Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The power of No

Blue got me thinking again (darn it! And so early in the morning, too, pre-coffee, not good!). Her latest post is about one's favorite word. Although I am an avid reader and I love words and language, the first word that came to mind was No (kind of as a joke at first, but then I thought about it and, yeah, that is right), not just because as a mother/parent it is a life-saver: short, simple, to the point, and easily understod when trumpeted in an athoratative, no-nonsense tone across the room to one offending child while the parent is in the midst of detaining another offending child. But also, because I used to be a person who had a problem saying No. I would double, triple, quadruple book myself because I did not want to let anyone down. And more often than not I would only end up letting myself down. I would feel guilty or frustrated or stressed that I couldn't make it all work, make everyone else happy, especially if I said No to put one of my needs first--that was the worst, guilt-wise. Who was I to want, to need, when others had demands of me? Didn't I love them? Oh, the guilt trips I gave myself. Pathetic, actually, now that I'm thinking back on it.

As I had more kids, as I aged and hopefully gained some wisdom and perspective, I started learning the power of telling others No. There were times I absolutely could not do all the things people asked of me. So I started saying No to people. You know what? The world did not crumble. No one was struck dead. And my friends and family may have been disappointed temporarily, but they managed without my presence/assistance. They may have even forgiven me. And those that have not, were they truly my friends to begin with?

Know what else? Saying No, I started to respect myself. Those times I said it, it was right, it felt right to me. I learned that No is what you have to do, what you have to say sometimes to be right with yourself.

Isn't it funny how kids learn No as one of their first words, then as women we seem to unlearn it? I think that as women we want to give too much and we somehow think we are bad people to say No, to let someone down. We are programmed to live for others while our needs take a backseat, if they are not completely neglected. We don't want to be bad people. We want to be loved. So we say Yes. To everything, to every request, to every demand, to every person. We give all of ourselves up because we think it makes us Good and Worthy of Love. It is better to give than to receive, we are taught. So we give and give and give until we are empty husks, retaining nothing, limp and dry and wasted.

The wisdom I gained is that others' happiness is not my responsibility. My own happiness is.

That is why No is a mandatory word for a woman's lexicon. It stands for limits. It stands for self, what you will and will not do, what you can and cannot do, just how much BS you will take. A simple two letter word can mean all that.

I think that learning to embrace the word No, to say it and mean it and not feel guilty or bad about it, is essential to a woman's happiness and well-being. It was esential to my happiness. It doesn't make you a bad person. By saying No, you learn to respect yourself, to love yourself. When you respect and love yourself, you hold something back. You are whole. You have definite limits and boundaries. You retain a sense of self. Only then can you truly be loved. If you don't love yourself, if you are giving it all away like, how can you truly expect someone else to love an empty shell?

I say: No. Set your boundaries, set your limits, define yourself: your needs, your desires. Tell them No if you want. Put yourself first for a change. Be You.


Of course, when the kids learn No and start using it....well, that's a different story! Then I don't like the word so much.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Take this quiz to find out which classic female literary character you are!
(This is me, Elizabeth Bennett.)

Speaking of female literary characters, I have to mention my daughter here. She is thirteen. She is smart. Oh, she is so smart! She just completed a SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory) at her school. This system scores a person's reading level and then generates a list of novels for summer reading based on the child's level. My dear darling daughter, scored a 1327 on the Lexine Scale so her list came back all classics. What the hell does this Lexine BS mean, you may ask? As did I. So I investigated the link to Lexine and they explain their criteria (OK, it wasn't me it was my Dad because he is supremo-nosey where his darling grandbabies are concerned, but I checked it out, too). According to this site, many of the books in her level are college graduate student texts! Now, I realize that she is not going to pick up a college grad school text and go to town with it, but it does say something, doesn't it. She is a girl who can be challenged, analyze complicated texts, think! My baby is going places, and I am so proud (Hi, Little Girl, I mean you)! She is a girl no more, to be at that level. She needs to be challenged. Time to put my feminism shovel on full throttle and fill her head with the good stuff!

Seriously, though, she is a teen. One thing about teens, as a Mom, you know nothing. I am technically talking to the furniture when she is in the room. Oh, well. Someday she will be thirty, and then won't I be smart.

Back on the Chair: An Update

When I was ranting befor about my tots going back on the chair, I must have forgotten for a moment that I have twins (ha! like that is possible ). They are on to me, and when twins are on to someone and it involves something they don't want to do like pooping and peeing in the lousy potty, then twins are stubborn. But not just stubborn like one child is stubborn. I have potty trained two singletons, and while it was not always a cakewalk, I survived it. No, when twins are stubborn it is Stubborness in Stereo. Each feeds off the other in their enthusiasm for not learning. The last two mornings, since Mommy said, "Back on the chair, Fellers," they have had poopy pants before I even got them out of bed. Smart. So Smart. A poop party before you even wake Mommy up. How can Mommy compete? Waking up earlier than them is not an option because these guys get up so early, they could put the rooster out of business.

Yesterday the only thing that went into the potty was a couple of drops of pee each. And some Legos, a plane, and an R2D2 action figure. Good news: they don't like to pee in their undies. I say, "Don't pee in your undies, Fellers." They each tell me, "O-Tay." and then, after only two accidents where a little leaked out, they were able to hold it like camels. Sure, they can each hold it all morning until naptime when they unleash a flood of pee into their cheap ass generic diapers that, of course, leak like as if they were perforated with millions of holes, thus turning the beds into Lake Michigans so that Mommy had to clean up these oversized, mega-pee puddles simultaneously with making dinner ( I wonder if I can put that on a resume as multi-tasking, wearing many hats, versatile?).

But I will not be disuaded so easily. I know I am outnumbered, but I am the Mom. We are going to do this.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging: Fat Cat Update

Today's Friday Cat Blogging is an update on Calisto. The reigning MacBoudica Abode Diva has lost 1 more lb. this week! She is now a svelte and sexy 19 lbs after one week of pure Purina One weight loss chow. She can even kind of almost lick her own bum now, which is good news for me since I am the poor bastard who has to wipe her rank nether region every time she comes within sniffing range. Dare I say it? I am dreaming of the days of no more foul cat stench! I am dreaming of the days when my poor limbs and digits are no longer in jeapordy from her wrath! Soon, my beauty, soon all the male cats will be lining up for miles around to marvel at your slender new self. Okay, so you are spayed--you could give a rat's ass (depending on the flavor), but you know what I mean. I know you would love to have your evil spastic way with those bad Toms, opening a can of whoopas (whoopass, not tuna--you are on a diet!) all over the block! Soon you will get your wish, my dear. You can kick 'em into next Friday's cat blog because you will be all that.

Congrats Calisto!

Back on the chair

The twins are back on the chair--the potty chair that is. I tried and failed this job before. The twins defeated me. They fought me, and I backed off, thinking to myself that they just weren't ready. My confidence was low. But no more, oh no! It is definately time to revisit the chair. Why this sudden interest in re-introducing the chair, you might ask? Simple. The Fellers went overboard with the poop games yesterday so much so that the Mommy Incredible Hulk appeared and hastily plopped their tender heinies on the pots.

It's like this. Take one hot (well--kinda hot anyway), sticky (definitely sticky--100% humidity--you could wring the moisture out of the air) day. Add one majorly PMSing mommy and a naptime prolonged over two hours with the infamous Poop Game (you know the one, pooping at nap time because that prolongs having to go to sleep, Mommy has to come and change them, and it is more quiet and sneaky to do it when Mommy isn't around) for some already seriously overtired Fellers because they have been getting up so early in the morning. Top this with getting interrupted in the middle of making dinner with Boompas, his outstretched hand covered in some kind of dirt, whining at me, "Eeeewwww, Mommy. Wash it!" The dirt was of course some poop from his pants, now caked and hardened on his fingers and under his nails (are you disgusted? Believe me, so was I). So, mid-dinner, I had to wash and scrub a screaming, squirming poop encrusted toddler and then myself and hope like hell nothing burned on the oven. Oh, yeah, I whipped out the chairs with a quickness after that.

Of course, Eighty-Eight ( his story here) pushed my buttons, too, adding to the growing Mommy Hulk Syndrome. His trick of the day was Crayon Breaking. All day long he broke crayons throughout the house wherever he found them. Then, he collected all his work, as if proud of it, into a big broken crayon mountain on the coffee table. Nice. He has some kind of OCD about breaking crayons or something, I don't know. I will just have to add crayons of all things to the list of Things He Can't Have Unless Supervised. That list is so long now, I truly have pitty for his kindergarten teachers-to-be while simultaneously selfishly longing for him to be in school because of the break that will give me(I know that is terrible! I can't help it, though--the kid is a whirlwind!). Also, he again got into a bunch of stuff from all the hiding spots and cubbyholes of junk in my room at naptime and hid it under the covers-an old trick of his he sems to rediscover every time things are already going south in our humble abode(he can't nap in the same room as his brothers or he would enable the party of the century and, even though he is four, he still needs a nap or he is impossible at night--or maybe it is me that needs him to nap because twelve hours straight every day non-stop of his constant energy and knack for trouble would drive me right off the nearest cliff). Then there was the usual incessant teasing his brothers, taking their toys and regular-old-every-day wildness. He's my boy, I love him dearly, but he is a lot of work.

