JOURNAL NO. 43
October 1989 -  September 1990
Age 31 & 32


"... I'm going to have to resign myself to the fact that from now I'm the spectator in life,
not the participant."


 




Wednesday
October 18, 1989

Hello, new Journal ...

The "Moving Dream" came back last night, for the first time since we've been here in the new house. All of the usual elements were there. Ray and the kids and I had moved out of Shannon South and into a beautiful new apartment. The new place had a huge brick fireplace, vaulted ceilings and a penthouse view of the city below: I was beside myself with joy. Then, without warning, Ray announced that we could no longer "afford" the fancy new apartment, and that we had to move again. Suddenly I found myself standing in front of the old apartment I shared with Terry Hunt, back in the summer of 1980 ... the Glendale Apartments in Bellevue ... a tacky, seedy, moldy hellhole if there ever was one! Peering through the open door, I could see that our furniture and belongings had already been moved inside. Ray and the kids were waiting for me to come inside and join them, but I flung myself on the ground and screamed "NOOOOO! I DON'T WANT TO LIVE HERE!!" Unseen arms tried to pry me loose and carry me inside, but I clung to the ground, kicking and screaming ...

God. Am I really so insecure? I guess so. I remember having this identical dream shortly after moving into Shannon South, and of course many times before and since. Some elements differ from dream to dream, but the theme remains unchanged: I am being forced out of my home. It's all about the impermanence of "home," and the insecure child in me who is terrified she'll have the rug pulled out from under her again.

We've been here in the new house for almost three weeks now. Does it feel like "home" to me yet? I don't know.

I am crazy about the place. I love the space, the light, the layout ... I love how clean and new everything feels ... I like to just walk around and admire everything, from every possible angle. It fits our needs so perfectly. I could imagine us living here for years, and I know that in time it could become as dear to me as any place I've lived in my life. But it doesn't feel that way to me yet. There is something holding me back from completely falling in love with the place. It isn't simply because we haven't been here long enough ... it's more like a fear of giving my heart to something that isn't completely mine to love. A sad fact of life has finally (if you'll pardon the pun) "hit home" with me: we are renters, not owners. We will always be renters ... always living in someone else's house. When I was younger and more naive I believed that it didn't matter  ...  that simply living somewhere automatically made it "mine" forever ... but years of packing up and moving from one temporary rented home to another have eroded my naivete. Now I know that simply hanging up the Home Sweet Home sampler doesn't make borrowed space any more "mine" than the air that we breathe.






Thursday morning
October 20, 1989

Packing suitcases for Kyle and the girls. Tomorrow afternoon Peg & Don Sr. are driving down from Bellevue and taking the kids for the whole weekend. Jamie and Kacie are "old pros" at this, of course, but this will be Kyle's very first time away from home. How will he handle it? How will Ray and I handle it??






Saturday morning
October 21, 1989

The kids just left. Ray ended up driving them out to his parents' house: I just watched them pull away. Kyle looked so grown-up and sure of himself as he strode out of the house, his blue suitcase slung over his shoulder ... I had a lump in my throat the size of a small meatloaf.  Here comes another test of Mommyhood, I suppose: the first night Kyle and I have EVER spent apart.

Evening:

I am totally at a loss without my baby here tonight.



"What's on your mind besides your hat?" ~  Daffy Duck





October 22, 1989
Sunday

Diary Entry:

So QUIET when we got up this morning  --  no kids around!!!  Rainy day. On a whim Ray and I jumped into the car and went shopping in Burien.  Went to Value Village, picked up a few little odds and ends; grocery-shopped at Fred Meyer. Stopped and picked up lunch at Jack in the Box, came home to eat and read the Sunday paper.

Peg and Barbara brought the kids home later in the afternoon. Kyle apparently was a very good boy at his grandparents'  --  no problems at all!  --  they'll invite him again without hesitation!   Peg really likes the house  --  we showed her all around the place.

Ray barbecued a roast on the Webber.






October 23, 1989
Monday

Diary Entry:

My lethargy mysteriously continues.  Dark, cold, rainy day, and I literally spent the entire day in bed, either reading magazines or napping.  I simply COULD NOT get myself to do anything.  What is going on with me, anyway?  Headaches, no energy, sleepless nights  ...  I feel like I'm falling apart physically.  Maybe I need to get back on iron supplements and try to get out of the house a little more  ...

Had to force myself to get up when the kids got home from school (Emily again today).  Nice surprise  --  they got their school pictures back!  They turned out great, much better than last year.  We had Kyle's taken too, so we have a complete set now  --  all three munchkins.

Ray was home at the regular time.  Jamie went home with Emily and had dinner at the Johnson's, then went to Brownies with them.  Bought her Brownie handbook, $4.85.

Hot roast beef sandwiches and boiled new potatoes for supper.


              

School Pics!
Jamie (age 7, second grade), Kacie (age 6, first grade) and Kyle (age 4, not in school yet)
Fall 1989





October 24, 1991
Tuesday

Diary Entry:

Sunny but wickedly COLD!  Jackets and hats are now mandatory apparel for the kids  ...

Felt much better today.  Had enough energy to get my work done, anyway, plus I baked a few dozen chocolate chip cookies in the afternoon.







Tuesday
October 31, 1989

Hallowe'en morning ... ten days since my last entry. The kids survived their trip to Peg and Don's. More importantly, *I* surived our separation!! It was the usual case of me making a big deal out of nothing. Gotta learn to let GO, Terri ...

Kyle: "What do you fink of our new house, André?"

Jamie, Kacie and Jerome just left for school, dressed in their Hallowe'en costumes (Jamie is Super Girl, Kacie is Cherry Merry Muffin, Jerome is Spiderman) and carrying armloads of apples, books, pumpkins, lunchboxes.  The little guys and I stood at the window and watched them go. "When the kids get home this afternoon," I told Kyle and André, "it will be time to get ready for trick-or-treat." This is not precisely the truth, but it helped cheer them up: they didn't want the big kids to leave this morning. There has been a sort of "carnival atmosphere" around here all morning. I got up early, as soon as Ray left for work at 6:30, built a fire in the woodstove, put a spooky Hallowe'en tape on the stereo, made a big breakfast for everybody (scrambled egg & ham muffins, grape juice). The kids were just WILD. Everyone was running around the living room, batting balloons around in the air and shrieking ... no wonder Kyle and André were sorry to see the party end. I'm trying to settle them down now with Sesame Street and more juice, but they are still wound up. This is a big day for them!

   

Jamie and Kyle (above)
Kacie with Tracy Pinkney (below)


Lori is supposed to come over this afternoon.  We plan to take the kids trick-or-treating around the new neighborhood, then over to the school for big Hallowe'en party. (Kyle has a Bullwinkle costume that's too cute for words.) Secretly, I'm hoping to have a few hours to myself this morning before Lori shows up. She came over unexpectedly yesterday morning and stayed for practically the entire day. Although I enjoyed her company, it's hard to get much done when she's here. With luck it will be afternoon before she pops in today. 

I am really beginning to like the sense of isolation and quiet I feel here in the house. My "homesickness" for the apartments has faded. Lori is still my best friend  --  the only really close female friend I have  --  but I must admit that it's something of a relief, having a little distance between us now. I need my privacy  --  my "alone times"  --  and being here in the house affords me this, in a way that living in the apartment never could. Living at Shannon South was a little bit like living in a college dormitory ... everybody knew what everybody else was doing. No secrets. No privacy. Lori spent more of her time in MY apartment than in her own. Now, however, our time together requires more thought, more planning, more WORK ... and the result, for me at least, is that I value our time together much more than I did before. Lori may not feel the same way. I know she misses having me right next door. But then I'm much more of a loner at heart, and I need the alone-times more than she does ...

"Lori is still my best friend ..."
1989

I keep referring to being "alone," as though I spent my days in complete solitude, when of course I DO have Kyle and André here. My little companions. Now that Kacie and Jerome are in first grade and in school for the whole day  --  plus now that Kyle no longer has his choice of playground buddies, the way he did at the apartment  --  he and André have been thrown together much more than ever before. I've been babysitting André for over two years, of course, and he and Kyle have always more or less gotten along, but it's pretty much been one of those omnipresent, taking-each-other-for-granted relationships, like siblings. Kyle never really actively sought André out to play with. A lot of the time at the apartments he flat out ignored him, preferring to play with other, livelier children on the playground. Things are different now, though. André has become Kyle's buddy: they are rarely apart. Whether they're climbing on the swingset in the backyard, or playing "cars" in Kyle's bedroom, or sitting in front of the TV watching cartoons, they are side by side, jabbering, giggling, arguing ... best buddies.

Best Buddies
1989

(Kyle just asked me if I put the juice in his apple.)

(Then he said "The STORE makes apples, huh?")





Monday morning
November 6, 1989

Nearly a week later  --  a cold, windy Monday morning in early November, coming off one of the lousiest weekends I've had in a long time ...

Grandpa Torg passed away this weekend at University Hospital in Seattle, of coronary failure. He was admitted to the hospital late Thursday night after suffering a major heart attack, and he died 48 hours later. My sister called me at 2 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morning to say we'd lost him. Mom is obviously very upset. She called me yesterday morning and I could hear it in her voice. What else is there to say ... ?

I keep thinking about the last time we saw him, just a few weeks ago at Aunt Carol's house.  That was when he gave us the $400 for the house. He watched the football game on TV with Ray and with Carol's husband; I sat right next to him on the sofa. He seemed so old and thin, but he was funny and full of life. He wanted to know all about the house we were moving into, and when he gave me the check I hugged his arm a little and told him how much we appreciated his help. We had the kids with us, but he couldn't remember all of their names so I introduced them to him, one by one. He said they were "beautiful children." He was especially taken with Kyle, I think. Kyle was scared of Carol's big dog, so he stayed on my lap during most of the visit, right next to Grandpa, and they kept looking at each other and smiling. When it was time to go, I hugged him and told him we'd see him the next time he was in town. And then we left.

I have to be honest with you: I never knew this grandfather very well, and my sadness this morning is mostly for my mother, and for the idea of her losing her father. But I do keep returning to the last time I saw him ... the last act of kindness he bestowed on Ray and I ... and I feel sorrow that this nice man is gone. I only wish I'd gotten to know him better.

Grandpa Ronald Togrimson (with my mother)
Wenatchee, WA circa 1960

Anyway. Grandpa Torg's death, naturally, cast a long shadow over my family this weekend. I reacted by retreating into a moody depression (which lingers today). I slept too much, ate too much, and withdrew from everyone. Ray drank too much and was horrible to the kids and I, especially on Saturday night. The girls managed to "escape" for a couple of hours Sunday morning by going to church, but the rest of the weekend for them was a nightmare of tension and unpleasantness, I'm afraid. Only Kyle seems to have come through the weekend unscathed, blessed by his innocence. The house fell apart through inattention, and this morning it is a disheartening mess. Ray hasn't bothered to pay any of the bills yet, including the rent, so I am walking around in a black fog of worry today ... the phone unplugged, the curtains drawn. Ourside, the bleak November rain beats against the window; on the front porch, four sagging jack-o-lanterns sit forlornly, rotted faces turned toward the sky ...

Afternoon:

A little better. Not a lot, but a little. I've managed to restore some order around here, which always helps. A pot of bean soup on the stove, a fire in the woodstove, Simon & Garfunkle "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" on the stereo. This is the calm I ached for all weekend.

Why do I continue to believe in the "quick fix," anyway? Did I really think tht once we got out of the apartment and into a house, BOOM, all my troubles would be over, and everything about my life would be perfect? I always want to believe that external changes will magically mend what is fundamentally wrong with my life, and I'm continually disappointed when they don't. Different house, different friends, different clothes, twenty pounds lost, a new baby, a new car: none of it ever really fixes things. In the end, I look in the mirror and it's still me looking back. 







Tuesday
November 7, 1989

Better still. The storm has lifted, internally and externally. The sun was shining when I got out of bed this morning, and for the first time in days I actually feel some bounce. Last night had a lot to do with it. Ray was wonderful. He came home in an attentive, let's-get-busy mood - he paid the rent, took Jamie to her Brownie meeting (and uncomplainingly wrote a $12 check for her yearly dues), bought the rest of the groceries we needed, raved about my bean soup, kept a terrific fire going in the woodstove all evening, made his own lunch for work, and willingly watched Monday Night Football in the kitchen, leaving me free to read my book ("The Talisman") in peace and quiet in the living room. There were no arguments, no unpleasant battles with the kids. Bliss. Why can't it always be like this?? (Why can't RAY always be like this .. ??)





Saturday 11 a.m.
November 11, 1989

Ray just left to go do some yardwork at Grandma's. I've been up for a couple of hours but I'm finding it difficult to get moving this morning.

We've accepted an invitation to have Thanksgiving dinner at Uncle Jerry & Aunt Jody's farm this year. Secretly, I had begun to toy with the idea of staying home for Thanksgiving this year  --  have Ray do his famous barbecued turkey, maybe invite one or two people over to join us  --  Thanksgiving dinner in our new home. But with Grandpa's unexpected death, I feel that our place is with Mom this year.





Tuesday
November 14, 1989

The kids are home from school early every day this week, due to Parent/Teacher Conferences. At least the weather has been decent  --  very sunny and cold, very "autumn-like"  --  so they can spend all their after-school time tearing up the backyard. Kacie and Jerome have pushed the two picnic tables together and made themselves a "house"; I can hear a very heated argument going on over who gets to "sleep" in the wagon they've positioned beneath one table. Kyle, of course, is in the thick of it all. Every few minutes I hear one of the older kids wail in exasperation over something he's done. Currently he's lugging around a piece of firewood, brandishing it like a sword: Jerome is threatening him with serious bodily harm if he comes "one step closer" ...

Jamie is the only one who prefers to spend her time indoors. At the moment she's sequestered herself at my big desk in the laundry room, surrounded by books and papers, scribbling furiously at something. Just like her mom.

Heard an interesting new song on KUBE this afternoon ... a medley of old rock & roll classics ("In The Mood," "Rock Around The Clock," etc.) I don't know why but it really lifted my spirits.

Just took a picture of Kyle wearing Ray's boots.

Clomping around the house in his dad's boots
November 1989





Wednesday
November 15, 1989

The next morning. Same old routine  --  got the big kids off to school, Kyle & André are watching Sesame Street, I'm drinking coffee in an effort to wake up.  So many things can change within the basic structure of Terri Polen's life, and yet the morning ritual of kids and coffee endureth forever ...

Busy day ahead of me. I'm scheduled to meet with Jamie & Kacie's teachers this afternoon for the yearly Parent/Teacher Conference.




Later:

The Conferences went well. Both Jamie and Kacie have excellent teachers who seem to really care about them this year. The reports I got were, for the most part, extremely favorable:

"Jamie's positive attitude and interest in learning are great strengths. I feel Jamie has potential to be quite a leader, but this has not flowered yet. Understanding directions still a problem."   Ms. Weeks

"Kacie is attentive and sensitive. She's eager to do well and is easily saddened when things don't go right for her. She has many reversals - n, d, G, j, h, z, 3, 5, 9. Kacie knows the letter sounds but needs to work toward faster recall. She knows most of the color words, but needs to learn how to read the number words."  Mrs. McCall

Apparently Jamie isn't nearly as assertive at school as she's always been at home! She'll volunteer, Ms. Weeks says, but she won't be the FIRST to volunteer. A lot of the time she won't even be the second or third. Her schoolwork is excellent, particularly math, writing and social studies, she has a wonderfully creative mind, and she works independently. But she doesn't take charge of a situation the way Ms. Weeks believes she can. I was surprised to hear this, I must admit, but I guess that I've always seen in Jamie what I wanted to see, and not necessarily what's really there.

God, it's hard to be a good parent.

As for Kacie, Ms. McCall says that she needs to learn that "the world won't come to an end if she makes a mistake or two." Kacie apparently is one of her teacher's favorites: Ms. McCall spoke of her with tender affection and concern for Kacie's fragile feelings and eagerness to please.

Both of the girls need more of my time and attention, I think, and I need to WORK HARDER with them  --  not only helping them with reading, but also helping them build up their self-esteem. I take it for granted that they know I love them; I take it for granted that they know they are terrific kids and that I'm proud of them. Maybe this has been a mistake. Maybe I should be reminding them of these things more often, instead of assuming that they already know ...

None of this is coming out exactly the way I want it to. My feelings for Jamie and Kacie are so big, so intense, so deep ... whenever I try to write something concrete about my feelings, it seems to dissolve into mush. But I'll keep struggling through this and see if I can get something onto paper that makes sense.

The thing I'm beginning to realize about Jamie and Kacie is how different they are  ...  how unique and individual. For so many years they've been "The Girls" ...  a package deal  ...  bookends  ...  almost twin-like. Gotta buy two of everything, one for Jamie, one for Kacie.  If Jamie's invited somewhere, let's make sure Kacie can come along.  Sure, we can put both of The Girls in one bedroom: they'll enjoy being together! What works for one girl will work for the other. Matching bathrobes, matching bedspreads ... matching parenting from me!  Well ... now I'm seeing that nothing could be further from the truth, and I'm in a total muddle, wondering how to change the situation. How do I adequately acknowledge their completely diverse personalities, abilities, desires, needs, strengths, weaknesses? How do I help each daughter flower in her own right, out of the shadow of the other? And what about all the 'problem areas' ... how do I deal with them? It's like walking on eggshells. I'm going to be shifting gears all the time. How can I manage it?

I'm filled with resolve and zeal today, but what about the days to come when I'm tired or sick or cranky, and I just don't FEEL like Supermom ... ?





Monday
November 20, 1989

(Like today, for instance ...?)

Severe case of the Monday blahs. Had another rotten weekend, I'm afraid, and rather than feeling rested and refreshed today, I feel exhausted and headachey and my eyes are swollen from last night's tears ...

Ray put on another of his magnificent Sunday night "performances" last night. He opened his first beer at 9 a.m. and continued to drink steadily throughout the day. By dinnertime he was thoroughly ripped, feeling monumentally sorry for himself ("Nobody LOVES me") and picking on everyone. It was a relief when he finally went to bed and passed out. I am beginning to dread Sunday nights. This is becoming an all-too familiar routine. He drinks all day and makes a total horse's ass of himself by evening.

What else? Oh yes, the State of Washington has chosen this inopportune moment to "review" Ray's garnishment schedule with the Office of Support Enforcement  --  the arrangement (in other words) to pay back my welfare. Last week, without notifying us, they simply stepped in and garnished 25% of Ray's paycheck, just like that, instead of the $12.50 they usually take out. Ray was livid, and I was terrified. He was able to get a draw on his next paycheck, just enough to cover the checks we'd already written (rent, power bill, phone bill), but of course that means we'll be left with less in December, of all months. (Christmas. Jamie's birthday. SHIT. This is going to be the leanest holiday season we've ever faced.) In the meantime, though, we've submitted an updated review of financial resources to the OSE: Ray mailed it last night. He is making slightly more now than he was a year ago, but on the other hand our rent has skyrocketed. So it should come out even. I'm just praying that the paperwork goes through and a new arrangement is reached before his next paycheck. If they garnish a quarter of his next paycheck, we are sunk ...

