Category Archives: Ellie

Gobbledygook is the Technical Term


A recent weeknight, 2:42 a.m.:

My eyes open slowly to the soothing blue numbers on my clock radio. My mind is empty. I see that it’s not time to get up yet – there are several sweet, heavenly hours of sleep left before the morning rush. The whole family is currently at some stage of recovery from the Horrible Flu of 2013, and sleep has proved to be the best medicine. I relax and let my upper eyelids drift down to meet their partners below, and snuggle down into the cozy covers.

As I drift off, I hear Ellie cough once from her bed in the next room.

A single thought inside my mind hears the sound and opens its eyes. It scowls, stretches, and sits up in bed. Then it gets out of bed and starts turning on lights.  It pulls on some pants and grabs a rumpled shirt. It stomps around, looking furtively for a cup of coffee and someone to scold.

All the commotion wakes up a few more thoughts. Before long, about a hundred half-conscious thoughts are lined up and shaking their fists at me, demanding my attention. There’s no choice now. I’m doomed…to start…THINKING.

Ellie just coughed again. When will this illness ever end? We’ve all had it for so long. I’ve missed so much work already, I really can’t stay home with her. (Insert 5 minute work project thought diversion.) The Daddy can’t stay home either after missing so much work when he was sick. I guess I’ll have to take her to Grandma and Papa’s house. Although it would be really dangerous if THEY got this illness – you know all those stories about how the flu really can bring the elderly down…man, they would probably DIE. So if she has to stay home, what will we do? The Daddy and I can’t afford to risk our jobs. God forbid. If one of us lost our job, we’d lose all our savings, and then we’d lose the house. Of course we would! There’s no other way. I guess we could sell it. Houses in this neighborhood are selling well. We certainly wouldn’t make any money since we just bought it last year, but we could probably unload it pretty easily. I guess we could look at the condos near Ben’s school – those are really nice, and they even have that awesome pool! Although we’d need a down payment which we wouldn’t have after losing everything. I guess we’d have to look at apartments. I liked living in apartments. Although Ben & Ellie might have to share a room if we couldn’t afford a three bedroom. Or one of them could sleep on the couch, I guess. Maybe we could get a pull-out couch, or even a futon. I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of that futon we had  when we first got married – that one was nice. It wouldn’t be so bad. But, geez, I can’t imagine any apartments would take a dog as big as Maya. They probably have weight limits, or size limits, or they charge an arm and a leg for deposits and extra monthly fees. That wouldn’t work out. What would we do with her? Maybe someone could keep her for awhile until we get back on our feet? OH GOD EITHER GRANDMA AND PAPA WILL DIE A PREMATURE HORRIBLE DEATH OR WE’LL LOSE EVERYTHING EVEN THE POOR SWEET INNOCENT DOG THIS IS UNBELIEVABLY HORRIBLE AND UNFAIR AND HOW IN THE HELL DID THIS EVER HAPPEN!!!!!

I sit up and try to make the thoughts stop. I consider waking The Daddy up to tell him that Ellie coughed so we either have to 1) callously sacrifice the lives of his wonderful parents or 2) move to a seedy, low-rent apartment and get rid of the dog. He’s sleeping so soundly, though, that it seems like it would be best to save the bad news for morning.

I get up and walk around a little. I get a drink of water and look out the window.  Finally, I wander down the hall to Ellie’s room. There she is, there’s my beautiful little girl, pouting in her sleep a little, one hand tangled up in her silky brown hair. I climb in bed next to her and snuggle close. She finds my hand and laces her little fingers in mine. I listen to her breathing, and I manage to match my breath up with hers. Soon I’m drifting away with her, a stowaway on the peaceful voyage of her dreams.

The next morning, the whole thing was mostly forgotten, as these things usually are. Seems unbelievable, but it’s true. In fact, I didn’t give it much thought at all until my friend at work was talking about being tired because she was up in the middle of the night worrying that she and her husband were going to have to declare bankruptcy.

