Contractors are like bad boyfriends

We are doing a little (OK, not so little!) exterior renovation project on our house right now.  The house was built in the mid-1980’s, and though I’m sure the color “fecal brown” was all the rage at that time, I’m over it.  Since we moved in 6+ years ago, I have been wanting to give the exterior of our home a face-lift.  Unfortunately I have neither the savvy nor the budget of Joanna Gaines, so we’re just hoping that we can make our vision a reality.

This is the “before” shot. Hoping to have an “after” sometime this century.


We all know the old adage about renovating:  it will always cost more money and take more time than you think it will, which I can attest is true based on my own personal experience over the years of home ownership.

But here’s the thing about renovating that HGTV will never tell you:  Contractors are like bad boyfriends.  Trust me on this.  I’ve had some bad boyfriends in my day, SO I KNOW.  You call this contractor up for the first time for an estimate (which I think might be the contactor equivalent of a booty call), and they show right up at your door the next day.  They seem interested in you and they give you a professional estimate for a reasonable price.  You commit.  Then–NOTHING.  Crickets.  All communication becomes one-way.  You try calling, it goes to voicemail.  You email, sometimes to more than one address because you’re creepy like that.  No response.  You try texting, but you keep it light, you know?  Because you’re so breezy and easy to get along with.  You’re definitely not the type of girl to sit around your house waiting for your stone mason to text you back.

 

Why won’t you get back to me?  Am I trying to hard?  Not hard enough?  If you get back to me I will stop texting you, promise.

Don’t tell me that I just need a better contractor, or a different contractor, or that I should call this guy you know who is your husband’s brother and he’s so awesome and professional so he would never do that to me.  IT’S ALL LIES.  I have employed a least a few dozen contactors over the past 15 years and they have all done it to me at some point.  Sooner or later they ghost, and I find myself in the same old predicament–on my phone in the kitchen, stalking this dude who won’t call me back .  Hello, high school memories!

Inevitably, the contractor always seems to turn up a few weeks later, right around the time I am giving up all hope for our working relationship.  He is always full of apologies and excuses, just like those bad boyfriends.  And I am faced with a choice–do I smile, accept the apology, and move on toward a future in which my house is no longer the color of feces with 1970’s brick?  Or do I start over with someone else who could be just as bad or worse?  That’s the question.  That is always the question.

I would like to thank all of the bad boyfriends from my past who unknowingly but effectively prepared me for the rejection, frustration, and abandonment involved with home improvement.

 

 

 

 

I’m going to Haiti soon! Here’s how you can help!

Hello friends!  As some of you know, I will be going back to Haiti very soon!  The date is fast approaching!  Our team is leaving on July 1st, and we will be there for a week.  One of the primary purposes for our trip will be to start implementing a primary care program we have been working on with the community of Chambon (pronounced sham-BONE).  As some of you may remember, I spent a day in Chambon when I went to Haiti last year.

The organization that I am traveling with is the International Mission Foundation.  IMF has a history of working with Chambon for several years now, building relationships and partnering with them on other community development projects.  IMF also has an educational sponsorship program that allows children to attend the Valley of Hope School.

Chambon is a very rural community, with limited access to medical facilities.  Reliable health care can be very difficult to obtain in Haiti for a multitude of reasons.  Over the years of working with them on other projects, the community has expressed a desire for a community health program.  Since this will be our first time in Chambon specifically for this purpose, we expect to spend much of our time learning about this community and doing some more needs assessment.  However, we do hope to set up a primary care mobile clinic for the children who are currently enrolled in the Valley of Hope school.

When people find out about trips like this, they often ask if there is anything they can do to help.  The answer is YES, we do need your help!  Since this is a medical trip, we need supplies!  I made an appointment to go to Intervol in a few weeks, which was an invaluable resource for me last time I traveled to Haiti.  But we will still have many other needs aside from what I can pick up from Intervol.  If you are interested in helping, here are some things you can do!

1.  You can shop on Amazon!  We have an Amazon wish list!  If you like shopping in your pajama pants, like I do, this is a great option–no need to leave your couch.  There are some items on there that are inexpensive, so no need to break the bank if you just want to contribute a little something.

