Thursday, October 30, 2008

Enough with the viruses already!

But not the kind I usually deal with in the fall. But I can't say anything about that, because as soon as I gloat, we get something. Some sort of vomiting or random fever for a week - such loveliness.

Gah! I'm so over computer viruses. I swear, you can't even breathe near this computer without it getting something. If it started sneezing, I wouldn't be surprised.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


My kid is the one in white with his arms wrapped around the kid with the ball. That's why I love football. But I also love that this is the last weekend. For the year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


When my husband decided to be a police officer, nearly eight years ago, he took a rather large paycut. It was a conscious decision, one that we didn't take lightly, but we took in the best interest of our family.

When we took that paycut, we obviously looked at our bills and our expenses and also took cuts. One of those decisions was to sell the house we were in, buy a smaller one close to where he worked. This not only lowered the amount that we owed on our mortgage, but also made it so that his old truck could make it a few more years.

Here's where my frustration lies. When we sold our first house, as soon as our lender found out that we were downsizing, she offered to find us a loan to refinance that house so that we could stay. No problem, she says, I can keep you in that house.

No, thank you, I said.


Yes, I understand that your corporation is willing to lend us the money. Yes, I understand that we qualify for the loan. Yes, I'm sure that you have some 5-year ARMs are really great products. Yes, thank you, but I've looked at my budget and what I feel comfortable spending each month based on the salary that my husband has and I'd feel happier with a smaller house and a smaller mortgage.

Oh, you mean I deserve a bigger house? Oh, you mean I can just tell you an amount of money that my husband makes that may or may not be true? Oh. Um. Yeah.

Could I please just have the loan that I asked for on the smaller more affordable house? Yes, thank you.

I remember this conversation so well. Clearly. And I'm frustrated. Because I don't even get so much as a thank you note from the government.

Dear Fiveberries in Texas:

Thank you so much for paying your mortgage on time every month. Thank you for not taking an ARM loan that you couldn't afford when the interest rate adjusted. Thank you for not taking on a mortgage that you knew full well would stretch your family's budget too thin.

Thanks for not asking us to bail you out. Thanks for not demanding the government help you out of the predicament that you put yourself in. Thanks for not involving us in an agreement that you made with a private corporation that you'd pay them back the money you owed them.


The Government.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

No changes

I have been driving the same car for nine years.

I have been living in the same house for two and a half years.

I have been parking that car in the same place for the past two and a half years.

I sometimes even park in in that place at night.

So HOW did I manage to take a chunk out of my fence with the side of my car? HOW???

We did assess the damage and neither were fatally injured. Which is fortunate, because I'd much rather admit to my husband what I did than admit it to my mechanic. Because it's difficult to watch a grown man cry. BECAUSE HE'S LAUGHING SO HARD AT YOU.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why nobody sews anymore.

Because they decided that they'd learn to sew by making their kid a Halloween costume. And then they never sewed again, because all that ended up happening was broken thread, wobbly seams, wonky stretchy fabric and a kid who cried on Halloween when they had the lamest costume on the block. And lots and lots of swearing. And maybe a little banging of the head against the sewing machine.


P.S. If fabric stores were smarter, they wouldn't carry any of that awful fabric for Halloween costumes and encourage people NOT to start with the most difficult thing ever to sew. Because slippery knits? Fake fur? Shiny? NOT EASY. And then, THEN! they have the nerve to add a zipper to the costume. Yeah. I'd totally quit, too.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I screamed like a girl today.

I mean, I screamed. LOUD.

I'll start at the beginning. I was driving home from errands today, and decided that today would be the perfect day to wash the windows. It's been on my to-do list for, I don't know, two years? Two and a half years? You get the point. Today was the day.

I came in, informed my husband that it was going to happen, that I'd love to have his company. Which means, "HELP ME OR YOU'RE IN BIG TROUBLE, BUDDY." He got the point. He was finishing up his lunch, then was going to come help me. I went to go get started.

