feel as though it happened last week, and I can't even go out for coffee because I can't stop crying (yet) because now I'm thinking about my dad, brother AND grandfather. I think about how I'll never see them again, my husband will never meet them, and my daughter will never know them like I knew them and all of that is really, really hard to swallow.

The attitude I have about death, normally, is that it's not an ending. It's a beginning for another life, whatever that may be. These two successive nights of dreams have challenged my ability to be hopeful about the idea, and instead has sharpened the feeling of loss. Memories are a double-edged sword. On one side is this precious gift that can never be taken away by falling trees or blood cancers. On the other, they are sharp reminders of what was - and will never be again.

I've been okay with that for the last few years, but I'm not okay with that right now. I'm ready to have those dreams of unrequited love where Brad Pitt and my old boyfriend both reject me YET AGAIN, they don't even want to talk to me. Then, they walk off together into the sunset. That would be much more preferable to any other kind of dream, thank you very much.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

SSRI-Induced Dreams and Self-Reproach

In my dream last night, I went to my grandfather's funeral wearing only a bra and underwear. What's more, the open casket was viewed in an underground tunnel. It was already halfway through the service did I realize that it might be a tad bit disrespectful to be at a funeral dressed this way. I didn't mean to be disrespectful at all, especially to my beloved grandfather (who died in 1991, by the way, and to whose funeral I was fully clothed). What happened was, I was completely inept at choosing an outfit, and when I ran out of time, I didn't get dressed at all. It had everything to do with my failures and nothing to do with an outward expression of feeling to my grandfather.

What could it mean? I thought about that this morning as I walked back from taking OC to school. Could it be that I do the most horrendously inappropriate, hurtful things inadvertently, only realizing so after the fact? The results of which hurt others, sometimes irretrievably?

I have really got to pay more attention.

On this same walk back from school - it's only three blocks, but a lot can happen in a short time - I ran into a dad and his 2nd and 3rd grade daughters. They are our neighbors on the next block, and we run into one another quite a bit but we've never gotten our kids together. I don't exactly know why. He's a single dad, and I feel uncomfortable with that. Not in a judgy way, in a man-woman way. I don't know why that would be, but since I do inexplicable things I am considering all possibilities.

Anyway, he was nice enough to ask if OC could join his girls at the park sometime. OC would love that, so I said yes, and said how nice that was to invite her. My little only child will be delighted to play with others.

Two seconds later, a woman I met at a birthday party last week came running by with her jogging stroller to take her daughter to school. We exchanged hellos, and I felt the warm fuzzies that came from realizing I am getting to know people! Other parents, whose kids can play with my kid, and of whom I can ask advice and go for coffee. This is great. As long as I don't mess it up by leaving the house half-dressed. And so I says to myself, "Good luck with that."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Good News, Bad News

The good news: The "Sound of Music" is a great, timeless classic with a great story and full of wonderful songs. We all three watched it this weekend.

The bad news: Every one of those songs playing in a continuous loop in one's head after viewing the movie.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I found a photo and realized I didn't post it back on St. Patrick's Day.

As you can see, we know how to party.

This was the view from my front door on April 8th.

The flowers are as confused as I am about all this.

It is snowing as I write this.

At least we have each other for warmth on wintery spring days.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I Can Read Your Mind

When is she going to stop talking about her cat, already? Does she have a life outside the feline realm? What about that reference to 78 library books, could that be true? If so, what are some of the titles? Would she be able to recommend anything?

Hi. I know I've talked quite a bit about my cats lately. What can I say, I am a fool for their unconditional love. I do have a life outside of the cats (no I don't), and it's filled with adventure (liar) and celebrities (librarians).

Yesterday morning was an adventure. OC didn't want to go to school, and that is highly irregular for her. She stayed home Wednesday because she felt sick, and I could tell she wasn't feeling well although it was rather nebulous. No vomiting, a slight fever (99 degrees) that lasted a few hours, that's it. She hydrated with water and juice, and ate well all day while soaking in daytime cartoons on PBS and "The Sound of Music". (Hey, every once in a while my Netflix includes titles other people in the family want to see. Get over the shock.) I couldn't see a reason to keep her home again yesterday. But, she was REALLY upset at the thought of going to school. She cried, insisted she was too sick, kept saying "no, I don't want to go, no..." But she had lots of energy and was crawling around on the floor playing, so I decided she had to go. There was no reason to keep her home.

It turned out she had anxiety over the possibility of throwing up at school, and that was what scared her the most. Her teacher assured her she could leave the room to go to the bathroom without asking in an emergency, and that if she felt she couldn't make the bathroom in time that she could use the garbage can. This reassurance seemed to help. I stayed in the classroom for about twenty minutes to make sure she was allright. She stayed at school all day without incident.


I really felt for her. I felt like an ogre, taking her to school over her protests. I wondered if there was some other reason she didn't want to go, such as a schoolyard bully. There wasn't. Just some good old-fashioned anxiety, the same kind that mommy has.


I mentioned books. I am absorbed in the fantastic The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. From the back cover:

    Generally considered the first English sensation novel, The Woman in White features the remarkable heroine Marian Halcombe and her sleuthing partner, drawing master Walter Hartright, pitted against the diabolical team of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. A gripping tale of murder, intrigue, madness, and mistaken identity, Collins’s psychological thriller has never been out of print in the 140 years since its publication.

This highly readable classic, the existence of which I only recently discovered, I cannot recommend emphatically enough. If you have read it, please don't tell me how it ends as I am only about halfway through.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my cats want to sleep on a warm lap and I have a book to finish.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chickenlegs Fit for KFC Advertisements

The shininess of my upcoming jury duty may be wearing off. I know it is likely to be less an exciting adventure in civic procedures and more like a mind-numbing sojourn into the dark underbelly of citizenship duty, but what can I say? The offer of free wifi and lunch money buys my enthusiasm. It didn't hurt that I was already enthusiastic about the idea, hence the low incentive threshold.

I am resigned to the fact that my number probably won't get called, that I probably won't be a part of an interesting trial, that I will probably spend a lot of time for it to come to naught. Oh, well. Maybe I will finish one of my 63 library books. At least jury duty will keep me from going to the library and checking out more library books. I have a sickness.

As for Dakota, he is one fantastic-feeling kitten!

There is, however, something embarrassing about having your legs shaved, if you are a cat. Please ignore the lower section of the tote bag hanging from a doorknob which obscures the view. I need photography lessons, or something.

The bandages are from the I.V. In a strange coincidence, the vet outfitted him in the colors representing the Minnesota Vikings. That fits well with a certain someone (husband) football fan in this household, although I'm pretty sure Dakota is oblivious to the fact and cares not.

Sable barely noticed his absence and in fact, enjoyed not having to fight over the daily raw meat nugget. There was sniffing an "Oh! It's you!" moment upon his return because Sable has the memory of a goldfish and we love him for it.

He is healthy and happy, I can only imagine, to be rid of the plaque on his teeth and the fur mats which plagued his undercarriage.

Levels of indifference wax and wane, as if vollied between fluffy heads.

Welcome home, kola bear. We weren't the same without you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Rrrr Jrrr Watches a Movie or Two

I've recently discovered the delicious humor of "30 Rock". Rrrr Jrrr was my shout out to Tina Fey's awesome show. Do you watch that show? If you don't, you must rent season one immediately.

In other movie news, I watched "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio". Wow. I am grateful that I did not have to boil the diapers from 10 children on my stovetop like the main character. What an amazing woman!

My Great-Grandma Squeezie boiled the diapers from six children on a wood-fired stove on their farm in eastern rural (or, rrrr) Washington. My grandma, whose real name was Naomi and stood all of 4' 10" tall, butchered her own chickens and rabbits, and endured an alcoholic husband who beat the entire family. All I can say is, I can't imagine the kind of fortitude it took to survive, year after year. By the time I came along, long after the death of her husband, she was an always-smiling and laughing woman whose favorite thing to do was sew doll clothes. She used to give me all the pennies in her purse.

I imagine she was probably happy to go to the supermarket to buy packages of meat, and maybe most of all, to be WIDOWED! Anyway.

The woman in "Prize Winner" had an alcoholic husband, but what I liked about the movie was how it wasn't all so easy to categorize people as "good" or "bad". Obviously, theirs was a hard life and mostly due to the husband's drinking, but he wasn't so easily just the bad guy. He did horrible things, true; but behind those acts was fear, and because this was portrayed along with his mostly feeble attempts to try, he was also a sympathetic character. Kind of. This made the characters three-dimensional, and so made the movie interesting and real. The woman was not a saint, but she did have amazing fortitude. That's what made the movie so good.

"Twelve Angry Men" is not on my Netflix list, and perhaps this would best be saved after any possible duties of the juror kind?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Rrrr Jrrr....or, The Rural Juror

When I picked up the mail this morning, I tossed it onto the side table without looking at it. It wasn't until this evening when I noticed the envelope addressed to me from the Deschutes County Trial Court Administrator. I knew immediately that my civic dream had come true. I have been summoned for jury duty!!!

I know this is an unusual reaction. Most people groan and hate jury duty as it totally messes up an otherwise perfectly calculated daily schedule, usually involving some kind of work-in-exchange-for-money scheme. Not me. Why? A little math will help to illustrate.

Jurors earn a per diem of $10 for the first three days, $25 per day after that, plus $.20 per mile. THIS IS MORE THAN I EARN AT THE MOMENT. So, as you can see, during my two-week stint, if I need to report every day I have the potential to earn....let's see, $30 for the first three days....$50 for two days plus $125 for the entire second week. That's $195 for two weeks worth of civic duty, not including mileage. Plus, there is free wifi in the jury room, and jurors and would-be jurors are invited to bring their books and laptops!

I can write my column, post to my blog or read one of yours, or, read one of the 78 books checked out from the library in my name. Getting paid to do any of this will be considered my Christmas bonus at this point. Plus, courtroom intrigue!

I realize that I may not be called, much less chosen, or that if I do, it will likely be a small-yet-important case involving stolen tires or overdue library books. I don't care. I've wanted to be called for jury duty for as long as I can remember. Some people are just like this. (Or maybe it's just me.)

Cross your fingers I make the grand jury!

Friday, April 11, 2008

For the Love of Fluffernutters

Kittens. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Am I right? I believe I am.

Dakota must suffer numerous nicknames, some of which are Peaches Cheeks, Kola Nut, and Pooky Bear.

I have lived with these two furballs for 14 years. They have lived with me everywhere I have lived since moving out of my parent's house.

Sable sez, I am prettyer than u. Now, pet me now. Tanks!

They are not so much kittens and more 72-year old geriatrics.

Sable got sick last fall. Diarrhea, twice a day, mostly on the carpet. I took him to the vet three times in the last three months of last year. I went through four types of dry food before I found one that he both liked and agreed with his GI tract. I tried different types of wet food and cleaned up a lot of vomit before I found one that he could tolerate. I've given him two different antibiotics twice per day for weeks on end, and vitamin injections once per week. I switched the litter boxes from scoopable litter to shredded newspaper, which must be changed twice (or more) daily, and regularly washed with soap and water.

After a while, I moved their bedding into the kitchen and put up a toddler gate blocking access to the rest of the house (and carpet). I had to put both of them in the kitchen, as it was the only access to food, water and potty boxes.

The range of emotions I have experienced in that time having to do with that cat could furnish a theme park with enough roller coasters to satisfy the most discriminating 7th grader.

I don't know what I would do without those two cats. They have always been there, sometimes to the exclusion of people.

It's been a long haul for us. Sable is eating and pooping normally now, but he has aged a lot since his illness. At many low points points when he was sick, I was ready for him to die and put us all out of our misery. As soon as I had that thought, I felt bad about it. As tired as I became of cleaning up everpresent messes, I still loved him.