2.  If you live in the Rochester NY area, I will take donations of the following items:

-OTC medications:  acetaminophen (tablets and children’s liquid suspension), ibuprofen (tablets and suspension), diphenhydramine (Benadryl-tablets and suspension), children’s and adult vitamins, ferrous sulfate 325 mg tablets, Poly-vi-sol or Tri-vi-sol liquid, Clotrimazole cream, hydrocortisone cream, and triple antibiotic ointment.  No expired medications please.

-any first aid supplies (gauze, band-aids, slings, ankle or knee braces, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, etc.)

-otoscopes and/or opthlamascopes in good working condition (used OK!)

-manual BP cuffs in good working condition (used OK!)

-stethoscopes (used OK!)

-digital scale(s) in good condition (who wants to weigh themselves anyhow?  Perfect opportunity to ditch your scale!)

-small toys or stickers to hand out to the kids at the end of a check-up

3.  You can sponsor a child in Chambon.  This is a really great opportunity for people who are interested in a more long-term commitment with this community.  Student sponsorship costs $47 per month and pays for one child’s uniform, tuition, shoes, backpack, school supplies, personal hygiene items, and one meal each day.  Sponsorship dollars also help toward the cost of teacher training and costs related to maintaining and improving the school building.  You can read more about sponsoring a child at Valley of Hope here.

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The Valley of Hope School in Chambon

Thank you for your support!  Please “like” and “share” this post!

Hauling my family to church every Sunday is making me lose my religion

Let’s get a few things straight right at the outset, before we dive in.

I love my family.

I love God.

I love and appreciate my church family.

But I have to tell you that for me, attending church with  my family on Sunday morning has earned a place up there on my poo-list with Mondays, dinner, glitter, daylight savings time, and people who try to talk to me when I’m sleeping.

Let us first discuss the hellacious process of getting everyone ready for church, which in itself is enough to make me start raiding the communion wine.  There is the issue of what to wear.  Now, does God care what we wear to church?  Really, no.  Of course we know that the answer is “no”.  However, I do think it is my duty as a parent to teach my kids to dress appropriately for the place and situation in which they happen to be in attendance.  I fear that if I fail to do so, they will one day show up at a job interview wearing pajama pants and a stained t-shirt because nobody ever taught them that there is a time and a place for that sort of thing.  Obviously, we save our pajama pants and stained t-shirts for when we go to Wal-Mart, but I digress. One kid doesn’t want to dress up, which is fine.  We don’t insist on “dressy” clothes, but we do insist on no sweat pants.   Unfortunately, for my 10-year old boy “no sweat pants” is the same as “dressy” by default. So a “certain someone” is inevitably in a foul mood from the moment the sun breaks the horizon Sunday morning.  The girl doesn’t have as much of an issue with getting ready for church because she gets to wear a pretty dress and pretty shoes.  It’s really the main reason she goes to church, aside from the candy our children’s ministry puts in the “busy bag” they hand out to the kids before the sermon.  All that to say that by the time we navigate the “normal” morning mood swings, breakfast, clothing-related drama, getting everyone dressed and out the door on time, and have the “I don’t want to go to church– it’s boring” conversation, we usually arrive on the doorstep of our place of worship a little bit discontent, to put it mildly.

Then there is the issue of actually being at church with kids in tow.  Kids are super talented in that they can ruin anything.  Church is no exception to this rule.  When they were babies and toddlers we would put them in the nursery, which sounds like it would be a good thing, right?  Unfortunately, it turned out to be fraught with all kinds of worship-killing issues, such as separation anxiety, diaper blowouts beyond the scope of the nursery volunteers, feeding times, missed morning naps, and usually some kind of plague that they would acquire 36-48 hours after leaving.  Between the Sundays we missed due to our own kids’ illnesses and the Sundays we had to take our turn volunteering in the nursery, it felt like we hardly ever got to attend the service.   On the rare occasions we were all healthy, present, and able drop them both off in the nursery, Jeff and I would enter the sanctuary and sit there like abused prisoners of war who had just been set free out of a dark hole, blinking in the blinding light of freedom.  Those 45 minutes without the children tugging at us were less about spiritual growth and more about the free babysitting just taking a breather.

