Free and Clear-ish

My endometrial biopsy was clear; no cancer. There was, however, some tissue remaining from a pregnancy I lost in January. The doctor would like to perform a D&C then give me an IUD. I don’t know what I want to do, but I sure as hell don’t have the time in my schedule to get a procedure like that done until well after the holidays.


People Read Reviews?

So, in case you didn’t know, adding to our extremely expensive last couple of years, I also had a little visit to the emergency room several weeks ago. While our friends and their daughter were staying, I’d been complaining of what had felt like a UTI for a few days. Saturday morning, I woke up feeling more pain then usual, which ended up getting worse and worse. It was localized on the lower lefthand side of my back and was almost exactly what I’d experienced when I had kidney stones when I was pregnant with Bea. By about 9:30am, I was rocking back and forth on the floor, on my knees, in tears. It felt like I was in labor all over again.

We all attempted not to freak out. I called Charlie, who left work on personal time. Our guests decided to go to Lincoln Park Zoo, taking Bea with them. I was in no condition to argue against it. Through the haze of pain, I tried to imagine Bea doing hot laps around a hospital waiting room and screaming while people bleeding from stab wounds and elderly people with broken limbs cried and begged Charlie to take her somewhere else. It was a blessing our friends were here to attend to her. If there’s one positive thing I can say about the hospital visit, it’s that Bea got to go to the zoo, got food and drinks and ice cream, played with her friend, and had a blast.

I found the closest urgent care/ER and we drove straight there. The person at the front desk asked what was wrong. I said I thought I had kidney stones, so he directed us to the emergency room, which is where we went.

Charlie and I were separated, which was understandable. It was a very small triage room with 4 or 5 beds and I know they have to accout for potential domestic abuse, but I couldn’t get a signal on my phone, so while I was getting texts from him (“What’s going on?” “How long will it be?” “Are you feeling any better?” “Do they know what’s wrong?”), he wasn’t receiving mine.

The short version of the story is just that the place was super dirty, the people working there were super rude (with the exception of one lady who took pity on me and processed my paperwork so I could go home and free up space for actual emergencies), and I wished I’d gone someplace else. I spent hours and hours of a Saturday waiting to be seen, waiting to be treated, waiting to be scanned, waiting to be given prescriptions, waiting to be released . . .

A person identifying herself as a patient advocate for the hospital called and left me a voicemail earlier this afternoon to see what she could do about my “experience.”

I’d written a negative review of the ER on Yelp after this visit which included being told I didn’t know what I was talking about when explaining my symptoms (the nurse who I dealt with the most said “That’s not kidney stones.”), being asked to disrobe in plain view of other patients, being yelled at several times by the attending nurse, and using a bathroom that was filthy. I’m talking, there was urine all over the toilet seat, the floor, and even in the sink. Sprinkled in the urine were a variety of pubic hairs. One older man shuffled back and forth between his bed and the bathroom with the open back of his hospital gown flapping in the wind.

Apparently, the patient advocate read the review, identified who I was, called, and now wants to discuss what happened. I’m not really sure what to tell her. Clean the bathroom? Hire nicer nurses?

I’m sort of embarrassed about the entire thing. You write these reviews, hoping someone will find it helpful, then someone who deals with, I’m guessing, the “image” of the hospital calls to find out what they can do to . . . what?  Get you to write a more positive review? Delete the review altogether?

The most disappointing part of the experience is that I didn’t even get to use that wonderful hospital soap that I love so much. Whatever they had in the bathroom might have been a high-grade antibacterial soap, but it wasn’t the hospital stuff that I’m obsessed with.

Critter Central

Thanks to the generosity and kindness of two different friends and Charlie’s dad (with the promise to pay them back within the next few weeks), we are able to put a deposit down on a better apartment.

Yesterday we went to look at it, had a “doggie interview” with the landlord, and I got to see the place. It’s big, freshly painted, just professionally cleaned, and has a dishwasher. A dishwasher! The landlord seemed cool. He really liked us, and dug my sense of humor. As cool as he may be, he doesn’t live anywhere near the apartment. So it seems like it’ll be a good fit.

The apartment is on the second floor which, in Chicago, is actually one and a half flights up, because there is a garden apartment partway underground. It’s in an older building, so it’s got its pros and cons, not the least of which is the size, which most likely means more expensive utilities. But whatever.

There’s a Polish woman who lives below, two 20-something guys on the first floor, and we would get the top, complete with 10-foot ceilings, a newer kitchen, and two extra rooms, one of which will be a guest bedroom.

