Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cookie-gate Resolved (And I Cut Off The Tip Of My Finger!)

Since I just know people are sitting on the edges of their seats waiting to hear all about how Cookie-gate turned out...

It turns out I blew up all over nothing.

Yep, yours truly got all wound up and frothing at the mouth over a misunderstanding. It seems that the preschool teacher got too many cookies from all the various moms last week, so she decided the class would have two parties - one last Friday before Easter and one later this week. She handed out the homemade cookies on Friday, since they weren't sealed in packages. Thus Cassie's cookies were 'the wrong type of cookies.' Because the cookies I picked up were sealed in a plastic container, Ms. D. thought they were more likely to stay fresh until next week, so she set them aside for the second party. But Cassie, being five, didn't understand this and so that's why she was upset. But she's much happier now that they've had the second party and she's gotten to share her cookies with the rest of her classmates.

And do I feel like a dumb-ass about all this?

Well, maybe...

I do think I've had more than a few bones to pick with Ms. D., and justifiably so, but this particular incident just goes to show the hazards of feeling antagonistic toward a teacher. Fortunately, I realized that there might be some sort of misunderstanding going on before Monday came around, so I made sure that Michael was the one who asked about the cookies that day instead of me, because I was still in an uproar even then. Michael's got a much cooler head than I do, and I know this and I rely on this, which is the best proof I have that yes, I do actually have a brain. That and the fact that I took Mary's advice to calm down and not go in with guns blazing over two packages of cookies. Good advice, by the way.

Meanwhile, this whole thing makes me realize a few things. First, I shouldn't let previous incidents color my understanding of current goings-on between Cassie and her teachers, especially when my knowledge of current goings-on comes only from Cassie. She's five. She's smart. She's honest. But she's **five**, and she gets confused.

Second, I'm still way too stressed from the previous weeks leading up to my major mental freak-out the other week. I need to calm down. But it's hard to do that when...

Third, I've quit breastfeeding and my hormones are on a rampage. My emotions are just running amok and I get pissed over every little thing still. Plus my boobs hurt and I somehow gained five pounds in one night which was really uncomfortable for a few days. The extra weight did disappear, but the hormones are still doing their freaky-ass thing, so I need to make extra sure I don't bite off anyone's head unnecessarily.

And finally, I need to remember that above all else, when my hormones are out of control and I'm in a bad mood, I should be extra careful when slicing onions because I just about julienned the middle finger of my left hand on Saturday night, and that's making it rather hard to type right now.

Therefore, I'm going to bed.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Now I'm Mad

I had planned to write tonight about how nice my week has gone. I've slowed down, quit worrying about the housework, I've taken naps most afternoons, and spent more time with Michael and the kids. And it's been nice... really, really nice.

But now I'm pissed.

Cassie had an Easter party at her pre-school today. I got the request to bring in cookies last week. Being overloaded and short on time, I thought I'd buy some nice cookies from the store. Not just any old box of Oreos, mind you, but actual Easter cookies with decorations from the bakery section.

So I bought the cookies yesterday, Thursday, to make sure they'd be reasonably fresh. No point in buying cookies a week in advance just to have them go stale before the party, right? Because no one should have to eat stale cookies at a party. Then Thursday afternoon when I went to pick up Cassie from pre-school, one of her teachers, Ms. D, asked me if I'd forgotten to get the cookies.

"No, I got them this afternoon. Cassie is bringing them in tomorrow morning."

"Oh!" said Ms. D. "See, we expect the moms to bring stuff in a few days before, so we know we've got it all."

"Well that's the first time I've heard of this," I replied.

"Yeah," Ms. D went on. "All the other moms have been bringing stuff in all week long. We just thought maybe you forgot."

"No," I said, a little annoyed. "I bought Easter cookies today, and Cassie will bring them in tomorrow. If you needed them earlier, I'm sorry, but there was nothing on the note you sent out saying anything about that."

"Oh well, I guess it'll be okay."

After that conversation, I was a little annoyed about not being told to bring stuff in earlier in the week. But only a little. I figure, it's no big deal, right? Let the matter drop.