Back to the chair saga. One of our major problems from the last round was lack of training pants. We didn't have that many to begin with from EEF's training days, and many of those we had were hand-me-downs and the cheapies (of course!) that did not stop leaks very well. Plus many had been thrown away after some of EEF's more heinous poop episodes (like at relatives'--for some reson he decided that training was out when we were out--I think it was the whole overstimulation/lack of focus and attention thing with him).

A side note: I refuse to use disposable pull-ups to train my kids. They are worse than useless. I discovered with my daughter that they simply do not work. The kids can't feel when they are wet and they feel just like a diaper when they are on. She was really late (like almost all the way through kindergarten!--I was to the point of asking the doc if she had some kind of medical condition) training to stay dry at night. Finally, I wrapped her mattress in plastic garbage bags and put her to bed in underwear. The first night, she thought she would trick me, found the stash of pull-ups I saved in case we went overnight somewhere, stuck one on under her underwear because I am really that stupid that I would not notice a pull-up under her panties! I instantly ripped up and destroyed the few remaining pull-ups and she went to bed in undies that nigh. She wet the bed for maybe two nights and was completely trained after that.

As for the Fellers, my point is that we have very few and very poor quality training pants so that when the kids wet it goes everywhere--saturating the undies, soaking the pants, running down the legs, puddling on the (new, sadly) carpet, up the shirt, so that not only do I have a huge mess to clean up on the kid, I also have to scrub the floor and soak all the clothes. Bad enough with one kid, but I am training twins! Yikes! So no sooner do I clean one kid/floor mess when the other kid springs a leak. This all in the span of five minutes after they are excused from the chair, naturally. At least there are two chairs! It definitely appeared like Ms. Cheapskate was going to have to cough up some dough to solve this problem. So Ms. Cheapskate did some good 'ol research after she sent the kids to bed (early!). I found some Dappi vinyl outer/cotton inner washable trainers at BabyBestBuy.com. The best news is that they were on sale for only $0.99 apiece with a more than reasonable shipping rate of $5.95 per order under $100. I did not just buy them for their cheapness, though! I discovered a website called DiaperPin that gives reviews on trainers and these were rated as high as some of the "Big Name" (like bummies or scrunchies or something, I forget) reusable trainers that sold for anywhere from $9-12 apiece. The good scotswoman that I am, I quickly snatched up a buttload (no pun intended), 24, enough for two naughty heinies so that I don't have to be doing wash/carpet cleaning constantly during this process.

Hopefully, this will work. Boompas hates wetting himself in the undies. He screams, "No potty! No potty," tries to cross his legs to stop the spillage, yet still refuses to go on the potty. And true to form, Stink could care less about wetting his undies, but he is more amenable to sitting on the potty. Both the twins are now capable physically of learning. We just have to work on the willingness. We'll get there. Once I get them to sit on the pot, they calm down. Especially if they can do some quality cartoon watching to pass the time. I am fine with that. Well I have news for you, kid. Yes Potty. Mommy is done cleaning up poop hands. Mommy is done with the poop game at naptime. Mommy is done cleaning stinky, slimy, bulky, bulging big boy poop diapers. No more Hulk Mommy. Yes potty. We are going to do this.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

They call it a job

I have been thinking a lot lately about getting a part time job. There are many reasons for this. We are behind on some bills, namely the never ending stack of out of pocket medical expenses. With our co-payments up to $25 per office visit, $2000 per family deductible and the maximumum payout per medical procedure of 90% up to $5000 in a family of seven, those expenses are like the laundry--bottomless heaps. We have hundreds of dollars outstanding for emergency room visits for stitches, piles of overdue co-payments for check-ups and all the other constant disases kids go to the doctor for including pink eye, sinus infections, warts (ew!), whatever. Like I said, the list is bottomless and insurance covers less and less every year. Anyway, we are strapped, and not because we are out on shopping sprees or anything. It is the everyday expenses piling up.

I am so torn about this. A part of me, a very small part but one that does not want to be neglected, argues for working claiming I should do it for the family and for myself. The conversation is something like the following. The players include the Antagonist, quiet but demanding, and the Mother who is the louder more adamant me.

Antagonist: "Oh, yea! You will be out in public! Dealing with adults! A break from kick fights, stolen toys, screaching, poking, and various other tantrums!"

Mother: "Yeah, but you have had to deal with adults before. They are no better than children. In fact, most of the time you hated it."

Antogonist: "Um, er, well, yes, sometimes I hated it. But at least it was quiet!"

Mother:"Quiet, maybe, but not often, and it was an empty silence that you couldn't wait to be over because you wanted to be home where you were comfortable and warm (more than just temperature-wise, more like cozy). And the quiet was often interrupted by the damn phone ringing off the hook, nagging emails, panicked co-workers, angry bosses and the silent yet forboding bottomless stack of paperwok on your desk, under your desk, on your bookshelf, in piles behind your desk and in a stack you used as a doorstop. Plus you had to wear uncomfortable clothes and shoes every day! Now, you can walk around in sweats and who cares! Or jeans. You barely had a reason to own jeans when you worked."

Antagonist: "Well, the commute was quiet!"

Mother: "What about all the junkers you have always owned breaking down and leaving you stranded at various inconvenient places. And don't forget the guilt contributing to poluting the planet caused you! And you have evidenltly been living under a rock to have forgotten so completely about road rage."

Antagonist: "Lunchtime! Lunchtime was time to myself every day. So there!"

Mother: "Who are you kidding? You always ended up working through lunch because you always brown-bagged it because you were too cheap to eat out."

Antagonist: (Silence. Looking sheepishly down at hypothetical feet and drawing hypothetical half-circles with hypothetical toes in the hyptetical dirt.)

Mother: "Well? And what about the fact that on most days you love your job. And you can't get enough of snuggles and kisses and hugs from these guys. And even though these guys fight and scream occassionally and break many things and dirty the carpet, you are good at stopping it. And it is not just shutting them up by distracting them with cookies and sweets like they did at the daycare you took Eighty-Eight Fingers to so that to this day he won't eat anything that is not laced with sugar. You cook them good meals, with love in the sauce. They like their veggies because you make sure they are on every plate that you place before them. They sing the songs you teach them. They count the numbers you've read them and labeled crayons, cars, and blocks with. They love the games you've played with them. They have taken the first steps you've coached them on. They have spoken their first words, and you were the one first witness that. How cool is all that? Very cool, you have to admit. A stuffy office with crabby coworkers, snooty clients, crank calls, no windows, cramped cubicles, bad over heated office coffee and a demanding prig of a computer monitor in your face all day is no comparison, never, ever!"

Antagonist: (Silence. Crossing hypothetical arms and tapping hypothetical feet.)

Mother: "Anyway, have you seen the assortment of second shift work available?
How can you actually consider working when Chauffeur actually looks like the most appealing job avaialble, beating out various cleaner, bartender, waitress, sales clerk, and other lame jobs for the second shift hours you require (although the one at the coffee shop that gives a free pound of coffee per week as a perk looked vaguely promising)? There is always painting with FIL this summer, but then you won't be around to hang out and enjoy your wonderful blessing of a hubz who has the summer off. And you will be envious of him and feel kind of guilty that he is is at home doing your job while you are out farting around at something you hate that has no value to you except a couple extra bucks to pay a few cranky creditors that you don't care about anyway. Why don't you just admit it. I am right, I am always right. Don't go back to work. You'll be miserable. Hold out as long as you can."

Antogonist: Antogonist? Antogonist!

Director: "Where did she go? She was just here a minute ago...?"

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Let's Hear it for the Boys-- I mean, Dads!

I have to say it: fathers don't get a lot of credit. Or they get too much credit for a simple task like changing a diaper. However you want to look at it, anything considered domestic like cleaning house or diaper changing, etc. is still stereotypically "motherly" and therefore, guys who do it are wusses. I was reading over at Mom-101's today about the flack her husband gets as a Stay-At-Home-Dad. My dad got a lot of grief as a single dad. There is not much support out there for dads who want to raise their kids. They are viewed as weak or in some way defective for being so womanly. And I am not just talking about stay at home dads or single dads. I am also talking about divorced dads or dads who haven't married, dads who have been through the whole shredding mill/family law system.

The whole system pisses me off, not through personal experience alone, but also what I have seen friends, family, and, worst of all, children go through.

I have seen, heard, and experienced terrible things at the hands of this system. Children have been left in homes where there are allegations of sexual abuse, neglect or physical abuse against a step-father and only removed after thousands of dollars are spent for a non-placement father to force the issue. Mothers have vindictively falsely claimed that there is abuse at the father's to get visitation severely reduced. Fathers are punished financially for ever having children by the percent standard because it applies to a percentage of all income mandatorally. The income from a second job that a father works to make ends meet or any overtime mandatorally goes to the mother even if she is socioeconomically "doing better" than the father. Sure, she can take a pass on this "extra income" but many women don't. Many women want to punish their ex's for hurting their feelings so take him for every dime. While I realize these standard were written to protect children in situations where fathers have huge stock options or whatever it really harms the majority of guys just trying to get by. Another wrong I have wittnessed, mothers who have had children by fathers they never married (or out of wedlock, but I hate that term) can move the children out of state, far, far away from their fathers regardless of whether the dad is a good guy with an active role in the kid's life. Who suffers? The kids, definately, because they will miss growing up spending regular quality time with their father. But the dad suffers, too. No one cares about his pain, though. The mother has the right to live where she wants. And the list of abuses and misuses of this system goes on and on.

