December 12, 1990
Jamie's birthday has come and gone. On Saturday she, Jessica and Tia B., Christina D., Marie E., Emily J. and I went to see "Home Alone" at Lewis & Clark. It went a lot better than I expected: no waiting in long lines, no problem finding decent seats, and - best of all - the girls were all remarkably well-behaved. The movie was really cute, too. Afterwards we all came back to the house for cupcakes and presents. As always, there were problems with the gifts we gave her: something always seems to go awry. The Paula Abdul dance video we bought her was defective and had to be exchanged, for one thing. Also, Ray bought her a nice little mouse cage and a new mouse, but when we put her "old" mouse in the cage with the new mouse, they went at each other like prize fighters. So poor old M.C. is back out in the garage in the crummy old aquarium, while the new mouse lives a life of luxury in the spiffy new cage, here in the house.
December 17, 1990
Money worries were worse than usual this year: our car broke down, my babysitting career was stalled, and we were behind on all our bills.
Not feeling a lot of Christmas spirit this year. The front window is still absolutely bare: ordinarily by this point in the season it would be covered with paper snowflakes or kids' artwork, but so far all I've been able to manage this year are some candles on the windowsill. I've mailed out five Christmas cards this year. Baking Christmas cookies? Forget it. Am I done with my shopping? Don't make me laugh: I haven't even started. The Christmas tapes are laying on top of the (broken) stereo in a neglected heap: I haven't even felt like listening to them anyway. One thing that helps: our beautiful Christmas tree! Ray and John brought it home Friday afternoon, and the kids and I decorated it that evening. I let the kids decorate the bottom two-thirds, and I took charge of the top. It's a glorious, messy, eye-popping conglomeration of twinkling lights (new this year!), garland, glass balls, and the hundreds of ornaments we've collected over the years ... and it goes a long way towards making the house (and me) feel more Christmasey.
We were hit by a blizzard last night, and today the world is dazzlingly beautiful.
The kids were all sweet and wonderful to me on my birthday. Jamie served me breakfast in bed (Rice Krispies and toast), and then they showered me with gifts, which they'd purchased themselves: a ring and a notepad caddy from Jamie, a lovely porcelain box from Kacie (to add to my collection). Even Kyle had a gift for me - a stack of seven blue envelopes, each one containing a scrap of paper with his wonderful four yr. old "letters and numbers" on them. (Lately, "writing" and drawing have become his passions in life.) Lori, Tracy and Jeanetta came over and spent my birthday with me ... wine, munchies and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Fun.
I have some unexpectedly nice news to report this morning: Lori is pregnant!!
December 28, 1990
Well ... it's over. The most physically grueling, stress-laden, bah humbug Christmas I can ever remember enduring.
No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to conjure up the slightest bit of holiday spirit this year. Money worries, too much work and too little help, recurring bronchitis, sadness over the deaths this year of Aunt Helene, Grandma St. John, Uncle Vaughn ... fear of impending war in the Persian Gulf, worrying over the recession ... this holiday season was doomed from the start. Nothing moved me: not the familiar carols on the stereo (the turntable and the tape deck are broken), not my favorite Christmas magazines, not even "Rudolph" on TV (no George C. Scott this year) ... not even the fact that this was our first white Christmas since 1965 (it made driving to Bellevue a nightmare) ...
But I think the kids had a good time. My Grinchlike attitude bothered Jamie, I think, but it's hard to have a completely lousy Christmas when you're nine years old and showered with gifts from all corners of the family. The kids got a Nintendo from Peg and Don this year: definitely everyone's favorite gift.
The first couple weeks of 1991 have been no great shakes. I was desperately hoping for a little peace and quiet, once the holidays were over ... a little tedium to break up the pandemonium, so to speak ... but the year has barely begun and already we've had to battle head lice, a babysitting arrangement that blew up in my face and two friends who have suffered traumatic miscarriages (Lori, especially). On top of everything else, our country is now four days from war. We've had a week of freezing rain, Ray keeps taking "days off" from work, and we owe money all over town. Holy Nervous Breakdown, Batman.
