About Me

Decent wife. Good Enough Mom. (I think, but you’d have to ask my kids.) Sporadic blogger. Crazy person. Chaos Manager. Finder of stray socks and missing shoes. Loves to cook, wishes it wasn’t demanded of her daily. Runs on caffeine.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Back-to-School Mish Mash

Last week my middle two kids went back to school. It was really hard for all of us. I, personally, do not like the August start dates. I know alot of the country starts even sooner, but they also tend to let out earlier in the summer than we do here. Getting out in mid-June and going back in August just stinks. What makes it so hard is the abrupt transition from lazy summer days to the strict schedule of school. I plan to do a "day in the life" type posts soon, one for summer and one for the school year to show the huge differences. I used to try and transition them a couple weeks ahead of time, and it worked a little when they were younger, but now it is just a waste of time and I don't want to ruin those last couple days of vacation anyway. So the first week of school always kind of sucks.

Last week was no exception. I mean, it wasn't that bad in the grand scheme of things, but it definitely was no picnic, that's for sure. Kids were crankier. I swear they each had meltdowns every day. After school the first two days they were starving when they got in the car so there was totally fussiness from that. I started grabbing some snacks before I left the house, and that seemed to help. They still go to school where we used to live, so they have to leave earlier in the day, and then deal with the drive home in the afternoons. We actually had nice weather last week, but then they were tired and out of sorts and also in withdraw of all their electronics and TV. During the school week, there is no TV and no electronic usage unless it is school related. Yup, I am mean. But we had way more issues before we started this rule years ago for my oldest, and it works. We did adjust the rules for the oldest once she got to the point where she understood how to be responsible and still get her work done and get to sleep at a decent time. We still monitor things and if it seems way too late for her to still be up we definitely say something.

I had to get pretty strict last week on bedtimes, because those middle two were just really struggling so much with the tiredness. By the time we got dinner finished, I had to get kids moving to shower and wind down. I was also extra exhausted from the earlier mornings and serious time management. I needed to make sure dinner was early since kids were hungrier and our nights were ending sooner. It was just alot trying to get everyone to cooperate and work together much more than in the past, and adding crankiness to the mix never helps anything.

My oldest child has her first day of high school today. It is a new school in a new county so she doesn't know anyone. It is a huge change, but one I am praying will be good for her. I am actually really anxious to talk to her when she gets home today. She is within walking distance, and didn't want anyone to drop her off so out the door she went, like a grown-up. And my heart hurt a bit. She gets home just before I have to leave to go pick up the other two from school, so when she gets here we will have the drive to talk all about her first day. I hope she finds her niche here.

So that leaves just me and the toddler (for the next 9 weeks anyway!). Baby boy is confused because there isn't anyone else here to play with but mom and the pets. He is also a bit off schedule, along with the rest of the house, and his 2 year old molars decided to start coming in, so he is a bit more clingy and not as mellow as he usually is. Mondays are always my worst day coming off of my work weekends (my schedule is the opposite of everyone else's), with yesterday being an especially busy day at work. So I am feeling extra worn out today. My little guy was the first one up, and by mid-morning he was done with everything. He really didn't even hardly eat anything this morning, which is unusual for him.

It will probably take us all a good 3 weeks to get into a nice groove. This week is sorta a wash because the middle 2 kids have a 4-day weekend for labor day, so as soon as they get used to things, they have a long stretch off and have to start all over. Oy Vey!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

10 weeks to Baby

In 10 short weeks I will be welcoming this baby via C-section #5! 10 weeks seems like it is so far off, but really it's not. With the older kids starting school soon and all the craziness of the back-to-school time of year, I am going to be out of time before I know it. I have put together a list of things we need to get done before Baby Day.
So what are we doing to get ready for Baby?

-Locating all the baby clothes and washing anything neutral colored, as well as picking out a blue outfit and a pink one for coming home from the hospital. Because we don't know the gender. We know ~where~ to look for all the clothes, but the storage room got piled with boxes so fast (the movers were on high speed, the boxes were coming in to the house so fast, there was no real organizing them) that I am quite sure the boxes I need are at the bottom.

-Washing all the baby stuff...car seat, baby seats, bassinet. Unearthing the double stroller from my mom's garage where it has been for about 8 years and disinfecting that.

-Stocking up on diapers and wipes.

-Buying a new pack and play. The awesome one I had broke due to cramped storage space at the old place.

