Thursday, July 31, 2008

Heading to the Other Side of the Earth

Ackh! Tomorrow I leave for DC and early Saturday morning I'm heading for the other side of the world! This thought hit me at about 11:00 today, in the midst of fighting with my fencing contractor, surveying the damage (extensive!) to my yard due to the trenching for the new plumbing in the garage and negotiating the final permit stuff with the county. How did it sneak up so quickly?

So, tonight I've been scouring the internet, picking up free sources for quick survival language (wheres' the bathroom? thank you in three differing degrees of respect and such) and trying to learn about the cultural differences. I've never been so nervous about traveling. If it was just for pleasure, that's one thing - I'm fine with being labeled "stupid American." But this is business, and I need to impress, and I have no clue what to do. I was reading up on attire and I SOOO don't fit the mold for a businesswoman in Japan (no pants, always wear high collared shirts, ugh!). Crap. I have to go shopping.

I already had been initiated in Japanese business card rituals and gift giving, so feel ok there. But then there's the issue of addressing an audience of (I think) around 300 with a welcoming message from my organization. A Japanese translator will be standing to my side, translating as I speak. I've never done anything even close to that. What do I say? How fast or slow should I speak? How do I start?

And then there's my real source of anxiety about all this - both Jason and I traveling together on the other side of the world, so far away from the girls. I always stress a little with traveling away from them - what if something should happen? This takes that stress to a whole new level - usually I travel without Jason, which makes me feel secure that at least they'd still have one parent if something should happen to me. But now it's both of us. Even worse, what if we need to get back to them quickly? The fastest we could do so is on a 16 hour flight. I know they'll be in good hands while we're away, but I HATE leaving them. I dread it.

Wish me luck! I'll post pictures and fun stuff along the way, as Internet service is available. Also, coming soon, the horrors that were once my yard.

And, on a lighter note, I spent most of yesterday on a backhoe tearing out the shrubs in front of our house. It was fun, and definitely helped me get out some tension I'd been feeling lately. I found myself prowling the yard just looking for things to tear out or dig holes for.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I-yi (whoa-oh) I'm still alive...

But barely kickin' at this hour. Thought I'd take a minute to update anyway, and to answer the bazillion questions I got about the latest crazy adventures here.

So, here goes (sorry for the brief bullet points, but it's all I've got in me tonight!)

