Monday, February 27, 2012

UPDATED with new even more personal information! Probably the most disgusting post I have ever written.

A few days ago, I noticed that the tip of my nose hurt.

"Bummer." I said to Sam as he walked by. "I think I have a little cut inside my nose and it's really sore."

"I hate those" he replied on his way to find the ice cream.

I looked closely in the mirror, but couldn't see a cut. Hm. Well, whatever. It'll heal.

(2 days later)

My nose was still hurting. If anything, it was hurting more. It was actually agonizing. It hurt more than when I got my nose pierced. I was starting to get a headache from the constant ache. Every time I made any sort of gesture that caused my nose to move or - GOD FORBID - come into contact with anything, I would flinch. And then as I walked past a mirror, something caught my eye.

The end of my nose was red. And swollen.

"What the fuck!" I was not pleased by this development. I marched outside to find Sam. "Look at my nose!" I demanded. He put down the nail gun, propped his sunglasses up on his head, and leaned forward, peering intently, examining my nose from all sides.

"What? I see a little brown dot."


He looked dubious. "Well, it's maybe a little red." He put his sunglasses back down and lifted up the nail gun. Hm. Kinda hot. It would be better if he was wearing a tool belt. And maybe a tank top or- No, stay focused!

"Ugh. Never mind. If this was your nose you would be more concerned. I am in a lot of pain, here. If my nose just falls off tomorrow, don't be surprised." I turned on my heel and headed back towards the house.

"I'm pretty sure your nose isn't going to fall off." he called after me as I stomped into the bathroom. Definitely red and bulbous. I looked like a drunk. And I hadn't had a drink in ages. It must be a sign. I poured myself a glass of wine and lay down on the sofa to contemplate life without a nose.

(the next day)

I woke up because the baby was crying. The baby had been crying every hour or two all night long, I was exhausted, bleary-eyed, and dizzy. In the dark, I stumbled over to the bassinet, picked up the baby and nuzzled him like I do every day - and almost dropped him on the floor, the pain was so extreme.

"Oh my God." I turned and went back to the bathroom where there was a bright light for close examination of what was obviously A PROBLEM.

The end of my nose was swollen and dark red. What the hell! Had I been stung? Bitten? Shit - DID WE HAVE BED BUGS????? I sat on the couch trying not to cry, because then my nose would run and I would have to wipe it. I didn't think I had the pain threshold for that sort of thing. At 7:45am I got in the car and drove to the clinic, which opened at 8am. On my way there I called and let them know I was coming. They didn't have any choice in the matter. This was ridiculous.

When the doctor came into the room, he very sweetly pretended he didn't notice my nose. I pointed it out to him. He looked puzzled. I told him how much it hurt. He turned on his little light-thingy and started shining it around up inside my nose, while I silently prayed that I didn't have any boogers. "I don't see a head." he remarked casually as he wheeled his stool back over to the computer and started typing.

(Side note: one of the great joys of being a doctor must be the fact that you get to coast around on little stools all day long.)

"A head? What head? Who's head? Ahead of what? Why does my nose hurt?"

"Cartiledge is not supposed to be stretched - it doesn't have a lot of give to it. So any time your get any sort of blocked duct and the tissue starts to swell," he looked at me "like when you get a pimple, it's going to hurt. Probably one of the most painful things I have ever experienced!" he said cheerfully as he turned back to the computer..

I sat there for a beat.
"Are you saying my nose hurts because I am getting a zit?"

"Well, I hope you get a zit - for now we are going to deal with this two ways."

Deal with WHAT? The zit? I could feel the panic rising in my throat. Oh my god, was he going to pop it? No. No no no. Absolutely no. My nose really would fall off. I was going to stand up and walk on out of here-

"We are going to use topial antibiotics, and also oral antibiotics to get rid of the infection."

The panic evaporated, and I sat there with my mouth hanging open.
"I have to take antibiotics for a zit. Seriously?"