-Getting a head start on Christmas shopping. Yes, Christmas shopping. Before I go on leave and am still getting full paychecks. I have a huge box full of Christmas gifts I got on clearance at the end of last year that I can use for teacher gifts...plates and mugs that I can fill with candy or homemade goodies. Christmas cards, wrapping paper, and a ton of other stuff I can't even remember. But all stuff that makes awesome gifts for extended family and teachers. Probably enough stuff for several years worth of gifts on the cheap. Plus I saved several rewards gift cards I got for new TV services as a sign-up bonus, which are for stores that sell everything under the sun. So mainly, I need to worry about the kids. I already know what they are getting, it's just a matter of getting it. The past few years we stopped all the "extra" gift exchanging with people because it was getting out of hand and expensive. My siblings and I draw names for our kids but stopped exchanging with each other. I do homemade treats for my husband's office staff. This year, he has a week of vacation left to use, so the week after Christmas since I am on leave and kids are on break, we are going to take an inexpensive "retreat week" somewhere to get out of the house, so that will be our gift to each other. Other than our mom's there might be one or two people left to actually shop for.

-Arranging kid care for the week I am in the hospital. My hospital lets me go home on day 5. This is almost situated, I just have to make a schedule since I have kids in two different schools that start and end at different times. Just to make sure everyone is on the same page and accounted for. My husband is going to work a modified schedule that week so he can still be with the kids after school for homework and hospital visits.

-Getting some dinners made and frozen. This is one of those things that I am not going to stress over too much if I can't get it done. I have gotten good at cooking to have leftovers, so if I cook most nights the week before Baby, there will be dinners for when I am in the hospital. This worked out good the last time, because my husband would pack the leftovers in a cooler and use the family lounge to heat up the food and we would be together for dinner every night. There is also an actual food place in the hospital just down the hall from where I will be, so that is an option for them, too. When I return home, I should be able to jump right back in with the meals, it just might be a bit hectic at first.

-Stocking the house and freezer. The last time, I really made sure we had tons of essentials: toilet paper, laundry detergent, snack foods and school lunch items, pantry items, juice boxes, all the freezer meats, bread (I always have a freezer stocked with bread because we go through so much bread so quickly), and all toiletries. I did a huge shopping trip the day before my scheduled surgery. It really helped us when I wasn't getting paid (although I do have partial paid leave this time), plus I only had to get things like produce, milk, and luncheon meats every couple of weeks. It cut down on me needing to go to the store, and it was all stuff my husband could easily help pick up without it becoming an ordeal for him.

Other than that we are pretty much set. I am really starting to get excited about things. Doing all these things just makes it seem more real and not so far away. I am so thankful beyond words to be here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

We.ig.ht Lo.ss S.ur.ge.ry

A friend of my mine recently told me about how her primary care physician has recommended she get weight loss surgery, and has been sending her for several pre-op tests. I was completely surprised...mainly because she doesn't look like anyone who actually needs the surgery. Sure, she had gained weight over the last year due to stressful life circumstances, but I have also seen her lose 50lbs plus just by tracking her food on my fitness pal...that's all she did, no exercising or going to the gym, and otherwise leading a pretty sedentary lifestyle. And it only took her about 6 months to lose it, and she still ate mostly what she wanted, just decreased portions. No joke. I expressed my shock, and she cited all these reasons the doctor gave her, and was basically giddy with excitement over the idea of having surgery and magically getting down to her teenage weight without having to do anything about it. Of seeing herself at that size again. I don't think she gets the reality of what those surgeries do...because she is someone who loves to eat good food, and depending on which surgery you get it changes what and how much you can eat, and can cause issues if you don't follow the guidelines given. So you still have to be aware of what you are eating and how much, and for someone who doesn't want to have to do that now to lose weight and help yourself I don't know how you make yourself do that for the rest of your life after the surgery.

Now, I am totally not saying I don't think weight loss surgery is okay. I definitely believe there are people to whom it is extremely beneficial for. Those people, for instance, who for whatever reason hit a certain point, a certain weight, where just changing eating habits isn't enough but where physical exercise is nearly impossible. Those people with a genetic disposition to obesity and can't change their course no matter what measures they take. I am in healthcare, and I have seen negative effects of the surgeries on people who fail to be compliant after surgery, and also those freak things that happen because of the surgery down the road. To me, and obviously also to insurance companies, the need for the surgery has to out-weight the risks of not having it. Which brings me to my next point...

