Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rat + Patootie = Ew!

It is just me, or are rats gross?

Now before I go any further I have to say that I am an avid Pixar fan. Monsters, Inc. is one of my all-time favorite movies. I mean, really, a closet as a monster portal into the human dimension? Clever, right? And the whole Toy Story series with Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz? Brilliant! Even the one about the ant colony trying to outwit the grasshopper mafia is fun. But a rat cooking in a famous restaurant? Ew.

A little backstory might be necessary. Our first home was a small Victorian over 100 years old. Kaleb was nearly two and Leah about six months old when we realized that the previous occupants of our home had never moved out. We were cohabitating with a large family of mice. They were everywhere, as were their little mousey droppings and their little mousey germs. I was grossed out. I had two babies in my home and a host of vermin threatening our health and livelihood (no, I am not overreacting…okay, maybe I am just a little...).

Thus began Operation Extermination. We tried everything. Mousetraps. steel wool in potential entry-ways, peppermint-soaked cotton balls (the things you do when you Google), rat posion. There was even a basement incident involving myself, an infant mouse and a yellow, 72-inch aluminum box beam level. The mouse won. And the level broke.

Finally we got a cat and the mouse problem vanished. End of that mouse story. But onto another. Ratatouille.

Now my aversion to animated rodents isn’t limited to the newest Pixar movie. I’ve never liked Tom and Jerry (well, just Jerry), Stuart Little, Fievel, Speedy Gonzales, Mickey Mouse (okay, so I liked Mickey a little), and any of those Night before Christmas cartoons. I’m a cold-hearted mouse hater.

So when I took my kids to see Ratatouille yesterday at the dollar theater I did think, “Wow, how clever.” But then I thought, “Ew.” And that scene, with the rat colony acting as an especially squirmy bunch of line chefs was just a titch disconcerting to me (But Shauna, you say, they were run through an industrial-strength dishwashwer. Still. Ew.).

Now I’m not going to try and pass this off as a high-brow (or even low-brow) movie review. I have nothing more to say but, “Ew.” Okay and this: my humble opinion is that no matter how much you animate a rat or have him follow his little chefy dreams, he’ll still a disease-ridden rodent in my book. That and, ew...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tooth Fairy Economics

This week marked my first stint as Tooth Fairy. Kaleb, my oldest, surrendered his third lost tooth and faithfully placed it under his pillow (his first two, which he had decided to keep, were lost somewhere in the house a couple years ago where I’m afraid Zacky snacked on them). Being in an especially generous mood, I replaced this tooth with a five-dollar bill.

“Heh, Mom?” he said the next morning. “How come the Tooth Fairy doesn’t give much for teeth these days?” He waved the crisp bill at me as evidence. Apparently, the neighbor boy, who has one year on Kaleb and a couple more lost teeth, gets toys under his pillow.

“Five dollars is a lot!” I said. “Do you know I only got a quarter for my teeth?” Later that day a friend of mine echoed those sentiments, telling him, “I was lucky to get a dime.” Suddenly Kaleb turned braggart, telling everyone that his teeth were worth much more than his mother and her friend’s teeth combined.

Later that day, while I folded laundry, Kaleb decided to engage in Tooth Fairy Economics. “Why did I get more for my teeth than you did?” he asked.

“Well,” I said. “It’s been awhile since I lost my teeth. Maybe teeth are worth more these days.” I patted myself on the back for introducing Kaleb to the concept of inflation.

But Kaleb shook his head, unhappy with that explanation. “I think,” he said. “That boy tooth fairies give more money than girl tooth fairies.” I thought about that for a minute. “So you think girls have a girl tooth fairy and boys have a boy tooth fairy?” He nodded. “And the boy tooth fairy gives more money than the girl tooth fairy?” He nodded again, and then added, “Because boys make more money than girls.” Sheesh, I thought. This conversation had evolved all too quickly from inflation to gender discrimination in the workplace.

“Kaleb,” I said in my lecture voice. “Girl tooth fairies and boy tooth fairies make the same amount of money.” Imaginary money, I thought. But Kaleb shrugged, already disinterested in our conversation.

Only later did he bring it up again, saying, “Mom, I’ve stopped thinking about boys being tooth fairies. I think the Tooth Fairy is a grandma now.”

