Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Beware of Sudden Shifts

I have stood on top of a Wyoming mountain, marveled at the crisp blue sky and noted not a cloud in sight, ducked into a chalet for a 10-minute pit stop and gone back outside to find the sky dark gray, wind howling and snow blowing sideways.

I have stood in a Georgia hayfield in a gentle rain, only to find myself cowering in a church basement, 20-minutes later, as a tornado rumbled overhead.

So yes, I know how quickly things can change. But nothing can compare to the quick change of a toddler's temperment.

One minute, you can be watching your rosy-cheeked, sparkle-eyed love bug giggling her head off on the playground. Seconds later, you're getting a good look at her tonsils as she screams at the top of her lungs, "NO. BOY. ON. SLIDE! NOOOOOOO! OFF! OFF! OFF!"

To say these mood swings happen in the blink of an eye doesn't capture exactly how quickly they happen. Trust me: I'm pregnant. I know mood swings.

One minute everything is funny. In a heartbeat, no, less than a heartbeat, nothing is funny. Nothing is worth leaving the park, or returning a toy to the shelf, or putting on pajamas. Not even ice cream.

I used to see these parent/child standoffs in stores and think, "That's horrible. What a brat/terrible parent." Now, I'm on the receiving end and fully aware of what childless people must think when they see me: lips pursed, brow furrowed, carting a screaming toddler to the car. I know people with children see me too and I pray they understand. I pray they are sympathetic. I pray that the non-pregnant, non-nursing mothers go home and raise a cocktail and toast my patience. 'Cause that's what I want to do when I get home: have a stiff drink and congratulate myself for not dropping the kid at her grandparent's house and hopping a one-way flight to Maui.

The screaming in the backseat has subsided to an occasional snuffle. Seconds later, a perky voice comes from the car seat, "Oh! Look! A doggie! Hi, doggie! Doggie has loooooong ears. Hahahaha!"

The weather shifts again.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friends Indeed

Almost exactly 26 years ago, I met someone who would change my life. She loves to tell people how we met and it goes something like this:

"It was the first day of school. I was the new kid. I sat down in homeroom, scared as hell and the girl sitting in front of me whipped around and said, "HI! Who are you? You're new here aren't you? What's your name? I'm Heather!"...and proceeded to ask her a bunch of questions.

That would be me. The girl I ambushed is Laura, my best friend....whether she likes it or not.

The way I remember it, I was just being friendly. I was a pretty obnoxious kid, though. Loud, in-your-face and .....well, loud. Laura's version of the story is probably pretty accurate. She likes to punctuate it by imitating her reaction to my "greeting". Her eyes grow wide and she tries desperately to push her desk far, far away from mine.

Truth is, we weren't very good friends until we both joined the rifle corps a few years later. Not point-and-shoot rifle corps, but spin, toss and (hopefully) catch rifle corps. We bonded at practices and band camp. We both had foul mouths, short tempers and were attracted to aloof soccer players.

It turned that as many differences as we had (she was very smart and studious, I was a cut up and barely kept a C average), we had as many or more similarities: we were awkward, middle-class Catholic girls in a sea of pretty, wealthy Methodists. We lived on the edge of the school district. While the other kids lived near the rolling green hills of a fine private college, Laura lived across the street from the state mental hospital and I lived across the street from a home for wayward youths. It wasn't uncommon for us to see police helicopters hovering over our backyards looking for escapees from either institution.

We grumbled about school, the popular kids, politics and parents. We worked at the same drug store and had crushes over many of the same boys. We pestered, teased and swooned over a boy older than us, a boy we came to call the Grinch. We drank wine coolers and drove recklessly down winding, dark roads, headlights off, heads out the window, howling at the moon. She tolerated my big mouth and defended me to no end. I'm not sure exactly what I did to reciprocate her friendship, other than get her out of the house and let her howl at the moon.

Like a lot of high school "best friends forever" we lost touch for a while once our college lives kicked into high gear. But there was always a letter, always an effort to keep in touch. Because that's what real friends do.

Now we grumble over our children's schools, supervisors at work and husbands. We work similar crazy schedules. We celebrate each other's triumphs and mourn each others losses with tears, laughter and long hugs. And she still defends me, though she's more likely now to tell me I'm being an idiot, too. I'm learning (I hope) to be a better friend to her so she'll stick around for another 26 years.

This post has already gotten too long and it doesn't really have a point, except to say: Thanks, Laura, for being my friend....whether you like it or not.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma

So, I suppose I should explain why this blog is named "Three Out of Seven". I could tell you outright, but what would be the fun in that?