The head lice adventure was last week. The school has been sending notices home for weeks, warning about an "infestation" at Bow Lake, but I blithely threw them all away. Such a thing could never affect my kids! So of course when the school secretary called Monday morning saying she was sending Kacie home (and, a little while later, Jamie), I was blown away. We were flat broke as usual, and I had no idea how we were going to afford the special shampoo and the other stuff we would need. I called my mom at work and cried on her shoulder, and during her lunch hour she came by with two bottles of prescription shampoo and an enormous can of R & C disinfectant spray. I spent the whole day laundering all the bedding in the house, vacuuming, spraying mattresses, and - of course - shampooing and combing the girls (and Kyle too, for good measure). The girls had to stay home from school an extra day, school district policy, but when they went back on Wednesday the school nurse examined them and said they were "all clear." I've got to keep an eye on everybody for the next two weeks, making sure it doesn't come back, but for the moment we seem to have survived another crisis in P.ville.
Now I'm back to praying for new babysitting clients, but the last three or four experiences have been so disastrous that I'm not feeling optimistic. If it weren't for Andrea (Danielle's mother), who just stopped by to pay me a minute ago - right on time, as always - I would be forced to believe that all people using "family daycare" are inconsiderate, irresponsible assholes. I simply can't imagine any other "profession" that leaves you so vulnerable to whim and advantage-taking.
January 15, 1991
Today is the day: the deadline for war. If Saddam Hussein doesn't pull out of Kuwait by midnight, EST (9 p.m. our time), we are a nation at war. My sister called me yesterday, and eventually we got around to the subject of the Persian Gulf. "I'm so sorry you have to go through all of this again," she said. "This must seem so familiar." For a minute or two I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Familiar? What seems familiar? And then I realized that she meant the war, and the fact that this is the second major war to occur during my lifetime. How old does the think I am, anyway?? I was a little kid during the Vietnam War. But it also started me thinking. I was a little kid during the Vietnam War, far more interested in Dark Shadows and Girl Scouts and riding my bike and playing with my dolls than in peace rallies or the Huntley-Brinkley report. The war was little more than the background noise of my childhood. Now we are going to war again, and my children are approximately the age I was during the Vietnam years, yet their level of awareness and sophistication both alarms and saddens me.
DreamI went to see a dentist for a regular checkup and x-rays. The dentist looked at my x-ray and said, "Mrs. P., it seems you are pregnant." I peered over his shoulder at the x-ray, astonished, and saw the outline of two tiny, blob-like shapes. One was about the size of a paper clip, the other half as big. "Two of them?" I asked, and the dentist said yes, there were two, but they weren't twins because they were conceived a month and a half apart. I was tremendously surprised, but I felt a sudden rush of tenderness towards the little "blobs." "Unfortunately," the dentist said - ominously - "They will have to be aborted." And he picked up a shiny silver dentist's tool, something that looked like a nail file, and began to scrape at the x-rays. "No, NO, NOOO!" I shouted, and I tried to run away, but there were arms holding me down and I was forced to sit there and watch as the dentist scraped the little blobs from the x-ray.
January 16, 1991
The war has begun tonight.
January 18, 1991
All of a sudden the world has tilted on its axis. I am no great political analyst so all I can give you is my simplified version of world events. The U.S. launched a massive air attack on Baghdad on Wednesday night, and now Iraq is retaliating with missile attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia. President Bush addressed the nation Wednesday night and said, "This will not be another Vietnam." He said that he is "hopeful" the fighting won't last for long, and that "casualties will be held to an absolute minimum." Meanwhile, all the world watches and waits. TV and radio cover the war 24 hours a day, and I've never seen bigger (or scarier) headlines on the front page of the newspaper. There is little else to talk about, think about, pray about. Everything else pales in importance.
Distracted by the war and by personal problems, I didn't write much in my journal for a few weeks.
The war has ended as abruptly as it began. The country is euphoric. When I think about how long the Vietnam War dragged on, it amazes me that this war came and went within weeks.