First things first. I needed to find the window stuff I'd bought a year ago, with the intend of washing said windows. I was sure that it was right there in the middle of the floor of the garage right under that pile of plastic bags to be recycled.

I picked up a bag full of bags to toss to another part of the, ahem, well organized garage. It felt heavy. Weird, for a bag full of empty plastic grocery bags. I looked inside.

This is the part of the story where I scream like a girl. And then go running in the house, yelling for my husband that I need help, and I need help right now. He, I'm sure, thinks that someone is attacking me or that I've broken my leg, except that I'm running in the house. He came running. I managed to finally speak the information he needed.


I was unable to speak further, only point at the location in question. He removed the bag in question. The mouse is now living happily, I'm sure, in my garbage can. My husband kindly pointed out that I never put anything in there anyways. I assured him that I certainly won't this week.

The good news is that not only are the windows clean, but the garage has been cleaned out, too.

I'm not sure I'll be sleeping again until Monday.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How I got my job.

My sister asks:

"How did you get into the sewing/draperies business? What do you love the most about it?"

I started making drapes shortly after the oldest child was born. I made them for my house. I made them for my neighbor. I made them for her friend. I made them for her friend's friend. It snowballed from there.

I have been working only on referrals for the last nine years, without a break. Well, except for last summer when I didn't take on any new work for three months. Even though I never did get a break.

I love my job for a million reasons. I can make my own hours. I can go on field trips with my children. I work while they sleep. Heck, now I can work while they play. I never had to put them in daycare, but could still make enough money to help my family. Those are the practical reasons why.

But the other reasons? I get to work with fabric. I get to make things for people that I'd never otherwise do. I get to be creative - I can walk into a room and design a window treatment that I think will set off a room. In my head. I get to meet people that I'd otherwise not ever have met. I create something beautiful (almost) every day.

I am able to stay at home with my children, yet I have something for me that keeps my mind moving in directions other than bodily functions and cleaning. I solve problems every day, but I get to use my inability to think in straight lines to work for me, rather than against me.

I believe that my job is a gift that was given to me, for me to succeed at or to fail at. But, through hard work and honesty, I have been able to be successful, and to get better and better at it with each day. I am grateful for it in so many ways.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What would life be like if I wasn't a wife and mother...

Green Tractor asks:

"Any idea about what you'd like to do as a profession if you couldn't be a wife & mother?"

There are two ways that I think of this question. What would me life be like had I not started down the path I started? And, if I am who I am now but wasn't a wife and mother?

So if my 20 year old self didn't marry Sarge, where would my life possibly have gone? You mean after the hopeless disastrous mess of sobbing and pining for the one that got away? I'm not sure I would have ever gotten past that. Ahem. You mean if I would have.

I think without Sarge, I would have gone on some soul searching adventure, like Teach for America or some such volunteer-ish adventure. I don't think that I would have stayed in Boston, but I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have gone back home to California either. I think. I'd like to think that my adventures would have led me to some non-profit organization or teeny-tiny profit organization where I could live on a shoestring in some sort of place where you carried mace with you all the time. I actually spend a large portion of my time as a teen volunteering for all kinds of organizations with all kinds of people - I'd like to think that I would have continued that, were it not for a wonderful man who got nervous when I would head out to all kinds of parts of town with nothing more than a train token on me. Practicality. Harrumph.

However, if the me who I am today were to get a job that I could get without worry of a ten year gap on my resume or a very strange job history or, oh, I don't know, qualifications? And I could do anything I pleased without worry of practicality, childcare or health benefits? Oh, my. A National Park Ranger? Alternative Energy? Shrink? Auto Mechanic? Farmer? Fabric Creator? Ice Cream Taster? Foster Parent? Bridge Builder?