“How come?” I asked, wondering if this was progress.

“Because I don’t think boys have fairy wings. That’s for girls.”

I sighed. Well, at least the grandma tooth fairy no longer has to file a complaint about unfair wages. That’s progress, right?

Imaginary progress…

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What Remains

On Thursday I retained my lawyer and experienced first-hand how one tallies a life. My husband and I have been married eight years, an entire lifetime shared, the result of which are three young, beautiful people. Simple math tells me our marriage represents 30 birthdays, 8 anniversaries, three pregnancies, three births, two apartments, two houses, over 150 Christmas cards, one car accident, three surgeries, two therapists, and now, one divorce decree.

And as I sat at the long lacquered table answering my lawyer’s questions, I couldn’t help but wonder how you divvy out a life. Could we really calculate all the spiritual debts and assets that have accrued within that time? Could we tally what’s yours and mine and theirs without ripping, unnaturally, at the center of our lives? As my lawyer applied this surreal formula of delineation I anticipated years of emotional hemorrhaging for all of us. This moment, drawing the lines and boundaries between us, preparing a chart of alternating holidays, determining percentages of responsibility, was the lesser of two evils.

If you’ve seen Indian Jones and the Last Crusade you probably remember the scene where Indiana is to walk across a gapping chasm to reach the Holy Grail. He’s instructed to walk the chasm by faith. I’m certain that doing such a thing would weight your heart with a cold fear, because how could you see such impossibility before you and ever expect to achieve solid footing again? I’m certain because as I sat in my lawyer’s office that day, my heart was a frozen anchor of fear.

I believe in marriage and always have. Divorce was never in the plan and for years, three exactly, I struggled against the idea. I perceived divorce, like a character in Wonder Boys, “as the first refuge for the weak in character and the last of the hopelessly incompetent.” It took no less than a whisper from God to assure me that what I saw as death would be a better path, not necessarily now, but years into the future. And while I’m sure there are some who see divorce as a lack of faith, for me it has been a faith-filled journey, one-step over a darkened chasm.

So as I type to what seems to be a never-ending pulse of pain, I allow myself to answer it with tears; they honor this marriage that will soon be over. It wasn’t a mistake, because the three beauties of my life were born within its bounds. And while I’m not sure how I would define it, I do know that regardless of what the divorce decree may say, five lives are forever held together by one fine gossamer strand, and that will always remain.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Phone Etiquette, Part One

The other night a client called to talk business at 5:15 pm. Now I don’t know about you, but if I were a businessman calling a soon-to-be single, work-at-home mom I probably wouldn’t call at dinnertime. But that’s just me.

I was in the middle of making spaghetti and my kids, plus one, were playing in the house. It took awhile to clear them from the kitchen, but quite soon I was carrying on an adult conversation about my freelance work. That is until I heard water running.

I asked my client to wait while I checked on my kids. Sure enough they had turned the hose on in the middle of a fair-sized patch of dirt on the side of my house. The water had been on long enough to flood an area big enough for an alligator. A giant, mutant alligator.

“Sorry,” I told my client. “My kids just flooded my yard.” Now I’m not sure, but when does proper phone etiquette require you to say, “Is now a bad time?” Apparently not after your children flood your side yard. We continued our adult conversation about my freelance work.

That is until my children invited a stray dog into my house. And not a tiny, yip-yip dog, but a large golden retriever (yes, it too was the size of a giant, mutant alligator).

I asked my client to hold on while I chased said dog through my house and out the front door. This lonely beast, and the four children who had invited it in, all left muddy footprints from one point of entry to the other.

“Sorry,” I told my client. “My kids just let a stray dog into the house.” Now I’m not sure, but is this the point at which proper phone etiquette requires you to say, “Is now a bad time?” Apparently having a big, stray dog romp through your house like the Pied Piper followed by four muddy children does not warrant it. We continued our conversation.

That is, until I realized that only three of the children who were now romping outside with the muddy dog were fully clothed. Yes, people, my youngest son had stripped naked and was running down the sidewalk, a trail of clothes behind him.

I asked my client to wait while I collected my naked child, brought him into the house and planted him in front of the television. “Sorry,” I told my client. “My son was running around outside, naked.”