Off the back of the apartment is the kitchen, which you have to pass through to get to the additional room; a sunroom that could also be used for storage. Off there are the many, many stairs that lead down to the basement and the free laundry. That aspect alone is fantastic, except that we’ll be sharing it with three other people. I’m not sure what the deal is with that kind of a situation. I’ve never shared a washer and dryer with other people in an apartment before, so do you work out a schedule with them? Does each person do laundry on certain days? Do you get priority in order of move-in date?

It even has a garbage disposal, which, as a renter of old, old homes for many years, is not something I have had the luxury of using since, probably 2001. I don’t have a habit of stuffing food, willy-nilly, down drains, but being able to grind up anything that might get stuck in there is something I really miss.

We also thought there was a free garage parking spot included, but that does not appear to be the case. However, the neighborhood is not close enough to any of the large Chicago attractions to require permit parking. When you live near Wrigley Field or close to downtown, a museum, or certain parks and restaurants, the city has zoned parking so residents at least stand a chance of getting to park near their place. Tourists have a habit of randomly taking up spots in an effort to avoid the ridiculous charges for garages.

I am really glad we’re going to be above ground because, this morning, Bea woke up with huge, red, hot welts all over her arms and legs. Our first thought was, ohmygod she has to go to the hospital. That initial parent panic faded as I tried to remain calm and assess the situation. Her mood and behavior were exactly the same as they are on any given morning. She didn’t have a fever. Though the swelling and redness was pretty severe when she first got up, it began to fade within a matter of a few minutes. By the time we’d been up for an hour, it wasn’t nearly as freaky.

I did send an email to a friend on Facebook who’s a pediatrician with a photo of a large bite on the back of her thigh, just to see if he thought we needed to take her somewhere. Charlie told me that a guy he works with woke up one morning in a similar situation and thought his daughter had chicken pox. As it turns out, there were baby wolf spiders in his kid’s room that were gnawing on her in her sleep.

So I got out the vacuum and a flashlight and sucked up no less than 8 tiny spiders in her room and closet, plus four or five other unknown bugs from under the bed and dresser. I got several webs and a lot of hair, which I worry speaks more to my lack of housekeeping skills than anything. And last night, I must have smooshed at least four different kinds of beetles and multi-legged creepy-crawlies. Shudder.

All the more reason to get the hell out of here. This place is such a dump. There are holes and crevices and hiding places and cracks for any manner of critters to hang out and reproduce. We now know there are rats in the walls. The other day I was cleaning under our kitchen cart and found dirt kicked out from under the baseboards. Charlie mentioned this to Anne, who didn’t even respond verbally. She just sort of moved her head around in an acknowledgment of the fact that he was speaking and that was it.

The landlady knows we have been searching, but she doesn’t know that we’ve definitely found a place. Yesterday morning, she spoke to me for the first time in over a week. During the course of the conversation, I mentioned that we may not be able to get out before Labor Day weekend (when we’d initially planned on heading back to Indy for a visit), to which she responded, “Well, if you can, TRY to be out before the first. You guys are really putting me in a bind here.”

At which point I bit my tongue so hard to keep from exploding at her that I think I might have drawn blood.


The Lawyer Card

It’s been an exciting few days in the household. And by exciting, I mean exhausting and stressful. Our landlord is currently out of town until sometime this afternoon, which means we breathed a little easier this weekend.

After Wednesday, things have been pretty tense. The super-chatty, in-your-face Anne has turned into the ice cold, brusque Anne who only uses her front door (which she never did in the past two and a half months we’ve lived here), and doesn’t say more than two words to me.

Not that I’m complaining, but after yesterday, things took an even nastier turn. I did some searching the past few days, spoke to a law student and two friendly attorneys, and found the Chicago city clerk’s web site with the municipal codes for landlords and tenants (located here, for your reference). I sent an email to Anne with the information — one particular part of the ordinance applies to any renter in the city of Chicago, which states that a landlord cannot take retaliatory action against a tenant when they ask for inspections or repairs that interfere with a basic warranty of habitability.

Her response to my email detailing this information boiled down to: you’ll hear from my attorneys. Plural. This was sent on a Sunday, which leads me to believe she probably has a friend that she called and that friend said they’d draft up a scary letter telling me and Charlie to pay or they’d start legal proceedings against us.
I, too, have friends who are lawyers, and I’ve spoken with them. All I have to do, they said, is stand in court and read the municipal code out loud. No attorney, no filing fees, no need to do anything but state the facts.

As it turns out, her termination of the lease after we asked for a mold inspection and prospective remediation was illegal. Not only are we entitled our security deposit, we can take up to 30 days to find another place without paying her further rent. And, in the most extreme situation, we could take her to court for all the rent we’ve paid up to this point, as well as asking for attorney’s fees.God knows I don’t want to be here for 30 more days if I can help it. Her personality has done a complete 180.