Things that would NEVER fall on the list? Personal Trainer. Cop. President (they go gray so quickly). Computer Programmer - sorry dad. Housekeeper. Anything with the word "hospitality" in it. Anything that involved bodily fluids. Professional Organizer. Wal-Mart at Christmas. Sales. Anything that required precision. Hmm. I think this list might be longer.

I'm sure I could go on and on. I think that all of the things that are on the list have a common thread. I'm not terribly interested in making wads of cash. I want to create things or at least leave the world better than I left it. I would love to make alternative energy a real and viable resource for more people. I would also love to create fabrics - there are so many that I think I should be able to find that just don't exist. And, at the end of college, one of my professors planted the seed that I should become a shrink, and it's always interested me. But don't tell Sarge - he thinks that shrinks are quacky.

The ice cream tasting job - that would be for pure pleasure. I'd have to live at work, though - after a month or two, I wouldn't be able to fit out the double doors anymore. But can you imagine the job satisfaction rate for that kind of position? Or the competition for the job?

But, practicality always plays into it for me. I have an awesome job that I love (that explanation's coming - promise!) that provides me a creative outlet that I so desperately need and it gives me the flexibility to work around my family. But I work for the meanest boss. She makes such ridiculous demands and deadlines and makes me stay up until all hours of the night. If she weren't me, I'd have quit years ago.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An easier, less deep question answered

My sister asks:

"If you could go anywhere on vacation (with or without kids... you choose), where would you go, what would you do, etc (if cost weren't an issue!)?"

Short answer: Everywhere. Anywhere.

As I think I've written about before, we want our kids to see all fifty states before they are adults. Mostly because my husband and I want to, and because we both like complete sets of things. It wouldn't suit either one of us to have seen 49 states. Even if the state left behind were New Jersey, we'd make the effort, simply to have a complete set. It's just an obsession we both have (I never thought I'd find anyone like me in that regard!)

So, yeah, I'd start with our country, just because there's so much of it. We are trying to decide if we want to head to the Carolinas this summer or if we're ready to hike in Colorado and Utah. I think we're leaning toward waiting one more year for Colorado and Utah, even though we're both dying to go there.

HOWEVER. Lately, I've been itching to get away just for a weekend with Sarge to a random big city, not rent a car and just take public transportation everywhere and hit all the little random restaurants that can be found in a four day period. The public transportation thing limits us a little, as does my complete lack of desire to go to NYC.

Every place we go, we always try to look at from the perspective of what it would like to live there. We have a difficult time being simply tourists, though we did a pretty good job in Tennessee (mostly because we decided pretty quickly that we wouldn't want to live near where we were visiting, that it made a much better place just to visit).

I used to think it was irresponsible to travel to a place where you didn't know the language, which pretty much limited me to the U.S., some parts of Canada, the parts of Mexico where they speak Spanglish and England, though I'm pretty sure there would be a small language barrier there, too. But I'm maturing, I guess, or becoming more of a Stupid American and deciding that I would love to see more of the world as an adventure. So maybe Paris. Because that's so cliche.

Still, the short answer and the long answer remain the same. I want to go anywhere. And everywhere. I want to see all the National Parks. I want to see all the beauty that this world has to offer. And I want to see how other people live. But heck, I'd even be glad to get away for a weekend to Austin. Or even Fort Worth. I'm not terribly picky.


Allowing the pictures that your children drew in the dust to collect dust : Posting pictures of it on the internet

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why I hate computers.

Green Tractor asks:

"How did it happen that computers never really caught on with you? You certainly were exposed to them earlier than most of your peers. I sure hope it wasn't your experience with NULL pointers in pascal. I guess I always expected that there would be at least one computer nerd among you three."

Again, my dad has other insight here. I can't even explain properly here what I did to my father's computer when I was in high school. I was in an AP Computers class, and if I may date myself, we were programming in Pascal. To those who are also not computer geeks, Pascal = dinosaur era programming. I think it went something like this:

"Let's see if my program works this time!"

