Radio Silence

It’s been a shit week. Started off with T informing me I was fat. There was a stressful and involved homework assignment I left to the last minute. A terrible therapy session. Yesterday I wrote 700 words about the it. But they were the wrong words. I deleted the post. Found out that someone I loved a very long time ago lost a person close to him, a person I rather adored. C got another cold. The hot water heater broke rather dramatically to the tune of nearly a grand. The boys went on a sleeping strike. Z and I haven’t spent time together in, oh, I don’t know how long. The anxiety has been…..constant.

sad C

C in this moment=how I’ve felt all week.

Many other people experienced real tragedy over the last few days. I’m just being a whiney brat. But it is why I haven’t been writing.

Today wasn’t so bad. Found out a friend from a million years ago sent a scoby to me. Sometime next week I should be trying to figure out how to brew my own kombucha. Was the room mother for T’s class and had fun with my boy. Except when he told two gals that the tree he was playing under was “No girls allowed”. Yes, I might have performed an impromptu monologue straight out of a women’s issues class. But other than that heartbreak it was delightful.

bumblebee

T’s Halloween costume arrived in the mail this afternoon. He is rocking this look. One of the cooler parts of parenthood? Six months ago I had no idea who Bumblebee was. Personally I still don’t give a shit about him, but because T adores him he has sort of crept into my heart a little.

photo (20)

After a trip to Target to score Mommy more crazy lady drugs and the boys some more play doh (What? I don’t make my own play doh? I know! Call Child Protective Services!) I decided I was pretty much done with the week. Z wasn’t home for dinner. So we got take out, I told the boys we would pretend it was a picnic, cracked open a bottle of cider, and I threw in a Harry Potter Movie. T was pissed I made him take off the Bumblebee costume. But I was not born yesterday. And no, we don’t have a flatscreen TV. I realize we might be the only people on the planet. Someday I hope we join those living in the 21st century.

friday night

So there you have it. Rough week. Better Friday. Hey next week? Can we be friends?

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Grumpy Old Lady

Syracuse rocks in the summer. Last night the heat and humidity broke. I’m not sure it made it out of the 70s today. It is lush and green and comfortable. And the students aren’t around.

I know, I know. That sounds really bitchy. Especially considering without the students Z would have no one to teach. Especially considering I was one of the students for the last two semesters.

I went to a tiny college that put the liberal in liberal arts. There weren’t any sororities or fraternities  Hell, there were only about 6 straight guys who were undergrads. OK, the drug culture was overwhelmingly severe, but I avoided most of it by choosing to live in substance free housing and then moving off campus (a rarity-the dorms were all singles after first year) as soon as second year was over.

SU is a party school. It is a sorority/fraternity school. It is a sports school. Z and I were bewildered when we first moved here. These are not our people. But it’s good to be exposed to new stuff. And the school is large enough that we were able to find our people over time.

Still, when the kids come back in the fall it is a bit depressing. We live in walking distance from campus, in the University neighborhood. We are around the corner from the small business district. It is a fantastic location and I wouldn’t want to live elsewhere. But. That first fall we lived here our car was broken into. Then an extremely drunk kid tried to push his way into our house. He was basically wrestling with Z while I held newborn T and my phone. He only left after I yelled that I was dialing 911. That stuff really made us feel unsafe in our home. It was before we found friends. Before we learned that during the first few weeks of the semester the kids do drunken treasure hunts (that would be the car break in-only some CDs and the registration were taken and the next day the registration was thrown into our neighbor’s yard). So seemingly harmless stuff, but still not very cool.

Cut to tonight. Our yard turned into a jungle during our month and a half absence. We’ve been feverishly weeding and tidying and mulching. Most of it is done, but the ivy that grows on the side of our garage near the back of our property is trying to overtake the poor shrubs that live beside it. So I was absentmindedly weeding. And suddenly I pulled up a clump with something dangling off the bottom.

wallet in yard - Version 2

Yup. A wallet.  With an SU ID. Yup, I edited his name off of the photo. Because I’m not that much of an asshole.

At first I thought it had been stolen and tossed in our yard. But that theory made less sense as Z and I went through it. There were his bank card, drivers license, insurance card, credit cards. Also, it was just too far from the street to be tossed back where I found it.

5er in wallet

A five dollar bill had partially disintegrated and adhered to the cloth of the wallet. And look! A little slug made its home there as well!

robe swing

This wallet was not stolen. It was lost. In the back of our yard…..near the really awesome rope swing.

