Terrible Twos Times Ten

It’s been two months exactly since we brought Miss Ellie home from the hospital. In that time, I’ve seen Bea go from a bright-eyed, clever, independent little four year old to a rabid, hysterical, tantrum-throwing preschooler.

I know her life has been turned upside down; new city and state, new house, new baby and now a new preschool. It took us two months after moving to get her in to a place we could afford, but all we can afford is 2.5 hours a day/4 days a week. It’s not enough. I take her at 1pm (when she would normally be napping), and pick her up at 3:30. By the time she gets home, she’s exhausted and cranky. And by the time we go to put her to bed, she has lost all self control.

I’ve never seen anything like it. When people talked about the “terrible twos,” I had no idea what they were talking about. At two, she was so sweet and cute. At three, she was inquisitive and clever. At four . . . I’ve heard stories of tantrums, but this . . . this is something else. Foot stomping, screaming, wailing, crying, jumping up and down, throwing herself on the floor, “no no no!” and whatnot. I was sort of, kind of prepared of her to resent the baby. Instead, she loves Ellie and hates us.

It seems as though, every night, once Bea is finally passed out, Charlie and I are having a conversation where we devise a new plan of attack. But since I’m the one home with both kids all day during the week, I’m the one who has to implement it all.

We’ve tried talking to her about it, reasoning with her, sticker charts, time outs, threats, taking away TV or toys or games, and we’ve both resorted to shouting at her to just stop screaming (super helpful and effective, as I’m sure you can imagine). It’s getting to the point where I can’t even deal with her anymore. I get so angry that I just have to remove myself from the situation and I don’t feel like going back to give her a hug and kiss. It doesn’t help that I feel “touched out” from holding and carrying the baby, feeding and nursing her. By the end of the day, I just want to pass out and not move for like 12 hours.

The baby’s great, though. I thought Bea was an easy baby, but this one has been a breeze so far. Good sleeper, good eater, healthy (a slight cold Bea brought home when she started preschool), happy. The birth was pretty traumatic and a story for another day, but I worried throughout the pregnancy and right up until the moment she arrived that something would go wrong.

Charlie is still working full time, but is close enough that he can ride his bike. We have the car most days, but no money to do much of anything exciting. Trips are limited to grocery stores and walks around the neighborhood. We were hanging out at the coffee shop some mornings for a bagel and coffee, but then I started working there again. Just weekends when Charlie is home, but enough that I don’t want to hang during the week.

To top it off, I found out after my second week back that they’ve been paying me like a new employee, not like someone who spent almost six years there. When the manager told me what I’d be getting paid, I just started laughing. “Oh, were you making more than that before?”
“Are you kidding?” I asked. “Do you know how long I was here?” Granted, it took many months of badgering to get the raises I received, but it was still $2.50 more per hour than they apparently think I’m worth. So now I have to badger and argue to get more.

The manager at a nearby restaurant offered me a weekend gig waiting tables there. The tips sound fantastic. But the pay is really the only positive of working there. The employees are catty. The cooks are perverts. The owner is a bitch. The customers are wealthy, entitled assholes. I’d have to be on my feet ten hours a day just to make enough money to send Bea to preschool full time with nothing left over. People are like, “You should take that job. If Bea was at school during the week, you’d have more time to yourself.”

Except there’s now a newborn in the house. Despite being a great baby, she doesn’t really give me a lot of time to myself. So selfish.

So while I check job web sites in the hopes of finding something that pays more than Charlie’s working so that he can stay home, he’s studying for a personal training certificate. If he passes, he could go to work for his old employer and work 20 hours a week to make the same he’s bringing home now. If he doesn’t pass it, I have no idea what we’re going to do. There really aren’t any opportunities for advancement where he is now, and the pay just isn’t enough to change things at home.

And while I’d found positions at local universities that I wanted and for which I felt qualified, I was turned down twice in a row. Once was on my birthday. Ouch. But I know these are the kinds of jobs I want. And if I’m not qualified, how can I be? I started looking at other graduate programs and settled on one that I think I’m actually going to apply for, for next fall. If accepted, they require graduate assistantships, which means a guaranteed job related to what I’d be studying, a paycheck, tuition remission, and a practicum later on. Right now I just need to get the letters of rec and write the damn personal statement (300 words! Ugh). It at least gives me something to work toward.

If I could, I think I would just stay in college forever. If I can’t, I at least want to work for one. Not as an adjunct, though. I’m making more working 15 hours a week at the coffee shop, which is terribly sad and ridiculous. And if the grad program or university-job-finding doesn’t pan out, I have no fucking clue what’s next.