I said, “Oh my gosh – I hope that’s not really true, is it?”

“No!” she said. “I started thinking about one single bill I had to pay, and it all spun out of control from there. That’s what happens when I start thinking about things when I wake up in the middle of the night.”

SWEET FANCY MOSES! Just how widespread IS this crazeballs disorder? If there are two of us in the same small office, there must be tens of thousands in the general population who fall prey to this nighttime brain gobbledygook business. It only happens to me a couple of times a year – normally I sleep like I’m being graded on it – but my guess is others dabble in nocturnal catastrophe fantasies on a much more frequent basis than that.

If you’re one of them, I wish I had helpful advice, other than snuggling your four-year-old. If you don’t have one of those…well…bourbon? Ambien? Although I understand Ambien can cause unconscious night eating, as in someone I know personally took Ambien and WOKE UP WITH HER MOUTH PACKED FULL  OF CHEWED UP GRAHAM CRACKERS with no idea when or how they got there. (Not to be too graphic, but the texture apparently suggested that the cracker remnants had been there for a significant period of time. Possibly hours! In her mouth! Dangerously close to the neighboring body parts responsible for breathing that must never ever ever be blocked!) That my friends, is a reason not to take Ambien if I ever heard one.

Anyway, here’s hoping for a peaceful night. Sweet dreams to me and all the rest of you crazy demented nutjobs out there! See you in the looney bin.* If you get there first, save me an Ambien and some graham crackers, mmmkay?

*Please forgive me if you feel that I’ve been insensitive here to anyone actually suffering from this kind of thing on a regular basis. It must be AWFUL, and I recognize that I’m only free to be so flip about it because it hardly ever happens to me. And the thing about bourbon being a solution – I was really kidding about that too, it just made me giggle when I wrote it is all, so I apologize if you are struggling with alcohol as a result of anxiety and it seemed like I was making fun.  And if those of you suffering from infertility felt that I was insensitive for suggesting snuggling with a child as a solution, I’m sorry for that too – I’m such a jerk. And to the company that makes Ambien – I did not mean to suggest that your product would cause similar graham cracker capers in other people too, it’s just that it was such a dramatic and amazing side effect that I couldn’t help but mention it. I mean, that lady is probably the only one that ever happened to, even though her doctor said night eating was a known undesirable side effect. But what does he know? In fact, everyone just go ahead and forget everything you read here, okay? Don’t read this blog ever again, and just…don’t even look at me. Look away. LOOK AWAY!

looneybin2

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Hoochie Mama Princess Party

Smack between Christmas and the New Year is Ellie’s birthday. When I was pregnant with her and realized when she was likely to be born, I knew it would be trouble. Holiday-time birthdays are always eclipsed by someone else’s birthday (I’m looking at you, JESUS).  It didn’t really matter when she was a baby, or even last year when she turned 2, but I suspect age 3 is when they start keeping a mental record of the ways that you’ve failed them. This year, I had to produce A PARTY.

There were a fair amount of mental gymnastics involved. For example, the gifts. What would be for Christmas, and what would be for her birthday? Here was my detailed, insightful approach: I bought a bunch of stuff for her and decided that I would figure it out at the last minute.

But then on Christmas Eve (the last minute!), I realized that if I didn’t put everything I had for her under the tree, the Scales of Christmas Gift Justice would be tipped wildly in Benjamin’s favor. A disgustingly luxurious first world problem, I know. Nonetheless, I couldn’t let it happen, so all the gifts went under the tree and I shopped for birthday gifts after Christmas. There were lots of deals (yay!) on crap that nobody else wanted either (boo).

Next, I went to order the cake, which was great because I knew exactly what to get: The Barbie Princess Cake. I take her grocery shopping with me nearly every Sunday, and each time we have to go to the bakery counter to look at it. I’m sure you’ve seen a version at your local bakery – it’s a Barbie sticking out of a huge skirt-shaped cake. This bakery decorates the skirt area with a cascading spray of delicate pink buttercream roses. For the last several months, she has squealed over it regularly. “Oh MAMA! Wook at da bootifoh pwincess! I have it on my birfday???”