You know me. I am a flaming feminist on most issues such as abortion, contraception, the glass ceiling, you name it. But the whole family law system is just plain wrong. Family law is outdated. It is written with a female as caretaker bias that it shits all over guys who are responsible and want to be good dads. It rips families apart by mandatorally limiting the amount of time dads are allotted to visit these kids they love--two weeks a month and maybe one evening a week. Come on! That is not a lot of time to build/maintain a steady relationship with your kids. I know, I know. Child support in theory is so that women aren't destitute after divorce because everyone knows that the dad is the one making the big bucks and doesn't want to support his kid so the government will force him. And even though joint custody is the norm now, everyone knows placement, which is what really matters when it comes to decision making, is defaulted to the mom unless she is a total loser because, well, she is the mom and therefore automatically the better suited primary caregiver. My advice to dads that want primary placement? Grow some tits. I know standards are in place because it would be way too time consuming for a judge to actually rule on things on a case-by case basis. There are standards so no one has to think. There are standards because then no one has to feel. There are standards because one (bra?) size fits all.

But the standards don't fit all these days. As women, we have been encouraging fathers to take a more active role in kids' lives. So when we break up we can slam them, smash their hearts to bits? Listen, I may write a lot about women's rights, but above all I am for FAMILY rights. That includes considering mother's, father's, and especially children's rights. This is the mission statement of the Wisconsin Father's Org.:

"The Best Parent is Both Parents."

All fit parents are entitled to joint custody and to assume equal placement of their children.

Parents, not courts, should decide what is in their children's best interest.

Child support should be based on realistic economic needs of the children in both households.

The responsibilities to support children emotionally and financially should be treated the same for mothers and fathers.

Our present "winner take all" legal process, dealing with family law matters involving children, is emotionally and financially damaging to children and families and needs to be reformed.

From my own, friend's and familty members' experiences, these seem like reasonable requests from a system that is seriously broken.

Below are some links to groups the media wants to thrash as being anti-women deadbeats and just plain crazy. But I have foud by reading their literature that these aren't just deadbeats who want to get out of paying child support (some of them may be, there is always one rotten apple). They are mostly just guys who love their kids and want a fair shake in a biased system.

Wisconsin Parent's Rights
The Men's Center
World Father's Union

My husband says this a lot and the more I live it the more I agree: if you ever have kids, make sure you are absolutely certain it is with a partner you will be with forever and ever. Split custody is too hard on moms, dads, kids, and families.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Visit

There is nothing like being coomed up in a little 10x8' room for over an hour with four boys, three small, one large. Ugh!

Boompas and the Teen Boy had to see the doc today. Unfortunately, she was severly behind schedule (figures because--miracle of all miracles--I was fifteen minutes early!), so we waited for over an hour in the severly undersized treatment room (or whatever they call it). And, yes, it becomes severely small when packed with Eighty-Eight Fingers, his Feller sidekicks and the Teen Boy who plugged his ears with his Ipod headphones and slept on the examining table the duration of our wait. Boompas had some lumps in his thigh examined. Just as I thought, they were a reaction from his shot from last month, but due to my ever growing lump paranoia I took him in to be safe. Sometimes the immunization can take two to three months to be absorbed. The doctor removed a revolting assortment of callouses, corns and warts from the Teen Boy. Disgusting.

Because we were there just over a month ago and the Fellers received shots at that time, they were terrified of the nurse and doctor at first. Nothing like a nice long wait and a basket of books to fight your brothers over to knock that fear out of their systems, though. The Fellers almost went through the roof when the nurse rolled the Cryo Therapy contraption in for TB's warts, but good 'ol Eighty-Eight was over like a bat out of hell to investigate. Nothing gets by him. The good news is that we did not quite flood the office with liquid nitrogen or smash the fancy new laptops the docs carry from room to room to smithereens this particular visit, although we did have several extremely close calls. We did, however, accomplish sending Mommy on her way with a kickin' (that is Teen for "really bad" or "really rad" depending on the circumstances) headache. So all in all, a very fine day. Thank goodness for the gods of naptime descending from on high to grant me an hour of silence.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cat Blogging: Fat Cat

Friday Cat Blogging brought to you on Monday because I don't like to play by the rules...

In reality, until today I was oblivious to the rules, but it makes me sound more bad ass the other way...

Today I will introduce you to the plus size diva of our household. Weighing in at 20+ lbs., this is our "grossly obese" cat with attitude Calisto. She kind of reminds me of the pom-pom art projects I made with my daughter long ago, a big multi-color pompom with four pipe cleaners sticking out of it and a smaller pom-pom head complete with googly eyes. Add her comical blob body and swishing-tail waddle to the fact that she will take any person's, cat's or other creature foolish enough to cross her path's head off in a flash, we have a winner in the ever popular House MacBoudica Diva contest here. She even beets me on a PMS week if you can imagine.

Since Calisto is now too fat to properly clean her nether region, her name has been changed to Collapse-o or Cholesterol--take your pick, and I have been forced to put her on a diet. Amazingly, I am alive to share this experience with you. Will wonders ever cease?

Who knew dieting a cat could be so tedious! Being myself, I of course had to research this topic thoroughly, devoting a whole day I did not have reading commentary from various schools of thought regarding cat diets. Remember the good ol' days when we all just knew that cats had to be fed dry cat food or their teeth would rot out of their heads? Evidently, that school of thought is so '86. No, now it is much more fashionable to feed your cat a diet that more closely resembles their natural carnivorous diet of mice. Now the school of thought says that even the worst canned cat food is better for your cat than dry food. Apparently cats are experiencing an epidemic of obesity much like humans are. Evidently, unlike human causes (or maybe similar after all--marketing junk food to cat owners?), cat obesity is linked to the food we feed them, cheap dry cat food. Pet food companies, who responsible pet owners assumed were the experts and would never do anything to harm our pets, market this stuff to us that is actually very harmful to our pets. Dry food is made like meat flavor coated corn cereal run through a vitamin sprinkler, a real boon to big ag corn growers (I had to fit a corporate jab in here, you know). Cats lack the enzyme necessary to digest the carbs in the cat food thoroughly so it turns to fat. In addition, they are not biologically wired to recognize that they have recieved enough calories from all the carbs in the food to quit eating. This is especially bad for cats like mine and many others in modern times that have constant free access the food because it is left out all day for them. They just won't stop eating. The cat doctors and philosophers say cats are getting too many carbs and not enough protein. Switch them to canned. Some even say feed them these lovely raw meals that we can sell you or you can make on your own (eeeeewwwwwwwww!!!! I draw the line totally at grinding up raw food for these critters. After all, what have they done for me lately besides knocking over glasses of milk, breaking knick-knacks, leaving hairballs outside the bedroom door for me to step in in the middle of the night, etc?).

Anyway, I did what any good scots woman would do in my situation. I looked in the grocery store, discovered that feeding three cats canned cat food was fricken' expensive as hell, and mosieded on over to the dry section. I bought the best bargain of the dry diet foods I could find, Purina One. It still has some corn in the recipe, but turkey was the first ingredient, moisture level was 12% (anything over 10% is good because cats usually don't get enough moisture from cheap ass dry food either), and it has over 40% protein. It was more expensive than the cheap ass food I usually buy, but I was committed to spending a little more on this project (being scots, that is very hard for me to admit). And I discovered a local pet supplies store that sold it for a much better price. My plan was to feed the cats twice a day and begin by mixing in the regular cheap food with the diet food.

She has been dieting now for two weeks. Actually, it is not going as well as I had hoped so far, but that is my fault. I couldn't bear to waste the third of a bag of old food we have left so until this weekend I have been mixing it with the diet food. She has lost one lousy pound! Oh well, at least she hasn't gained any weight. The worst part is the grooming I have had to do on her. She practically rips my arm off any time I get near her with a brush and I have never seen her run so fast to get away from me. I guess I can count her grooming sessions as the increased exercise she needs to really work that weight off.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Junk Mail

I love junk mail!

Here, junk mail is a game. We spent all morning playing Mail Time where the kids put their junk mail into pretend mailboxes (shoeboxes) and taking their letters in and out of envelopes. The rest we fold into colorful paper airplanes. Yesterday, Boompas even turned his paper airplane into an impromptu horn so he could "practice" his instrument with his big brother. All the storebought toys sit absolutely neglected at Mail Time. The boys love these games and I must admit, I have never enjoyed junk mail more. Thank you marketing firms for all these great free toys!