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Singularly Happy

About a year ago, I was invited to what I call a “secret lady group” on Facebook, prior to which I did not know these things existed. It has proven to be cathartic for me, though. Many of the women involved were members of the Unitarian church I attended in Indianapolis years ago. There are probably only half a dozen who post questions/comments/concerns with any regularity, and about twice that who comment frequently. They all tend to have pretty excellent advice, are really supportive and positive, and share a common bond — besides being women, we all seem to come from rather dysfunctional families.

I’m beginning to get the impression that “functional families” are much fewer and farther between than I may have otherwise thought.

Last week, I posted some concerns I have about pressure to expand our family. I’m quite satisfied with the way things are: me, Charlie, and Bea. In fact, if we had no other children, even adopting, I would be fine with that. I feel like the only person who is fine with a family of three.

At Christmas, I was asked multiple times if we were planning to have another child. On the way to Indy for our last two trips, Charlie mentioned how much larger a vehicle we would need “if we had another one.” He then began daydreaming about his ideal family-of-four car. He’s mentioned to me that Bea would be a good big sister, and that she would be helpful. When I balked at this talk, he mentioned his employer’s outstanding adoption benefits.

I feel guilty complaining about my pregnancy. Compared to other friends’ and women I know, mine was actually quite easy. Yet I was miserable. I was huge, bloated, sweaty, uncomfortable. I had sciatica, kidney stones, and my back hurt from Day One. I was and, even after going through it, still am scared of labor, delivery, hurting a fetus, or having a child with health problems. I’m terrified of the idea of a difficult birth, a stillbirth, a miscarriage. I’m worried that we can’t take care of the child we have, let alone a second one.

I also worry that, if we “try,” I won’t be able to get pregnant. I know I wouldn’t be the oldest woman in the world to have a baby, but I would be at least 37 years old, and after the age of 35, they start all these additional tests and freaking out. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I have the energy to do it all over again.

As my friend Annette put it, “What’s wrong with the one you have?” I love Bea. Of course.  She’s amazing and funny and smart and outgoing. It’s not so much that I don’t know if I’d have “enough love” to give a second child, so much as I’m not sure I could handle school, work, toddler, and no sleep for weeks on end. Charlie would have paternity leave, unpaid, but, let’s assume I got pregnant tomorrow. The baby would be born, assuming everything was normal, right in the middle of the first quarter of my second year in grad school. If I could somehow plan it right, then I’d have it right after the quarter was finished, in late November. But babies don’t always work that way. And, after your first pregnancy, they have a tendency to come out sooner.

So I’d posted all these concerns and fears and worries on FB. The women in the secret lady group were predictably supportive. One sent me a link to information on books that promote single-child families. Another suggested surrogacy, a third said adoption might be easier. They all said that if I wasn’t ready, I should be honest with Charlie.  So I was. But now I’m not so sure. After thinking things over for a couple of weeks, I know how much he wants another baby. I’m not worried he’ll leave me for someone younger, to have another kid.  He told me last that week that, on a scale of 1-10, he rates wanting a second child as a 7.5. I said I was about a 2. I guess I might be more like a 4 now?

I just don’t know what the immediate future holds for me. I’ve got a year and a half left of graduate school, an internship at the end of which may lead to a full-time, high-paying job. I don’t want to go into a new position pregnant or just getting pregnant, or even with a newborn. We can’t afford daycare, so what would we do with the baby while we were working? Besides which, Bea wouldn’t even be ready for kindergarten.

So I guess what I’m feeling is that it’s one of those now-or-never situations. I don’t particularly like that feeling.

 

Three Weeks Away

One thing I enjoy about other people’s blogs is photos, which really drives home how lackluster mine is in appearance. But since the battery charger we got to replace one that got lost in one move or another pooped out, I haven’t been taking photos with anything but my iPod Touch. Which, unfortunately, has a pretty disappointing camera on it.

And to be honest, most of the photos I take (I’ll be generous and say only about 95%) are of the kid. People on Facebook and Google+ have to see enough of her, and since I’ve run out of free space on my Flickr page, I’m not going to subject any readers here to more. Well, not in this post, anyway.

What I would like to do is get another battery charger and start carrying the camera around with me wherever we go. This is a somewhat frustrating idea because I already have to carry so much junk. I think one of the things I truly never understood about parents is WHY ALL THE CRAP? And then I became one.

Every trip out the door is an event. Struggling with her to just put on socks is sometimes exhausting. Then shoes, and, now that it’s colder out, mittens, coat, a hat, eventually a scarf. On really chilly evenings, I might bring a blanket and put it over her in the stroller. Then I have to check and double-check everything. Do I have an emergency diaper and wipes? Does she want a drink? Milk or juice? Do I need to bring a snack? Should I have a lollipop available for bribes?