Instead, in honor of my mystery loving Grandmother, I'll give you some clues in future posts to help you figure it out. The first person to figure out the name of the blog will win a $25 Amazon gift certificate. That goes for any currency! So Canadians could win $25 Canadian, Brits could win...well, I can't find the fancy pound sign on my keyboard, but you get the idea. If you live in Mexico or Japan, I'll make sure you get more than 25 pesos or yen. 'Cause that would buy you, what, not even a beer?

So, read the blog, enjoy, and e-mail me or comment when you think you've figured it out. Only the Grinch knows the story behind the blog name and he'll keep me honest. When the name is figured out, I'll post the reason and the winner.

Good luck and happy reading between the lines!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's Not You...It's Not Her, Either

Dear Family, Friends and Strangers,

You won't be the one to make my little girl smile. She won't shake your hand or give you a high five. She won't giggle at your silly faces or take a lollipop from you. She won't tell you her name or wave bye-bye. Please don't take it personally, that's just the way she is right now.

Yes, she smiles and talks. She sings, plays, laughs uproariously and even cracks jokes. She does all of this when she's with her daddy and me. She does all these things when she knows she's safe and she doesn't feel like she's on display. She's not a performer. She's a little kid. Just let her be the little kid she is. She's quite happy that way and so are we.

Back in the dark ages of child rearing (10-15 years ago), you probably would have called her "shy." You still can, but we don't. We say she's cautious. (The pediatrician suggested that term and we like it.) Our little girl isn't rejecting you, she's just getting to know you before she lets you get too close. Pretty smart, actually. Oh, and the getting to know you part? It can take a long time.

I know it's frustating for you, the grandparents who want to bond with their granddaughter, the strangers who protest, "But kids LOVE me!" It's been frustrating for us, too. I shed a lot of tears over this but I finally figured out that my frustration wasn't helping her, and that's what I really need to do. You can think my child is weird, you can think all you want about my parenting skills, that her "shyness" is all my fault. I don't really care. I know my daughter. I know what makes her feel safe, what makes her feel accepted, and what makes her feel comfortable. I'll take care of all that. Let my little girl be herself.

Here's a novel idea: you be yourself, too. Stop trying so hard to be an instant best friend or favorite grandparent to our little Bug. Relax. Let her figure out where she stands with you. Be yourself. If you're an ok person, she'll let you in and we'll all be happy.

The Mother of the Quiet Kid

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Come again another day

Can you see that? Those are raindrops on my car window. Lovely, wet, luscious raindrops. The kind the trees and flowers have been begging for for weeks now. They're there. Not nearly enough of them, but a welcome sight none the less.
Just last week, the governor announced that our state had, at best, water supplies to last until January. Now, even that looks dim. 90 days and the state resevoirs run dry, or so they've warned us. The Army Corps of Engineers is no help (big surprise!), and have basically told our state to sod off, they need the water to keep some mussels downstream fat and happy.
Don't get me wrong: I don't want a lush, green lawn to rival Augusta National. In fact, our lawn is mostly dandilions, violets and clover, so drought, schmout. It'll come back. I just want to wash my hands without feeling guilty, or worry that a double flush will drain the last bit of water out of the state forever.
We've been through a lot of droughts, over the years, so we've been told to "pray for rain" quite a bit. It seems strange to say, "Pray for a tropical depression or three" but that's exactly what it's going to take to get us back on the right track.
We're trying here, at Der Haufen, to do our best to conserve water, but we're new at this. Recycling, we know and we do quite well. Conserving water? Ok...shorter showers, turning off the water when we brush our teeth, scraping plates instead of rinsing, waiting until you have full loads to wash clothes or plates, using water from the dehumidifier to keep the flowers alive? Check, check, check, check and check. But joining the "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down" club? Well, let's not take this too far. I mean, really.
What are your suggestions for conserving water? (And yes, we're quite familiar with the "shower with a friend" concept. Quite familiar, indeed. Eh-hem.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

There is a Season

Fall comes late to the southeast. Up until two weeks ago, we were still experiencing afternoons with 90 degree weather and tank tops and flip flops still seemed perfectly reasonable. Last week, it didn't get above 80 and natives started breaking out the sweaters and turtlenecks. Transplanted Yankees are still wearing tank tops and boasting, "It gets WAY colder than this in Buffalo!" I'm sure it does, my friend. That's why you moved here.

Now, the leaves are changing in earnest and there's a chill in the morning air. Friday night, we ran the air conditioner for what will probably be the last time until April or so. Saturday, we ran the heat for the first time. Now, it's just cool enough to do without either for a few weeks.

I love fall. I love fall festivals, candy apples, caramel corn, marching bands and high school football games. I love hearing leaves crackle under my feet. I love the smell of fires in the fireplace. Hot soup and crunchy, cold, fresh apples. Thin sweaters with denim jackets and wearing my hair down. Halloween and Thanksgiving. I love all these things about fall and I want them to last as long as possible. Please, oh, please, 30 degree weather: you can wait 'til December, can't you?

