Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I get by with a little help....

After being home both Monday and Tuesday with one sick child, I was looking forward to going back to work on Wednesday.  I would wear my Halloween costume. I would get out of the house. I would go teach my class at Goodwill.  But then at 1:00 a.m. I awoke to the sounds of Lucy's cry and Tad running up the steps. When I heard the bathroom sink running for an inordinate amount of time, I said aloud, "Oh no!" and went upstairs to see what was up.  Please don't be sick, I thought.

Sure enough. Lucy had thrown up all over herself and her bed and Tad was cleaning up the mess.  We got her changed, cleaned, the bedding stripped and changed and Lucy soothed and back to bed.  "Damnit!" I said.  "I don't WANT to stay home again tomorrow!"

But I did.

This morning I went up to Lucy's room when she called and she started talking about wanting to bring candy to school today.
"Honey." I said. "You aren't going to school today."
"You threw up last night, remember? You're sick."
"That was NOT throw up." Lucy said determinedly.
I silently sat back on her bed and looked at her.  She looked at me. We had a stare-down for about a full three minutes. Then she sighed.
"It was throw up." She said and climbed onto my lap.

And my parents came over to help me for a couple hours so I could still teach my class.
And a real perk of having my parents help me is that I get ridiculous texts like the one shown below at the bottom.

Lucy's now lounging out on the couch, digging through her Trick or Treat bucket, looking at the candy I won't let her have, and watching Caillou.  I'm wearing my devil horns and tail and sitting close to her on the couch.  I decided it's Halloween and I am dressing up, public or no public.

Let's hear it for tomorrow and my hopeful return to the working world.  And my children's health!

Happy Halloween Everyone.

Monday, October 29, 2012


 This is Darth Maul.  He went trick or treating on Saturday night but didn't want to do the whole Darth Maul thing. So he wore the costume, painted his face black and said he was "nothing."

Trick or treating in the dark in very crowded streets with a boy all in black is very stressful indeed!

Sunday, he let me do the face paint. But then he looked in the mirror and was disappointed.  He went immediately and washed it off.

Prior to Sunday's neighborhood trick or treat block party, he spent most of the day laying on the couch.
 And here's my purple fairy princess.  She changed her mind on the whole elevator thing. Frankly I was glad. Considering the amount of back and forth/head to head struggle we had regarding her wearing the pants and sweater she has on beneath her costume for warmth... I can't even imagine trying to get this girl satisfied in a cardboard box all day!

Lucky for me she had a tiara built in to her cozy hat and her mittens just happened to be...purple! This girl had a BLAST trick or treating.  And playing with her friends.  The block party ended in tears because she got some burrs on her frock.  She emerged from a back yard, huge crocodile tears coming out of her eyes, screaming, "Mommy! BURRS!!! BURRS on my DRESS!" 
I picked them off her royal highness' dress one by one to her complete satisfaction.

Here we have my boy post block party.  He came in with under his daddy's arm and lay on his lap on the couch immediately.  Because he was shivering uncontrollably, Tad gave him a bath and tucked him into our bed with the space heater on.  Just before he fell asleep, I took his temperature.
This explained the way he was acting all day.
Here he is, awake from his nap, desperately trying to make it for the start of the World Series.
He didn't
But we DVR'd it and he watched it during his many hours on the couch today.  I'll be staying home with him tomorrow.

Look at this girl. The stark opposite of her brother at the same moment in time. She is sporting the flashing ring she got from her Grandpa and Nana. 
This girl was also home today because of Parent/Teacher conferences.
(Side note, I had hers and her teacher tells me she is quiet, easy-going and compliant. WHAT?!)
It was quite a feat today juggling my feverish, cuddly boy and this wild girl who started the day jumping in bed with me, jamming her feet and elbows and cranium in my face and saying, "Good morning mommy! Can I fart in your bed!?"

I'll be home tomorrow with Coen, whose fever seems to have gone.  I had to cancel a presentation I was supposed to give in the Dells -- for which I feel extremely guilty... But my job is Mama first and that's where I'm more needed tomorrow.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


I was so relieved to find kringle in the kitchen at work on Friday morning. Because I was still hungry after breakfast.  And to explain why I was still hungry after breakfast, I must first back up to Wednesday morning. 

Wednesday morning I poured the kids each a bowl of cereal and set it at the table with their milk, juice, and vitamins.  Coen came marching in after me with a very angry face.
"I don't like this cereal."
"Well Coen." I said, "You can make yourself something else then."
"What?!!" he exclaimed practically falling on the floor.
"Make some toast. You know how to make toast."
After several attempts at protest, he resignedly made himself some toast.

Then realized how fun it was.

So then he made toast again on Thursday night to eat with dinner.

And he announed before bed that he was going to make us all breakfast on Friday morning.

I am not kidding you, it took him almost a full 45 minutes to make our breakfast. Seriously. Tad was late for work!!  He made mine first, very delicately spreading butter crust to crust.  Then he made Tad's. Same thing.
I said "Coen. Don't you want to toast two at a time? It's faster."
"No." he replied. "This is fun. I'm spreading out the fun."
So while mine and Tad's toast sat at the table, patiently waiting for their companions, Coen made his and Lucy's toast.
Lucy's was last and she joined him in the kitchen yelling to us, "If you come in here, Mommy and Daddy, close your eyes!  He's making me a super special recipe!"
Coen brought in Lucy's toast and placed it on the table.

It's peanut butter, honey, cinnamon sugar, katsup and barbeque sauce.  She ate it.

And while I tried to swallow down my cold and soggy jam and butter toast (while averting my eyes from Lucy's "special recipe")  I praised my son for making breakfast.
Tad raised his glass. "A toast to toast!" he said.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Step back, have a Schaefer

After I wrote yesterday's post I was reminded of a joke commercial that Tad and his friend Michael used to do, which always made me laugh.