With the exception of those few times we were able to make use of the nursery when they were babies, I have not sat through a church service in over a decade without being interrupted every 4 minutes at a minimum.  Over the course of a typical worship service, I break up at least 3 arguments, play a rendition of musical chairs in the pew, field at least 3 requests to go to the bathroom (despite the fact that they both went before we got there), respond to 2 additional requests to leave to get a drink of water, fish at least one child out from under the pews, answer approximately 15 random questions that have nothing to do with church or God or Jesus or worship or anything remotely connected to what I am trying to concentrate on, and THEN–then!!–9 times out of 10 one of the kids will fart (always silent/deadly), thereby crop-dusting all of the poor unsuspecting worshipers around us.  It is exhausting.  And stinky.  And not at all conducive to spiritual growth of any kind.

We have tried many things over the years to try to foster our children’s love for God and their church community.  They love God, but Sunday church is not a fan favorite.  They don’t enjoy going, and because they don’t enjoy it, it is much less enjoyable for me.  I’m not sure how to walk the fine line between prioritizing church as a family without tipping over into legalism.  Or losing my sanity in the process.

This is not how I pictured it would be, of course.  I always thought we would be the kind of family that would be really involved in our church.  Not because I think that will win us any special favors in the eyes of God.  I know we are loved whether we attend church regularly or lay on the couch in our jammies.  But I also want my children to grow up immersed in a healthy faith community, where they will learn the importance of knowing others and being known, of giving and receiving, and where they can practice worship and service.

One of my good friends told me about her husband’s grandmother, who had 6 children.  On Sunday mornings she would take the older kids to the early Mass and the younger kids to the later Mass.  If the older kids misbehaved, she made them attend Mass a second time with the younger siblings.  Say what??  This woman is my hero.

So if you see me smiling maniacally at church on Sunday morning or stage whispering to my kids in the pew, now you know that I’m just white-knuckling my way through until nap time.  MY nap time, that is.  Pray for me.  Deliver me, Lord, from Sunday.

Parenting after infertility

It has been almost 11 years since I had my first baby.

It’s been approximately 12 years since we started the process of in-vitro fertilization.

It’s been about 13 years since I took my first steps over the threshold of the reproductive endocrinologist’s office, scared and angry.

Thirteen years since we did almost a whole year of intrauterine inseminations, hoping against hope each time, trying to avoid doing IVF because I was so terrified of that process.

Fourteen years since I had my first miscarriage.

In my late twenties, when I should have been having fun and experiencing all of the excitement and freedom and possibility of young adulthood, when all of our friends were getting married and popping out babies one after another, we were having medical tests and surgeries and perfectly timed sex, driving as fast as we could from home to the doctor’s office with a sperm sample in a cup tucked next to my body to keep it warm so it could be washed and spun and clinically inserted into my uterus later that day, just like nature intended.

The thing I remember most was the shame.  And grief, so much grief.  I didn’t tell very many people what we were going through at the time.  It was so hard to talk about.  I had this body that wasn’t doing what it was made to do, what lots of women’s bodies did by accident, even.  I was young and healthy and married.  I had a job.  I had a house.  I did everything in the right order.  All those years worrying about birth control and getting pregnant “at the wrong time” seemed pretty silly, in retrospect.

And people said such stupid things.  Even though I knew logically that they were just trying to help and they didn’t mean any harm, when I was already wearing all of my nerves on the outside of my body, other people’s well-meaning but misguided comments were just too much to bear.  So I just kept my pain to myself, and did my best to muddle through work and the responsibilities I had at the time.  I plastered a smile on my face every time I went to a baby shower for a treasured friend, and then went home and cried for days over my own bitter situation as well as my inability to be truly happy for another person that I dearly loved.  The pain hung between us as a couple.  We could hardly speak to each other about what was happening, lest we step into an emotional minefield and lose our footing.  Our marriage suffered as we each retreated to our individual corners to deal with our pain in the best way we knew how.  My mental health unraveled.  We drifted away from our “couple friends”, who now all had at least a few kids and were more interested in doing family-centric activities on the weekends than hanging out as couples.  We avoided any activities where we might be bombarded with pregnant ladies or babies or families, which turned out to be all activities, everywhere.  We became more and more isolated.