  • Japan - finally got around to making some plans! We're staying in Otsu 3 nights, Kyoto 3 nights, Mt Koya IN a Buddhist temple one night and Tokyo 3 nights. Taking a helicopter ride around Tokyo while there. Trying out Ryokan, which are Japanese-style B&B's - sleeping on mats, eating on a table just off the floor, etc. I'm finally getting excited.
  • iPhone - Oh soooo money! Love it. Now to find time to really play with it.
  • The New Business - It's officially (kind of) off the ground. I registered it as Three Oaks Montessori School. I'm going through the process of getting licensed by Dept of Social services. But then I hit a major snag today. Seems the county doesn't want me to have two businesses at my home. So now I have to go through a 90 day approval process which includes an appearance before the Board of Supervisors. Sweet. I definitely have the time, energy and money for this! Not to mention they want $750 just to talk to me. I heart Hanover at the moment.
  • The remodel. OK, so I may have jumped the gun. I just assumed that since I own my property, I could use it, within reason, for my own purposes. I found out it isn't so (see my love of Hanover above). So I don't know if I can use my garage as a home office without paying for a very expensive permit. In fact, I found out it's been illegal all along. Not that anyone ever told me that when I called the county three years ago to register my business (which they don't do) and ask for any ordinances that may apply (of which they said were none). Even better, it was illegal for me to have employees in my home. News to me! Not one to be easily swatted aside, I am thinking of plan B already. Employees work from home, child care is in my home, family lives in one room of our home. That's legal. Or having a dozen kids living in our small home with us. Also legal. Want to build things with a wood shop in the garage? Sure, why not? Want a two-story garage to house your gun collection? Go for it. The more ammo the better. But plug in 3 computers and answer a phone? Well, that will cost ya a plenty in Hanover. You may have sensed my anger. It is only enhanced by the long afternoon in the beautiful new planning offices of Hanover county that must have costed millions to build.
  • More on Montessori... (deep breath - ok, I'm better). So yeah, I want to do the Montessori school. Only I'm not trained, nor do I know enough to teach. Nor do I want to be a teacher. I'm fine with helping, though. So I'm looking for a part-time teacher. No bites yet. Let me know if you know of someone in VA! This would enable me to be close to Sadie, fill a need in our community in terms of quality preschool offerings (currently slim to none) and possibly make a buck in a few years, if I stick with it. Cross your fingers for me folks, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
  • The "other" business. Yes, I'm still keeping it. I love my microwave scientists and am excited about the changes my other client is making to their organizational structure. I want to see them through. And I like my travel a few times a year. Call me a bad mommy if you will, but I need those adult "breaks" (even though it's usually stressful and full of work), and I thrive on accomplishment.
  • Katie hates her preschool this summer. It sucks. It is SOOO not Montessori. Her teacher yells, tells the kids they're doing things "wrong" all the time and is generally a cranky old biddy who shouldn't be around children. Or adults. Only a few weeks left. Other than that she's great. She's a total chunk at the moment (around 55 lbs!) so I have a feeling the growth spurt is coming any day. She's always been that way - out then up, out then up... She has a new friend at school. He's not a boyfriend yet she tells me. But he's very cute. Uh oh. Oh, and the Alvin and the Chipmunks CD? Avoid it at all costs.
  • Sadie is finally talking. And it's coming more and more every day. She's putting sentences together. I soo love this age. She's got these huge brown eyes that stops everyone in their tracks wherever I take her. I have no idea how many times they tell me she's a little angel. How little they know!!
  • Spider bite - after spreading toxins throughout my body, it's finally on the mend. I felt like crap for quite a while. And I had these fun lines of poison that surfaced in various parts of my body. The spots on my leg are healing well, and shouldn't leave very big scars. While cleaning out the office for the remodel, we found a ginormous black widow with tons of sacs and smaller widows around her. I'm wondering if that's what it could have been? No clue.
  • Pick up sticks with yellow jackets - Our remodel started Thursday, so I found myself moving out the rest of the office and garage storage stuff Wednesday night. Jason conveniently developed pneumonia (he's still recovering), and my employees were not eager to work overtime for some odd reason. While cleaning out the back shed area that had never been cleaned out since we moved in, I discovered multiple hives of yellow jackets. I'd pick up a board to move it, a swarm would come out. I'd pick up another, a new swarm. I was out there at midnight, in 90 degree weather, with jeans, a leather jacket, a scarf wrapped around my head and armed with two cans of bee killer. I'd move a stick, spray like all hell as I backed out of there, wait a minute and do it again. It only took me 4 hours to clear out an 8 x 10 area. After all the yellow jackets were dead I discovered the paper wasps. Good times.
  • The Universalist Unitarians - I went again. It was interesting, and I learned more about their "religion." I dig their creeds and liberal structure, but still don't think I'm ready for organized religion. I may go from time to time just for some mental stimulation. I just don't do the group stuff well. I do like how mission-based they are, and how many they help in the community and beyond. Very cool.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Feast or Famine

Last week I think I had blog entries almost every day. Not so much this week. Here's why...

  • Answered my SAHM vs. Not to SAHM dilemma. I decided to open a business. Another one. A Montessori preschool to be more precise. Yes, I am certifiably insane. In order to do this, we must completely remodel the garage into living space, to the tune of thousands of bucks. All prior to September 1. In the last 4 days I've met with close to 50 contractors, helpers and handymen. Fun stuff. Wednesday the work begins!
  • Making plans for Japan. Well, at least realizing the trip is only two weeks away and I have no clue where I'm staying, what I'm doing or how to get around. Or how to speak the language well enough to find a bathroom. Uh Oh. Anyone have a Japanese version of Rosetta Stone laying around they don't need for a month or so? Any one know how to say toilet in Japanese?
  • Sampled Universalist Unitarianism. Interesting.
  • Got bitten by a brown recluse (they think?) and have marks on my leg where the doctor burned out a few small bits of dead skin left behind. Have cool bumps that pop out along various parts of my body following the lines of veins. Right hand has several puss-filled bumps on the interior of the fingers. Got three steroid shots on the "meatiest" portion of my body. Have been taking a barrage of antibiotics and steriods.
  • Got rid of the shakes, sweats, night terrors, brain zaps and other fun things that went along with my drug withdrawals. Did I mention Cymbalta sucks?
So, yeah, I'm kinda busy this week.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The 4th (and 5th... and 3rd...)

