Thursday, June 30, 2005


I've been really slacking off with my posting. Bad girl. As you can imagine, things have been a bit crazy while we try to get everything set for A-Girl and Big D to go to Asia in less than two months. Big D is officially leaving his job at the end of July and they leave at the end of August. There's so much to do, our heads are spinning.

Besides getting A-Girl and Big D ready to leave the country, here's what's been going on:

We went to Big D's 20th high school reunion in Waupaca, Wisconsin last weekend. It was fun - I always have more fun at his reunions than at my own. Partly because Waupaca is a bit more down to earth than Highland Park, Illinois and partly because there's really no pressure to live up (or down) to anyone's expectations like there is at your own reunions. Plus the band was rockin! Big D's long time friend Tim plays in the band (which, by the way, is called Mr. Vargas) and they're the most awesome cover band I've ever heard. If you're ever in the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin, I suggest you try to see them. Big D spent a lot of time and energy helping to plan the reunion and all the hard work really paid off.

I'm in the middle of my fiction writing class and I've been trying to write a little at least every couple of days. I really need to write every day so I can get in the groove. I have a tendency to over think my writing - I spend a lot of mind space thinking about the plot and the characters but I don't get things down on paper. But when I do actually start writing, at least sometimes things just seem to fall into place without a lot of agonizing. Part of that is because of the upfront thinking I do but most of it is just the flow of writing. Anyway, that's at least partly my excuse for not posting more. I'm sort of happy with what I've written so far. The biggest problem is that I haven't fully fleshed out the plot yet so sometimes it's hard to write individual scenes. Funny that I used the word scene instead of chapter. I've been feeling like what I'm writing might be more suited to a screenplay rather than a book. Once I flesh out the plot, we'll see what it wants to turn into.

We're trying to be more sociable so we've actually invited friends over. These are new friends so they've never been to our apartment before and they don't know what clutter-hounds we are. So far the only friends that have come over are people that have known us for years and we know they'll love us even if our apartment isn't spotless. Dave and I have a similar problem with clutter - perfectionism - but it manifests itself in different ways. He has a hard time starting anything unless he has the time to do the whole project perfectly at one time. I can start things but I don't finish and I don't go about them efficiently. His method completely overwhelms me because I can't get myself to spend a whole day cleaning! We also have a tendency to get caught in busyness so there doesn't seem to be a lot of time to do those "big" cleaning projects.

So, now I'm trying to balance work (which is now a bit more pressured because I will be the sole breadwinner for a little while) and personal tasks. Posting to my blog is most certainly a personal task which is now interfering with my job so I'll sign off for now.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Love, Freudian style

M-Girl is generally not a morning person. She simply cannot get out of bed in the morning (at least not on school days) without a generous amount coaxing from mom and dad. On Saturday, however, she was going to a pool party so she was up at 6:00 a.m. (yes, 6:00 a.m.) with her bathing suit on when she jumped into bed with us. If she wasn't so cute . . .

So, we talked to her for awhile and at one point I said "Gosh, M-Girl. You're really growing up." And she said "I don't want to grow up." When asked why, she replied "How am I going to find a husband?" Huh? We said, "Well, when you're older, you'll find the right person." She turns to her dad and says "But I want you to be my husband." He said "Well, I can't because I'm already married to mommy." She said "Noooooo, I want you to be married to me."

Not that I'm an expert or anything but according to some stuff I just read on the Internet, the Electra Complex describes the point in a young girl's development where she develops a romantic attachment to her father and a hostile attitude towards her mother. That's not really what appears to be happening with M-Girl. She's not hostile towards me in particular (she's equally hostile to me and everyone else when we tell her to eat her oatmeal). Whenever I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she says "You know mommy. It's you!" It's more like she knows that she's a girl and she wants to grow up to be like her most important female role model.

I never really felt this with A-Girl. She was jealous whenever Big D and I so much as held hands when she was a baby. She would scream bloody murder when we'd kiss each other. Even now, at 7, she'll try to squeeze between us sometimes when we're hugging. I don't think it's because she was jealous of me and wanted Big D to herself. My theory is that she just doesn't like it much when the attention isn't on her. She's mature enough now to realize that she isn't the center of the universe (although she sometimes needs reminding) so it doesn't happen all the time. I don't particularly remember her wanting to marry her dad and she definitely doesn't want to be me, which is good.