One of the ordinances says a tenant in this situation can sue for up to a year’s worth of paid rent, if s/he lives in a larger building, but what applies to us, in a dwelling with less than 6 units where the landlord lives on site, says you can only sue for two months. Which is about how long we’ve been here. We weren’t even asking for that — just our security deposit and the same period of time she gave us to get out, initially.

I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to actual legal bullshit. Ideally, she would’ve handed over the deposit (assuming she has it, which I think is a major part of the problem. If she hasn’t put it in escrow, we’re all in trouble) we would use it to put down on a more satisfactory apartment with better living conditions, and, hopefully, a landlord that doesn’t live on top of us, and just get the hell out. We have found some prospective apartments but we don’t have cash in hand, which makes things complicated for us. Again.

In my email, I was honest, saying, look – this is your space. You live here, you work here, you clearly don’t want us here anymore. So let’s resolve this issue as soon as possible so everyone can go on about their lives. The only people who are really out anything here are me, Charlie, and Bea. We’re the ones who have to pack up, who have to enlist the help of friends again, who have to put in another change of address, take another trip to the license branch, change all of our utilities. We are the ones who have to uproot ourselves, try to explain to a future landlord why we were here only 3 months, find a new pediatrician.

And, sadly enough, even if she has no legal grounds to do so, she could still at least start the process of eviction (filing the paperwork is nothing more than her paying a fee and claiming we’re late on rent), which would appear to other landlords if they took the time to look it up. So if she wanted to be a super duper mega-bitch, which would not surprise me at all, she could do that. We would fight it and win, but it wouldn’t change the fact that there’d be a court record of it.

Deep down, I do empathize with her. Despite feeling as if she’s put me and my family in a nasty living environment – first our physical and now our emotional health – for her own personal gain, I think she truly believed it just wasn’t that bad. Her office was down here for a while and she claims she didn’t have any problems, her business partner has a mold allergy and didn’t have any problems. But they weren’t here when the plumbers were tearing up the floor and drywall. They didn’t have to breathe in all the junk and have their belongings covered in the dust and mold spores. Telling me to “go to the doctor” didn’t change the fact that I couldn’t see anything for half an hour, every day, five days in a row.

She initially tried to make it sound as if this was what I wanted (I didn’t want to move, no matter how it sounded to her or in previous blog posts. That’s merely the eventual conclusion I came to, given my understanding of the expense of addressing the problem from her end) and she’s just doing us a favor. Which probably makes her feel that much more pissed off.

Like many women do, she’s got a mental chalkboard going where, every time she’s done something nice for us, she’s made a mark. Now she’s pulled out the chalkboard and is fuming, thinking, “I can’t believe they would do this to me after I did X, Y, and Z!” But the principle of the matter is, picking up a stroller she found at a thrift store for ten dollars isn’t the same as me feeling sick for two weeks, talking to her about it during that time, and her saying nothing but, “You could have had an aneurism/stroke/brain tumor.”

All the little things she has done for us, I appreciate, but I would have appreciated it much more if she’d just minded her business, stayed polite, and offered to clean up the effing mold.

I feel as if she’s yet another in a series of people in my life who are The Victim. While Charlie and I stand around feeling like we’ve been hit by a truck, the driver screams out the window that we damaged their truck. I just don’t get it.

Even if she suddenly decided she would address the mold, it’s too late. Of course, she’ll need to address it, anyway, because if anyone else with mold allergies lives here, the same thing is going to happen again. Her complete disregard for me and Charlie and, especially, Bea leads me to believe she is not as genuinely nice a person as she wants to be perceived. From Day One, she tried to act like Bea’s grandmother, demanding hugs and kisses and giving her little trinkets to try and win her over. It sort of grossed me out. Most of said trinkets were dirty, covered in dog hair, or something that Bea didn’t particularly care for. A bag of glass stones does not negate the potential asthma or pneumonia my daughter could develop from living in this house while people are tearing out walls.

I get that she feels threatened and totally betrayed, because that’s how my mom and my dad and several other people I know are. It’s never an issue of the other person attempting to be rational and hash things out. It’s, “I have done this and this and this, and this is how you repay me? You stab me in the back? You try to ruin my life?”

Because, essentially, I’m feeling the same way. Although I don’t think I’ve gone out of my way to do favors for Anne, I feel as if I have done nothing wrong and am being punished for no reason.

We knew she wasn’t going to do anything. We knew she didn’t want to put out more money. We knew she was going to try and make things uncomfortable for us (and I’m honestly scared to see how the next few weeks go). But her first response of “pay me rent, leave your deposit, and go,” was not quite what I had in mind. Her second response of, “You’ll hear from my lawyers,” also was not what I was expecting.

