August 13, 1991

The kids just left with Peg to spend a few days in Bellevue. I'm glad they're getting a chance to escape this house of gloom & doom, but I'm going to miss them like crazy. This is the first "alone" moment I've had since the funeral. For that matter, it's the first "alone" time, except for a couple of hours last Wednesday night when the kids went to Bible Club, that I've had since I found out Grandma had died. So this is bliss. This is nirvana. I worked like a maniac all day long, cleaning every room in the house ... even the kids' horrible pig pens ... and the place it neat, cool, dim ... and quiet. A breeze blows through the back door, behind me, as I sit here in my beloved little "office." How I love this small corner of the world. I feel like nothing can touch me here. I can sit here and think and write and sip my wine and listen to my music, and nothing can disturb this perfect private island of calm.

August 15, 1991

The kids come home tomorrow. Yesterday I had no babysitting at all, and it was like having a mini-vacation. I went over and visited Thelma for a couple of hours, watched the soaps, read a book, worked on a crossword puzzle, played with the kittens, nibbled on Taco Time, took a long afternoon nap. No giant meals to prepare, no mountains of laundry, no noisy kid-arguments to referee. The house has remained tidy for two and a half days now: a record. I've been enjoying the luxury of wandering from room to room, savoring the neatness, the quiet, the peace.

August 20, 1991

Boy. Talk about going from one extreme to another. Last week (with all the kids gone) was a slice of Heaven on Earth ... and now this week I'm right back in the middle of Hell ...

Jae and Erin are in Mexico this week, and I have inherited all three of their boys: Jerome, André, and four month old Jordan. I've had no sleep in three days, my house is trashed, they're eating me out of house and home, and the noise is deafening. I am at my wits' end.

Jordan is such a handful: the first two nights he didn't sleep at all. I was up with him both nights, and during the day I felt like I was walking in my sleep. At one point, around noon, Jordan was finally taking a real nap, so I crawled onto the sofa and shut my eyes. I had just drifted off into a much-needed snooze when suddenly - TOOT! - Kacie decided to squeeze a baby toy about a foot away from my ear. I burst into tears! ("I'm so sorry Mom! I'm so sorry!" she cried, looking like she was going to break into tears herself.)

August 24, 1991

Jordan spit up all over me about ten minutes ago, and when Jerome jumped up to get me a towel he knocked André down and sent his bowl of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios flying all over the living room rug. Jamie and Kacie have already gotten into one annoying argument this morning, over how many bowls of cereal to pour. Kyle hasn't had a bath in five days and there is food on his face that I recognize from Thursday. André's soggy diaper (yes, his diaper ... at age five) is laying on the kitchen floor, next to the overflowing garbage bag. The kitchen floor is so black and gummy that my bare feet stick to it when I walk across the room. The living room is a sea of baby paraphernelia, dirty laundry is strewn across the floor of my office, and the toilet is running again. Jordan has the hiccups, Sabrina and her four kittens are milling around the back porch demanding to be fed, it's the day after payday and we're broke already, and I am slowly going crazy, crazy going slowly am I ...

August 29, 1991

Our tenth wedding anniversary. Ray left a card for me on the kitchen table this morning: an exact duplicate of the card he gave me two years ago. Oh well. "It's the thought that counts!" Jamie reminded me sternly.

I begin babysitting again for Andrea tomorrow. She has a new job as a bookkeeper for Robinson Newspapers in Burien: I'll be watching Danielle and her new baby brother Cody four days a week (Wednesdays off) for ten hours a day, $2.50 an hour to start. Another baby around here ... oh well. We need the money.

August 30

The girls found out who their teachers will be today: the class lists were posted at the school. Jamie has the fourth grade teacher she desperately did not want, Ms. Kido; Kacie has someone named Mrs. Briggs. Kyle will have Mr. Gallagher, just like the girls did when they were in kindergarten.

More bad news: when Karen came to pick up Josh and Mak last night, she informed me that I will now have the boy five days a week. In other words, no more Wednesdays off. For about ten minutes it looked as though Wednesdays were going to be my island of sanity this fall ... it's the one day of the week I won't have Danielle and Cody, and until now Wednesday was my day off from Josh and Mak, too. Shit. Five straight days of babysitting every week, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. I'll be making $200 a week, but I wonder about the toll this is going to take on me. I'll have NO time for myself, ever.