Rainy, cold, late afternoon. Fire in the woodstove, tea in the microwave. Jamie is at Jessie & Tia's for dinner: she'll be home after Brownies tonight. Kyle and Kacie are quietly eating their microwave dinner of corn dogs and frozen macaroni and cheese, sitting in front of the TV with an old "Alf" re-run. Kacie and Kyle have a somewhat adversarial relationship these days ... he is very much the annoying little brother, she the indignant and superior older sister. Three-quarters of the sibling bloodshed around here involves Kacie and Kyle.
March 14, 1991
Mom: "You know, it seems as though three mornings out of five, you leave this house angry at me."
Jamie: (pouts silently)
Mom: "... but that's just because I care about what people think about you."
Jamie: "No you don't - you care what people think about you!"
(This after I wouldn't permit her to wear the same cruddy socks and dirty pink leggings she wore to school yesterday.)
Something I love about Kyle: the way he comes straight over to me, first thing out of bed, and wordlessly climbs onto my lap for a couple of minutes. He's so warm and snuggly, and he smells so good, and his hair sticks out all over the place ... it reminds me of when he was a baby, about a million years ago. I suppose that in another few months (years?) he'll be too big for this stuff, so I'd better get my fill while I can.
Suddenly I find myself in another Week In Hell. Why do these things always seem to occur in March? Last year it was nursing six kids through chicken pox. This year it's a combination of a bunch of stuff. Taken individually, none of these things would be overwhelming ... but put together, it's jumping-off-the-bridge time ... First of all, Jamie has the flu, and she's got it bad. Secondly, Kacie got sent home from school yesterday with head lice - again. So she ended up staying home all day too, and I had to go through all the cleaning and disinfecting shit all over again. I'm not the least bit mad at Kacie - I'm furious with the parents who keep sending their infected kids back to school to reinfect my kids - but Kacie was embarrassed and unhappy, just the same. On top of everything else, my five year old niece, Karen, and her one year old foster brother Jeffrey are staying with us all week, while Stephanie and Dwain are attending a funeral in Oklahoma. Karen is no trouble, a real "low-maintenance" kid, perfectly content to follow Kacie around the back yard, or to sit and play Nintendo with Jamie for hours on end. And of course there's the fact that she's my brother's daughter, and the blood connection means a lot to me. Jeffrey, however, is one of those hell on wheels kind of toddlers, and I've got to keep an eye on him every second.
March 19, 1991
Karen hates me. I want her to think I'm her wonderful Aunt Terri, but she hates me. The stress and the lack of sleep the past couple of days have turned me into a witchy mess, and I can't seem to quit blowing my top at everybody (especially Jeffrey, who is driving me STARK FUCKING BONKERS). Even though my anger is never directed at Karen, twice this afternoon I've walked into a room and found her in tears ... those same silent, broken-hearted tears Kacie used to cry six months ago (before she turned into a door-slammer like Jamie). It made me feel horrible.
A little better. We all watched "The Wizard Of Oz" last night, and at one point Karen climbed up onto the sofa and snuggled up right next to me. She is an incredibly sweet little girl, so much like Kacie.
The Week In Hell continues. Today is Kacie's birthday, and this screaming baby is ruining everything.
April 2, 1991
Two (fairly) peaceful weeks later, and we're still talking about what a little monster Jeffrey was. While we sang "Happy Birthday" to Kacie and she blew out the candles on her cake, all you could hear was Jeffrey screaming his head off. Dwain and Stephanie came and got the kids the next evening, and I was so glad to see them go.
Kacie's slumber party (on March 23rd) was a raucous, happy success ... it more than made up for her disastrous birthday dinner (the night the Monster Baby was here). She had three guests spend the night - Cassie, Bernadette and Angela - plus Jessica B. wound up staying over too, giving me a hand with the games and stuff. (Jamie went over to the B's and spent the night with Tia.)
The money situation is bad, bad, bad. Andrea was fired from her job last week, which means that I am out of a job as well. No babysitting income at all. Things are very slow at SeaPak too, and Ray said he doesn't know how we'll pay the rent, let alone buy food and take care of the other bills. The kids have been drinking powdered milk for two days and they don't even know it. Jamie needs new shoes, Kyle's birthday is coming up ... help us, Lord.