"Um, Dad? Could you come here a second? The computer just belched and smoke started coming out of the hard drive. Is that bad?"

There was muttering and mumbling from my father, I think something about how he was hoping that my career as a computer geek would someday pay for his old folks home and then some swearing, but mostly a lot of "you need to go tell your mother this is why I save all the floppy disks for recreating the computer as we knew it before you ran your program. And all the books too, while you're at it."

Short answer: I am not a linear thinker.

I can create and think and dream up problems and their solutions but then can't follow through with the daily monotony of actually seeing the problems through to their solutions. If it weren't for my husband, there would likely be days that the children were sent to school without their shoes on.

For example. The children were sick. I researched and shopped for the vitamins and other things that they would need to actually get out of the house and stop going to the doctor every week. I purchased said vitamins. I gave them to them for a week and counted it as a success. We would still probably have those original vitamins were it not for my husband following through and actually giving the children their vitamins every day.

I can't do a job that would require me to have a predetermined set of tasks to complete each day. And for computer programming, that would require using quotation marks and brackets in the proper place at the proper time. I seem to recall some shouting at the computer when I was trying to make it do what I wanted, "BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT I WANTED IT TO DO!!" And my dad would patiently tell me that computers always do exactly what you tell it to do. But the machine I work on would be required to do what I intended for it to do, not just what I told it to do. Because that's just frustrating.

My dad has a habit of answering the question that we ask, but not the question that he is completely aware that we are asking him. "Dad, what's up?" Yes, my father will answer "Satellites" or "the ceiling". I think it's because my father is part computer. Or just trying to get us to think like programmers. Whatever it is, it certainly incited lots of eyeball rolling from teenaged daughters.

Which, if I really think about it, this really just proves that I would make a great manager of programmers. I can think up the problems, then think up the solution, then tell someone else to do all the minutiae. And then tell them they did it wrong and to do it all over. And then go look for new programmers after all those ones quit because I'm so aggravating.

I certainly wish that computer thing would have caught on with me. I wish I could program these stupid things. I have all kinds of dreams for great websites. And what they'd look like. Just not the skills.

Answer some more

Green Tractor asks:


or some variations of that.

But I'll answer first, "I've wondered why you didn't get a teaching credential after college. Teaching is certainly a rewarding (and valuable to the community) career. Teachers are usually in demand so a job is available in most places. Pay is OK."

He has a little inside scoop, since he knows that I was an early childhood education major at Boston College, with a double major in human development. With a hint of Spanish in there - there was a minor -- I tried to be an overachiever and triple major, but decided to get out in 3-1/2 years instead. Latin American Studies or some such. It wasn't a realy Spanish minor, but it involved something like that, I can't actually remember. Sad.

But the short version to the question of why I didn't go on to have a teaching career is this. All the teaching that I did in college took the hope and optimism that I had and crushed it. Squished it. Gone.

Here's the long version. I was one of the shining stars in my graduating class. I did very well, I served the school in a dozen other ways and knew lots and lots of people. Therefore, they gave me the best and most experienced teachers to do all of my teaching coursework. I taught for three semesters, once a week, then in my last semester, I spent every day in a classroom. I spent a lot of time listening. Even when they weren't directly trying to teach me something.

There were two that stand out in my memory as being life changing. The first was in the poorest section of Boston - I was in a Kindergarten classroom. The children were charming and adorable and I loved them dearly. The teachers went on strike. They wanted better benefits - I have no problem with that. But I asked what happened on the days that the teachers refused to work. My teacher responded that many children were sent to school anyway - and waited on the school grounds, unsupervised until they were picked up after school hours. The children were five, and this was not long after my teacher had pointed out the man across the street was one of her former students and now supplied drugs to much of the community, doing the bulk of his work within sight of the front door of the school. Oh, but the children who didn't get left on the school grounds while no one was there were left at home. While Mom was at work.

