Thursday, February 26, 2009

Please allow myself to introduce myself

I love it that people follow my blog, and, I'm assuming I know you . But, for the record, will you please let me know who you are? I guess I'm talking to anyone who doesn't have a picture on their profile.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good morning, Mrs. Jackson. This is your wakeup call.

3 A.M., Tuesday:
Ben has woken up and is vomiting repeatedly. He's 1. In his mind, he is a victim of some uncontrollable biological crime being committed deep inside his body. He's crying. He thrashes. The thought of putting his head in a bowl to catch the vomit means absolutely nothing to him. So, we muscle our way through the rest of the night in the living room. Virtually all soft surfaces are draped in towels to expedite the cleaning process. I think we went through 10 pairs of pajamas. By the time 6:30 rolls around, I have a fat, bloodied lip (see thrashing mention above), and Ben's vomiting has joined forces with the most foul smelling diarheea since Freddy died.
He just couldn't stop spewing. I would change a diaper only to see him squat and squirt not two minutes later. I was double bagging faster than Peter at Hannaford, bringing them outside, lighting candles. It was beyond gross. I remember while I was pregnant a number of people told me a very common lie. "When it's your child it's not as bad". FALSE. It's completely disgusting to clean shit. Period. Yours, your kids', your pets', or (please God don't do this to me) your parents'. Heaven forbid if you have a job where cleaning other people's shit is in the description.
I'm an experienced enough mom to know that really there was nothing we could do but ride it out. We put him on a diet of Pedialyte, water, Jello, popsicles, toast and ran our washer and dryer virtually non-stop. Of course, he eventually stopped throwing up.
I even felt comfortable enough today to bring Will to school and go to work for a few hours while Eva (my favorite Mennonite) looked after the boys. I can't say that I was surprised when she came to get me at work with the news I had been dreading all day. "Sam just threw up all over his crib." I hurried back home (about 15 feet from work) and set to work stripping his crib sheets while Eva got Sam cleaned up. As he started to barf a second time, I grabbed him, in an attempt to spare her. He managed to puke directly down my shirt, vomit pooling in my underwire. I tried to difuse the situation with a little humor, usually lost on the Mennonites. "Well, that will teach me to wear a low cut shirt. Maybe you're on to something." She thought that quite funny. I wonder if she would think it's funny that I own exactly TWO bras that fit, thank you to that miracle called childbirth. Fuck it. Into the wash it goes.
So where are we now? Will is sound asleep. Ben, also sleeping, has recuperated almost fully. He may, however, be permanently stained red from eating so much Jello. Sam is exhausted and sleeping; thankfully he doesn't seem to have gotten as sick as Benny. Brett and I are so over cleaning puke, wiping shit, and folding laundry. My lip is healing, but now looks like some sort of STD/ battered wife injury combo.
Through it all, though, I will say that it been really rewarding to see my boys bonding and being so empathetic towards one another. Will, who has been virtually neglected for the past two days, has become quite the nurse around here. Bringing a little Tupperware to Ben or Sam (just in case). Getting water, and trying his best to keep them happy. Today, when Sammy was at his sickest, laying on the couch, Ben came over and rubbed his hair and gave him a little kiss.
I always thought that I wanted daughters, and, I don't know what the future will hold for me. But for right now, shit, puke, and all, I love that I have 3 sons. I read a great book about raising sons, and my favorite passage was, "Boys will boys" is not said when a little boy brings a present to his teacher or gives his crying mother a hug, or spends time with a dying parent in the hospital. I cry every time I read it. I hope these guys continue being the wonderful boys I know they are and stop shitting and puking all over me.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Last Supper