I waited, again, for that fateful question. Nothin’. At that point we were able to finish our adult conversation about my freelance work without being interrupted by as much as a boiling pot of spaghetti noodles.

Just so you know, I’ve since looked for the manual on phone etiquette that determines at exactly what point you ask, “Is now a bad time?” I couldn’t find it. But I did find one on common sense and it plainly states: “If, during an important phone conversation, your children flood your yard, invite a stray muddy dog into your home and then chase it down the sidewalk naked, you are required to tell your party, ‘Now is not a good time. Can I call you back?’”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weigh in, People

I’m such a delinquent blogger these days (this freelancing thing is killin’ me) so I thought I’d try to multi-task in this post. Bare with me, folks.

My dream (yes, I’m blushing) is to syndicate my column. (Sometimes I wonder if I’m one of those tone-deaf singers auditioning for American Idol. You know the ones. They’re either dressed in drag or uber androgynous performing some frightening dance moves while they sing on, oblivious. That’s me. Only I’m submitting column queries, in drag, oblivious…)

So anyway, I’ve gotten positive feedback from two papers so far that have yet to give me a definitive answer. Now I’m of the opinion that editors are not the string-‘em-along type. They don’t know me personally so if they didn’t like my stuff they’d probably just say, “We’re not interested,” and get it over with, right? (I know, I’m such a sucker). So I’ve written a couple follow-up emails with no luck. And that’s when I concluded that since I’ll probably get rejected anyway I might as well have fun doing it. I crafted the following email as my last and final attempt to get an answer from these papers.

Dear Editors,

I’m sure you’ve tired of my endless queries, those relentless emails pleading for your attention. I’m needy that way. But I can’t stop thinking about you and your paper and the wonderful future we could share. I’ve signed my name countless times with your moniker: Shauna B., The Dream-On Daily News Columnist. *sigh* What a combination. So natural. So complete.

But because I haven’t heard back I’m wondering what’s wrong. Perhaps you’re afraid to commit. I know I can be intimidating with my humor and stuff. Or maybe you think I’m high maintenance and will charge a lot of money and tire you with verbose emails like this one. I’m cheap, really. And once you say “yes” I promise to back off and give you your space.

And then the other day I was watching Oprah and she had this expert Guy on who said that when “they” don’t call or email you back it really just means one thing: he’s just not that into you. And it got me thinking: could the same concept apply to a desperate writer and the paper of her affection?

So tell me, are you just not that into me? I can take it, really… (*sob*sob*)

Shauna B.

So what do you think? On a scale of 1-10, how stupid am I? (Okay, okay. I take that back. Please don’t be honest. Just flatter me senseless. I’m a little fragile right now. *snort*).

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Soon-to-Be Single Mom Manifesto

These last few months I feel like I’ve had to turn the Winnebago of my life around and head in a completely different direction. The landscape has changed and I’m trying to become accustomed to this new view. During a consultation with a lawyer I was told the people who best endure divorce do so by looking forward, not back. “You need to have a vision,” he said. “Of what you’d like your life to be.”

I’ve thought a lot about his advice. So much so that I’ve decided to create this, my Soon-to-Be Single Mom Manifesto. It’s only a draft, as is my life.

1. I will continue to work from home.
I want to minimize the impact of this divorce on my kids. Divorce is one of those major life changes, right? As is moving. As is going from having a stay-at-home mom to a working mom. As is suddenly having to spend lots of time with a sitter or daycare provider. I figure my kids should only have to endure one of those at a time. The truth is, I’m not raking in the dough as a freelance writer (as I squeeze writing sessions in between carpooling kids to school, making meals, avoiding laundry, and, well, blogging), but I believe it can work. And for now, I believe it’s the best thing for my kids.

2. I will try to stay in the house.
See above.

3. I will enjoy my children.
I have to remind myself about this one. The pain of divorce coupled with financial concerns can be distracting sometimes. And when I’m stressed I loose my patience and am not as eager to draw unicorns (in dresses with necklaces and earrings) for my daughter. But there are no Do-ey Overs in childhood so they deserve an attentive mom who’s present, accounted for, and when possible, ready to play. Today I took the kids to the river and we fed the ducks. For an hour we all seemed to forget our painful evolution from traditional to dysfunctional family. I’ve added “do more of that” to my list of priorities.