I would like our first Christmas in the new house to be a happy one, and I guess it's mostly up to me to make sure that it is. We may not have much money, but with a little resourcefulness and creativity, I think it'll be OK. More on this later.

As for Thanksgiving: our plans have changed, and now we're going to Ray's parents' house for dinner, instead of to Jerry & Jody's farm. I'm not exactly thrilled about this, and the kids are disappointed, but I'm not going to make a big deal out of it. I talked to Mom on Saturday and told her that I was sorry we wouldn't be able to be with her on Thanksgiving, that I'm under a LOT of pressure to go to Bellevue this year instead, and she was very understanding.  In other words: my mother-in-law had ten kinds of fart attack when she heard that we were planning to go elsewhere on Thanksgiving.

But anyway ... now it's Monday morning, and I'm just sitting here trying to make sense of the muddled mess that is my life and find something to be thankful for, this Thanksgiving week. What am I thankful for? My children, first and foremost. I'm thankful for the independent daughters who got up this morning and made their own breakfast and got themselves off to school while their weary Mom enjoyed an extra 40 minutes of sleep. I'm thankful for my funny little son, stomping around the backyard this morning in the new boots his Daddy bought him. I'm thankful that Ray is going back on swingshift next weekend: our weekends will be peaceful again. And I'm thankful, thankful, THANKFUL for the new house.






Tuesday
November 21, 1989

This is the last "leisurely morning" I'm likely to have for several days. Tomorrow I'm supposed to go to the Food Bank with John & Lori  ...  Thursday is Thanksgiving  ...  then the kids will be home Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I'd better make good use of this brief moment of peace and quiet.

Kacie had an exciting experience last night: she lost her very first tooth! One of the little bottom ones, right in the front. She and Jerome and Kyle were outside playing in the garage when I suddenly heard a terrible commotion. I thought, "Oh Lord, someone's gotten hurt." But then the kids all came running in the back door, and Jerome shouted "Kacie's tooth fell out!" Kacie had the tooth in her hand, and she had blood all over her mouth and chin, but she was too ecstatic to care. She's been waiting for so long to lose that tooth!! Tracy and Jerome have already lost two or three apiece, and Kacie was beginning to feel left out. I helped her clean off the blood and we put the tooth in an old film cannister, and for the rest of the evening she walked around clutching the container in one hand, shaking it every few minutes to make sure the tooth was still in there. We had an unfortunate experience last summer when Jamie accidentally dropped one of her teeth down the bathroom drain, so we've learned to take special precautions! Anyway, Kacie went to bed last night with the film cannister on the floor next to the bed, and when she got up this morning she discovered that The Tooth Fairy had rewarded her with two dollars  --  the going rate for first teeth around here. She was beside herself! Now she feels more like one of the big kids, I think ... she has joined their ranks. Bless her funny little heart. I love her so.

Ray was more nearly human again last night. He apologized for being such a boob on Sunday night. "We need to get out and DO things on Sundays," he said ... as opposed, I guess, to sitting around the house watching him drink beer all day. Of course I agree. There's got to be stuff we can do as a family that doesn't cost a lot of money. Even taking the kids to a park and letting them run around for a couple of hours. Anything would be better than the way our Sundays have gone lately.

Well, I guess I'd better get busy and get some stuff done around the place. I've got to figure out what to fix for dinner (little pigs in a blanket? bean soup?), get the bedrooms picked up and mop the floors. See ya.




2 p.m.

Hit by an inexplicable wave of tiredness a little while ago: I literally had to go lay down in bed and rest for half an hour. The sun is shining and the kids are fine and safe, playing in the backyard  --  the girls and Jerome came home at noon again today, the last day of Parent-Teacher Conferences  --  so I crawled into my bed and pulled the blankets up over my head and sunk into a brief but intense sleep. I always feel guilty about taking a nap when I'm babysitting, though, so now I'm up and drinking coffee again, hoping it will help snap me out of this fog ...

It really is a gorgeous day. The kids are huddled in the sandbox, filling buckets with dirt and sand. Jamie is presiding over the entire operation, of course: I can hear her all the way from across the backyard, barking out orders to Kacie and Jerome. (This is the kid whose leadership ability "has not flowered yet" ... ??)






Wednesday 11 a.m.
November 22, 1989

Hey! I'm actually feeling something resembling a GOOD MOOD today ... how come?!

John and Lori showed up at 9 a.m. and took me to the Food Bank in Des Moines. The people there were so nice. I got a turkey hindquarter that doesn't look too great, but I stuck it in the freezer and I can use it for soup or something later. I did get some good canned stuff, though, and some baked goods  --  cake doughnuts, raisin bread, English muffins (Kyle's favorite!), onion rolls  --  things that will help fill in the gaps around here, grocery-wise.

Peg just called me a while ago to talk about Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. She sounded so happy that we're going to be there. It'll just be us, Barbara and her boyfriend J.W., and Don Jr., without his boys. A much smaller gathering than in previous years, but that will make it more comfortable for me, I must confess. Now that Don Jr. and Judy have split up, I'm the only daughter-in-law. I've decided to put on a big happy face and try to enjoy myself tomorrow. I've been part of this family for nine years now, and it's time to quit acting like an awkward, uncomfortable outsider. If they haven't accepted me by now, they never will. For the kids' sake, if for no other reason, I'm determined to relax and be myself tomorrow, and to do my part to make it a pleasant Thanksgiving for everyone.






Thursday morning
November 23, 1989

Ray woke everybody up early this morning  --  around 6:30 a.m.  --  to get up and see the fire trucks and emergency medical cars parked up and down our street. Apparently there was some sort of emergency, a few doors down. I don't think the house was on fire because it looks OK now, and no was was carried off in the ambulance that we could see. So I have no idea what happened. The kids enjoyed the excitement while it lasted, though. One fire truck, lights flashing like crazy, was parked directly in front of our house; Kyle and the girls sat on the back of the sofa and watched it from the living room window for almost an hour. "Somebody's not having a very good Thanksgiving," Jamie noted solemnly. This prompted a spontaneous game of "What Are You Thankful For?" As we sat and watched the firefighters running up and down the street, we took turns listing the things we're thankful for this Thanksgiving. Here are some the things that were mentioned:

Jamie's List

"1. Our new new house
2. Our health
3. My family
4. Being able to go to McDonald's ... (giggle, giggle) ..."

Kacie's List

"1. Thank you for this happy day.
2. Thankful for the love we've got.
3. Thank you for the family we had."

Kyle's List 

"1. Pencils.
2. This is the new house."

Mom's List 

1. Our new home.
2. The freshly-polished new boots, sitting by the woodstove, and the three children who will wear them today.
3. My seven and a half year old daughter, who makes a mean cup of coffee!




Anyway ... after Ray woke everybody up, he crawled back into bed and went back to sleep! The rat. Oh well ... I wanted to be up early this morning anyhow. The fire trucks all departed a while ago, and things have quieted down outside. I gave the kids some of the Food Bank doughnuts and now they're watching their beloved "Ghostbusters" cartoon on Channel 11. (Oh, wait a minute - they've just discovered a Thanksgiving Day parade on another channel.) I took my shower and washed my hair, and now I'm drinking some of the good coffee Jamie made for me. It is COLD this morning: a steady rain is falling. Happy Thanksgiving.

My horoscope for today: You'll become keenly aware of spiritual values. Wish is fulfilled in connection with family, security, love. This will be one of your most gratifying Thanksgiving holidays.






Friday
November 24, 1989

Well ... I don't know if I would go so far as to call it my "most gratifying Thanksgiving holiday" ever. (Staying home and cooking our own turkey would have made it so!)  But it had its moments, I guess. We left the house at 12:30 and got to his parents' house fifteen minutes before dinner was to be served (at 2:00). Just as we were pulling into Peg & Don's driveway, Kacie got carsick all over herself and her doll and the back seat of the car. She was horribly embarrassed, but luckily I'd had the presence of mind to pack a change of clothes for her in anticipation of just such an emergency, and after I helped her clean up and change her clothes, she was fine. Dinner was very good. My mother-in-law makes the best turkey stuffing I've ever had, and she does this great asparagus thing with cream sauce and peanuts ... mmmmmm. We brought home a ton of leftovers, too. We all sat at the big table together, even the kids, and I have to admit that it was a friendly, relaxed get-together.






Saturday evening
November 25, 1989

Was interrupted yesterday  --  will try to continue now.

We've been having an OK weekend, but it's beginning to get on my nerves having Ray around all the time. OK, let's put it this way: RAY is getting on my nerves. He's been home for three days straight and we've still got two more days to go, and my endurance is giving out ...

... Or maybe it's just me. I've been standing in a hot stuffy kitchen for an hour and a half, cooking dinner, and I feel sweaty and exhausted and grouchy as a Mama Bear. Not only that, but I managed to slice my thumb with the big knife while I was chopping up green peppers for the sloppy joes, and it hurts like hell. As soon as dinner is cooked and the kids are fed, I'm going to take my plate into the bedroom and eat and read Christmas magazines and go to SLEEP. In that order.






Sunday morning
November 26, 1989

OK, so it's a little better this morning. Kyle and I just walked Kacie to Sunday School  --  Jamie's got the flu, so she's sitting this one out  --  and it felt good to be out in the cold morning air. Ray is still sleeping off last night's half case of beer. I'm trying to cook breakfast and clean up the kitchen a bit, but my hands are bandaged and sore, and I'm clumsier than usual. I even had to wear rubber gloves to wash my face and hair this morning, so the bandages don't get wet. Was THAT an awful experience.






Tuesday afternoon
November 28, 1989

Now this is getting ridiculous: all I've done for the last couple of pages is scribble complaints and inanities ... BORING complaints and inanities, at that. Stop it, stop it, stop it. 

Ray just left for his first day of swingshift, and the kids are due home from school in half an hour: that gives me approximately thirty minutes of (relative) breathing room. Brilliantly sunny but cold. I've been crazy-busy all day long, tackling all sorts of housecleaning projects ... made a fancy little coffeecake with the leftover cranberries, and now Kyle and André are enjoying the first two pieces of it. I think that Ray's return to swingshift is going to be just what our marriage needs right now. There have been too many moments lately when I've felt like I couldn't stand to be in the same room with him ... too many dumb fights in front of the kids ... too many "Sunday nights," empty beer cans, unresolved conflicts, mixed signals. A change in the routine around here might be the solution. In the past we've managed just fine with Ray working nights. It might be a little strange tonight, being (the only adult) in this house tonight, but I think I can handle it. I know how to light the woodstove, so we'll be warm enough; the kids and I can watch the TV shows of our choice; we'll enjoy a peaceful, relaxed evening together, just the kids and I. It'll be great. I don't mean to imply that things are awful when Ray is around ... most of the time, anyway. Most of the time things are just fine. In spite of all the complaining I've done lately, I consider our marriage to be on firmer ground right now than it's probably ever been. Dour message written scribbled in the margin: "Although that isn't saying much."  When we moved into this house two months ago, I made a new committment to Ray and to the kids, to make it all work: the marriage, our family, the house, everything. And I am determined to honor that committment. The problem areas in our lives right now are just that - problem areas. Little pieces of our lives that need work. The "big picture," on the other hand, I am optimistic about. We just need to concentrate on the weak spots.






Wednesday afternoon
November 29, 1989

The kids got out of school early AGAIN today. Geez! They get more time off than Johnny Carson. They even get two whole WEEKS of Christmas vacation next month.

Kyle: "I'm in dis photo alvin!"

Listening to the Christmas tapes this afternoon ... feeling an early, intense infusion of holiday spirit this year, the first time I've really felt any "Christmas spirit" in ages, and here it isn't even December yet! It must be the house. Something about being back in a house. The kids and Ray feel it too. Ray went out last weekend and bought Christmas lights for outside of the house  --  something he's never done before. And the girls are already frenziedly making paper decorations for the tree and the windows.

Kyle: "(Are these) chicken nuggles?"






Tuesday morning
December 5, 1989

Rotten cold. André was sick all last week, coughing and sneezing all over everybody, so I suppose it was inevitable I would get it too.






Wednesday
December 6, 1989

Still working on the cold, a few days later, but the worst is definitely over. I have battled it with every over-the-counter concoction known to man: Dimetapp, Benadryl, Vicks, Tylenol, Hall's lozenges, Corafinal. Our kitchen counter looks like the Cold Remedy aisle at Pay & Save.

Just about finished my Christmas cards this week. I'm sending out about a third as many as I used to, a few years ago.  The list has been pared right down to the bone  --  Ray's relatives in Tucson, two penpals (Kathy Bergeron & Deanne Vasiles), a few friends scattered across the country  --  that's it.



Jamie's 8th Birthday
December 9, 1989




Thursday
December 14, 1989
 

Woke up this morning with the familiar tickle of worry in the pit of my stomach. Yes, I do feel "Christmasey" --  this year I feel it strongly  --  but I'm still worried. Where will the money come from? When will I get the shopping done? How can we afford to stay on top of the bills AND provide a bountiful Christmas for Jamie, Kacie and Kyle?







Time passes ...







January 3, 1990

Wow. That's the first time I've written the new year: 1990. The final decade of the twentieth century! I can hardly believe that the Eighties are over. Such an important decade in my life. I wonder what the Nineties hold in store for us ... ?

Christmas 1989 came and went in the blink of an eye. As always, my obsessive worries about money and gifts proved a waste of time: everything came together at the last minute and our Christmas was unexpectedly bountiful, warm, and full of meaning. Deb & Greg deferred payment of the last installment of our damage deposit and only asked for the regular rent in December, which gave us a real break. I listed the kids with the local Food Bank's gift fund, and they each received some beautiful brand new clothes through that. And finally, our family ended up on a local charity fund's gift list  --  the girls' school principal submitted our names, I think  --  and we got over $200 worth of gift certificates from Safeway and Toys R Us from that. Santa Claus himself showed up at our house on December 21st (in an antique fire engine!) to hand-deliver the gift certificates and some toys for the kids. Talk about a wonderful surprise for Kyle and the girls!

 

Santa visits Polenville!
December 1989

Anyway ... through careful planning, hard work, and lots of corner-cutting here and there, we managed to have a very merry Christmas after all, with plenty of presents under the tree and three completely satisfied children! All three still firmly believe in Santa (only a slight momentary wavering on Jamie's part) so there were letters to be sent to the North Pole and cookies to be left on the table on Christmas Eve ... speaking of cookies, this is the year I baked something like eighteen DOZEN, as gifts! ,,, we made special "collage" Christmas cards for grandparents, aunts and uncles ... Jamie got her Barbie Townhouse ... 



Christmas Morning in Polenville
1989







1. Terri to Ray
January 4, 1990

"Heat your potato patties in a little hot oil - pan on stove.

Movie in VCR, push 'play.'



2. Kacie to Daddy
January 4, 1990

"Dir Dad: I wot you too wer this for acus I thic it wud giv gum love. An I wot you too rot a letr bak too me that is of I haf too get. Love, Kacie. P.S. I love you." 

(Translation: "Dear Dad: I want you to wear this" (a paper necktie she made for him)"because I think it will give you good luck. And I want you to write a letter back to me" (the rest is indecipherable) ... "Love, Kacie. P.S. I love you.")



3. Ray to Terri and Kacie
January 4, 1990

"Thank you.

Ray.

With love."



4. Jamie to Channel 11
January 4, 1990

"Dear KSTWashington,

We wish you would put Punky Brewster back on the air!  At 5:00 o'clock p.m. We relly like that show, and watch every weekday evening. We relly relly relly wish you would put Punky Brewster back on the air.

Sind,

Jamie Polen"






Thursday
January 18, 1980

Frosty cold winter morning. My life has taken another interesting turn since the last time I wrote in this journal ... I'm babysitting two new kids. Danielle is nine months old, and Richard is three. They're not related to each other, but they almost look like they could be ... they both have the same fine blonde hair, fair skin and blue eyes. Fortunately they are both good-natured little people, so their transition into the scheme of things around here has been smooth. 

All of this new babysitting just sort of fell into my lap right after New Year's. I had posted an ad on the bulletin board at Tom's Grocery several weeks ago, but it wasn't until this month that I started getting any response. Now I have four babysitting "regulars," and I think we'll draw the line right there. Any more than that would be unmanageable. After 3-1/2 years of babysitting (is that ALL it's been - 3-1/2 years??), I think I've learned what my limitations are ...

Danielle, in particular, is a delight. I had reservations about bringing a baby into this house again, but I fell in love with her the first moment I held her, and she has continued to grow on me -- and on the rest of the family, even Ray! -- ever since. Taking care of her satisfies those little unspoken pangs of "baby hunger" I feel from time to time, but the nice thing is that at the end of the day I can hand her over to her mother ... ! All the pleasures of a baby and none of the lifetime committment!  

I do think about having another baby, once in a while ... in a sort of day-dreamy, "What-if?" sort of way ... never with any real seriousness. There are moments when the baby hunger sneaks up on me, still. The biggest part of me considers it a closed chapter in my life; but there are still times when I look at Jamie, Kacie and Kyle and remember how wonderful they were as babies, and sigh at how long that seems to me now, and I wish I could do it all over again. But then reality sets in. Nine months of pregnancy? Doctor and hospital bills? The newborn stuff -- the middle of the night feedings, the formula, the diapers, the noise, the stress? I don't think I could do all that again. It's not that I don't think I'd be up to it physically, or that I couldn't handle it. I'm sure I could, if the need arose. It's just that I don't think I WANT to do it all again.

And this is what is delightful about having Danielle around. I can enjoy the feeling of a baby in my arms, the sight, the sound, the nice warm "baby smell" -- all of the tactile pleasure -- and still not have to worry about where my next night's sleep is going to come from ...

As for Richard, he is a very nice little boy and has become a good playmate for Kyle and André. Richard sort of balances things out: Kyle isn't so quick to bully and torment André with another little boy around, and the novelty of having a third playmate has added a new dimension to the give-and-take around here.



Kyle is absolutely wonderful -- and absolutely horrible! -- these days. One minute he is tyrannical, physically agressive, foul-mouthed, ill-tempered, destructive, selfish and uncooperative -- in other words, a typical three year old boy -- and the next minute he is this wonderfully imaginative, verbal, spontaneously charming little person, full of funny observations about his world, full of ardent loyalty towards his family ...

  • I am standing in the bathroom, dabbing foundation onto my face. Kyle stands in the doorway watching me. "Are you puttin' on makeup so you will be pretty?" he asks me. 

    I nod.

    "Well," he says, "I fink you already look pretty wif NO makeup."

    "That's the nicest thing anyone's said to me all week," I tell him, and he smiles.

  • "Put it there, Pal!" he says, extending his hand to me, grinning devilishly. He's got a rubber band stretched around his hand, with a piece of plastic popsicle-maker secured to his palm.

    I shake hands with him.

    "BZZZZZZZZZZZ!" he shouts uproariously. "I made a HAND-FUZZER!"