The girls have left for dance class, and now I am dying for a cigarette. I don't smoke much anymore, but it's been a tense day and I think a cigarette and a Diet Coke sound heavenly. Besides, it's a beautiful sunny afternoon and I have $2.35 in the back pocket of my Levi's. I look at Kyle and say, "Let's go to the little store." "Can I buy a bag of popcorn?" he asks, and I say OK, and a minute later he and I are walking down the street, hand in hand. Kyle and I spend a lot of time together these days, and despite my worries about our finances, I am cherishing this time. All too soon he'll be off to kindergarten and my baby will be gone. I watch him as we walk along: he comes just to my hip. His shaggy hair (badly in need of a trim, I note wistfully) gleams in the sunlight. Every few feet he has to stop and hike his pants up. We talk about snakes as we walk along, and about the garbage littering the side of the street, and about the fact that the girls will be home from school the next few days because of the teacher's strike. I am painfully self-conscious of the way I must look to people driving past us ... enormous floppy work shirt, hair pulled back into a flat ponytail, no makeup ... but Kyle doesn't give a fig how I look, and I guess I shouldn't, either. The days of getting dolled-up for a walk to the store are long gone: I'm a Mom now, and the only truly important thing about this moment is the fact that Kyle and I are together. Somehow this makes me feel better, and I throw my shoulders back proudly and walk with my head held high.
When we get to Bow Lake School, the playground is teeming with activity ... two separate baseball games in progress, children on bikes all over the place, mothers watching small children play on the Big Toy. Kyle loves the Big Toy, so I sit and watch him clamber around on it for ten minutes. Every couple of minutes he checks to make sure I'm still watching him, and when he sees that he has my undivided attention, he smiles and makes a great show of climbing up the slide the wrong way and then sliding back down again. His Levi's are a size and a half too big, and when he slides down his "Thunder Jets" underpants threaten to completely expose themselves. He checks again to see if I'm watching, and then he jumps from one level of the Big Toy to the ground below, landing on his bottom in the gravel with a horrifying SPLAT. Before I have a chance to ask him if he's OK, he leaps to his feet, brushes the dust from the seat of his pants and says, with elaborate nonchalance, "Good thing I like hurts today."
April 19, 1991
The Lord heard my prayer. Wednesday evening, after Kyle and I had come home from the store and I was writing my account of our walk, the phone rang. A woman named Karen S. saw my ad, posted on the Shannon South bulletin board, and wanted to know about daycare for her two children! An hour later she dropped by so we could meet each other and talk, and there was an immediate rapport between the two of us. Yesterday was my first day with two and a half year old Mak, and today I have him and his nine year old brother, Josh Jr. It's too early to tell how well I'm going to get along with the two of them, but so far it's going OK. Josh was somewhat awkward when he first got here: Jamie and Kacie are home (because of the teacher's strike), plus we have Alexandra R. here for the day, and I think Josh was disconcerted to walk into a house full of girls. But he's thawing now, especially since I hooked up the Nintendo ... the common denominator of all children. He seems to be a fairly nice kid.
I was so excited about getting this babysitting job ... I just hope it works out this time. I was so depressed when I found out about Andrea getting fired, I went through the classified ads half-heartedly trying to find a "real" job. My choices? Burger King. Pietro's Pizza. Jack In The Box. Bottom of the barrel, nowhere jobs ... the only thing (besides motherhood and babysitting) that I'm qualified for at the moment.
Mak is an easy two and a half year old, very mild-mannered ... his brother is more of a handful, and we're having some minor problems adjusting to each other. He refuses to eat anything I serve him, he's too aggressive about the Nintendo, and the girls can't stand him. But I'm working hard to maintain the upper hand here and not let this nine year old Attilla the Hun get to me. This job means to much to us.
May 30, 1991
... Grandma V. called and invited me to go to a family reunion with her at the end of June, in Idaho. To make a long story short, Grandma is offering to foot the bill if I want to go with her. I have half a mind to take her up on her offer. I could certainly use the change of scenery, and I definitely think this family would benefit from the shake-up my absence for five days may create. Naturally there are a lot of details to work out ... principally, someone to watch the kids ... but there's nothing insurmountable, not if I employ a little creative thinking and call in a few favors.