And, of course, now I’m thinking, “Shit. If I’d just relented, given her the rent, and left the deposit, we wouldn’t be in this mess.” But she knows that, which is exactly why she pulled out the lawyer card. I’ve pissed her off, I’ve broken her trust. She thought we were friends and I asked for more than she was willing to give. So now she wants me to suffer. And, in the process, she’s going to make an innocent two-year-old suffer.

We’ll see how things go when she returns this afternoon. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I hate confrontation. But if she indeed wants no further communication, she’ll just have to ignore me when we’re outside at the same time.

By the way, why can’t I just catch a goddamn break?

Minor Eviction

Okay, yes. We were leaning toward the possibility of having to find another place. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen so fast. And it’s not like either of us is in the military, so moving every three months seems quite wasteful.

Yesterday was my birthday and, having a two-year-old, it wasn’t quite as low-key as I’d hoped. We spent almost all of the morning and early afternoon going to two different parks and trying to keep Bea entertained. She was in a sassier-than-usual mood and was being quite difficult.
By the time we got home, had lunch, and put her down for a nap, I realized I didn’t feel that sick, my head wasn’t hurting, and the fresh air had definitely kept me from experiencing any of the symptoms I would usually have if I’d been in the house.

So I did some research and sent the landlord an email (she was working at her business partner’s house rather than her own) detailing the information I’d found and the steps most departments of health recommend. I made sure to use reputable sources (the CDC rather than — which is not really a site I found, but is close to some I came across).

I’d called the allergist I saw in Indy when I encountered this same problem in 2005 and they offered to mail me the results of my testing. I told Anne she might consider hiring a mold remediation specialist.

First, you get an estimate of the inspection. Second, they give you a detailed explanation of the findings of their inspection. Third, they give you an estimate of the cost and how involved a removal of the mold will be. If my allergy test displayed the same types of mold found in the house, we could go from there, I said.

Within ten minutes, I had a reply that simply said that Charlie and I best move out and be gone by the first of September. It was really that to-the-point.

I was shocked and it left me speechless. I knew there was a chance she wouldn’t be up for trying to address the problem (see my last blog post). I had no idea she would say we had to leave. I called one of my friends who’s a landlord and she calmed me down. There’s no way you can be evicted in 20 days, she told me, and Anne would have to file papers that gave us 30 days, at the least. Also, she reminded, Anne has no cause to tell us to get out.

So we started looking at the tenants’ rights pages and I came across one interesting and frustrating piece of information: a landlord in Chicago can issue you an eviction, sometimes after only ten days, if you violate the lease and have not paid rent. Right now, we pay her rent twice a month (half on the first, half on the 15th), at her suggestion. Which means, she could claim 10 days’ unpaid rent on the 10th of August because we’d only paid half on the first. The lease says to pay rent on the first of the month, in full, and I don’t have anything in writing to back up the fact that she told us we could do otherwise. Charlie started yelling, “I knew that was going to bite us in the ass! I knew it!”

Talk about frustrating.

I wrote her back immediately to say look, I’m sorry if I upset you, I was just trying to figure out the best approach and this is what I found. She didn’t see that email right away as she was already on her way home. I saw her pull into her parking spot and Charlie went out to speak with her.

She came up and said, “Wow. You guys have had a busy day, huh?”
Charlie said, “It was pretty calm until we found out we were being evicted.”
“What? Oh, no! That’s not what I meant!” she exclaimed.
“Well, your email to Courtney said we had to be out by the first,” Charlie said.

She went on the explain that she was “only trying to help,” and if I was “that uncomfortable here,” she was just going to let us out of the lease. Charlie reminded her that the reason we’ve paid her rent twice a month for the past two months is because we haven’t been able to afford the whole deal at once and still keep on top of our other bills. So how could we sign a lease on another place if we’re still trying to get on our feet here?

They spoke for quite some time and I didn’t hear most of it, but what he told me later was that they agreed we would be out by October first — at the latest — giving her time to list the place and giving us time to put together some money, find another place, and perhaps she could keep our security deposit for the September rent. She agreed to this, but kept saying that she didn’t think the problem was mold and I needed to see a doctor and she was just worried about my health because migraines are a neurological disorder.  She went so far as to suggest maybe I had a brain tumor or aneurism.

Charlie and I left immediately after this so we could talk about everything without worrying she was trying to stand outside our windows and listen in (which seems to happen a lot when she’s watering the plants). We walked to Boystown and sat outside to eat and people watch while we tried to figure out how the hell we were going to do all of this.