Now if only I could figure out something clever to do with all this junk e-mail...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Miracles and Sin

I have a confession to make. I have no origional ideas to write about today, so I did some "news shopping" looking for something funny. While this article is emphatically not funny, it does illustrate just how bizzare the thought processes of large religious organizations can be. I am going to reprint here an article from a May 11 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about a Catholic school that fired a woman because she had children through invitro fertilazation. Read it and weep.

Can the miracle of birth be a sin?
Posted: May 11, 2006

It's a safe bet that Kelly Romenesko won't be getting a Mother's Day card this year from the Catholic Church.

After years of trying to have a baby the usual and enjoyable way, she and her husband, Eric, finally had beautiful twin girls, Alexandria and Allison, with the help of in vitro fertilization.

Great, right? Well, it turns out that helping nature along in this way violates Catholic doctrine. Romenesko was fired from her teaching job at two Catholic schools in Appleton after she admitted to her boss that her eggs and her husband's sperm got together in a test tube followed by injection into her uterus.

Her firing is discrimination and selective enforcement of the contract, Romenesko claims. She has a complaint pending with the state. And she has baptized the girls Lutheran.

As a cafeteria Catholic myself, I've long known that most ways of not having a baby are a violation of church law. It's been said that the church's rule banning artificial birth control is what got a lot of Catholics thinking for themselves.

But what could be more life-affirming than life itself?

It was clear I was going to need some help understanding the church's position on this one. Luckily, the chancellor and vicar general of the Diocese of Green Bay, Father John Doerfler, was willing to talk, although not about the Romenesko case specifically.

Doerfler is doing his dissertation on the ethics of reproductive technology. He's working toward a doctorate in theology from John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C.

Life is supposed to spring from the two-become-one conjugal act of love, he said, and not from what he kept calling the "manufacturing process" of in vitro fertilization. This puts a human embryo under the control of a lab technician, at least in the early going.

"You might think of in vitro fertilization as a technical procedure, a manufacturing process if you will. It's beneath human dignity to come to be in that way," Doerfler said.

But, I interjected, it's better than not coming to be at all, isn't it? I could forgive the lab tech for jostling my dignity in exchange for a shot at life.

No, it's not better, he said. The church does allow for some medical intervention, but only to help along the natural conjugal act. If that doesn't work, perhaps it's not meant to be, he said.

"Maybe God has some other plan for that husband and wife, for them to share their life and their love in a way they may never have thought of if they were able to have children of their own," he said. Adoption, for instance.

"There does need to be a surrender to God and recognize life as a gift and not something that we make, in a way," the priest said.

Perhaps it was God's will that technology advanced to the point where it can help couples have the babies they long for, I suggested. Doerfler was not buying it, especially in situations where some embryos are destroyed in the in vitro process, which the church sees as the taking of human life.

"Having a child is a good thing," Doerfler concluded. In fact, a baby born this way is considered a child of God like any other.

"But we can never do things that are wrong, even for a good reason."

A quick way to attract angry mail is to tell a religion how to run its shop, so I'm not about to. Besides, what good is a church if it says you can do anything you please?

But when you consider Kelly and Eric Romenesko and their long-awaited children, it's hard to imagine how that could be wrong.

To me, this story is so bizzare that I don't even know how to respond. It is not like this couple has been found having wild orgies, seducing classroom children,or selling drugs. They had scientific help having children. God can't cut them some slack for that? What if the couple celebrated the conception of their twins with a "conjugal act of love"? Even better, what if they had the "conjugal act of love" the day of the implantation? How would the church be able to tell the difference? Anyway, I guess kudos to the church for being on top of it (no pun intended) and keeping their eyes on the bedroom antics of that couple! We wouldn't want them corrupting our children with their fancy scientifically sprouted offspring.

I surely can't speak for God, nor would I ever attempt to, but it seems to me this is more of a human judgement call than a "Godly" one.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Giving the "Props"

I have to give my husband credit for the last item on the Bitch List. He is the one who mentioned the whole gender stereotyping issue. I think he "showed some real ovaries" (thank you, Blue) in his analysis.

One more for the Bitch List...

I almost forgot this one...

I am sure you have heard or even said these phrases "He doesn't have any balls" or "Grow some balls" or any other variation thereof. I know, I have even found myself, to my horror, using it on occassion. It is one of those things we "just say" when we think somone should show more aggression or assertiveness. We even say it about women (wow! she really has some balls for doing that!).

But what does it mean, really? It means that, basically, in order to be assertive, one must have a set of balls, gonads specifically, male sex parts. So assertiveness is then a masculine trait? Women don't have balls, therefore it is against their nature, and wrong, for them to be assertive? And when men show compassion, they are thus emasculated and therefore "have no balls" because compassion is against their nature?

So basically this phrase perpetuates stereotypical sex roles (woman=meek, man=aggressive) that we have supposedly moved away from.

Today's Bitch List

Today I am going to do some general bitching about things I hate. I know. In my last post I said I was going to be grateful for this life I have, but, come on! Some stuff is just really annoying and I have to say something about it.

  • First of all, why do we still say "maiden name"? I mean, who in the hell is even a maiden anymore before she gets married anyway? Why can't we say "pre-married name" or "A" name "birth" name or something--anything!--but "maiden name". It is a terrible term regardles of the historical connotations that women are property and should go to their marriage beds unsoiled and all that crap. The world has moved on. This term is antiquated and useless. Let's all just get rid of it!
  • This second issue has always kind of bothered me, but what really got me thinking of about it was last summer my husband and I took a walk on Seminary property that had its own cemetary for the Brothers and Sisters who had passed on over the years. Yes, that is a Seminary Cemetary. Many of the sisters who must have been widowed and then joined the "sisterhood" (sorry, I am not Catholic, I don't know the correct terminology) were memorialized on their tombstone as Mrs. Man's First and Last Name, Sister in Christ. Many of the names were very foreign, an indication many of the women were imigrants who must have traveled far and died in this large, wild new place, the United States. So, then, who was this woman, really, who first lost the name she was born with in a very different homeland to her husband, then her husband's name to Christ? She passed through life, first her father's, then her husband's, then Christ's, her life stages marked through ownership by different men. Now, in death, she is only remembered through who owned her last. Sad. So, basically, I hate it when a woman marries, not only does she take her husband's last name (a cultural, patralineal thing that is probably never going to go away) but she is forever after identified as Mrs. His First and Last Name. I can't stand that! Isn't it bad enough that she has to give up her last name, but to completely lose her identity in her husband's? Is that really necessary in this day and age when we are all spouting off about equality and how women are right up there with men rights-wise? (I kept my "birth" name for my second marriage, and hyphenated for the first, but when you do that you get weird looks, and, like Rodney Dangerfield always said, "I get no respect") I can understand that we all want to have a same last name in a family, it has to be someone's to trace family history and all that, so we might as well stick with tradition and use the husband's, but I think we should be beyond women giving up their first names, too. So don't do it. Keep your first name. It is yours, your identity. Keep it.
  • Another thing I really hate is the term "pro-life". Who decided that these dead fetus slinging nutcases were "pro-life"? That connotates that anyone who is "pro-choice" is an axe-slinging psycho-killer or must be the opposite, "pro-death". I always have to stop and think when I hear "pro-life" because I am pro-life! I think everyone should live life to the fullest, and I would never kill anything except maybe some ants or flies that got into the house or the mosquito trying to make a snack out of me in in the summer. I don't even like mouse traps, way to inhumane! But I do believe that women have dominion over their own bodies, that accidents or mistakes happen sometimes and women know that there is no way they can carry, much less, raise a child. But they bear the burden in those situations. Women would ultimately be the ones responsible for carrying the child and raising it. So-called "pro-lifers" often chime in, "Well, there is adoption." Pregnancy is a serious health condition!!! Women should not be forced to take on a serious health condition that the gods of chance blessed (or cursed) them with that in and of itself cause them to become too sick to work (or finish school, or anything else) or possibly even die. Women are not Factories. They should not be forced to "cook" a baby for nine months only to give it up when the buzzer sounds. And making a serious, responsible decision not to carry life for whatever reasons is just as valid as deciding to carry life. It doesn't make you selfish. It doesn't make you "pro-death" or an axe-slinging psycho serial killer. So my question is, why do us "pro-choice" people allow the so-called "pro-life" people continue in this deception? Why don't we market a better, more accurate term, "anti-abortion" or "anti-choice"?

Well, that is all the bitching I have for today. I am off to work off some of this aggression on my "Life Glider".

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Consider me humbled. I complain frequently about how, in my family, we struggle to get by on one income, our so-called health insurance is rediculous with the cost of the out of pocket expenses we are responsible for, women's issues and reproductive rights in this country, how stores like Walmart and Target are really bad for the working poor, how this country should be doing more to get off of Big Oil, but in all reality, compared to many countries, compared to what many mothers have to deal with, we have it darn good here. Not as good as ten other industrialized nations, mind you, but really good considering I even have the luxurry of being able to bitch about these things when many other mothers still have to worry about living through childbirth, and, if so, if the baby will survive past its first birthday. The annual report done by Save the Children, a global humanitarian organization that fights to increase the quality of life of all children, "illustrates the direct lines between the status of mothers and the status of their children." In countries where mothers are treated well and provided for, children do well. Scandanavian countries top the list, while the US is tied with the United kingdon for 10th place. Here are some sad realities for nations that came in last on the list:

COUNTRY COMPARISONS: The Mothers' Index exposes an enormous disparity between the highest- and lowest-scoring countries and underscores an urgent need to address this divide. For instance, in Sweden, which tops the list, nearly all women are literate. In contrast, only 34 percent of Ethiopian women are literate. And a mother in Ethiopia is 37 times more likely to see her child die in the first year of life than a mother in Sweden.