My friend has been sent for a million pre-op tests. But the amount of appointments with the amount of doctors she had had to see is insane, and this has been going on for months now. I finally asked her if something more serious was going on, like maybe they found something wrong or unexpected. And that is when she tells me...they can't find anything wrong with her...which means she won't qualify for the surgery. So her primary care doctor has been ordering even more tests-in depth, off-the-wall things-looking for something, so that she can qualify for the surgery. As someone who has been in healthcare my whole career, this sends up a bunch of red flags and alarms. I keep listening to her. She also has had to see a dietitian as part of this, which isn't covered by insurance. Basically anyone who is trying to get this surgery covered by insurance has to go on a diet for 4-6 months to see how much weight they can lose on their own. She tells me her primary care doctor has told her if she loses even 5lbs on this diet, she won't qualify for the surgery, so she has to "follow" the diet and exercise plan, but not actually lose any weight. Which she knows she could easily lose the 50lbs plus.

So I am just flabbergasted. We are close friends, so I tell her my thoughts, just so I have said it. She would absolutely do the same for me. She has spent months seeing every doctor under the sun and getting all these crazy tests that have found absolutely nothing. In all that time she could have lost at least half the weight. She is just seeing the dietitian this week, so she has another 4 months at the minimum before she could even get the surgery scheduled if she manages to get it approved through her insurance company. She will have been working on this for 7-8 months at that point. She could already be really close to her goal size.

I did mention the possibility that her primary care doctor could be getting some kind of kick back from this surgeon for the referrals. I have never heard of any primary care doctor who is on the up and up push a completely normal, healthy patient so hard and order so many tests that all come up negative, and give advice to not even lose 5 lbs in 4-6 months but "follow" the diet, so you can qualify for a surgery you clearly don't really need. No one wants to think that their doctor might not be totally legit, and so of course she defended him. But at least I said it, and can't be that friend who kept her mouth shut. I also told her she really needed to think about the risks...and apparently since she was told that the surgery was laparoscopic she thinks that means it is no big deal. Any time you have foreign instruments introduced to your body and are altering your body there is a risk. Plus, you are always subject to human error. Things like that happen in surgery all the time. And there is always the possibility that the insurance company denies the claim and won't pay for it. In which case I don't think she would still go through with it. But there is also the chance that if they deny the claim and realize all the doctors visits and tests were for that reason, they could deny those, too.

Sometimes having a medical mind is a hindrance, because I know all the bad things that can happen, and at times it tends to make me jump to the worse-case-senario and everything is a tumor because I have witnessed such horrible and off the wall things some out of nothing.. But in situations like this, it helps because I can see the red flags and know when something doesn't seem quite right. I just hope everything works out well for my friend.

Summer, Summer, Summer

We are down to our last week of summer vacation already, and I started reflecting back on this summer compared to summers past.

In summers past, we packed up our cooler and beach bags and headed out to our local community pool where we would spend the majority of our days from open until close. We would have lunch and dinner there almost every day, and it was actually fun because lots of other families did the same, so there would be a huge community all grilling and eating dinner under the pavillion. Sometime we would all bring something and have a big pot luck. During the day when the kids got too tired they could grab a shady spot under a tree and relax with a book for a bit.

Last summer was a little different with an infant. We avoided the super hot days, and generally only stayed through one meal, not both. There were days when I dropped the older kids off or they got a ride with a local friend for a few hours of pool time. There also seemed to be less and less families there on a regular basis, so when there wasn't a big group of kids to hang out with, they really had no interest in being there. My teenager had started having girl issue, where a week out of the month she couldn't swim, and drama would ensue.

This summer we had just moved as the summer started. I really wanted to be able to join a local pool near our new home, but the affordable one had a 3 year waiting list, and the one we could get into was really expensive your first year and I just couldn't make it work. We decided to stay at our pool in our old neighborhood, because even though it was over a half hour away, it was affordable. But the weather stayed pretty cool early on, and the kids fell in love with our basement. It's big and finished, and we put a sleeper sofa down there with a TV, and it has become their hangout. The beg to sleep down there every night. The play hide and seek in the dark, build forts, and just generally hang out together. They love it. They find so much to do, and have rediscovered a lot of their old games and toys that they finally have space to play.

In the evenings when the weather cools down they have been going on long walks or bike rides exploring the area. They found a close playground, and all 3 of the older ones will go out together until it is past dark just being kids. They found an old fire pit left by the previous family, so we go out and make s'mores. It feels like a simpler time, and has provided them the down time they desperately need. I let them be lazy watching TV or using their Ipods because we have strict rules about TV and electronics during the school year. We have been to the pool, but it hasn't been as fun for them this year; they would rather be home. The pool community is changing, and unfortunately unless you are on the swim team, you kind of feel like an outsider. And most of those kids who have to be there early for practice don't want to be there once the pool opens, so it becomes a ghost town. Many of the older kids have moved on to have jobs or lifeguard, so my teen is left out. She is a few months too young to get a job there just yet. We have also been to local parks, water parks, had a fabulous week-long vacation where we packed in so much, and peach picking.