Z and I started to get angry. This little entitled shithead was in our backyard. What the fuck? Judging from the dates on the cards he was here sometime after 2010 and he is still a student at SU now. It look me about three minutes to find his parent’s phone number online. I called, got the machine, stared to explain who I was and what I had found whilst weeding and his Dad picked up. He was very friendly and told me the boy had lost the wallet during a night he had no memory of about a year and a half ago when he was a freshman. He said he was going to get the kid so he could maybe “shed some light on the subject.” I asked him to hold on a moment. Explained that the wallet had everything in it including $5. I told him it clearly wasn’t stolen. I explained about the awesome rope swing. I said, “Your son lost his wallet while he was in my backyard.” There was a very awkward pause. He said he was getting his son.

The young man’s voice was sheepish when he introduced himself. He asked me to cut up and discard what I’d found since it had all been replaced. I had told his Dad there was a walmart giftcard and the kid told me to keep anything of value. I asked him if he remembered a yard with a rope swing. He told me he didn’t remember anything. I believe him. I’m sure he was completely shit-faced. The call was wrapping up. And I couldn’t help myself. “Dude. Listen. You’ve got to stay out of people’s backyards.” “Okey,” he replied.

Whole thing seems kind of benign, huh? What am I upset about? A year and a half ago in the middle of the night I was in my home with my husband, toddler, and newborn. This kid isn’t small, judging from the pictures probably 180 or so. Considerably larger than Z and me. He was so drunk he can’t remember the evening. He probably wasn’t alone. What if we discovered him? What if a confrontation happened? He and his friends were in a fenced in area past the house, they were nowhere near the street. The idea frightens both Z and me.

Yes, kids will be kids. But there is no reason to be an out of control dickweed. Tonight Z and I talked about when we were college freshman–we weren’t angels, but we never went on private property while blotto. Hell, I don’t think either of us roamed residential neighborhoods while partying. And I’ll tell you what, if one of my boys pulls a stunt like this when they are teens they will be in extremely deep shit.

Don’t be assholes, kids. Respect yourselves and those around you. And stay in school. Love from your neighborhood grumpy old lady.

zombie c

But seriously. You come on my land I set my zombie child on you. This is what he looked like after eating a kid who ran into our yard to retrieve a lost football.

Leaky Toilet

Have I told you how we became homeowners? Early in 2001 we moved from Williamsburg to Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and became regulars at a new restaurant in Fort Green called Locanda Vini e Olii. The original owners had a son who we hung out with quite a bit. A couple of years later, in 2003, he called Z in the middle of a workday and told him to trust him. He said Z had to leave work immediately, find me and get me to leave work, and head out to the apartment building down in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens where our friend had just bought a studio apartment. Another unit was under foreclosure, the bank only wanted what was left on the loan which was $35,000. Z and I took him seriously, we grabbed the Q train down to the southeast corner of Prospect Park where we met our friend and the Super. We asked what we needed to do to prevent the apartment from being put on the market. A few frantic phone calls later and we were under contract to buy the place. Yes, we became homeowners of a 700 square foot one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn for less than the cost of a new SUV. People, miracles to happen in the NYC housing market. It was the luckiest break of our lives.

We sold it in 2009 after the bottom fell out of the market and we still made enough to buy our house in Syracuse. There is no way in hell we’d be homeowners now if it weren’t for that place. That cursed, shitty, roach infested apartment. The couple that lost it before us were going through a divorce-one moved out and the one that stayed just stopped paying the mortgage. Z and I almost split up while living there. The couple we rented to didn’t renew the lease-they broke up and one of them ended up in rehab. I loved being a homeowner in Brooklyn, but I loved Z more and I’m glad that apartment is out of our lives.

So that is my feel good story of the day. It’s nice to remember when I’m terrified about money like I am right now.

Over a month ago the toilet in our half bath started leaking. Z thought he’d be able to fix it, but the problem ended up having to do with the toilet being installed a bit too high above the floor. Listen, homeownership rocks. We love our sweet house, we feel so fortunate to live here. But every time something breaks my stomach drops and I’m seized with fear. I’ve said it before, but we really can’t afford to be living off of one salary. Our savings are kaput. At this point my going back to work doesn’t make much sense. I’d probably not make enough to cover daycare for the boys. So we are going to try to stumble through the next few years until the boys are in elementary school and I sort of figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

All that doesn’t solve the leaking toilet problem.