  • I walk into the living room just in time to catch Kyle flattening André to the ground. "HEY!" I roar at him. "YOU GO TO YOUR ROOM RIGHT NOW, MISTER!" Indignantly fighting back tears, Kyle stomps past me and slams his bedroom door shut, while I remain behind and comfort a tearful André.

    Three minutes later he emerges from his room with a sly grin on his face. "Look what I'm are wearing!" he says, and he pulls up his Seahawks nightshirt to reveal two pairs of underpants, one on top of the other. Clearly an attempt to charm himself back into my good graces.

    (It works.)






Wednesday afternoon
January 31, 1990

The Shanghai Flu blew into our house last week and completely flattened the whole family, except for Jamie, for several days. We're OK now, but it was really touch and go for a while there.

I've been sick quite a lot since we moved into this house. I've had a cold and cough since early December, for instance. I wonder if it could be the woodstove?  Definitely.  I read something in a magazine recently, about how children living in homes heated by woodstoves are more prone to upper respiratory infections, coughs, allergies, etc. I wonder if the woodstove it making us all sicker this winter? I feel like I'm walking around with ten gallons of sludge in my chest ...

... And the flu was AWFUL. It defied description. I literally felt like I'd been run over by a steamroller. I'm SO GLAD it's over and done with.

Anyway, another not-so-wonderful thing happened last week, besides the flu hitting us -- I lost one of my new babysitting clients. It wasn't the baby, thankfully -- losing her would have broken my heart -- it was the little boy, Richard. I very honestly have no idea why they dropped me, except maybe it was just a poor fit. I liked Richard quite a lot -- he was a good little guy -- but his parents were cold and standoffish and I don't think they liked me at all. I don't know why. Just one of those things. I babysat Richard for one week, and then the next week they simply never returned. No phone call, no explanation, nothing. At that point they didn't owe me any money, and it was obvious that they didn't care for my childcare style, so I didn't pursue it any further. Was I angry? A little bit, I suppose. And my feelings were hurt: I'd really knocked myself out for them, trying to make Richard feel welcome. But my best apparently wasn't good enough, and that hurts.






Tuesday
February 6, 1990

Picking this up a few days later. It's snowing this morning - the only "real" snowfall we've had this winter, and a very  insubstantial snowfall, at that - but it was enough to get the girls out of bed in a flurry of excitement. They gulped down their oatmeal, threw their clothes on and dashed out the door for fifteen minutes of frenzied snowplay before school.





Thursday
February 9, 1990

The snow didn't stick around for long, darn it. Now it's Friday morning, and we're back to the same old wet, cold, soggy winter weather ...

My spirits have been lower than low so far this month. The flu, money worries, losing my new babysitting client, feeling fat and lethargic ... all of this combined has left me with a whopping case of the winter blahs. I doubt that it's permanent - these things rarely are - but while it's here, it's a bitch to deal with. And so am I.

Little odds and ends of news to report:

Jamie and Kacie have both been picked to play Munchkins in their school play, "A Trip To Oz." They were hoping for bigger parts  --   actually, they thought they were going to be the stars of the show!!  --  but I've managed to convince them that it's OK to start out small, that they're going to have a lot of fun, and that they're going to be the world's finest Munchkins. So now they're all excited. Rehearsals start next week, and the play is sometime next month, I think. My mom has already promised to come, and Ray is going to try and get the night off from work so he can see the play. All in all, this is promising to be A Very Big Deal around this household.

Kyle is completely obsessed with the movie "Batman," which we bought at Christmastime. I have taken to hiding the video in the kitchen cupboard, occasionally, because if Kyle sees it, he'll want to watch it AGAIN ... and frankly if I have to listen to Michael Keaton grow "I'm Batman!" one more time, I'll go stark raving bonkers.  In the morning Kyle takes an old baby blanket, ties it around his shoulders and flies around the house wearing his "Batman cape." On Monday he wore it ALL DAY: Ray finally had to ask him to take it off so they could go to the grocery store. But Kyle doesn't even need his pretend-cape to assume the identity of his hero. "Ask me who I'm are," he says to me. "Who are you?" I say wearily. "I'm BATMAM!" he replies, in his pitch-perfect Michael Keaton impersonation ...

His other hero, by the way, is Robocop. "Robocops can't be dead," he tells me solemnly (and CONSTANTLY).

Danielle is now taking over the household. Even on days when she's not here, like today, her presence is still keenly felt: from the jars of Gerber baby food in the cupboard, to the teething rings in the fridge, to the walker sitting abandoned in the living room, to the baby powder on top of the VCR ... to the torn pages of this journal ("NO NO!" I shrieked) ... she is here, there and everywhere. What I have found particularly touching is how kind and gentle Ray is with her. Most of the children I've babysat through the years have barely rated a passing glance with him.






Friday morning
February 16, 1990

A week later.

I am decidedly unhappy at the moment ... unhappy with my mother, with the weather, and with the Totem Girl Scout Council, to be specific. Jamie's Brownie camp-out, scheduled for this weekend, has been cancelled at the last minute due to the snow we've had for most of this past week. When Jamie gets home from school this afternoon, I have to break the news to her. She is going to be crushed. She's been looking forward to her first big camp-out for weeks: she's already got her duffel bag packed and her sleeping bag rolled and ready to go. Shit. I'm so upset I can barely see straight. How in the hell do I tell her ... ?!?

As for my mom. I called her at work to tell her about the trip being cancelled (she loaned Jamie the sleeping bag), and to ask if maybe Jay could come out to her place this weekend and spend the night - sort of as "consolation" for missing her trip. I'll admit it: Jamie's disappointments affect me as keenly as my own. It is my first instinct to want to buffer her, protect her, fix things for her. The instinct to deflect her disappointment is as much to ease my own pain as hers. At any rate, I called Mom in a sort of blind panic, expecting/hoping her to come to the rescue. (If I can't do it for Jamie, perhaps my mother can do it for me?) But our phone conversation was an utter fiasco. Instead of coming to the rescue, Mom immediately launched into this wise and wonderful lecture about not trying to shield our children from life's inevitable disappointments. The most irritating part of the whole conversation is that she made perfect sense. I was so let-down by her reaction, though, that I instantly became petulant. "I'm sorry I bothered you!" I said, interrupting her in mid-schpiel, and I slammed the phone down in her ear. And then I burst into tears. I felt embarrassed, angry and horribly let-down. When am I going to grow up and quit running to other people for help all the time?? It usually ends in disaster: I just come off looking immature and incapable. When am I going to start handling my own problems? And when is my mom going to lose the power to make me feel so small? No, that's not quite what I mean to say. When am I going to quit feeling so small around my mother ... ? She is so smart and capable and sober and in-control of everything, and she loves me no matter how badly I screw up. Why then do I always feel so inexplicably lacking whenever I'm around her?

But this, as they say, is a whole 'nother can of worms. A headache is beginning to tickle the sides of my skull, and I can feel the tears starting again. Suddenly Jamie's cancelled camping trip has become this weird multi-generational tangle of disappointment and power-to-heal, and frankly ... I'm not in the mood. I've got to call my mother back and apologize for hanging up on her, but first I've got to try and get on top of this weepiness and regain at least a little self-control. Not only that, I need to gear myself up for the inevitable heartbreaking conversation with Jamie this afternoon.

Geez ... and I thought this was going to really be my day.



Later:

Well, I'm feeling a little better. Mom beat me to the punch: she called and apologized before I had a chance to dial her number. "Well, so much for being wise and witty," she said. (Good grief!! Did she sneak over here and read my journal while my back was turned?!?) As touched and relieved as I was, some of my earlier peevish mood lingered. I couldn't stop myself from saying, "Yes, well, if I'd wanted to talk to Jennifer James, I would have called Jennifer James." It was a snotty thing to say, and I'm sorry now that I gave in to the impulse, but at least we cleared the air and I'm reassured (again) that my mom loves me, in spite of me ...

(It just began to snow again: enormous, cotton-ball-sized flakes, streaming down from a coal-gray afternoon sky.)






February 21, 1990
Wednesday

The following week, and once again we've managed to survive another one of my overblown emotional crises. Jamie shed a few tears when she came home Friday afternoon and heard that the trip had been called off, but frankly she handled it (in the long run) with a lot more maturity than I would have given her credit for. In fact, I'm embarrassed now by the fuss *I* made over the whole thing ...

It snowed all weekend, which helped take up a lot of the emotional slack. Kacie built a funny little snowman in the front yard, complete with carrot nose, knitted scarf and a "SeaPak" cap. (Kyle knocked the snowman's head off a couple of times, just to be mean, but somehow Frosty always managed to get patched together again.)

Lori and Tracy spent the night with us on Saturday. Originally it was supposed to be a get-together with John, Lori, Ray, the kids and I, but Ray passed out on the laundry room floor at 6 p.m. and had to be carried to bed, and then John and Lori got into one of their famous arguments and John left. So Lori and I sat and drank beer and watched "Rainman" while the kids tore hell out of the house. Lori slept on the couch.






February 22, 1990
Thursday

Unexpectedly quiet at 11:30 in the morning. Ray and Kyle have run over to Grandma Vert's house, the big kids are in school, Danielle and André are both napping in the living room. I turned off the TV and even went so far as to take the phone off the hook, since quiet moments like this are so rare and wonderful. Bone-tired today, the result of two consecutive late-TV nights  --  Tuesday night was "The Wizard of Oz," last night were the Grammy Awards  --  both nights the girls and I were up past ten. Wondering if I dare sneak into the bedroom and attempt a nap of my own ... ?






Saturday afternoon
February 24, 1990

Never did take that nap. The school called, shortly after I finished writing the above (I'd put the phone back on the hook), saying that Jamie was sick and wanted to come home. She had a mild fever and a headache. I said yes of course, send her home, and within half an hour I had her tucked into my big bed with a stack of Highlights Magazines and a glass of 7-Up. She stayed home from school yesterday, too, because the fever was lingering and she didn't seem to have a lot of energy. I didn't actually think it was anything serious  --  maybe just the flu. So I was in for a royal surprise when we got up this morning and discovered that she was covered in bright red spots, from head to toe. CHICKEN POX!!  Huge, dewdrop blisters, everywhere from her hairline to the soles of her feet! She's even got them in her mouth and her throat and around her "private place" (a fact which mortifies her). We are treating it with cornstarch baths, calamine lotion, Benadryl (to kill the itch) and Tylenol ... plus liberal internal applications of POPSICLES ...

She is bedded-down on the loveseat now with her Grandma Beeson's sleeping bag (turned inside-out, so the cool slippery side is against her skin), surrounded by coloring books, popsicle wrappers and stuffed animals; she's watching TV very quietly. I am never more than a heartbeat from her side.






Tuesday morning
March 5, 1990

We survived the chicken pox. Funny how much "surviving" we manage to do around this house ...

Jamie was home from school almost the entire week last week. (I relented and allowed her to go back on Friday, so she wouldn't miss play rehearsal.) After a couple days of initial itch and discomfort  --  days she spent on the sofa, sucking on popsicles and watching TV game shows  --  she felt well enough to get up and move around. Fortunately the weather was unseasonably sunny and warm, so she was even able to play outside a little. I cut off some old jeans into a pair of makeshift shorts for her, and she kept her long hair pulled up into a Granny bun to prevent it from rubbing against the sores on her face and neck. She looked so funny and cute, running around in the sunshine, kicking her soccer ball .... spots all over ...

None of the other kids (Jerome, André & Danielle included) have shown any signs of coming down with it yet, but we've still got another couple weeks left of the incubation period. So it's a crap shoot, waiting to see who breaks out first. At least I'll be prepared the next time. Jamie was sort of my chicken pox 'guinea pig,' and now I pretty much know what to expect, which medicines work the best, etc. Frankly I would just as soon have them all get it now & get it over with, once and for all. Erin and Andrea feel the same way, fortunately. At first I thought they would be upset about their kids being exposed, but they've been great - very understanding.

Jay and Erin bought a house in Tacoma a couple of weeks ago, and they've informed me that our babysitting arrangement will come to an end in August. This at least will give me all spring and summer to decide what to do next. Line up another babysitting job for fall? Quit babysitting altogether and look for a "real" job? Jump off a bridge ... ?? One fact is certain: we can't make it financially without me contributing income of one sort or another. It's very much hand-to-mouth around here at the moment, as it is. This is always a bad time of year for us, money-wise. I've been walking around with my usual case of the January/February/March Financial Blues ... a sort of low-grade fever of worry. I've managed to sublimate it with bouts of manic housecleaning, but it's always there, just beneath the surface. I worry about the rent all the time. We've managed to make regular payments to Deb & Greg, but we're still always "a little behind." What if they asked us to move out?






Tuesday afternoon
March 13, 1990

A week later, and guess what? Time to break out the calamine lotion and the popsicles again: both Kacie and Kyle have the chicken pox. (Or the "chicken pops," as Kyle refers to them.) As a matter of fact Danielle, the baby, has them too, but her mom stayed home with her today so I only had my own sick little munchkins to worry about.

Kacie got sick first. She just sort of "disappeared" on Sunday afternoon, after she and Jamie got home from church. We finally found her in her bed, with all of her Sunday School clothes and her coat and her shoes still on, sound asleep. I knew immediately that she was getting sick, even though she hadn't broken out yet. I just knew. And of course I was right. By evening, the little 'water blisters' had started to appear on her neck and chest, and by the next day she was covered.I am not exaggerating when I say that there is barely an inch of skin, anywhere on her entire body, that doesn't have a blister on it. Jamie had maybe fifty or so chicken pox, altogether, by the time the germ had run its course with her; Kacie must have a thousand. Or more. They're everywhere  --  on her lips, in her ears, on her scalp, on her eyelids  --  and she's been absolutely miserable for the past two days, in spite of my best efforts to make her comfortable. All of the little tricks I used on Jamie only seem to work half as well on poor Kacie. What is really heartbreaking is how brave and uncomplaining she has been about the whole thing. She just sits on the loveseat, wrapped in Grandma Beeson's sleeping bag, and stoically colors pictures in her colorbook, barely saying a word. If I look at her she gives me an odd little smile, but otherwise she is uncharacteristically quiet and drawn into herself, as though this illness is something she needs to keep private ...

Kyle began breaking out yesterday - a few tiny blisters, mostly on his chest and shoulders - but so far he seems to have the mildest case of the three. As a matter of fact he's been in a cheerful, silly, talkative mood all day. The biggest problem with Kyle has been getting him to settle down, although at the moment he is finally laying on the couch, watching cartoons with the rest of the kids.


Later:

Evening now, and a storm is brewing. Jamie is sitting here at the table with me, grating cheese for supper: I am drinking tea in an effort to wake up a bit. Mom stopped by this afternoon, to drop off "get-well" gifts for Kacie and Kyle (just as she did two weeks ago when Jamie was sick): paper dolls for Kacie, a paintbook and brushes for Kylie. She looked at me and said "How are YOU?", and I just closed my eyes and said "Tired." She even brought a get-well gift for me -- a card and a tiny bottle of perfume. I guess all you have to do is look at me to see the fatigue oozing out of every pore ...

The funny thing is that I haven't even been all that busy, or overworked, or anything else that might account for this utter exhaustion: nothing except caring for sick kids almost constantly for the past couple of weeks.



Report cards came out today. Jamie brought home hers and Kacie's for me. Here are the latest remarks from their teachers:

"Jamie continues to be a delight in class! Her creativitiy, sense of humor and ability to work with all types of people are great strengths! I am especially proud of Jamie's work in her animal study (the beaver) and on her writing. Jamie has developed into quite a leader! N. Weeks."

"Kacie continues to work hard. She loves math and works quietly and accurately. She lacks spelling skills, but she's able to record her thoughts by using phonetic spelling. We are learning how to count coins and tell time. Kacie, keep up the good work."

Kacie's strongest subjects are math, art, music and "basic work habits." Her trouble areas are spelling and language. She also has a check-minus next to "demonstrates self confidence." Jamie has A's in language, science and art, and an A for effort in math; B's and B+'s in everything else.






Wednesday
March 14, 1990

A damp, colorless March morning; sitting here drinking bitter black coffee, wondering where in the world I'll find the 'juice' to get through another day of chicken pox ...

Little things are getting to me: Kyle breaking one of his new paintbrushes, and then screaming at me because I can't fix it  ...  Ray buying himself new shoes, but forgetting the loaf of bread I asked for  ...  Jamie snapping at me because she couldn't find her boots (they were on her bed). My mom showing up yesterday looking slim and healthy and busy. Being stuck in this house for days on end. No shampoo. Sick kids. Kyle's plastic harmonica. Crayons on the living room floor.

Kacie is a little better today; Kyle is worse. The light scattering of watery blisters Kyle went to sleep with last night erupted, overnight, into a profusion of angry red sores, all over his small body ... especially around his crotch and on his neck. I keep telling him not to scratch, but of course the itch is driving him crazy, and he's too little to understand things like scarring and infection, the way his sisters can.



Afternoon:

This hasn't been an easy day, but right now things are relatively quiet and under control. I sent Kacie and Kyle into my bedroom to watch cartoons for a while: they're laying side by side in my big bed, sipping orange soda and watching "The Chipmunks." Wish I had film in my camera, because they look awfully cute together ... chicken pox and all! 

Kyle has been a little demon all day. I gave him some Benadryl to help with the itchiness, and it wound him up completely: he's been running around on "Fast Forward" all afternoon. Jumping on beds, jumping on the couch, jumping on André ...

I've made chicken soup and fresh bread, cleaned the house, mopped the chicken floor. (WHOOPS! Guess I'm more tired than I thought! Mopped the KITCHEN floor) ...






Friday
March 16, 1990

Better still. Kacie and Kyle are still covered in polka-dots, still itchy as hell, but at least the fevers are gone, and they're back on their feet and feeling more like themselves. Yesterday was a nice sunny day, so they played outside all afternoon - I gave them Kacie's Christmas Play-Doh and a basket of toy dishes, and they sat at the picnic table and made Play-Doh "hot dogs" and "cookies." Kyle fell off the jungle gym at one point, landing with a THUD on his side and bursting into sobs. I ran (heart in mouth) to help him, but after a hug and kiss from Mom he abruptly stopped crying and said "That's OK - I'm not hurt anymore." And that was the end of it. Lately he's been doing that a lot: insisting that he's not hurt, that everything's OK, even at times when I know darned well he must be in pain. The other day, for example, the toilet lid slammed down on him while he was going potty. At first he screamed and flew to my arms in tears, but after a couple minutes of comfort from Mom he suddenly pushed himself away and announced that he was FINE, smiled cheerfully (through tears) and hopped off my lap. There have even been times recently when, after stubbing a toe or bumping his head or some other relatively minor "owie" that he has brushed it off with a mystifyingly cheery "That's OK - I like hurts." What is this? Some budding macho instinct that little boys develop?!? I'm glad that he's no crybaby, but on the other hand I don't want him underestimating the extent of some injuries, or putting on this "macho" act when he's really in pain. I swear, raising a son is so complex ...

But anyway, Kyle and Kacie are a lot better today. I can't believe how quickly their pox (compared to Jamie's) are drying up and going away.



Kyle-isms
1990, 3-1/2 years old

(Pointing to his fingernails) "These are my fingerlashes."

