Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Testing Mobile App

Considering how often my phone likes to make me look stupid, this may be an experiment I regret...! This is a test post using Blogger mobile.

Monkey had her first run-in on the playground today, which I will write more about later.

For now I am enjoying the sound of her "sleepy music" muffled through the door.

G'night all...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monkey's 4th Birthday

We had promised this year we would NOT have another kids' birthday party at the house. Too much cleaning (before and after), too many people in too small a house. We did three parties at home, and she's big enough (and has enough friends) that it is just TOO much.

Last year, for her third birthday, we had Monkey's party at home. We had all this stuff planned for the patio and garage space. Then it was cold and rainy and no one left the house, so it smelled like sweaty little kids and there was glitter and neon cupcake frosting everywhere.

Everyone tripped on each other and there were a lot of collisions and just complete chaos. That was topped off by a complete no-nap meltdown and Monkey peeing in the front room mere seconds after the last guests left the building.

For real. People were RIGHT THERE on the front porch and sidewalk, and she just let 'er rip in the middle of the front room. Like Seabiscuit. WOW.

So, with all the wedding planning in high gear, we really had our minds, hearts, and wallets set on letting the mess take place elsewhere this year. Then there would be the added bonus of coming back to a house in the same state we'd left it, and we'd be much less likely to deal with pee. Or glitter. Or, you know, both.

First choice: the park district, in their spiffy new fall brochure, advertised having kids' parties at their facilities. Monkey's big sis had her 6th birthday at the park district by her mom's house, and it was kind of a nice deal. They plan and clean up, you bring the people and the cake, and voila! Finis.

Our park district had better theme choices, including either a gymnastics or dance option. You book the time, they give you one of their instructors, and your kid and her friends have a private dance party or gymnastics lesson. Cool!

Given the nature of the kids who'd be coming, we vetoed the gymnastics idea. There is one family in our group of friends who, God love 'em, wind up at Urgent Care damn near every weekend. They are lovely, wonderful kids...just, uh...accident prone. I couldn't stomach the idea of putting those kids on gymnastic equipment and still sleep at night. I'd owe their parents the co-pay at the very least.

So, we went with Dance Party. We'd wanted to put Monkey in dance classes this year anyway, but given all the la-dee-dah going on with wedding planning, had to postpone that idea until Mommy's no longer having panic attacks about the delivery date for favors. Knowwhaddamean?

I filled out the reservation form, faxed it over, and awaited my confirmation email and scheduling call from the park district. And waited. And, waited... and got mad and handed the project off to MDD, because, OK, did you know David's Bridal can and DOES discontinue their own signature, trademark colors? Like, two weeks after you order four bridesmaid dresses in one of those trademarked colors? And then, they also can wipe clean ANY HISTORY or trace of that color, from any kind of accessory, so if you want ribbon to match it you have to go to EVERY SINGLE craft store on Earth to find it?

(Do I sound stressed?)

So, MDD was handed the party planning so I would not swear at people. It's frowned upon or something, whatever. Park District Lady finally told him she was "having trouble" securing a dance teacher for that date/time.

We were flexible, and said, hey we haven't sent invitiations yet...the time can change if needed, or even the day, to Sunday instead of Saturday, but it has to be that weekend. Roughly 2/3 of the main guests had a function the prior weekend. My high school reunion was the weekend after. Thus we said: YOU tell us which of those days, and what time and we will run with it.

Crickets. Nada. As in, the chick did NOT CALL BACK for like, 5 days. At which point I switched from freaking out about wedding details (we were mailing wedding invites at the same time as planning the birthday party) to OMG WE ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE TIME TO GET PEOPLE TO THIS PARTY. <hyperventilate>

Park District Lady, after being nicely stalked by MDD, finally confirmed they would be unable to meet our request and declined the booking. No teacher was willing to teach an extra class. Excuse me??

I of course then had a Tourette's-like, epic vent, because, COME ON PEOPLE, do not ADVERTISE you will DO THINGS and then NOT DO THEM! Just saying. I did not want to have to tell Monkey there would be no dance party. Enter MDD. :(

She rebounded nicely.
Just looked up, with her big puppy dog eyes, and asked if we could just have her party at Pump It Up instead.