So Cassie went in this morning with two boxes of Easter cookies, and let me tell you, they were nice cookies - shortbread in the shape of eggs and lilies and rabbits with lots of sparkly pastel sprinkles and dipped in chocolate on the back. And they were BIG cookies, and when Cassie saw them, her eyes lit up and she got really excited about bringing them in and sharing them with her classmates, and I thought, "Yeah, I picked out some good cookies. The kids are really going to enjoy these."

Only they never got the chance.

I picked up Cassie at pre-school around 4:30PM today. Ms. D sat in a chair, watching the kids' afternoon movie, and said "Hi" but that was it. I took Cassie home, made her and Sam a snack, Michael brought home dinner, we watched a movie, yadda, yadda, yadda. At bedtime, Cassie came downstairs to kiss me good night. "How did your Easter party at school turn out?" I asked. "Okay, but Ms. D wouldn't hand out my cookies."


"Uh, what do you mean?" I asked. "Daddy did hand her the cookies, right?"

"Uh-huh, but Ms. D decided not to hand them out at the party, so we only ate Sally's mommy's cookies instead."

Say what?!

"Why didn't Ms. D hand out the cookies?" I asked, starting to fume.

"She said they were the wrong kind."

Cassie was visibly upset about this, and I was suddenly struggling to keep my cool, because I could just imagine Ms. D giving Cassie a stern lecture about how the cookies were the wrong kind and there was no way she was handing them out so quit bugging her and go sit down. Obviously, I don't know exactly how it went, but I've dealt with Ms. D before, and I think I've got a pretty good idea of how she probably bulldozed over my kid over something small and stupid. And it pisses me off, because this is not the first time we've had a situation like this.

There have been a few times over the past year and a half that Cassie has been in that class that Ms. D has informed either Cassie or myself that we have not met some sort of unwritten standard. The first time was way back in January 2007, right after Cassie had moved up to the 4-year-olds' class, and Ms. D complained that Cassie could barely write her name. Now I specifically asked before allowing Cassie to be moved up if there were any prerequisites that she needed to have before going in there, and I was told no, that Cassie could sit still and pay attention for more than five minutes so she was more than ready. But Ms. D seemed to think that Cassie had a learning problem because she couldn't write her name perfectly within the first month of joining the class. She wasn't even four yet, for Christ's sake!

Later on the following summer, we had the "bag lunch" incident. Cassie's class went on a field trip. I got a note saying to pack a bag lunch. I thought, "I'll get a cooler bag for Cassie so that her milk and the cheese in her sandwich don't go bad." That afternoon after the field trip, I got a lecture on how it's too hard for the teachers to deal with cooler bags and I should have known to pack everything in a disposable grocery bag. Except how am I supposed to know this when it wasn't specifically stated? When I went to school, you didn't use grocery bags for lunches, you used a METAL lunch box, and you certainly didn't throw the damn thing out after one meal.

Since then, I've heard complaints that Cassie can't color in the lines, which apparently will cause her to flunk out of kindergarten next year because in kindergarten they take those things very seriously. Imagine the horrified look on Ms. D's face when I told her that I was a professional artist and that I consider coloring in the lines to be a sign of creative death and dictatorial brain-washing. And no, I wasn't joking.

Then we had a lovely incident over the holidays when another child accused Cassie of tearing a paper pop-up play-set that she had brought in. This child swore that Cassie had torn the play-set, so Ms. D put Cassie in time out, and when I came in, she told me that Cassie had torn the play-set and had gotten into trouble for it. And I, believing that this was exactly what had happened because Ms. D surely wouldn't have put Cassie in time out otherwise, gave Cassie a stern lecture about being careful with other people's property and then I made Cassie apologize to the other child. Then, just as we were leaving, the other child's mother showed up, and I took the opportunity to offer to pay for a new play-set, and the mother said, "Well, let's look at the damage first." And she pulled out the play-set and set it up and looked it over and couldn't find a single thing wrong with it. Nothing was torn, nothing was out of place. It was as good as new. And then the other child looked at it and couldn't find the spot where Cassie had supposedly torn it because it wasn't there. So that child had to apologize to Cassie, and I apologized too for lecturing her when she hadn't done anything wrong. But Ms. D? Oh, she just got this funny look on her face and walked away.