4. I will get healthy.
That, ladies, isn’t just about my keister, although that does need immediate attention. I’m also taking charge of my emotional health. There’s been so much turmoil these last few years that I’ve lost touch with who I am and am rediscovering, delightfully, what I’m all about.

5. I will not trash the soon-to-be ex-Hub.
See my post “The Bad News.” 'Nough said.

And that’s it. I think there’s something to say about looking beyond a painful situation to a brighter future that you have the power to create.

And now, I think I will create a nice, long bubble bath for myself. Happy Weekend, everyone!

Gee, thanks, Bananas!

Jenny from Absolutely Bananas gave me this awesome award:

For blogs you love so much you just want to plant a wet one on 'em.

Gotta love the graphic (and big, fat, wet kisses--who doesn't love those?). Thanks, Bananas!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Toilet Paper Epiphany (from the Way-Too-Much-Information Files)

I deleted this post after realizing that today was 9/11, but after reading Karen's comment to my new-and-improved September 11th post, decided to repost the toilet-paper epiphany...

Just yesterday I had an epiphany while sitting on the porcelain throne. And lest you think I spend unwarranted amounts of time there, it was a toilet-paper related thought and thus, completely justified.

I decided that we go through toilet paper all too quickly in my home. As I sat there and replaced yet another toilet paper roll, I realized that I do that approximately once a day. Now I’m no expert on toilet paper consumption, but that seems a titch excessive.

So I considered (as I sat and thought) different ways to remedy the problem. Years ago I read a book called The Complete Tightwad Gazette that talked about how to save money and get out of debt. There was an entire section on saving toilet paper, from establishing a rationing rule that dictated how many squares were allowed per function (i.e. 4 squares for number “1” and 8 squares for number “2”) to squashing the roll so the cardboard cylinder turned more slowly, preventing wasteful unrolling. I considered what would be required to stop this waste in my home (that pun was so unintended, that is, until I got it).

So I devised a plan whereby we would stop using so much toilet paper. And by “we” I mean “me.” What? Okay, so this where I had my epiphany. Because as I sat there I realized that I’m currently the only adult residing in my home. And every time I pass the bathroom I must remind my children to a) flush the toilet and b) use toilet paper.

I am using way too much toilet paper. And as I did my bathroom math I determined that yesterday I treated myself to more than one roll of toilet paper in what may have been 7 trips to the bathroom—tops. What am I doing in there, and why is my toilet not always clogged?

After adjourning the Bathroom Summit I decided that no further action would be required. Except that from now on I will be purchasing extra-soft, two-ply, quilted toilet paper.

Because, baby, I’m worth it.

In Remembrance

I had to remove another post today when I realized it was far too inappropriate for September 11th. Because I believe we should honor the memories of those who died that day and reflect back on this, the 6th anniversary of 9/11.

When I think back to 9/11 I remember exactly what I was doing when I found out; just as I’m sure all of you do. What I remember most, however, is that palpable fear that spread through my body with each report of another assault on our country. I too couldn’t be pried from the coverage as I wondered how I could protect my then newborn son from terrorism. I imagined running from those crumbling buildings with him in my arms. I imagined fleeing the Pentagon, frantically pushing him in a stroller. I imagined sitting on a plane, trying to sooth him with a trembling whisper. In a weakened moment I felt helpless and lost.

That is, until the news coverage began to unearth the true nature of our country. We heard about the firefighters and EMT who ran towards those same buildings people were fleeing from. We saw countless volunteers trying to find survivors in the rubble. And we listened to people relay the courage and heroism displayed by passengers on a plane that was intended to kill even more Americans. Although many of those individuals lost their lives, I was buoyed up by their strength and that portrait of patriotism. And I felt again the power of being a part of this great nation. The fear didn’t disappear but it did subside and was eventually replaced by admiration and awe.

And now as I reflect back I wish there was more I could do than remember. But that much I can do.