Have you been there? It's a great idea for a kid's birthday party. Big warehouse kind of place with a room filled with inflatable things like big obstacle courses, slides, and of course your average everyday bounce house. Monkey's BFF had her third birthday party there.

So we looked into it. Uh, yeah... it's a nice place. They have it set up so you can book the absolute basic party, which runs about two hours. But does NOT INCLUDE FOOD. IMHO you can't have a warehouse full of kids bouncing for an hour, and not feed them. They will turn all Lord of the Rings on you and start chewing on each other.

Oh, OK. You want food? Gotta use theirs. And, prepare to pay dearly for it. NO OUTSIDE FOOD allowed, except the cake. Bring your own plates and stuff too. Holy schmoley. We are planning a wedding, and it's a small one, but uhhh wow this was not what we planned to do.

So, no to Pump It Up. And we were running out of options and time.

MDDaddy and I looked at each other, sighed, and agreed. <swearing>
Party's at our house.

However, Monkey did NOT rebound so well from that news. What about jumping or dancing? Could we still get a bounce house?

Unsure of our clearance for that, we called our landlords. They were surprised we asked. MDD explained we just didn't want to tear up the lawn without them knowing in advance. Blessings were given, and apparently we are the best tenants on earth. Good to know.

My maid of honor (Monkey's former nanny) has a big party for her son each year, since his birthday is right around Labor Day. It's multi-tasking :). She rents a bounce house each year from the same company. I got the guy's number and called him.

The original plan was that Monkey wanted a Batman theme. The party rental guy thought that was pretty awesome for a GIRL turning four. However, there was no super hero themed bounce house. There was a blue one with a Big Red Dog (not THE big red dog Who Cannot Be Named. He is a licensed character...but it sure looks like his twin brother). So we picked that. Book it, Danno. Moving on!

That night we hit the party store to get invitations. All the Batman ones Monkey deemed either "too dark" or "scary" because, let's face it: they're aimed at seven-year-old boys. Not four-year-old girls. Well, crap.

Luckily, they DID have some funky, fun, Monkey-approved neon monkey themed stuff. It had a cartoon monkey wearing a bright pink bow, with cool green and aqua accent colors. Grabbed 'em. DONE.

Except then came the sad lip. Because, MOMMY, the Big Red Dog doesn't match the Cute Pink Monkey. Right.

Back onto the phone goes mom. The same company also has a jungle themed bouncer, with MONKEYS! Done! Book it!! The guy said he'd email the confirmation and deposit receipt to me.
We have 15 days before the actual party now. We managed to get the wedding invitations in the mail.

Thank goodness for the interwebs. I made a Facebook event and got most of the birthday invites out that way, then mailed a few for her preschool friends* and the other folks who I know aren't on Facebook.

*An executive decision was made to only invite preschool friends from *last year's* class. She had a few kids she really liked from class, and a few she clearly said (REPEATEDLY) she did NOT want to invite to the party. One is the little guy who "always tooked stuff outta my hands, and that's NOT NICE so, NOT HIM." Ok, kid. Done.

The Parent Handbook at the new preschool clearly specifies if you're having a party you should either invite the whole class, or mail the invitations to the kids' homes so no one feels left out. You're not supposed to pass out invitations at school. I understand that and wouldn't want Monkey to feel left out either.

But, given that she'd only been in class for like three days at that point, I was not so up on inviting 21 kids we barely know to come bounce like monkeys. And the class list for mailing addresses had to be updated and a couple people were added/dropped so I couldn't mail invitations to the two or three friends I know she had made. All or none = none, this time.

Given when Monkey's birthday falls, she is likely to be one of the first birthdays. Every. Single. School year. I see a pattern coming...this was not the year to tackle that concept.

The rest of the very rushed planning sped along. Food? Just chips and cake. They're bouncing. I'm not hosing that thing down, so nothing beyond snacks. Preferably nothing brightly colored. Thank you very much.

Thursday night before the Saturday party, I realized I never got the email confirmation from the rental guy. But, my phone eats email sometimes.

So I called and left a message just verifying the rental. Unable to let it rest at that, I sent him an email...which came back with a very lovely automated message, pleasantly letting me know he was out of the office until the following Monday.

