Friday, March 16, 2018

Easter, birthdays and kitchens

I’m preparing for a bit of a marathon coming up. We have one more week of school, then a week off (I’ve decided to put my big girl pants on and not book a “spring camp” for Bobby and instead keep him home all week...I may come to regret this decision...), sister comes to visit, the boys’ big dual birthday party on the 24th, and then Easter the weekend after. 

I’m glad I kept the boys’ party for them both and didn’t rely on Bobby’s kindergarten friends to fill out his party; only six kids are coming out of his 25 kid class. Now that I know what the returns are on these whole-class invites, it will help me to plan in future years. It will be a big party between Theo’s preschool friends, Bobby’s friends, and all our dance friends. I only just this week got a chance to sit down and do some party planning/designing; it makes me sad when I think of how much time and effort I used to be able to devote to their parties in past years. I think it goes to show how, despite technically having more hours in the day to myself these days, my days are so full and my brain so crowded with complex, emotional “older kid” stuff, that extras like party planning end up lost in the shuffle. I do the best I can, but yeah...some things just don’t get the attention they used to. 

In other news, I’ve decided to forge ahead with my kitchen remodel, whether I can technically afford it or not. A little creative debt management and I should be able to do it without depriving myself of much needed cash in the bank (read: use of lines of credit). I also finally developed a concept for the room. As much as I was tempted to break down walls and go modern, I’ve decided to go the exact opposite route and go WAY the 1920s. I live in a 1906 house, and the 20s was the first time kitchens began to resemble modern ones, with the advent of gas stoves, built in cabinets, and sinks similar to ones in use today. So I think the 20s is a good decade to focus on that would meld seamlessly with the rest of the house while still being functional. I’ve come to realize that the kitchen is my command station - it is my favorite room in the house - and I want it to be my private, pretty, functional space. So rather than opening it up to the rest of the house I may very well close it off even more by getting a swinging door for the doorway that’s currently open. 

I’ve been researching vintage stoves and am planning on getting one like this (technically 1930s, but who’s counting?) and having it reconditioned by local antique stove experts (I went to their shop and they said there’s no problem modernizing these stoves on the inside and making them safe and easy to use). It will serve as my design muse for the rest of the space as well. So - new kitchen, here we go! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Theo is 4

Today, my youngest turns four. On his birthday, I always run over the details of his birth - how I drove to the hospital alone late at night, leaving my sister home with almost two-year-old Bobby; how I almost got sent home as being “not in labor” but thankfully labor kicked in enough to allow me to stay, the agony of it all and me clamping my eyes shut and begging for it to be over, my doula saying, “open your eyes, your baby is being born!” and seeing little Theo emerge, cranky and dark haired and so different from his brother. 

Those were such different times. We are officially out of babyland - and that all feels like a thousand years ago. If not for this blog I doubt I would retain any of it; the breastfeeding woes, the house vibrating with new life energy with a new baby in it, Bobby peering over his car seat to check out this new little person that had joined our lives.

Now, I have a new four-year-old and a kindergartener. I would say the time has flown by, but it doesn’t feel like that to me. It has felt like four years. I think that’s fair.

Theo is easy going, funny, a good sharer, a true cuddle bug. How much of his personality is informed by being the baby of the family and my being a second time mother will remain a mystery - but personally I think both of those things are huge. Theo has one year and two and a half more months of his preschool life and then I am officially a school ager mother. But for now I can still say, Happy birthday, baby boy!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Theo started speech therapy today. It’s been a long road - about six months of phone interviews and paperwork and evaluations just to get my almost four-year-old to make a “k” sound. Still, it’s convenient - takes place at B’s school, in a converted bathroom (ah, LAUSD at its finest), and the therapist was very nice. Oh, and it’s free, and hopefully will get Theo enunciating properly (his issue is he is “fronting” - saying T and D for G and K sounds) and easier to understand going forward. He could outgrow this on his own, but the extra help doesn’t hurt. I’m grateful for it. 

We had a pretty horrendous parenting week last week. The kids just never seemed to recover from their chaotic weekend in the mountains, and by a week later were so out of control with the whining and competing and complaining that I snapped and started yelling and throwing things. Which then left me feeling horribly guilty for days, long after the kids forgot all about it (I hope). 