It's good for me to have reminders that I'm a role model. Scary thought, that.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Is it time for lunch?

I really wish I had something clever and amusing to say. I read other people's blogs and online journals and think, gosh, I wish I was that interesting. And all I can bring myself to do here is gaze at my own navel and think of . . . nothing! Ok, maybe not nothing. I'm thinking about coffee and lunch. How's that for fascinating.

I finally signed up for a fiction writing class. And I love it. And everyone in the class is so smart and literate and, so far, what I've read of their writing is really good. So now I have to come up with something to post and I'm absolutely frozen. I can come up with characters, sort of. My problem is that I can't think of anything interesting for them to do. My teacher said to figure out what my characters want and then throw obstacles in front of them. That sounds so easy! But everything that pops into my head has already been done. I am so derivative!

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a scientist because I thought it would be cool to discover new things. But then I realized that there would be nothing new to be discovered by the time I was actually old enough to be a scientist. Now I want to be a writer and everything worth writing has already been written. That really sucks. I think I'll go eat lunch.

Stress, stress and more stress

So here's the latest . . . we feel it's important to allow A-Girl to be in the Sound of Music and to live in Asia for a little while. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity (and as my husband and I joke, it could lead to other once in a lifetime opportunities). I can't really get any significant time off of my job and I make enough to support the family for a while so, Big D is leaving his job to take A-Girl.

It's a huge leap of faith. One we take willingly but with some trepidation. We simply decided that we didn't want to let money get in the way of A-Girl's chance to do something she's worked so hard to do. And something she really wants to do as well. I'm pretty sure I've already said this but it's akin to having a child that has an opportunity to be in the Olympics - would you pass that up? So, we'll do without window treatments and rugs for another year. Big deal. So I have to cut wayyyyyy back on my Starbucks habit. I'll survive. I think. We probably won't take a vacation next year. The point is, we'll be fine financially. So why shouldn't we do this?

But it's scary - even if our reasoning is sound. And believe me, we've been over and over the pros and cons of this decision and, frankly, it ended up being not as close a call as people might think.

So, it looks like A-Girl is going to Asia after all. I won't get to go, except for a one or two week visit with M-Girl. But that's ok. I'll miss A-Girl and Big D terribly. It'll be hard to be a single mom for five months. But M-Girl and I will be fine and she'll get more attention than she's ever had. And that's not a bad thing. I actually fear that she'll get too used to having all that attention and it'll be downright hard on her when A-Girl comes home!

There's so much to do before they go - it's only two months away. Funny, I used to think the summers were sooooo loooonggg when I was a kid. Now I know better.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Yeah summer camp!

The kids started camp yesterday. Including my two girls, there are eight kids in our building that are attending the same camp and seven of them ride the bus together. There's also two other little girls that get dropped off at our building to take the bus. Mornings will be fun this summer - the kids all like each other and they run around in front of our building like maniacs. It's like a little community - the kind people in the suburbs talk about - only we get to live in the city.

M-Girl actually woke up on her own this morning and got dressed without any prompting, cajoling or yelling from her parents. All hail the mighty swim class - she knew that she'd get to wear her bathing suit to camp this morning and that's the only reason she got out of bed. Whatever it takes, I always say. Did you know that M-Girl means "queen of the sea" in Welsh? Well, it does. And although she was terrified of the water at first, she is now officially a fish. She still can't really swim without water wings but I think by the end of the summer she be able to swim at least a little bit without help.

Ok, this is as boring for me to write as it is for you to read. So I'll be going now.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

What would you do?

I got on the bus this morning with the girls - A-Girl is 7 1/2 and M-Girl is not quite 5. Keep in mind that although A-Girl looks like a 9 or 10 year old, M-Girl is a little peanut. The bus was very crowded and every seat was full. Not one person offered their seat to M-Girl.

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I were on the bus. A cab unexpectedly stopped short in front of the bus and the bus driver had to slam on the brakes. Everyone standing went flying forward and my husband cut his hand on a piece of metal. I told my kids this story this morning as a warning and an explanation why they had to hold on tight. I told this story within ear shot of several people. Still - no one budged.