We knew when we moved to Pennsylvania to get this business off the ground that there would come a time when we would have to interact on a a social level with the Leid family. Last Friday, at precisely 5:30 PM, that time had arrived. Nearly a month into our stay here, we were invited to dinner at their home. Our impending social engagement caused more than just a little bit of anxiety for me.
George Leid, and his family, for that matter, are more than just our current employers. They have basically been our benefactors for the past 5 years; helping us through some pretty tough times. I am extremely grateful to them for all they've done for us. I wanted to go their home and have dinner and conversations with them to show that appreciation, but the anticipation of the night had me in near cardiac arrest.
What to bring for the hostess? Clearly not wine, even though I desperately needed a glass or two or three to take the edge off. What to wear? These ladies bring new meaning to the word conservative. What if one (or all) of my kids act up? I was bracing myself for a culture clash of epic proportions, but it really wasn't that bad.
We showed up promptly at 5:30; in case you're wondering, I made Blondies and Brownies, and I wore jeans, because that's all I brought with me to PA, with my most modest shirt. Dinner was coming out of the oven, so we sat down, bowed our heads during their blessing and ate. Or, at least, I ate.
I am a big believer of "When in Rome...." I didn't check my silverware before I used it. I tried not to think too much about the cleaning habits of the women who prepared the meal. I just dug into my meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and jam with reckless abandon.
Will flat out refused, so I discreetly went to the diaper bag to retrieve the chicken nuggets I had brought him "just in case". Brett, his OCD clearly more severe than mine, had some trouble. He attempted to mask his lack of appetite by caring for Sammy, who was a bit wiggly.
Reflecting upon it later, Brett claimed he was drooling to hold back puke, "I don't even like to think that I put that in my mouth" he says of dinner. I've had worse. I might have even made worse once or twice.
Let me point out a few of the things that I did find peculiar. They all ate with spoons. There were forks on the table, but they didn't touch theirs. No napkins provided. Not a one in sight. Completely bizarre to me. Only water to drink. I had them pegged for unpasteurized goat's milk all the way. And, although I wasn't surprised, it was really strange for me to see just how strictly they adhere to their gender roles. Marion and the girls were responsible for the preparation, serving, and cleaning up of the meal. Typically in my house, if I cook, I don't clean.
After dinner was finished, we were treated to an a capella version of Amazing Grace in perfect 4 part harmony. I think it was the EP version, because no shit I think they sang like 5 verses. Who knew? At a certain point, I did have to choke back some inappropriate laughter (a nervous habit which is getting much worse as I age). Then, the men retired to their little section of the house to discuss the days' events.
I would ordinarily have joined in the post dinner conversation, but here I felt awkward, not invited. I respect this family on may levels, but I am really struggling to "play the part", if you will. It's not my intention to insult anyone, but at the same time, I think that insincerity would be even more insulting, so while I try to be respectful, I'm not going to hide my hair under a handkerchief, or wear a 3 piece, long sleeved dress. And I will not ever, under any circumstances, make it seem like I even remotely approve of arranged marriage. Restraint is not, and has never been, my strong suite. I think the reason I am able to bite my tongue nearly half as much as I am is because of Brett. It's very clear that in this culture, the man is the ruler of the family. I could give two shits what they think of me, but I love Brett, and I don't ever want to put him in the position of having to defend me or himself. So, I held back.
Good thing, too, because the shit that they were spewing might have sent me over the edge. It started with a sermon on "The Family Destroyer" aka television, followed up with a brief dissertation on the evils of organized sports.
And then, around 7:15, a beautiful thing happened. The babies started to fuss. Divine intervention? Perhaps. The result of a clever mother's plan to not nap her twins in the afternoon? More likely.
I rule this family.
Good night.
Amen.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hey how's your news? Would ya like to sing a tune?

Sometimes, things happen that although interesting(in my discriminating opinion), it's not exactly worth composing a complete blog.
Here's a few snippets....
Our refrigerator is not in our kitchen. It's in a sort of pantry/ mudroom off of the side of the kitchen. There is, however, a bathroom vaity and mirror in the kitchen. Peculiar.
Will started swimming lessons today. He did so well. I was near tears watching him from the spectator's room. He completely submerged himself, jumped in all alone, and even swam a bit all by himself. He'll be a champ at Centennial this Summer, I just know it.
Brett has to shovel coal to provide heat for the factory on a regular basis. At night, Sundays, and any other time Wayne isn't around, it is Brett's job. When he does it, I feel like I'm being transported back in time.
Ben and Sam are doing really well. They are saying a few words: Momma, Dadda, Will, Uh-Oh, Night-Night, Book. Their newest trick is climbing onto a kitchen chair, and then up on the table. We now have to put the chairs away. They go in the same room as the refrigerator.
We went to this HUGE pet store today. It was a good time killer. But why do sanke/ ferret/ fish people all look the same. So wierd. I get the feeling that they have trouble making the rent, but no problem buying mice for their anaconda. Lots of black denim and mustaches.
There is a really cool store her, 5 Below. You guessed it. Everything $5 or less. Good stuff, too. Our former nanny, Christine told us about it when she was here visiting last week.
I can't believe this whole Chris Brown/ Rhianna situation. That guy has pretty much fucked up his career beyond repair.
And lastly....THIS MAY BLOW YOUR FUCKING MIND IF YOU ARE A WACK JOB COUPON PERSON AND/OR LIKE TO RUN SCAMS ON LARGER CORPORATIONS....My anonymous friend gave me this tip: When you clip a coupon, you don't have to use it for the exact item mentioned on the coupon. The SKU number near the barcode simply needs to have the same 5 numbers as the item you purchase. For example, I had a coupon for $1.00 off any Ken's Steakhouse Marinade. I used it on Ken's Salad Dressing. A $1.50 off two boxes of Kellog's Pop-Tarts? Use it on cereal. Land O Lakes Cheese? Good for butter. I could go on and on. At first, I didn't believe that this would work. So, I tried it once at the self checkout aisle. No problem. Next time, I brought a shitload of them through the self checkout. Now, I bring them right to the regular line. Smooth sailing every time. It has completely changed my coupon clipping.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Somewhere Al Gore is weeping

"Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them." William Stone

In late 2007, I decided that my 2008 New Year's resolution would be to try and live a more green lifestyle. I'm not a hard-core environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination. But, I drive a piece of shit Saturn that gets great gas mileage. We have energy efficient bulbs in all of our lamps. We risk a drowning and bathe all of our kids together when possible. I have reusable grocery sacks that I forget in the piece of shit Saturn often, and I reuse the plastic grocery bags that I do accumulate. We give our used ink cartridges and batteries to a volunteer group as a means of fundraising. And, I am happy to say, I started to recycle all of our bottles and cans.
There are still plenty of things I could be doing (or not doing) to help our Earth, and I'm working on that. Then there are those things that I am not working on. My disposable diaper consumption is probably the most blatant, shameful example of my disregard for the planet. For the twins, we use approximately 14 diapers a day. Add to that Will's 7 diapers per day, factor in for the goal of potty training at 2 1/2, and that's almost 20,000 disposable diapers that my family will have deposited in landfills. Pretty awful, but I am unwilling to make the switch to cloth.
In Massachusetts, I sometimes felt like nearly everyone was doing more for the environment than me. Not the case in Pennsylvania. The Mennonites live off the land, which is not to say that they respect the earth. When we first arrived, Brett and I were more than just a little bit shocked to hear that our household trash would be disposed of by burning. That's right. Fill up a bag, and into the furnace it goes. Shit diapers. Cardboard. Leftovers. I couldn't believe it. the only things we don't burn are metal, glass, and extra thick plastic that would take too long to burn. You know what happens with this stuff? They burn it outside later.
I'm not going to lie and claim to know exactly what happens to my household trash after we bring it to the dump in Hudson. Maybe it's incinerated. Maybe not. But something about throwing a huge plastic bag into a fire feels wrong to me. We expressed our concerns to Wayne, to which he responded, "What else would you do with it?". This is how they handle trash around here. The other day I drove by a fire. They had a metal chain link fence in it. What the fuck?
They also don't dispose of their hazardous materials in any sort of safe or environmentally friendly way. Brett happened upon a 55 gallon drum of motor oil which was partially destroyed, leaving the oil leaking into the ground. Which feeds our well. Which provides our water for cooking and drinking. He tried to explain to Wayne that there are probably better ways to handle used motor oil, and that he would maybe get in trouble for dumping it that way. "If anyone finds out" was Wayne's answer for that one. Okay, sure. Maybe he won't be targeted by the EPA and declared a Superfund site, but isn't he concerned about the effect it could have on the food grown right near it? Or the animals that graze on the same property? Or the fish pulled out of the nearby streams?
No, apparently not. The Amish that we've come to know have a sort of above the law, holier than thou attitude when it comes to things like laws, taxes, and municipal regulations.
From what I can gather by the haphazard placement of farms, houses, retail, and industrial properties, there are either no laws or no enforcement regarding zoning. Wayne and his family do not pull permits for ANYTHING. They operate a full fledged business in what is technically a residential and farm area, as do most of his neighbors. I am almost positive that the spray booth is not vented properly. But I can't control him or them. I can't worry about what everyone in Lancaster County is doing. I am here to train a few people and get the fuck out. Back to liberal, tree hugging Massachusetts.
But, my burgeoning environmentalist heart did break a little bit when Wayne told me he had burnt the tire I was going to reuse for Will's swing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What? No 14 karat gold-dipped rose?