Last week I was exhausted, so I played hookie a half-day on the 3rd to get ready for a fun, extended weekend with the girls. Here are a few of my favorite memories from our long-overdue family time...

Wendesday, July 3rd. Hat Day!!

Just a few of the many hats we gathered and played with. As a bonus, I discovered that I have a living, breathing garden gnome in our home, which should help satisfy my desire to go out and buy a ceramic one for my yard.

July 4th Fun at Casa Thies

We spent the day listening to Katie beg us to "do fireworks" and Sadie scream for no reason, which she often does to keep us on our toes. I felt like crap all day (thank you, Lilly drug company), so we stayed home and created our own festivities. The evening ended with our discovery that Sadie is terrified of whistling fireworks, Carly likes to eat discarded firework containers and that fireworks that "shoot flaming fireballs" are illegal in Virginia for a darn good reason. Thankfully, it had rained just before we set that one off... the singed leaves that fell down from the sky were easy to stamp out in the damp grass.

Whee! Mommy managed to talk us into matching, patriotic outfits!

The moonbounce... always a hit in our household.

Well, until mommy gets in, gracefully hitting the vent tube and the whole thing collapses.
Then it's just funny, not so much "fun."

July 5, The Tomato Festival

For the first time in the three years that we've lived in Bubbasville, we braved the natives and tried out the local Tomato Festival. I enjoyed camouflage watching (I can still see you, people!), the plethora of churches trying to push water on me in exchange for my soul, and watching the many ways in which people displayed some nifty confederate flag stickers that proclaimed "I support national Confederacy month." One very pregnant woman Jason encountered had a sticker on each... well, use your imagination. Good times.

My parents joined us for the humid outing, and despite the stress involved in taking small children out, we managed to create a few nice memories while there.

Mom stops to cheese it up with the girls and Mark Warner, US Senate candidate and previous VA governor. I don't think she realized he's a fairly liberal democrat (did you, Mom?! wahahahaha). Warner was rumored to be a VP consideration by Obama, but he declined, citing his desire to have more time with his family than that position would allow. So, instead, he was sweating his butt off at our hillbilly fair in order to garner a few votes. Yet another reason why I will never enter politics.

Katie fed a donkey at the petting zoo area, and the donkey became her new best friend. He followed her everywhere, nuzzling her for another scratch behind the ears and more food. I so wanted to take him home with us. The neighbors would LOVE it! Katie agreed, but Jason was having no part of that discussion. Sadie, meanwhile, spent time kissing and hugging a calf, mooing softly to it. If only I could get her to be that sweet to her sister.

In the midst of all of the festivities, a photographer walked up and asked if he could take photos of the girls while they decorated tomatoes. I got an email today, and it seems that we are once again "featured" in our local paper... yeeee haww! Not only that, I think we made the front page news. And, my mug on this shot is MUCH worse than my last one in this exciting publication. At least the girls looked adorable. Jason and I looked angry and uninterested. Which is probably accurate, but all the same... front page?! Ugh.

It's official - I think I have to admit we're now locals. But you'll never see camouflage, rebel flags or big bangs adorning on this Bubbaite!

Check Yourself (and pass it on...)

Pass it on...

In memory of PunkRockMommy, I’m doing one simple thing today, and I’m asking you to do it too. If you have breasts, would you please take a moment in the shower today to check yourself for any lumps, redness, swelling, dimpling, or other changes? The graphic above (from Worldwide Breast Cancer) illustrates 12 examples of a worrisome change. Please check yourself today, and call your doctor if you see or feel a lump or one of these changes below.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Peace, PunkRockMommy

Since beginning my blogging adventures almost two years ago, I've come across many blogs that I've fallen in love with. When a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago, I began looking at a few of her fellow cancer fighters sites, hoping for hints on ways to help, to understand. One of them, along the way, is one that was kept by a offbeat, fun and funky mom of six who was diagnosed with breast cancer just about a year ago. PunkRockMommy became one of my favorite lurking haunts.