But we have sort of found a groove that has been relaxing and stress free. I don't really here the kids saying they are bored, or begging to do something. And I feel that is they way summers should be. So that they feel rested and rejuvenated for the crazy pace of the school year, which starts all too soon.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Time I Got Kicked Out of My Kids' Doctor's Office

This is the most absurd story ever. I can't even believe this happened to me, it's so crazy.

I had been taking my kids to the same pediatrician's office for over 14 years. And before that, I was a patient in the practice when I was a child. But all those years of loyalty didn't mean anything in the end.

In the beginning, the practice was started by an amazing man and his loyal nurse in his basement, and it grew and grew and grew. No matter how big the practice got, this doctor kept doing things for the good of the kids; coming in on weekends by himself to see sicks kids, doing stitches in the office to save parents a wait in the ER, never treating parents like they were crazy or over-reacting, and he was one of those doctors who volunteered every summer to go give vaccines in Africa. And sadly, he was killed by a drunk driver one night on his was to the hospital to see a newborn baby patient. After all the mourning, you could tell staff and parents started to worry that the practice was going to change. For the most part everything stayed pretty much the same for years, with the exception of a whole crop of new nurses replacing the older ones. But that was easy to explain away as the older ones retiring. I had been on a first name basis with the front office staff, and they were still as happy and pleasant as always, with no indication that anything was coming down the pike. And one of them I am fairly certain would have given me a heads up had she known. But all of a sudden at the beginning of this year things changed.

For many years I had my husband's insurance, which sucked. It was a high deductible plan that only covered well visits. So every time they were sick, I would always end up with most of the bill. During one particularly bad year I racked up a pretty decent bill. (At any one time over all the years my bill never went above $1000.) When one of the billing girls noticed how I always had a bill, she suggested putting me on a payment plan with a small monthly amount, so that I was always paying whether I had been seen that month or not to keep up with it. And it would keep me from getting notices and fees if I did have a balance. So it was set up like that for years and years. And it pretty much worked. If I knew I owed them more than my payment, I sent larger chunks of money when I had it. At the beginning of this year I owed $600-something, I don't remember the exact amount. Some of the newborn care visits were considered follow-ups not well child visits, so I got hit with more bills than I thought I would. (I recently took my employers insurance. And while it costs more to have out of my paycheck, the coverage is a million times better. But I just became benefited, so it wasn't an option to have until now.)

So, after my baby's one year visit in which he got shots and was screaming his head off, and I am trying to wrangle him, the diaper bag, my purse, and both of our heavy winter coats, I get told on my way out the door billing needed to talk to me. And they proceed to walk me down a maze of hallways to a crowded billing office. Where some person I have never seen before starts bombarding me with questions about how I am going to pay my account off. As if I am some how supposed to magically produce my checkbook and write a check. Not only were we just standing in the middle of an office that was completely not private, I still had my arms full, with no offer to help me with anything or a chair to sit in, nothing. And my baby is still crying. I said that I wasn't prepared to have this discussion today, that I did expect a tax refund and I could make a payment, but could she call me the next day so we could discuss things. I left there a little irritated and annoyed about how that situation just happened, and even more confused about why all of a sudden after all these years my payment plan wasn't good enough. Usually when policies change, a written letter or a posted notice lets you know what is going on.

I don't hear from billing lady for several days. When she does call me she calls my cell phone, which is listed only as my emergency contact #, and one I almost never use for business calls. Because if I am not at home I am most likely not in a place where I can have a business conversation, nor would I have appropriate documents with me, in this case my finance/budget folder. When this call came in I was actually in the car repair shop because my car decided to crap out on me. Because I know it is the billing office, I answer and explain where I am and that I am not somewhere that I can discuss this. That I spent the day after my appointment home waiting on a call that never came. She agrees to call me back at home later in the week. I never do receive a call from her, but rather get a letter outlining a ridiculous payment plan, saying "per our conversation...agreed upon amount..." when none of that was ever talked about and agreed upon. Now I am just pissed off (and newly pregnant and highly emotional, but I didn't know that I was just yet.) I really couldn't believe that after all the years I had been in the practice, this person I had never dealt with before was not even trying to work with me. I did not even know at this point that there was some sort of policy change or that my payment plan was null and void.