The longer and more involved the trip, the more copious the amounts of junk. On our trip back to Indianapolis last week, our Toyota Matrix was spilling over with bags, shoes, pillows, toys, books. Charlie made a trip back home to work for two days and, when he returned, he brought even more stuff because, apparently, I had not brought enough shit the first time.

The trip itself was relatively uneventful. And I mean that in a good way. My dad did not show up to our family Thanksgiving. He never replied to any of his siblings’ emails asking if he was coming, what he might like to bring. He just called my grandmother Sunday morning to say he wasn’t feeling well.

It was a blessing, though. Once I knew that, my shoulders relaxed and I could breathe a little easier. Although now I wonder what the chances are of him coming for Christmas. My family always gets together on Christmas Eve, leaving the holiday open for “other sides” of your family. We would do Christmas Day at my mother’s folks’ house. These past few years, since things have begun to get sketchy in my immediate family, Charlie and I haven’t done much of anything. I really like that.

This year, barring any hideous winter storms, we will travel to Indy again, spend a few days at my friend Jill’s, spend Christmas Eve with my family, and get Chinese or Indian food on the 25th. We discussed the possibility of attempting to find The Muppets movie at a cheap theater and seeing how Bea handles it. I don’t know that she would like being inside a large, dark room with really loud music playing. Movie theaters give me a headache, so I can’t imagine how it would affect a 2 1/2 year old.

I do like the idea of having some sort of relaxed family tradition, just the three of us. I also like a new tradition that’s started on my paternal family’s side. Last year, when we picked names, we decided to do handmade gifts. I got the song “Beautiful Bea” from Will and Ben (no one can ever top that), I made my aunt Vicki a sugar body scrub and an apron, Charlie made a table for my cousin’s (now ex) husband, and so on. Since some people didn’t take too well to the idea, we decided people could do one of two things: either make a gift for someone, or absolutely keep the gift under $20.

I got my cousin Peter (on purpose. It helps to be the one in charge of the name drawing to ensure not getting someone who is impossible to shop for). I have had a plan for a couple of months now for something I’d like to make him. After mapping it out, I came across a second idea and now I don’t know how to choose between the two. I have neither the time nor the energy to do both, as much as I’d like to.

For the moment, I am working on my friend Maureen’s personal statements for grad school and trying to steer her in a direction that’s helpful. This weekend, I think I’ll buckle down and start on Peter’s gift. Our family Christmas is just three weeks away, after all.

Holiday Anxiety

We’ve been struggling with holiday plans for weeks now. Of course, we’d like to have Bea spend as much time as possible with everyone, but we are at the mercy of long-distance travel with a spirited toddler, which is not easy.

Most of the time, she’s great in the car. But we usually try to schedule our driving time around her nap. Charlie wants to head to Indianapolis as soon as he gets off work on Wednesday, 5:45pm, the day before Thanksgiving. We’d spend the day at our friends’ – Jill and Scott – and Charlie would leave late Thursday (or early Friday morning, despite potentially encountering hordes of holiday shoppers) since he doesn’t have to be back at work until 10am.

Then he’d drive back down Saturday afternoon when he left work at 3pm, and we’d all come home Sunday after my family’s dinner.

Complicated enough?

The most irritating part is that we actually had an opportunity to stay even longer — Charlie was actually off today (Sunday) and tomorrow, so we could conceivably have driven down one of those days. But we are also at the mercy of finances, and the longer we are in Indy, the more money we’ll have to spend on food and activities with other people we want to see.

We’ve done a decent job of staying on top of bills until this past week. Charlie finally gave in and went into a debt management program (I did not know until about a month ago exactly how much he owed in credit cards — it’s a lot.), so this program have been a lot more helpful if he’d signed up earlier. Instead, we had to continue making extra payments on everything while they decided whether or not to agree to the terms.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving will be my paternal family’s get-together, which, of course, may include my dad. Though I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t turn up, I am really not looking forward to having to see him. While I’m relatively happy with the way things are right now, I just cannot imagine having a polite conversation with him about “how things are going” without gritting my teeth to keep from screaming something about how much better things would have been if he hadn’t leeched off of us for almost a year.

There would be so many things I would want to say to him, and so many things I would probably not allow myself to say. But Charlie is a lot more confrontational than I am, so I’m also concerned that he might just go off, too. The chances of that happening are much more likely than of me doing it . . . I think?

I keep imagining two things: one is this really angry encounter – seething, fuming, hateful – and the other is me feeling like a human being, feeling sorry for him. This man lost everything, including his wife and family (he certainly hasn’t gone out of his way to develop any sort of relationship with me or my sister), job, home, etc… And now he has this dinky apartment in some crappy building in the middle of nowhere and he just wants to make it comfortable.

