Monday, June 20, 2011

A Little Help is a Hard Thing to Ask For

I am not one to rely on others. I usually feel that one should not rely on someone else to do what they can do themselves. In fact, I have a hard time trusting others to follow through. Way back in the time I like to call BK, or before kids, I was a highly organized person. I could juggle numerous projects and get them done weeks before deadline. I was the person people called to get things done.

You read in all those baby books to take a break when you have a newborn, as often as possible. To hand that baby over to someone else. To ask people to help you clean and cook. Because I knew practically no one when I had Cookie, I had a hard time asking anyone for help. I am not the one to ask for help. I am the person who can handle anything. I am the person who keeps it together. My neighbor had to beg me to let her babysit so Hubby and I could have a date night. I think Cookie was like a year old before I relented and let her.

In a one week span I have asked for help three times. From friends, acquaintances, and even a stranger. A move completely out of the ordinary for me. Completely uncomfortable for me. A move that makes me feel vulnerable and not in a good way. But, when hubby was in the E.R., when I could see that Cookie was worried and stressed, I knew that I needed help. I reached out to anyone and everyone I could think of who might take her. Friends and classmates of Cookie were e-mailed...I was begging. Not a position I like to be in. But, the response I received was encouraging. The fact that a friend came, picked up my baby, fed her lunch, and remembered to bring extra socks for her, made me feel better. But, not well enough that I didn't show my appreciation in the form of a gift bag of stuff.

On Thursday, while hubby was out of town, I decided to take Cookie to Summer Camp via the bike. What an enormously bad idea. I had that intuitive feeling like, maybe I should just drive, but I can not make excuses for not exercising anymore. I was determined to get some exercise in while hubby was away. The flashbacks of the last time he went out of town, me taking a bike ride, getting a flat, and the ensuing hour of trying and succeeding of changing the tube was echoing in my brain as I set out.

But, I went anyway. I kept thinking, what are the chances, I mean I go out all the time, when he's home, why would I get a flat now? But on the way home with just Jelly in the trailer, I got a flat. I was nowhere close to being home...I was some 3 miles away, with my almost two year old. And I was not in the best neighborhood in town. My town is relatively safe, but we are not immune to theft or murder, or all the bad things that happen when humans come into contact with other humans. I knew that I could take a bus home, or call a taxi, but where would I leave the bike and trailer? They would be gone in minutes. So I pulled up to a not so nice apartment building's front lawn to try and fix my flat.

Normally, under good circumstances changing a flat would take me a little time, but when you don't have the right size spare tube, the pump is not working properly, and you have a crying 22 month old....things can go south quickly. I must have been trying to fix said tire for about an hour before someone stopped to help me. A few bike riders, runners, a couple walking a dog, and even the local police went by without asking if I needed help. Picture a disheveled bike rider sitting in front of a crappy apartment building with a relatively expensive piece of equipment (the bike trailer), with a toddler running around crying, covered in dirt. But, finally a girl named Megan stopped on her bike to ask if I needed help.

My pump for some reason was not working, I couldn't patch the tube, as I couldn't pump it up to find a leak, I replaced it with another tube, one slightly thinner, made for hubby's bike, but it would work, but couldn't pump it up. She proceeded to pump up my tire, and then asked if I would like to follow her to her house down the street, as she had an air compressor and a bolt for the tube's valve. She seemed trustworthy, I mean she did stop....and she helped me put the tire on, and even held the bike while I put Jelly back we proceeded to her home. She fixed me up, we went on our way...about one block, and the tire went flat again. I turned around, went back to Megan's home and rang the bell. She let me park my bike and trailer in her garage and even gave me her garage code, so I could come back whenever I needed to for pick up. She was incredible and I am more than thankful to this stranger, who went above and beyond for me.

Now I was still 3 miles from home with a toddler. I racked my brain. I could walk to the bus stop about a block away, call a cab, or call someone I knew. The problem with calling someone, is that again, I had a toddler, and she needed a car seat. So, I was left with a limited group of people. Who would have a car seat without a child in it. The only people I could think of, were those whose kids were at Summer Camp with Cookie. So I called one of the Moms...who came and picked us up right away, like we only had to wait two minutes, she was down the street.