So I leave a voicemail asking someone to call me to discuss things, that I was very upset how all of this had gone down thus far, that I didn't understand exactly why this was happening the way it was happening, ect ect. Eventually the same girl calls me back, insisting that I agreed upon this amount, putting words into my mouth that I never once said. She still never explains about any policy change and insists that I have to pay what she has said. I felt that as a long time family in the practice they should be able to work with me a little more. To me, it felt like the principle of it. We were also dumping all our extra money into making our credit perfect and saving for a move, so it was really the worst time for someone to be insisting on more money from us. She finally says that if I give her an amount I am willing to pay, she can go talk to the doctors and ask if it is ok. Well, I knew it would be the summer before my flex spending account would have any more money in it, so I suggested a small payment amount (but more than double my current amount) until summer where I could take care of the rest. She wasn't nice about it at all, but said she would get back to me.

A couple days later I hear from her and she informs me that the doctors said no way, and has now proposed an amount that is even higher than the letter stated. I get a little upset at this, reiterating how long I have been with the practice, how I don't understand why they don't seem willing to work with me when other local doctor's offices were completely willing to help me out. I ask her what happens if I can't afford what they are asking. I ask if I can speak to someone else about this, because clearly her and I don't seem to be communicating very well about this. She says she will have this other person call me and hangs up.

Side Note: Sometime during all of this I do find out I am pregnant. I start to panic because we hit a snag with our financing for a mortgage. And my oldest child does not get accepted to the private highschool we applied her to-the only one in her class that didn't get in somewhere. I am heartbroken for her. I don't know how to fix this. I am stressed out, super emotional, and freaking out because the highschool she would have to go to if we didn't move is horrible. I have dumped all the money I have into clearing every last thing off my credit to push my score up and fixing my car. I asked the other 2 doctor's offices to work with me on money I owe, and they were awesome about it. One even let me defer payments on braces until July.

A few days later after a particularly rough night of sleep and a bad phone call informing me that our financing plan wasn't going to work (which later was verified to be false information) where we thought for a moment we weren't going to be able to move at all, I get a call from billing again only it is the same girl as it has been. I was at my wits end and I will admit I wasn't very nice. I asked why she was calling me again, that I asked to talk to someone else for a reason, that if they wouldn't allow me to speak with anyone else just to send me the payment letter and be done with it and stop calling me about it. She says ok and hangs up. I figured I would get the letter, pay what I could, and re-deal with them later when they saw I could only pay what I could pay.

I was expecting the payment letter with the terms of payment expected to come in the mail. Instead I receive a letter stating that since I refuse to discuss a payment plan with them (um, what???) that they are turning my account over to collections and that I have 30 days to find a new doctor for my kids. It says I have 3 days from date of the letter to contact them. Which fell on a Saturday, and they were closed. I freaked out. Finding a new doctor was easy...but I had just spent the past year and 3 months fixing my credit, and they are turning my account over to collections. If that happened, my credit would tank and I wouldn't be able to get financed. The crazy thing was, I had been trying to work with them. This whole ordeal of back and forth was over a matter of weeks!!!

The letter had a third person's name on it, but it was someone whom I was vaguely familiar with. I left a voicemail, but unsure if the number was correct because there was someone else's name on the message. I wrote a long letter detailing everything and faxed it over. And first thing Monday morning I called the front desk. I talked to the one awesome girl who I am most friendly with, explained I knew this wasn't her job but could she help me, and told her what had happened. The pregnancy hormones caught up with me and I started crying. She was so nice about it and got my letter to the correct person. It was the craziest I have ever felt.

In the end, none of the loyalty meant a damn thing. I convinced them to not put the account in collections and just accepted their ridiculous payment plan. But I wasn't allowed to come back to the practice, not that I would have wanted to. I thought about only paying until I knew our credit checks were in the clear, but I didn't do that. I had to pay an extra $50 for all my kids medical records. I refused to tell them who our new doctor was. I made my husband pick up the records and make the payment. Our very last payment was due in the middle of our move. I actually got the pay notice a few days late due to our forwarded mail. The next day my husband called to make that last payment, and ended up talking to that billing girl because the account was already in collections, for being less than a week late. He explained why, and she gave him a hard time but took the payment. She put it in collections anyway though because we started getting collection calls and then a collections letter that listed a date as after our payment was made. So she did it on purpose. My husband let her have it, and she claimed to not know about it, but he also talked to the collection agency who had her name and info and said she never informed them the account was paid.

Karma is a bitch. She will get hers.