But then I’m angry again. Thinking about all the times he lied right to my face, all the times I knew he was trying to bullshit or manipulate me, and I don’t understand why I continue to feel sorry for him. It’s what he wants. He really thrives on other people’s sympathies. I don’t know how many times I heard him exaggerate or flat-out like about a circumstance in order to garner sympathy from a listener. His mom, his brothers, me, Charlie, a random person on the phone, bill collectors, you name it.

I guess this is the part where people are supposed to tell me I go back and forth because I’m “a good person.” Or, at least, perhaps a “better” person than he is. I don’t know what to think, feel, or do. I just know that I’ve done a pretty good job of managing my anxiety over the past few years and the thought of having to see him for the first time in almost 8 months, with absolutely zero contact (did I mention, not even an email for his granddaughter’s birthday? Yeah, I’ve probably mentioned it several times) gives me a sick feeling in my stomach.

Family Untied

I just realized it has been almost a year since I’ve spoken to my mother, face-to-face. It’s been four months since my dad has bothered to say anything to me, even in an email. The last I heard from him was when I asked for help with our move and he said no. (As you may recall, he told me in January he had “over ten grand” in his bank account.)

For months after Bea’s first birthday, Charlie took the reins and dealt with my mom while I was at work. Her hysterics were just more than I wanted to tackle, and after trying and trying to communicate with her, I admit I just gave up. She wouldn’t listen to either of us, and even accused Charlie and me of railroading and brow-beating her one afternoon last summer when we tried to convince her to help us  find homes for their cats.

Since all of this shit went down last May, Charlie and I have received no less than a dozen sobbing, 5-minute-long voice mails, fifty or more emails each, and several messages from Facebook friends and family to tell us my mom is asking them to take photos and screenshots from our pages. My mother has begged and pleaded with us to listen to her “side” and let her see Bea more often. I have listened to her story and, to be honest, it isn’t much different from what my dad told me. I explained this to her, so I guess my response was unsatisfactory. She wanted us to be shocked, horrified, disgusted, I guess. But we weren’t.

After just a few weeks with my dad as a housemate (dependent), Charlie and I agreed that we couldn’t figure out how my mom could claim she had no idea what was going on. The man is a liar, a manipulator, possibly a sociopath. If he didn’t love his cats so much, I’d think he had no conscience at all. I lost count of all the times he lied to me with a completely straight face. A few times, in the beginning, I called him out on it. “That’s not what you said yesterday, Dad, when you told me A, B, C.”
“Yes it is,” he’d respond. “I don’t know where you’re getting A, B, C. It’s X, Y, Z.”
“No, Dad. I remember it very clearly and can quote exactly what you said. It was just just a few hours ago.”
He would either laugh, saying that I was losing my mind, or throw up his hands in frustration, shouting, “Oh, okay! You know better than I do what I was saying?!”

I actually went out and bought a lock box to keep Bea’s social security card and birth certificate because there was no doubt in my mind that, given the opportunity, he would take her information and start applying for lines of credit under her name.

So one of my major frustrations with my mother is her lack of accountability in this entire situation. You can’t live with someone for almost 40 years and never have any clue that he’s completely lost his mind. I don’t know if he ever had it. I don’t know if PTSD played a factor. I don’t know if he’s got some form of mental health issue that’s only recently begun to rear its ugly head. I just know that you would have to be incredibly stupid or live in a serious state of denial to not see how nasty he can be.

But that’s only part of it. The most recent email to Charlie said, and I quote, “If you don’t let me come and visit, how will you know how I’m doing? If Courtney doesn’t talk to me, how will she know what’s going on with me?” Did I tell you this already? How will I know how she is? What about how I’m doing? The woman hasn’t asked anyone what’s going on with me in a year. She didn’t know I was graduating from college until my dad told her. She didn’t know I’d applied to graduate programs until Charlie mentioned it. And she didn’t know we were moving to Chicago because . . . well, I didn’t tell her. So, yeah. That one’s on me.

A lot of my gay and lesbian friends are big proponents of chosen family. Because they have to deal with their parents’ refusal to accept the lifestyle, they become closer with other people in their lives than their mom and dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I’m lucky to have developed some really great relationships with people in my family recently. My dad’s brother, his wife Vicki, and their kids. But I also have a lot of people in my life who mean a lot more to me than my bickering, nasty parents — one of whom would run me over with a car to steal my daughter, the other of which would run me over with a car so he could pawn my TV.

It just makes me all that much more determined to get the money together for an estate lawyer; to ensure that, in the worst possible scenario, neither of my parents is even considered as a guardian for Bea.