Finally we came to the end of our options and did IVF, and it worked.  And I was so sick.  Not in the “morning sickness” way that other women get sick, but in the “complications from IVF way that nobody really tells you can happen” way.  But we were pregnant.  And we were supposed to be happy.  But I was too scared and sick to be happy, so we were just guarded, and every time a little joy would bubble to the surface, we just popped the bubble to keep the joy in check in case the worst happened, because our experience was that the worst usually did happen, at least to us.

As my pregnancy progressed, some of the complications resolved, and new complications arose.  There were some scary, horrible moments.  There was ovarian hyperstimulation, which led to more procedures and treatments.  There was bleeding and bedrest.  There was a twin who was lost, leaving us to grieve the loss of one as we hoped for the other.  As I passed into my second trimester, things started to look up a little.  I came off bed rest and was able to go back to work.  I had a cute little belly.  We started planning and making a registry and getting the baby’s room ready.  We found out we were having a boy.  We let the joy bubble up.  The pain and fear were not gone, but we could lift up our heads in the midst of it for the first time in a while.

Then we had a boy.  All of 5 lbs 11 oz.

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And 2 years later, a girl.

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And there you have it, right?  I got my happy ending.  Not everyone’s infertility story ends that way, I am well aware.  As my friends told me during my darkest days, it was all “worth it in the end”.  Story over.  Except that it’s not.

After almost 5 years of trying to conceive, more interventions than I can count, 3 million home-pregnancy tests, 3 actual pregnancies, 2 losses, 2 c-sections, and 2 live births, I now have two kids who can read and write and pour their own cereal and who let me sleep in on the weekends.  Hallelujah.  And yet, I still have this dark twisty place where shame and grief live.

I thought the shame would go away once we were through with treatments, but it didn’t.  It just transferred neatly over to parenting, and there it has stayed, after a full decade of raising these little miracles that I prayed and cried and ached over before they were ever conceived in a Petri dish.

When I am in the midst of the never-ending laundry pile and cleaning and school papers and picking up the crap that everyone drops all over the house, shame whispers “At least you have people who need you.  Not everyone is so lucky.”

When I don’t want to cook one more meal and just can’t bear the complaining and whining that happens almost every night at the dinner table, shame says, “Well, you get to sit at the dinner table with your husband, a little boy, and a little girl–this is what you wanted, right?”

When I feel simultaneously overstimulated and yet mind-numbingly bored from all of the school happenings and extracurricular activities and homework and baths and bedtimes and board games and recitals and band concerts, I hear “You should be grateful that you have the privilege of watching your healthy kids grow up.  Not everyone gets that opportunity.”

My therapist told me that feelings are just feelings.  Except that some of my feelings feel like a grenade in my hand.  If I hold on to them, no one gets hurt except me.  If I throw that grenade, the people around me get hurt.  They might think I don’t want them or love them, which sounds like a terrible message that I would never want my kids to receive from me.  So I lock myself in the bathroom for some quiet, I go to yoga and on long runs.  And I ponder–can gratitude for my beautiful family really co-exist with these feelings of being totally, utterly exhausted from parenting?  Can I really feel like I want to hold on tight to my dear little family in one breath while wanting to run away from my life in the next?  How do I hold space for the part of me that is so completely resentful of these people who harass me to make them pancakes on a Saturday morning before I have even had a cup of coffee, even as I remind myself that had it not been for medical technology and a $10K gift from my parents, I would be eating pancakes alone?  The truth is that after you go through infertility, there is no space for those feelings.  I can sit in a therapist’s office and agree with her that yes, logically there should be space to be disillusioned and disenchanted and exhausted and frustrated by parenting and that of course, one can feel more than one emotion at a time, in equal measure, even if it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.  Because feelings don’t always make sense.  But.  Everything I do now as a parent– the choices I make, how I relate to my kids, the way I think, the way I feel, the way I am–is all colored by the grief and the pain of that journey we went through to get where we are today.   It changed me.