The teacher I was with had been around a long time. She had accepted this as something that she could only do so much to change. I was still young and optimistic and had hope that I could change things as a teacher. But I saw these teachers as having given up, and not doing what was in the best interest of the children. I didn't want to teach with these women, even though that was a setting that I felt called to.

The second time was the full practicum teaching experience. It was with a woman who had been teacher of the year for the state of Massachusetts, who had been teaching more than 25 years. It was in a wealthy suburb of Boston. She was exhausted to start the school year, having had to change classrooms and was dealing with a Lupus flare-up. About a week into the school year, she told me that this was the most challenging class she'd ever had, save one class when she was a new teacher. But the challenges? Weren't the students. Most of them were from the families, from the damaged goods that we were given each day when the day started.

She managed to get one family in therapy, which did amazing things for all of them. One boy had such terrible anger issues and frustration - he reminds me now of what my oldest could be if we didn't work so darn hard every day. But his family wouldn't do anything to help. I think in the semester I was there, I saw his mom one time and never his father. There was another family, who were the nicest people you'd ever met, but their son was so far behind - he was in third grade and couldn't read - but not for reasons you'd think. You see, they were Jehovah's Witnesses, and therefore didn't celebrate holidays, which meant that for each and every holiday or party in the classroom, he'd stay home. He wouldn't do spelling words or homework that celebrated the holiday or went against their religion. Mine was the first teacher, who at the beginning of the year said, "I'll modify curriculum for him. We'll make this work. Please, just send him to school. Work with me, I'll work within the parameters you set." I left halfway through the year, my term was up, I think when we were at the lowest point with that class. I didn't get a real practice teaching experience, because we were so hard a work dealing with the problems that I became her assistant, mostly because she needed someone so badly, there were so many learning differences in the classroom. It was at the height of mainstreaming ALL children.

So when I left, I left without much hope. Because when you are 20 and you want to be a teacher, it's because you intend to teach the world to read, you intend to change lives, and because you know that you can overcome just about anything. And suddenly, I knew that I couldn't. And instead of doing my best, I chose to get out.

I wouldn't join a union. I saw what it did in Roxbury, I heard stories of teachers sneaking into classrooms during a work-to-rule strike. But when I taught preschool at a private school, I hated it so much.

So I left, and I moved on to other things. Would I go back to teaching? Maybe, but it would be for completely different reasons than my 20 year old self. But I think that between my husband's job and teaching, that I would pull all of my hair out knowing what people actually do to children behind closed doors. And in the suburb that we live in, some of it's the awful stuff that you think of when you think of child abuse, and some of it is the living vicariously through the children, and some of it is giving children so much that you are creating disabled adults. I'm not sure that I can see all of that as a teacher, hear all of the things that my husband sees and deals with and still be a reasonable parent at the end of the day. Because currently? My most important job is creating adults. Three of them.

I warned you it wasn't a short answer - and it's all connected to the other questions you have, Green Tractor. But I have a cramp in my typing fingers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I think I'll start with the easiest one.

Anonymous asks:

"And them kids of yours are smart little puppies. How'd you get em that way? I read once that a pattern of super smart kids is that they were read to, sung to, and talked to while still in the womb. Maybe that's your secret? I dunno, just something about sitting with a guitar and singing Kumbayah to a person's tummy doesn't seem right:)"

Clearly, not a long time reader, not knowing that the only thing that I overachieve at is underachieving. ;)

When I was pregnant with the oldest child, I had one of those jobs where I had to be there at a specific time every day. You know, like most people. And so I would time my getting into the car with a set of songs they always played at 7am. Every day. It was not classical music. And I blew out my speakers in my little car with this daily project. And once or twice, I worried that I was doing damage to my child by letting him listen to AC/DC every day, but then just turned the music up a little louder.