It probably sounds sad to other people, especially those who think Family is all we have in the world, that someone should not talk about their own parents this way. But I know I’m not alone. I know, through late-night Google searches, that there are tons of other people in similar, if not worse, situations than I am with the people who brought them in to this world. It merely leads me to believe that child rearing is not a right — it’s a privilege to which many people seem to give very little consideration. And it makes me very aware of how I am with Bea and how I do not want to turn out as a parent.

Things Are Happening . . .

May 13th would mark the one year anniversary of when my dad came to live with us. Fortunately, it does not appear as though we’re actually going to have to celebrate that date. He found a place a couple of weeks ago south of Indianapolis that caters to people in bad spots; evictions, terrible credit, bankruptcies, foreclosures. They approved my dad’s application and he is apparently ready to move in this Sunday, March 27th. He couldn’t even be bothered to rent a truck. He’s just relying in his brother and Charlie to borrow vehicles for other people.

That is, to say, a bunch of other people are going to have to help him move. He is clinging to whatever amount of money he’s hoarding in his bank account, and repeating over and over again that there’s no way he can help us move.

Two weeks ago yesterday I got The News. I was accepted to DePaul University’s Writing and Publishing MA program. While I’m thrilled that they found my work acceptable for their program, I am disappointed that I was not accepted as a graduate assistant and will not receive a tuition waiver or living stipend for only working 20 hours a week on campus.

There are other options. I interviewed at Peet’s Coffee & Tea for a management position . . . except that was well over two weeks ago and I was supposed to hear a “definite yes or no” just five days after the interview. I haven’t heard anything. I have re-applied to AmeriCorps, but have not had any bites on the couple of positions for which I’ve applied so far. There are some work/study campus jobs, but they either don’t begin until classes start, or they need to be filled immediately. We’re sort of at a stand-still right now. We pay rent twice more before we’re free to leave, but we haven’t yet informed the landlord that my dad isn’t going to rent here. As soon as we do, I’m assuming he is going to want to list and begin showing the place. Since they don’t know about my dad and is four — err, three (one passed away Sunday night) — cats, we can’t put in that call just yet.

We also can’t quite look for an apartment since, if one is available that far in advance, we would need to put down a deposit to secure it. We’re doing everything we can to put aside money for Chicago, but it’s been tough. With my dad thinking he’s free and clear of any financial obligations, Charlie has begun doing side jobs for friends, helping someone finish a basement and whatnot, and I am trying to get in as many hours at the coffeeshop as possible. Prices went up a couple of weeks ago, and tips have been pathetic since then. I entered our Spring drink competition, which gets you a hundred bucks, but my drink didn’t win.

Now we’re going to start putting things up on CraigsList and Facebook to sell, and just put our heads together and down in an attempt to figure out how we can get rid of at least one car — short of literally handing over the keys to the dealership in a voluntary repo. Yipes. I don’t want to do that. Our credit is shot enough as it is . . . .

The really sad thing is how little responsibility my dad seems to feel toward us for helping him out the past (almost) year. It really makes me sad when he begins to rant about how little he has and how he is just “not in a position” to help us. Especially when you consider the fact that, two months ago, he was sitting on about ten grand. He told me this. Combining the “job” he had for three weeks and the prorated disability check, he had quite a prolific account balance. Never mind that he blew around two grand on stuff ordered from Amazon, alone. But now he needs “every penny.” I’ve tried to explain to him that our bills are twice what his are, but we are bringing in the same amount of money per month. Seriously. It’s sad.

I remember the sensation I had when I gave birth to Bea. Despite having an epidural (that was wearing off, mind you), I still had this tremendous feeling of relief wash over me when she popped out (sorry, gross, I know). When my dad gets the last of his things and hands me his key to the house, I imagine it will feel similar.

**WOOSH**

And if he doesn’t give us another dime, at least I’ll be done with the whole mess.

I hope.

Moving On

Convinced that I will never be capable of reconciling with my mother, and discovering that my father is far more gone, mentally and emotionally, than I ever was aware, the Next Big Step seems to be Chicago. Charlie and I have been discussing it off and on for at least two years, so it’s not a huge new thing. It just seems more real now than it did before.

I have a cousin who lives there with his wife (and another who might also go), Bea’s godfathers are also planning a move, and I would hope friends would be willing to visit. After all, it’s only a three-hour drive, not a three-hour plane ride.

I finally graduated with my BA, finished my minor in psychology, and even managed to pull up my GPA one more tenth of a point to a 3.6. I got a 640 on the verbal section of the GRE, and some good letters of recommendation from professors. I have applied to two schools thus far: DePaul University and Columbia College. The last ditch effort will be the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. A program that, while I could never afford it, would hopefully guarantee me a job after finishing the degree. I actually need to finish that within the next week.