In my defense, they were awful. And I gave them a big speech about no more racing or trying to be first all the time to the point that it ends up in fights and crying (this is about 99% Bobby’s issue, I might add). I laid down the law and they seem to be getting it. But I also noticed, as I’ve noticed for months now, that without fail the day after I ovulate I want to strangle every male that lives with me. I think what happens is I suffer such an intense hormone drop all at once that it’s really unbearable - it doesn’t make me anxious or depressed; it makes me fly into rages. Which is not good. I am currently looking into medication - of the newly legalized variety - to help chill me the fuck out in the few days a month that I become impossible to live with. Not sure how that’ll go but I’m doing some research. I have to do something because I can’t go on like this. Peri menopause is a bitch. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Snow daze

Last weekend was my much anticipated weekend in Lake Arrowhead with two other families - eight kids in total. Unfortunately the oldest boy of the family of six got sick the first night and so the family went home; we got another family with two kids to come up the next day. I knocked wood that whatever made the boy sick would not touch any of us and that it was just a fluke. 

There was no snow, so we were mostly just cold and a little bored the first of our three days up in the mountains. We walked around, cooked, ate...walked around...went to a shitty arcade in which Bobby played a bunch of broken games and we let Theo think he was playing games...walked around.

Our final night my luck ran out and I woke up sick in the middle of the night. I was on my 10th frantic trip to the bathroom when, as the dawn’s cold fingers crept into the cabin, I heard the patter of six children jumping out of bed and joyously exclaiming, “Snow! Snow!!!” 

“Fuck!!!” I thought, as ungodly amounts of foul liquid spilled from my anus.

The BF and I got the kids bundled up and then I collapsed back into bed while he took over. Ah, the ecstatic sound of six California kids enjoying their first was almost enough to cover the sound of my retching from the one (of course) centrally located bathroom. 

I was miserable, but like a good mommy, still delighted the kids were having fun. And yes, these are precisely the moments you thank god there’s another adult present. Being sick as a single parent is a fucking nightmare. I don’t know how I would have managed the day - especially the packing up and long drive down the mountain home, in that state, by myself. But hey, I’m sure I would have just muscled through, as you do!

I learned a lot on my first family trip to share a cabin with other families. On a trip such as this, where you’re off your schedule and there’s no structure and too much excitement and strange food and chaos, your small children may experience any of the following:

Pants wetting
Pants pooping
Unexplained fits and tears
Over-explained fits and tears
Focused whining and complaining
Unfocused whining and complaining
Night terrors
Unbrushed teeth
Toy hoarding
Cruelty to younger sibling(s)
Irrationality (more than usual)

You may experience:

Anal leakage

Aren’t family trips the best?!? Actually, we had a really good time and I would totally do it again. As of this date, I’m the only one who got sick. Lucky me!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Plans, long and short term

Money is currently showing up as “pending” in my bank account, but it is included in my balance, and Stripe is not withholding anything. See? Sometimes it pays to wait a minute before going all aggro. Like I used to tell myself when I was pregnant, there’s nothing to worry about until there’s something to worry about.

The hurdle of opening night behind me has freed me up to think about the future. I’ve started asking myself if, various contingencies aside, I might actually be able to sell this place and have a kick-ass house in my golden years. I always sort of imagined I would die here; and I may still. But at the moment I’m on track to pay the house off in eight years. A couple more years after that and my old Katrina debt could be paid off. If I saved some for a couple of years after that, the kids would be grown and I could sell this place and buy an awesome place in the hills behind me with no mortgage (or hardly any). And I wouldn’t even be 60 yet. I had thought this would be impossible due to property taxes, but a friend told me here in CA as long as you are 55 or older you can keep your old property tax rates in a newly bought home. That was a huge game changer. So I may just get that dream home in the hills after all!

Of course, this is all dependent on many things. That I continue to make this kind of money. That I don’t get sued, nobody gets sick or injured or addicted, don’t end up in a spiteful divorce, or, most likely, end up on the hook for kids’ higher education costs. There are so many things that have to go right for this to work. But it’s nice to have a dream, even if it never comes true (or gets delayed).

Short term, I have plotted and paid for a week long trip to the Big Island of Hawaii for the week of my birthday in July. I found an Air BnB in a crazy hippie compound in the jungle that can accommodate us and hopefully my sister and her husband and maybe another friend. It’s going to be a total adventure. I am so excited about it I can hardly stand it. The idea of watching my little sunburned boys running around wild and barefoot makes my heart sing with joy. The thought that they could grow up with memories of unfettered Hawaiian summer vacations - a luxury unthinkable in my cash-strapped family growing up - makes me almost want to cry.