  • Compared to a mother in the top 10 countries, a mother in the bottom 10 countries is 28 times more likely to see her child die in the first year of life and over 750 times more likely to die herself in pregnancy or childbirth.
  • In the bottom 10 countries, nearly 1 out of 3 children is not enrolled in school and only 1 out of 4 adult women is literate. In the top 10 countries, virtually all children go to school and all women are literate.
  • Skilled health personnel attend fewer than 15 percent of births in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Nepal.
  • Fewer than 5 percent of women use modern contraception in Chad, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
  • Zeroing in on only those indicators that capture children’s well-being, Somalia finishes in last place. More than 1 out of every 7 children in Somalia die before his or her first birthday, 71 percent of the population has no access to safe drinking water, and 17 percent of children are suffering from malnutrition. The situation for Somali mothers is equally dismal: 1 in 10 women dies in childbirth; 75 percent of all newborns are delivered without skilled health personnel and 78 percent of pregnant women have anemia.This organization and this report really puts things in perspective.

While I will still continue to promote mothers' rights and family rights in this country, I will do so grateful that I have been able to deliver all my children in a hospital filled with skilled medical personnel, that I take for granted that my children have lived to see their first birthdays, that all my children will be educated and literate (most will probably go to college even if they must take out loans to do so), that my children and I have clean drinking water, that I live in a country where I have the ability and luxury of complaining and working toward something better.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Welcom to the Club!

A Break from Depressing Stories (FINALLY!)
Since I have been depressing the crap out of everyone for the duration of my last several posts, and because I don't want to lose my loyal readership base (all five of you!) due to such depressing topics, I thought I would break form here and post a segment on Life With Identical Twins, A Brief Glimpse at Twin Club. This is always a fun topic to write about since identical twins are somewhat rare in the general population and therefore mysterious. People always ask me silly questions about life with twins. I even get asked frequently if the older boy Eighty-Eight Fingers and the twins are triplets (he is two years older and has several inches and pounds on them, not to mention his more advanced walking and talking skills, but I digress...). Anyway, I thought I would clear up some of the mystery here.

General Life as a Twin
Imagine having a living breathing mirror of yourself. Someone with the same DNA, who shared the same womb-space and placenta, the same upbringing, the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner day in and day out. Someone who tried pureed peas the first time the very same day you did. Someone who walked within an hour of your first step. Someone who grew the same teeth exactly one week after you did (Let me interject as mother here that that was freaky!). Imagine having someone so close to grow up with, exchange "Yeah my mom's a real drag" stories with. Imagine knowing someone with such a similar way of thinking as you that you can just look at him across the room and break out laughing at a private joke no one who isn't in the Twin Club will ever get.

Personality Revealed
People always ask me, "Who is the nice twin, the bad twin, etc." I have no answer. My Fellers are unique in many ways, and similar in others. Personality traits are fluid at this age for all children and I think especially for twins as they have more of a struggle to develop an identity separate from this guy they have been stuck with since before birth. They, too, both have good days and bad days, just like all of us. I find it difficult to label them in such an extreme way. Actually, the Fellers find it difficult in some ways to distinguish themselves. They constantly struggle to develop their own identities. I have posted a few stories here and here about how my older twin, Boompas, is somewhat confused. He actually thinks his name is that of the other twin Stink. When he tattles on or scolds the other guy he always says, "Mama, Stink blah blah blah..." (I can't clarify that for you. Blah blah blah is always in Twinish, a language I will never know). On the bright side, he is starting to get his straightened out. I correct him and say, "No, you mean Stink did Blah blah blah." Then he will copy me in an interrogatory tone, his eyes clouded with uncertainty "Stink?"

Dressing Identical Twins
Part of the problem for Boompas must be that he does not have the benifit of understanding my Dressing The Twins Rules to figure out who is who. Usually I dress them it is whatever happens to be at the top of the Clean Laundry basket. Having to do laundry for seven people, there are always Clean Laundry baskets around as well as mountainous heaps in the laundry room, one of those chores that is NEVER caught up. So most days, outfits are mis-matched and willy-nilly only following the Rule that Stink usually gets the red or lighter or brighter color, while Boompas gets to wear blue or darker color. This is simply because they look so similar, same hair and eye color, same haircut (buzzed--it's lower maintenence and that is what counts with three little boys!), same cowlick, almost the same hight and weight (Stink, the second born, has always been a little lighter and shorter, but you really have to look hard to see it). I need to be able to quickly identify which hooligan is into what at a moment's glance without looking for the subtle personaliy cues or small blue vein on Stink's forehead. Also, there are certain, special outfits that are identical like the Spiderman Halloween sweatshirt, because they both adore Spiderman and it would be scarilege for one to wear it without the other. But those are rare, for selfish reasons, because it increases the difficulty of my job. There are also some specific shirts that each owns because it just fits his personality better. For example the Pooh Bear outfit is Boompas' because he is a big rolly lumpas who is anyone's friend. And Stink is a stinker like Tigger, so his outfit is the Tigger one. And Stink gets the "Attack" dinosaur shirt while Boompas gets the bright, cheerful dinosaurs.

Subtle Cues, for When Clothing Fails to Identify
One of the more subtle cues is how they grin. Boompas usually has a big bold everyone-is-my-friend, happy-go-lucky smile. He will "talk" to anyone, play with anyone, snuggle and snuggle often. Boompas is more of a "talker", repeating words and phrases, having conversations in Twinish/English with anyone within earshot. Stink, on the other hand, is more reserved. It usually takes him a little longer to warm up to people. Some of that may be an act though. He is a big tease and loves to play Hard to Get. You can usually find him slyly swiping a brother's toy then running away, brandishing the stolen booty triumphantly in the air, giggling with glee when he is busted. He is usually wearing a shit-eating-grin. Although he doesn't eat shit, he gives it. Often.

Feel the Love
For as much of a tease as Stink is though, he really loves his brothers. Boompas shows fortitude when issues matter to him. He has a real problem letting the issue drop so he tends to spend more time in time-outs to calm down. Stink is usually waiting by the door to the time-out room with Boompas' favorite toys to give him when he gets out. Stink is always fetching favorite toys, cups, etc. for his brothers.

Competition? Maybe a New Olympic Event
One more Glimpse at Life With Twins: there are lots of tantrums here, much screaming and yelling. It gets loud, really loud. Bring proper ear protection if ever you visit a house with twins. Since my guys are over two, I have had lots of time to try to figure out why. Here are some of my thoughts.

  • The first possible reason is that there are two little screamers, which equals double the screaming.
  • The second possible reason is sympathy screaming, a kind of altruistic screaming like, "Awww, my brother is mad! Then I am mad, too. Hear my anger, Evil Mommy!"
  • Also, there is the possible Competitive screaming, "Man, I can do better than that. Check this out, WWWWWAAAAAHHHHH--EEEEEEEEE!!!" to which his brother must increase his volume, and so on and so forth.
  • Finally, a possible cause is that I do a bit of yelling myself, mostly because I am usually up to the armpits in another brother chore when I spot the offending team member in the act of a terrible deed. Many times, I can't just drop the current child and dash to calmly instruct the offending child in propper etiquitte, so I say, "HEY, KNOCK IT OFF NOW!!!" or something equally clever and thunderous. It is all about striking the appropriate tone to induce instant compliance.

I Hope You Enjoyed Your Stay
So there is a brief peek at Twin Club. Hope you enjoyed your visit. Come back real soon. Oh, and watch your step on the way out. Those stray toys are real killers.

Exactly why life isn't fair

In my last post, I mentioned my friend whose cancer is out of remission.

I don't have many "friends" per se. I could use the excuse that I am a busy mother. But in all reality I am actually quite a homebody, anyway. I was never much of a partier or social butterfy. As teens, my sister got all the phonecalls, all the dates, while I sat by the pond in the back of our apartment complex and wrote poetry. In college, I think I went to one party during the four years I attended. When I worked outside the home, I kept the friendships at casual acquaintenships, never attending social events afterhours or on the weekends. I have never strayed far from my comfort zone, my home, and the loved ones I've gathered to me there. So for me, the few friends I do have are hard won, who have been there through the nitty-gritty toughest times of my life, whose trials I have held their hands through as they have held mine, whose humanity we each have shared. I don't have the patience or the time for casual friendships, so the women I count in that group are special to me in ways I can't begin to describe.

My friend Leigh is one of these special women.