Each program is slightly longer than the other. Medill is one year, four quarters, and costs about $48,000. I would finish with a Master of Science in Journalism. DePaul is two years, three quarters in each, and is the most affordable. That’s an MA in Writing and Publishing, with an internship that might get me a job right after graduating. They also offer an assistantship that covers all tuition, plus a living stipend. Columbia College would be an MFA in Creative Writing (non-fiction), so it’s at least three years and is more expensive than DePaul.

I have also applied for several jobs. Two at Groupon.com, one of those for which I’ve already been rejected. I think I flunked their copy editing test, though I pored over their style sheet and cannot figure out what I did wrong. The other is “Quality Assurance” and pays a pittance. I also applied for a proofreading position with a company I’ve never heard of, and a management job at a large chain (not Starbucks).

I’m, of course, having second thoughts occasionally. What if it’s too hard? What if I don’t get in anywhere? What if we can’t afford it? Where will Bea go to school? Moving after almost five years in the same place? How will we ever manage that? Where will the money come from?

Then I tell myself I — and most human beings — are incredibly adaptable. We will figure it out. Yeah, I don’t like the idea of leaving all of my friends, and especially my aunt who is Bea’s godmother, but her son lives in Chicago, and my other cousin (who just started working with me at the coffeeshop) would also eventually like to end up there. In fact, we joked at Thanksgiving that he should move with us and be our live-in manny.

I haven’t been writing or socializing much in the past year or two. A large part of it is the baby (who is now 18 months, so not much of a “baby” anymore), who demands an incredible amount of my attention. She is lovely and funny and entertaining and fascinating, but she is also very high-energy and difficult to manage. She’s stubborn and pig-headed, which is not a huge surprise.

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My mother has decided that Bea is The Only Joy in her life. She has said this to me on more than one occasion. She’s posted it on Facebook, on other people’s photos of Bea, and written it to me in emails and letters. I eventually blocked her from seeing anything on my wall or photos I’ve posted. The mess that happened last May has just gotten more and more complicated. She left my dad, emptied their house, and basically did nothing while he withered away in a psych ward besides haranguing me for access to — what turned out to be — their joint bank account. She couldn’t figure out how to log in, so she decided he was hiding things from her. She accused him of creating alternate identities, of hiding money and financial information.

After living with my father for the past (almost) eight months, the only thing I can figure she was talking about was the business name he had created for consulting work. Yes, he took from her parents, and from his last employer, and he was punished with a felony for the latter (though nothing yet has come of the family stuff, which worries me, insofar as what he could charged with, or the fact that he wasn’t the only one sticking his hand in the cookie jar) but if he’d had any money stashed away, I imagine he would have used some of it to at least buy food rather than eating ours. And watching us sell all our most valuable possessions to buy him medicine, put gas in his car, and pay his bills.

It’s been a long eight months. One day he’s up, the next he’s down. When he has money (or positive things going on), he’s high as a kite. When he has nothing (money or otherwise), he’s in his room for days – if not weeks – at a time. We want to take advantage of the fact that he’s now working full time, has a steady, great income, as well as being approved for disability, and let him take over the lease.

If I was offered a job tomorrow, it would definitely be a tremendous effort to get things squared away. So, every day, I try to do a little bit to get things ready. Start a pile of things to donate, put something up for sale on CraigsList. I want to get my dad to start putting the utilities in his name, and fix the damn window on the Matrix so we can trade it in.

This is beginning to be a bit of a ramble. And will probably get worse. Some day, when I have the time, I would like to sit down and write out everything that has happened in the past year. 2010 was, by far, the shittiest I have ever had. It sucks that Bea’s life has been complicated by all of the things that have taken place. I wish I could have relaxed and enjoyed her. I tried, but sometimes, having your dad come downstairs and start shouting things at the TV makes it difficult to relax. It’s like living with Kate, only worse. Always on eggshells, never sure what he’s going to do.

I don’t know how he will be living on his own, but I think placing him in his own apartment would be a bad idea. I think it would be too depressing for him. At least he has the comfort of this house and, what we don’t want or cannot take with us, we can leave for him and get later or just let him keep. The landlord, I’m sure, will have no problem letting him take over the lease. After all, we’ve been here over 4 1/2 years and have never paid the rent late.

All that being said, there is a part of me that wishes we could stay, that I’d be offered a great job here or a great MA program. But nothing has come up or through. Whenever someone says, “Oh, I don’t want you guys to go,” I just have to say, “Thank you.” Because I want to say, “Can you fix all of this? Can you make my dad sane again? Can you get my mother to relax and stop clawing at me to get to the baby?”

