Monday, December 31, 2007

A clean pantry. A new year.

It's amazing how little things can make you feel so good.

Today is the last day of 2007 (which freaks me out to no end), and I spent much of my day cleaning out our pantry. We have what our builder termed a "bulter's pantry", whatever that is supposed to mean. We certainly don't have a butler, nor does anyone else in our neighborhood. It's a great room though, connecting our dining room to our kitchen and provding a ton of storage space.

The problem with having a lot of storage space, however, is that it's a clutter magnet. Clutter from all across the universe is drawn inexorably towards my pantry, hurtling through space in order to come to rest in a huge mass of useless crap.

Today, the mass of useless crap and I did battle. It was a sight to see, and I am proud to say I stood victorious in the end.

There is something so lovely about walking into my newly cleaned pantry. It feels so open and airy! Granted, I need more shelf space and I could have probably gotten rid of a few more things. But for now, I feel like I have a clean slate - at least in that one space in the house. And with two little kids, I'll take the victories I can get. Goodness knows when I'll have the opportunity to tackle another room, or even a closet.

As the new year approaches, I feel the need to reorganize, clean up, declutter and simplify. I hate having too much stuff, yet somehow I keep amassing more and more. Every year I donate bags of stuff, get rid of toys we don't need, clothes I don't wear. And every year there seems to be more stuff than ever to go through. I'm not a big shopper (would that I could afford to be!), so I'm not sure how it happens. Like I said, I think there is some gravity-like force emitted by empty space and the "stuff" of the universe can't resist it. I'm pretty sure science will someday confirm it. Newton only had part of the physics story. He'd never met my pantry.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Our strange encounter on Christmas Day

We had the weirdest thing happen on Christmas Day.

We were headed to my mom's for Christmas dinner. It was around 2pm and we were, of course, running late. G hadn't napped (dammit!), but other than that, things were going fine for a busy day.

We live at the end of a long hill and the straightest, although not always fastest, route to the freeway is down the main drag - peppered with stoplights. We were at one such stoplight when the van started to drift forward. I started to say something to my husband about not hitting the car in front of us, but it was already too late. We bumped into the car. My husband had drifted off at a freaking stoplight. Thanks honey, for staying up until 2am the night before. Because, you know, our kids sleep in (do you hear the sarcasm?).

The woman in the car got out, started swearing at us, and said something about calling the police. The light was still red, but changed as she got back into her car. My husband turned on the blinker and motioned for her to turn, and pull over. She pulled into a parking lot and we pulled up behind her.

We literally bumped into her, there was absolutely no damage whatsoever. The woman, however, was in a tirade. I walked up to the drivers side of her car and she rolled down her window and started yelling at me (and why my husband wasn't with me at this point, I'm not sure - it was him who was driving! but anyway...). I kept telling her we were really sorry, but if she'd just get out and look, she'd see there was no damage to her car. I don't really remember what she was saying at this point - mostly just yelling and swearing at me. I asked her what she wanted us to do and she'd say "nothing, just go and merry fucking Christmas", but then threaten to call the cops when I tried to walk away. I tried to reason with her, since her car was truly fine (as was ours), and finally asked, "Ma'am, what do you want me to do?" over and over again. At that point she started threatening me, saying she was going to get out of the car and hit me if I didn't leave her alone. Basically, she lost it.

I went back to the van and told my husband she'd threatened me. I was near tears. He pulled up next to her and she reiterated that she would call the cops if we left. The last thing we need is for some stupid incident to be blown out of proportion, so we obviously stayed. We got out and talked to her more and as the conversation went on, that's when things got strange.

Her demeanor slowly changed from being angry at us, to pouring her heart out. It was a little unnerving, this stranger in a car telling us so many intimate details about her life. It poured from her as if she'd been saving it all up for goodness knows how long and finally all the trauma in her life had to come spewing out. She has 5 days to move out of her apartment, but doesn't have a new place to live; her sister's boyfriend pushed her off a horse and she's in a coma; her mother has cancer; she recently got out of an abusive relationship; she uses food as a drug and was over 300lbs at her heaviest; her car had recently been hit by someone else, but they left the scene; it went on and on.

She cried and sobbed and told us more. We kept telling her how sorry we were, we didn't mean to make her day worse, she had enough burdens to bear. She apologized profusely for how she'd spoken to me and for threatening me. I cried as I forgave her. We asked over and over what we could do to help her. Our intent was genuine. We started speaking with her in an attempt to pacify her so she wouldn't accuse us of doing damage to her car that we didn't do; we stayed because our hearts went out to her and we wanted to help this woman. It was Christmas Day and she was contemplating suicide.

She refused all offers of help, even just buying her a coffee or hot chocolate for the drive home. She wouldn't take our information; didn't want our names or phone numbers. We never did ask for hers. All I know is her first name, and I have a picture of the back of her car in my cell phone, taken as she raged at me to make sure I had proof her car wasn't damaged.