Oh, but we remember their first trip to Hawaii, don’t we? ((Shudder)). We’ve come a long way from those days-!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

It’s always something

So, my opening day has come and gone. And huge sigh of relief - I currently have fifty more people registered than I did at this time last year, which is tremendous. It either means: this year will be even bigger than last year, or that everyone figured out how to get in on the cheap prices and now nobody else is coming. prediction is we’ll fall somewhere in between. I don’t know if the event will be bigger but I think it’s fairly unlikely that I’ll lose people. New kitchen, here we come...?

Opening night was not without its stressors, however. A few hours before registration went live a customer told me my website was down. After a lengthy panicked search (remember, there’s no “IT guy” - I’m it) and phonecall to my domain host, I managed to see some tiny print on my web host’s site casually mentioning that they had changed their DNS settings. And didn’t bother to notify anyone. WTF? And on the day I open registration. So the kind GoDaddy guy helped me update everything and voilĂ , website back. Then I just had to email everyone back that had notified me my website wasn’t loading. Fucking hell.

Then as registration started rolling, the admin guy (in Texas) and I noticed some registrations were coming up as “completed” but with $0 as the amount paid. So we emailed those people and freaked them out...when it turned out someone else had paid for them. So that was another series of corrective emails. Sigh.

I was getting a huge kick out of checking my Stripe balance and wondering how soon the money would be in my bank account where I can use it - this new reg system requires I break with my old standby PayPal and use Stripe instead - until the next day I got an email from Stripe saying, “hey, it looks like you’re running an event, which we consider high risk, so we’re going to withhold funds until you answer this lengthy questionnaire and forward us copies of all your contracts.” Oh, and also they may decide to hold back a portion of the funds to minimize their risk. Um...what? How about give me my fucking money. So, I spent that entire night answering their questions and collecting the information they wanted. I won’t freak out until they get back to me - it might be some kind of formality and then I’ll get my money. But it’s ridiculous - and extremely stressful as my bank account is currently at 0 and I need that money pronto. I mean, seriously, wtf? And the worst part is, I can threaten to take my business elsewhere, but the reality remains that I can’t because my system only accepts Stripe, and they still have my money and I don’t. Ugh.

So, I managed to change the nightmare of last year’s massive feeding frenzy and hours of damage control and bad feeling by not doing tiered pricing, and the customers are all happy, which is great. But then there’s this other stuff. It’s always something!!

Monday, January 29, 2018


Two more nights until opening night. I’m pretty nervous, even though I know I shouldn’t be. I guess I’m having my usual pre-event “nobody’s going to show up this year!” freak out. It’ll pass. Somebody will show up. Right??

Friday night the kids and I went to an “Astronomy Night” at B’s school. What I was picturing was a group of kids sitting nicely while someone in charge gave a lecture on astronomy and let the kids look through telescopes. What actually happened was a large group of screaming kids clambering around playground equipment in the pitch black night while socially awkward older men from the Astronomy Society tried to prevent small children from getting nose prints and peanut butter fingers on their expensive lenses. It was so exhausting managing the boys’ intense energy and chasing them around in the dark that by the time I got home and wrestled everyone into pajamas I wanted to collapse. Ah, parenting.

Earlier that day was Bobby’s first time with the after school chess club. For this I had to pick him up after school and walk him to the lunch area to meet with the group. As soon as he saw the group, which mostly consisted of much older kids, he started crying and saying he didn’t want to go. As with all parents in moments like this, I started my usual routine of begging, coddling, threatening and guilt tripping to get him to relent and go to the club. In the end, what worked? The promise of a blue frosting-covered donut afterwards. Ha ha ha! He is his mother’s son. Sure enough, when I picked him up an hour later he was totally into it and can’t wait to go back. I delivered the blue donut. We were both happy.

How do we raise violin-playing, chess-playing children in this day and age when everything is iPads and video games? Am I just a dinosaur that has pseudo-intellectual fantasies of raising pretentious Luddite children? Am I handicapping them by not allowing them to be constantly inundated by technology, like everyone else? Am I trying to teach them skills that don’t even matter anymore in this digital age? I feel like I want to protect their innocence; but what’s most likely really going on there is a projection of my own childhood obsession with being innocent and aloof (the roots of which would fill a novel). Oh, how these children suffer for our own emotional issues, don’t they? All they want is to play MineCraft, for fuck’s sake.