"Yep!" He was so damn cheerful about it. "Let's clear that up. Some people use hot compresses to relieve the discomfort, but that might draw it up to the surface on the outside of your nose. Don't want to encourage that - if you're lucky it'll come out INSIDE your nos-"

"SAY NO MORE." I interrupted. "No hot compresses. Gotcha." I was mortified. I had just driven down to the clinic because I was getting a zit. This was a new low.

I got home and tossed the prescriptions on the counter. Sami raised an eyebrow.
"Don't ask."
"Uh, okay. So what's up?"
"I have a flesh eating bacteria."
"I'm kidding, I'm just kidding. I'm getting a zit. It's infected."
He stared at the stuff strewn across the counter.
"You have to take antibiotics for a zit?" he was incredulous.
"That is fucked up."

We sat in silence for a minute.
"Do they charge a co-pay to diagnose a zit?"

While I was diagnosed with Cellitis and not MRSA, I am being treated with an oral antibiotic that is used to treat some staph infections (SMZ/TMP) and also applying Mupirocin ointment. I will be following up with my doctor, and hopefully this is NOT a nasty MRSA infection. Much love to everyone for the information shared - it is important to be very aware of staph - a nasty, nasty infection indeed.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Balancing your checkbook is for suckers: the ostrich approach to personal finance

Twice in the last month, I have overdrawn our checking account.

Are you horrified? Do you think less of me? Listen, it's okay. Don't feel weird. I am not freaking out about this, because we're not out of money. It's just that I like to keep money in the savings account as long as possible. (Which is generally not any time at all because let's be honest - I have three kids in the house and I live in paradise. Shit is not cheap. I don't have funds to be saving.)

Therefore, I have arranged our banking around the assumption that I will, indeed, overdraw our checking account.


I am in an abusive relationship with my checking account.

This is because I do not balance our checkbook.
This is not just because I don't really want to know.
Okay, maybe it is because I don't want to know.
I don't want to know.

But it is also because I am lazy, and when I did try to keep a balanced checkbook, I was always forgetting to write down important things like ATM withdrawals, which made my check register moot. Stupid ATMs with their instant money. Sam belongs to the "if money comes out of the ATM everything is cool" school of thought, which has caused some serious overdraft action, much to his surprise.

I don't use the overdraft as much, because I proudly belong to the "put everything on a credit card and deal with it later" plan of attack.

Bottom line? I hate money.
I hate talking about it, I hate thinking about it, I hate spending it and I hate saving it.
I hate sharing it, I hate keeping it, I hate waiting for it, I hate forgetting to send it.
This is why our accounts are linked in a series, so that like a chain of dominoes falling, each account can kick in as needed. At least, that is the theory. But I kick the shit out of  those accounts. Money is flying back and forth between checking and overdraft and savings so fast that watching it would make your head spin.

Even the bank tellers know to check my overdraft on a regular basis. Sometimes they'll print out my balance and just silently slide the slip over to me even though I didn't ask for it. Just in case, maybe, I wanted to, you know, DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT.

The cold hard reality is that trying to keep us on task when it comes to money is next to impossible.

Sam is oblivious. When I met him, he was a simple man with simple needs. Once we had to talk for several weeks about me possibly buying a pair of shoes that cost $75 dollars. Neither of us could bear to do it.

Those days are over.

He doesn't look at bills, has no idea how much money we have or where it goes, and simply asks for cash when he needs it. When I was bartending and had wads of cash stuffed in random pockets of my purse, that was just fine. Now that I am not bringing home cash, he is back to violating the ATM like it's my sisterwife, and using his debit card like he's Donald fucking Trump. For example:

"Hey. I went to Costco and used my debit card. I bought one of everything in the coupon book! I SAVED US SO MUCH MONEY."

"They didn't take Discover, so I used the debit card!"

"Whoops! I must have used the wrong card - can we get my AMEX in a different color so I stop getting them mixed up? Two gold cards in one wallet is confusing."

I, on the other hand, have two credit cards (that are, admittedly, totally different colors SAM) and I try (O! How I try!) to keep track of what I am doing with those damn things but wouldn't you know it, they surprise me EVERY TIME.