These are the things I love about fall. And here's how we welcomed our first taste of it:

Here's hoping your autumn days are filled with homemade soup, crisp, beautiful days and cozy nights.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Some thoughts from the weekend:

I should not be allowed time off because it makes me think about quitting my job just to get a normal amount of sleep and spend time with my family without stifiling about a million yawns.

I have eaten far too many french fries in the past week.

Same goes for doughnuts.

If you can offset your carbon footprint, can you offset your junk food footprint? Because I tried very hard to eat a healthy dinner to counteract the fries and doughnuts.

If the "What to Expect When You're Expecting" ladies knew what I was eating whilst pregnant, they'd probably call child protective services on me.

I've hinted to my best girlfriend that I might tell her about my blog, and now I'm all nervous about it. We've been friends for 25 years. Reading my goofy thoughts here might make her reassess everything.

There is no greater sound than a child's laughter. Especially when they're laughing at a joke they've made up themselves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

10 Reasons Why I'm Weird (to most people)

1. I like my pizza without cheese.
2. We don't have cable, the dish, or TIVO in my house. We haven't watched TV at home in months.
3. I work the overnight shift and take care of my child all day.
4. I hold my breath when I walk past people in the hallway.
5. I pick up my feet when driving over railroad crossings. It's an old superstition
6. I can't eat a handful of food. Like M&Ms: I have to eat them in twos.
7. I once co-hosted a reggae music show on the radio.
8. I love the smell of coffee but hate the taste of it.
9. I have never been to New York.
10. I firmly believe that white chocolate is an abomination.

I am the vampire that loves sunshine and garlic

So here it is, the reason I work ungodly hours:

Back in 2004, I was happy working 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday. I enjoyed eight hours of sleep every night, had weekends free to go anywhere and do anything with the Grinch. It was great. Then I found out that I was pregnant with the Bug and we had to come up with a childcare plan.

There were plenty of choices: hire a nanny, find a good daycare, one of us could quit our job and stay home with the bug OR I could go to an overnight shift, Grinch could stay with the Bug in the morning and I could stay home with her all day.

So, here's how it broke down:

NANNY, DAYCARE: Really fucking expensive for a good one. We have a good family income, but we didn't want to spend a lot of it paying a strangers to raise our child. We don't believe in outsourcing parenting. I know that'll make a lot of people man and yes, I fully understand that some people have no choice but to put their kids in daycare (my sisters did it, friends do it. I get it, really.). But we believe that a child's best place, especially for the first year, is at home with a parent. If we could have paid a grandparent to stay with the bug all day we would have done it, but the bug's grandparents are all crazy, so that wasn't really an option.

STAY AT HOME: At the time, becoming a Stay at Home Mom sounded horrible to me. I was a career woman, thank you very much. I'd worked long and hard to get where I was and didn't feel like I could afford to just drop everything and walk away from it to raise a child. People pat you on the back for making a decision like that but I know for a fact that many employers roll their eyes, shake their heads and wonder the hell you're thinking, walking away from the best gig you'll ever have. I wanted to keep working and was afraid of what would happen if I didn't

Grinch works with his Dad and there had been talk about passing on the family business to the Grinch so, at the time, it didn't make sense for him to walk away either. Plus, the Grinch's Dad is a very old school sort of fellow. He believes that women stay at home, knit, cook, clean house, keep their mouths shut and raise children. Explaining a new age career choice like "Stay at home Dad" to him would have been like trying to convert the Pope to Islam. Also, we realized that to live where we live, we NEED two incomes. We love our neighborhood and couldn't imagine moving out to the 'burbs.

So that leaves:
Working Overnights: I'd done it before and didn't mind it too much, really. It screws up your body clock and you're tired almost all the time, but the people on the shift are cool, the work is challenging, and when you're done you have all day to do whatever you want. Plus, I wanted to breastfeed for at least a year and working overnights seemed the best way to accomplish that, since I'd be gone while the bug was asleep and home all day so that she could get her milk straight from the source.

We thought about it, made spreadsheets (my dear orderly German Grinch and his dear spreadsheets), discussed, debated and made our decision. When we told people we were having a baby, that was the first question, "Are you going to stay home/Have you found a daycare/nanny?" We told people about the overnight plan. Jaws fell open. Heads shook in disbelief. Eyes rolled. There were inquiries about our sanity, our finances, our knowledge of infant care. We stuck to our plan and, much to every one's surprise, it's worked for two years.

It works like this: I work 2a-10a and come home around 10:30. Grinch is with the Bug all morning, feeding, changing and partying with her. He goes to work around 11a. At 1:30p, the Bug and I nap for two hours. We eat, play, read and run around until bedtime at (hopefully) 8:30p-9p. I crash until 1:30a then it's up and back at 'em for another day.