The floor needed to be redone in order to seat the toilet properly. We had tile left over from when our second floor bathroom was renovated a few years ago-we knew that had to happen when we moved in and set aside money for it back when we still had some. And the same guy who did the second floor bath gave us a good deal, he was going to squeeze us in when he got a chance. He called two days ago and offered to start Friday. He had some extra time because of Thanksgiving and drastically reduced his original quote on sheetrocking the walls as well, which also needed to be done. So we are going to carry a balance on our credit card for a few months. For the first time since 2006. We’ll get it paid off, but I’m panicking a bit.

And family? Looks like it is going to be a homemade Christmas presents year for us. Sorry in advance. We still love you, we are just super broke.

The gross little half bath before demo started. 

Goodbye horrible paneling! Hello shiny new Sheetrock! What color should we paint it?
Yesterday there was a digger outside T’s school. The kind men who were operating it offered to let him climb aboard. One of his teachers happened to be walking by with a camera. I’m completely in love with this picture. 

A Very Ugly Can of Worms

The last time Z was out of town I took the boys to the farmers market on the Saturday morning. We were going out again later that day, so I only pulled into the driveway a few feet off of the street. As I was getting ready to unload my guys a man approached me, told me he was hungry, and asked me for $5.

When we lived in the city it drove me crazy that Z handed out money to the first person who asked every day. We weren’t making enough to pay our bills, I made the privileged (and perhaps common sense-often those who asked reeked of booze) assumption that the money didn’t go towards food. I’d rather contribute in a way that would actually help with food or housing. Except that I never actually did. We had a friend who had a no money policy, but he’d offer to walk to a take out place and get the person some food. It was crazy how infrequently someone took him up on the offer. But Z has a big heart and if someone says they are hungry and need money he tends to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Lately I’ve been feeling pretty guilty about the choices I made concerning folks asking for money in my past and dissatisfied with my inaction. Recently I read an article from Esquire magazine that a friend posted on facebook. It was written by a young evangelical Christian who has a ministry for the poor in Philadelphia, if I remember correctly.  Part of the piece covered of the story of the Good Samaritan. The author said that when the story was first told there was another layer to what went down that would have been obvious to the contemporaries of the characters in the story. The folks who passed by the dude that needed help were well off and religious. Samaritans were kind of considered lower class at the time, yet it was that guy who gave a helping hand. His telling of the story–the haves don’t help while the have nots do–stuck in my mind.

That was what I thought about when the man told me he was hungry and asked for money. I told him yes. And he asked for $10. I gave him $5, frankly I was pretty pissed that as soon as I said yes the $5 wasn’t enough. Cut to last night at 8:30PM. Z was a half an hour from getting home from his trip to NYC, the boys were in bed, and the doorbell rang. We have glass panels at the sides of our front door and I always look before opening. I didn’t recognized the man, but after some back and forth he explained that I helped him out before. Then I got it. It was the $5 dude.  And I’m ashamed to say I got a little scared. I told him I couldn’t help him out.

I continued to get more scared as I sat in the kitchen waiting for Z. This man knew where I lived. I was alone in my house with my two boys. Did I do the wrong thing by giving him money? Was he going to continue to approach me? Did I ask for that by helping out? Was I being a horrible person for being concerned? I don’t know what has happened in his life to lead him to the place he is now. And I do know my own life has been enormously charmed. What is the right answer in this situation?

Today I walked with a friend to get a cup of coffee around the corner from my place. There is a small shopping district about two blocks from our house. We live in a city, one that is much smaller than NYC, but a city just the same. Our neighborhood is a mix of single and multiple family homes on tiny lots built from the teens to the 50s of the last century. A healthy percent of the single family homes are filled with people who are affiliated with the University, the apartments house students, and there are naturally tons of other people who have nothing to do with SU. A few blocks away the area gets very economically depressed very quickly, there is a lot of poverty here in Syracuse. We live in the kind of neighborhood where there are occasional muggings and the break-ins increase as we near the winter holidays. But if you are careful it is easy to feel pretty damn safe.

As we walked home I started telling my friend what happened last night. She asked if the guy looked a certain way and I said he did. She said she saw him at my front door earlier in the week and it seemed odd to her. I don’t know where Z and I were, she said both of our cars were in the driveway, it’s a small house, if the bell rings we hear it. Bottom line, I feel even more unsettled. If something ends up happening with the dude I feel like I brought it upon our family by interacting with him.

As for the right answer, one doesn’t exist as far as I can see, only additional questions. What is the right way to help? Why do I deserve to have a full belly and this man does not? There is not a simple, pithy way to wrap up this story. I feel guilty. Guilty for being frightened of this man who has done nothing wrong to me, guilty for potentially endangering my children, guilty because I have so much and do so little in return.

So….how about some pictures to lighten the mood?