My classes start September 8th. I have a graduate student orientation on the 6th. Financial aid will go through sometime around then (I have no idea exactly when it’ll be in our grubby little hands), but that will at least offset some of the cost of moving again. Of course, Liz offered to drive up and help us, because she’s just that kind of person.

In the meantime, I have to start packing. We have to fix the back door that Alvy has been chewing on when we leave him alone. If Anne is keeping our deposit for September rent, we better make sure there isn’t any damage she can claim and charge us for. Granted, the house is about 100 times cleaner now than the day we moved in, but whatever.

The really fun part is, this morning, as she was performing her hour-long obsessive ritual of watering all the stuff in the yard that doesn’t need watered because we’ve had something like 18 inches of rain in the past month, she started to turn things back around on me, just like the landlord from the house in south Broad Ripple.
I need to take antihistamines. I need to go to a doctor and find out what’s “really” going on. There’s mold everywhere. Who knows what’s really making me sick? Also, she feels sorry for us because we’re never going to find a place that allows our dog. She feels sorry for us because ALL the house around here are OLD and I will just keep coming across more and more mold. She feels sorry for us because we’re never going to find a landlord as understanding and kind as she is.

All the same stuff the landlord in Broad Ripple said, and all things I told Anne about when we first had a conversation about this a couple of months ago. She clearly doesn’t remember it, or considers herself an exception in this case.

I didn’t tell her that we’ve already found three potential apartments, two of which are completely rehabbed, all of which are cheaper than what we pay now. Two are within walking distance of Charlie’s work. All three have parking, a laundry in the building or in the apartment itself, A/C, hardwood floors, and dishwashers. One even has a built-in microwave in the all-stainless steel kitchen.

Of course, none of them are perfect. I’m not familiar with the neighborhoods like I am with this one. Do I need to get a different pediatrician than the one we’ve already made an appointment with? Will there be a nice park within walking distance? Is there a close el stop? How long will it take me to get to campus? Will we have enough room for our friends to come and stay?

This really throws off a lot of my plans, as I’m sure you can imagine. The landlord clearly does not want to hire any sort of licensed specialist to check out the house, probably for fear she’ll be required to address the problem to the tune of thousands of dollars (as well as some other not-so-legal issues being found out). Her mantra this morning was, “I don’t know what I can do to help.” But I reminded her that the “help” comes from the mold removal people. And she just repeated herself over and over again.

So, instead of, as I was secretly hoping, actually getting things fixed, we now have to dump even more money into moving. And there were so many things I wanted to get. A new toilet brush, a new vacuum cleaner, rugs to replace the ones Alvy and Trinity ruined when they were sick, a nice storage unit for Bea’s toys, textbooks for class . . .

I am so tired of having things turned upside on me. Every time we seem to get settled and things are beginning to adjust into a calm sort of routine, it’s like the universe reaches out to yank me out by the back of my shirt and say, oh no, you’re not getting too comfortable over there, are you?


mold sporesIt’s only 10:30, so we’ll see if today marks a fifth excruciating headache in six days. For the past week, I have started getting a migraine at the same time every morning except for one (and that was when I wasn’t in the apartment), the really bad kind with auras. Yesterday the flashing, wavy lines, and zigzags affected my vision enough that I started to get really freaked out. Like, do I need to go to the hospital? My peripheral vision was fine – when I moved my hands on either side of my head, I could see them both clearly. But everything in front of me was blurry and distorted.

I’m pretty lucky that my migraines usually go away as long as I fall asleep. I made it to Bea’s nap-time, then made her lay down with me in my bedroom while I felt like someone was trying to split the two hemispheres of my brain apart with an icepick. The pain actually woke me up twice, which has never happened before.

The thing that really worries me (besides the loss of vision, which I’ve never had, and besides the frequency of them), is that the only time I’ve ever gotten headaches like this is when I was exposed to mold.

We rented a place a few years ago on the south side of Broad Ripple, Indiana, that had toxic mold in the basement. Our landlord at the time tried to argue that mold is everywhere (it is, especially in an area that used to be a swamp), and went so far as to make me see an allergist on my own dime to prove I had an allergy. I did, and it’s a severe one. Of all the things that popped up on my arms from the test, the mold one itched for weeks after seeing the doctor.

Still, our landlord didn’t want to relent. She tried to say it was in my head, that maybe I burned too many scented candles in the house, or maybe I just needed to bleach the walls. We performed a test that comes in a little kit you can get at pharmacies to show her how many different kinds there were and she argued that those tests were unreliable (probably true), so we suggested we call the Department of Health and have a mold specialist come and check out the house.

She let us out of our lease at that point.