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT? OMG!!! Did he have our deposit? Were we getting the bounce house? What good is a bounce house party if there is no bounce house? What will I do with all those kids?

I forwarded the email to the owner and asked him to call me back ASAP so we could confirm details.

To his credit, the man called me back at 8:05 AM and very gently and professionally advised me to breathe. It was all taken care of. Whew.

Rest of the planning:
Games? There's a bounce house. Go bounce. Games are done. LOL

Tables and chairs? God bless our church. We borrowed the ugly ones which only see the light of day when all the "good" ones are already in use. Check!

Presents? Right. Gifts for the child...I seem to recall a blur of late night and/or off hours trips to the store with the creepy giraffe and the red-dot dog. I do not recall how they got wrapped. Either we had elves or MDDaddy stayed up late. I honestly don't know.

House cleaning? We did some decluttering through the week, but left the bulk of  actual cleaning to be tackled Friday night (before the Saturday afternoon festivities) so we wouldn't have to do it twice.

Smart planning, right?

Yes. <pats self on back>

Except...guess what was NOT in the plan?

Ha ha.
How about a level five, full-blown migraine striking Mommy at 6 PM on Friday night?!?!!
Oh, yes.
Not even kidding.

I felt it coming on at work so I took the medicine as soon as I got home. The Migraine Beast just laughed its evil, roaring laugh, and plunged me me into darkness. The motion of my own breathing made me dizzy. I tried not to breathe, but that made me even dizzier.

Here is where I give mad props to Monkey Doodle Daddy. Cuz, I was COMPLETELY out of commission. I spent seven hours curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor. In the dark. He somehow corralled the girls to bed and cleaned the house (minus the bathroom I was occupying).

The first wave (usually the worst part) of the migraine finally passed around1:45 AM. I weighed my options.

In twelve hours, we would be hosting a bunch of PRESCHOOLERS in a BOUNCE HOUSE.
The noise of the ticking clock made me want to cry. Things looked bleak.

I took more medicine, crawled into bed, and decided if I could sleep just a little bit maybe I could push through it. As long as I didn't try to eat. Or sneeze (makes it worse, for some reason).

If there was no further break in the migraine, I decided I would get up in the morning and go check into a hotel. It would truly break my heart to miss the party, but the reality of a house and yard full of screaming children--BOUNCING, SCREAMING CHILDREN-- did not look good.

I prayed. A LOT.

I woke up at 6:45 AM, still feeling woozy but able to tolerate light again. I was going to skip making my usual taco dip (MDD's favorite thing I make) because the thought of smelling onions and cheese did not give me warm happy thoughts. But, he asked...and, I mean, he DID clean everything... so I took some Tums and made the stuff. I somehow managed not to puke, which I considered a victory.

Thankfully, MDD's parents came into town a bit early and rescued me. I cannot recall being happier to see someone. I was trying to deal with food (still not high on my list) and realized the goodie bags weren't put together. That had been another thing I was going to do Friday night, before Migraine Beast took over. Grandma and Grandpa helped corral the girls into making the bags.

The rental guy even showed up early. He said I sounded anxious on the phone, so he wanted to get the bounce house set up early so I "wouldn't worry." I apparently have become neurotic enough that strangers can discern it over the phone. Awesome. But hey, whatever- we got the thing early.

More importantly, I got to watch Monkey's face as the guy set it up. She brought out her favorite stuffed animal (a Scentsy monkey, appropriately named "Monkey Best Friend") and watched intently as it slowly took shape.

As it got bigger, and bigger...she started bouncing, slightly at first, then to a full up-down jumping on the patio. Her voice went up a full octave. By the time it was fully inflated, she actually lost her vocabulary and was just vibrating her way around the patio, going, "SQUEEEEEEE!!!!!"

That settled it. I was NOT going to any stupid hotel.

I drank a lot of water and stayed upwind from the food smells.

The kids started arriving, with a few early bird parents (including my maid of honor) jumping right in to help finish decorating and get the coolers and food in place. I was greeted more than once with, "Uh, are you OK?" I'm sure I showed every stinking minute of the long, miserable night I'd had.