In less than a week I had to swallow my pride and ask for help, not once, but three times. I wish I could say it will come easier, but I don't think it will. In the meantime, I am thankful for the people who came to my rescue last week. I know that I could never ever return the favor.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reflection on the Past

I'm not sure why, but I was thinking back to a time when I was in Middle School. One of the darkest times in my life. I was in the 8th grade, and had been bullied on and off since 6th grade. I was not a thin child. I was overweight, and in the cruelty that is children, I became an easy target for mean girls to pick on. All of the bullying began in P.E. And after experiencing the inattentiveness of my teachers, the lack of supervision in the locker room, and then witnessing some of the same scenarios played out in the school I taught at, I am almost glad that P.E. is one of the first things they cut in education. I said almost, because I do believe in teaching our children fitness, and about different sports and activities.

Maybe because Father's Day is this Sunday, but thinking about my Dad always brings me back to the day I saw him from a different light. The day he became human to me. The day my English Teacher agreed to drive me home after I begged her to take me because some of those bullies were waiting for me on my walk home. Those bullies wanted to "kick my ass." I'm sure today those same girls have very little recollection of the torture they put me through. Of the concocted reason to be mad at me. I remember it distinctly. I can still see the locker room clearly in my mind. See the unlocked locker against the far wall near the doors leading to the bathroom. Me, asking "Whose locker is this? Did someone leave it unlocked?" You see, the year earlier my locker was broken into. All of my clothes were stolen, including the $20 I had for lunch. It so happened on that day, out of the norm, my Mom did not pack me a lunch, she gave me money, and all she had was a larger bill. I remembered that feeling of having to walk around all day in my P.E. clothes because my Mom was working and they could not get a hold of her. I remember not being able to eat lunch that day because I had no money. And I remember the shame of having to tell my Mom and know exactly what girls did it as "revenge" for them getting caught ditching. (That's a whole other story). So I opened that unlocked locker, in my mind to find out whose it was so I could tell them. I pulled out a shirt, read the name out loud and asked if anyone knew her. Another girl from class just told me to "leave the locker open, because maybe they wanted it unlocked."

Later that day, the same girl approached me, and told me she was told that I broke into her locker and stole her stuff. When I tried to explain what happened, she pushed me and told me she was going to "kick my ass. And to mind my own business." I later learned that her and her friends left the locker unlocked because they shared P.E. clothes. A whole other kind of gross that I can not fathom why you would do that....but that is really the reason they were angry, they thought they would get caught.

The tormenting began. The girl and her friends would show up at my locker and threaten me. They even threatened my friends. There was a lot of pushing and mean words spoken to me. I played a Cat and Mouse game. I would change my route to get around to my classes. I would try and walk near teachers. I would even go late to classes or hide out in bathrooms. One day the girl and her friends accosted me on my way home. Thankfully the boy I grew up with and lived down the street from happened to be walking with me. He was pretty popular, so they just threatened me. But I knew my time was limited. Somehow someone got word to me that the girl and her friends would be waiting for me on my way home. That they were going to fight me. I was a good girl. I didn't believe in fighting. And more importantly, my family was going through a rough time. My Paternal Grandmother had just passed. My Dad was home and the idea of having to explain to him that I was in a fight was more stress on my parents. Something I keenly did not want to give them.

That day, I timidly told my English Teacher what would transpire if I was allowed to walk home. I begged her for a ride home. I only lived down the street. She agreed. I followed her to the office while she "finished up something" and she drove me home. I keenly remember the awkward silence. And I remember as we approached my house, seeing my Dad at the mailbox. As I got out of the car, he spoke to my teacher and as he turned to me. I started to cry and then so did he. It is the first and only time I have seen him shed tears.

As all things Junior High, the situation eventually was resolved, thanks to my big sister, who happened to know where the girl lived. When I confronted that girl in 0front of her home with her big sister and not her friends, she was forced to listen to me. And accept my apology for whatever she perceived I did.