Oh, and let's not forget the time Ms. D told me that Cassie was probably ADD and would most likely be culled from kindergarten because every now and then, Cassie spaces out in class. And this is how I found out about THIS particular issue...

Ms. D: "Just so you know, Cassie's not been paying attention very well in school this past week."

Me: "Well, that's probably a hold over from too much TV at home over the holidays. We're back on a stricter schedule, so I'm sure she'll straighten out soon. If you have any problems though, please let me know."

Ms. D: "Oh, we've been having this problem since day one. It's just that lately, it's gotten a lot worse."

Me: "Huh?"

Ms. D: "Cassie always spaces out, she's always the last one to finish up her meals, always has to be reminded to finish up her work... You know if she continues like this in kindergarten, they'll probably diagnose her as ADD."

Me: "And this has been a problem for HOW LONG?"

Ms. D: "Since her first day here."

Me: "That was over a year ago. And you're telling me about this NOW?!"

Please explain to me, what kind of fool notices a problem and says nothing about it for over a year? Oh, and for the record, kids can only be diagnosed by doctors, not by teachers, and our doctor told me that no one would even consider looking at a child and labeling them as ADD if they were younger than six, and even then, it's questionable.

But we've moved past the ADD thing, and the coloring thing, and the Cassie-can't-write-her-name thing and the Cassie-got-punished-for-something-she-didn't-do-thing, and now we're on the Cassie-brought-in-the-wrong-cookies thing. And I've about had it. Yeah, it's a stupid little thing, but here's my beef. First, if there was a specific type of cookie that was considered "wrong" as opposed to "right," then why wasn't that specified in the note that was sent out? The only problem I can think of is that the cookies had chocolate on the back of them, so the kids might have gotten their hands a bit messy, but isn't that what napkins and paper towels are for? And doesn't the classroom have a sink with soap and water? And aren't the kids required to eat IN THEIR SEATS LIKE GOOD LITTLE MINDLESS ZOMBIES SO THEY CAN'T POSSIBLY MAKE THAT MUCH OF A MESS ANYWAY?! Oh, and if Ms. D didn't pass out the cookies to the class at the party, what did she do with them? Pass them out to the other teachers and staff? Eat them herself? She sure as hell didn't hand them back to me, the person who paid for them.

So I want to know. What was wrong with the cookies? Where are they now? And why did I have to find out about this whole mess from my daughter instead of her teacher? Hmmmm? Let me tell you something. Come Monday afternoon, when I arrive to pick up Cassie, I am going to find out the answers to those questions, and then regardless of what happened to the cookies, Ms. D is going to say thank you to Cassie for bringing them in, especially if those cookies got eaten by the staff instead of the children they were meant for. And if Ms. D doesn't say thank you to Cassie, then one of the pre-school administrators WILL because I'm tired of this garbage, and Ms. D is going to find that out in no uncertain terms.

I'll let you know how it goes...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Welcome To My Week-Long Total Freak Out

So I had a nervous breakdown or three this past week. Actually, I probably had even more than that. I have been stressed out for a while now, trying to get **WORK** done because I am a **PROFESSIONAL WRITER/ARTIST/STAY-AT-HOME-MOM** who has responsibilities and drop-dead-lines and a career to forge, blah, blah, blah, blah...

The last several months have just hit me like a steam roller, smashing me flat over and over again. It's partly due to the amount of work that suddenly fell into my lap (four art commissions at once!), plus the extra work that I created for myself (New podcast! Write and record a new story every week! Promote EPIC VA and market your writing career! Make personal appearances at conventions!). And it's partly the fault of my own anal retentiveness over the state of cleaning in the house (Must do laundry every day! Must mop and dust once a week! Scrub those toilets! Clean that shower! Scour that sink!). Oh, and don't forget exercise (Swim 20+ laps three times a week! Karate class twice a week! Practice 2-3 times a week! Walk! Stretch! It's good for you, dammit!).