If my mother were able, I think she would kill me in my sleep and take Bea. I’m so angry and frustrated with her. The guilt trips, the crying, the whining. The complete lack of responsibility or accountability for anything that’s happened. She feels as if it’s ALL my dad’s fault and he left her with no choice. She refuses to think she made any choices that negatively affected any one else, least of all my relationship with her. All she wants is THAT BABY. And it makes me physically ill. To see her coo and cuddle and chase after Bea when I can’t remember the last time she ever touched me.

The first time my mom ever said she loved me was the night I had Bea. After racing to the hospital (an hour and a half drive that I think she made in 45 minutes), then bursting in to the delivery room in the midst of me pushing, we couldn’t get her to leave until almost 9 at night. Charlie has to escort her to the parking garage. I didn’t even want her there, and had told her as much in the past. I didn’t want ANYONE in the delivery room – even Charlie, if he decided he didn’t want to be there. So as she’s driving home, I guess she called my phone and left this long, weepy voicemail, at the end of which she says, “Love you guys.” Not “I love you,” but “love you guys.” I was 33 years old and it was the first time I ever heard my mother say anything like that.

She never said she was proud of me until my dad pointed it out a few months ago. It’s like a party you can’t make it to. Sure, you have to work, but it would be nice to at least be invited. Instead of ever taking the initiative to say anything positive to me, my mom has to be told by myself and other people the issues we/I have with her, then, all of the sudden, she starts saying this shit.

It’s too little, too late, for me. As terrible as this sounds, I’m not interested in forging a relationship with her. I think she’s emotionally unstable and her obsession with Bea is bordering on frightening. She needs to be happy with herself and her choices before she expects a child to create happiness for her. I know a lot of friends who have had children recently and are having difficulty dealing with their parents. I know I’m not alone, but I have never, ever been close to my mother, and have never forgiven her for the things she did to me when I was younger. As I’ve gotten older, she has continued to prove that she isn’t just an unhappy person, she’s miserable and lonely.

A part of me does feel sorry for her, which is why I asked Charlie if he would be willing to let her come over while I was at work. She has, MANY TIMES. In fact, when I sent an email saying she should contact Charlie to set up time to see Bea, I don’t think she even logged out of her Yahoo account before snatching up the phone to call him. And she’s done it, over and over again. And every time she has come out, she’s cried. Every. Single. Time. Weeping, sobbing, crying, whining, moaning. As Bea gets older and more aware of what’s going on around her, she gets upset when my mom cries.

I wonder, if she could just keep her shit together, would I have less of a problem with her coming out? Probably not. Her behavior merely fuels my frustration.

Maybe my dad drove her crazy after 38 years of his antics, but SHE chose HIM, I didn’t pick either of them. But I got stuck with him when she left and he tried to kill himself. She has barely spoken to him all year, and immediately applied for a divorce. She won’t talk to me about him at all any more, which makes me even angrier because the first couple of months, she would write me these NOVELS every day about how he ruined her life and her world came crashing down around her, blah, blah, blah. I tried to actually communicate with her, but she just stopped addressing anything about my dad at all.

Now she’s convinced that he is filling my head with lies about her. She thinks he’s the reason I am upset with her and don’t want to hang out and watch her fondle my daughter. It has nothing to do, I guess, with the fact that she told me on more than one occasion she should have aborted me, never wanted kids, and hated having children.

Here I Am.

Last night I made cheese ravioli, steamed asparagus with butter and lemon juice, and a nice, fresh salad. As we took turns picking up Beatrice’s toys off the floor as she tossed them from her high chair, I had a strange feeling come over me. When we rented this house three and a half years ago, we were living with a twenty-something college student, and our dogs were our kids. We went out whenever we felt like it, ate out all the time, had no trouble paying our bills, and went to the movies or hung out with friends. Now, Cavan has moved out and we eat dinner at home, at the table with a 6-month-old in between us, banging toys on her food tray, cooing and babbling. We haven’t gone out alone together, let alone had a “date,” since she was born. Our hospital bills are ready to go into collections, and we’re trying to figure out if we can go down to one car.

I don’t think I ever imagined myself in this situation. Unlike many women, being in a long-term, committed relationship and being a mom just weren’t on my top list of things to do. I love Bea to death, and can’t imagine not having her, so it’s not like I would take that back. It’s just a weird, surreal feeling to know I now have to be responsible for her, before I consider myself and what I want. My life wasn’t exactly a thrill a minute before she came along, which may be part of the reason we chose to go ahead and try getting pregnant. I’m willing to sacrifice a certain amount of myself to make sure she’s well taken care of.

That being said, there are things I can do for myself that give me a little alone time. I take a lot of hot baths in this cold winter weather when Charlie is home. I’m reading a book on getting in to grad school. I’m sitting down by myself to try and get homework done.