As a Middle School teacher, one of my goals was to mitigate the kind of bullying and treatment I had experienced. I can give examples and stories about how I think I helped, but in life's weird twist of fate, I ended up helping one of those bullies, returning the favor that my teacher had done for me. I can still vividly remember the boy. He was from downtown L.A. and a real tough kid. He was big, he was mean, and I think he really was just a scared kid from the hood. He had been kicked out of our school, sent to three others, before according to district rules, sent back to us for his 8th grade year. One day he hung back in class at the end of the day. Which, for him was out of character. He was a bully to others and my class was always a safe zone. No one was allowed to be disrespectful of others. And no one was allowed to bully. I asked him if there was something wrong. If there was anything I could help him with. He told me that there were some guys waiting to "jump" him at the bus stop. He was going to his Aunt's house and was taking the city bus instead of the school bus. He informed me that if he got into anymore trouble, he'd be kicked out of the district. I was thinking, more like reform school or Juvie. He asked me for a ride to his Aunts'. The last thing I wanted was an adolescent teen boy in my car, let alone this one. But instead I agreed. You see, I remembered my 8th grade teacher, the risk she took for me, and I thought "Universe you suck", but I have to do it.

I took every precaution I could. I called his Mom and his Aunt for permission. I spoke to the Counselor and told her. I had him call his Mom on my cell while we were en route, and then confirmed with her when we arrived at his Aunt's house. It was the longest 15 minute drive of my life. My palms were sweaty and I was more nervous I think than when I first brought Cookie home from the hospital. I have always wondered what happened to that boy. He was one of those whose future had one of three possibilities; murdered, jail, or professional athlete. I hope he has ended up closer to the last.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Trip to the E.R. and a Pat on the Back

Friday we made a surprise trip to the E.R. Hubby had some severe chest pains. Turns out to be a huge anxiety attack about his impending trip to L.A., where he has to engage in just about every activity he hates. Thankfully nothing was really wrong with him physically.

Our trip, besides making me more than a little scared, showed me how prepared I really am for those unexpected moments. I actually for once was the Mom who had everything the kids needed. Pretty good for rushing out the door at 8:00 a.m. I managed to get Cookie to throw on some clothes, dressed myself, grabbed some snacks and drinks, and had both kids in the car in about 5 minutes. Granted, Jelly was still in her P.J.s, but I did grab her some shoes. I was pretty sure I had a change of clothes in my bag.

While we waited anxiously for any news about hubby, I was able to ply them with snacks and books. Frankly, I chose not to drag the kids into the exam room to be with him. Cookie was obviously worried, and I didn't want to freak her out any more and while Jelly was clueless, she would have just caused havoc. She is my little destroyer. The E.R. was pretty well equipped to deal with small children. They handed me crayons and coloring books right away, there was a fish tank to distract them, and they had a t.v. with VCR and DVD player and some kid movies to choose from. There were about a dozen wooden puzzles and a play table. The kids were well occupied. The longer we stayed, the more agitated Cookie got, especially after I brought her into the back to visit Daddy for a minute. I am more than fortunate, more than thankful, and more than humbled at how fast my friend Catherine came to the rescue and picked up Cookie for me. She was able to distract her with a play date and even provided her with lunch. For that, I can never repay her.

Only having Jelly there to watch and worry about was easier. She is still not cognisant enough to understand what was happening, but Cookie was. It doesn't help that all those "Mommy and Marcey" stories ended with trips to the hospital. But I told her that Daddy's heart was feeling a little sick so the doctors just needed to do some tests to make sure it was okay and get him medicine. I think deep down she knew it could have been bad...she was really really nice to her Daddy all weekend. There were a lot of extra hugs and I love yous.

But I did learn that first and foremost to always keep my bag stocked with food and drink. Second, always have crayons and paper. Third, have a change of clothes for both kids including underwear and socks and diapers. And finally have a surprise stashed away at home for those just in case moments. Because Cookie was exceptionally good at the E.R. She listened, she was quiet (well for her anyway), and she was polite. When I brought her home I was able to give her a prize. A prize for behaving exactly how I expect, and for making things easier for Mommy and Daddy. I had bought a Cars set and stashed it away thinking that I would give it to the kids for a plane ride or a trip or for something, you never know...and a week after I got it, I needed it. The Universe definitely works in mysterious ways. But this Mom gets a pat on the back for being well prepared.