I'm sorry but I would have given up my seat immediately for a small child. Mind you - there were many able-bodied, young people that sat there and stared at us as I continually urged M-Girl to hold on to the pole with both hands. I was holding a briefcase and a purse and trying to make sure that two kids were safe - would it have been too much for ONE PERSON to give up their seat?

On top of that, before the bus came, the girls and I tried to get a cab. A woman at the bus stop saw us unsuccessfully trying to flag down a cab. Apparently, she decided that she too wanted to take a cab, so she walked just a little in front of me and started waving for a cab. She was trying to steal a cab from me and my kids. That's just rude - I called her on it, too. Nicely, but I did speak to her saying that we had been trying to get a cab for 10 minutes. She walked to the other side of the street - she still would have taken a cab from us had she not walked away in frustration. I just don't get people.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The hills are not so alive . . .

So maybe we won't be going to Asia after all. Although my boss is supportive, and his boss is somewhat supportive, the head of HR was apparently very negative on the idea of accommodating me. My boss thinks we can find a way to make something work but there's probably no way I'll be able to go for three months and still get paid - even if I work every day while I'm there. He said maybe they can let me go for six weeks but that's only his idea and no one else has signed off. They're concerned about setting a "bad" precedent that will put them in the position of having to provide the same accommodation to others in similar situations (but really, this is pretty one-off, don't you think?). I understand their position - to a point - and I'm trying not to be upset about it.

Big D and I were thinking that maybe we'll say that we can only sign a contract for A-Girl that commits her until November 15th which is currently the end of the run in Hong Kong. We could each go for seven weeks and be done with it. Even that's looking like it might not work if my company insists that I limit my absence to six weeks or less.

We talked to A-Girl about it and she says that she won't be disappointed if she doesn't go. We believe her, too. She's really worried about missing her friends and she's upset that she won't have her birthday here. What happens if we do take her there and she gets so homesick she can't stay? She's had dance recitals and chorus recitals but she's never performed live in a professional venue. What if she freaks out? I don't want to underestimate her - I really do think she'd be fine but my boss (admitting that it's totally not his place to say anything) asked whether we thought jumping into the deep end was a good idea for a child who's never been in the water. He has a point. She's never done any theater - ever. As much as I loved doing theater, she might hate it. (I doubt it, but it could happen).

What should we do? I don't know. And my husband doesn't know. And we don't really want to say no to this but we're concerned about saying yes and time is ticking and the decision isn't getting any easier. Part of me totally wants to throw caution to the wind and go for it - when would we get an opportunity like this again? Part of me understands how selfish and unrealistic that is. We want to travel to China some day and we will. We can afford it, so it's not like this is the only way we'd be able to travel. A-Girl has been working fairly steadily all year. She'll get other jobs. And it's highly likely that she'll get other opportunities to do theater. Although this feels like the chance of a lifetime, it really isn't.

As much as I want to go, I'm realizing that it may not be possible. If it isn't possible, I'll be disappointed. But it isn't about me, is it?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Tough decisions

So now that the excitement over A-Girl's job offer is dying down a little, we're working on the difficult issues like how the hell are we going to work out who goes with her, when and for how long. Big D and I both have full time jobs. We're talking to our bosses and they're supportive but there's this sticky issue about compensation. We definitely can't afford to lose our compensation or health benefits. The question is, how much of a reduction in our compensation are we willing to suffer in order for A-Girl to do this? It's not like A-Girl will get paid a ton of money and they'll only pay for one round-trip ticket for a guardian to join her. If we have to swap out guardians once or twice it's on our dime (or, more likely, A-Girl's dime). We have some friends, former babysitters and family members that might be willing to go. But we either don't really trust those people to do the job or they can't leave their lives for more than a week or two and that just won't work airfare-wise.

Then there's the impossible to quantify issue of M-Girl's feelings. How will she feel being without one parent and her only sibling for several months? On the one hand, she'll be an only child for the first time in her life but she'll have a single parent. She might feel left out, the at-home parent might feel more stressed. On the other hand, it might be nice to have just two people in the house for a little while.