Oh! That reminds me. I haven't even told you the rest of it. Ray starts on day shift next week. My world is crumbling all around me. Ray will be gone all day and I'll be stuck here in the mornings with Kyle, Danielle, Cody and Mak. After Kyle goes to school I'll still have the other three all day. After school Jamie, Kacie, Kyle and Josh will be thrown on top of everything. Seven kids, including one baby. And then when the "extra" kids have all gone home, Ray will be here all evening. I feel like crying, just thinking about it all.

September 2, 1991

Labor Day

Kyle woke us all up this morning. I was asleep on the sofa (as usual), when I suddenly heard him burst out of bed, run through the house and out the back door. Moments later he was back with a kitten in his arms. I squeezed one eye half-open and peered at him as he ran into the girls' bedroom ... he looked so cute in his blue sweats and bare feet and tousled hair (blond from the sun), hugging the kitten so close ... I can't believe that in two days he'll actually be in kindergarten! The girls were annoyed with him for waking them up (frankly, so was I: the last morning I could sleep in for God knows how long), but I'm in such a radically improved mood, and he's so darned cute, I couldn't stay mad for long. Now all three of the kids are laying around the living room, slurping cups of coffee and milk and watching The Price Is Right. "Better enjoy it while you can!" I tease them. "Two more days and no more Price Is Right or All My Children!" (The girls groaned.)

I just have to keep telling myself that I can do this ... I can do this ... I can take care of my family and three extra kids and a baby, I can keep the house together, I can find time for myself, I can tolerate Ray being home in the evening. I have the inner resources, I have the support network. I am strong! I am invincible! I am SUPER HOMEMAKER/MOTHER/BABYSITTER!!!!!!

September 3

Tomorrow is the first day of school, and Kyle is so blasé about the whole thing, it's driving me crazy. He's not nervous, he's not excited, he's just ... Kyle!

September 4, 1991

The girls just left for their first day of school. Jamie was so excited last night she couldn't sleep, and then she and Kacie came crawling out of bed before 7 a.m. this morning, still pumped up. They look very pretty in the new outfits Peg bought them, with their hair curled and their faces so shiny and eager. Naturally I had to take pictures of them, squinting happily into the sun. (Grandma would be so proud.)

Kyle is up, too. I gave him a bowl of cereal and he's sitting on my bed, watching cartoons without a care in the world. This is one of the biggest days of his life and he's still as cool as a cucumber.

10 a.m.

Kyle took a bath and I washed his hair; then I combed it out, and now it's shiny and smooth and glistens like gold. He's snuggling on the sofa with one of the kittens ("Spud") and watching an old "Batman" re-run on TV. We leave in two hours.

September 6

Kyle loves school, but then I knew he would! Janet showed up at school on the first day, and after we put Joey and Kyle onto the bus, we drove over to the kindergarten classroom (at Tyee High School) to eavesdrop on the first few minutes of class. Kyle was so cute and attentive: when Mr. Gallagher called roll, Kyle put his hand up to show he was "present." I felt a lump in my throat.

September 10, 1991

We had a nice weekend. Ray and the kids and I went out to the Federal Way K-Mart and bought school clothes for the kids. I found some terrific black stretch-jeans for both of the girls, $15 apiece, and then I let them each pick out a new top to go with it. For Kyle I got a pair of jeans, a striped pullover and a pair of Ninja Turtle suspenders.

Sunday evening we all went out to dinner at The South China Doll. Eating out is a rare treat for us, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself in spite of our ditzy waitress, who charged us $21.95 for a side-order of barbecued pork, and in spite of Kyle's refusal to eat anything but tea and prawns.

September 11

Caught Kyle playing with matches in the bathroom. Guess he thought I wouldn't catch on, but the smell when I walked into the bathroom was unmistakable. Resisted the urge to spank him, but I sent him to his room, grounded him from Nintendo and church for two weeks, and told him that I'm "very angry and disappointed." He is sitting in his room now, sobbing his heart out.

Some P.isms

Kacie: (looking at Dolly Parton on TV) "Is that Lolly Partner?"

Jamie: "There's no school on Monday ... it's Veterinarian's Day."

Kyle: "Sorry, Jack ... Chucky's back!"

Kyle: "I'm good at this, amn't I?"

Kacie: (at Christmas) "Oh yeah, those are The Three Wise Guys!"