Friday, June 10, 2011

This Might Not Turn Out How I Expected

I went to my favorite local toy store with Jelly yesterday. It's one of those stores that carry incredibly cute boutique clothes and wonderfully expensive toys, all that you want your kid to have. If you don't have a game plan before going in, your wallet might be in trouble. They even let your children explore and play with all the toys.....they are devious geniuses.

I had a game plan. I was going to buy gifts for two good friends, mostly from the clearance rack, because frankly their original prices are extremely high. I even knew what I wanted to buy. I was doing well, until I overheard one of the owners selling some "story dice and cards" to another customer. I was intrigued. Cookie asks for me to tell her stories all the time. She likes to tell me what to tell about and should I not tell it exactly how she imagines, my demanding monster gets upset....sometimes to the point of tears. These stories began as "Mommy and Marcey" stories. Stories about a little girl I grew up with and the mishaps and escapades we got ourselves into together. They all had a common theme, us doing something we weren't supposed to, and one of us, or both of us getting hurt or punished. Cookie loves them, but like all things Cookie, she likes to be in control. She has to be boss on how the stories should go. These story cards and dice sounded like a way for me to get her to think outside the box...and to come up with new themes and characters. Lately she wants Marcey to be jealous of Ginger about getting a certain toy. In reality, Marcey always got the cool toys because her parents had more money than mine did and I was always jealous of her.

So I bought both, the dice and the cards. Really both are cool ideas.

The story dice have nine dice, each with six pictures, like a phone or a bell, so when you roll them, you get many different combination of images to help you tell a story. You can of course use all or some of them to tell a story. But the idea of Cookie telling me the general theme and players and then letting the dice help in the development of the story seemed like a good idea.

The story cards are for younger kids about 3 to 5 years old and have a similar idea. There are 32 cards with images on them. The images are fairytale like. A Castle, a princess, a king, a little boy, and a witch. Again, the idea is to use the cards to help build a story. You can use all or some.

Cookie loves them. As a result, I spent most of yesterday telling story after story. While I love that she gets to build her imagination, she is not ready or she does not want to participate in the telling of the story herself. We spent three hours, yes three hours playing with them until I called "uncle". I just could not play anymore. I think it's cute that she calls the story cubes, "sugar cubes" and was touched when she laid out the cards to tell her sister a story.

I am a little hesitant to bring them out again today, as I am not ready to tell stories and be imaginative for three hours today. The teacher in me loves them, the tired Mom in me may need to warm up to them, or set a timer.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Coincidence....I think not

There is usually about once a month where I completely lose it. Once a month where I am an evil bitch to everyone, including my kids. Following my hormone induced freak out is the gut wracking guilt, but for about two days every month I contemplate running out the door and not coming back.

Growing up, my parents were friends with another family. This family also had two girls the same age as my sister and me. I really didn't like their little girl who was only a week younger than me, she was mean. But one day their Mom up and left them all. She packed her bags and went to Europe or something like that. She returned years later, but the damage was done. But this isn't really about them. It's just that for a split second once a month I understand their Mom. I get it. The urge to just run away from the screaming, crying, snot running, pooping kids, not to mention judgmental husband, who really means well, but EVERYTHING he says is just wrong, crosses my mind.

This week was just one of those cosmically crappy weeks. Of course it probably belongs on Reddit in the category of "What First World People Complain of"....but it is in one of the top ten worst weeks for me.