But this was for my GIRL. And she's with me, and beautiful and happy, and cavorting around with her little preschool friends, and there was my amazing man, his parents, and our phenomenal friends right there, all stepping right in as needed.

Serendipity, and proof that angels walk among us. They're called friends and family. I had all the help I needed, and more.

I have LOVE all around me, and so does my little Monkey.
We are blessed beyond measure, and I am sorry I let myself get all frazzled and distracted from that.

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, and I remember Donna's Quirke Hornik's story all too well. It changed my life.
Read it if you haven't, yet.

Donna was four, too... Donna will always BE four.

Donna doesn't get to have any more birthdays.
Her mom can't wipe neon-colored frosting off her nose any more.

Every SINGLE day with my most unexpected blessing is a gift I never dreamed I'd have.
Yeah, OK, so I felt like crap, and maybe I didn't eat solid food until Monday afternoon.

None of that matters.

I got a special day to celebrate the most beautiful event of my entire life:
 the birth of the miracle child I had prayed for, for YEARS.

And there she was, SQUEEEE-ing around the patio with her Pippi Longstocking braids, holding a stuffed monkey who smells like apple pie.

Life is good.

Happy birthday, little one.

What Happened to the Dinosaurs

This past Saturday, I got the girls up early, packed up into the van and headed out to darn-near-Indiana to meet the seamstress friend of my maid of honor. She had graciously offered to do our alterations for the wedding for FREE (woo hoo!) so it was very well worth the drive.

Upon meeting her and getting her take on how to do some of the necessary alterations, I was even more glad we made the drive. The woman is a genius and I am grateful to see someone with such passion and expertise take over an aspect of the wedding about which I am BEYOND clueless.

Hey, all I know is I lost 35 pounds since I bought my dress, and I'm five foot three, so it's too long. Exactly HOW to fix that? Uh, I got nothing. Go fish??

Still, it's a long drive and it was a bit challenging to keep the girls occupied during fittings and measurements and discussions that weren't about their own dresses. There are five dresses in the seamstress' capable hands this week, so a lot to do on one morning.

The true gem of the day though, was heading back home with my four-year-old Monkey and her eight-year-old sister. Because, the drive took an hour. I should have switched on my phone to take video (or at least audio) recording of our drive.

I was following the GPS, which kept bitching at me about "recalculating" so I am not actually sure how the conversation began. Apparently the girls started talking about what happened to the dinosaurs.

This is not a normal topic of conversation so I kinda wish I'd caught the start of it. Alas, I was too busy arguing with the stupid GPS chick trying to tell me to make a U-turn when she's also telling me to take 294 West, and the sign RIGHT THERE says turn left, but she is saying turn right. No. I am not turning right. The sign says the 294 W ramp is on the left and I am going to turn left so SHUT UP ALREADY...

Anyway, from where I noticed the conversation:

Monkey: How come there are no more dinosaurs?
Sis: Because. They all died.
Monkey: Isn't there even a baby one?
Sis (irritated): NO. They all DIED. Like, a long time ago.

Monkey: *I* know what happened. They just... they uhm... they couldn't surVIIIiieiiieve. <stretched out into about four syllables>

Intrigued, I joined in with: Yes, but what MADE them not survive?

Sis: Nobody knows.

Monkey: *I* know. They just couldn't surVIIIiieiiieve. <stretched out into about four syllables>

Me: But, why do you think that happened?

Sis (more irritated): NOBODY knows.

Me: Well, what do the scientists think?

Sis (sighing and running it all together): It could be a meteor. Or a comet. Or weather changes or they all got sick and the food went away or they got stuck in the mud and then there was an ice age.

Me: Right. Or some combination of all that, possibly.

Monkey: ...They just couldn't surVIIIiieiiieve. <stretched out into about four syllables>

Me: Monkey, what do YOU think caused it?

Monkey: *I* know. <Sis shoots her a look.> No, I *DO* know.


Monkey: It was a volcaner. It arrumpted. Then they all just couldn't surVIIIiieiiieve.

Well worth the trip.

What the WHAT...?

So much to tell, so little time to type...