My top school choices aren’t so much about the schools’ prestige as they are the programs those schools have to offer. Portland State University and DePaul in Chicago both have programs in writing and publishing that interest me. Part of me loves the idea of taking off for at least two years to live in Oregon, physically detached from the people who are making this thing called motherhood much more difficult for me (let’s not even go into that right now). Part of me likes the idea of renting a tiny apartment in Chicago, walking to campus, and taking regular trips to IKEA for all of the things we won’t want to take with us. I don’t want to leave my friends completely, or the family that I care about, but I really want to give something new a try. I don’t want to have a kid who’s afraid to try new things, who grows up in suburb of Indianapolis, and whose idea of “fun” is going to the mall with her friends. If that’s how she ends up, I want to know that I at least gave her a fighting chance to be somewhat “cultured.”

Charlie is considering pursuing a degree in nursing, in an effort to both change fields/have a new career, and to ensure a job anywhere we end up. I want to take comedy writing classes at Second City. We talk a lot about money, school, how we ended up in this financial situation, and how to get out of it.

The other day I had to turn in a bunch of paperwork at the Family and Social Services Administration to see if we were eligible for assistance with Bea’s healthcare. Walking in, I found the entire place so depressing, flickering fluorescent lights, people taking up seats who looked as though they might not have a place to call home . . . It made me that much more determined the get out of the situation that we’re in, whether it’s just by finishing this goddamn Bachelor’s degree that’s taken me so long, or continuing through to get my Master’s and teaching, or getting a shitty writing gig for a sitcom.

I guess, as usual, only time will tell, but I am convinced that, as usual, Charlie and I will come out ahead of all of this.

But the Good News Is . . .

We’ve already managed to cut out almost $175 from our monthly costs by: getting rid of cable TV and the DVR (sniff, sniff), discontinuing Charlie’s gym membership (a place he hasn’t visited in a few months), and switching our cell phone plans (bye, iPhone).

Have you heard of Credo Mobile? If we moved to them, 1% of the profits from our phone plan would go to a progressive organization of our choice. Not only that, but we could get two phones for $40, and the same service as we have now for about $40 less per month. Unfortunately, it’s on Sprint, which means most of our calls to our friends on AT&T’s network would no longer be free. However, I rarely use my phone, because I can’t get a signal in the house.
If we could get better service, though, we could also get rid of our land line (another $30+ per month). Charlie said if that were the case, he’d prefer to keep a limited cable package in an effort to not have to go out and buy digital rabbit ears for both televisions.

We have one item on the table that would benefit us in terms of Charlie’s schedule (no more working till 5 or 6 in the morning), and which would contribute a portion towards healthcare each month. I can’t say anything more about it in a public forum for the time being, though.

I did the math (I have a calculator) and my loans and grants from school these next two semesters, properly budgeted, would equal more than I make at the coffeeshop in the same period of time. Isn’t that sad? And what I’ve heard from my friends with babies, it sounds as if daycare, alone, is about what I make working full time. So it doesn’t seem cost-effective to go back to the coffeeshop just to use my checks so someone else can watch my Bea.

I’m trying to keep a positive outlook, which I know sounds impossible for me, given my previous post in all its glory. I’m reminding myself that I can spend a lot more time with the baby than I would if I stayed at the coffeeshop. And, as Mel pointed out, I can expect a much higher salary once I have my degree. I’m so close to graduating. As burnt out on school as I am, I would much rather get paid to learn and spend time with Bea than making this ridiculous chit chat with customers who could give two shits about my financial circumstances. People will want me to bring in photos of my baby for them to see. People will expect me to work really hard, make their drinks really fast, with no consideration to how difficult it is for me to be there just four weeks after giving birth. They’ll say the same thing over and over and over again: “So, gettin’ any sleep?” And they’ll laugh at how clever they think they are.
Don’t get me wrong, though — there are some super-sweet people I’ve become acquainted with (even made friends with) from working there and I’m really glad for that. But for the most part, it’s selfish assholes.

It’s difficult for me to make polite chit chat with them now, when I’m just going in once every couple of days for an americano. The best is when they can’t believe I’m going back to work so early. They can’t imagine why I wouldn’t just take off the entire 12 weeks. And I say I need the money. And they ask “Doesn’t your husband work?” And I say of course he does, but I don’t point out that he isn’t an attorney or a politician; he wants to be able to sleep at night knowing he isn’t ripping people off.

Guess What?

Beatrice June finally made her appearance yesterday afternoon at 1:48. After pushing for just a few contractions, the 6lb, 12oz little girl popped into the world!

It was a pretty crazy morning. I’d been having contractions all day the day before, then all night, then my water broke Thursday morning and it was immediately evident that my body was READY TO GO.

We rushed to the hospital, and I was already 5cm dilated. I made it a couple more before I lost it and asked for drugs. Next thing I knew, it was time to push and this is what came out: