25 June 2009

Goodie Bags

My child is growing up entirely too fast. Today we went to the dentist and she had her teeth cleaned. Like a GROWN UP.
Except that at the end she got a whole bag full of goodies and toys and all sorts of stuff and all I ever get is floss.
Tonight we are going to go home and attempt to make more progress on the never ending swing set.
In an effort to distract myself from its neverending-ness, I went out and bought her a nice little wooden table too, because there were just not enough things in boxes that need to be put back together...we needed NEW stuff to assemble!
I am surprised by how much I love our house. Even though the downstairs is still a shambles and I have no idea what to do with our room or bathroom or the random extra room or, for that matter, the "play" room which has a lot of boxes, but no designated furniture...cardboard couch anyone? Rubbermaid tub chaise?
I really am not at all a fan of the split level house. And our place is a straight up seventies split. I don't like the congested entryway or the lack of places to hang things. I don't like the architecturally un-interesting-ness boxiness of the "style"
I think we are starting to do interesting things with color that make the rooms a little bit more spacious and cozy at the same time.
NotMarsha's room is something of an unexpected dream entirely of her own design.
I think I will need to rally this weekend and bust back into the paint. We moved all the supplies from the kitchen to the garage two weeks ago when we had company for a bbq and I have not picked up a brush since then. Time to get it squared away so that we can unpack the boxes. RF described our kitchen as "schizophrenic" last weekend, what with the stainless steel stove and our camping utensils.
I am also excited to post pics as soon as I can claim that even just ONE room is officially done, trim and pictures and all.
I am excited to empty the boxes and be done with them for good. Its like Christmas opening boxes full of stuff that I haven't seen in a year or two or three or five. Like my very own Goodie Bags (Boxes) from the Second Chance Fairy.
They remind me that I really do possess the things of a life, even if they have been stashed away in a 6x8 storage unit for awhile, like maybe I can DO this the second time around.
I long to be settled. I am never, ever moving again. Seriously. All of those things still feel very far away. Lofty goals of questionable attainability that at the very least are worth striving for. . .

24 June 2009

In Defense of Jon & Kate

So, this is not really "NEWS" anymore. Jon & Kate Gosselin are splitting up. Its not really "news" in People Magazine anymore and its not really "news" on Cnn.com anymore and its not really "news" that Brian Williams really wants to share I imagine.

Here is what I find so shocking about this information: The complete lack of empathy expressed by, well, everyone. Especially the momosphere, like this and this.

I suppose this is not particularly shocking. This is, after all, America and Americans love nothing more than to make people celebrities and then tear them to shreds.
But I think it is also a comment on the realm of parent bloggers who are, by and large, married people or permanently non-married, but living in secure relationships.

I mention this not to criticize the marrieds, but possibly a little to point out that until you have BEEN through a divorce from the inside, particularly one where there are children involved and you are going to have to be involved with your former spouse for the better part of the rest of your life whether you like it or not, you really should back the hell off from the outside unless you have something nice to say.

Believe me, its hard a-fucking-nuf to face yourself in the mirror everyday and try to figure out what the hell you are going to do with the rest of your day/week/life. Being told you didn't try hard enough or work at it sufficiently or that you didn't put enough faith in god is bullshit.

Here are the things that I would wish for both Kate and Jon Gosselin (but, quite frankly, more for Kate because, well, I'm a mom):

That someone give them the following books to read:
Mom's House, Dad's House . . . because parenting plans are important when you are no longer parenting as a unit.
Ex-Etiquette For Parents: Good Behavior after Divorce or Separation . . . because, really, nothing is more important than being cordial at this point.
Two Homes . . . even if they are going to do the thing where the parent's come and go from one house, this kids book describes the life of a child who knows he is loved unconditionally by both of his parents

That someone tells them to communicate as much as possible via email and operate under the assumption that everything they write will wind up on national television (which, is more likely in their case than mine, but same rule applies).

That their families support them judgement free and if that isn't going to happen that they have a real life community of people who surround them with whatever kind of support they need.

That they are able to believe in their own resilience and know that life will go on and that, to paraphrase Anne of Green Gables, the future is always brighter with no mistakes made in it yet.

17 June 2009

The Swing Set

First, let me begin by saying this plain and simple. I hate going to the park. I guess this makes me a monstrous jerk mommy, but I really hate it. I hate the crowds at the good parks with all the big kids (who I am not above snapping at when they are being pushy or obnoxious or too rough around little kids). I hate the ten thousand places to loose a toddler, because nothing is more terrifying then that. I hate the cigarette buts and beer bottles and teenagers (or worse yet transients) at the neighborhood parks. This being Alaska, I hate standing around freezing for half an hour while my temperature impervious child wants to play. I hate the fit about it being time to leave the park. I am sort of uncomfortable with her making random friends at the park.

Most of all, I really dislike the other mothers and the fact that I am there all alone.

The first summer that NotMarsha was old enough (1 1/2) to want to go to parks was the summer when I was a 25 year old, single, working, mother nearing the end of a year long divorce. I was living for the summer in the guest bedroom of some incredibly kind friends' house. The more or less took me in because my parents wouldn't let me stay with them. It was not a good time.

We went to the park on Friday nights, after work and dinner and before the strange bedroom nighttime battle. The whole thing was exhausting. It was, by far, the worst year (or two) of my entire life. I was basically a failure as a mother and there was not much chance of that changing. I was in a painful and exhausting parenting situation with my ex, the nanny, and the grandparents, it was a scene. I was in a job that I took out of desperation, that I could have been really good at, but in that case had really missed the mark.

It felt like every other parent that we encountered at the park could see right through all of that.

Young mother? Check.

Still wearing office clothes? Check.

No ring? Check.

Low patience threshold? Check.

I got pregnant, after having been married two years I was married, at 23. NotMarsha was born just after my 24th birthday. Her father and I separated six months later. It wasn't until that summer at the park on Friday nights that I ever felt like a "Young Mother". I don't feel like I look particularly young anymore, but I look at the one or two pictures I have from when NotMarsha was born and I look like such a baby myself. I had no idea.

I got the message loud and clear that summer at the park. Totally overwhelmed. Totally isolated. Totally at a loss for how to make anything right in the long run.

Its gotten better over time. The divorce was finalized and then revised once we were able to work together better.

Everyone has moved on and is happy in their personal lives. I had already met and was basically involved with NotMike that summer, but it was long distance and not-public.

Last summer, NotMike, NotMarsha, and I all lived together for the first time in a little apartment in the town where NotMike and I met. It was a horribly rainy summer and the parks weren't really even an option, so everyday we went to the pool. (Yes, I get why it is funny that we avoided the rain by swimming in the local pool). The pool atmosphere was mostly like the park, not quite as harsh, but unless you bring a friend with you there are the inevitable impenetrable cliques.

I really commend Young Mothers who were more aware of it at the time. Who moved passed it and found their stride and can take on the world. Like this one. That post was such a wake up call to me.

So inspiring, but so totally out of my league.

Which leads pretty directly to this.

One of the most important things for me when we were shopping for a new house was to find one with as absolutely much yard as possible. I wanted it to be big, fenced, and ready to go. I wanted it to be safe and free of cigarette butts and broken beer bottles. I wanted it to be a place where NotMarsha and a dog could play and be safe and have fun. Where I could relax and not feel like I had to be the right kind of mother, just HER mother. Genuinely enjoying my time with HER.

Slightly agoraphobic? Perhaps.

Totally extravagant? Probably.

Totally worth it in the mental health kickbacks? Abso#*(%#lutly.

Last weekend we had a BBQ with her Dad, Step-mom, Brothers, Cousin, and Paternal Grandparents in our new yard with the 1/3 finished Swing Set. The picnic table part was up. The kids ran around in the yard and my niece hung from the structure like a monkey in a tree. It was just exactly what I had always wanted us to be able to do and made the huge price tag and the two solid weeks of construction totally worth everything. And the thing isn't even fully constructed yet.

NotMarsha wants us to get a sign for the yard that says "NotMarsha's Park". We have a little park bench too.

I'll post a photo set when we can show the whole process. Its been two weeks of construction. Pretty much more time then it takes to build a Habitat for Humanity House where people actually live. 

The yard, after much effort and 62 bags of crap needs some work, but is clean.

The house, a whole separate series of DIY before and after posts, is coming along.

We really are settling in to a life. Slowly and painfully and awkwardly. But deservedly and with hope for the future, which didn't really exist around here for a very long time.

16 June 2009

The Dog.

Here are pictures of The Dog:

I am writing about The Dog, because I have pictures of her on this computer. (Also, obviously, because we love her dearly).

The picture to the right was the first one snapped of her in our new house. We had moved in forty eight hours before we picked her up from the shelter. The shelter which is 250 miles away from our brand new house.

Yes, really.

Here is the story of The Dog. 

It is also the story about how The Dog became Our Dog

NotMarsha had been asking for several months for a puppy. For each and every one of the several months, in fact, that she and I were staying at my parent's house while THE REAL ESTATE DEAL FROM HELL took its sweet, sweet, SWEET time to complete. In the meantime she got a baby brother at her Dad's House. She likes the baby a lot. She tried to negotiate for a baby at the New Mommy House as well, but that won't be happening any time soon.

She mastered The Art of the Potty a few days before her third birthday in January. We found The New Mommy House and made an offer in the middle of February. It was a fixer upper, for sure, but there was a huge, fenced yard and lots of interior space and four bedrooms spread out over two floors and a lot of the flooring had just been done. It was the right house for us. It was a four minute commute to her Dad's House. This was a huge improvement over the 60 minute minimum round trip that we had been enduring near daily from where we were staying (double if you forget The Bear).

After we made the offer on The New Mommy House, NotMike and I relented on the issue of getting a dog. There was tons of space for a dog! We could put in a dog run in the garage! The dog can be home when we are at work and I'm home half time anyway! It would be good for NotMarsha to have a dog! Plus, basically, she really, really wanted one and we are two divorced parents who are suckers (see next post to be entitled THE SWING SET).

We made no promises that The New Dog would be a puppy. We got some books about pet adoption and drove past our local animal shelter (not two miles from our front door) daily talking about adopting a pet into our family once we had moved into The New Mommy House. We did our grown up research too. We settled on some sort of Labrador because all the available information says they are the best dogs to have with young kids.

We were supposed to close (at long last) on The New Mommy House on April 10th.

We did not close. We would close the next week. (It went on like this until JUNE 5th, but I digress).

I asked questions of people I knew who had dogs. Rule Number 125: Do not ask good questions of smart people unless you are prepared to implement the answers.

I got hooked up with this website . I searched it. Frequently. I came across a puppy. I lurved the little puppy. I called the local shelter. The puppy was in the process of being adopted. Right. That. Minute. Sob, sob, sob.

I came across this website .
I found a dog! A chocolate lab. It was just under a year old. Perfect! I shot off an email, describing our family and what we were looking for in a pet to the email address. I did not exactly notice that when I had searched by state rather than city this time and that I was inquiring about a dog in Valdez. A few days passed. I got a response. Based on what I had said about our family, the dog I had emailed about was probably too high strung and wouldn't be a good fit. There was, however, another dog. She might be ideal. Would I like a picture and more information?
Gulp, yes...but, we can't make it to Valdez for three weeks so would waiting for pick up be a problem?

And the next time I opened my email there was this:

NotMarsha was sitting on my lap when I opened that email.

Her immediate reaction was "Mommy! Look! It is OUR DOG!"

And she was.

We made arrangements to drive 500 miles in two days three weeks later to pick her up from the shelter in Valdez on a weekend when NotMarsha would be at her Dad's House. We may be crazy, but we are not totally insane after all.

We took NotMarsha shopping for some animal stuff and sent a care package ahead of time to the shelter.

We got a little desperate to get moved into the New Mommy House before Our Dog arrived.

When the closing was postponed for the fifth week in a row, we sort of lost it. We relented and agreed to early occupy the house, which was a ridiculous risk given the months and months and months of complications that had led up to that point. We started sleeping in The New Mommy House on a Thursday night. We left Saturday morning and returned with Our Dog.

Our Dog is pretty much awesome. She is generally quite. She only chews on stuff that is designated to be hers. She doesn't scratch at stuff. She sleeps a lot. She likes to go for a run in the mornings. She is unbelievably patient with NotMarsha and as such is often sporting a Pink and Yellow Duckie Blanket Cape and being hauled around by her collar on the deck to the theme song from Dora 
or wrapped up in a full body hug and being told "Our Dog, I TOTALLY Love You." 
She learned very quickly that NotMarsha is, like most three year olds, a fairly sloppy eater and she lays, patiently, at the foot of NotMarsha's place at the table for the treats to fly.

She does, however, hate to leave the house. She hates it when ANYONE leaves the house. She does not like to be left out of the house and is not above finding ways to break back into the house for the sole purpose of lying on her bed. (Like jumping through a screen on an open window which worked once, or tearing the screen from said window because the window was closed the second time around.)
I did not realize until we were on the way to get The Dog, which would become Our Dog, that she was our test baby. Apparently, I am quite dense. So far, she is pushing us pretty hard towards the Realm of the Possible Real Baby. What with that extra bedroom and all...Man, I really am stupid.

NotMarsha is working that whole thing pretty hard too. Pointing out that while Our Dog is great and she "Totally Love Her", she is not, in fact, a puppy... thus, we owe her a baby, or a puppy, in the future. Huh.

As for Our Dog. She is pretty settled in and she has really made us a family in a way that we weren't before. 

And that is nice. 
Note to Reader: The guy in picture four is my dad (aka Papa), not NotMike, just in case you were curious. . . or dirty minded like this ego-manicical governor that I know.

15 June 2009

Here's the story . . .

Of a blended family, who is making it up as we go along.

There are five of us, if you count the new dog, and we just found our home.

Well, that is not, exactly true...we made the offer five months ago, but on June 5th we signed the papers. Now it is ours to own.

The house, its needs some work, so we are living in a construction zone. I have discovered, these things move slowly, when you are doing them on your own.

We have no WiFi and a half built swing set and a yard that is truly a place to roam.

The downstairs is where we are hiding, all the boxes that contain most of what we own. So in the meantime, we eat on paper and are drinking out of party cubs galore.

Its an adventure! It is a new life! And I think we are all glad we got this far.

I really, can't keep up this rhyme scheme, so I am going to sign off with this: I will post pictures, of the remodel and surely stories as we move ahead.

I've missed the writing, so I am back now and it seems like time.