 Intense concentration during Sunday morning construction.
This kid’s adorableness slays me. 

T and I raked leaves while C was napping yesterday afternoon. T climbed in this pile of leaves, pretended he was holding a steering wheel, and told me he was driving a boat of leaves. I love his imagination. 
Post raking cuddles, nose picking, and Harry Potter movie.
Daddy’s home! And in the shop before 8am on a Monday morning!

Lead Paint

Our sweet little house was built in 1930. And we absolutely adore it. Neither Z nor I are particularly good with money. You sort of hope one half of a couple has some financial savvy, but our positive personality traits are in other areas. We hit the jackpot when we became homeowners in NYC, it was pure luck, a friend tipped us off to a foreclosure in his building, and we were able to buy a one bedroom for $35,000. Yup, we bought an apartment in Brooklyn in 2004 for less than the cost of an SUV. Dumb, crazy, once-in-a-lifetime luck. And the profit we made on that place meant we could buy this one. Real estate stock in the city of Syracuse is incredibly inexpensive compared to a lot of places. Our house isn’t big or fancy, but it is perfect for us. We say we can never move because we will never be able to afford anything like it elsewhere in the country. So even though we do a crapy job managing our finances and probably never could have gotten it together to save a reasonable down payment, we have stumbled into happy homeownership.

Older homes are right up our alley aesthetically and I can’t imagine us living in anything else. I grew up in 9 different suburban houses, and we were the first or second inhabitants in all but 2 of them. So as weird as it sounds I have a lot of nostalgic feelings about new construction. Z grew up in a house built in the 60s, and he is very fond of it. But when it came to our family we agreed that we want to live in old places. We love the musty smell, we love fantasizing about the families that came before us, and we love trying to restore original details. There are definite downsides to owning an older home. For safety reasons we had to do a major electrical upgrade. The spoiled part of me really would love a bathroom in the master bedroom. Or a clear master bedroom, period. The windows are original, so our heat bill is horrifying. And there is undoubtedly lead paint everywhere.

When you don’t have kids you don’t give a crap about lead pant. Z and I really don’t have a problem controlling ourselves when it comes to eating paint chips. But when we bought the house we knew we needed to investigate the issue for the safety of our son. Fast forward to T’s two year wellness visit yesterday. He’d been tested for lead at 9 months, but he wasn’t really mobile at that point and his levels were fine. But yesterday they were high. And we haven’t done a damn thing about the lead paint issue in our home over the last two years. I am so infuriated with myself.

The test is performed by pricking the child’s heal and collecting some blood. The results are ready in about 4 minutes, but it isn’t very accurate. We don’t even know what T’s score was, and it didn’t occur to us to ask because it wouldn’t have meant anything to us. She said it was high, but not extremely high. We need to take him to a lab that draws blood from the vein and when we get the results of that test we’ll know more. In the meantime I found a Lead Abatement Program in Syracuse and we are filling out the paperwork needed before they come for a home inspection. And clearly our guy is on track developmentally, so I don’t think we’ve done irreparable damage, but damn it do I feel guilty.

Therefore, I’ve acted like a turd for the last 24 hours. I was about as calm as T when the heal thing was happening. Then I jumped down Z’s throat when we got the results in a really unfair way. Physically I’ve been a clumsy mess, yesterday morning I dropped a glass of water in our bedroom. Last night I dropped the dinner I’d just made all over the kitchen and myself. And I started ugly crying. When Z suggested he take the more messed up portion of dinner (which was really decent of him) I threw a tantrum involving foot stomping to make sure he didn’t. He actually had to ask me to stop acting that way in the view of our toddler, who is probably looking for tips on how to improve his own tantrum throwing. When I asked Z to come with us for the blood draw on Friday because I wasn’t sure I could handle it he said, “Um. Yeah, I actually don’t think you should be in the room when it happens.” It is often like Z is taking care of two children.

The hope is this won’t be a big deal. The shitty part of having an anxiety disorder is everything feels like it’s the end of the world. So here is some good news: T is now in the 25% for height and he’s almost at the 25% for weight. For the last year he’s been hovering around 7-10% in both. He’s feeling like a big boy to me now.

Exactly two years ago today we bought our sweet little lead filled house, we moved in the next day, and T was born 8 days later.
He loves the tupperware cup (orange, of course) that I played with when I was little.
Sippin’ on his water.
Little Man singing ‘Angel Band’ which his dad sings to him at bedtime. Notice how he tries to eat the ukulele. Everything goes into that mouth, which is probably a big part of the reason we have a problem… And please, feel free to judge the mess in our home. It’s bad.