Ebb and Flow, and Letting Go

So everything in life ebbs and flows, right? Sometimes you have enough time and energy to devote to things, and sometimes you just don't. So some things fall away for a while until you can pick them back up again. It doesn't mean they are any less significant or make you any less happy, but they aren't essential for keeping day to day life running. When you are managing a family, it is hard, because there is so much that is constantly requiring your attention. Things you can't get away from...like a job (because money), grocery shopping (because someone has to feed all the mouths), paying bills (because lights and electricity and water are important things to have), and laundry(because it really looks bad on you if your kid goes to school in dirty clothes). And things you love to do, but there are never enough hours in a day to do them all, and sleep frequently wins out...blogging, knitting, talking to and seeing friends, reading a book that doesn't have pictures, taking a long hot bath, sitting down and eating a leisurly breakfast, catching up on all the shows piling up on my dvr...see my list of would-love-to-but-not-essential is way longer.

I know this is just life...a life I am so grateful to have, and have long ago accepted this and resigned myself to the fact that there are times in my life when I just can't and won't fit in everything I have to do and would love to do. Sometimes it is weeks in between reading chapters of a book on my kindle. And I know that everyone else is in the same boat, too. And I don't get offended or bent out of shape when I don't hear from my friends for a stretch of time. I know that when we all finally come up for air there will be a text or email saying "hey, life was crazy for a minute there. how are you?" and it's all good. I don't live in a scene out of some movie where everyone lives in the same neighborhood and takes turns hosting dinners at their house and carpooling kids to and from school and sports and scouts. We are all spread out and spread thin. All our kids are different ages, they don't go to the same schools, let alone have the same activities. We catch up when we can and try to squeeze in a meet-up for coffee or get together on days off, but it is hard.

I have this one friend who is single, never been married and has no children. Up until pretty recently she was my closest friend. She is even the Godmother to one of my children, so I know she will always be in my life. Bur since my pregnancy and having my 4th child, the differences in our lives have become so much more evident, and I find myself not as drawn to our friendship as I once was. I think this mostly happened because an eight year gap between kids is huge. Basically, it was starting all over again, but it feels like it has been harder because not only do I have 3 older children who require totally different things from me than a baby, but we are on the move much more than if I had a house full of toddlers. And...I am a decade and a half older than I was when I had my first kid. I am no spring chicken and I can feel it. Being pregnant again is crazy hard, in that I really have no energy to devote to extra things. I also don't have the brain power to juggle a million things, either. My focus is already so scattered. Some days I don't remember to answer a text until hours later. It is just how it goes sometimes. I am not a 20-year-old with my phone in my hand at all times. Usually, I don't even know where my phone is.

Also, the older I get, the less tolerant I am of people who don't tolerate my life. You think my kids are too loud and crazy and my dogs too wild and needy? Then don't come over my house. If you come over my house and yell at my kids or dogs for being kids or dogs...then you piss me off and force me to say something to you telling you to leave them alone, which makes you upset with me but I don't care, and then I don't want to invite you back. So I don't extend that open invitation any longer.

Yes, that is one of the many things this friend does that completely annoys me. I know it comes from being friends for so long that she feels comfortable saying things, but it isn't her place and we have had the discussion before, and it never ends well. Coming over for meals and grabbing and fixing her plate before I can even get my kids fed...asking me to fix her plate, mock-complaining when I don't but she is actually serious...crashing cookouts and not contributing anything at all, mooching basically. BUT if someone did that to her, she would be so angry and let them know. But I am a mom, and that's just what I do, take care of and feed everyone, right??

Then there are other things that might seem silly or insignificant but really just add up...a year ago on my birthday, we went to get pedicures. I decided I was going to take my girls, and I invited her. She had asked what she could get me for my birthday, and I said you could just pay for my pedicure, and she was like ok that's easy. Then when it came time to pay she, let me go ahead and pay my whole bill without interjecting that she was paying for one extra pedicure, and I noticed she had cash in her hand that only covered herself. Ok, that's fine if you don't have the money, but acknowledge or say something about it. I refuse to believe she just forgot. When it comes to money she doesn't just forget. Period. Then she proceeded to hang out and be in the way of me caring for a baby and didn't get the hint I needed some alone time to nurse and rock. It was just too much. A few weeks later on her birthday, I got a text detailing what kind of cake she wanted and the gift she wanted as well. I kind of felt like wTf but I didn't say anything. I was incredibly sleep deprived and not at all in the best frame of mind to handle anything. I halfheartedly did what she asked, but with something store-bought not homemade and went home to take a nap. But it was around then that I started realizing how unbalanced this friendship had become. So I started pulling away a bit, not making as much of an effort and definitely not extending invitations for things. Plus, I really am lacking in free time and I want to fill it with things and people who bring me joy and reprieve, not more stress.