(That and take down my inappropriate post, which will appear bright and early Wednesday morning...)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

It’s Not a Wedding Reception, but for Tonight It’ll Do

My daughter just turned five, but from the conversations she’s been initiating these days you’d think she had just turned twenty. Here are some things she’s asked me lately:

“Will you come to my wedding?”
“Can I wear a black dress to my wedding?”
“When I get married will you buy me a necklace, earrings, a ring, and makeup?
“When am I grown up enough to get married?”
“Can I drive you to my new house when I’m grown up?”
“Can I borrow your makeup when I’m grown up?”
“Some day will you give me a diamond? Just the jewel, not a ring.”

Okay, so my neurosis is showing here, but is she preoccupied with marriage and being grownup because her father and I are currently failing at both? And is this an “issue” that needs addressing? If so, how do I address it?

As the hub and I have worked through this separation, we’ve encouraged the kids to be open with us about their feelings. The tricky thing with children is, sometimes they don’t know enough about what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it to share it with anyone. So we’re seeing separation residue seep out in strange ways. The million-dollar question becomes: which behavior is caused by a pending divorce and which is just typical childhood development? Some argue that it doesn’t really matter which causes it. But as the mother, I’d like to know. Oh, for a live-in Freud. Scratch that. Oh, for a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

But I guess if I’m going to worry about Leah’s recent obsession with marriage (since I’m worrying anyway) I should also worry about this big shindig she’s been planning all weekend. With her birthday over and Christmas an agonizing 4 months away, she’s decided to throw a party, complete with cake, invitations, and a gift-registry. She wanted to hold said party tonight but I explained, “No, Britney Spears is opening the VMA awards and I’ve gotta watch that train wreck.” Of course I didn’t say that, but I did say, “Sweetie, you can’t have a party just to get presents.”

But you know, maybe she’s got the right idea. Not the presents, but the party. The mood around here has been heavy and sad lately. A party with cake, ice cream and noise-makers might cheer us all up, at least for the evening.

So excuse me while I watch Stuart Little 2 and eat popcorn with my kids. We’re not following the itinerary Leah has outlined (in duplicate with a purple Crayola), but it’ll do, at least for now.

[Uhm, by the way, did anyone else realize that Stuart’s “father” is Hugh Laurie from House? Strange, right? Okay, back to the party…]

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Name Change and Google Searches

I have decided to change the name of my blog to “Poo Memos, Venomous Spiders, and eBay” because those are the favorite post topics thus far as determined by the comments of you, my dear beloved readers! And can I just say that you really are dear and beloved! If I went on a quest for the best support group EVER, I don’t think I could find such amazing, compassionate, and wise women in one zip code. Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments to the difficult post about my separation. And this week I’m feeling like your positive energy alone will carry me over the ugly. Bless you!

Now on to a lighter topic. I finally have the means to see what’s driving those Googlers to my blog. Here are some searches that bring people to Up in the Night:

“pink pee death”: Well, for a moment there I was worried. But luckily, our pink pee was caused by a Crayola fetish.

“scratch and dent surplus”: This one’s popular. In fact, I think I get one visitor per day on this search alone. Unfortunately, this is all they find when they get here…

“Shauna by nite”: So I tried this search myself and apparently there’s a playmate named Shauna Sands who “now walks the streets.” Sorry fellas, there’s no playmate here…

“Pictures of fat Shauna”: Now that’s just mean.

“girl cracks”: Okay, so I’m the horrible mommy blogger who actually wrote a post
about my daughter’s crack. But writing about it and searching for it are too
completely different things, you sickos!

“beautiful buttocks womanhood”: Now I wrote a post about my daughter’s crack, but no beautiful buttocks womanhood were mentioned in the making of that or any other post (Unless you’re looking for my buttocks. In that case, thank you. Thank you very much!)

“kid vomit blog”: Now that’s another possible title for my blog. Because I have talked about vomit here and here and here. But when you compare that to another significant bodily function, it would be more fitting to change my name to Kid Potty Blog because I talk about that here and here and here and here and here.

“Outsource household chores”: Bring it on, baby. We’re all about that over here…

“Six-year old has nasty attitude”: And sadly, we’re all about that over here too…

Phew. That’s enough for tonight, ladies. But really, thanks to all of you for being so amazingly supportive. You’re the best peeps a girl every had!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Bad News

My husband and I are separated.