So we are now officially on lockdown - because the only thing I hate more than money is surprises. And american cheese. I hate that too. But we're not talking about cheese, people. We're talking cash money. No we will have a finite amount of cash withdrawn each week, with a budget for the groceries and a tight list for Costco.

I'm still not going to balance the damn checkbook, but at least I'll have a better idea of where our money goes.


Unless Sam doesn't break up with my sisterwife. In which case, I'm going shoe shopping.

Friday, February 17, 2012

When a carton of milk brings you to your knees

Wednesday was a good day. I had reliable childcare, I got a lot done, my hair looked all right, and Dude pooped. Twice.

A Red Letter Day, I tell you.

But then I got home, and it went from red letter to scarlet letter - and I didn't even get laid.

One minute everything was cool, and the next minute.....well, the next minute things were surreal. As though I had been operating in a bubble and the bubble burst. Life was coming at me loud and fast and bright. How was I going to manage it all? What had I been thinking? Had I been charging forward blythely signing up for every damn thing in my path? Did I have no concept of limits? DID I EVEN KNOW WHAT DAY IT WAS?

Interesting question, that.

Did you know this weekend was a holiday weekend?

I didn't. I remembered at about 5pm, and the shock of it threw me for a loop. I love me some long holiday weekends. I keep close tabs on these sorts of things. How could I have forgotten?

I have my suspicions.

Dude cries every day from about 3 until about 8 - inconsolable sadness. We walk and bounce and switch shoulders and sing and talk and yet.
But still.
Oh, he is sad.

And in the midst of the sadness and the pacing yesterday, I was running through our plans for the weekend in my head to distract myself from the utter misery in my arms - misery which makes my heart ache - and suddenly it all just started sliding into place click click click and I realized something at that very moment.

I had only *thought* I had a handle on things. In truth, I have no idea what is going on.

Holiday weekend. Off on Monday. Five days off in a row. No school on Monday, either. Huh. How could I have missed that?

And if I only just now realized that I had a 5 day weekend and the kids had vacation, what else was I not remembering?

At that point, my previously fantastic afternoon turned into me pacing the living room with Dude in the carrier, trying to figure out my schedule and take note of everything that I had committed to recently. Field trips, shows, work, more work, oh fuck the mortgage is due, oh fuck we're overdrawn again, cancel appointments for everything that costs money, and then WHAT DO YOU MEAN I AM IN A PARADE ON SATURDAY hit me like a ton of bricks. I sat down on the floor and rocked back and forth (to soothe the baby, not for my mental health THANKYOUVERYMUCH) trying to decide if our parade costumes - which consist of kitchen towels and bathrobes - would offend anyone.

Because it was absolutely too late to do anything at all about it.

I reassured myself with the knowledge that at that very moment, everything was fine. No panic attack required, thanks. Max was writing a report. Lucy had a friend over to play, I had the fixings for dinner and the laundry was drying on the line - we were just rolling right along.  I had this.

Everything is cool, man.

And then, an innocent question: "Mom, can I have some milk?"

Of course. OF COURSE YOU CAN. So I open the fridge and stand there staring and realize we are out of milk.

Now on any other day, that would not be a problem.
But on this particular day, it was an INSURMOUNTABLE PROBLEM.
It was a symptom of a much bigger problem that was just coming to the surface.

In five minutes I went from the mom who was large and in charge, kicking ass and taking names and working outside the home while still putting a home cooked meal on the table each a mom who doesn't know when her kids have vacation, and cannot manage to keep basic staples in the house.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

While we are home enjoying our surprise (for some of us) holiday weekend, or working and hopefully earning overtime, please keep Dude and his mom in your thoughts.

Dude is right here with me, cooing and gurgling and chubby and smiley.
Dude's mom is in detox.

She is doing this for him. She is doing this for herself. She is doing this. And I am sending her all of the love and positive thoughts I have in my heart.

Suddenly, forgetting to buy milk seems totally unimportant. As it should be.