September 14, 1991

I'm standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes, watching my children play in the morning sunshine. Jamie and Kacie are so tall and long-legged, like young colts ... next to them Kyle looks little and round, forever and always my "baby." They're playing with the plastic balls Ray bought them at Pay 'n Save last night, trying to hit them back and forth across the clothesline in a makeshift game of volleyball. Suddenly I'm seized with an irresistible urge to join them. I leave my sinkful of dirty dishes and dash out to the back yard, shouting "C'mon! Who's gonna serve first?" The kids are amazed, then delighted, and for the next fifteen minutes we play an uproariously inept game of "bally-ball" (as Kacie calls it).

Kids are eating dinner - spaghetti, salad, bread and butter. I am sitting in my office, eavesdropping on their conversation. "How old was Terry Solo when I was about, um, one?" asks Kacie, twirling spaghetti around her fork. "Maybe she was fifty," Kyle says.

September 17

It's time for the girls to leave for school and Kacie's hair still hasn't been brushed. "Kacie!!" I shout, "Find a hairbrush and come here so I can do your hair!" She disappears into the bedroom while I sit and wait. Five minutes later, I'm still waiting. "KAAA-CIE!" I wail in frustration, "Come ON!" She comes out of the bedroom looking confused, no hairbrush in hand, and sits down. "Where is your brush?" I ask. She leaps out of the chair. "Oh yeah, I forgot," she says, and she runs back into the bedroom.

Jamie washed her hair last night, and when I come out to my office this morning I find her wet bath towel laying across the top of my desk. "Oh, this is nice," I say sarcastically, and I hand the towel to Jamie. "Sorry," she says, rolling her eyes, and I walk off to fix breakfast. A few minutes later I walk into the laundry room and see that the towel - still perfectly clean, only a little damp - has been tossed into the basket of dirty laundry. "Jamie!" I shout, "This isn't exactly what I had in mind!" And I throw the towel at her. "SORRY!" she says, again, in that infuriatingly snide tone of voice she has affected recently ... a tone that says "For the love of God, Mother, you are a complete hysterical nincompoop."

Isn't motherhood delightful?? Ain't we having some fun now ...???

September 1991

Tired, headachey, grumpy. Wishing, not for the first time, that Ray was back on swingshift again. He keeps badgering me, trying to get me involved in conversations, and frankly I just long to be left alone. Or else he's out there shouting at the kids ("OUT! OUT of my CAR!") and the sound reverberates through my skull like a cannonball.

September 18

... I can tell right now that Cody is going to be a fussy handful today. Andrea dropped him off an hour and a half ago, and I can tell by the look in his eye that he's gonna squeeze the juice right out of me. Cody will be three months old in a couple of days, incidentally. He's a funny, fat, pale baby with big blue eyes and shock of bright orange hair that looks like a bad toupee. Most of the time he's easygoing and happy, but he has eating problems and it's a major undertaking getting him to burp after a feeding. Already this morning he's managed to "urp" all over the front of my tank top.

Kyle: (talking about Grandma V.) "When I see her in Heaven, maybe I'll be her Cookie Boy again." This one made me cry.

Mom: "Hey, what you are you doing on my lap again?"

Kyle: "That's what little boys are supposed to do!"

Yesterday afternoon was a circus around here: we were due, at 6 p.m., to go to Kyle's kindergarten Open House, and yet I found myself at 5:25 still looking at a houseful of kids. Kyle was sitting in the tub yelling for someone to rinse the shampoo out of his hair, Cody was fussing in the living room, there were three bags of groceries sitting on the kitchen table waiting to be put away, and I still hadn't gotten dressed or brushed my hair ... and there was Jamie, sitting on the sofa chewing gum and looking at a catalog. I yelled at her to help me. "I'm watching Cody!" she said, snapping her gum at me. I totally lost patience with her, telling her to march her snotty ass to her room and stay there. "And spit out that stupid gum!!" I screamed.

Kyle: "When you're a grownup you get to read the newspaper, drink coffee and watch 'Regis & Kaffy Lee.' "

"I know you've heard this one before," I say to Ray as I empty the bags of groceries he brought home - Oreos, Doritos, pop, candy bars, hot dog buns - "But next week I'm going to go back on Slim Fast." He doesn't argue, just nods and says OK, OK ... he has heard this before.


Autumn 1991

Kyle: "I think God is cute."

Mom: "I'll bet that just makes His day."

Jamie: (watching the evening news) "What do they mean by a Carson fire?"

Kacie: "Oh, that's so IN-sterating."