Dakota is quite healthy and even runs around a bit after using the litterbox before settling in to his 23-hour nap. He is the most personable of the two. He's the one who wanders around the house looking for me so we can snuggle, or just hang out with me. If I'm reading something, he finds a way to settle down right on top of the book, or in the middle of the newspapers which are spread out on the floor. When I'm sick, he wants to lay down on my stomach by way of letting me know that everything is going to be okay. He is so relaxed. One of my favorite things about him is his chilled out attitude. He is no scaredy-cat.

Sable is a scaredy-cat, but he's so pretty. He's solitary and happy to be on his own, except for a vigorous, once-daily petting and appreciation of his beauty.

I know it is near the end of their lives. In many ways I can't believe they've lived this long. I had a cat in my childhood who lived to be 12, and for some reason I thought these guys would die around the same age.

Yesterday, Dakota went to the vet for a dental cleaning. I had avoided it for two years because the anesthesia was pretty hard on him. However, I noticed one of his teeth had a problem, and I began to imagine a raging infection which would kill him. The vet was fantastic! She assured me of their up-to-date methods and techniques, of the gas anesthesia which is much easier on the system, and how much better he would feel without a toothache. His bloodwork came back very good for a 72-year old, and at this very moment I'm waiting for a phone call to hear how it went.

I'm not ready to lose them. I know it's crazy. After losing people several years ago, I know this is not the same thing. I know they're just stupid cats. The thing is, they are SO NOT just stupid cats. Everybody poops, and everybody dies. Knowing this is one thing, but it still feels bad. It's hard to lose a friend no matter what form those friends take.

I don't know how much longer we have together, so I find myself picking them up more often and, much to their chagrin, kissing their furry heads like it's our last day together. I can't help it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Chernobyl, reduced to a mere Three Mile Island

I had a meltdown last month. It happened after I received the results from the third math test of Math 95.

Before I tell you that grade, let me tell you that the first test grade was a 96%, the second an 89%. I felt I had done well on this third test and furthermore, pressure was building (inside my own head, caused by my own self) to get an A. This was Intermediate Algebra, the kind they offer for free in high schools all across America, but here I was paying for it like a chump. A not-particularly-bright, grade-sliding chump at that.

I did not want to face telling my husband and family, who have been nothing but supportive and encouraging, that all I got was a B. In the first math class I've had in 14 years. Who had the plate of High Standards with a side of Unreasonable Expectations? Oh, right. That is me.

My mom is in college right now, too. She always gets A's. If she can do it, then so can I!

I do not have a crazy schedule, filled from morning to night with a 40-hour a week job with school on top of that. I have one child, one husband, two elderly cats; I take care of the house, cook dinner, and I have ONE CLASS. There are people who have much more on their plate who get really good grades - like A's - who work 50 hours per week, and who do so as single parents!

I got an 86% on that third test. Hence, I melted.

I melted because I felt I had worked harder than ever to prepare for the last test and all that work deserved more than a B. I had made many silly mistakes, like not checking my answers on the calculator, missing a negative here and there, and flubbing two questions to lose 8 points on those alone. All I could see was my grade sliding down the scale farther and farther in direct proportion to the harder I studied. There was a lot of homework every week, but I didn't put it off until the last minute. I did all the homework that was required, plus the homework that wasn't required.

Except for the sliding grade, I actually enjoyed math this time around. I was learning something. That was not my experience in high school when math was free. The story does have a happy ending.

First, they make a pill for the type of anxiety-induced blathering I tend toward. I used to take them the last time I had a round of uncontrolled anxiety. They worked. Why did I stop taking them? Second, final grades came out last week. I am happy - and slightly embarrassed, now - to say that my final grade was an A.

My whole family earned that A. They were quiet while I did my homework. They watched the laundry pile up and ate leftovers while I did my homework. They muddled through Sunday afternoons with bike rides and playing baseball while I studied at the library. My husband answered many math-related questions while I did my homework. Then, they listened to me have a meltdown because of a B on a test.

(Note to self: a B is a good grade!!)

My mom told me that she has in fact, earned other grades besides A's, especially in math. If math is not my major, then why was I so worried about it? I don't know, because unnecessary anxiety and ulcers sound like a party I don't want to miss? Point taken.

Math 111 started this week. This time, I've got something I didn't have before: perspective. I take 20 mg of it every night.