Monday, February 13, 2012

But my crotch looks amazing

Friday was my birthday.

I'm gonna be honest - I wasn't feeling it. The baby had been up repeatedly, all night long. I had appointments and obligations - none of them involving a massage or a pedicure. Which was unfortunate. And my hair looked like crap. A perfectly good day can go right down the toilet when my hair looks like crap.

What. Don't judge me. I have hair related issues.

Moving on.

So I was awake early, and overtired, and rushing around, and the hair with the crap-looking, and the appointments to get to. Happy birthday to nobody, that's who.

I stopped in to the office - it was supposed to be a quick visit which turned into a full-blown intervention with a crazy who was also having a seriously bad hair day. I felt for her, on so many levels, but when she started crying and trying to pass out food from a greasy, crumpled bag she had pulled out of the bottom of her purse, something in me just snapped. An OCD something. The only thought that I could process was that she had to be escorted out of the office with her garbage bag of clothing RIGHT AWAY.
And then retrieved from the bathroom where she was busily upending the trash can looking for cigarettes and talking to herself.
I finally talked her into a cab to the hospital.
She also needed a trip to the salon, but you know - priorities.

Now running late for the rest of my life, I raced across town to have all of the hair ripped off of my crotch because nothing says happy birthday like that, boy howdy.

And then I hobbled into Walmart. I will stop right now and tell you that you should never, ever, ever go to Walmart on your birthday. Or on a bad hair day. It smells funny and the lighting is terrible and even though you know you still look better then 95% of the other customers because your boobs aren't tucked into your pants, you feel like cheap dirty imported crap afterwards.

I got home and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror - something I do about once every 3 or 4 days basically to assess how badly I need a shampoo, or to check my shirt for baby spit up. And it was clear that I needed a lot more than a shampoo and a clean shirt. I called the salon down the street and asked if they could do a quick trim. 30 minutes later I was back home, with a bad haircut and an even worse attitude. I looked like I had cut it myself with kitchen shears, missing a few key spots along the way. I am not good at explaining things to stylists, but I am pretty sure "refugee" was not the look I had described.

Now I was in a really terrible mood. Hair grows back, but the attitude needed to be adjusted pronto.

At about that time, it occured to me that it was getting close to dinner, and not a single one of my relatives had called yet to wish me a Happy Birthday. I wasn't too concerned - I forget to call people on their birthdays sometims, and I concluded that perhaps they were going to call me at bedtime - at least my mom would. Surely my own mother would call to say happy birthday to her firstborn! Her only daughter!

Which reminds me: Cake.

My mother is the birthday cake hook up. And thinking of my mother, and then of cake, reminded me that I had not caught wind of a cake - a fact that was now causing me no small amount of concern. My haircut was forgotten in the pursuit of cake. Phonecalls from family are not mandatory, and I don't need presents, but damned if I am going to go through my birthday without some sort of cake.

And leftover cake.

Which might be the most important part of the cake.


But wait! Maybe the cake was going to be served at dinner! We were going out, I reassured myself. Surely, he will have cake for me at dinner! I got dressed in the new dress I bought last week.

Heading out the door, I reached over to grab something off the kitchen counter and the dress fell down.

Houston, we have a problem.

Undeterred, I grabbed a brooch, pinned that sucker tight, and kept going. As I climbed in the car, it fell down again. This was a theme of the evening. It turns out that a backless dress needs to have a pretty significant amount of structure in order to not fall off. This dress was knit. And sleeveless. And shapeless.

I was screwed.

The best course of action was to begin drinking. And I was given a tiara which covered up the chopped hair nicely. And a lei which helped to keep the dress up. And I spent the evening with my friends, laughing and eating and drinking and singing. I got gifts and cards and hugs and cheers. I got a shout-out from the band and a bacon milk shake. And I went to bed tired and happy.

I didn't get any cake, and my family never did call that day, and the hair really is pretty bad.

But my crotch looks amazing.

I guess you'll just have to trust me on that.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Giving the baby back

People ask, repeatedly, how I can be a foster parent. How I can stand to give the babies back.