If you had told me she would be my friend when I met her, I would probably have laughed in your face. I met her about seven years ago. The circumstances of our meeting were those that do not normally generate friendship, and in fact, tend to produce rivals, if not bitter enemies. She was my ex-husband's girlfriend/fiance when I met her. Since my ex and I still shared my daughter(a long story--my ex is a serial substitute dad, she an abondoned single mother--do the math), I met her when he came to pick up my daughter for one of his occassional weekend visits. Leigh and I talked briefly while The Girl dawdled about the house gathering her possessions. During that brief conversation despite my predisposed inclination not to like her, I was drawn to her. She had a spark to her and a love for life that, I could not deny, I instantly admired. Her young daughter with the wild carrot top curly hair and vibrant, ice-blue eyes stole my heart instantly as well.

After that meeting, Leigh and I talked over the phone arranging weekend visits and itineraries concerning my daughter. But the thing about Leigh is that any conversation with her is gaurenteed not to be limited by the topic at hand. Conversations with her are a dance from one topic to another with no rhyme or reason, just boundless energy and details. Despite myself, I was drawn into her conversations. Eventually, she eroded my barriers of social propriety and wallflower tendancies. Eventually we talked for hours. I discovered she is smart, funny, and unflinchingly devoted to her friends and family. In fact, when you are friends with Leigh, you become her family. She adopts you with a loyalty and love so passionate that you are at a loss to escape. And she is courageous and strong. She could take on an lion, anaconda and flock of giant vampire bats without batting an eye, vanquish them in a the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee, dust off her hands and sit down and visit with you for hours. Since then, we have been like sisters. Actually, I am closer to her than my own sister. I have been a shoulder an a resource to her through many dramas, and she was my rock through the absolute darkest days in my life. Anyway, back to the beginning, she eventually started to ask me for advice on how to deal with my ex. I told her I had none to give. After all, I had divorced him. She started having her doubts about him also. In all reality she was always out of his league. However, because of the passion with which she loves, although her mind knew the break-up was for the best, it took quite of bit of convincing her heart that was the case. To make a long story short, they eventually split-up, and shortly after that she discovered she was pregnant.

My friend Leigh has rarely been dealt a fair hand in life. I often think of her as a person with a dark cloud over her head. She moves from one drama to another, drawing anguish to herself like a magnet. Doubtless, she brings many of her tragedies upon herself. She is a person who must experience things for herself, who you find yourself saying "I told you so," to over and over again. Yet many of her trials are truly unfair. A single mother with two kids who works hard to always make ends meet, who goes without herself so her children are always provided for, should get some breaks from chance. Leigh is dealt few to none. In fact, it seems the more she tries, the more tragedy tries her. Her daughter's father only makes brief appearances in her daughter's life. Her daughter, like my son, has ADHD, which anyone with such a child can tell you is a trial in and of itself. One of her neighbors sexually assaulted Leigh's daughter and the legal system gave him a pass. Her son has asthma and multiple severe allergies, and, therefore has to be on a severe diet and constantly monitored so that he does not accidentally injest or come in contact anything that can trigger an attack. And he, too, was abandoned by his father (yes, my ex vanished before paternity could be established--like I said, a serial substitute dad. The "Real Thing" was just too much for him. Strangely, one of Leigh's male friends voluntarily signed paternity papers, claiming him as his own). She was fired from a job once due to not participating in her boss's sexual harrassment. She has been fired from jobs for taking too many days off to care for her sick children. She faced all these trials in her typical, "Is that all you got? Is it, is it? Well then, bring it!" fashion. She fought back. She decided to put herself through college for nursing to get ahead, to make a career for herself with which she would easily be able to provide for her children, only to have that dream taken from her as well. Cancer stole that dream, in this instance ovarian cancer. Like a thief in the night, in snuck into her body and put a screaching halt to all her dreams of succeeding.

This is a woman who stands up to the crap life throws her, grabs it by the balls and shows it who's boss. But you can't do that with cancer. When you get it, it is your boss and master. It steals your strength and ruins your body, in Leigh's case striking right at the heart of that which makes her female. Cancer is the equal opportunity killer. It doesn't care what color you are, if you are bad or good, or in the middle of finding the cure for AIDS. It can be your silent deadly companion for years before it strikes, betraying you by stealing and growing from the nourishment you have taken in. It renders you powerless. And the treatment, the chemo, makes you so sick you wish you were dead. But many times, the chemo, as sick and worn out as it makes you, is your only ally. It haults the cancer in its tracks, stopping it sometimes for years. But there is always a chance it will be back. Like the imposter it is, it can hide out sometimes for years, a silent deadly mass waiting patiently for its dark season of rebirth, when it can again strike with a vile vengance.

My friend, my rock, my anchor through the darkest days in my life, has been feeling sick again, just like she was before. She knows it is back. The hysterectomy and last round of chemo has only bought her another year before the cancer struck again. She doesn't know where yet. She will be going through a complete work-up in a few weeks.

She is not yet thirty years old. She hasn't had her break in life yet, and, at the risk of sounding like a petulant child here, I am going to say this anyway: it just isn't fair. But the cancer could care less. It is going to continue to eat her up and spit her out. I only hope her strength and courage is enough for round two. For herself, for her babies, and for all of us who love her, I hope and pray and bargain with the powers that be she can fight this off.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Blog Inspirations

I am giving it up for my Blog Inspirations for the Bad Ladies love-fest. This is my list of the Blog Divas who have inspired me to come here almost every day and type and read and read and type. To be honest, this was very difficult. I am new to blogging and I am still in awe and inspired by so many blogs out there all by creative and talented people.

I think that at the top of my list is Michele and her blog MommyCakes for several reasons. First, hers is one of the first blog I read and I feel a connection with her because she is also a mother of twins. Also, I love the way she writes. She is straigtforward, no nonsense, yet witty and fresh.

Another inspiration is Blue at either of her blogs here or here. The lady is just hilarious, creative and shares some of the same values as me.

Chantal is on my list for her site Breadcrumbs in the Butter because she is down to earth and tells it like it is to have a house full of kids.

My list wouldn't be complete without Motherhood Uncensored for letting us all know that it's OK to not be perfect.

I have to ad the Bad Ladies themselves for all their thought provoking topics.

Then, I recently became hooked on mom-101 because I don't know what I'm doing either.

Here is one more, Susan at Crooked Pigtails because she is another hard core SAHM with the thankless task of trying to raise two girls. I don't know how she does it.

There are so many more! I am running out of time though. I have Emergency Home Cleaning to enact today because suddenly we're having a big motherly shin-dig here Sunday. Also, I have had some bad news about one of my closest friends, her cancer seems to be out of remission, and I am just not feelin' it today. Any passers-bye enjoy and I will be out probably until Monday. Yes, Emergency House Cleaning does indeed take 2+ days. Hey, I have 5 kids here, what do you expect? June Cleaver only had to clean up after two.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A mother's tale

It is almost Mother’s Day. This time of year I should feel proud, should be celebrating my accomplishments as a mother. Yet the strongest emotion I feel is anxiety, anxiety over facing my own mother. I am over thirty now and I still feel like the kid caught with her hand in the candy jar. When I see her, my insides get all tied up. My brain becomes paralyzed. Polite colloquialisms are the only words I permit myself to say to her for fear of saying the “wrong thing”. Our conversations resemble those of passing acquaintances rather than that of mother and daughter. I never could relate to her. I never know which direction she is coming from, how to meet her half way. I do not know the right path to take to get to her.I have always viewed her through a veil, hidden, hazy and unclear, opaque, mysterious, and dangerous.

What kind of card does one buy for such a mother? Somehow, "you've always been there for me," seems hypocritical and wrong.

My mother and father married young. She was just eighteen. He was twenty-one. Both thought they new everything, when in reality they did not yet know themselves (I know from experience—I married young/divorced young once myself). When I was born, they had been living in a flat in a “bad” neighborhood in the city. They bought a German shepherd so they could chase the drug dealers and other transients from the stairwell. The neighbors stole vegetables from their garden and clothing from their wash machine in the basement. Dad found a better job, and they bought a house in a better part of town. Things were good for some time. They had another child, my sister. I was nearing the age to start school. They decided it would be better to move to the country to give their kids a better chance than a public city school with a bad reputation could offer. They were living the American dream, buying the big house in the small town, living the life they fought against in the late ‘60s.

Almost instantly after the move, things went sour. Mom felt isolated, cut off. She was a social girl in a quiet town now. She found that staying at home, talking to toddlers all day was not her speed. She was energy, she was motion, and now, she was a caged bird. Until she met the guy two doors down (we’ll call him Dwayne). He was a sad, cold man. Vietnam had burned the humanity out of him. He wandered the streets in town in a stupor, aimlessly. Sometimes he fished, but usually he ended up in one of the many bars lining the four town streets. In a small Midwest farming town, taverns were a necessity. Not much else to do but drink away your loneliness.

My mother, the social creature she is, ducked her head out of the cage one day as the sad man wandered by. She struck up a conversation, discovered a lost cause in him, and made him her pet project. Her quiet life was boring, she needed a challenge, and found it with him. Somehow she always knew where to find him, as there are no secrets in a small town, and started seeking him out in the local watering holes. To be social, she began drinking with him, dangerous considering her father had been an alcoholic going on twenty years by that time. Soon, she found she could not refuse a drink or two. She joined a pool league, danced on bar tables, got into fights, all with her sad friend Dwayne hunkered over his drink at the bar, solitary.