November 23, 1991

The girls (Jamie, Kacie and Jessica B.) have been driving me crazy all morning, looking for "something to do" - helping me with housework being out of the question, apparently - so I finally broke down and gave them some money to walk to Trailer Town with. Every weekend now we go through this same crap with Jamie. She's bored, she's lonely, there's nothing fun to do. It drives me nuts. My stock answer is, "Hey, I'm not the Entertainment Committee around here." Which means - make your own fun. Entertain yourself. Find something, anything, to do.

November 27, 1991

The girls are getting ready for school. Jamie just emerged from the bedroom looking extremely agitated and panting heavily. "What's wrong?" I asked, alarmed. I thought maybe she couldn't find her homework, or that her throat hurts, or something worse. "My HAIR!" she wailed in disgust. "It looks hor-rible!" I asked her (fighting to keep a straight face) why she didn't just come to me for help. "Cuz you're busy writing!" she said, and at that point I couldn't suppress a giggle because, in fact, her hair looks absolutely lovely, as always, and because she was so distressed about something so silly, and because I love her so much.

The day before Thanksgiving. We're having dinner at home tomorrow: that's the good news. Ray's folks are in Arizona, we did the trip to Aberdeen last year, and this year we get to spend Thanksgiving at home! Just the kids and Ray and I and a 22 lb. turkey, fresh off the Webber. Heaven! The bad news is that Ray invited his brother and sister here for dinner, along with Barbara's new boyfriend and Don's fiancee (who is from Russia and doesn't speak English). Is Terri P. up to the challenge? Can she manage to feed and entertain nine people (including two total strangers) and still maintain her composure? Can she get her house to sparkle, her children to dazzle the guests with perfect manners, and her pumpkin pie to melt in your mouth ...???

... Well. I'll settle for getting the cat pee smell out of the bathroom, all three of the kids into the tub and enough Cool Whip to cover the burned edges of the pie ...

Things We Are Thankful For, Thanksgiving 1991

Kacie: "Thanks for all this food we got today; thanks for a nice house; for a Mom and a Dad."

Jamie: "I'm thankful for my kitties; I'm thankful for my family; I'm thankful for a nice church because the teachers are very nice."

Kyle: "Um ... I want a Game Boy - " (Mom interrupts: "No! This is stuff we're thankful for!") "I'm thankful for my Mom and Dad; I'm thankful for Thanksgivin''; and I'm thankful for all the food we get."

Mom: "I'm thankful for my new typewriter; I'm thankful for the trip to Boise this year with Grandma, and for the lifetime of memories she left me; I'm thankful, above all else, to be the mother of the three most wonderful children in the world."

Thanksgiving morning. This will be the only moment of calm and quiet today, probably. Jamie got up and made scrambled eggs and toast for everybody a little while ago: I'm not kidding, they were delicious. She's turning into quite an accomplished cook. Speaking of cooking, I got a jump start on today's meal yesterday ... I baked two pumpkin pies, mashed the potatoes, put two pans of stuffing together and laid out the vegetable trays. Today all I have to do is put everything in the oven to warm up, and make the gravy.

Note: The only mention in my journal of our Thanksgiving dinner is a terse "Dinner went pretty well."

December 6, 1991

The Christmas season is officially here. I'm not sure I'm ready for it, but it's here.

Last year was the worst Christmas of my life, and I'm determined that this year will be better. Just staying on top of things is the first step. I'm almost done with my Christmas cards, and a lot of the decorating is done. (No tree till next weekend.) We've already got Kacie and Kyle's big presents stashed up in the attic ... rollerblades for Kacie, a Game Boy for Kyle ... and next weekend we'll pick up Jamie's new bike. I've got my supplies of candles and holiday magazines already, Ray put up the outdoor lights the day after Thanksgiving, and I finally managed to finish the Christmas collage.

Jamie's tenth birthday was last week, and as celebrations go this one was definitely more low-key than in recent years. I explained to her ahead of time that I didn't have the time, energy or funds for a big birthday party (like last year's "movie party," or her slumber party the year before). She was very mature about it. We had a nice family celebration, with her choice of dinner (chicken stir-fry), a German Chocolate cake and plenty of presents. Ray and I gave her a Caboodle, along with some earrings and makeup to go in it. Thelma gave her a "Babysitters Club" game, and Grandma P. gave her a sweater and some purple pants that she's worn almost daily ever since. The years are just spinning by too fast.