(Pointing to his eyebrows) "These are my eye-BROWNS."

"I don't play with those plugs cuz I don't want to get extra-cupid."

"Mom, will you do me a favor?" (pulls up shirt, pushes out fat belly) "Eat these cookies for me, cuz my tummy's FULL."

(Commenting on pancakes) "I think they are radical."

"I see your under-butt!"


Kacie's 7th Birthday
March 21, 1990




Friday afternoon, late
March 23, 1990

Another week gone by. Why is it, do you suppose, that it's so difficult for me to write anything in this journal when I am wrapped in worry ... ? You would think that I'd automatically seek out the release of writing: instead, I find it so much harder than usual to get anything on paper. Why? Why do I let things get all bottled up inside of me like this, until I reach the point where the slightest, pettiest little thing can cause me to blow like Mt. St. Helens ... ?!

I serve the kids their Friday night supper: corn dogs, potato chips and milk. Kacie and Jamie, who like sliced cucumbers in ranch dressing, each get a large serving; Kyle, who does not, gets celery with peanut butter instead. I set the plates down on the table, and Jamie immediately makes a face. 

"What's the matter now?" I ask wearily. 

"I hate these kind of cucumbers," she pouts. 

I mutter a choice profanity in her general direction and sit down in the living room.  Meanwhile, Kyle sits up in his chair, peers at his plate and looks at me crossly. 

"Hey MOM," he says. "I wanted CUCUMBERS." 

Only Kacie sits wordlessly, crunching her cucumbers without complaint  ...

Except for the relatively pleasant distraction of Kacie's seventh birthday on Wednesday, this week has been spent in worry and fear. Every time the phone rings, I jump out of my skin. Will it be the landlord again, calling about the money we owe? We're not that far behind, but relations between the landlords and us have been on increasingly shaky ground lately. There was a minor dispute over how much we've paid on the deposit and the final month's rent, and another problem over an unpaid sewer bill. I keep begging Ray not to stir things up, and to simply accede to their requests ... not because we should just roll over and play dead, necessarily, but because I think Deb & Greg are usually right about these things and Ray is almost always wrong with his "calculations." Ray always, ALWAYS has to dispute a bill. He's been doing it for as long as I've known him. It doesn't matter if it's an electricity bill, a store receipt or a verbal discussion with the landlord; he's sure that the calculations are "wrong," we don't really owe that much, someone's trying to put something over on him ... it's a juvenile, the-world-is-out-to-screw-Ray mentality which, until now, has been merely embarrassing and irritating, but now threatens our security and our HOME. Deb & Greg are not going to put with his feeble arguments and excuses forever. They really seemed to like and trust us when we first moved in, but I can sense the good feelings gradually eroding, thanks to Ray. This terrifies me, and makes me mad as hell at him. Over the years I've tried to remain loyal to him in spite of the things he does - I've tried to look the other way when he embarrasses me - but this time there is just too damn much at stake. If he fucks this up and we lose the house, I don't know how I could ever forgive him.

I tried talking to him this morning. I poured us both a cup of coffee and said Can you sit down, I think we need to talk. He instantly became defensive and agitated, perched on the edge of the chair, refusing to meet my eyes. He brushed my concerns off with a terse "We're FINE," and then got up and left the room while I sat there with tears stinging my eyes ...






Tuesday morning
March 27, 1990

Gorgeous spring morning, and things lightened up considerably over the weekend. Today I'm fighting those day-before-my-period cramps that I get occasionally, but otherwise I'd say things are pretty good. Greg was over on Sunday to pick up the rent check (plus an extra $60 for the sewer bill) and to look at the leaky faucets, and he seemed to exude good will and friendliness in spite of the money we still owe. Maybe our position here is still secure, after all? Hard to tell, but I'm determined to put my worries on a back burner for awhile. February and March have been long, dark, emotionally-draining months, but spring is here now, and with it (I hope) a respite from fear, illness, insomnia, arguments, anxiety, claustrophobia, boredom, overeating, headaches, unhappiness ...

Tonight is the girls' school play, and there is a definite air of excitement around this house! Jamie was up before 7:00 to grab a quick bath and wash her hair, and then I fixed everyone a nice breakfast of french toast, oranges and milk. Ray is taking the day off from work so he can go to the play tonight with Kyle, Lori, Tracy and I. Jamie and Kacie have put in a lot of time and hard work on their play, this past month and a half: tonight it all pays off.

Kyle's reaction to the lambada dancers on Regis & Kathie Lee: "Wow, she's dancin' crazy. She's shakin' her ... her ... DRESS! Wow, sexy baby!"





MOM'S BOOK OF POINTLESS LISTS
and
TOTALLY USELESS INFORMATION!

1990 Edition



Mom's Favorite Nicknames for Everybody:

Kyle: Booter, Ducky, Girls Basketball, Henry
Kacie: Mouse, Missy Lou, Mouseky, KCP, "Person!," Refrigerate After Opening
Jamie: Puss, Jameroo, Pusskey, Jamantha, Jamer Oob, Polyester Fiberfill
Ray: Daddy, Asshole





Some Of Our Annoying Habits:

Ray: "Shuffles" when he walks (doesn't pick his feet up off the floor)
Jamie: Yelling in her sleep
Kacie: Tap-dancing on the kitchen floor
Kyle: Spitting
Mom: Sorry! Mom doesn't have any annoying habits!





Contents Of Our Bathroom Medicine Cabinet, March 1990:

  • Two bottles of nail polish, Cover Girl "Satin Mauve" and Tinkerbell "Pink-A-Boo"
  • Empty trial-size bottle Pert Plus Dandruff Shampoo
  • Sure Anti Perspirant, "Desert Spice" scent
  • Lady Mitchum solid roll-on
  • Empty pink bottle
  • Half-full bottle of nail hardener
  • Blue clay facial mask; nearly-empty tube of apricot scrub
  • Nail polish remover



Everyone's Favorite Colors, 1990

Mom: Hot pink, teal, gray, white
Dad: "I don't know. Blue."
Jamie: "Pink and blue-green."
Kacie: "Pink and red. And blue."
Kyle: "Hey, MY color is red, too. That's MY color."




Five Things Mom Does When No One's Looking

  • Reads the obituary section of the newspaper
  • Polishes the knobs on the stereo
  • Does the Sunset Junior High school cheer
  • Bites her toenails
  • Plays with leftover birthday balloons





Mom's Life Would Be Perfect If:

  • Toilet paper rolls refilled themselves
  • Diet Pepsi tasted as good as regular Pepsi





Five Things Mom Has No Luck With:

1. Vacuum cleaners
2. Checking accounts
3. Long fingernails
4. Goldfish

(And counting, apparently.)




Things We Are Passionate About:

Jamie: Paula Abdul, clothes
Kyle: Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Kacie: food, "Ramona" (on PBS)




Foods You Will Never Find In Our Household:

  • Liver
  • Tofu anything
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Spam
  • Ovaltine
  • Canned pork
  • Goat cheese





Foods You Will ALWAYS Find In Our Household:

  • Peanut butter
  • Miracle Whip
  • Rainier beer
  • Dill pickles
  • Half a jar of picante sauce ("Medium-Hot")
  • Cheddar cheese



Our Most Frequent Sayings:

Kacie: "How RUDE."
Jamie: "Goody," "Oh cool."
Mom: "That's the whole point."
Ray: "Watch TV."







Wednesday morning
March 28, 1990

Another pretty morning; the weather forecast says it will continue be like this at least until Sunday. I find that waking to cloudless blue skies has had an enormous healing effect on me, the past few days.

Jerome and André are here today, both sick with chicken pox!!  They stayed home with Erin yesterday, but she can't afford any more time off from work so here they are. I'm not thrilled to be doing this again, but at least they're the last two kids who can possibly come down with it. Once they're done, that's it, folks  --  no more chicken pox in the Polen household, ever again. This is what sustains me as I drag out the calamine lotion one more time ...

We had a wonderful time at the school play last night. Jamie and Kacie were the cutest Munchkins you've ever seen! They were only on stage for a couple of minutes, as part of a crowd scene with twenty or thirty other little Munchkins, but those were a couple of the proudest moments of my life.






Monday morning
April 2, 1990

Today is the first official day of Spring Vacation. The girls (and Jerome) have the whole week off from school. In addition, we're watching Jerome and André's three year old cousin Andrea for a couple of days because - you'll never guess why - she's got CHICKEN POX. Erin called me yesterday and asked if it would be OK. Apparently Andrea isn't allowed to attend her regular daycare while she's still infectious. I said OK, but only because the extra money will come in handy next week. Still, I'm already beginning to ponder the wisdom of my decision ... the living room is swarming with children, noise, Matchbox cars, empty cereal bowls and toys; my repeated admonitions to "Quiet down" are going unheeded; it's not even 10:00 yet, and already my stomach is churning and my head is pounding ... this will be a very long week, indeed.

I keep asking Jamie to help me out by keeping an eye on Andrea -- sort of playing "Big Sister" to the little girl today, keeping her amused and busy -- but as usual I'm being met with sullen resistance. Right now Jay is in her bedroom again, listening to her infernal Paula Abdul tape, shutting out the rest of the world. I just stuck my head in her door. She's sitting on her bed, playing the tape recorder. I looked at her and said, "This is how you help me out?" 

She gave me a look of pure poison, snapped off the tape recorded and stalked out to the living room, where all the other kids are. Without so much as a glance in my direction - the cold shoulder treatment, I guess - she began picking up newspapers and straightening up the room. 

I watched her for a moment or two, quietly amused by her theatrics; then I called her over to the table where I'm sitting. I took her by one hand, and explained to her once again that all I really expect from her today is to watch over Andrea. This time, the message seemed to sink in finally. Her shoulders relaxed and she smiled a little. "Can I have a little cup of coffee to help me wake up?" she asked, and I fixed her a cup. (A small one.) 

A few minutes later, when Sesame Street was over, the kids decided they wanted to go outside and play. It's sort of cloudy and cool this morning, but at least it's not raining, so I said OK, fine. Jamie very nicely helped Andrea put on her socks and shoes, and found her jacket for her and helped her put it on, and then she warned the boys to behave themselves and play carefully around Andrea. I thought, Gee, Jamie is really being wonderful about this ...

So. Here we are, fifteen minutes later. Andrea is outside with all the rest of the kids, and where is Miss Jamie Polen? 

Parked in front of the TV with her cup of coffee, watching "The Price Is Right."

A very long week, indeed.



We had a pretty good weekend, by the way.  Saturday I dropped Ray off at Grandma Vert's so he could put in a few hours' work  -- he's refinishing her deck  --  and the kids and I went shopping. I was trying to find something to wear to the in-laws' on Sunday. Fred Meyer had practically nothing in my size or price range, so I just bought birthday cards and a birthday gift for my nephew, plus some small toys for the kids. Then we went to Jack In The Box and I picked up lunch for everybody, which we ate in the car. There was a used records store in Boulevard Park that I'd heard about and wanted to try and find, but after several minutes of driving around looking for it without success, we abandoned the idea and drove back to Burien, instead. I went into Value Village to kill some time, not really expecting to find anything to wear, but to my surprise I found two pairs of pants (a pair of tan slacks and some bleached jeans) and two shirts (a brand new jade-green polo, which I love, and a multi-colored blouse with short sleeves) for $27 altogether - about what I would have paid for one sweater at Fred Meyer! I was very pleased.

Sunday we had to drive to Bellevue for a birthday celebration at Don and Peg's. As family gatherings go, this one was pretty standard. However, I was dismayed to realize that I was the fattest person there, as both Sheryl and my father-in-law have dropped a lot of weight. It depressed me so much that I only had half a hamburger with nothing on it, and I skipped the chocolate cake entirely. Even in my pretty new clothes, I felt dowdy and disgusting-looking. More on this later, though. The birthday celebration was a combined one, for Brendan, Kacie, Billy and Peg. Kacie got three new summer outfits, including a multi-colored sundress and matching visor, all in the new fluorescent colors  --  also two shorts and tops sets. Ray and the kids seemed to have a good time, but I felt uncomfortable and bored after a while. I'm having a painful period this month, and I just wanted to leave the in-laws', come home and snuggle on the couch with a heating pad and a magazine.

On our way home we drove through our old neighborhood in Kirkland, on a whim. It's been 3-1/2 years since I've been there, and I was flabbergasted by how TINY our old house seems. It's nothing more than a little shoebox!! It never seemed that small while we were living there. How strange! Other than that, it really doesn't look much different: it's still that icky mustard yellow, and the cherry tree in the front yard  --  my old favorite  --  is in full bloom. The rest of the neighborhood seemed relatively unchanged as well. What was really surprising, though, was how unemotional I felt, seeing it all again. I always thought that the next time I saw the Kirkland house I'd feel sad and sentimental and teary-eyed. Intead, I just felt anxious to come home ... to the home we live in now.






Wednesday
April 4, 1990

Spring Vacation continues. Fortunately the weather has been cooperating: today, for instance, they say it'll reach 68 degrees. Already it's sunny and warm and it's only a little past nine in the morning. The girls pestered me yesterday to let them go up in the attic and get their swimsuits out of storage. Jamie is wearing hers already, under a pink and blue romper that is miles too short for her ... she's growing out of everything ... I can't believe how tall she is, or how long her LEGS are!!






Monday
April 9, 1990

We survived Spring Vacation. (There we go, "surviving" again!) Today the big kids all went back to school, so this morning I only have Kyle, André and Danielle to watch. Danielle celebrated her first birthday last week, incidentally. She's walking effortlessly now, and she's into EVERYTHING. She's also trying like crazy to talk ... the house is filled with the happy sounds of her ceaseless baby-babble. Kyle has a cold this morning, but he's in a good mood. So am I, I think, even though it's Monday. I did a lot of thinking this weekend. I haven't been very happy lately with the way I look and the way I feel (lethargic, sluggish and unhealthy), and I want to do something about it. So today I am embarking on yet another diet. I feel very optimistic about my chances this time, and I'm determined to stick to it. The one thing I'm going to try and do differently this time is that I'm not going to announce my intentions to the entire universe ... instead, I'm keeping it very private, very internal. My family knows about it, of course  --  Ray and the kids, I mean  --  but otherwise this is going to be a quiet and unpublicized endeavor.






Tuesday morning
April 10, 1990

Well, so far, so good ... I managed to get through the first day of the diet without incident, and this (given my history!) bodes well for my chances of success. This just doesn't feel like another one of my half-hearted attempts.






Wednesday morning
April 11, 1990

Whoops ... I slipped up a little last night ... drank some wine and a couple of Ray's beers. My diet pill practically had me tap-dancing on the ceiling all afternoon (cleaned both of the horrible, messy kid bedrooms, hauled old clothes down from the attic and sorted them for charity, did a massive load of laundry, made dinner for five kids and Ray, cleaned out the fridge), and by 6 p.m. I was panting and flushed, and a glass of cold wine went down smooth as silk. Then another. Then a can of beer, and then another can of beer, and THEN I forced myself to stop and I ate my diet dinner and my diet fudgesicle and went to bed. But this morning I feel a little ashamed  --  it was only my SECOND DAY, for Pete's sake!  --  but I'm determined to keep plugging away and to write the whole thing off as a momentary lapse. I can see that alcohol, beer especially, will be a stumbling block unless I make my mind up right now to adapt. I can either attempt the impossible  --  completely avoiding alcohol altogether  --  or else I can try to scale it back, make it a weekends-only kind of thing, drink moderately, pick light beer or wine coolers over the regular stuff, etc. etc. The other things I'm going to have to eliminate completely for a while (since I tend to binge on them):

  • White bread
  • Butter/margarine
  • Peanut butter
  • Bacon & hot dogs
  • Regular Pepsi



Kyle: "Mom?"
Me: "Uh-huh ... "
Kyle: "I know who your boy is!"
Me: "Who?"
Kyle (beaming): "I'M are!"





Thursday morning
April 12, 1990

Woke up with my first fullblown spring cold of the season. It comes at a rotten time, but I'm determined not to let it interfere with my dieting efforts.





Friday morning 9 a.m.
April 27, 1990

About a week later, and yes, I'm still plugging away at the diet ... actually, I just realized that it's TWO weeks later ... a rainy, dark April morning, drinking my coffee, trying (without much success) to keep Kyle, André and Danielle quiet while Ray sleeps. He's worked a back-breaking schedule all week: he didn't get off until 5:30 a.m. this morning, and I know that he's exhausted. All this overtime he's been putting in will be great for our finances, and he's been downright cheerful about the whole business, but I worry about him anyway. Fourteen hour workdays can't be healthy for anybody. Anyway, I've turned on Sesame Street and I'm trying to get the three little ones to sit quietly and watch it, but Danielle insists on walking around the living room shrieking (happily - but noisily!), and every couple of minutes Kyle leaps off the couch and attempts to engage André in another ear-splitting "shoot-out." I can hear Ray snoring gently from the bedroom, though, so maybe none of the noise is penetrating yet.

Jamie and I got into an unpleasant argument this morning, and I'm still feeling the reverberations from that. Today is "Clash Day" at her school, and the kids are all supposed to wear something a little wild and wacky. The girls and I discussed it last night, and they seemed really enthusiastic about the idea. So when Jamie came strolling out of her bedroom this morning looking like she'd just stepped out of a Sears catalog  --  immaculate white turtleneck tucked into lavendar corduroy slacks, neat leather belt, gold watch pendant hanging around her neck  --  I thought maybe she'd forgotten about it being Clash Day. 

"I'm going to wear two different shoes," she haughtily explained. 

I'm sorry  --  I should have had more control, I suppose  --  but I couldn't resist needling her about it a little. I mean, there was Kacie, bouncing around the living room in purple pants, an orange and yellow striped polo and bright green vest, her hair pulled into a braid on one side and a pigtail on the other side  --  Kacie was BORN for Clash Day  --  and then there was Jamie, looking more like brunch at Bellevue Square than Clash Day at Bow Lake Elementary. It was just too funny. I suggested that she might want to change into a nice blood-red turtleneck instead, to clash with the lavendar pants. We went to her room to look at clothes, and that's when things turned awful. She sat on the floor with her arms crossed and that horrid Pouty Face that I hate, whining that she "doesn't have any clothes." Until then I'd actually found the whole thing amusing, but her sullen petulance and her whiney comment about not having anything to wear  --  this person has clothes coming out her wazoo, believe me: I know because I'm the one who picks them up off the floor every day  --  well, it pushed a button in me, and I slapped her. Not very hard, honest, but it was a slap nonetheless. She burst into tears and I left the room. She refused to come out, except for breakfast, which she ate in stoney silence. Kacie was still bouncing around in her cheerfully awful outfit, happy as a clam. I made a big fuss over her  --  we even tied a red bandana around one knee, a la Punky Brewster  --  and I think that Kacie's enthusiasm finally started to get to Jamie. As soon as breakfast was over, she wordlessly slipped back into her bedroom and changed into a red turtleneck. When she came out, a few minutes later, she looked at me as if to say Is this any better? I said yes, now she looked wonderfully terrible, and I put one of my ugly silk scarves around her neck to complete the ensemble. Neither one of us said anything about my slapping her, but by the time she left for school we both seemed to have recovered from the incident. She walked out the door smiling.