First, our stove broke. In one of my Best Mom moments of making sugar cookies with my own little Cookie, my oven stops working. We are mixing the dough, she's adding sugar, flour, eggs..I hear a popping sound. I can not figure out what it is...that is until I glance at the clock on the stove and realize it is not working. MY OVEN IS NOT WORKING. Because it is Tuesday, because Memorial day weekend is that weekend, we wait until Friday to order an oven. It will not be delivered until the following Thursday. I am facing almost two weeks without an oven. I'd like to say I plan delicious, wonderfully healthy meals to grill and cook in the crock pot...but, we order pizza, Chinese, and eat out for the most part. Well, mostly because my wonderful ungrateful family decides to not want to eat the first night I grill up steak, corn on the cob, and sweet potatoes, all cooked to perfection. I become a little petty at my family's indifference to my awesomeness. Still I am up for the World's Best Mom and Wife....but it soon goes downhill.

Sunday, I notice Jelly is running a fever as I put her down for a nap. She wakes up running about 101. And proceeds to puke all over me. Cookie, who is perpetually jealous of any attention handed out to Jelly tries her best to drive me up the wall. Let's just say there was lots of crying by both kids. Jelly, because she felt awful and just wanted to cuddle and basically crawl back into the womb, Cookie because I was not paying enough attention to her.

I spend not one but two nights on the couch with a sick Jelly. Before bed on the second night, I notice Jelly has a rash and she's been complaining that her mouth hurts. Coincidentally, I had just read a blog about a family's ill fated vacation to Puerto Rico where they all come down with a lovely virus called Coxsackie. And she described it as what Jelly had. This virus is ugly. This virus sucks, especially if you get the mouth sores. For five days Jelly would wake up in the middle of the night screaming about her mouth. All day, every five minutes she would stick her hand in her mouth and cry saying, "hurtee, hurtee." She then would cry, "hungee, hungee." I would try and feed her something and she would just cry some more. For five days my baby lived on ice cream and Top Ramen (cooked in microwave). And on day three Cookie got the dreaded disease, better known as hand/foot/and mouth disease.

Knowing that I had just spend two nights on the couch with Jelly, Cookie demanded that I sleep with her, as she was sick. Night three, I am sleeping in Cookie's bed, with Cookie and Jelly. Every two hours Cookie would wake crying for her "Neh Neh." Jelly would wake up and cry about her mouth. Three nights of little sleep. By night four, I was done. Neither kid could eat anything but ice cream, and it was 9 p.m., Cookie was exhausted, but refused to go to sleep unless I was there. Jelly was screaming and I had enough. Now we all love the book that's coming out "Go the F** to sleep" Because frankly we all of said it or thought it. And each one of us are jealous that we didn't think to write it first. And me, day four of no sleep. Day four of screaming, crying, clinging kids have had it. I start screaming, " YOU WILL GO TO SLEEP, I AM DONE, I AM NOT SLEEPING WITH EITHER OF YOU. I AM NOT CUDDLING ANYONE. I AM NOT LOOKING FOR NEH NEH. I DON'T WANT TO BE ANYWHERE NEAR EITHER OF YOU." I put Jelly in her bed screaming. I slammed the door to Cookie's room, and I laid down in my bed until I no longer heard a peep from either disease laden child.

By far not my best moment as a mom. I later went and laid in Cookie's bed and slept with her. Gathered up a crying Jelly in the middle of the night to sleep with us...and repeated the process of every two hours looking for the scrap of Cookie's blankie, calming a crying Jelly, and dealing with a cranky husband in the morning, who complained that the monitor to Cookie's room was on all night, yet he never turned it off, so he slept as fitfully as the three of us. Oh and I started my period. I'd like to say that I never once thought of running away...but on the fourth morning of waking to screaming kids, a period, a cranky husband, and no oven, I had visions of myself running down the street bra less, bare foot, and in my pajamas screaming and pulling at my hair like a crazy person. At the same time, that vision felt liberating, because I'd get to hear the birds. feel the warm sunshine that was out after a week and a half of rain (and I'm stuck at home still with two sick kids) and I would be far far away from my family whom I love more than life itself.

It's day six, Jelly is finally eating, Cookie's mouth is still a puss ridden mess, and I sheepishly admit to threatening to throw out he Neh Neh for the hundredth time. Coincidence that my oven breaks the very week my kids can't eat? You be the judge. But in my book, I guess there is a silver lining to everything.