The early part of this year found me swamped with working on the house-purchase stuff. Every chance I had that the baby was napping I was typing/faxing/researching/emailing/following-up. When he was awake I was either engrossed in playing with him or doing something with the older kids. The noise level in my house is incredible, so phone calls aren't exactly possible. In my old house I would have to go sit outside to talk. So quick texts are the most I could handle. So I really kind of holed myself up trying to handle all of this stuff. In the middle of that I was dealing with some other outside stuff, and had also became pregnant again, and I was still nursing a baby that didn't yet sleep through the night. So now I was even more tired and physically sick as well. It was a super fun time. When it got closer to the move this friend sends me a text asking what she could do to help. Wow, perfect, I thought, and texted that I could use help packing. I got no response. When I saw her at a function, she asked how the move stuff was going and could she help with anything. I asked why she never got back to me after the text, that I could really use help packing. She doesn't really say anything about it. Not even a "no, I am not able to help you pack"...nothing. Whatever, I really didn't have time to deal with that, but I was so sick and exhausted and running on a tight clock. I was kind of hurt she said nothing about it. Why even ask what you can do to help then?? I know I hadn't been around much, but I have a really full plate...and she just has herself, and a regular 9-5 job. And literally, the biggest thing in her life is all the TV shows she watches...seriously, she will tell you that herself. She eats out or with her parents every.single.night.

Moving along, we get moved in and a week later have a graduation party for my oldest child (her goddaughter). I asked everyone in the immediate family/closest friends to help bring something since we just moved and I would never be able to get all of it done by myself. She told her just to let her know what I needed, so once I knew who was cooking what I came up with a platter and asked if she could get that. No problem she says. The first thing she makes sure to do when she gets to the party is tell me just how much said platter cost her. First of all, I had no idea it would be that pricey, second why didn't she say something when she found out the price if it was too much for her? Anyway, she made sure everyone at the party knew just how much the platter cost her. See what happens when the shoe is on the other foot??

About a month later my birthday was coming up. We usually do a cookout and get some expensive seafood, courtsey of my mom. But I didn't want my mom to have to do that on her own after doing a lot to help with the move, and I knew the only other person around that weekend was this friend. My husband had the day off unexpectedly so we decided to take a family day trip. I know this bummed her out and she kept calling to see if we changed plans. But I really just couldn't deal with her being around. My new home is my solace. I don't want added stress here. She put my card in the mail, and I made sure to text her as soon as I got it to let her know how much I appreciated it. (I had told her no gifts when she asked, 1) because of last year, and 2) because I didn't want to feel obligated to do something for her, as terrible as that sounds)

Her birthday was a few weeks later. She always usually takes off the entire week of her birthday and in years past we would hang out all week. But there were also years when I would clear my schedule and then she would have a lot of other plans and she would only fit me in for a couple hours in between other things. Well, this year I had a ton of stuff booked. I had a couple of months with a lapse of health insurance, and coupled with a situation where I had to change my kids' doctors (which is a whole separate post) my kids were all overdue for checkups. The new insurance had just just kicked in that month, so I had appointments for physicals/dentists/eye exams to get done before they go back to school, on top of my own prenatal appointments. I have literally had at least one appointment for someone scheduled every week since July 1. Then there was the budget factor. We were going on vacation a week later and I had tried to pay all my bills ahead of time. So I didn't have much extra cash for anything, and the next big grocery shopping trip I could do wasn't until vacation.

I didn't want her to think I was being a total shit, so I asked what her plans were. She listed each day of the week and what family member she was going out to dinner with each night. I asked why they weren't all going together, and she said because she wanted to go out every night and have someone treat her to dinner, so had to get each family member to pick a night to take her out...so her mom one night, her dad the next,ect ect. That is sort of exactly how she is in life. I texted back that I sure couldn't swing a dinner out, that the most I could probably do was a card. A few days before she asked if we could do lunch one of the days. Well...I would be feeding me and 4 kids, plus presumably her since it was her birthday. It costs like $50 for all 6 of us to eat at even someplace like Subway, and I didn't want to spend that kind of money on a lunch. We were living on pb&j until vacation, which she hates. And I didn't have much extra time in my days that week, when you take into account a 2-3 hour baby nap in between all the appointments. I didn't really want her here either, because it gets so disruptive with the yelling and fussing at my kids and dogs. It just isn't fun. So I told her we could meet at the pool one day for a couple hours instead, that I couldn't afford to take everyone to lunch a week before vacation. But then...we hit code red days of heat and humidity. Which I can't be out in, and the baby shouldn't be either. So I texted the night before that it was going to be way too hot for us to be out at the pool. Plus, by that point the pool temp was in the mid-80's so not even that would be refreshing. She didn't say anything back, not even an alternative. I texted her for her birthday and she said thank you, and when I realized I wouldn't see her put her card in the mail. She never even acknowledged she got it. I even wrote in it about how I know I haven't been able to be the same kind of friend and around all the time but that she still means a lot to me. And she does.