And then, there was all of the dropping on the head for the middle child. I left most of it out of the baby book, so as to not give her more ammunition for her therapist to blame me. But when she was a newborn, the oldest was holding her - it was so sweet - and then he decided he was done and rolled her off his lap onto the floor. From the couch. Lovely. I'm sure it was one of my first days home by myself with the two of them. And I'm sure I sobbed and ate chocolate. But all I remember is the dropping on the head part.

To add to my list of fabulous parenting, there was the day when I was at least 15 months pregnant with the third child and we were shopping at Target. The middle child was notoriously bad about sitting in the cart. You see where this is going, don't you? She reached for something, I kept going, she lost her balance and fell out of the cart, directly on the top of her head. So there I was, four year old standing there, I'm sitting on the floor in Target, threw my purse randomly somewhere behind me and sobbing while clutching my screaming child. I'm sure that was a lovely sight. She wasn't bleeding, her pupils were the same size, I was a disastrous mess, but at least 10 Target employees gathered around and offered ice and water. You know that you did something bad when the Target manager calls you the next day to check on your kid.

And all that was in the midst of the time when my belly was so big and my little girl was so little that I would knock her down with my belly because she would get right under me and I couldn't see her and she could barely walk.

So, Mr. W, my children are smart in spite of me and my careful, careful by-the-book parenting.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Daily Randomness

1. Changing my tire is no longer fun and exciting. It's getting tiresome (Har!). Apparently I can now do it in less than twenty minutes. Lovely.

2. Why is it that when you don't need help at a store, no less than 12 people ask if they can help you. And when you actually need help? They are busy swarming that other poor woman who wants to browse in Home Depot. Because I'm sure I'm not the only woman who browses in Home Depot.

3. Seriously? Ask the berry? I thought I'd get easy questions, like "what's on your ipod?" and "what did you eat for dinner last night?" or "Fake or Real? (Christmas trees, of course, what else were you thinking?)" You people are making me think! Yikes!

4. Seven hundred photos of a two day PTA event might just be too many. I think. And does anyone know how to scrapbook? I think I might be in over my head.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ask the berry

So my sister complained. But I've got nothing, except how immensely tired I am of football, how I have more than five hundred pictures on my camera of our PTA fundraiser, and there's still one more day to go, and how I actually feel like I have a hand in teaching my five year old to read, unlike his brother and sister who taught themselves.

So, the bar is open. I'll answer (almost) any burning question you might have. And no fair calling me. Ask in the comments.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


First, the shirt came home in one piece. He's been saved from another day of button-shirt misery.

Second, holy playdates, batman! It's gotten to that stage in our lives where it's so much easier and fun to have six children in the house rather than the three that live here. I never, ever thought that I would say that, but I didn't lift a finger the whole time. It was fabulous. And, now there's no arguing about who had more friends over or who's turn it is or it's not fair blah blah blah...

But now, I just need to finagle a way for all the friends to respond in kind all on the same day. Because that would be lovely, wouldn't it?

Experimenting with scissors

The youngest child is apparently having a Kindergarten heyday with the newfound freedom of scissors without supervision. And by supervision I mean hovering mother.

On Monday, he came home with two little slices in the neckline of his undershirt. At least he had the presence of mind to not cut his favorite Tony Romo jersey. I mentioned to him how disappointed I was, but didn't impress (on his rear end with my hand) upon him how disappointed I was, apparently.

Tuesday, at dinner, I noticed that there was a small slice in one of his better T-shirts, right on the belly. I was, to say the least, annoyed.

I sat on it a little while before I decided his punishment. And then the most evil plan of all hatched in my brain. I would make him wear a collared, buttoned shirt. To school. He hates those things. Backwards, you say? A little, but the idea of having to wear one of those every day until he can learn not to cut his clothing might just be what he needs to make the temptation go away. If we run out of collared buttoned shirts without cuts in them? He wears the ones with cuts in them.

BUT. I'm thinking that today will be the only day that he wears a "button shirt." I'll know in an hour. Or so.