That is actually the biggest concern everyone has: "How do you give them back?" they ask. "I would never be able to do that!"

What does that mean, exactly? They 'would never be able to do that'?
I give them back because these babies are not mine. And this is not about me.

Parenting - foster or otherwise - is about priorities, and sleeping through the night.
In other words, you call them babies, Sam calls them birth control.

Let me break it down for you:
Inevitably every year or so, I start to make noise about having another baby, and Sam politely but firmly declines. He reminds me how much I like my sleep, and how many years of sleep I have to give up when I have a baby. I pooh-pooh him, and vow to bring another child into our family - promising that I will get up with them every time they cry at night, and that I will never ask Sam to lift a finger. "You will not change a single diaper!" I proclaim. Again, Sam graciously declines my very generous offer. I ignore him and wait patiently. Eventually CPS calls with a placement, we get a foster baby, all hell breaks loose, and BAM - we're in the thick of it. Up all night long, bleary-eyed and haggard, I get my baby fix, but not much sleep. Sam restrains himself from pointing out that HE TOLD ME SO. And he changes a few diapers.

After a few weeks or months the parents regain custody, I sleep for two weeks straight, and then we gleefully return to business as usual around here. Which is to say, fishnets and stilettos and roller skates, late nights out with the girls, and long mornings at the beach with bloody marys. Sam is a perfect gentlemen and never mentions that if we had a baby of our own we would still be stuck at home in sweatpants. He is thrilled to see the stilettos back in rotation. The kids are thrilled to have my full attention, and to not have to sit next to a screaming baby on car rides. I am thrilled to not be accessorizing with a Baby Bjorn and delete the list of baby names from my phone. And then we pile into the Mini Cooper and take a family vacation and live happily ever after.

My point is this: I have raised my babies. These foster babies are not on the market - they already have a mother and a father, and I have met them. We spend time together at doctors appointments, or communicate when I drop the baby off for supervised visitation. And if I have met them, it means they show up, that they are making their child a priority in their life. And that counts for something.

It means they are trying.

I cannot judge someone who is trying to make amends, turn their life around, and be the best person - and parent - they can be. The parent their child deserves.

In those situations, my job as a foster parent is to help them out, while they help themselves.

I am the surrogate, and the example: I show them how to care for a newborn. Their baby arrives to each visit bathed, dressed in clean clothes, with a stocked diaper bag and a bottle. Their baby travels in a carseat that has straps that fit properly, that is clean and in good repair. Their baby is gaining weight, and responsive, and sometimes even smiling. Their baby goes to doctors appointments, and sees specialists to deal with medical problems associated with fetal drug and alcohol exposure. And for the most part, the parents pay attention to their baby. People ask how I can stand to give the babies back - I wonder how the parents can stand to be away from their babies. I cannot even imagine handing my baby to a complete stranger. I am rooting for them. I want them to succeed, and to have their baby home with them.

And I want to sleep for more than 3 hours at a time. I'm not gonna lie.
But sometimes, showing up for a 90 minute supervised visit is the extent of their interest. Raising a baby is not their priority. And at times like that - when the biological family seems to view the baby as an object rather than a person - it is almost impossible to model good behavior for them. When a parent shows up high, or worse doesn't show up at all, I want to pick up the baby and get back in the car and say "Never mind." They are not trying to help themselves, or their child.

They are not interested in helping anyone.

And I think that is what people are thinking of, when they ask how I can give these babies back. But for the most part (and yes, there are always exceptions, but for the most part) babies don't go back to parents until the parents have gone through an exhaustive process to regain custody. If only every parent had to meet these standards before bringing their baby home. Parents who get their kids back from foster care have made some serious effort.