But it just feels like one of those things that needs to take a break. Our lives are very different, and maybe neither of us is very good at seeing the other side. I honestly can't imagine being our age and not having a family of my own, even if I just had a partner. She has her parents and sister, who is also single and childless. I guess that would be a lonely life. But I can't fill the gaps for her. Just like she can't fill in for me what I lack. My life is happy and full, and there isn't a place for people or things that don't contribute to that. So I will let things be for now, and see where the ebb and flow takes us.

What a Difference a Year Makes

I recently returned to this space after nearly a year, and I can't believe how different my life looks now. Well, on the outside I guess my life looks pretty much the same: work, kids, pets, craziness. But my life feels so much different now.

The biggest change in my life has been that we moved. Not out of the country, or even out of state, or even an hour from where we used to live. But we finally managed to buy our own house (not our first time, but our first time in a long time) and move out of the cramped space we had been in. I honestly didn't realize just how much stress our old living situation was causing us until we were out of it. It has not even been 3 months, but it feels like a lifetime ago. No, we weren't living with family or even in some tiny apartment, but for a family of 6 with as many pets as kids, it was just too small. We were on top of each other; we had no real yard. Playgrounds were close but we were more city than rural, so it wasn't completely safe to send kids out walking. We had some great neighbors, and some not-so-great ones. And we had a less-than-on-the-up-and-up landlord, who didn't bother us, but didn't go out of his way to fix anything either.

When we first really decided we had to move, it was right after we brought baby #4 home from the hospital. After 8 years of IF and loss, we finally had our 4th take-home baby. And something just clicked that we needed to change our living situation. We worked really hard on getting finances and credit in order. I reached out to an old friend I knew when we waited tables together nearly 2 decades ago, whom I knew was a realtor. She turned out to be our saving grace in all of this, because she is so smart and kind and patient...and smart. She helped us narrow down the type of financing that best suited us, which in turn helped us figure out where we were going to move, and spent months sending us listings and answering questions about properties, which helped us really narrow down what we were looking for in a house.

It took about 15 months of hard work and a lot of stress before we finally got the go-ahead with our financing. My friend and her team of finance people suggested we get all of our firm approvals for the loan first, then go find a home. So we didn't actually walk into any houses until we knew that our financing was 100% secure. In that, there were several ups and downs, and more stress...because in between all of that we found out we were expecting another baby, and the need to move grew exponetially. But because we had done so much legwork, we knew exactly what we needed in a home (the size, space, and it needed to be move-in ready, with a good size yard and not on top of another home.) We found the perfect home for us, and my friend made sure the contract and sale went through with no major issues or negotiations. It was the least stress-free thing we dealt with in a year and a half.

We may have been exhausted and surrounded by more boxes than I care to remember, but that first night in our home was the most stress-free night I have had in a long time. Just finally having a home that was a reprieve from everything else, not the source of a lot of stress. And the security of actually owning this house, instead of being under someone's thumb...I finally feel like I can breathe.

The kids are happy...we may be in a more rural area, but it's far from the boonies. There is a ton of space in our own yard and we share a fence with a neighbor, but you really don't know they are there unless you look for them. The kids can be out past dark, playing on the playgrounds and fields across the street and it is safe. I have a major drive-through pharmacy, grocery stores, major hardware store, big-box retailer, department store, and chain restaurant around the corner less than 5 minutes from my driveway. And even more a minute or two further. I wasn't even this close to things when I lived close to the city. It took 20 minutes to get to the closest department store. But it doesn't feel the same living where I do now...it is definitely not as congested and everyone is friendly. The stores are nicer. It sure doesn't seem like so much should be so close and accessible.

The environment in my house is more calm too. Everyone is happier, has more of their own space, and there is somewhere to go if someone is getting on your nerves. Oh, it is still a zoo, don't get me wrong. There is still the general chaos of managing a large household. And it's noisy. But is more peaceful overall. I am more peaceful. I finally feel like I have everything I could ever want. Bonus Baby will be here in less than 12 weeks, and I am so glad we get to bring him or her home here.

disclaimer: Just for the record, we did not buy a castle or a mc-mansion, and not all of my kids can have their own room. (Well, they could if we used extra rooms on different levels.) But it feels like a castle to us.