Today, PunkRockMommy passed away. Her husband has promised to keep the blog alive with posts on the family's coping and growth after her death. But the blogosphere will be empty without her presence.

Rest in peace, Andrea. Thank you for sharing your life, and death, with total strangers. It brought about an entirely new perspective for many.

I have to go wake up my kids and hug them...

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day

I seem to be on a roll this week with the blogging, so figured I'd let my thoughts tonight flow into cyberspace.

I try to stay a-political for the most part, especially concerning US politics, but this year I find that my panties are in a bit of a wad. It could be that I just finished paying off the IRS more than 33% of my company's total income in employment taxes, or maybe that we were royally screwed by "the system" when my daughter faced a life-threatening illness. Maybe it's because I've been so disillusioned with America in the past few years that I hate to even admit I'm from the US when traveling or meeting with international colleagues and friends. I'm sick of the cowboy image, but equally sick of the political process itself. So, it's pretty easy to venture that I've been thrilled to see that the generation behind mine is no longer 'waiting for the world to change,' but is actually pursuing a better idea of government. It's exciting. It yields new hope in my heart for the land we live in.

What struck me today, though, is that this time of change, this need and desire to reinvent our government isn't anything new. It's cyclical, and even needed, as evidenced from the very document that we celebrate today, our Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Part philosophy, part politics, the Declaration is truly, in my mind, one of the greatest documents ever written. I try to dust it off (via Google search and Wikipedia of course) each year or so around this time and review, to remind myself what the US was founded on.

I have a wide variety of friends, and many are strong conservatives. As you may have guessed, I am not. Thus, I keep my mouth shut for the most part, listen to their points of view, then research them on my own. And develop my own ideas. And I like to think I'm constantly evolving in these ideas (I hate to say they are beliefs – as said so eloquently in Kevin Smith's Dogma, ideas can be changed, but beliefs can not).

OK, I'm rambling. What I'm trying to get at, is that dusting off the Declaration every once in a while is a necessity for each of us as vested citizens of our country, no matter what your beliefs, ideas or views are. As US citizens, it's our duty.

As I get older, I find my "ideas" are congealing a bit, and that it is harder to see other points of view. So one of my many personal goals this year was to search harder, reach a bit further, and find some new perspectives, open myself up to some new philosophies and see if I can update some of my "ideas."

If you're in the US celebrating our nation's birthday tonight, my wish for you this coming year is the same... openness to new ideas, willingness to contribute and that the (currently rhetorical, but hopefully one day inacted) desire for change is not just a flash in the pan, but an earnest yearning and movement to create improvement in our government system. Happy 4th of July!

(Yep, time to figure out where to go to get my Masters degree in social responsibility. I'm so ready, can't you tell!!)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Oh, yeah... it's always been this way!

My good friend Jen, out of sunny CA, called today to commiserate with my recent experiences with the children. Seems that she can relate as her daughter recently stuck a wooden QTip in her toddler brother's ear (far enough to land them in urgent care), as well as gave their kitty's whiskers a very short trim. All in one day. Thank God I'm not alone in all of this.

Jen also reminded me that this Katie-mess-making stuff is not so new, as evidenced from an old email she forwarded to me today. To think this was written almost EXACTLY three years ago to the date (sigh)...

Recipe for Disaster:

1 container Vaseline
1 bottle Baby Powder
A few dashes of Baby Oil
1 Extra Large bottle of Baby Lotion
A two-and-a-half-year old

Place all ingredients in a room unsupervised for 15 minutes. Be sure that it is very quiet in the room before entering it, otherwise the recipe is not working correctly.

Enter room to find mixture of the ingredients throughout the room, rubbed evenly in the carpet, on the walls, curtains, back of a rocking chair and evenly distributed throughout the toddler's hair. IMPORTANT: You will want to clean, but this mixture is impenetrable. Let dry a few hours until carpet changes to a dingy color.