She asked only one thing of us as we left, that we pray for her. So Monica, wherever you are, I am praying for you. I pray that the drama in your life cools off, that you are able to begin surrounding yourself with positive, helpful people; that your sister recovers and your mother finds health, or at least peace. I pray that you continue to make the changes in your life that need to happen for you to be happy and peaceful. I pray that 2008 brings good news for you and your family.

They say things happen for a reason. I hope so, and I hope we did enough. I hope that she just needed someone to listen to her, to help her get through the day. I can't shake the feeling that we were supposed to meet her. I just hope we did whatever it was we were supposed to do; that the meeting helped her in some way, meant something to her.

In a strange way, it meant something to me.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I should be working.

My primary occupation for the last three years has been my kidlets, but on the side, I still do some work. This helps a lot financially, considering my husband and I both seem to be operating under the assumption that we still have two incomes (hello credit card debt). I also get to have something that keeps me "in the game", at least a little bit. I don't have any intentions of ever going back to work for someone else (although you never know what life will throw at you), but I do plan to continue making money. Thus far, I've accomplished this through what I can loosely call "consulting". In my former life I was in marketing and communications, so I've done some projects here and there at least somewhat related to my former field.

Right now my biggest client has given me some pretty hefty projects. I love calling them my "biggest client" - it sounds so official. Truthfully, they are the company owned by my parents - my mom and stepdad. I've worked for them off and on for years and they've been my largest source of "side work" since having kids. I've done work for a few others, my husband's company and a former coworker included, but my parents' company has been my bread and butter.

Recently my stepdad announced he was looking to hire a writer and had this long list of projects he needed the person to tackle. Um, hello? Me? I read the description and the list and my mouth started watering. As someone looking to focus my career on freelance writing, this was a goldmine. Articles, reports, websites, coauthoring his books.... Yes, please!

I sent him an email with a list of rather compelling reasons (if I do say so myself) as to why he should hire ME to do the work, at least in the short term. He thinks he needs a full time person. But here's the thing: I can get work done quite a bit faster than the average bear. I don't mean that in a "look at me, I'm so great" kind of way. It just is what it is, particularly when it's stuff like this, research and writing. I've always been that way in my job and every boss I've ever had has commented, favorably, on it. I get crap done and I get it done fast - and well.

So here I am with a project budgeted at 20 hours. I've spent probably 6, at the most, and I'm nearly done. It might take me another 2. There's a part of me that panics, thinking I must be missing something or I'm doing a crappy job and he's going to realize how few hours I've spent just by reading it. I've read his project description about a million times, trying to make sure I'm getting every detail. Then I go back and read what I've written for it, and call me crazy, but it's damn good and sounds to me to be just what he's asking for. I'm not writing a book here, just a series of snippets for a report. There's only so much you can say about the geography and climate of California's Central Valley. And he needed me to write a "quarter page introduction" to the area. I've literally measured the paragraphs, played with the font size and made sure that by anyone's estimates, my piece is at least a quarter page long. I seriously think I'm giving him everything he needs and it's good quality work. It just doesn't take me very long.

So now I'm torn as to whether to send it to him this early and let him know I'm ready for more work, or wait a few more days so he doesn't think I rushed through it. They pay me by the project, not by the hour most of the time, and I'd hate for him to think he's overpaying me, especially if he thinks I'm going to be spending more than twice the time that I actually do. And quite frankly, I need the money, so I don't want him to start underestimating future projects on me.

And I have to admit, the other reason I'm sitting here typing away is that my husband is in the other room and knows I'm supposed to be working. He can't see my screen, so he thinks I am. Wow, that sounds so deceptive, but I'll be honest - I want him to think I'm spending all this time in front of the computer working. I don't know why; maybe I think he'll appreciate me more if he thinks I work more hours than I do. That's terrible. Seeing it written out like that makes me feel like I'm lying to him. Crap.

In any case, I should be working, but I'm so close to being done I can cut it short for tonight. I only have so much brain power by the end of the day anyway.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Big boy night

Tonight D went to bed in big boy underwear!

Wait, I should back up. A few days ago I had a flash of mommy brilliance. D didn't want to wear his cool Thomas underwear, nor his Mickey underwear, not even his Lightning McQueen underwear. He wanted to go commando all the time. At first I figured it was not a big deal, until I had a doctor appointment to take him to. I knew he'd need to get undressed and it would be a little strange to have him completely naked. I had to bribe him into wearing his underwear and it took forever for me to coerce him into it. Sheesh that kid is stubborn.

I figured his underwear must not be very comfortable and if you pick them up, you'll see why. They're not very soft and the waistband felt like it could be itchy. I don't blame the kid for free-balling. I decided to get him some new underwear, minus the licensed characters, and see if those would be more to his liking - and here's where the brilliance comes in. I found him boxer briefs, which are JUST LIKE DADDY! Oh the power of wearing something that is just like Daddy's when you're a three year old boy. He found them sitting out the next morning and exclaimed, "Daddy, what are these? Are they mine?" He was so excited about them he ran off and put them on by himself, and put his jammie bottoms back on (backwards, but hey, he did a pretty good job considering he often refuses to put his own clothes on). So it appears I've solved the commando problem.