The only thing that’s missing right now is uncontrollable sneezing fits. But I think that only happens when I’m directly exposed to it, meaning if there’s bad mold in this apartment, it’s hidden deep in the walls.

That makes me . . . nervous.

The idea of moving out of this place when our lease is up is enough to make me feel tired. The thought of having to do it soon, if there’s toxic mild growing inside this place, really irks me. I had a conversation with the landlady prior to signing the lease where I asked her about the moisture and bugs. In an email I sent her later, I told her about this previous experience, how sick it made me, and that not only can I not live with mold, I definitely don’t want my kid to, either.

I asked her what sorts of steps had been taken to avoid these things (as much as is possible, given that it’s a garden apartment in the Midwest). She assured me — and you’ve heard this before — in no less than four paragraphs that there were zero issues with either and detailed the steps she’d taken both inside and outside the apartment.

So, either she was lying because she just wanted us to move in, or she really has no idea how bad it is in here. Of course, it was a matter of hours after moving in that we discovered how wet it was, and spent a couple hundred bucks on a heavy-duty dehumidifier we couldn’t really afford. If nothing else, we figured it would at least keep the problem at bay during the 12 months we’d have to stay here.

But now I’m thinking we’re going to find ourselves in a situation similar to that other rental in Broad Ripple. We’re going to have to get one of those test kits, tell Anne about the problems (she knows I’ve been having migraines this week, but that doesn’t mean she will admit to it down the road. She has already tried to blame them on “pollution”), possibly even have a specialist come out to look at the place (what’s that going to cost?), and, if it’s really bad, break our lease and find another apartment.

As much as this place irritates me at times, I do not really want to pack up and move in a month. I don’t want to try and find people to help us move, or move right when I’m starting graduate school. I don’t want to screw Anne over, and I don’t know what she might do with our deposit. We had to put down a full month’s rent, which is a lot more than most places around here which usually just have a $175/person “move-in fee.”

I think the scariest thing about this is that I haven’t experienced the usual sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes sort of allergic reaction. Instead, it went straight to horrible headaches, which is . . . well, to say “bad” is an understatement.

Avada Kedavra, Lycosidae

The other night, a Facebook friend posted in his status that he’d smooshed a spider in his garage, only to have a hundred baby spiders shoot out in every direction. The mere idea of it gave me the chills, and I was hoping he was mistaken, that he was exaggerating, that there just wasn’t any merit to his post. Turns out, I had to see it firsthand to believe it.

For your sanity, in the hopes you can sleep tonight, I chose not to attach a photo of what these assholes look like.

Last night, I went in to the kitchen. After switching on the light (which is connected with a chain hanging from the ceiling, so I was already several feet in by the time I got to the light), a large, brown wolf spider froze in mid-scuttle to stare me down.

Bea was already asleep, so I tried not to scream (I am petrified of spiders), but thankfully Charlie heard my muffled ohmygodohmygodohmygods and came rushing in with a can of beer he’d just finished (leftover from our cookout, not something we normally have lying around). He hunched over the spider, which was glaring at me and calling me horrible names, I’m sure of it, then threw down the can of beer. Whereupon, a hundred baby spiders came rushing out in every direction.

For a split second, Charlie and I both looked at one another in horror — he is “creeped out” by spiders, as he puts it — before he began smashing all of them, barking at me to get a paper towel and some bleach or something. I sprayed the crap out of them while he continued to go after the mother and wipe up the babies.

[Let me also point out here that there is almost nothing about our apartment that would deter these creatures. Despite my feverish cleaning inside, it’s a 100-year-old house with bad siding, wood chips everywhere, tons of vegetation, trees, ivy, and about a bazillion little places for them to hide, inside and out.]

Immediately after our brutal encounter, I felt a mixture of disgust and guilt. Here we’d gone to extreme measures to  murder a family of creatures whose only presence in our house was to eat insects; creatures that would otherwise prefer to leave us alone.

Then again, I’ve woken up in the past few weeks with no less than four (4) different wolf spider bites, three on my chest and one on my elbow, which means they’re biting in my sleep, when I should be the least amount of danger to them. My understanding, after an hour of frightened Google searching, is that they don’t tend to attack unless they feel trapped or threatened in some way.

In which case, leave me alone or I’m going to murder all of you bastards. I’m talking, pulling everything out of my room, ripping the shitty, hastily-applied baseboards off the walls, and bleaching the crap out of every nook and cranny in this place. I would rather deal with the bugs these assholes eat than the assholes, themselves. I couldn’t fall asleep until almost 2am because I kept feeling like something was crawling on me. I almost slept on the couch.

But please don’t let that deter you from coming to visit. Even with an apartment full of wolf spiders, I’m still lonely.