After briefly considering the possibility of making the cake myself, I went to the bakery to order it. Right before I walked away, I thought to ask,

“How many people does the cake serve?”

The bakery attendant referred the question to the stern-faced cake decorator, who replied tersely, “No one knows.”

“What do you mean,  no one knows?”

“Because of the shape of the skirt and the many layers of cake, it’s impossible to say.”

“Surely you must have a general idea?”

“No, there’s no way to say.”

I stared at him dumbly. I considered discussing this with a manager, or attempting to perform a complex mathematical equation, but instead I  just gave up and ordered a dozen pink cupcakes too, in case the voluminous cake skirt was heavy on architecture and light on actual cake.

When the day came, Ellie was wide-eyed and thrilled with everything. My little girl loved it all – the decorations, the food, the party guests, the presents, and ohmygoodness – THE CAKE. It was as delicious as it was beautiful.

Everything seemed so innocently pink and royally wholesome, the doll posing demurely in her cake like a blonde Kate Middleton…

until I released Princess Barbie from her cake-and-buttercream prison. And then several of the party guests, including myself, started to giggle after a brief, stunned moment of silence. Because this was no Princess Barbie after all…this was Princess HOOCHIE MAMA Barbie:

(Special self-congratulatory note: I arranged those flowers. All by myself!)

As you can see, although the picture doesn’t even do it justice, her outfit is something one might wear on their way to work as a “hostess” in a “club,” perhaps a club designated for “gentlemen” somewhere near “the airport.” In real life, the dress is even shorter than the picture makes it appear. It is more like something that someone (not me) might wear as a SHIRT. And it’s made out of shiny plastic, which makes sense because you could just wipe the cake off of it and all, but STILL.

And then, the shoes:

When we saw the shoes, the giggles turned into gales of laughter, which brought The Daddy over to see what our problem might be. Ellie came too, and said, “Oooohhhh, she has a pwetty dwess on!”  Which made us laugh even more.

When I put Ellie to bed that night, she snuggled into me and thanked me for her party. I asked her what her favorite part was, and she said it was her cake. I felt so very happy to be able to make her 3-year-old birthday dream come true.

As for Hoochie Mama, she’ll be undergoing intensive psychoanalysis to deal with her daddy issues and her propensity for exhibitionism. I’ll keep you posted!

500 Miles to Heaven

Well, hello! I’ve been quiet, I know, but I was on vacation. And then when we got back home, my brain was on the slow setting for at least another week and a half.

Our vacations are typically spent at my parents’ place on Lake Superior. They live in the same state as we do, and yet their place is 500 miles away. 500 miles! In the same state! I’m sure that sounds like loony talk to you east coast people, who can drive through 5 states in 20 minutes. But if you look at a map of Michigan, it will make sense. Michigan is two long gobs of land surrounded by water…not a shortcut to be had. See, look how crazy Michigan is:

We drive from almost the furthest southeastern point on the map (near Detroit) to the furthest location northwesterly (is that a word?) in the fingerlike projection east of Minnesota. So, the northwesterly fingerlike thingy. You see what I mean, right?

Crazier still is making that drive with two little kids and a 6-month old puppy. Before we left, I thought, “Oh, it’ll be fine.. Benjamin’s gained so much maturity since last time, and Ellie…well, at least she’s not a baby anymore.”

Ummmmmmmm. Well.

GAZILLION HOUR FAMILY CAR TRIP LOG:

7:00 a.m. Already several hours behind schedule. Ellie, normally the early chirpy bird in the family, refuses to get up. She actually says, “Mama, you be quiet now so I can sleeeeeeeeeeeep.”