And what of the loss that comes with infertility?  So much loss, and not just pregnancy loss, which is significant.  There is also loss of your privacy and dignity. Loss of that dream that you would surprise your husband with happy news and he would swing you around and you would both jump up and down in the kitchen.  Loss of some of your friends, who drift away or move on because they started driving in the mommy lane a decade before you, or because you you’re so bogged down by grief to be a decent friend.  Loss of your innocence.  Loss over the way you thought it would be.

I know a lot of people who, after they have suffered greatly from one trial or another, would tell you that despite the pain they endured they ultimately were so grateful for what they learned through suffering that they wouldn’t ever change it.  I don’t think I am one of those people.  My emotional journey didn’t end all nice and neat and wrapped with a pretty bow on the top.  I will never be able to package it like an after-school special with a positive message at the end for everyone to take away and feel good about.  I would never want to change the two children that I have, with the exact combination of chromosomes that make them the unique little beings that they are.  I can appreciate that if we had gotten pregnant earlier, these two kids would not exist.  But would I choose to undergo infertility and pregnancy loss to that end?  My answer is a resounding NO.  I suspect that my inability (or refusal, if I’m being totally honest) to embrace that particular suffering as a “blessing” makes some people pretty uncomfortable.   But maybe it also will give voice to others who, like me, don’t feel the need to weave a silver lining through every little piece of life.  Maybe we can start talking about things like this, and the shame won’t feel so big once it’s out in the open.  Maybe.

 

 

Date night dissolution

The hubby and I had a date night planned this weekend.  The best part about date night, in my opinion, is that you get to miss the whole dinner/bedtime debacle.  The hours between 5-8 pm are, without fail, the most difficult for me as a mother.  I just don’t enjoy that time of day.  Even on the weekends when I am not as fatigued as I am after working all day, some kind of strange black magic takes over in our house and everyone gets cranky and nobody’s ears work and messes get messier and bedtimes creep later and children move at the speed of sloths and I just. can’t. take. it.  Add in the fact that you have to make dinner, clean up from dinner, and 5 out of 7 nights also nag kids to do homework and practice their instruments, then chase them into the shower, well–fuggedaboutit.  

But when it is date night I hire a teenager who comes to my house at 5:30 pm and feeds them hot dogs or soup from a can and plays with them and puts them to bed.  This is cause for happiness on both sides of the equation, because our kids love the teenage girls that babysit for us, and we love escaping the witching hour.  The babysitter always asks us when we are leaving what time we will be home, which I suppose is a valid question when I think about it rationally, but also–who is she, my mother??  I’ll come home when I’m good and ready.  Geez.  OK, 9:30 at the latest, I need my beauty sleep.

We were kind of aimless about our plans for date night this week, and at a loss about what to do with ourselves.  We had wanted to do something outside but the weather wasn’t cooperating, so all we had figured out is that we were going to go out to eat somewhere, and then hopefully find something else to do so that we didn’t get home before bedtime because–hello!– let’s get our money’s worth out of the babysitter!

I got dressed up really cute.  I have been following this fashion blogger on social media, and she is always putting up these cute little outfits with links to where to buy everything, which really takes the guess-work out of being fashionable.  I put on actual pants.  With a button.  On a weekend.  They weren’t even leggings sneakily devised to look like pants.  I was really working it.

I looked at the clock and realized that the sitter was 10 minutes late, which was weird, because she was always on time.  We texted her, and she answered back that she was so sorry, she totally forgot, and also she was sick today so she couldn’t come anyway.  At the same exact moment that this text conversation was happening, my daughter started yelling for me to come upstairs quick, because she had diarrhea and she didn’t feel well.   Sigh.  I got the hand sanitizer, changed back into my pajamas, and hunkered down for a night in.

So basically, in a 30 minute time span I went from  looking super cute in my new spring outfit and anticipating to some good food and an evening out with my husband, to standing in my kitchen in my pajamas, staring into my empty fridge.  With lipstick on.

This must be the 40-something’s equivalent of getting stood up for a date in your 20’s?  Except I don’t remember someone else’s diarrhea being a part of that.

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