I still feel badly about slapping her (although I think the damage was more emotional than physical). I made her a little card that said "I'm sorry." I'll give it to her when she gets home from school today. I'm not saying that a card makes up for what I did, and I'm not trying to excuse my behavior  --  I very rarely strike my children, but even once is one time too many  --  but I think I want Jamie to understand that everybody makes mistakes, even (especially?) Mom, and it's important to clear the air and try to make amends when we goof.

Last weekend was Ray's birthday (35), and the weekend before that was Easter, and both weekends were marvelously silly and fun. Now it's Friday again, and I'm wondering what this weekend holds in store. Will it compare? Maybe not, but still I'm looking forward to a two-day break from babysitting, and from the old weekday routine. Danielle has been here every single day this week (usually I only have her three days out of five), and with the gloomy weather the kids have been mostly stuck indoors and in my hair.



Kyle: "I'm gonna be two mans when I grow up - Indiana Jones and BATMAN."

Kyle: "Don't worry about me, Mom - I'm tough."



Jamie Polen
May 8, 1990
Spelling Homework

1. I want lots of money.
2. I have seen a clown.
3. I got a scene in A Trip To Oz.
4. I didn't know that.
5. I'm not a morning person.
6. I'm very luck to have a nice mom.
7. We studyed the body.
8. I'll do that later.
9. I like my face.
10. I wish I was done with my spelling homework.
11. Are bodies good to us.
12. I forget what extinct means.
13. I want to go to the Atlantic Ocean.
14. I forget what migrate means.




 

The Birthday Boy
For Kyle's fourth birthday (his first birthday in the new house),
we threw him a 'big boy' party.



             

Party Central
Guests included several of the children I babysat (including Jessica, Tia and Joey Bontempo
and Jerome and Andre Eagans), plus his friends Sean & Scott from the Shannon South Apartments.
A good (if noisy/messy/rowdy) time was had by all.



It was after the party was over and the guests had gone home that tragedy struck  ...

Owie!
 Kyle, still overly cranked on sugar and excitement, took a tumble down the
concrete steps of the front porch, busting his lip wide open.

Thanks however to the care and attention of his loving family
it didn't ruin the big day.


       

Wednesday afternoon
May 9, 1990

Let's see, now how much time has passed? Almost another two weeks, I guess. It's a little after 3:00 on a sunny Wednesday afternoon: the kids should be home from school momentarily.

The baby was here for a few hours this morning, but her Grandma just came and picked her up. Right before she left, she fell down the back step and cut her lip open, so when Grandma got here Danielle was bleeding and sobbing hysterically, in spite of my best efforts to comfort her ... oh great. I already get the impression that Mrs. J. doesn't think that much of me (although I also get the impression that NO babysitter would be good enough for her precious grandbaby - it isn't just me!), so god only knows what she thought when she walked in and found Danielle sobbing in my arms ... oh well.  I'm sure that Danielle's mom will understand that it was an accident. Andrea is great. She's typical of most first-time moms, a little on the overprotective side, but I think she trusts me. We really do take good care of Danielle here. Of all the children I've babysat through the years, Danielle is unquestionably our favorite, and it upsets me terribly when something happens to hurt her, even something as clearly unpreventable as this was ...

The kids are home now. Jerome, André and Kyle are playing in the backyard; Jamie and Kacie are planted squarely in front of the TV, watching "Ghostbusters." (The cartoon - not the movie.) Kacie brought me an "early Mother's Day present"  --  a slightly-wilted marigold in a little planter, which I've ceremoniously placed on the kitchen windowsill. Jerome and André are staying for dinner tonight. I spent a couple of hours this afternoon making potato salad, and right now I've got frozen fried chicken in the oven. Ray brought home a flat of strawberries, so I'll slice them up for dessert. I'm still dieting, but I get a lot of vicarious satisfaction out of making stuff for everybody else. I don't know whether I'm losing any weight yet or not, but I'll continue to plug away at it anyway: maybe SOMEDAY I'll get into that green jumpsuit I bought two years ago  --   the one that's hanging in my closet with the price tags still attached ...

I should mention a couple of things that have happened around here since the last time I wrote. First of all, I've taken on an enormous new babysitting commitment. One of the moms from Jamie's Brownie troop, Janet Bontempo, called me out of the blue a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I'd be interested in watching her three children, four days a week. Joey is Kyle's age, approximately; he's here from 10:30 in the morning on. His two older sisters go to Bow Lake with my girls: Jessica is in third grade, Tia is in second grade. So they get here after school, around 3:30. Then all three of them are here until at least 7:30 each night, which means I feed them dinner. I agreed to babysit them on a trial basis to start. Last week was our first week, and so far it hasn't been wildly intolerable ... the kids are nice, their mom (Janet) is very nice  --  I like her a lot  --  and I'm being paid fairly well. I still don't know whether or not this is going to be a long-term arrangement, but for the time being the extra money is coming in very handy. More on this another time.

The other thing that's happened is that our Kyle celebrated his fourth birthday last weekend! I realize that every time one of my kids hits another birthday I get all sentimental and say things like I can't believe Jamie/Kacie/Kyle is one/two/three/four/etc. ALREADY ... seems like only yesterday ... blah blah blah. But I can't help saying it again. I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT KYLE IS FOUR YEARS OLD ALREADY!

Little thoughts:

  • My hands are beginning to look their age. I noticed it last night in bed: I was reaching over to stroke Kyle's hair (he was sleeping next to me), and all of a sudden I realized that my hands are becoming puffy and wrinkled. Wrinkled hands??? God. Next it'll be liver spots.
  • I have a new song that I'm passionate about: Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U." I just heard it on the radio again a few minutes ago, and it gave me goosebumps ... the first song I've really, really fallen in love with this year (or this decade, for that matter). I do like "Don't Know Much," the Linda Ronstadt/Aaron Neville duet that came out a couple of months ago - when they sang it live on the Grammy Awards on Feb. 21, I cried, it was so beautiful - but "Nothing Compares 2 U" is odd and surreal and special, and I love it.
  • I've become a devoted "Regis & Kathie Lee" fan this year. Watching it right now, as a matter of fact. (9 a.m. weekdays, Channel 4.)

 



Saturday morning
May 12, 1990

Woke up this morning from a horrible dream that Jamie had been abducted. In the dream, Kacie and I were handing out Missing Child leaflets to passersby, when I was suddenly overcome by grief and started screaming "JAMIE! JAMIE!" I was thinking, God, I want this to be a dream but it's NOT, it's real - and that's when I woke up. I was so incredibly relieved to discover that it was all a nightmare that I jumped out of bed, ran to the living room where the kids were quietly watching cartoons, and threw my arms around a visibly startled Jamie Lynn!

She and her Brownie troop are going on an outing to the Seattle Aquarium today, and the truth is that I'm halfway paranoid about letting her go now ... "You be very careful today," I told her ... I saw something on TV last night about a little girl who had been abducted by her psycho babysitter  --  she was returned safely, a couple of days ago  --  that was probably what prompted the dream.

Anyway, now that I'm awake and drinking some of Jamie's good coffee to shake off the cobwebs, I feel pretty good. It's SATURDAY, for one thing. Thank the Lord for Saturdays. No babysitting today!!  By the time Janet finally came and picked up her kids at 8:00 last night (she only paid half the money she owed me, by the way), I was more than ready for a day off.

 



Monday evening
May 14, 1990

Much "easier" Monday than usual: Erin called first thing this morning to say that her whole family is sick and the boys wouldn't be here, so the only kid I had to babysit was Danielle. She just left. Now my kids are eating supper (beef stew, bread and butter, doughnuts for dessert) and I'm out here in my "office" with a cigarette and a teeny glass of wine.

Jamie leaves for Brownies in a little while. My only plans for this evening are to watch the season finale of "Murphy Brown" and to vegetate. I've been so tired lately. I didn't even get out of my p.j.'s and into the shower until 11 a.m., and although I was able to muster enough energy this afternoon to get the kitchen cleaned up and throw the stew together, I can feel myself beginning to fold again, now that the baby has gone home ...

Yesterday was Mother's Day ... my tenth as an "official" Mom! Kacie went to Sunday School with Tracy (who spent the night), but Jamie came into my room while I was still in bed and brought me my gifts. She'd made me a card at school, plus she bought me some things at the Seattle Aquarium on Saturday: two little soaps shaped like a whale and a seashell, a coral-pink trinket box to add to my collection, and a beautiful green and yellow candle shaped like a bird. (She was EXTREMELY proud of herself.) When Kacie came home from church, she gave me an eclectic assortment of gifts she's chosen and wrapped herself: a card, two pencils, some garage sale jewelry, a plastic egg filled with pennies. I got dressed and put on some makeup, and then Ray and the kids and I jumped in the car and headed to Burien. We had lunch at Arby's  --  I tried the new Country Fried Steak Sandwich, it was pretty good  --  and then we did some shopping at Pay & Save and Fred Meyer. Jamie is adopting one of her classroom mice this week, and we needed to pick up a few things for the cage. Janet had already given us a big, used aquarium tank to use as a cage, so all we needed to buy were litter, mouse food, and a little plastic exercise wheel. I also bought myself some makeup and magazines, a new diary (and one for Jamie), other odds and ends.

We also stopped at the video store and rented two movies, "Dominick & Eugene" and "Turner & Hooch." When we got home from shopping it was starting to rain, so Ray built a fire in the woodstove and I layed down on the couch with a blanket and watched "Dominick & Eugene." It wasn't as good as I hoped it would be, in spite of the fact that it has two of my favorite actors in it, Tom Hulce and Ray Liotta. I was a little disappointed. (I liked "Turner & Hooch," though.)

Later in the evening, Ray went out and bought KFC for our dinner. Two fast food meals in one day: the ultimate Mother's Day gift! (So how come when I got up this morning I STILL had to face a sinkful of dirty dishes ... ??) I should mention that Kyle gave me a Mother's Day gift, too! When we got home from our shopping expedition, he and Ray mysteriously "disappeared" into the garage for a few minutes. Shortly afterward, Kyle came into the living room carrying a big pink envelope ... a funny Mom's Day card he'd signed 'all by himself' (with a little help from Daddy)! I was completely surprised! Ray must have bought the card at Pay & Save when I wasn't looking.

 

Friday morning
May 18, 1990

This has been one of those up & down weeks ... frankly, I'm astonished that it's FRIDAY already ... glad, but astonished ...

The babysitting was really inconsistent this week. Jerome and André stayed home sick on Monday and Tuesday; Janet took a spontaneous day off on Tuesday, so her kids weren't here that day (and on the days they were here, she was either really late dropping them off or else really late picking them up - 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 9:30 p.m. last night); I had Danielle unexpectedly on Wednesday, but then Andrea stayed home sick on Thursday and kept the baby home with her. Whew. It's a good thing I keep a careful log of arrivals and departures, or else I wouldn't have any idea how much money anyone owes me ...

We had a scare yesterday. Ray got a certified letter from the state, demanding payment on his 1986 unemployment "overpayment." He's been paying them $60 a month for the past couple of years, trying to get this crap taken care of, but now all of a sudden they were saying they wanted the $2,000 balance right now, or else they would start putting liens on everything we own ... fortunately Ray managed to get someone on the phone and was able to get the matter cleared up more or less to everyone's satisfaction. He'll continue to make the $60 payments every month, and in return they won't step in and garnish his paycheck or anything awful like that. I was enormously relieved, of course - and so was Ray - but this close call only served to remind me how tenuous is our hold on everything ... it would only take one major crisis to upset the whole thing: Ray being laid off from his job, the car dying, me being pulled over for driving without a license. We are living in a house of cards. One gust of wind, and the whole thing blows apart. So far we have been incredibly lucky, but every morning when I get out of bed I can't help but wonder "Will it be today?" Is this the day that final, awful, unexpected gust of wind topples our house of cards ... ?

Anyway. On to something a little more pleasant - tonight is the Bow Lake School Carnival, and the kids are so excited. It's all they've talked about for days. We'll be walking over to the school after dinner this evening, the kids and I plus Jessie, Tia and Joey B. Should be fun!

 

 

Thursday
May 24, 1990


The next week. The Carnival was fun: the kids played games to win small prizes (stickers, posters, coupons for free goldfish, rubber caterpillars, candy, etc.); ate horrible blue cotton candy; had their faces painted; and watched their favorite teachers take a dive in The Dunk Tank, among other amusements. I enjoyed myself  --  saw a lot of people I knew  --  it was a pleasant evening, all the way around.

The next day (Saturday, the 19th) was even more fun. The sun was shining, Ray was sleeping  --  he'd worked straight through the night  --  I had some money in my purse and gas in the car, so I grabbed the kids and we set off in search of adventure! First, we finally managed to find that used records store in Boulevard Park, the one I tried to locate a few weeks ago: it's a little bitty shoebox of a place, wedged between a barber shop and a Chinese restaurant. To me it was like heaven on earth ... row upon row of albums, 45's and tapes, all in remarkable condition and prices incredibly low. I fell in love the minute I walked through the door. I could have browsed there for hours. The kids were antsy, though, so I had to content myself with a quick shuffle through some of the albums. It yielded some great "finds"  --   Paul McCartney's "Venus & Mars," Neil Young's "Harvest," an Eagles "Greatest Hits," Bob Welch's "French Kiss," among others. I plan to go back as soon as possible, maybe without all of the kids next time, and give those boxes of 45s a thorough examination. 

After the record store, we drove back to the Bow Lake neighborhood and hit some garage sales. ("This is fun!" Jamie said. "Can we do this every weekend?") I found a good purse for a dollar, a sweatshirt for Kacie, a cute coffee mug for a quarter. On our way home, we stopped at 7-11 for Slurpees.

This has been another really inconsistent week, babysitting-wise, but at least I've got a three-day Memorial Day weekend ahead of me, and I can use it to catch my breath.

 



Tuesday morning
May 29, 1990

Ha ha ha. "Catch my breath" ... ?? Is that what I really intended to do last weekend?? It certainly didn't work out that way ...

Ray's grandfather passed away on Thursday afternoon, at his home in Tucson. Ray had already left for work when I got the call from Don Sr., so I had to call him at the plant and break the sad news to him over the phone. Ray dearly loved Grandpa Henry, so of course he was really upset. At first we didn't think there was any possible way for him to get down to Tucson for the funeral  --  not with the price of airfare  --  but at the last minute Barbara offered to buy him a ticket. He left yesterday; the kids and I took him to the airport and watched his plane take off. He'll be back either late Thursday night or early Friday morning. (The funeral is today, and then he wants to spend a couple of days with his Grandma and the rest of his family.)

 



Thursday
May 31, 1990

It's been strange having him gone all week. We've been apart from each other before, of course  --  there was his fishing trip in '85, and the time I took the girls to visit my grandmothers for a week, not to mention our "trial separation" in 1986  --  but this is different. This time we are separated by a greater distance than ever before. He's not at work, not at the grocery store, not at my grandmother's house doing yardwork. He is hundreds and HUNDREDS of miles away.

Amazing.

I had a palpable lump in my throat as I watched his plane take off on Monday morning, I must admit. And there have been odd, unexpected moments this week when I've missed him: putting his clean socks away, cooking dinner for the kids and realizing I don't have to fix him a plate to heat up after swingshift ends ...

... but mostly (and this should come as no surprise to anyone who has read my diaries and journals from years past), I have revelled in the comparative freedom and peace of this week. Like a teenager when Mom & Dad are out of the house for the evening!  I've loved having the car, I've loved spending my own money and buying my own groceries, I've loved having the bed all to myself (and not being awakened at 12:30 when he gets home from work) ... I've really loved being in charge of everything.  

It all ends tonight, though. Ray comes in at 10:35 p.m. I think I'm going to go pick him up, although nothing has been settled 100% yet. Then the place goes back to "normal."

(Sigh.)

Oh well. Kyle has missed his Daddy like crazy, and I know the feeling is mutual. When I talked to Ray on the phone last night, I could hear it in his voice: he's lonely for his little boy. Joined at the hip as the two of them are, it's not surprising that they've missed each other. It'll be a big thrill for them both when Ray gets home.

Something has been going on "below the surface" of my life the past couple weeks, something I never got around to writing about but will mention briefly ... I've been certain I was pregnant again! I mean CERTAIN: I was already wondering how in the world to break the news to my mom, wondering where the baby would sleep, even thinking about names! And this of course has had me in another "fog" of worry and distraction, so much so that I went totally off the diet ("Why bother?," I thought) and have probably put on another ten pounds, just from all the bacon and egg breakfasts and middle-of-the-night munchies ... oh well. Strangely enough, there was a tiny part of me that was secretly thrilled at the idea of another baby. I figured, it's too late to do anything about it now, so I might as well just sit back and enjoy it. I can't say that I'd completely reached a place of acceptance about it, but I was working on it. So of course when my period started unexpectedly last night, while the kids and I were standing in the check-out line at Safeway, I was simultaneously elated and let down. Half of me said "Thank God!" ... the other half said "Shucks!" ...

This morning I am more relieved than disappointed. The cold light of day, I guess. My romantic notion of a final, blissful pregnancy and a lovely new baby seem utterly foolish and impractical now. Allow me to emit my second heartfelt sigh of the morning.

(Sigh.)

 




Saturday night 9:20 p.m.
June 3, 1990

Jamie is safely tucked away at Brownie camp ... she'll be home tomorrow afternoon ... tonight it's just me, Ray, Kacie, Kyle and Joey B. (who is here for the evening while his parents are at a wedding). We're waiting for a phone call that may or may not come ... so far it hasn't.

 

Kyle: "Mom, when are you gonna be done hugging me?"
Mom (enjoying an all-too-brief moment of tenderness): "When I feel like it."
Kyle: "Oh." (Pause.) "Well ... I want you to feel like it NOW."

 




Monday morning
June 11, 1990

Several days later. Not the Monday morning following my last entry, but the Monday morning after that. Vaguely depressed today, in spite of the first blue sky we've seen in weeks (practically), so I thought I would start off the day  --  and the week  --  with a scribble. Just beginning to sip the first cup of coffee, so it might take a while for me to sound cohesive ...

The kids just left for school; Kyle and Ray are asleep in my bed; André is crying in Kyle's room (because Jerome refused to kiss him goodbye); Danielle is sitting on the sofa with a bottle of juice, smiling at me. None of Janet's kids today. My day will be full enough as it is: one of the reasons for my vague depression is the condition of this house at the moment. It's like one enormous unmade bed. Every room is a study in chaos: the laundry room and the girls' and Kyles bedrooms are the worst. Mostly it's my own fault. Friday I was partying, Saturday I was hungover, and Sunday I was running around doing stuff with Ray and the kids. No time to keep a lid on the mess. Also, Ray finally finished building the girls' bunkbeds this weekend (they're WONDERFUL!), and when he installed them on Saturday he sort of turned the place upside down. Just looking at the house this morning has me feeling disheartened. How will I ever get it all sorted out ... ?