Hair Pulling

It seems silly to think a two-year-old could be stressed out or nervous. But they’re little people, no? According to a life stressor quiz, I scored 654. More than 150 points on this test, and it’s time to reconsider what’s going on in your life, take a new direction, and perhaps get thyself into counseling.

If the events I’ve experienced in the past year are causing my hair to fall out, I’m sure that a portion of them — if not my own stress — has leaked out to affect my child. I try my best to remain calm, keep her entertained and distracted, and ensure her happiness. That doesn’t mean I’m always 100% effective.

So Bea has started pulling out her own hair. She has a habit of twisting the hair around in, usually, her left hand. She’ll pull a hair or two out of her head, then start absent-mindedly brushing it across her face. Next thing you know, it’s in her mouth.

For a kid that little, you have to wonder if it’s something you’re doing wrong, or if there’s something you could be doing right to help. It’s definitely something we’re going to have to keep an eye on and try to redirect. If that isn’t effective, we’ll have to consider other avenues, though I’m not really sure where to start.

To top it all off, yesterday, she had to be really patient with me. I felt so bad for her, but one of the downfalls of staying home is that, if I get sick, there isn’t any way for Charlie to help out – or anyone else, for that matter. I was nauseous, fighting a migraine the entire day, felt dehydrated and my muscles ached. It was all I could do to peel myself off the couch and try to play with her.

I thought I’d started the World’s Worst Period on Tuesday (a few days late), but the symptoms led me to believe that our last less-than-careful encounter ended up in a pregnancy, which ended this week. I had a lot of lower back pain, some pretty awful cramps, and . . . well, let’s leave out the other issues for the sake of your delicate constitution. Suffice it to say, I counted back and discovered that I had, in fact, been ovulating right around the time we were intimate.

I told Charlie about it because, I knew if I were losing a pregnancy, however early, I needed to switch up my use of feminine hygiene products. If you’re miscarrying, you should not use tampons, guys, just so you know. He ran right out to get me some other stuff and, when he returned, he asked if I was disappointed. I think because I seemed so down. But if I seemed down, I explained, it was because of the changes my body was going through, on top of all the other myriad difficulties and challenges we’d been faced with in the past week. Month. Year. Whatever.

Am I disappointed? Not really. I don’t want to have another baby. Am I sad? Yes. To think that Bea’s little brother or sister was this cluster of cells that just sort of washed out of my body and, for a few weeks before, I’d had no idea that this was going on . . . It’s a little disturbing. But I also realize that most pregnancies don’t make it past the first few weeks, and most women aren’t even aware that it’s happened (like me).

It definitely makes me think about where we are right now – emotionally, financially, time-wise. I haven’t even started classes yet, so I can’t imagine juggling that, Bea, a pregnancy . . .

So, yeah. It’s a bit of a relief, even if a tad bit sad. And physically painful. I think, if Bea is stressed out now from the move, from losing Trinity, from sensing that I’m so exhausted, I don’t think she would deal well with me being knocked up or having to compete with a baby for attention.

Trouble Sleeping, Eating, Playing

I haven’t really been able to sleep the past two nights and I’ve had almost no appetite. I know it takes time to get over losing a family member, but I have a permanent headache from crying. The good thing is, we have Bea and Alvy to focus on. Alvy is clearly aware that something has happened – he isn’t as anxious and worried as when we moved here. My friend Liz took Trinity for a month while we settled in and then brought her to us to make sure Trin could navigate the yard and steps to go outside.

Since he saw Trinity seizing and in pain, I think he’s aware that she’s gone-gone, not just gone at Liz’s. In fact, once she was outside and on the way to the car, he turned, looked at me, and threw up. But I think he’s now in mourning.

I feel absolutely terrible that Charlie had to do that by himself. We had no one to come over at one in the morning and stay with Bea so I could go with him to the vet, and there was no question as to whether we would wake up a two-year-old to watch a dog die.

The saddest part is, we had to make the decision not to get her ashes returned. It was either pay $450 (which we most certainly do not have), or allow them to use her body for something else — veterinary students, I imagine. It makes me unhappy to think about her being a specimen rather than the awesome, sweet, loving dog she was.

I had no idea it would cost so much for cremation. I thought it would be more like $150. The vet was nice enough to take an imprint of her paw for us in clay, which we baked yesterday. It didn’t really turn out. I know we have the paw print, a million photos, the portrait we commissioned from Audrey, and almost 13 years of memories, bu I always assumed I would have her ashes somewhere on a shelf. We hated having to say we couldn’t afford it.