Happy Useless Valentine's Day. What a bullshit holiday. Had I been single, this day would probably make me feel depressed or excluded from the pointless festivities. If Brett and I were in a new relationship, we would have probably spent entirely too much money on gifts that we really didn't need. All in the name of love. Now that I have 3 children, things are a little different on Valentine's Day. For example, this year, I began my Valentine's shopping at Target in December. They had REALLY cute light blue felt gift bags in the dollar bin. They didn't look too "girly" so I picked them up. Over the past few weeks, I also collected a few items to fill those bags with. Some bath fizzies, a stuffed dog for each boy (Will named his Scarfy), a little bit of candy, and a new toothbrush for everyone. Nothing extravagant. It is only Valentine's Day after all I tried to remind myself. Then, I started to turn the corner and get into one of my holiday frenzies typically reserved for Christmas or birthdays. The kind where I drive myself insane trying to make the day perfect, coordinated, precious. The kind where I am temporarily rendered an amnesiac, forgetting that my children will not allow ANY day to be perfect. I reminded Brett a day ahead of time to get me a card so that I wouldn't be disappointed. I (along with some help from the good folks at Pillsbury)made Cinnamon Twists and orange juice with Will for breakfast. I hung balloons. There was crepe paper involved. If you know me at all, you're starting to get a picture of what was going down. And, I'm happy to say, everything turned out pretty well. We had a great red and pink, chocolate covered, conversation heart kind of morning. In fact, Will had these exact words to say about it, "This is the best Valentine's Day. You did a real good job. Thanks, Dad.". No shit.
video

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Buy one get one free

A little over a week ago, Brett, Will, Sam, Ben and I returned home from errands to find a plate of the most delicious peanut butter chocolate chip cookies had been left for us. A bit spooky that one of our neighbors (that we had never met) felt it appropriate to enter our home when we weren't there? Yes. But damn, those cookies were good.
The note attached read, "Welcome to the Neighborhood. Marvin and Jenny Coughlin, your neighbors at the bottom of the lane.". After eating the cookies, I wondered about this Jenny Coughlin. Will and I had been feeding her horses apples and carrots for a week or so now. I had done little more than caught glimpses of her in her handkerchief and long dresses, but I had seen enough to know that she probably didn't have email, if you catch my drift.
As fortune would have it, while Will and I were out for a walk today, we ran into one Ms. Jenny Coughlin, our neighbor at the bottom of the lane. Now, I've lowered my standards considerably since moving here, but I was stunned to see that Jenny Coughlin was a PYT. Perhaps my age or a bit younger, dirty blond hair, and slim. She was so friendly and seemed intelligent during our brief interaction. She was the kind of person I could see myself becoming friends with, had she not been wearing that ridiculous Little House on the Prarie garb.
She plans on stopping by for a visit soon so we can chat more and get to know each other better. Sweet. What good intentions. But, really, it won't be a meaningful or deep relationship. It's destined to fail. How will I be able to bite my tongue when she starts talking about religion? It blows my mind that a person, who seems pretty with it, doesn't believe in evolution. Like, really doesn't believe in it. She doesn't know the words to Love Shack. She covers her head to display her obedience to her husband. I struggle to find creative ways to show my disobedience.
But, the thing that really makes me wonder about Jenny Coughlin is her children, or, more noticeably, her lack of many children. She introduced me to her 2 year old son David. Her only. As I previously mentioned, she was slim. So, unless she is in the very early stages, she is not pregnant. Not peculiar by most standards, but here, getting pregnant is what these ladies live and pray for. I once read that an Amish or Mennonite wife can expect to have, on average, 7 live births. That is a lot of sex with your repressed, oppressive, dirty Amish or Mennonite husband. Even still, a pregnancy or birth here is a blessed event. So, it's no wonder that I CONSTANTLY get comments EVERYWHERE I go while dragging my babies around.
I live in Massachusetts, which lays claim to the title of "State with Highest Incidence of Twin Births", www.bostonmagazine.com/articles/double_trouble/ . I'm not used to getting this much attention for simply having three babies. They typically need to be having a ridiculously cute day, or be committing a horrendous act of misbehavior to garner even a second look. But in Lancaster County, PA, pushing twins is like pushing around a mini Britney Spears and K-Fed. Wal-Mart. Post office. Dollar Store. "Aren't they beautiful." "You have your hands full (insert chuckle that makes me want to deliver a crushing drop kick)." "Twins? What a blessing." Really, nothing could be further from the truth. I believe in something bigger than me, than all of us. But, no. I cannot and will not give JC credit for my twins. Actually, I got fucked when it came to the reproductive blessings department. I wonder if Jenny Coughlin did, too.
I hope not. My struggle with infertility was such an emotional and stressful journey for me. I feel very fortunate that it had a positive outcome, even if said outcome has created another emotional and stressful situation. That being said, I can't imagine not having been able to turn to science in addition to getting on my knees and praying. I remember so many people asking when I was going to have another baby. I remember how desperately Brett and I wanted another baby. I distinctly remember the pain of having my cervix clamped open while radioactive dye was injected to determine if it, and subsequently semen, could flow freely through my fallopian tubes.
Now, maybe Ms. Jenny Coughlin, our neighbor at the bottom of the lane doesn't want that last one. And, perhaps I'm being presumptuous, but I bet she really wants another child. Maybe she should have twins?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