7:30 a.m. Car almost loaded. Children jump around, excited. Puppy goes on one last walk before interminable confinement.

7:45 a.m. Tim Horton’s drive-through. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. COFFEE.

8:00 a.m. Takeoff! Estimated time of arrival – 6:00 p.m.

8:30 a.m. Benjamin asks how much longer it’s going to be before we get there.

9:00 a.m. I had wanted to save movies for later when things got desperate. As it turns out, we’re already desperate at the end of hour one. I put in the movie Rio.

9:30 a.m. Children quiet, dog crying. Bathroom break!

10:00 a.m. Road trip bliss. Silence from the back. I’m even reading a grown-up book.

10:15 a.m. Movie concludes. Whining begins. Ellie’s diaper has soaked through; The Daddy pulls over.

10:30 a.m.  Back on the road.

10:45 a.m. Children want to see Rio again.

12:30 p.m. We stop at our favorite drive-in restaurant for lunch. Amazingly, Ellie has wet through ANOTHER diaper? Also, only one surly waitress has been assigned to carside service. She ignores us, and then ignores us some more. Finally, a woman in the car next to us takes pity. When the waitress comes to take their order, she points to us and says, “Uhhh, they’ve been here for a long time, much longer than we have.” She sullenly takes our order. When she finally brings the food, she delivers it on one of those window-hangy trays, even though I had told her that we’d need it to go since we’d been there so long (an hour!). I’m afraid of her, but I muster the courage to ask her to bag it up for us. She is furious. I give her a big tip so she doesn’t slash our tires on the sly before we can peel out of there.

1:45 p.m. Finally eating food. No picnic tables available, so we set up lunch on a blanket in the grass. It’s fun! It’s so much fun, in fact, that both children, overstimulated by the wonders of nature, ignore their lunches completely.  I plead and admonish, but no one listens. The Daddy walks Maya in large circles around the park, trying to eat as she alternately sniffs and lunges. Poor guy.

2:15 p.m. Back on the road. Benjamin asks, “How much longer?” and “Can we watch Rio again?” I start listing all of the other movies I brought, but each selection is denied. I tell them we need a break from Rio for a little while and they should just watch the scenery go by, or maybe read a book. Benjamin reminds me that Ellie can’t read, so I suggest that he read to her. He chooses to watch the scenery. Ellie whines.

2:30 p.m. Both children are hungry and whiny. Surprise! I mention that they should’ve eaten lunch, and pass out snacks and juice boxes.

3:00 p.m. Ellie’s whining finally flips my overload switch. I yell at her to quit it already, which makes her cry. The crying is louder and screechier than the whining. The Daddy is wowed by my superior parenting skills.

3:15 p.m. You guessed it….Rio.

3:45 p.m. And more whining.

4:00 p.m. Can’t anyone just take a NAP? We stop to walk the dog again. I get some “coffee” (brown aquarium water?) at a gas station.

5:30 p.m. We stop at Wendy’s so the kids can get out of the car for a while. The Daddy is once again stuck with the dog, although I am beginning to feel jealous of dog duty. We try to order some food, since lunch was so poorly received. Ellie wants chicken; Benjamin wants nothing. Then he wants a cheeseburger. No, he doesn’t. Yes, he does. No. Yes? Oh wait – no. We get to the table, and it turns out that what he really wants is chicken. What I really want is a lobotomy. And ear plugs.

6:00 p.m. Getting closer. I talk the kids into watching Curious George, which is even more audibly irritating than Rio. Ellie says her “bums hurts” and Benjamin says, “Mine too!”

7:00 p.m. Getting closer.

7:30 p.m. Yesssssssss!

So there you have it – only eleven and a half hours. What am I complaining about?

Despite the pain of getting there, the rewards make it all worthwhile. Time spent with my parents is priceless, and they don’t get to see the kids enough. The beauty of the place is breathtaking, and what could be better than having a private place to play and swim, right in your own back yard?

It is simply heaven.