So tonight I told him I needed to go downstairs and get more pull-ups, but he said, "No, underwear." I asked him if he really wanted to wear underwear to bed and he said, "Yeah!" Ok kiddo, we'll give it a shot. My husband then explained to him that he needed to get up and go potty if he had to pee and we'd leave the light on in the bathroom for him. As if he'd get up to pee by himself and not come get us - ha ha ha ha ha ha!! I guess we'll see. In any case, he finished my husband's thought and said, "Then go back to bed." Yeah baby, you get the idea.

He did, of course, test the waters a couple of times, coming out of his room twice shortly after we put him to bed, claiming he had to pee. The first time he didn't even undress before deciding he didn't actually have to go and my husband shooed him off to his room. The second time he got on the potty and spent a couple of minutes trying his hardest to squeeze out a drop or two in the hopes of getting his two M&M's, the reward we've been giving him for going potty. Sorry kiddo, back to bed with you.

He also decided tonight that he no longer needs his bedrail. I think he'll be fine; I really don't think he'll fall out of bed. He is used to sleeping right up against the bedrail, which had me thinking he'd refuse to give the thing up until he was 5. After all, it took ages for him to decide he wanted to sleep in his big boy bed. But no, he declared that he's a big boy now and he won't fall out.

Sniff. My baby is growing up so fast. I swear, he turned three and suddenly seems so much older than he did just a week ago.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Adventures in Potty Training

This potty training thing is a lot of work!

The other day, I needed to take D for a haircut. Even with two little kids, I was surprised at how much of a fiasco this seemingly simple outing became.

After the requisite "one minute until we put our shoes on!" warning, I proceeded to get both boys bundled up and ready to go. I'm anxiously awaiting the day when G is at least able to sit up on his own, as it's rather difficult to dress a 3-year old with a 20lb baby balanced on your hip, let alone put on your own shoes and coat. In any case, I got the boys in shoes and coats and got myself similarly outfitted. Of course, that was the moment D decided he needed to go potty.

After undressing, pottying, and redressing, we were finally out the door; only about 20 minutes later than I'd planned, which isn't bad all things considered. The "haircut place" as D calls it, isn't far from our house, so I was pretty surprised when D announced, as we pulled into a parking spot, "I need to pee, Mama." I'm beginning to think he just wants to mark his territory wherever we go; that or check out the facilities and make sure they are to his liking. In any case, I quickly unloaded D, got out the stroller and unloaded G into it, and grabbed my purse, diaper bag and a few toys; who knew one needed so much crap for a simple trip to a hair salon! We rush into the shop, ask for the bathroom and I cringe as I see someone come in after me; they'll get on the wait list first and we'll have that much longer in the waiting area. But I'm not about to ask my very newly potty trained toddler to hold it.

Now, going to the bathroom, especially for a male, should be a pretty simple task. Open pants, pull out bits, and pee - right? Not when you're three. Going potty involves taking off coat, shoes, and pants (it would involve taking off underwear if D didn't insist in going commando all the time), climbing up onto the potty (ugh, he's touching everything!), requesting that Mommy leave the room (no baby, but I can turn around for you), and finally, peeing. Then the look of sheer triumph as he happily announces, "Mama, I peed!" Good stuff, baby.

So then he climbs off the potty ("by myself!"), and we proceed to redress him, minus the coat. He makes sure to tell everyone else in the shop that he peed in the potty, and at least one of the stylists was nice enough to smile and tell him, "Good job buddy!" His haircut went fine, other than the fact that G had the crap scared out of him by a hairdryer and pretty much cried the whole time. Luckily D didn't freak out, which has been known to happen, but G crying hysterically in his stroller was bad enough. There wasn't much I could do about it, since D insists that I sit in the chair and have him on my lap for his haircut. It's the only way we keep him looking like a boy.

Once the haircut was done, we went to get the ice cream I promised him for being a good boy. There's a Baskin and Robbins across the parking lot, but it's a big parking lot, so we loaded everything into the van and drove over there. After a nice bowl of rainbow sherbet topped with M&M's (it's about as gross as it sounds), it was time to head home. I asked him a couple times if he needed to pee, and he very seriously said no. So we headed back to the van, I strapped G in, put away the stroller, loaded up the diaper bag and my purse, and was just about to strap D's carseat straps when he says... yep, you guessed it - Mama, I have to pee!

So I had to get him out, get the stroller back out, put G in it, grab my purse and head back into the B&R, hoping they have a public restroom or will at least take pity on a mom with two little kids and a boy in danger of peeing his pants.

Yes, they had one. Off go the coat, shoes, and pants, onto the potty, no Mommy can't leave the room, yes I can turn around, etc. etc. And once again, the sparkle in his eyes as he smiles at me and says, "Mama, I peed!"

Yeah baby, you sure did.