Being totally honest, I would personally really love to go to Asia. I think it will be a great opportunity, not only for A-Girl, but for me, too. This fact is something that bothers my husband more than a little. He feels that I'm too invested in having A-Girl go and that my desire to go will render me unable to make a decision that's right for the whole family. And he's probably right, at least to a point. I see this as an opportunity for me to do something different, to spend at least a little time writing and working on some creative endeavors that I can't seem to find the time or energy for right now. That's not to say that I would press to go no matter what. If my boss says that I would have to take an upaid leave and lose my health benefits unless I pay the premiums, that would clearly be a deal-breaker - at least as far as me going for any longer than a few weeks. If I really thought that M-Girl would be crushed and that it would ruin her life if we did this, that would be a deal-breaker, too. I just don't think either of those extreme scenarios is the likely outcome. As usual, the likely outcome is somewhere in the gray area where decisionmaking is hard.

Is it selfish for me to want something for myself and to try to factor my desires into the situation? How important should money be in this situation? Clearly we aren't doing this for the money but is it appropriate for us to lose more money on the deal than A-Girl could possibly make? How much can we ask M-Girl to sacrifice for her sister - especially since she's too young to be a participant in the decision?

I find myself wondering how families of Olympic hopefuls handle their situations. They aren't doing it for the money, that's for sure. Often their significant sacrifices are over a period of many years, not months. And in the end, their payoff is highly uncertain. The payoff to us is uncertain as well, but this can't hurt A-Girl's career. On the other hand, if she stays here, she could (hopefully) continue to book commercials and she'll likely get other opportunities to do theatrical work during the time she would have been out of the country. She can join the Chicago Children's Choir this year instead of next year. She won't have to miss her friends and her sister won't have to miss her. And my husband and I can keep our day jobs. But we won't get to live in Asia for four months. What's that experience worth? That's the $64,000 question that I can't answer. And it's driving me nuts.

What the . . ?

Ok - so my husband was walking to meet me and the girls at the local Blockbusters and he saw an accident. A valet parker apparently backed up through an intersection, lost control of his car and hit a parked car. Luckily, no one was hurt. However, because the owner of the parked car wasn't around and because valet parkers are as dangerous as drunk drivers, my husband called 911. (There's a whole long story here that I won't bore you with).

Anyway, my husband and I are eventually face to face with the culprit, waiting for the cops to get there. When he complains that we've called the cops, I say "You could have killed someone." He says, "I made a mistake. My brakes don't work good, that's why I hit the other car." So I say "You were driving that you KNOW has defective brakes?!?" He says "Oh, you know everyone drives with defective brakes all the time!" He follows this up with "I back up through that intersection ALL the time and I've never killed anyone." Oh, ok. Sheesh. Thank goodness the cops finally showed up. They were very nice (to us, not so much to Mr. Defective Brakes).

Saturday, June 04, 2005

She's going to Asia!

Well, A-Girl got the role of Marta in the Asian tour of Sound of Music! We're thrilled and not a little shell-shocked. She's very excited, although she's worried about missing her friends. This is the child who, several times a day during our vacation last February, would ask us what time it was at home. She'd then tell us what her class was probably doing at that moment. It'll be tough for her to be gone for four or five months, knowing that her friends are home together. She and I talked about the possibility of her starting an online diary/journal that her friends can read and comment on. I even suggested that maybe we'll see if her 3rd grade class can start a blog so they can tell her what's going on at school. It'll be a good education for everyone. Starting in 1st grade, kids in her school write in their journals daily. This will get her to write daily and it'll be a great record of the things she did during her time in Asia.

Because Big D and I both have full time jobs, figuring out who is going to be with A-Girl and when is going to be interesting. Big D already talked to his boss and now she's talking to her boss (and so on, and so on). I'm going to talk to my boss on Monday. He's always been very accommodating to me with respect to A-Girl's budding career. I think he will do what he can to make this possible for us. Much of what I do can be done from anywhere in the world with an internet hookup so I'm hoping I can leave for three or four months but still get paid and keep my benefits (I don't ask for much, do I?). I guess we'll see. Pretty much everyone we know has offered to go for awhile but paying for airfare every other week is really not in our budget. Realistically, it would be tough for anyone to take more than a couple of weeks away from their lives (and paychecks) and we can't afford to pay someone to be with her. Besides, we want to be there, too!