The Scream Queen

The Daddy worked this weekend, so I was essentially a single parent. Single parents everywhere, I tip my hat to you. YOU ARE HARDCORE. When it was just Benjamin it wasn’t so bad, but Ellie’s flair for the dramatic and the natural histrionics that accompany age 2 made me want to  move to another country – by myself, please. I got so angry once about the incessant arguing and defiance that I sent myself to time out, and then I sent everyone to their rooms so the dog and I could have a few moments to regroup. It didn’t really work though, because they just continued their argument upstairs, loudly enough so I could hear every word. Next: an unidentified crash, followed by crying, followed by Benjamin yelling, “I told you not to touch that!”

The dog sat close to me, leaning in as if to soothe both of us. I murmured apologies into her ear for bringing her in to such a chaotic family. Poor thing.

The whole weekend wasn’t like that, thankfully (right now, for example, they’re sleeping like angels). Earlier today, I took them to their very first stage play, a local production of Pipi Longstocking. It was a bit of a risk, taking Ellie there; I knew Benjamin would do fine, but 2-year-olds aren’t known for their attention spans, or their ability to understand why they can’t talk loudly wherever and whenever the mood strikes them. In the car on the way there, I explained what a theater was and how we should behave during the play. We practiced whispering. She assured me that she would be quiet. “I pwomise, Mama!”

Amazingly, we made it all the way to intermission with no problems whatsoever! I was so proud. They really seemed to enjoy it, too. When intermission started, though, Benjamin said,

“I really like this, Mama, but I’m ready to go home now.”

“Don’t you want to know how it ends?”

“No, I don’t. I just want to go home.”

Given how well things had gone, I decided that leaving on a high note wasn’t such a bad thing. I said sure, we could leave now.

Error #1: But INSTEAD of going home, instead of listening to the poor boy, I convinced him that it would be fun to go to a nearby furniture store to quickly pick up a pair of lamps I had ordered.

(When will I ever learn?)

We got to the store and it was packed with people. They were having some kind of big sale, seemingly attended by everyone in town. I had called ahead so that the lamps would be ready when we got there. Ellie wanted to ride in one of the courtesy strollers they offer at the door, so I let her. We chose one and started towards the customer service desk at the back of the store.

Error #2: Then I decided we should quickly check out the clearance center for bar stools.

At that moment, Ellie decided she no longer wanted to ride in the stroller; instead, she wanted her doll to ride in it. In the following moment, I decided I should look for bar stools another day, and we’d just get the lamps and head out of there.

Very rapidly, the situation deteriorated. I can’t even describe to you how it happened. All I know is that I told her we were leaving, and suddenly she was screaming – and I do mean screaming. It was screaming worthy of a horror movie, and it ricocheted off the walls of the jam-packed furniture megastore. She screamed and sobbed and screamed some more. It was like a dramatization of a child’s meltdown in a movie. I’ve never seen anything like it from either of my children. My best guess is that she had held so much inside during her stint at Pipi Longstocking that it all just had to come tumbling out. Of her mouth. Loudly.

At first, Benjamin and I just stood there and stared dumbly at her, unsure of what to do. Finally, I calmly said, “We’re leaving now.” I took Benjamin’s hand and started to walk away. She called my bluff and didn’t follow. Benjamin, a better parent than I am,  started tugging at me. “We can’t leave her here, Mama! Go get her!”

So we walked back to her. I put her screaming little self back in the stroller and went to the desk to pick up the lamps. On the way, I started laughing. Benjamin started laughing too, because I was. By the time we got to the desk, we were laughing so hard that we could barely talk, while Ellie continued her screamfest.

A masochistic employee offered to carry the lamps for me, since I obviously had my hands full. As we began our bizarre trip back to the front of the store, people glared and stared at us disapprovingly, moving carefully out of our way.  Ellie, in the lead, continued to scream inconsolably in her stroller; Benjamin and I followed, laughing maniacally; the store employee brought up the rear and attempted to set himself apart from our strange, cacophonous parade.