The details are hazy to me how one thing led to another. I was only three or four at the time. Most of the story I gathered from rumors or speculation, always in abundance in a small town. I remember my parents screaming in the kitchen behind the closed door and the sound of broken china. I remember my sister and I huddled in each other’s arms crying ourselves to sleep as the screams filtered through the floorboards from downstairs.

It was Christmas Eve 1979 when Mom gave herself an early New Year’s present. Out with the old and in with the new. My Dad was gone, replaced with sad, crazy Dwayne. Mom and Dwayne married in June. What followed was a childhood filled with various abuses but mostly neglect. My sister and I were almost a hindrance, a remnant of a life my Mom would just as soon forgotten. So my sister and I grew up under the radar of my mother’s awareness.

What did Mom and Dwayne have in common? Mom’s family was of white-collar professionals, city dwellers, accustomed to the convenience of milkmen and neighborhood stores. They went to the doctor for check ups and had their teeth regularly cleaned and cavities filled at the dentist. Dwayne’s family was poor, blue-collar, farming folk, country boys and a little simple. They grew their own food, fixed their own cars, and let their teeth rot out of their mouths. They beat their kids with leather belts and stuck their heads in pails of water when they disobeyed. But Mom and Dwayne loved to drink. Drinking, they could ignore their differences. Everyone was in love when drunk. Nothing mattered. Good times, good times.

My sister and I never knew what to expect in that house. The rules were written in water on the sand. When the sun came up, or the wind gusted, or for almost any or no reason at all they could and would change. That was the one certainty, that you could never be certain what to expect. We were not noticed unless we disobeyed some unknown rule. Then we were punished. I discovered if I was quiet, as meek as a mouse, a good girl, I could avoid Mom’s wrath. My sister went the other way. She was trouble because trouble got attention. Any attention was better than none, even if it was negative.

After a few years, Mom and Dwayne learned that even when drunk they were completely incompatible. Dwayne detested my sister and me. If we were boys, well, that would have been something. He could teach us manly things. He could take us hunting and fishing. But we were girls and, therefore, less than contemptible. He only acknowledged us if we got in his way or to vent his growing frustration at our mother for being smart and ambitious, because eventually, Mom began to feel caged again. She needed to accomplish something. So she did something unforgivable. She stared an apprenticeship in he trades and soon made more money than Dwayne could ever hope to make. For a traditionalist, a man’s man, and a crazy man, it was unacceptable, to be one-upped by a woman. He felt unmanned by her success. Their marriage, not built on the most solid of foundations to begin with, started to crumble. They drank at separate bars. They had their own friends. Mom wrapped herself so well in her own problems that my sister and I could not find her.

As a teen, I began to recognize my feelings toward my mother were ambivalent, a mixture of terror of her wrath and longing for her approval. How could I turn to her for advice, lessons on the woman I was becoming? So I just stopped talking to her altogether except for one-word answers to her questions: yes, no, maybe. She insisted I did it to punish her, but really it was because my ambivalence rendered me mute, paralyzed with indecision.

At fourteen, I ran away and moved in with my father soon afterward. For years there was a long, deep canyon of silence between my mother and me, only broken at the birth of my daughter. A truce. Now we speak of simple things, exchange pleasantries. To me, she is still wrapped in mystery, her thoughts and motivations veiled, still the stranger passing on the street. I yearn for her approval, she who has done so much for which I disapprove, and find so difficult to forgive. I know I need to let go of the past to walk the path to her soul. Yet somehow I still think of her as the adult, myself the scared child crouching under my bed. I keep expecting her to reach out her hand for me to grasp to show me the way and comfort me. Shall I be the adult and extend my hand to her? The lifestyle she made for us left no room for children, so I was always the adult. Is it so wrong to want to be the child, for once? I know that attitude will only divide our paths farther apart and increase this over-long journey, that I will have to take the lead if I ever truly want to fill this hole inside me where my mother should be.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I know it's almost Mother's Day, but...

I wanted to take a minute to recognize someone very important to me, who makes my life as a SAHM possible, who is a key factor in my happiness and ability to survive with my sanity (mostly, I think, but who am I to judge) in tact. I want to recognize my husband.

I know my job here with these three (the little boys) to five (when the teens are home, too) kids home at any given time is hard work and, no doubt about it, stressful. People are amazed that I am able to do it so patiently and without completely melting down into a babbling pile of mush (trust me, I have my moments). And it is true. Overall, I am basically happy. By happy I do not mean permagrin plastered to my face, but an overall general sense of well-being. Because of this I am able to be patient with my kids and get things done around the house without being overwhelmed. Many wonder, what's her secret? How does she do it?

Let's examine for a minute the source of my happieness. Sure, my kids bring me joy, definately. But I think the true foundation from which I am able to enjoy this life is the relationship I have with my husband. Don't laugh! I am not being cheesey here. I really mean it. The man is amazing and wonderful. Of course, there are the initial attributes I was attracted to: his athletic physique, his smile, his eyes. He is soooo sexy. Then there is his sense of humor that is similar to mine. He is clever, smart, funny. He can write, loves writing, and is working on writing a novel (I think this alone won me over more than anything as I am a novel addict). Those things attracted me to him and created the foundation from which the relationship sprouted. What makes this relationship keep ticking is our our respect for each other as people, as partners. That is our greatest strength.

We made the decision for me to stay home together after much discussion of our options when we found out twins were on the way. He respects that it was not an easy decision on my part, (ending my career, trusting him completely to the finances when I have always been so independent). He respects and appreciates the work I do here, maintaining the house (OK, so this place is one step from being a dump most days, but I do my best!) and raising and maintaining the kids. Nor was it easy for him to take on complete financial responsibility. To make it work we devised a bargain, a partnership, where duties and responsibilities are split in a way that we both perceive as fair and equitable.

My husband works very hard on his end of our bargain. He is a full-time teacher, a coach, and works part-time as a substitute journeyman skilled laboror. Sometimes he works third shift after working all day at his "real" job, comes home, sleeps for a few hours, and muddles through the rest of the day in a haze. Sometimes, he works all day at his "real" job, coaches until late at night, then stops at the store for emergency purchases for the house. Any way you look at it, he is always working to meet our needs, without any complaints (well, not too many, anyway).

We get bye. We don't have a lot of fancy belongings, no plasma TV or high-end stereo system. Hell, we don't even have matching silverware, glasses or plates. But what we do have is respect for one another, gratitude for what each contributes, a true partnership. Because we each maintain our ends of the bargain, because we have respect for each other, our friendship strengthens and grows over time and our relationship is strong. Because I have a strong relationship, my mind is at ease, and I am able to cope well at my "job". I couldn't imagine this working with just anyone. So I want to thank my husband for making it possible for me to happily enjoy raising these "hellions" of ours.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

For New Mothers

Yesterday, I read a beautiful post by Chantal about all the things we have learned as mothers and what advice would you give yourself (or any new mother)? She has an excellent list there and her commenters have great suggestions, also. That really took me back to the days of New Motherhood. When I was first a mother, at seventeen I was not more than a child myself. There was so much I did not know. Because I was so young, I become a Mama in Overdrive. I was a perfectionist. I had so many unrealistic expectations for myself as a mother, so much to prove not only myself, but the world that expected me to fail because of my circumstances. I allowed myself no room for error.

Thankfully, I have learned a great deal since then. Here are a few I would add to her list, a few things I wish someone had told that misguided girl I had been:

  • That you are going to make mistakes, sometimes big ones, but it is okay because you are not Wonder Woman. You're human. You'll grow from them.
  • That sometimes you really don't like your kids very much. I mean you love them--but sometimes you just don't like them. And that is OK, too. You will forgive them and they (hopefully) will forgive you. The moment will pass. You'll have the love there to ride it out on.
  • That you don't have to have all he latest gadgets and toys. Don't feel bad if you don't have them. Baby won't know the difference, anyway.

The Life Less Solitary

A poem for mothers

What would I do
with a solitary life?

Swimming in the darkness,
so encompassing
so absolute
The emptiness of that silent life
Ringing in my ears
Pounding through my brains
Like Sunday church bells
Tolling away the long lonely hours
and days
and weeks
and months
and years
with the bitterness
the nothingness
of all my possessions in pristine and working order

What would I do
with a solitary life?

My world buzzes, hums, sings
With belly laughs
and giggles like wind chimes
Milk spilled, pooling, puddling
Curtains torn
Walls decorated in crayon
Or lipstick
Or sweet chocolate
The cinnamon air,
cookies baking
Crumbs littering floors and crevasses
tabletops and stairs
Soft patting of bare feet
fleetly fleeing across the floor
Like bees or butterflies flitting from flower to flower
Picking up and depositing pollen
Toys in a mountainous heap here and there
Like continents
And the agony, the screams
A prized toy
broken or stolen
Fixed with twist-ties, tape, glue and care,
kisses and quiet words
Busy whorls of motion
soft and warm in your lap
the new life scented hair
like feathers tickling your chin
As nursery rhymes are read
whisper snores in the dim nightlight glow,
at last
at last
at last
Awakening for more with the new day

What would I do
with a solitary life?