M-I-S-S you much

Of course I miss my family and friends. But as far as my creature comforts, I miss the following things the most.
1.) Dunkin' Donuts coffee.
2.) My dishwasher.
3.) My mattress.
4.) Celia Gomes, the greatest house cleaner in the world.
5.) Television. Brett's antenna labyrinth of wires and metal, which results in barely visible reception of CBS, FOX, and PBS just isn't cutting it.
6.) Fresh snow peas, curry paste, and chourico. I cannot find these items in any grocery store around here.
7.) The Hudson Public Library Children's Department. I'm no library expert, but I think they may have the best Children's Department ever.
8.) Minorities. Not a (openly) gay or hispanic person as far as the eye can see.
9.) Good Chinese food. While we were eating our Wok-N-Roll, I kept thinking it tasted like a 50/50 blend of gynecology and Alpo. Almost made myself throw up.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Glorified Flurry

Will started preschool on Monday. Cocalico Care Center reminds me a bit of Cherub's Haven, his old school. A little bit ratty, but comfortable, safe, and friendly. Unlike the UGro Learning Center we toured when we first got to PA, it is a place where they make projects, not have art experiences. He was sold on the place when he spotted a Sponge Bob Squarepants pillow.
At pick up, his teachers told me he had a great day, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy it. On the ride home, Will himself told me all about his new friend Jack. He was excited for day 2, and I was feeling quite proud at our being uncharacteristically on time for both Monday and Wednesday.
Preschool starts at 8:45 here. We live about 10 minutes away, so my goal is to be dressed, have all of my 3 children dressed and fed, send Brett to work, and be out the door by 8:30. Let me tell you; this is no easy feat. Waking up a 4 year old is a delicate task, not to be rushed. There can be no flicking on of the lights, or yelling, "Time to get up!" God, no. To do so could put a huge kink in our schedule. Waking up on the wrong side of the bed for this kid could trigger a tantrum, a hunger strike, or, far worse, refusal to attend school altogether. Will likes to be eased into his day, and Brett and I try to appease him while feeding the babies/ cleaning the babies/ changing the babies/ gulping our coffee/ getting ourselves dressed/ brushing our teeth. What's that, you ask? I must've forgotten to include showering in my list of A.M. to-do's? Not likely on M-W-F, friends. That is a task to be accomplished on either T-TH PM, or M-W-F at approximately 2:00. Good stuff.
So, you might be able to appreciate and understand my being puzzled/ angered/ amazed at being told of a 45 minute delay when I proudly arrived at 9:43. There was, quite literally, an immeasurable amount of snow on the ground. MAYBE 1/64 of an inch. I was not even wearing a coat. Perhaps I was a bit snide when asking, "Is that normal?". They instructed me to watch the local news for updates on closings/ delays when the weather gets "bad like this". Guess who CAN'T WATCH THE NEWS BECAUSE WE STILL DON'T HAVE CABLE? I hope we get a fucking blizzard so they know what bad weather is really like.
At any rate, Will and I took advantage of our extra time with an extended stop at the grocery store and drive through coffee from Burger King. And, the day wasn't totally lost. When school finally did begin, I ran into Jack's mom, who handed me Will's first Pennsylvania birthday party invitation. Why can't it be that easy for adults to make new friends?

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Sad Day

My friend J.'s mother passed away today.
It's funny the way seeing someone lose someone they love makes you think about the people you love most. I'm not anywhere near ready to lose my mom. I cry at the mere thought of it. I feel like I might just stay in the fetal position in my bed for weeks on end without talking to a single soul.
But J. didn't love her mom any less than I love mine, and she has soldiered on these past few weeks. She has managed to get out of bed every day, and take care of her kids and keep in touch with her friends, and host her Desperate Housewives party.
How could she even call me to give me an update on her mom's condition? Why did she even care to ask how I was? I would've been totally fine with a completely one-sided conversation, because no matter what I could say to her, I couldn't give her another shopping trip or Labor Day parade with her mom. There is nothing I can do to ease her pain, but ultimately, I know she'll keep going. Because even though she lost her mom, she still has to be a mom to her kids, and that can give you strength you never knew you had.