After carpet is adequately ruined, walls are stained and the toddler's hair has been washed using shampoo, baking soda and other home remedies, you should have a disaster well on its way. Now dry the toddler's hair, put cornstarch in it to bring out the Vaseline, and you should have a complete disaster, such as the one pictured here.

We recently tried this recipe for Complete Disaster in our home just after placing our house on the market and it worked wonderfully. We also found that similar results can be achieved by substituted lipstick and eyeshadow for baby powder and Vaseline, which we tried on our Open House day. Enjoy!

Not much has changed since the last use of the recip... but I will let you know that you can exponentially increase the quantity of COMPLETE DISASTER if you add another child to the recipe.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Not what I had planned...

I awoke this morning, once again, to chaos and disaster. This time the girls had taken the newly purchased DragonBerry Shampoo and Blueberry Burst Body Wash and lathered everything from waist-height down on the lower level of our house into bubbles (or at least applied a slimy film which would later be "bubbled"). Seriously, what did I do in my past life to deserve this retribution?!

Every baby doll, both dogs, the coffee table, all the Disney plasticine toys, the Shliech animals, the bathroom sink, floor and both girls' lower extremeties were covered in the sticky goo. "But Mommy," Katie told me as I repressed a scream of rage as I realized the magnitude of the latest morning disaster, "We didn't go outside. And now the house smells good." I rinsed and washed, producing even more bubbles (much to their delight) and still found a spot on the carpet that is deeply stained with shampoo. I ran the steam vac over it this afternoon only to... you guessed it... produce more bubbles.

I threatened Katie with an eternity of time out if she makes one SINGLE other mess before I can hit the bottom of the stairs in the morning. Double eternity if she lets Sadie out of her crib. Her reply? Sadie can get out on her own now. Oh crap.

I never got a chance to memorialize George Carlin, one of my all-time favorite comedians who passed away last week. I did so this morning by muttering, thinking or screaming into a pillow six of the seven dirtiest words from his old 70's routine. The 7th word just didn't apply, or I would have used that one, too.

To make it all even better, I'm having some hellacious withdrawals from a medication I started a couple of months ago. When I had Katie, I began to suffer from anxiety attacks (though I didn't know that is what they were at the time). I did some medications back then for a few months, got my head screwed on straight again, and weaned off of them. I'd been able to control them since (now knowing what they were and how they came on) on my own, but in March they began to rear their ugly head once again. I wonder why? That was about the time the girls started their early morning escapades. So, I went to my primary care "nurse" (do doctors still exist?) and asked for something to help me along for a while. She gave me Cymbalta.

Two drugged-out weeks later I started having weird symptoms. Increased anxiety (but no panic attacks) and newly onset depression that I'd never before experienced. Insomnia. Cold sweats. Hot flashes. Irritability (yes, I can be worse!). Constipation like a... well, like it was not good. Then last week in New Orleans it doubled, and I added the shakes to the list. Enough was enough, so I quit. Cold turkey. I had only been on it for about 50 days, so figured I'd do every other day for a week and stop.

Now I have more fun symptoms. Night terrors (which I've never had before). Aching all over. Sharp pains in my legs and feet. Blurry vision. Extreme fatigue. Chills. What the heck?! I looked it all up online tonight and found out that these are all fairly common withdrawal symptoms from Cymbalta. I should have known, given my (and my kids') history with meds. I'm about to go the Tom Cruise route and get all psycho about pharmaceuticals. Tomorrow I get to visit with the lovely nurse who suggested this route toward wellness. I can't wait. She has no idea what she's in for. If I'm in a padded room by the end of the day, please promise to visit and wear a sunny yellow color to cheer me up.

So yeah. After being home for two nights full of night terrors, bathroom visits and incessant sweating, I'm awoken to what looks like a slime attack from a Ghostbusters flick. The devil mommy on one shoulder was oh so close to convincing me to spank them both and send them to bed, as advised in nursery rhymes and by most parents with more than 5 children. But angel-Montessori-loving mommy on the other side balanced her out and the girls ended up with a stern admonishment, a few timeouts throughout the day as required and the threat of eternal timeout and no-playdates-ever-again for Katie should she ever decide to do this again.

Please, please, let the threats work. I need a morning off!!!