Empty and alone
Drowning in a quiet so deep
The lonely hours
Like raindrops in a pail
Stretching through the years
How would I quiet the deafening silence
Of a world
Where no one needs me
No tears to dry
No mouths to feed
No soft whorls of life
To wrap my arms around
and hold to me so tightly
filling me with light and life
How would I pass those long endless hours
The useless ringing silence
In my big house filled with
And shining
False sunlight
No crumbs or spills
No rips or breaks
No unwiped shoes piled by the doorway
The silence the silence the silence
It is lifeless brown pedals
to the earth
scattered uselessly
by the wind


Monday, May 08, 2006

Material Girl, Part II

Rereading my last post, I can see how someone would get the idea I was ripping on femininity. But I am not. My point is that pre-teen girls seem to get confused and overwhelmed by the images the media sends. Femininity, instead of becoming a part of who they are, seems to become their ultimate goal.

My point was is that at this stage as a teen age daughter, it is overpowering any other interests, almost like a fixation. Almost as if they are afraid to express their real interests in fear of being ostracized and instead focus all (or most) energies on "the look."

I think Pipher mentioned it in her book, and I see it to, not only with my daughter, but with all her friends, there is no balance between femininity and their "selves". To them, the goal is to achieve "femininity" as portrayed in the media, the skinnieness, the docility. The pressure is great, and it causes, if not outright eating disorders and self-mutilation, depression and sadness, almost hopelessness because the goal of absolute femininity is not realistic. It is one-dimentional, focusing all energies on a "look" and denying what lies beneath the surface. But the allure and social pressure is so strong, girls' other interests tend to be derailed. It is very difficult for teen girls to find balance and to know it okay to pursue something besides being a size 1 or the perfect outfit.

Maybe I see this particularly clearly with my own daughter because of personal circumstances which place us, a large family surviving on one income, in a wealty school district where kids (or at least their parents)have the finances to perpetuate this ideal of femininity, to buy the clothes and things that fads dictate on a whim. We don't have a lot of money to be keeping up with the latest fads, whereas her friends want a new $30 t-shirt and $60 jeans at "Hot Topic," most of their parents have no problem accomodating that, even on a regular basis. Many parents here are buying into and promoting (at least subconsciously) this image. I hear it all the time, "Well, so-and-so has this!" So the pressure an my daughter, in particular, is great. She does not have the means to keep up with her peers.

But it is not just the keeping up with material things. It is also body image. When I listen to her and her friends having a conversation, much of their conversations consist of fat they are, and their thighs are so fat, and don't I have a big butt, and so-and-so is so skinny, I wish I could be her.

Like I mentioned before, I don't know where to begin to remedy this lack of balance. I have always tried to be a good role model, but maybe I have failed. Or maybe the social pressure is just too great. Whatever the case, I hope that my daughter, all of our daughters, can find balance between what is feminine and what is her identity, what makes her herself, learn to accept herself, and love herself for more than what clothes she wears and how fat her butt may be.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Raising a girl in our consumer culture

I have been thinking a lot lately about my own identity as a woman, as a mother and most specifically as a mother raising a daughter. This entry is inspired from other blog entries I have read lately such as here and here.

I have a thirteen year old daughter, and I am constantly struggling with teaching her my morals and values (feminism and accepting herself/being proud of herself as a woman) versus society's and our culture's morals (ie: femininty, meekness, consumerism). Just looking at her, the struggle is written all over her emerging adult identity. She is a study in contrasts. She wears only black and white, but she has to have the fashionable belt everyone else is wearing. Her hair must be long, but she insists on stylish cuts and wants to dye it. She spends all of her allowance on fashionable "alternative" or "punk" or "Goth" clothes, but wants to wear lip gloss and eye shaddow and paint her nails. She has recently been overly-concerned about her weight because her body type does not fit the "ideal" that is promoted in the media. Yet she is outspoken, to the point of aggressive at times, about issues she is passionate about. She is often moody and sullen. How much of that is her age, adjusting to her hormones and so-called normal development? What is it about normal development that makes fun loving little girls into sullen, moody teens? This concept is explored in Mary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia . Unfortunately, my copy is lost somewhere in the contenents of books we have in this house or I lent it out to someone. But from wht I remember it basically explores how our society is "girl-poisoning" with the images the media portrays of the ideal of femininity. I read the book a few years ago, and I see this more and more with my daughter. The consumerism, the desire for the perfect clothes and accessories to fit in, the peer pressure and nastieness of other girls forcing them further into the mold of the perfect feminine woman. These forces lead our daughters to do some terrible things to themselves. Some of these destructive behaviors, as I have observed first-hand, include eating disorders (my daughter) and self-mutilation (a friend of mine's daughter). And this is "normal development" for our daughters? If that is the case, something does need to be done to reclaim them. I am at a loss as to what, however, as I have always tried to teach, demonstrate and level with my daughter how our culture is destructive to girls and why. Sadly, it seems as if the lure of the media is stronger than my voice, and I am losing this war.

Friday, May 05, 2006

What, am I nuts?!? or Tantrums and the Poop Game, Revisited

What was I saying about "two is a nice age...". Oh, man! I guess I forgot in that moment of reverie about the screaming (I'm talking blood curdling screams) of two competitive, fighting toddlers and their wrestling and all-around getting-jacked-up coach Eight-Eight Fingers. Add that to the never-ending "poop" game (Pooping only in their beds, so I won't see and mention the dreaded Potty) and it is amazing I am still sane. Or am I...?

Right, that I why I write in this blog, typos, misspelled and made up words and all. Because this is my world. Where everyone gets along (funny, huh?) and I can write in fragments and run on sentences like this one and so what?

Yesterday was actually beautiful day, weatherwise, and we had to call outside playtime quits early due to non-stop tantrums. Eighty-Eight kept teasing the Fellers by stealing their golf clubs and waving them in their faces. Boompas, who loved his over-sized Spiderman sandals the day before, absolutely hated them yesterday but would not go barefoot. And Stink, well, heck, everyone else was bawling, so he might as well join in. And what a hellish chorus it was. At least they did not act like that at the track meet! To top it all off, Stink's (Stink, because he likes the word and relishes this game) pants were full of turd when I checked on him before I went to bed, so for the fifth night straight I changed him by flashlight.

Cute, really cute.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I noticed my four-year-old standing in front of the toilet, staring blankly over his weiner for serveral moments. Finally, I asked him, "Eighty-Eight, what are you doing?"

He replied, "I am waiting for the pee-drops to come out. You know, the pee-drops that come out after you pee!"

Actually, being a female, I don't really know, but okay, thanks for clearing that up for me.

Target v. Walmart, A Race To the Bottom

A few posts back I ranted about Walmart and America's over-consumerism (if you don't like made up words, too darn bad). I just read an article on Alternet that compares Target, the upscale box-store, to Walmart with alarmingly frightening similarities. I never would have guessed that Target was this bad:

Of more than 1,400 Target stores employing more than 300,000 people nationwide, not one has a union. Employees at various stores say an anti-union message and video is part of the new-employee orientation. At stores in the Twin Cities, where Target is headquartered, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union Local 789 has been trying for several years to help Target employees organize, with little luck.

"People ask what the difference between Wal-Mart and Target is," said UFCW organizer Bernie Hesse. "Nothing, except that Wal-Mart is six times bigger. The wages start at $7.25 to $7.50 an hour [at Target]. They'll say that's a competitive wage, but they can't say it's a living wage. We know a lot of their managers are telling people, 'If we find out you're involved in organizing a union you'll get fired.'"

Target is actually profiting from some of America's Anti-Walmart-ism. More people such as myself and some of the commenters refuse to shop there because of their negative employee treatment:

A recent study by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell showed that 63 percent of people would oppose a Wal-Mart opening in their community. Groups such as Wal-Mart Watch, several documentarians have harshly critiqued Wal-Mart's working conditions and its effects on communities and international labor standards.

It turns out these companies are pretty much the same:

A survey by the UFCW found that starting wages are similar in Targets and Wal-Marts -- possibly higher overall at Wal-Marts - and that Target benefits packages are often harder to qualify for and less comprehensive. (Target's media relations department refused to comment on its wages and benefits policies; individual wages and benefits policies are not included in their annual report.)

This article does resonate with hope and a dream and proof that my ranting may indeed be feasable:

In today's market, could retail really be any different? Fair labor advocates think so. Hesse notes that in several unionized grocery stores in the Twin Cities, hourly wages hover around $13 to $17 an hour, roughly double Target's. Now SuperTarget's sale of groceries threatens the survival of union grocery stores.

Even other major big box retailers have managed to pay significantly higher wages and achieve higher employee retention. The prices at Costco Wholesale Corp., the nation's fifth largest retailer, are competitive with those at Target and Wal-Mart, but it pays full-time employees an average of around $16 an hour along with generous health benefits.

Costco has found that treating its employees well is still profitable, and I believe Aldi's is another retailer that pays good wages while carrying off-name brands to reduce costs for consumers as well as the company.