In the past several months, we have faced the possible loss of my job, the impending job change for Monkey Doodle Daddy, health issues for both girls, and the loss of first our main caregiver for Monkey and our backup, her sister, who stepped in for just this summer.

We have been FREAKING BUSY, and in the trenches, taking mortar shells, dangit!! Plus it was summer, and nine zillion degrees, and summer in Financial Aid Land means you have to schedule potty breaks into your Outlook calendar or it will be 4:30 and you realize you last went like, 10 hours ago. So there was also all that mess. Holy schmoley.

The short version: I did NOT lose my job, though it was looking iffy for a bit there. I tucked my tail between my legs, fessed up to my shortcomings and took my lumps. Like a grownup, even. And miraculously...moved past it.

Monkey's main baby sitter is a very close friend, whom I've known forever. I used to babysit HER when she was a kid, along with her little sister and brother. (Said "little" brother is now like six foot four.) Well, she got divorced in April and has been doing the "What NOW Math" MDD and I know so well from our own situations. The initial discussion was that in the fall, she would be going back to school. Thus, if we planned to keep Monkey in her same preschool for another year, we'd have to find a way to get her there. Not ideal, but we could swing that.

However, then, out of the blue, she was offered a really sweet job. A FULL TIME job. As in: no more stay-home-mom, and thus, no more super-convenient, just-like-family-nanny for Monkey. But she HAD to take it. She is a single mom now and has her own son to support, and, I can't fault her for taking a great opportunity. But it was a crushing blow to our plans for this year.

Because, on top of that development, our main caregiver's sister (my other surrogate little sister) lost HER job in May and has been home. They were both there for a couple months. However, Sis had already planned to go back to school in the fall and finish her nursing degree. Another can't-miss opportunity to do right by her own kids, after her own divorce...but further closing the door on this chapter in Monkey's care. She was able to take care of Monkey through the summer, but that would have to end once school started in August.

These developments, coupled with my stress/discomfort/extreme Mommy guilt from my own job, had us doing ALL KINDS of speculations.

Should I stay home? COULD I stay home? <Pleasepleaseplease>

Should MDDaddy change jobs? Could he? Does he HAVE to?? We played out all kinds of options.

In one scenario, I was considering swapping places with our caregivers-- between the three women, we have four kids. Someone has to watch them, right? Maybe I could...eh, except the math didn't bear that out, and I would've had to be at their house, which negated the benefit of my being home to tend to our domestic chores and what-not. Very sadly, I acquiesced and let that idea go.

The next scenario: could we find someone else who could watch Monkey in that same area, so we could keep her going to the same preschool? The one where her sister went, and we know people, and OMG is any of this going to pan out at all?

Sadly, no. We had to choose tolet go of things that just aren't in the cards right now. We live in one town, the preschool is in another, and our two jobs are in two opposite directions from both of those places.

It so happens I work at a university which has an on-site daycare and preschool. We'd looked into it briefly when I started there, but at the time Monkey was in baby/toddler-land. As any working parent can attest, that means BIG BUCKS for daycare, limited hours, and limited spots. But back then it didn't matter, because we had such a great setup anyway, with our family friends, and cheaper, and more flexible hours... <sigh>

Well, now Monkey is more than two years older. And POTTY TRAINED. Ding ding ding!! So I looked into it, and talked with the director about our scenario. Problem was, it was May, and all the good preschools in Chicagoland book up in like, February... and this one is top notch, in a high-demand area.

So after my brief talk with the director I realized I didn't know the wait list situation. I called just the main desk number for general info, asked about the wait list, I got this lovely answer:

"Oh YES, there IS a list! <Is that a sneer I hear? Yes, sure sounds like one...> It runs, oh, about 18 to 24 months from the time you get on the list to getting a spot."

WHAT THE...WHAT??!!! Did I MISS SOMETHING? What, do people sign up for preschool from the maternity ward or something? <Apparently? Yes. Yes, they actually do. Or even, beforehand. Like, once the stick turns blue, people around here are waitlisting preschools. I am not even kidding. Chicago is weird.>

Heartbroken, I emailed back to the director, again explaining our plight and that we had daycare only until August and if this was not going to happen I needed to know. She asked me to come meet with her and tour the school. Which I thought was kinda mean, if it was just going to be to say, NA NA BOO BOO look what your kid COULD have been doing...