That's not to say it's been perfect. In fact, the first six months flat out sucked. Grinch and I fought a lot, I didn't know how to get the Bug on a regular nap schedule so she and I napped in 15 minute increments throughout the day, I got sick a lot, I was exhausted ALL the time, and I rarely got out of the house because I was terrified she would fall asleep in the car and if she was sleeping that was sleep that I was missing.

Slowly, but surely, things got better. The Bug went to one luxurious two-hour nap early on, I found a group of Mom friends to hang with, we found parks and playgrounds just right for us and came up with ways to pass the rainy days, too.

There are days I wish I could change everything: quit my job, stay at home and get eight hours of sleep every blessed night. Or go ahead, throw up my hands, hire a nanny and go back to the 9-to-5 life. But I can't. This whole schedule has been so great for the Bug. She's such a shy, cautious little kid that throwing her into daycare would have rocked her world right to the core. I've learned so much from being home with her and the Grinch's heart has grown 10 sizes since he started taking care of her in the mornings.

We're all better for it. We may be more tired and the Grinch and I don't see each other very much, but we do it knowing that it's best for the kid and that it won't be like this forever. We do it because we believe it's the right thing to do for us. For our family.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Cast

Perhaps I should give you a better idea of the cast of characters you'll be encountering if you continue reading this blog (and I hope you do. You will won't you? Good.).

First, there's me. I have yet to come up with an appropriate pseudonym. Yes, I need a pseudonym because if my family knew I was blogging (and likely blogging about them and how much they drive me crazy), I'd never hear the end of it ... and very likely would end up stricken from the will.

I'm 38-years-old. I still live in the town in which I was born and raised. That sounds quaint to some people and dreadfully dull to others. I'm somewhere in between on the matter. Right now, I'm 26.5 weeks pregnant with my second child. No, I don't know if it's a boy or a girl. I like the surprise. I work the overnight shift (I'll explain that later) in the media (which will likely be the last mention of work. I do not want to get Dooced.).

Then, there's my husband, The Grinch. He got that nickname many, many years ago when we worked retail together and he used to rattle on about how much he hated Christmas. Working retail will make anyone hate Christmas. The only time we saw him smile in December was when "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" came on tv. The name stuck. There are people who would be hard pressed to remember his real name, but are quick to ask me, "How's the Grinch?" He's fine, thank you very much.

The Bug joined our lives two years ago. When she first came along, we wondered what the hell we were thinking, bringing this screaming little creature into our lives. Now, we wonder how we lived without her for so long. She's the sweetest little kid I know, but she's no different from any other tempermental two-year-old. Some days, I can't wait to wake up and be with her. Other days, I wouldn't mind leaving her in suspended animation while I have a nice nap, a strong drink and a manicure. We make it through somehow. She forgives a lot of me: my distractablity, my exhaustion, my short temper, my bad singing and corny puns. I think she's ok with old Mom, though. At least, I hope she is because I plan to be around for a while.

Finally, there's Charlie the cat. He was a stray, picked up in the middle of an ice storm. You know, "Oh, we'll just take him in until the weather clears....until we find a good home for him...." That was five years ago. He used to be a real asshole of a cat, but he's mellowed out over time. He's very patient with the kid and spoons me while we nap. I guess he can stick around for a while longer.

There are supporting characters in this cast: my family, the in-laws, friends, neighbors and strangers...and you. Welcome to my world.

Friday, October 5, 2007


Yesterday, the Bug wasn't ready to take a nap.
"Ella. Book. One. More. Time?"
"Bus. Book. One. More Time?"
She went to her crib quietly, but when I climbed into bed across the hall, I heard a snuffle, then "Talk. To. Elmo. 'Bout. 'Dis."

Apparently, I have been reported. Elmo is putting this in my permanent file.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Well, You've Done it Now

I've wanted to blog for more than a year now, but couldn't make myself do it. Last year, when I thought, "That's it. I'm going to start a blog." One of my favorite bloggers took her site down lock, stock, and archives. The pressure had gotten too intense. People were taking personal shots at her and her son. Stealing pictures of her family, claiming them as their own. Weird shit. I thought, "Nope. Not for me. I'll stick to lurking." Which I did.

Until now.

Now my favorite blogger is back and I've been e-mailing another blogger who keeps telling me to get off my ass and start a blog already. I'm running out of excuses so I'll give it a try.

I have about a bajillion things to rattling around in my head that all seem like good posts, but I'm not sure how much I'm willing to reveal. I can tell you that I won't be writing about my sex life past or present so, hopefully, that'll scare away the perverts right now. If not, well then hello to you, too.