And why is it always so darned important to me that I have a clean house, anyway ... ??

I suppose I take housework so seriously because I consider the house to be a reflection of my life. When my house is neat and orderly, my life feels neat and orderly ... when things are a mess, I feel like I've lost control of every other part of my life.

I'm also feeling a little anxious about summer vacation starting next week. This Friday is the last day of school, and after that it's going to be nothing but kidskidskids, 24 hours a day. Jerome and André will be here every weekday from 7:30 a.m. until late afternoon; Danielle will be here three days a week, at least, from early morning till 5:30 p.m.; and Janet's kids, all three of them, will be there 3-4 days a week from 10:30 in the morning until 8 or 9:00 at night. And then of course there are my own three inescapable monsters!! she said lovingly.  It's definitely going to feel like Old Woman In The Shoe time around here this summer. Am I up to it? Can I handle the noise, the chaos, the instrusion?

 




Tuesday
June 19, 1990

Well, it's another week later, and my trial by fire has begun. Summer Vacation 1990 is here.

Actually, today will be the first real test: I'll have all nine of the kids here all day for the first time. (Anxiously scanning the skies ... it'd better not RAIN today!)  Yesterday was bad enough, with just Jerome and André and the baby here: Jerome threw sand on both of the picnic tables (he said it was his "pretend-birdseed") and tore up Ray's garage ... someone picked all of the baby apples off the tree ... Jamie changed clothes four times ... dirt was tracked all over the house ... and the NOISE was incredible. What will it be like with Jessie, Tia and Joey added to the mix?!?

Jamie and Kacie brought home very good year-end report cards, incidentally. I was especially pleased with Mrs. McCall's comments about Kacie:

"Kacie has had a wonderful year. She has grown both academically and socially. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching and helping her gain new skills. She has great determination to learn new skills. Please encourage reading, writing and the use of number concepts throughout the summer. Have a great vacation."

Kacie definitely seems more centered and self-assured that she was at the beginning of the school year. She and I have been very close lately, and I've been delighted with the changes in her.

Later (afternoon):

Well, I guess I needn't have worried about being "tested" today, after all ... Janet and her kids pulled a no-show. We waited for them all morning, but by noon they still hadn't arrived. No phone call, either. So I've written them off folr the day. I don't really care. The money would have been nice, since Janet usually pays me in the evenings when she picks her kids up, but on the other hand the relative "peace and quiet" have been OK ...

 




Wednesday
June 20, 1990

Well, now I feel like an idiot! Janet stopped by yesterday afternoon and said that her girls (Jessie & Tia) had "gotten onto the airplane just fine." I'd completely forgotten that they were going to California for two weeks!! No wonder they didn't show up yesterday! I just nodded and smiled and pretended that I'd remembered all about it. What a dummy I are!

So we'll only have Joey (age 3-1/2) here for the next couple of weeks. I like that. In spite of my embarrassment over forgetting about California, I am pleased with this new development. I like the idea of "easing into" the summer and into the business of watching so many kids. I'm actually in something resembling a good mood this morning, as a result.

Our first summer in the house ... I wonder what kind of summer it'll prove to be? The kids already miss the big Shannon South swimming pool, I'm afraid. We went over to John & Lori's last weekend for Tracy's birthday party, and it was funny seeing my kids splashing around so happily in the old familiar pool ... funny and sad. It's not that I miss living in the apartment, because I DON'T, but I do miss having such convenient summertime entertainment for the kids, right outside my front door. I'm not sure what we're going to do to resolve the swimming issue this year.

Jamie goes to Camp River Ranch for a week next month! This is something I'm getting very excited about: more excited than Jamie is, frankly, although I think that's more 'fear of the unknown' than any genuine apathy on her part. Once she gets to camp and discovers how much fun it is, I honestly believe she's going to adore the place. I really do!

 




Wednesday
June 27, 1990

A week later. I just re-read that last little bit of an entry, above -- the stuff about Jamie going to camp -- and I hate the way it sounds! It makes it sound as though I'm steamrollering her into going, whether she likes it or not, and that's simply not the case! I just meant that, at this point, she's not sure what to expect. Except for one Brownie overnight at the beginning of this month, she has had no camping experience. So the whole thing is virtually brand-new to her. She's excited, but her anticipation is tempered by a very natural uncertainty. I went through the same thing at her age, the first time I went off to summer camp by myself, so I know how she feels. On the other hand, camp turned out to be one of the happiest experiences of my childhood, once my uncertainties were resolved, and I'm sure that this is what's going to happen for Jamie.

Of course, I could be wrong. I don't always "know" Jamie as well as I think I do. Maybe she'll hate it. Maybe she'll look back on the summer of '90 as the summer her horrible mother sent her to that horrible camp. Maybe she'll never want to go again. Where Jamie is concerned, I'm learning to expect the unexpected these days!! But in this case, I'd be willing to bet a million dollars that Jamie Lynn Polen and Camp River Ranch are a match made in heaven.

Still enjoying the summer, so far. The weather has been pleasant and the babysitting light: today, as a matter of fact, I only have one "extra" kid hanging around -- Joey B. (Danielle isn't here on Wednesdays, and Erin called earlier this morning to say that Jerome & André won't be here ... plus Jessica and Tia are still in California.) I must be a rare breed ... I actually enjoy having my kids out of school and at home with me. I know I say something to that effect every summer, but it's true. Jamie and Kacie are delightful company.

Janet just dropped Joey off on her way to her job at the pet shop. She and I are becoming good friends ... I enjoy her quirky personality. Tonight after work, she's going to cut and perm my hair. I'm a little nervous about it, but determined to go through with it anyway. I'm still very unhappy about the way I look, and I need a change.

 




Thursday
June 28, 1990

"Quirky personality" indeed. Janet finked out on doing my hair last night, and I'm bummed. I was really looking forward to it. She called last night at 7:00 from the pet shop with one of her garbled, rapid-fire "explanations" ... something about her husband being "sick and cranky." This wasn't the first time she's let me down, and something tells me it won't be the last.

 

 

It isn't mentioned in the journal, but on July 1st my mom and I took
the kids to the Woodland Park Zoo for the day.
The cotton candy photo at right is my favorite Tot photo ever.




Tuesday morning
July 10, 1990

Kyle: "Hello, I am Robo-cop ... thank you for my operation."

A couple of weeks later, and Jamie is now at camp! We drove her out on Sunday afternoon, and she'll be there until this coming Saturday. I just finished writing her another letter: this makes five I've written her so far, including the one I mailed the day before she left and the little note I tucked into her suitcase. Yes, I miss her, but it's not an obsessive, overwhelming sort of thing ... I know where she is, I know she's in good hands, and I'm pleased with myself for having pulled this whole thing off successfully. As for all the letters, well ... I remember how nice it felt to get mail from home while I was at camp, and I want to do that for Jay. We even sent her a sort of "mini care package" yesterday, filled with stuff like felt pens, a steno pad, toy bracelets, magazines, etc.etc., as a special surprise.

Getting ready to drive Jamie to Camp River Ranch
July 8, 1990

 

Wednesday
July 11, 1990

The toughest part was dropping her off on Sunday. I was just fine during the drive to Carnation -- lighthearted, happy, thoroughly enjoying a long drive in the country with my family -- but the instant we drove into the camp, a very odd thing happened to me. I'm not quite sure how to describe it ... furthermore, I'm not even sure I want to try. For one thing, it will be incredibly hard to explain: for another, it involves emotions that are still tender to the touch at the moment, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable writing about them. But for the sake of making some sense of all this, I'll try.

About a week before Jamie left for camp, I had a weirdly vivid dream. I dream about my own childhood summer camp experiences a lot ... maybe once every other month. Usually these dreams are sweet, wistful, nostalgic, pleasurable. This dream, though, left me feeling sad for days afterward. In the dream, I was walking around the lake at one of my favorite old summer camps, when I discovered -- to my dismay -- that most of the camp had been torn down to make room for a huge shopping development. In the dream, I was outraged. "How could they DO this??" I cried. 

Just then, I looked beyond a grove of trees, at the far end of the mall, and saw a cluster of covered wagons ... the tent-covered structures we slept in at Camp River Ranch. "That's Wagons East!" I shouted with joy. At least they'd left one of my old units intact! I wanted, more than anything, to run over to the wagons and get a closer look, but for some dream-reason I wasn't "allowed" to approach them. When the dream ended, I woke up feeling frustrated and sad.


The covered wagon I slept in at Camp River Ranch
Summer 1968

It's been 22 years since I'd been to Camp River Ranch. So when we drove Jamie there on Sunday, I expected it to be dramatically changed. I think that in some ways it might have been easier for me if it had been. At the entrance to the camp we were directed to drive up a steep, heavily wooded mountain road. Right away things began to "feel" familiar to me, in a funny, nonspecific sort of way. Jamie and I were both getting really excited. I was enjoying the pleasant rush of sensory memories ... Jamie and I were chattering happily ... and that's when it happened. I glanced over to my right, through of grove of trees ... and there they were. The covered wagons! I swear to god, it was exactly like my dream! I was hit by a tidal wave of conflicting emotion ... surprise (I honestly didn't expect them to still be there, after 22 years), pleasure, nostalgia, longing, an overwhelming desire to jump out of the car and run over for that closer look I never got in the dream ... and above all else, an abrupt, heart-numbing sadness. I don't know why. This is the part that's all mixed up inside of me. I think that part of it might have been the shock of finding the camp so unchanged. The further we drove through River Ranch, the clearer my memories became. (They'd even assigned Jamie to one of my old units, Hidden Forest!) Except for a few minor cosmetic changes, it could have been 1968 all over again.

And I think that's the origin of my sadness ... because it isn't 1968, and I'm not ten years old, and the little girl with the suitcase and sleeping bag isn't me, it's my daughter ... I think that in some crazy, half-deranged way, I was (and still am) horribly, painfully envious of Jamie!! This is embarrassing to admit, but there it is, I guess. I'm envious because there is still so much ahead of her ... her week at Camp River Ranch is just a beginning ... and I don't know if anything is ahead of me, anymore. My days of covered wagons are long gone, and that's all there is to it.

At least, that's how I felt at that moment on Sunday.

Me at Camp River Ranch ~ Age 10
Summer 1968

And now I'm embarrassed because all I've focused on, throughout all of this, is me-me-me. My feelings. My camp. My rite of passage. The fact is, this is Jamie's big experience, and I've been so wrapped up in my own internal garbage that I've sort of lost sight of what's important here ...

When we drove away from the camp, Jamie was already in the capable hands of a nice counselor ("Troll"), standing in a circle of other little girls, learning her first camp song ... and I was already in tears! I wept for most of the drive home. Ray assumed that I was crying because we were leaving Jamie behind, and that was part of it, but I was also crying because I wanted desperately to be standing in that circle, singing camp songs ...

I had a little "internal dialogue" with myself during the drive home, through my tears: I vowed that no matter what, my goofy feelings of envy and longing weren't going to to spoil Jamie's first camp experience. I don't want her to ever know about this -- or at least not until she's a mom herself, maybe, and can relate to the feelings. I also sternly reminded myself that I'm the grown-up in this situation, and it's damn well time I started acting that way. The temptation to live vicariously through my children will probably always be strong. But I'm going to have to resign myself to the fact that from now I'm the spectator in life, not the participant. A bitter pill to swallow, maybe, but the sooner I swallow it the better for everybody. This is all tied together with the kids getting older, me getting older, my dissatisfactions with myself and with my life in general ... and with my overwhelming, abiding love for my kids.

I told you this would be hard to explain, but I think I've done as well as I can for tonight. More tomorrow, maybe. It's really hot and muggy this evening, and my head feels heavy and confused. I'm really not upset about this stuff anymore, anyway.

I think about Jamie, at odd hours of the day and night -- I wonder what she's doing, if she's having fun, if she's remembering to change her underwear -- but it is with feelings of love, not envy. I'm looking forward to her coming home on Saturday, but I'm also trying to force time, by sheer force of a mother's will, to pass as slowly as possible this week. I want her fun to last as long as possible.  As of today (Wednesday) we still haven't gotten a letter from her, but I really didn't want or expect her to spend her precious time at camp writing letters. (Although I do hope we get at least one letter, to keep as a memento for her.)

Kyle and Kacie and I are sitting here in the living room, electric fan whirring, watching "Rescue 911," one of our favorite shows. It's after 10 p.m. but I'm not enforcing much of a bedtime this summer, particularly on a hot night like tonight. Kyle is sitting in the little rocking chair, wearing nothing but a popsicle-stained Mickey Mouse T-shirt (no pants); Kacie is laying in the usual tangled heap on the floor in front of the TV. They've both been remarkably good thiks week. I've enjoyed watching the two of them in indisturbed togetherness. The babysitting has been (as it's been all summer, so far) really sporadic and light, so much of the time it's just been Kacie and Kyle, alone together. I'm surprised and touched by how well they get along when there are no other children or outside distractions. Tonight, for instance. They played outside in the backyard until well past 8:00. At one point, I stuck my head out the back door to see how they were doing. "Hi Mom!" Kacie shouted cheerfully. "We're playing DOCTOR, and Kyle has two broken legs and a broken arm!" Kyle was laying in the wagon with both of his legs propped on the seat of the swing, one arm tied to a jumprope they'd tied to the top of the monkey bars. He was in "traction," apparently. It was a riot.

 

Thursday
July 12, 1990

The next morning, and it's going to be another HOT day. It's also supposed to be a busy babysitting day: Danielle, Jerome & André are already here, and all three of Janet's kids are due in a couple of hours. (Experience has taught me, however, not to count on anything where Janet is concerned. I won't actually include her kids in my plans for the day until they are really and truly here.)

I'm glad I wrote all that stuff last night. I just re-read the whole thing, and although it doesn't make a lot of sense, it felt good to get it out. I think it all boils down to this: time is passing more quickly than I ever thought possible, and it's taking a little getting used to. I may be 10 years old on the inside, but the fact is that I AM getting older. It takes something tangible -- like going back to River Ranch and realizing that I'm the parent now, not the camper -- to wake me up to the facts. Call it a pre-midlife crisis. Some days I deal with it better than others ... so far, today seems to be one of the "better" days.

Hey! A letter today from Jamie Polen!!

July 9, 1990

"Dear Mom,

How are you? I'm fiine. We are having a swimming test! And I'm swimming in levle 2! I have a friend named Jennie. Me & Jennie are swimming buddies. Can you please send one role of 12 pic. film. Becase We are going on a lot of hik'es, & I want to take lots of pic. of the swimm test. Gotta go now! Say hi to Dad, Kacie & Kyle! Oh yea! Sniffer to!

Love,
Jamie

P.S. Can you send 5 more stamps?"

 

Thursday
July 19, 1990

A week later, and Jamie is home, safe and sound.

Picking her up on Saturday was a million times easier (emotionally) than dropping her off had been, although there was one major glitch on Satuday: we misunderstood the pick-up time (we thought we were supposed to be there at 11:30 a.m., but actually it was 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.!) By the time we got to the camp Jamie was the only little girl left waiting for her parents! And of course she was nearly hysterical. "I thought you'd been in an accident," she sobbed. I felt horrible about the mistake and apologized all over the place to the counselors and to Jamie, and then we exited the camp with VERY red faces ...

As we drove out of the camp, I said "Goodbye River Ranch! See you next year!" 

Jamie, who was in the backseat of the car with my cassette player, hungrily devouring the Paula Abdul tape she hadn't listened to all week, said something like "I don't know about that." 

I thought that maybe she was just worn out, or still a little upset about our late arrival, but subsequent conversations with her the past few days reveal that camp wasn't the greatest experience of her life, after all! For one thing, she was very homesick. For another, not knowing anybody at camp was tougher on her than I'd anticipated. (I wish now that I could have found someone from her Brownie troop to go to camp with her, but that's water under the bridge at this point, isn't it?) At any rate, she did seem to enjoy some things about camp -- she loved the swimming lessons, and she was especially fond of her counselor, "Troll" -- but she was enormously happy to come home. I'm sorry, and a little disappointed, that camp wasn't more fun for her, but I didn't make a big deal out of it. I've just chalked it up to experience: another example of me trying to project my own feelings and experiences onto an unwilling Jamie. When do you suppose I'll learn ... ?!?

After we picked Jamie up, we stopped at Remlinger Farms (next door to the camp) and wandered around for an hour or so, looking at fresh fruits and vegetables, arts & crafts, plants, etc. I bought a big bouquet of dried baby's breath, some blue wooden hearts to hang next to my kitchen window, a postcard, and a necklace for Kacie (Jamie said she "didn't want one"). When we finally got home, Jamie ran immediately to say hello to her mouse, then to look at her bedroom. While she was at camp, I completely cleaned her room -- I also put up a collage of Paula Abdul posters on one wall! -- so everything was neat and pretty for her.


Jamie in front of the Paula Abdul shrine
Summer 1990

Later in the afternoon, Ray and I took all three of the kids over to Angle Lake for a one-hour swim, and then the next evening we all went out to dinner at Garcia's, near Southcenter. So it was an especially nice weekend ... a real "homecoming" for Jamie.  I'm glad to have her back.

Summer is here in full force. Temperatures have been in the mid-80's for over a week now, and it shows no sign of cooling down. So far I haven't been wildly uncomfortable ... we've got a new electric fan this year, a tall one that oscillates, and that really helps ... I open all of the doors and windows first thing in the morning, while it's still cool, and then I keep the curtains drawn all day. The house stays relatively cool that way. We bought a sprinkler for the front yard, and a few weeks ago Danielle's parents gave us a swimming/wading pool that's too deep for the baby to use, but is just right for my kids to play in. It's not as good as the heated pool at Shannon South, granted, but on these sweltering summer afternoons it serves its purpose ...

 

Kacie: "Snow White and the Theodores?"

 

 

July 28, 1990
Saturday morning 6:45 a.m.

Very early on a sunny Saturday morning. Jamie's at a slumber party (for Alexandra R.), but Kacie and I couldn't sleep so we're out of bed already. Today is Waterland Festival Day, something we've been looking forward to all summer, and who could sleep on such a glorious day??!? For weeks we've been dropping all of our spare change and extra dollar bills into an empty pickle jar, just for this day. Last night we counted it: $63.30! Plus my babysitting money. We should have enough to do anything we want at the fair.

I must switch gears here for a minute, however. Since I wrote last week, another very long shadow has been cast over our lives, and in spite of our happy anticipation of the fair, it is never far from my thoughts.

I think I'll let this letter my mother wrote tell the story for me:

July 25, 1990

Dear (Name Here),

This isn't a fun letter to write -- nor probably a fun letter to read, for those of you who know and love Carla St. John as a friend or family member. We've recently learned that Mom has terminal lung cancer and won't be with us much longer. The doctor has given us a timeline of 6 months to a year, with no real assurance that it won't be much less. Her typical energy and endurance worked against her, allowing the disease to reach a very advanced stage before she exhibited symptoms severe enough to prompt the doctor to order the necessary tests. Mom's memory has become a little foggy, but she has no trouble remembering loved ones, related and otherwise. Her children, children-in-law and grandchildren are a committee dedicated to making what time she has left as warm and happy as we have the power to do so. We plan to keep her in her own home, and invi

(letter and journal entry both end here)

 


Wednesday
August 1, 1990

A few days later ... wonderfully cool and cloudy this morning, a brief respite from the 90 degree weather we had last weekend.