Staying busy helped yesterday. We did our weekly grocery shopping, made a trip to the DePaul campus for people-watching and other errands, and went to a park made just for toddlers. Today it’s supposed to be over 100 degrees with the heat index. We talked about going to a dog beach, but it’s not the kind of place that’s super clean or great for kids and people to get in the water. Just because the signs say “No Water Pooping” doesn’t mean dogs don’t poop in the water.

While Bea is our primary concern, she has no idea what’s going on and we need to make sure Alvy is okay. The last thing I want to do is leave him home alone for hours a day after his best friend died. We may just spend the afternoon in the kiddie pool out back.

Speaking of our great yard at this place, it’s a disaster right now. The landlady has a group of handymen she calls up for various, on-the-DL, semi-illegal, non-permit type work. Her latest project is getting the water from the yard to drain in to the sewers. So these guys would appear, unannounced, at different points during the day all of last week to dig stuff up, put dirt all over the yard, move around chairs, sing to Katy Perry songs on the radio, and smoke. They were also supposed to put a drain in our utility room so the washer and dryer could be installed back there.

They were supposed to start our drain on Tuesday. Then Wednesday. Then Friday. Now tomorrow. Since they aren’t getting paid well and nothing’s really on the up-and-up, I don’t imagine they care when they come or when things get done. But all the contents of the shed under Anne’s house are on one side of the yard (and this lady has a LOT of stuff; she’s a bit of a clutter-bug), and all the dirt from the ground under our stairs and in her shed so the sewer lines could be laid are on the other side of the yard.

It makes for a very dangerous, dirty, and complicated play area for Bea. Especially since, with the coming heat wave, we’re not going to be walking much of anywhere for a few days. It would be nice to have that area clean and safe for her. One of the main reasons we chose to move here rather than a nice, clean, new apartment with a dishwasher and W/D is the yard. Bea can tear around and wear herself out and we just go right back inside. It’s a comfort, safety, and convenience issue. But with the bugs (I shudder to think what fall/winter will bring inside), and increased rent for a W/D, I’m wondering if we should sign a second lease after all. I do like Anne and, as I mentioned before, the pros are outweighing the cons right now. But after a fit of hysterics (after which Bea refused to get off the couch for over an hour) upon seeing a large black bug crawl over her foot, I’m not sure I want to stick around too long.

The other afternoon I went to pee and ended up literally pissing all over myself as, mid-hover to sit down, two huge wolf spiders darted out from an undisclosed location toward me. I also woke up with three huge bites on my chest, and another on my arm one morning. I. Hate. Spiders.

How the hell do you keep fifty species of insects out of a garden apartment in a 150-year-old house? That isn’t helping me sleep, either.


Okay, so I lied a little bit. The birth wasn’t exactly as carefree as I made it out to sound, but since everything turned out well, I didn’t see the point in worrying anyone. When my water broke that morning, I noticed the color was odd (not clear) and immediately knew it was meconium, the tar-like substance that builds up in a baby’s intestinal tract while it’s still in the womb. In other words, she had a bowel movement while she was still inside.

When we got to the hospital, they put me in the OB ICU unit and we had to have several pediatricians on hand to tend to Bea when she was first born. Despite the fact that my contractions were working and I felt like things were moving quickly, her heart rate kept going down and they would move me to one side or another, or put me on oxygen for a little bit. And even though I got in at around 7 in the morning and had her before 2 in the afternoon, around 10:30 they were saying that if things didn’t progress any quicker, they were going to put me on pitocin to speed things up.

When she was born, the doctors said, she would not make any noise. They didn’t want her to take her first breath before they suctioned out all of the meconium. And, wouldn’t you know it? She screamed as soon as she came out. I was petrified at first that she would inhale the stuff, and all the worst thoughts were going through my head.

But she turned out perfectly fine.

Of course, the cost for everything is was outrageous. I got my first bill yesterday (over eight grand), and the bill for the baby today (over $2500). Because I’ve already met my deductible, insurance is supposed to pay 70% of that, which means our out-of-pocket costs should be around $3500. That doesn’t include the cost of the non-stress test or the last ultrasound, which are another thousand after insurance. Ugh. Suffice it to say I’m going to have to make a trip to their payment office, combine all of my bills, and then apply for some kind of financial assistance.

Yesterday afternoon we took a walk over to the coffeeshop where I asked Sarah to go ahead and put me back on the schedule. I’m really not thrilled with this at all. I still feel tired all the time, despite sleeping more (I’ve been pumping and bottlefeeding that because I think the flow is really slow for Bea and this may be why she spends so much time on my boobs), and I’m not operating at 100% quite yet — I mean, yesterday she was officially two weeks old. I think there are still two weeks of schedules made out in advance at work, though, so I will have had 4 weeks to recover, making my total time off about 6 weeks.