As soon as we got outside, she stopped instantly, like someone flipped a switch. I guess when your captive audience of around a hundred shoppers disappears, so does the motivation for your Oscar-worthy performance.

“We go home, now, Mama?”

“Yes, Meryl Streep. We go home now.”

The Box Rebellion

Sunday

“Mama, we go HOME.”

“We are home, Ellie, this is our home now.”

“No, Mama, dis is new house, not home. I wanna go HOME now!”

“Our stuff isn’t there anymore, sweetpea, it’s here in this house. Your bed is here, your toys are here, Mama and Daddy and Benjamin are here. See?”

“I wanna go home.”

“This is where we live now, bunny.”

“No, thank you. It NOT.”

Monday

“Mama, we going home now?”

“Yes, we’re going to the new house. That’s our home.”

“No!” *pouting, tears*

We take her to the old house to show her that nothing is there anymore. Then we go home.

Tuesday

I turn left at the light onto our new street. Ellie is in the back seat clutching her doll.

“Mama, we go to the new house now?”

“Yep, we’re going to the new house now.”

“YAY!”

It was unprecedented. The 2-year-old was suddenly, inexplicably able to triumph over her typical rigid and maladaptive nature, adjusting to the new house in only three days. Benjamin did an equally good job. I’d love to take credit and write something profound about how I leveraged the concepts of consistent, compassionate parenting in order to effectively manage change in my children’s lives – but really, they did a good job all on their own with little input from me. The Lesson: Sometimes if you get out of your kids’ way and stop talking so much, things just fall into place.

(Now that I’ve said that, it’s certain that the first thing Benjamin will bring up to his future therapist is the time he was ripped away from the only home he ever knew, and everyone acted like it was no big freakin’ deal. Unfeeling monsters! Passive aggressive manipulators! Emotionally numbed-out zombies who eat children’s tender beating hearts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!)

Speaking of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I unpacked the kitchen first. Because BY GOD, WE HAVE TO EAT. Clothes? Medicine? Toiletry items? Books? Ppppffffftttt. I still haven’t unpacked all of that stuff. But all the food is right where I can find it.

Also unpacked and/or installed: televisions, blinds, wireless Internet, pet supplies, and sod. I’d love it if we were the kind of people who rushed to unpack their art studio first thing, or their cherished world-travel memorabilia, or even their home gym equipment…but alas, we are not those people. We are people who unpack the food and televisions first, and race to ensure that we have blinds up so the children sleep as long as possible in the morning.

I’ve given myself until the end of next weekend to get all of the rest of the boxes unpacked. The main motivation is that I’m tiring of conversations following this general template:

“Have you seen my _________?” (Fill in anything, here. Shampoo. Book. Health-sustaining medication. Cat.)

“No. Did you look in the box in the dining room?”

“Which one?”

“The one on the top? Or maybe it’s in the box in the coat closet.”

“No, I looked there. That box is full of cleaning supplies and toddler clothes.”

“Oh. Well, there’s a box of Christmas decorations in the half bath. It could’ve gotten thrown in there.”

“Christmas decorations in the half bath?”

“Yeah. I was carrying the box, and that’s where I got tired.”

“I’ll just go look in the garage. There are tons of boxes in there, still.”

“Good idea. Maybe someday we’ll actually be able to park a car in there!”

Or a bike, at least.

As usual, I’m being slightly hyperbolous. It’s not really that bad. There are not any boxes in the half bath (anymore). We are not missing the cat. Even now, there is room to park a bike in the garage. But anyone who has moved recently knows what I’m talking about. It’s like living in a convoluted cardboard maze. And no matter how carefully you label the boxes (oh, if only I’d labeled carefully), there is just no way to know where everything is until you’ve unpacked every last one of them.

Given my history, that will probably occur sometime around 2015.

MY SANITY IS IN ONE OF THESE