Jesus Christ Almighty. Who the fuck was I kidding? Not even Wonder Woman could do all that every day. But I sure as hell tried. Have been trying for the last several months. I think it started back in August, when the art commissions came in. About that time I started up the EPIC VA group. And then I started working on the podcast in September. And the housecleaning thing? That particular losing battle got started the month before Sam was born. I can recall being eight months pregnant and having so much energy that I could get up at 4:30 AM **before my alarm went off** and being all excited about doing a couple of hours of housecleaning. Only it didn't seem like a couple of hours, because I was doing the Fly Lady thing, and which turns housecleaning into 15 minute blocks scattered throughout the day, mixed in with 15 minute blocks of other stuff in between, like work, playtime with the kids, exercise, etc.

Not to knock Fly Lady, because she's got some really good ideas there, but parceling my life out in 15 minute segments to do all the shit I thought I needed to do was really killing me.
Anyway, I've been trying to juggle too many chainsaws at once, and failing at it. On the days that I managed to do all the stuff I told myself I had to do, I felt like I was running one massive long marathon, with no end in sight. I was getting up almost two hours before Michael was (and resenting him for sleeping in) and going to bed an hour before he was. This made it seem like we lived in two separate time zones, even though we were in the same house. I only saw Michael when he was asleep, and many mornings this frequently led to me not getting out of bed at the ungodly hour of **5AM** because if I did, I was giving up quality time with my husband. Yeah, sleeping with my husband was considered quality time. Unfortunately, it wasn't the fun kind of sleeping with my husband.

What was really bad was what all this **WORK I HAD TO DO** was doing to my temper. I was so frantic and so harried and so overscheduled that I had no patience left, especially with the kids. I resented every minute I had to take to herd them along through the day. Five-year-olds and toddlers do not move fast, nor do they live their days parceled out in blocks of 15 minutes. I was yelling at both kids way too often, and then on top of it I was yelling at Michael because his attitude was a bit more slack than mine and he wasn't doing things **EXACTLY THE WAY I WANTED THEM DONE, ESPECIALLY THE HOUSE CLEANING WHICH WAS DRIVING ME NUTS AND DIDN'T HE UNDERSTAND HOW HARD I WORKED TO TAKE CARE OF THE HOUSE AND THE KIDS AND HOW WOULD HE LIKE TO DO HIS OWN DAMN LAUNDRY BECAUSE I'M TIRED OF PICKING UP AFTER HIM**.

So yeah, this sort of shit has been going on for months now and last week it sort of all came to a head and I have three or four meltdowns in a row and then something miraculous happened.

The car went into the shop.

Huh? Say what? What does your car being in the shop have to do with melt-downs and sanity-salvation, Helen?

See, it was like this. The steering column in the SUV was making this horrendous squeaking noise every time I turned the wheel. I ignored it for a while, because I really, really didn't want to spend several hours chasing Sam through the Saturn dealership while someone fixed my car. I had too much shit to do, see? And besides, I've been in that dealership often enough in the past few months that I'm sick of it. The people who work there are really nice and they're very patient with Sam, but they make crap coffee. Anyway, the squeaking noise in the steering column got so bad that last week I finally couldn't ignore it anymore so I finally broke down and made an appointment to have the car repaired on Friday. Only when I made it, I decided to drop the car off **the night before**. That meant I would be stuck at home all day Friday, unable to go to the gym or anyplace else, but hey, it beat being stuck at the dealership with the crap coffee with nothing to do but chase a screaming toddler.

So Thursday evening came. Everybody in the family had a raging cold that day. I had spent the previous several days killing myself to finish up a commission, which still needed a lot of work, and I was dead on my feet. When I picked Cassie up from preschool, I decided I was simply too fried to make dinner, so I called in an order for Chinese. Michael picked it up, brought it home, and we ate a really delicious but very-bad-for-us meal. Then we all piled into the cars and took the SUV to the Saturn place and left it there. When we got home, I sat down at my computer and went back to work on the bloody art commission that had become the bane of my existence. And I worked on it until 2AM.