The Waterland Festival was great, in spite of the heat. We got there early on Saturday morning, as the fair was still undergoing last-minute preparations (before it actually opened) ... the kids and I killed some time by taking a walk along the pier. 

Jamie, Kacie & Kyle Polen at the Waterland Festival
Taken on the pier before the fair started
Summer 1990

At noon, things finally began to open up around the fairgrounds. We had the kids' picture taken at a "computer photo" booth before we did anything else: the "picture" was digitally transferred onto a big felt wall-hanging, which I LOVE -- it's hanging above my desk right now. After having the picture taken, we ate some lunch -- burgers with fried onions for ray and I, pizza sandwiches for the kids, a huge greasy basket of "curly fries" -- and then we hit the rides. 

 

Enjoying the rides at the Waterland Festival
Kyle (left) and the girls (right)
August 1990

Kyle loved the little kids' rides, the girls went on the bigger, scarier stuff. I went on The Scrambler once with Jamie & Kacie: it was wild and wonderful! It made me feel like a kid again. When we'd exhausted the rides, we walked around the arcade and tried our hand at the games. Ray had some success with the dart throw and a couple of other games: he won a stuffed "Ninja Turtle" for Kyle, small toy whales for the girls, a shot glass for me. Both of the girls won goldfish, as well. They had to toss ping pong balls onto a table covered with hundreds of plastic goldfish bowls, and if their ping pong ball landed in a bowl, they won a goldfish. Jamie won on on her first toss: Kacie got hers on her very last attempt. ("Thank you, God," I whispered, when Kacie's ping pong ball finally landed in a bowl.) Unfortunately, the goldfish died a couple of days after we brought them home.

   

The Polen Tots at the Waterland Festiva;
August 1990


We left the fair around 2:30, after buying balloons, snow cones and cotton candy for the kids. It was getting really hot by that point, and the fair had gotten uncomfortably crowded. I'm glad now that we got there as early as we did. The lines were short, and we were able to see and do everything we wanted within three hours or so. If we go to the festival next year, I've got to try and remember to get us there by 11:30 again. (I should also remember to save the goldfish game for last ... I wound up walking around the fairgrounds trying to carry a plastic goldfish bowl filled with water all afternoon, and that was no fun!)

It was horribly hot by the time we got home, and I literally spent the rest of the day laying in front of the fan. Ray and Kacie went out in the evening and got pizza for everybody, so I wouldn't have to cook anything.

Sunday was another stiflingly hot day. The kids and Ray and I went over to Shannon South to visit John & Lori for most of the afternoon, so the kids could swim in the big pool and so I could bring a slightly belated birthday gift to Lori. (Saturday was her 28th birthday.) Lori and I sat by the pool and watched the children swim for almost three hours. We had a nice, long, gossipy visit ... something I've missed since we moved.

After we left John & Lori's, we went over to visit with Grandma St. John for a little while. Here's where things get serious, I'm afraid. Most of the weekend had been light-hearted and fun -- a real "family time," just Ray and the kids and me. Grandma was always in my thoughts, of course, but I'd made a conscious effort to keep a lid on my grief and make this weekend a happy time for my family. I'd been dreading this visit with Grandma, but I knew it was something we had to do, so I resolved to wear a brave face and get it over with. I felt as though the kids (especially Jamie & Kacie) were watching me, to see how I would handle it, and I wanted them to see that I could be strong and adult. The visit itself was OK. Grandma looked awful: drained, colorless, withered. I was shocked. It took every ounce of strength within me to maintain a normal conversation with her, although I guess I did fine. (She told Mom, afterwards, that she "really enjoyed" our visit.) After about an hour, I was suddenly seized by an overwhelming need to get out of that house, almost like a panic attack. I thought, If I don't get out of here RIGHT NOW, I'm going to lose it completely. Ray was outside, walking around Grandma's yard, drinking his millionth beer of the afternoon, so I excused myself for a minute and went outside and whispered to him that I needed to leave. We went back into the house and said our goodbyes. I put my arm around Grandma's shoulders and kissed the top of her head, promising that we'd be back again "soon." ("Well, I HOPE so!" she said cheerfully.) Ray promised that he'd come back in a few days and trim her hedges for her, and the kids all hugged her, and then we got into the car and drove away.

This is where things went all to hell.

I'm not even really sure how to explain what happened next. Even today, three days later, I still can hardly believe it happened. My first instinct is to rationalize it: the heat, the strain of visiting Grandma, the wine I drank at Lori's, the pounding headache and awful sunburn I'd gotten sitting by the pool ... Ray drinking beer all day, and the crazed, maniacal way he drove us home ... all of these things combined, I suppose. By the time we got home, Ray and I were in the middle of an explosive screaming match. He said something terrible and hurtful, about how I didn't care about my Grandma being sick, how I just wanted her to die so I could get money out of her. (I don't know WHERE ON EARTH he got such a twisted idea: I think he just said it to hurt me). At that point I simply lost control. I leapt off the sofa and slapped his face as hard as I could. Ordinarily he probably would have just let it pass, but he was drunk and enraged, and he threw me to the floor and beat the hell out of me while the kids watched. So much for our "fun, light-hearted" weekend! This little taste of hell on earth left me bruised, bloodied, and sporting the most grotesque black eye you've ever seen ... not to mention the damage it has probably done to Jamie, Kacie and Kyle's little psyches. Imagine watching Mom and Dad punch each other out in the living room, while the Waterland Festival balloons are still dangling from the stereo ...

I feel sick and ashamed about this whole ugly incident. Ray has apologized, of course. The past couple of days he has been this incredible Model Husband, although it's hard for him to look me in the eye without cringing. He is ordinarily the most pacific of men; I think this violent outburst horrified him as much as it did the rest of us. And I don't think it would have happened in the first place if I hadn't provoked him. I taunted and baited him, I threw the first punch ... I wouldn't go so far as to say that I "deserved" what I got, but it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't pushed things as far as I did. There is enough blame to go around.

My left eye was completely swollen shut when I got out of bed Monday morning. It's open now, but still swollen, purple and sore. My left leg and my back are sore and bruised as well. The worst part is trying to explain it to people. I lied outright to Andrea on Monday: I told her I'd been "hit by a baseball" over the weekend. I doubt that she buys it, but I just can't bring myself to tell her what really happened. Jay and Erin got a slightly modified version of the truth: I said that I'd provoked Ray and had slapped him, and he hit me back, once. Sort of a "lucky punch." Janet hasn't seen me yet and I haven't decided what I'll tell her when she does.

 


Friday morning
August 3, 1990

And of course, I do worry about the kids - about what they must have been thinking while they watched Ray and I fighting, or what it might have done to affect their ideas about male/female relationships ...

I tried talking to them about it a day or two later, once the smoke had cleared. Jamie was frank. "I think you were kind of mean to Daddy," she said. I was astonished! Here I was the one with the black eye, and she's siding with Ray?! "Well," she went on the explain, "he was so happy when we got home" (he wasn't really: he was bombed) "and you said some really mean things." OK. This is true. And I guess I'm glad that she hasn't completely soured on men (and on Daddy in particular).

Kyle's response was even more baffling. "How did it make you feel when Mom & Dad got into that big fight yesterday?" I asked him during a quiet moment on Monday. A funny look crossed his face -- his brow furrowed, and the corners of his mouth turned down, and he looked as though he were going to say something explosive -- and then suddenly he shrugged, expressionlessly, and said "I didn't CARE." I asked him the same thing a couple of days later, while he was sitting on my lap looking at my sore face, and I got EXACTLY the same response. ??? It was almost as though he had to stop himself before he said something disloyal to either Daddy or Mama. I'd like to think that he's just being diplomatic, but I worry that he's suppressing his true feelings about the whole thing ... confusion, fear, anger? And I wonder how these suppressed emotions may manifest themselves in time ... ?

Kacie -- my most spiritual child -- was quietly aghast by the fight, and by my injuries. All week she has been tenderly solicitous toward Mom.

... but I guess I've exhausted this subject. The whole terrible ridiculous thing is over and done with, and its time to put it behind us and get on with life.

 

 

Mom: "How was your new pillow? Did you sleep good?"
Kyle: "Yeah - it was really ... comfurdal!"

Kyle (bringing me his toast): "I think we have a problem here. I hate this part." (pointing to crust)

Kyle: "Teenage Ninjader TUR-tles ... Teenage Ninjader TUR-tles ... "

 

The hot HOT weather is coming back today and due to stick around for a few days, so I got out of bed early and am trying to get as much done, during these relatively cool morning hours, as I can.

The newscasts this morning are filled with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, which occurred two days ago, and I am reminded once again that the world is still a dangerous place. Jamie is marginally aware of the trouble in the Middle East, and she is worried. Not too long ago she asked me if the U.S. could ever be involved in a war. I told her that it might happen "if a big country was picking on a small country, and the U.S. tried to protect the smaller country." This is about the extent of my grasp on world affairs. So now that Iraq is "picking on" Kuwait, she is afraid this means we're going to war. I would like to tell her that such isn't the case, but frankly I'm worried about the same thing ...

... But this is just another of the "unspoken" worries that I push as far back in my mind as I can, still halfway believing that if we ignore it, it will go away ... along with the others: Grandma's cancer, my irretrievable childhood, our precarious finances, the forty extra pounds I'm lugging around ...

 

Me with my dad at a family barbecue
Summer 1990


Saturday
August 4, 1990

Another early morning, racing to beat the heat ... laundry running ... Jamie is outside, picking flowers; Kacie is sitting on the kitchen counter with her bowl of Life Cereal ... I'm cautiously sipping a cup of coffee, hoping it won't make me feel overheated ... Kyle is crying in his bedroom about something or other. Ray wanted a big breakfast this morning, but it's already so warm in the kitchen that the idea of cooking bacon and eggs is revolting ...

This is the first weekend in a long time that finds us (blissfully) without plans. Ray's mom called last night and invited us over for hamburgers, but we politely made our excuses.

 



Tuesday morning, almost 9 a.m.
August 7, 1990

Janet just called a few minutes ago and announced that she's bringing her kids over in a couple of hours, unexpectedly. Danielle, Jerome and André are already here, so this means that TODAY I will finally -- after two months of delays and interruptions -- have all nine kids here for the whole day. SHIIIIIT ... !

This catches me off-guard, I must say. Better start making the sandwiches and Kool-Aid RIGHT NOW. The day I've been dreading all summer is finally here.

 



Thursday
August 9, 1990

Awww, it wasn't THAT bad ... having all nine of the kids here, I mean. I keep finding these amazing reserves of tolerance within myself. Some women would probably be ready for the funny farm by now, but I find that being around the kids is sort of energizing. Most of the time, anyhow.

Or maybe I'm just in a better-than-average mood today. My eye has finally started to heal, and I actually put on some makeup this morning. The kids are sitting on the patio making pictures with dried beans, glued to paper plates with Elmer's glue: my brilliant idea. An artsy-craftsy sort of thing. I wish that we could do more of this kind of stuff - I've got tons and tons of kids' craft ideas, stuck away in a notebook - but the truth is that this has been another of our laid-back, totally unstructured (read that: lazy) summers, and I'm rarely in the moodto initiate any formal projects with the kids. Most everything we do is spontaneous ... like the bean pictures today. Jamie was standing around in the kitchen looking bored while I was cooking bean soup for Ray's dinner, and on a whim I handed her the bag of mixed dried beans and a stack of paper plates and said "Go for it." Now they're all huddled in a circle outside, heads together, separating the beans into different colors and arguing (naturally) and making a wonderful, gluey mess. Ten minutes from now they'll be all finished and looking for something else to do, but in the meantime I've bought myself a little time.

The problems in the Middle East continue. You can't even turn on the TV or open a newspaper this week without hearing about it, and my concern continues to grow in spite of my best efforts to wish it all away.  The U.S. has sent troops to Saudi Arabia as a demonstration of opposition and strength, and we keep hearing about Iraq's "chemical weapons" and the possibilities of war.  Jamie has started to write a story  --  I found one of her early efforts in her typewriter today -- it begins like this:

"It all started at the end of world war two, when we dropped two bombs on the Japanes. Some of the poisonous gas went strate up to the sun. For some reason this only ..."

I think she told me this was going to be a sci-fi story about "evil shadows" that make people do "bad things." Not exactly your typical 8 yr. old's type of creative writing, is it? She has always been more sophisticated than other kids her age, but this is awareness with a sad edge to it, I think. In a lot of ways this summer has eroded her innocence. She finally asked about Santa Claus the other day, for one thing, and I told her the truth: a lie would have been insulting at that point.

Actually -- I should backtrack here -- the Santa thing started a couple of weeks ago, by accident. Kacie lost a tooth one evening, and I was caught without any spare change to play Tooth Fairy with. I wrote a note to Ray, asking him to put some money under Kacie's pillow when he got home from work, and Jamie accidentally found the note and read it. So that was the end of The Tooth Fairy for her. She was very upset, but what could I do? I held my breath, waiting for the next logical question -- is Santa a fake, too? -- and finally, after a couple of weeks of watching her quietly stew over the issue, she finally asked. I felt my heart fall to the floor and shatter into a million pieces, but I attempted to keep my cool and told her that Santa is "real" in the hearts of all people who believe in what he stands for ... the standard guilty-parent Santa rhetoric ... she cried, a little, and I could tell that the truth was painful for her, but I suppose this was all inevitable. I only hope I handled it OK. Her less-than-wonderful experience at camp this summer was undoubtedly another small erosion of innocence. And now all this stuff about Saddam Hussein and possible war in the Middle East, confirming her worst fears ... oh yes, and Mom and Dad's lovely fight a couple of weeks ago ...

... Of course, there is always the possibility that I am (as usual) reading much more into all of this than there really is. Point in case: a few minutes ago Jamie approached me and asked what I was writing about. Since I've always been very open and willing to read her stuff from my journals, especially where it pertains to her, I read aloud most of what I'd just written, about her "loss of innocence" this summer. I expected a moment of reflection ... perhaps a little shared melancholy ... I thought that maybe reading this to her might initiate some meaningful dialogue ... instead, she happily interrupted and said "Can I go get my typewriter and work on my story some more?!" ... !

I should tell you that it's Friday evening now, hotter than HELL, and Jamie and I have spent most of this afternoon in the cool dark garage! I'm sitting here in one corner of the garage in Grandpa Vert's old green armchair, with a fan trained on my sweaty face and the portable TV blaring a few feet away, on Ray's workbench. Jamie has brought her little typewriter out to the old kitchen table we've got set up in the middle of the garage. She's surrounded by her New Kids on the Block notebook and her candy cigarettes, typing happily ... utterly unconcerned with the Middle East coverage on the 6:30 news ...

OK. Maybe some things have changed. Maybe some of her perceptions have been altered this summer. Maybe a few of mine have been, too. I'm back to viewing the world as fragile and doomed, for one thing. But sitting here right this moment, watching Jamie -- tanned, ponytailed, lean, lovely, engrossed in the joy of creating something written -- I see that there is still hope. "We could be famous by the year 2000!" she says. "I could be the next GIRL Stephen King!" She is pleased with the story she's writing. She may never be as little, as trusting -- as INNOCENT -- as she was once. But she is still my sweet, wonderful Puss, and I love her right this moment with as unswercing a love as ever.

 




Thursday
August 16, 1990

Several days later, and my life is undergoing another "mini-upheaval." For one thing -- today is Jerome and André's very last day with us! After three years, our babysitting relationship is drawing to , an amicable (but teary!) close. Jerome will be going to school in Tacoma next month, closer to home, and Jay and Erin want to put André in preschool. I've known for months that this was coming, and that this would be the last week, but it's still hard to believe that they won't be coming to our house anymore. Erin says she'll still need me to babysit from time to time -- an hour here, an evening there -- but basically this is "it" ... the conclusion of the longest and most successful babysitting job so far. It hasn't all been roses: Jerome and André have been a handful and a half! But I think that they're good, sweet little boys, and I'm going to miss them. I really am.

As if that weren't enough, however, Janet called this morning and announced that she won't be needing daycare anymore ... the pet shop is going out of business!

 




Tuesday
August 21, 1990

It's a few days later, and I want to finish what I was saying, about losing the two babysitting jobs last week. Jamie misses Jessica and Tia a lot. (To console her, we invited Jessie to spend the night last Friday night ... Kacie also had Tracy over for the night, so it was wild and crazy around here ... but everyone had fun.) At this point, however, I'm more worried about what this sudden decrease in "playmate material" is going to do to Kyle, not to Jamie. The girls, after all, will be starting school in a couple of weeks, and they'll also have Brownies, church and (maybe) dance classes : their social lives will pick up again. Kyle, on the other hand, has lost all three of the little boys he's gotten used to playing with every day -- Jerome, André and Joey. All of his "buddies." He hasn't said much about it yet, and he seems to be perfectly satisfied playing with his sisters and Danielle for the moment, but what happens when the girls go back to school? Will he be a lost and lonely little soul? No one to play Batman with ... ?

OK, and yes, I AM worried about the money. Funny thing is, the day before Janet quit and Jerome & André left, I'd put up brand-new daycare notices at a couple of the local grocery stores. This was before I knew Janet was quitting, so it seems like especially fortuitous timing on my part. I just hope my ads yield results -- fast. I've already had one call, but it was a man who only needed daycare for an hour or so once in a while; I had to politely explain to him that I'm looking for more of a fulltime situation. Ideally, I would like to find one or two new children -- maybe a little boy for Kyle to play with -- and at the same time raise my rates enough to equal (or surpass) what Jay and Erin were paying me. The truth is that they were getting by with paying me peanuts  -- $1.80 an hour for both Jerome and André combined -- but I was probably too "nice" to complain about it. Not so anymore. I figure that I'll probably only stay in the daycare business for another year or two at the most. Kyle starts kindergarten a year from now, and it might be the right time to start exploring my options. (More on this another time: I have a lot to say on the subject.)

In the meantime, this family can't get by without my babysitting income, paltry as it is. I've got to start making enough at it to justify my staying home and babysitting in the first place ... otherwise I might just as well be slinging burgers at Jack in the Box.

3 p.m.

It's been wonderfully cool and rainy all day today. Ray just left for work, and the kids (Danielle included) are watching Chipmunks cartoons in the living room ... I've come back here to my little "office" in the laundry room, with a cup of tea and a sneaky cigarette (the kids are sooooo disapproving) ...

Feels like summer is over. It was so cold when we got up this morning that Ray was actually talking about making a fire in the woodstove. I've put all my shorts and tank tops back into the summer clothes drawer: Jamie wants to go up to the attic this evening and sort through the box of school clothes.