Turns out, I am kind of slow on the uptake. Full-time employees and full-time students get priority placement at the university's preschool. This never even occurred to me. The person I'd spoken to on the phone was giving the generic, pat answer for the general community-at-large. Oh, THANKYOUGOD.

And, folks? This place is IN-FREAKING-CREDIBLE. Hell, *I* want to go there!! Writing stations, and patio gardens, and three playgrounds--including one INDOORS--and field trips, and opportunities to help in menu building and taking part in chapel and wow...just...wow. Their creative play area alone made Monkey's cute little head spin. It has a loft. It's like a real house, right in the classroom, only smaller and with labels on everything to encourage them to read.

So, we signed her up, starting in August. Which means, she now rides to and from work with me. I hereby get an extra HOUR of one-on-one time with my daughter, right when I was lamenting the fact that our finances couldn't support me being with her full time.

It's a consolation prize, true-- but hey, I will gladly take it. This change also freed up MDD's schedule to address issues with his job. That solidified his idea of moving on to a bigger company where he could earn more. With this preschool booked for Monkey and the hit it puts on my paycheck (which wasn't so fantastic to begin with), the need to offset that increase prompted him to move forward in the application process.

I could write a whole post on that. He's an engineer. Apparently there are companies whose sole purpose is to hunt down engineers who want to change jobs and match them with more jobs. So even when he's happily employed, he still has options because there are people whose entire jobs exist to fish out happily employed engineers and encourage them move on to a new job. I did not realize this even happens, much less in this economy. I'm just saying: Com majors do NOT get such treatment.

And, whaddyaknow? He got the job! And, it's a big raise! Go, Team Doodle!

I am pretty sure there must be some kind of interplanetary significance to August 27th. Monkey started her new school with me that day. MDDaddy also started his new job. Aunt Missy's college classes started that day too. Just, yeahhh... I should've played the lottery, but I thought that might be pushing it.

Another choice/change: starting Monk at a new preschool also means I have now made the commitment to stay at my current job for the foreseeable future. We've already had to pull her out of one preschool and into another, and I don't want to do that again. Finding somewhere I feel confident leaving my flesh and blood is NOT an easy task, and I want her (and us!) to have the stability of knowing where she will be. So we can plan. And not do this insane scramble, like, uh... ever? Yeah. Never's good for me. 

Well, at least until she is going to start kindergarten...because we ARE going to move before then, though we're not sure where... Maybe closer to her sister, or the other direction, closer to our church and MDD's new job...and then that means packing...and more choices...and, crap. Where's the Tylenol?

As far as the medical issues: Monkey's big sis had The Ear Infection Which Would NOT Die. Seriously, it was over a month. She was on antibiotics I couldn't touch or even inhale, for risk of anaphylactic shock. And by the way? That stuff smells like dead rhino. For real. Thankfully, it managed to kill that evil beast of a bug and the child was finally able to hear and chew without pain again. It was ugly.

Monkey's medical issues are still a bit nebulous. For a while there it was like an episode of House. The diagnosis is elusive, but we have some suspicions of lingering UTI or possible digestive troubles. I've had both, so neither would be a stretch. Plus it pops up rather conveniently, such as when she's in trouble for something...I don't know.

If there is anything worth discussing I will do so, later. Just know we spent much of the late summer dealing with lab tests and follow up visits and still no one seems to have much of a clue, nor much of a concern. So, maybe it's nothing. I surely hope so. Knock on wood, as it's subsided since August.

Just some more of those unexpected twists of the road, which in turn point you somewhere you never thought you'd be. The last time I posted, we had the next year all planned out and now here we are...and very little looks the way we thought it would.

Interestingly enough, I think we're headed in a good direction, though it is bittersweet on many levels.

On a related note: It is now October and the wedding is less than four weeks away.
So of course, today I woke up with my first wedding-induced anxiety attack at exactly 4:40 AM. I have no idea what worried me enough to wake me up but yay, here I am with an extra hour of wakey-wakey time. Coffee, anyone???

Life...it's what happens while you're busy making plans.