On the other hand, when parents are completely disconnected from the child, when they act as though there is no rush to get their act together, as though the child is a toy to be played with and then put away, when they continue to abuse drugs, when they have no idea what their child weighs, or how to put on a diaper even after 7 weeks of visits, when extended family is offered custody and they suggest that maybe they could "just visit the baby instead" those times I am not worried about them regaining custody. Instead, I become the mama bear. The gate closes. The smiles and friendly chit chat at visits fades. And I hold the baby closer. Because someone has to. Someone has to hold this baby, put him first, get up with him each night and greet him each morning. Someone has to want to be his mother all the time - not just for 90 minutes a few times a week.

Every child deserves to be someone's priority. Being a foster parent is being the one person in the world who puts this child first. Sometimes because the parents can't. Sometimes because they won't. I have no control over whether they want to be parents, and I can't help people who can't help themselves. All I know is that as long as a baby is with me, that baby is my priority. And that baby is just as important as Max and Lucy. I don't care for these babies when it's convenient. I don't love them part time, I love them all the time. Even at 3am, when I would much rather be sleeping.

And I don't know how anyone could feel any differently.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dorkback mountain

Last weekend, while my six year old daughter was (apparently) missing, my 11 year old son had a friend sleepover. Hosting a sleepover for two boys is a little bit of this:

Some of this:

with a sprinkle of this:

And a whole lot of this:

They were, in a word, industrious.

And that is a good thing. Boys of this pre-teen ilk (which is to say, curious and completely lacking in common sense) need to be kept busy at all times, so that they do not get into mischief. Come to think of it, I could say the same for all boys, regardless of age. But these boys in particular are two peas in a pod. Birds of a feather. Men on a mission. They had a plan: to build the best fucking catapult ever, and engage in warfare - the enemy to be determined at a later date. It didn't really matter who they were fighting - or if they even fought. They just needed to make the vision a reality.

And, oh. What a vision.

"It's a trebuchet, actually." My son's friend informed him right off the bat.

"A traybitchhay?" My son was enthralled. "Sounds great!"

They stormed out into the yard to examine the pile of wood that my son had been pilfering from my husband's scrap pile. In his excitement, he had painted some of it already and drawn elaborate designs and/or instructions with a Sharpie, but he assured his friend that once their catapult - excuse me, their "traybitchay" - was complete, they could paint the entire thing one color, or maybe paint some areas in different colors, or maybe the bottom one color, and the arm a lighter version of the same color, or mayb-

"The color doesn't really matter." his friend interrupted. "We have a lot of work to do. Look, see? This angle is all wrong, and this needs to be much longer to get the distance we need."

So they eagerly pulled the haphazardly nailed boards apart, and began again. After a few hours, they were feeling a bit peckish, and eventually they wandered back inside to inquire about snack. Was there one? And when would it be ready?

I settled them down with some hotdogs and Max reached for the bottle of ketchup, in order to spread the gospel during their meal.

The gospel of label reading.

I texted the other mom. "I think Max just outdorked your kid. He's reading the label on the ketchup bottle aloud over lunch."

The kid loves reading food labels. I love that he loves reading food labels. His friend? Unconcerned with the fact that there was both corn syrup AND high fructose corn syrup in ketchup. Max found this state of affairs APPALLING! Everyone should be up in ARMS about this! These big food corporations are sneaking corn syrup into EVERYTHING and Max, for one, is not having it. Perhaps, he mused, they should go down to the protest outside Monsanto later, just to make a point.

His friend stared at him, mouth agape. Then, as if they were in some sort of dork-off, he began to rattle off the secret menu from In and Out, discussing the finer points of a 4x4 vs a 3x3, and how everything is better animal style.

Max asked if they had corn syrup in their ketchup.

"Dorkback Mountain" came the reply from the other mom.

The boys stood up and marched back outside. There was much work to be done, and light was fading. They were going to need headlamps, for sure. And then later (LATER!) they would need a hammer, in order to break apart some rocks for ammunition. But that delightful endeavor wouldn't begin until early Sunday morning. I still had a few hours to prepare myself for the inevitable injuries resulting from flying rock shards.

I sat on the sofa crying silent tears. Thank god these boys have found each other. I'm pretty sure that they would be hard pressed to find such a kindred spirit on the playground, unless he was tied to the flagpole with a wedgie.