December 18, 1991

Ray and I went shopping on Sunday (my 34th birthday, incidentally) and finished shopping for the kids. Before shopping we stopped at B-Z's and had a glass of wine (me) and a beer (Ray). That got me into the spirit of things, pun not intended. We left Jamie in charge of the house, and while we were gone she and the other two baked me a birthday cake and festooned the house with birthday decorations. I came home and the place was ablaze with lights and candles and music. It was neat. Ray and the kids sat in the living room playing "Monopoloy" all evening while I puttered around in my kitchen, cooking chicken-fried steak for my birthday dinner and listening to Christmas tapes and drinking more wine.

As a joint birthday gift for Jamie and I, Mom took us (and Kacie) to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker," at The Opera House. That was a magic day! The ballet was wonderful, and we also had time to walk around the Center House and visit the "Winterfest '91" celebration. When we got home from the ballet, the kids and I decorated the Christmas tree while Ray made tacos.

The funniest moment of Christmas 1991 was when Jamie opened her "big" gift from Ray and me.

Strangely enough, I was the first one up Christmas morning. I had warned the kids the night before not to make any noise before 6 a.m., but when I woke up Christmas morning and walked out to the kitchen to check the time, it was already past seven and everyone was still asleep. I put a new roll of film into my camera, plugged in the Christmas tree lights and turned some soft music on the stereo. Then I went and stood by the doorway of the girls' room. (Kyle was sleeping with Jamie.) "Good morning!" I said. "Merry Christmas!" It took a minute or two to register, but then the three of them were fully awake and stumbling out of the bedroom, one by one, blinking and rubbing their eyes.

"Santa" had left some unwrapped toys under the tree ... a racetrack and some little cars for Kyle, the game of "Life" and some card games for Kacie, a pottery wheel and paint set for Jamie ... and they poked around those for a bit, then emptied their stockings. We managed to drag Ray out of bed soon afterwards, so we could open our presents. The Food Bank gave all three of the kids toys and clothes, which they opened first, and Ray and I opened our presents from the kids. I was touched by the thought and care they'd put into my gifts: Jamie bought me an expensive potpourri set, Kacie got me a beautiful trinket box, and Kyle gave me a tiny ceramic owl for my collection and a pair of earrings.

Kyle unwrapped the Game Boy cartridge we'd gotten him, looked at it blankly and said, "But I don't have a Game Boy." Which of course was rectified a moment later, when he opened his Game Boy. "Yes! Yes!" he shouted. Then Kacie opened her knee-pads. She didn't know what they were, at first - she thought they were slippers - but then she was ecstatic when the rollerblades appeared a minute later. It was the one thing she wanted the most this year.

And then, at last, it was Jamie's turn. I wanted to throw her completely off the track this year. She was so sure she was getting a bike, and I did catch a glimmer of disappointment on her face when she got out of bed and there was no bike under the tree. But that was nothing compared to the look on her face when she opened her "present" from Ray and me ... a box filled with an old broken stapler, a jar of dried beans and an old telephone in it. She looked at me and said "Huh?" For a second or two, I felt so sorry for her - she had confusion and let-down written all over her face. But at least I'd succeeded in fooling her. Feigning total indifference to her confusion, I said "Well, that's it for Christmas. Jamie, go out to the garage and bring us a garbage box." She looked at me like I'd totally lost my mind. Here I'd just annihilated her Christmas, and now I wanted a garbage box? She just stared at me with her mouth hanging open. "Out in the garage!" I said again. "Get me a box!" And then someone threw the switch inside her brain. All of a sudden she knew! She jumped up and dashed out to the garage, where her beautiful new bike was waiting for her, and she let out a scream that could probably be heard ten blocks away.

January 1992

We celebrated New Year's Eve here at home with John and Lori: it was an evening of music, wine, games ("Outburst Jr." - Lori trounced me), TV, fireworks, champagne and fun with our best friends. A fine way to welcome the new year.

So, what would make 1992 a better year than 1991 was ...? A few fantasy wishes for Mom:

I feel hungry only once a day, right before dinner, and than I'm satisfied after a nice, low-cal, low-fat meal. My constant thoughts about food are replaced by incredible bursts of creative energy, and scientists discover that doing laundry burns calories more effectively than aerobics.

Ray develops an allergy to beer, and learns to like "Murphy Brown."

The kids' bedrooms become self-cleaning.

Televised sports are outlawed, especially on the weekends.

Tad Martin comes back to All My Children, Jimmy Smits comes back to L.A. Law and Jean Smart comes back to Designing Women.

Jamie stops hitting people, and Kacie loses her baton; Kyle "freezes" at age five for an extra year or two.

Continued ...


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