Crazy, neh? Typical overworked stay-at-home mom shit. But then Friday came and this is where the miracle really started. Because I had been up until 2AM, **I decided to sleep late**. That's right. I shut off all three of my alarms (because I've been so damned tired I actually needed **three alarms** to get my ass out of bed) and I slept in. I let Michael get Cassie up and ready for school. Somehow, they got themselves breakfast and made it out the door. I don't know how. I slept through it all. And then around 9AM (oh my gawd, did I really sleep until 9AM?!), I woke up feeling pretty decent and got out of bed. And I made breakfast - Captain Crunch for me and yogurt for Sam - and I brought it upstairs to the master bathroom, and then I got Sam up and we both got undressed and we took a bath while we ate breakfast. And that worked out pretty well. And since I was feeling lazy and I'd been up so late and I didn't have a car anyway so I couldn't go to the Y, I decided to say, "Fuck it!" and didn't bother to do any exercise. I did fold some laundry, but that was really more an excuse to listen to some podcasts. And I let Sam watch two hours of TV, which I watched with her while I worked on the bloody art commission. And while I did this, all I could think of was, Jeeze! When was the last time I watched TV? When was the last time I just goofed off?

The rest of the day went pretty much like that. We had a simple lunch with Michael (holy cow, we were both awake and talking!) and afterwards I took Sam out for a walk. While she ran around in the field behind our house, I followed along taking pictures of whatever caught my interest, and it was nice. The weather was warm, flowers were blooming, Sam played in the dirt and I had absolutely nowhere I had to be because hey, my car was in the shop.

Sam went down for a nap after that, and I kept working on the bloody art commission, which was now actually turning out to be kind of fun because by this point I had decided it was the only thing I was going to work on that day so now I could actually take some time to play around with it. And it came out sooooooooo nice. Mary's seen it and she likes it so I know it's good. And when it was done, I sent it off to the client and he likes it too, which means he'll pay for it now and that makes **me** happy. Then around 5PM, Michael came home to get me and Sam and we all went to get Cassie at preschool and then we picked up the car and I took the girls home and make leftovers for dinner - Chinese with mashed potatoes and green beans. Yum!

And then we all watched some TV and I tinkered around with the art commission a bit more and bedtime came and the girls went down fairly easy and no one was shouting, especially me, and I stayed up too late after that but I didn't care and I still got a good night of sleep because I slept through the alarm the next morning but I was only a little cranky about that because we still got to Cassie's karate class on time and I was able to do the writing work I had meant to do at **bloody 5AM** while sitting in the dojo watching my girl do her Okinawa thing and then the rest of the day I just sort of relaxed and went along with the flow because I was wearing my favorite Hawaiian shirt with my favorite pirate socks and the weather was sooooooo nice again so I took the girls out for a photo safari and we took pictures of tree bark and tiny flowers and a little bumble bee and all the spring-is-in-the air stuff inspired me to write the coolest story for my podcast and then Mary and Shawn came over for dinner and karate and we all had a good time even though the pork chops I cooked turned out kind of lame.

And all this happened because the car was in the shop all day Friday.

I took a break. I had no choice - the damn car was in the shop. And afterwards I felt better than I had in months. So good that it makes me cry thinking about how damn hard I've been flogging myself to make things happen. So I'm rethinking some things this week. I'm going to keep wearing my Hawaiian shirts and just work on one thing at a time and I'm going to slooooooooooow down because honest to god, nothing I do has to happen except for taking care of the kids, my husband, and myself. I have been so stressed out over all this other shit that I told myself I had to do to succeed as a writer-artist-mom, that I felt like I was working back at Langley AFB again. And everyone who knows me knows how bad that job was. When I quit that place I swore I would never work under those conditions again. And yet somehow I recreated all that right in my own home. Well not anymore.

I'm goofing off today. I'm gonna listen to some podcasts while I fold a little laundry. I've got an article to start for ERWA. Maybe I'll write a little flash fiction I've had in my head and send that in to the writer's group. But I'm only doing those things because I want to, not because I have to. And none of it has to get done today. As for the other stuff that's on my list? Well, all that shit can wait its turn, can't it? I mean, it'll still be there when I'm ready for it. I'm pretty certain of that.

So that's all for now. Chill, dudes.