 




Wednesday
August 23, 1990

Cleaning Kyle's room this morning ... time for a coffee break. Don't think I ever mentioned that Kylie finally got his own bed this summer: a nice little single bed with bookcase headboard. It used to be Ray's bed when he was a kid. He rescued it from his parents' garage last month and hauled it own to our place, where he lovingly repaired and cleaned it before setting it up in Kyle's room. Kyle had no trouble at all getting used to sleeping in his own room (after four years, I'm embarrassed to admit, of more or less sharing Mom & Dad's room) ... the second or third night he woke up crying from a bad dream and ended up snuggling with me for the rest of the night, but otherwise he seems to realize that he's a big boy now and he heads straight for his own room in the evenings ...

... sigh ...

("Mom, will you write what I say?" Kyle asks, peering over my shoulder.  When I tell him yes, I'll transcribe his every spoken word, he jumps up and down and yells "Cow-a-bunga!")

Another cool and cloudy day. I woke up full of energy. My heart and head are full of worries this week, and nothing but manic cleaning seems to keep them at bay. Period is due tomorrow, so a lot of it is probably hormonal.

More later.

 

Jamie: "Can I have a candy bar?"
Mom (picking her up and hugging her): "Sure, if you'll quit being so mean to me."
Jamie: "You're being mean to ME. You said I was fat."
Mom: "I didn't say you were fat. I said you had FAT HAIR. Everybody wants to have fat hair."
Jamie (squirming in my arms and pouting): "I amTOO fat."
Mom (amused): "You're not fat. You're skinny as a ... as a ... "
Jamie: "I AM TOO." (Serious pout, tears beginning to well up in her eyes)
Mom (exasperated): "Fine. Then if you're so fat, I guess I shouldn't be giving you a candy bar, should I?"

(Jamie stops out of house in tears and spends next fifteen minutes morosely sitting on swing, head down. Mom eats candy bar.)

 




Thursday
August 24, 1990

So what, for example, are some of those worries "filling my heart and head" ... ?

It usually goes something like this: first, I start out by worrying about money -- always an underlying theme -- and the fact that the babysitting has fallen off so drastically. How will we make ends meet this fall? Today Andrea offered me a twenty-cent/hr. "raise" for babysitting Danielle, but that's not enough close to being enough.  Then I worry about some of the collection agency bills I've been getting in the mail lately ... my old creditors from last year have finally managed to track me down at my new address. Fingerhut. The gas company. Will the record club and the cable company "find" me, too? Then I start to worry about the fact that October is right around the corner, and that's when our lease is due to expire. Will Deb & Greg give us another one year lease, or will we have to move? Where in the world would we move TO? Another shitty little apartment? Would the girls have to change schools? Would this break their hearts? Or, if we do get to stay here in the house, will they raise our rent? And how could we afford it, if they do ... ?

Then I go back to the babysitting. Am I going to find some new clients soon? Will Kyle have someone to play with this winter? Do I even want to continue babysitting? What do I want to do with the rest of my life, anyway? Go back to school? (How? With what money? Transportation? Child care?) Will I have to get a job anyway? And who on earth would hire an overweight, underskilled housewife who has been absent from the work force for the past ten years ... ? Am I ever going to be thin again? Will I ever cut my hair and get some decent clothes and look halfway presentable again? The worries become more personal here. Why can't I feel good about myself? Why am I so unhappy all the time? So filled with self doubt? I worry about my health -- my rotten eating habits, my sendentary lifestyle, my vices -- am I going to just drop dead one of these days and leave my children without a mother? What if I don't get to see them grow up ...

 ... Which inevitably leads me to, What if they don't grow up? The state of the world today, the trouble in the Middle East, hints of impending war ... what if there's no world left to grow up IN? Or, on a different track -- what if something horrible happens to one of them, right here at home? Last week an 11 year old girl was murdered in her own home, in a little town here in Washington: it was all over the news. There really is nowhere "safe," is there? How do I protect them??

By this point I've usually worked myself into a fullblown anxiety attack, and since most of my worrying seems to take place at night, while I'm laying in bed trying to fall asleep, everything seems bigger and scarier and more insurmountable than it might ordinarily. Then it starts hitting me from all sides -- the sublime and the ridiculous -- everything from Grandma St. John's terminal cancer to the bleach stain on the living room carpet ... the funny mole on Jamie's foot, and the sore on Ray's nose that refuses to heal ... spiders in the bedroom ... the American hostages in Kuwait ... the unfinished photo albums, the unclipped coupons on my desk, the messy kitchen drawers ... paying for Jamie and Kacie's Brownie dues ($30) within a couple of weeks ... the communication breakdown within my marriage ... the fight I'm having with my father ... my shitty living room furniture ... Ray's job ... blah blah blah, etc. etc. etc., ad infinitum ...

 




Friday
August 25, 1990

At least there is one thing I haven't had to worry about this year: buying school clothes for the kids. Usually by the end of August I'm a nervous wreck over the issue, but this year fortune smiled on us ... Peg and Don Sr. took all three of the kids shopping last weekend (plus they got to spend the night), and they bought them everything their little hearts desired. I mean it: they bought the whole department store. Shoes, T-shirts, pants, blouses, leggings, skirts, socks. The girls both got oversized New Kids on the Block T-shirts ... Kyle got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle underwear ... I was flabbergasted by the amount of stuff the kids hauled into the house when they came home Sunday afternoon. The girls are thrilled, and frankly I'm relieved behond belief.

 




Monday
August 27, 1990

Guess what? We added to our family over the weekend. Jamie has been cajoling Ray and I to let her have a kitten for months, and we finally caved in. On Saturday afternoon, "Tigger" joined the household. He's an eight wk. old tabby with blue-gray eyes and beautiful, longish fur. Jamie is simply over the moon. (I have some quiet misgivings, but I'll keep them to myself.)

 

 




Tuesday
August 28, 1990

Still worried about the babysitting, and about whether or not our lease will be renewed ... I seem to have zeroed in on these two as my "priority anxieties." Ray has been tense and gruff the past few days, and I sense that financial worries are eating at him, too. He's in the middle of painting Grandma Vert's house for her -- she's supposed to pay him when he finishes -- and he takes as much o.t. at SeaPak as they'll give him, but without a decent babysitting income from me, it's back to counting pennies for that extra half-gallon of milk in the middle of the week ...

Meanwhile, I'm still cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Little Mary Homemaker. Gotta make that kitchen floor SHINE. If I work hard enough, if I can keep the place clean enough, if I stay BUSY ENOUGH ...

 




Thursday
August 30, 1990

Got up very early this morning -- was all finished with my shower and breakfast before Andrea even showed up with Danielle at 7:30! -- the in-laws are coming by again today and I wanted to make sure that everything's in order. (Not too difficult, considering my frenzied housecleaning the past couple of weeks! The only rooms in the house that are still messy are the girls' room and my bathroom.) Bev and Dorene are in town, and I think Peg is bringing them over to see our "new" house -- they are also taking Kacie to get her hair cut for school. (Jamie passed on the offer.) Yesterday was our ninth wedding anniversary ... very low-key, as usual. Ray brought me a bouquet of supermarket flowers and a bottle of my favorite wine.

11:15 a.m.

Well, geez ... Peg, Dorene and Grandma Bev came and picked up all three of the kids, visited for a couple of minutes, and then took off! (Peg said, "It'll be sometime after dinner when I bring them back." Kacie is the only one getting her hair cut, but Jay and Kyle are along for the ride.) And so now, here I sit. The house is immaculate, my hair and makeup are done, Danielle -- the only "extra" kid I've got today -- is asleep on the sofa. What do I do NOW?!? It isn't even noon yet, and everything is done!!

 




Saturday morning
September 1, 1990

Friday was a strange day. With the kids gone all afternoon and only Danielle to take care of, I was at extremely loose ends ... which only intensified when the baby went home and Ray left for work. For three or four hours, until Don Sr. brought the kids home, I was COMPLETELY ALONE. It was a strange and wonderful feeling ... nobody asking me "When's dinner?" ... no silly cartoons on the TV ... no arguments to break up, no candy wrappers on the floor ... just me, a bottle of wine, the stereo, and a soul-satisfying thunderstorm outside. Bliss. I made phone calls, worked on my mix tapes ("Momstuff"), read my book ("The Stand") and revelled in the luxury of my own company.

 




Labor Day
September 3, 1990

Lots of little bits and pieces of news to report. In no particular order:

Kacie's new haircut is adorable. She looks exactly like "Ramona," the little girl in the PBS series we love so much.

Sad news: Jamie's beloved mouse "Sniffer" passed away unexpectedly on Friday. We'd been keeping the mouse cage in Kyle's room recently, and when the girls went in to check on him (the mouse, not Kyle), they found him dead (the MOUSE, not Kyle). Needless to say, there was much weeping and wailing, and half an hour later I found myself presiding over a very tearful mouse funeral. Jamie, in particular, was very upset: she'd been extremely devoted to Sniffer.

The story has a happy ending, however ... Saturday afternoon Ray came home from painting at Grandma Vert's, and he had a brand-new mousey in hand! He'd stopped off at a pet store on his way home and bought Jamie a replacement mouse. The new mouse, a tiny white male, has been named "M.C. Mouse" ("Mighty Cute"), and he does seem to have gone a long way towards healing Jamie's broken heart.

Speaking of pets: the new kitty is doing fine. Gradually, he seems to be getting the hang of using the litterbox, for one thing -- no more piles of kitty poop behind the stereo. And we're all becoming fond of him, even Ray. I cooked some chicken the other night and put the scraps in Tigger's dish, and he had a wonderful time playing with it and spreading it all over the laundry room. He has already picked out two or three favorite "hiding places" -- inside the bottom of the woodstove, for one, and behind my desk in the laundry room -- and his sleeping spot of choice appears to be the top of the loveseat. We acquired some toys and a scratching post for him over the weekend, but so far he shows no interest in them: he'd rather "play" with newspapers or bite the legs of the kitchen chairs. His "person of choice" is definitely Jamie. Fair or not, Jamie seems to be the family's office animal keeper. I've made a great show of explaining that Tigger is "everybody's kitty," not just Jamie's ... that Kacie and Kyle have every right to hold him and play with him, too ... but try telling that to Jamie. (Or to Tigger.)

The girls found out who their teachers will be for the upcoming school year; the lists were posted on Friday afternoon. Jamie has Mrs. DeGarmo for third grade, and Kacie has -- Ms. Weeks! The same teacher Jamie had in second grade! We're all glad, because we really like Ms. Weeks.

We went out to dinner last night (Sunday). Garcia's, down by Southcenter, has a really great deal on Sundays -- all kids eat free -- and since Ray and I usually order the weekend specials for about five or six bucks apiece, it's a great cheap dinner out. We're experiencing a real money pinch this weekend, so Garcia's seemed like a good idea. Guess what happened? There was a mix-up with our reservation last night, and we ended up having to wait an extra half hour to be seated: as a result, our dinner was free! I had a big margarita and the fajita chimichanga, Ray ordered a huge plate of something or other and a couple of beers, and the whole thing didn't cost us a cent! I'm still smiling about it this morning.

Saturday night the kids and Ray and I went over to John & Lori's for an impromptu get-together and barbecue, just like old times. Good friends, fun conversation, great steaks, nice evening. John was more well-behaved than usual: he and Lori managed to get through an entire social evening without breaking into one of their familiar arguments. Came home feeling happy.

I've saved the best for last. When Ray was at the grocery store this weekend he unexpectedly ran into Deb J. -- our landlord -- and she brought up the subject of renewing our lease. According to Ray, THEY WANT US TO STAY!!! Of course this is only Ray's version of the conversation, but I want to believe he got the facts straight for a change. WE DON'T HAVE TO MOVE!!!! I cried when he told me. All these weeks of worrying ...

 




Wednesday morning
Sept. 5, 1990

First day of school. Kyle and I just got home from taking the girls over to Bow Lake and depositing them into their new classes. Beautiful, sunny morning; still no autumn in the air, but nice nonetheless.  Walking felt good. Jamie and Kacie were adorable: new black leggings, clean shiny hair, big smiles. I took a picture of them walking ahead of me, towards the school ... such big girls. Kacie ran into her teacher from last year, Mrs. McCall, and gave her a hug. Saw Mr. Gallagher (the girls' kindergarten teacher) -- he is sporting a decidedly punk-looking ponytail! -- I wonder if Kyle will have him for a teacher next year?

When we left, both girls were seated in their new classes, Kacie sitting right next to Tracy in the first row, Jamie next to Tia B. ... Ran into a lot of people I know -- Lori, of course, and Cathy and Beth from Shannon South -- on the way home Janet drove by, stopped to ask if she could drop Joey at my house for a few hours, later today. (I said "Sure!")

   

Kyle is in the living room now, watching "Ernest Saves Christmas" and working on a bowl of cornflakes. Still one baby chick left in the nest! I watched him running ahead of me as we were coming home this morning, and I realized with a sudden 'pang' that this will be our last year together before he goes off and joins the girls in the 'real world' ... next year at this time he will be standing at the bus stop with all the other brand-new kindergarteners! How will I be feeling on that morning?! It seems so far-off in the future to me now, but experience has taught me otherwise: in a blink and a heartbeat, off he'll go ...

In the meantime, we still have this last year together. I want to make it a good one. I want to do everything I can to make these next few months with Kyle as special and as meaningful as I can. Specifically: I want to read with him a lot, work with him on recognizing letters and numbers, teach him to print his name, give him little jobs around the house (he's at that point right now where he LOVES to help: it makes him feel important). I want us to go for walks and go to the library and bake cookies and color pictures together. I want to not get exasperated with his zillions of questions: I want to be calm and helpful and funy and consistent with him. Kyle's probably not going to consciously remember much of the next few months, but I still want to leave something there: an imprint, a secure loved feeling, unconscious memories of a good year spent with mom. Something right in the middle of his little psyche, something he can take to school with him next year.

 

Later now -- midafternoon, getting hot. Kyle and Joey have been playing in Kyle's room most of the day; Ray is over at Grandma's, painting; the girls won't be home for an hour and a half. Fighting a creeping lethargy ... I didn't sleep well last night, and I had to get up so early this morning. An auxiliary pot of coffee isn't doing the trick: wish I could curl up somewhere and take a nap!!

Note to self: Finished "The Stand" - 2:30 p.m., 9/5/90 (second time) - wait at least another five yrs. before you read it again

 




Thursday
September 6, 1990

Never did get that nap, and what's more, I had another bad night again last night: I barely slept four hours, I'll bet. I don't know what it is. I'm not as tense and worried as I was a couple of weeks ago -- ever since I found out that our lease will be renewed, my anxiety level has gone wayyyyy down -- so why aren't I sleeping? Too much caffeine? That's one of those 'vicious cycle' sort of things ... I wake up exhausted in the morning and pump myself full of caffeine to get moving, and then I don't sleep that night because of the caffeine ... I suppose this could be what's causing the insomnia. Guess I'll forgo that second pot today and see if it helps. All I know is that I'm tired of waking up TIRED.

The first day of school appears to have gone well: the girls blew in yesterday afternoon all excitement and chatter. Kacie "LOVES" Ms. Weeks, Jamie "likes" Mrs. DeGarmo, they both "HATE" the new music teacher ... life goes back to normal now ... ... or does it? I'm still feeling those "things have gotta change" urges ... is it because autumn is on the way? Is it because I'm 32 years old and change is sort of the natural order of things at this point ... ?

 




Monday morning
September 10, 1990

Only a couple of minutes to write this morning. The past 24 hours have been incredibly traumatic, and I need to "get my shit together" before proceeding any further ...

Jamie had an accident yesterday.  While we were at Peg and Don's to celebrate Aunt Dorene's birthday, Jay fell out of a tree while she was playing with her cousins. At first we thought she'd simply sprained her arm, or -- I'm ashamed to admit this now -- that she was faking injury just for attention, but we took her to the emergency room at Riverton Hospital anyway, just to make sure. I am SO GLAD that we did. A quick examination by the doctor on duty, plus x-rays, showed that she'd broken both wrists! (The left wrist is slightly "worse" than the right.) Right now she's got splints on both arms, but later today -- after she's gone in to see Dr. Kay -- she may end up with at least one arm in a cast. We won't know for sure until later.

Needless to say, school is out for Jamie this week. She doesn't seem overly depressed about THAT, but she IS unhappy about being completely immobilized. For the next few days she'll need help with everything from eating to going to the bathroom. Right now she's propped up in my bed, watching cartoons with Kyle. She didn't sleep very well last night, and naturally neither did I ... it's going to be a tough week for us both.

There is more bad news. My mom called late last night to tell us that Grandma St. John has taken a turn for the worse, and as a matter of fact wasn't expected to make it through the night last night. I laid in bed all night, waiting for the phone to ring, but as of this morning I still haven't heard anything. I'm oddly numb about this entire situation. Ray and Jamie both burst into tears when they heard the news last night, but so far I haven't been able to cry about it, and I don't know why. It's not for lack of caring, I know that ... I love Grandma St. John very much, and I always will ...

10 a.m.

Mom just called. Grandma is still with us, but no one can say for how long.

Ray left a few minutes ago to take Jamie to the doctor.

My life is temporarily on "hold."

Evening

The day is drawing to a close, and with it I think this journal will close, as well. I've already got a new journal tucked away in my desk drawer; guess I'll start with that one in the morning.

Mom and Deb stopped by a little while ago, as I was feeding the kids. Mom, Uncle Dick and Uncle Jerry moved Grandma over to Highline Hospital this afternoon, and I gather from what Mom said that everyone is hoping that this was the last move. Her disease has progressed so far, and she is in so much pain, that it will now be a blessing when she passes over to the other side. Mom is exhausted: she says she is on her way home to shower and hopefully sleep for a few hours. If Grandma goes in the night, Mom will call and let me know; in the meantime, there is nothing to do but wait and -- as she put it -- pray that the end is swift and peaceful.

Jamie's visit with Dr. Kay went alright. She'll be going back on Thursday morning to have a cast put on her left arm. Until then, she must continue to take it easy and allow me to care for her. She is in good spirits, I must say: all the attention hasn't hurt her any! She's been deluged today with visitors and phone calls. (Don Sr. just called, as a matter of fact, while I was writing this: I held the phone to her ear so she could talk to him.) It really came home to me today how narrowly we avoided catastrophe in this situation. As heart-crunching as it may be to see her struggling with splints on her arms, it could have been so, so much worse. What if she'd landed on her back, for instance? She could have been paralyzed, or even ... god forbid ...

I think there must have been a special angel watching over her yesterday. Thank you, Lord.

 

 

Favorite Songs During This Journal:

"We Didn't Start The Fire" - Billy Joel
"Another Day In Paradise" - Phil Collins
"Listen To Your Heart" - Roxette
"Cold Hearted" - Paula Abdul
"I Wish It Would Rain Down" - Phil Collins
"Don't Know Much" - Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville
"All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You" - Heart
"Black Velvet" - Alannah Myles
"Nothing Compares 2 U" - Sinead O'Connor
"One More Day" - Wilson Phillips
"Release Me" - Wilson Phillips



next        previous        home        archives        want to throw a rock?    







© secraterri 1998-2008
all rights reversed reserved!
comments/questions/spelling corrections HERE
~ nil bastardum carborundum ~