And now I’m not sure what else to say. I’ve rewritten this post repeatedly,and even held onto it for nearly a month, timing it with Blogher so that it wouldn’t be broadcast over that network, and now this is all I can manage. I’m sure everyone can appreciate that this is extremely difficult for everyone, especially my kids, as we all stagger through this experience, trying to grasp something hopeful and secure to steady us.

I’ve wondered whether or not it was even necessary to share this with the blogosphere. It’s strange announcing something so private and painful in such a public forum. But I decided to do it for a number of reasons. One, I’m selfish. In blogging I’ve discovered the most amazing support group full of compassionate, wise and genuine women. And I thank you all for that. Two, I can’t not write about this experience; I’m a writer (who uses double negatives, okay?) and this is an extremely therapeutic medium for me. Three, it’s important that my blog be authentic and truly chronicle my experience with motherhood, and currently this separation consumes our approach to parenting; I can no longer look at Kaleb’s defiance and Zack’s delayed potty training without saddling them next to this separation to see how they might connect. And four, I can only hope that in writing about these things there might be someone out there who can relate, even remotely.

Finally, I just want to pledge here that I will never bash The Hub, even if he might someday become The Ex Hub. I trust that readers recognize this decision didn’t come lightly, and that there is a complicated history that’s led to this separation. But I will never share that history here. While I may blather on and on about womanhood, motherhood, writing, and relationships, I won’t go there. For lots of reasons but especially because The Hub is the father of my children, and consequently a person who will always be in my life, a person I still love and vow to respect, regardless of what has or may happen.

I’m spent. There’s so much more I could say about how this separation is a constant ache that saturates every moment, even in sleep. But that’s another post for another day. And I’m hoping that there will be something amusing, maybe about vomit or poo, I can write about before then.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Takin' Care of the Girls

One day I was getting into the shower when Zack pointed at my breasts and asked, “Are those the bests, Mama?”

“I like to think so,” I answered.

That was back when I was immune to any breast-worry. But now that I’m in the WhyMommy-know I’ve been thinking about the girls in a whole new light. In fact, I’ve become a little obsessed.

I’ll admit I’ve performed maybe five breast exams my entire life. I never knew what I was looking for and felt self-conscious poking at the girls so sloppily. And while my family has a history of breast cancer (via my grandmother on my father’s side) I always thought nursing my children somehow made me immune to any breast ailment (well, shouldn’t it?!). So I’ve never given my girls the attention they truly deserve.

But just last weekend I got to go on a quick trip to Utah sans children to visit my family. As I was driving I noticed that my left breast was a little sore. So I spent nearly three hours poking and prodding at my boob trying to find a lump or some tangible explanation for the pain (I blame this heightened self-awareness on the empty backseat. I couldn’t be rational while contending with so much silence.). By the time I got to Utah my breast was really sore and I was really worried.

Two days and 48-hours worth of self-induced poking and prodding later, I was nearly hysterical (fyi, I’m prone to be irrational. See Mama Meme, letter “I.”). So Monday morning I tried scheduling an appointment with my husband’s family doctor (along with being irrational, I’m also a procrastinator. We’ve lived here nearly a year and I have yet to schedule a checkup with a doctor.). Apparently, regardless of how hysterical a potential patient is, this doctor will only schedule one new patient a day; and she was booked until mid-October. I took five deep breaths and went to Urgent Care.

I can’t imagine that any woman enjoys a breast exam. But I’ve never been happier than at that moment while, lying topless and fondled by a competent professional, I was told that nothing unusual had been detected. Hallelujah!

So for those of you who don’t know, the purpose of a regular self exam is to detect any irregularities. And you can’t detect those unless you’re doing them every month. (duh! I know.). You gotta get to know the girls intimately, so perform a monthly exam and get a yearly checkup or if you have an extensive history of breast cancer or are nearing 40, schedule a mammogram.

So this post is in honor of WhyMommy. Thanks for making me more aware. Thanks for prompting me to take better care of myself so I can, in turn, continue to take care of my family. And if you’ve yet to visit her blog and share some love with this incredibly courageous and selfless woman, please do so today. She could use our prayers and positive energy to kick cancer’s butt.

Up in the Night thanks you, WhyMommy! God bless!