Do you remember Schaefer Beer?

So Tad and Michael used to do their Schaefer Commercials like this:

Lost your job today?  House in foreclosure? Step back. Have a Schaefer.

Just found out you have to have surgery? No insurance? Step back! Have a Schaefer.

Wife left you?  Took the kids and emptied the bank accounts?  Step back. Have a Schaefer!

Did you have a tough day today? (hope not--It's Friday!) but if you did, rest assured, you'll feel better soon.

Step back. Have a Schaefer.

Or an ice cream sundae, or a steaming mug of tea, or a salted caramel mocha. Whatever does  
                                                    the trick.

Dental Solutions

I presented at a youth in transition conference on Monday by the airport and went for a walk before it. I came across this sign:

What stood out for me was the business called Dental Solutions.

I mean, obviously it's a dentist's office.  But I kept thinking about how funny it would be if it was a business that provided Dental Solutions to any problem at all.

Here at Dental Solutions, we provide solutions to all of your problems.  Each and every problem has a solution and all of those solutions are dental. Oral Health can pave your way to a brighter future.

Dental Solutions? Hi.  I just looked at our stocks and bonds and they're all losing value. Should I pull them out? HOW should I invest my money so it's safe in this economy?
Dental Solutions is here for you.  What we suggest is that you go straight to the bathroom and brush your teeth. Brush them long enough that you can sing 'Happy Birthday' two times at least.  The answers will come to you.

Hi Dental Solutions. I need your help!  We are having some household problems. Can you reccommend a good contractor?  
Dental solutions will tell you what to do.  Go into the bathroom, open the medicine cabinet. And floss. Floss like your life depends upon it.  Then go to Angie's List and find yourself someone. Those walls won't paint themselves!

Hello? Dental Solutions?  My husband is having an affair.  We have three children. I just don't know what to do.
Oh, this is a most serious problem indeed, but we, at Dental Solutions, can help you.  Come right in and we'll give you a root canal and pull out your molars.  With the pain you'll be feeling in your mouth, you'll forget all about your heartbreak.  DENTAL SOLUTIONS!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Plate face.

Today was a marathon of a day.

Last night I came home to a mess of problems.  And I had already been walking around all day with rage coursing through my very veins.  I was thinking about how miserable I was and how stressed I was and then I became aware of my thought process and I had to laugh as I realized what must be happening.  There's a full moon coming and I suddenly think my life is terrible.  That's all the proof I need to know that it is about my time of the month.

But after feeling that way all day yesterday and then coming home to find out 1. The roof (which we just had done last summer) is leaking by the chimney.  2. Our garage door is broken and 3. Lucy dropped some purple Mardi Gras beads down the bathtub drain.  After I called our garage guy and made an appointment for him to come, and dug in the drain with an untwisted coat hanger to no avail, and made tea whilst I complained to Tad.
"It's too much!" I told him.  "too much!"
"I know." He said sympathetically.

So today.

I went to work at 7:00, drank my coffee and did paperwork for 20 consumers.  Then I was home by 9:00 to greet the garage door fixer guy. Then I was at Goodwill on 91st Street by 10:00 to teach a healthy relationships class to adults with developmental disabilities.  It was really fun too--the people in the class were so willing to share and open and honest and I am very much going to enjoy this group.  Then by 11:30 I was at Manpower downtown and taught three sessions in a row to MPS middle school students about learning their disability labels.  Then home again so I could pay the garage door fixer guy.  Then I walked to Highland for parent teacher conferences with both my kids' teachers.  Then home to make popovers to go with our slow cooker ribs.

I sat down on the couch and told Tad I was really tired.  He told me that it looked like I WAS tired. "Your forehead looks like it's holding up your face." He said.
"Oh, that sounds HORRIBLE! I protested. It sounds so unattractive!"
He laughed at me.

Anyway, I took a photo of my first attempt at popovers with one of the ribs.

Lucy said, "Can I see?" So I showed it to her and she said excitedly, "It's a plate face! He's sad!" and laughed hysterically.  She got to work immediately on her plate and showed it to me.

"Look at mine!" She exclaimed, laughing hysterically again. "Daddy! Look He's got worried eyebrows AND a beard!"

Making plate faces was a nice end to a very busy day.  And I'm drinking tea next to Tad, watching Game 1 of the world series, and trying not to look like my forehead is holding up my face.

Plate face.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nine year olds seem to think everything is boring.

It seems like, with parenting, as soon as you get the hang of one phase, you have a whole new beast to get used to.

My son is newly nine.  It seems like, sometimes, nothing is good enough.  He's constantly disappointed with a decision I make, with where we're going, what we're doing... It's exhausting.  And to be honest, I've been taking it personally.

Coen and Lucy and I have had a lot of time together this weekend. Yesterday I took the day off because they didn't have school and I mentioned in the morning that we could go to a pumpkin farm.  "No!" Coen protested. "That would be boring."
"It won't be boring!  They have a corn maze and a playground. It'll be fun."
"I don't wanna go!" Coen said, barely looking up from his Legos.
"I wanna go! Let's go now!" Lucy shouted, jumping up and down.
I sighed.
I promised Coen there would be no rushing, and that we wouldn't leave until after lunch, when they were bored.  True to my word we headed out after lunch and they both had a great time.
"See?" I said to Coen. "I told you it would be fun."
"Well I didn't know it would be like this!" Coen said.

Today Tad went to Madison and we went to spend some time with friends, our original plan being to go the Domes.
"I hate the Domes." Coen said.
"Hate? That's a pretty strong word."
"Well, I don't like them. They're boring."
Is everything suddenly boring at age nine?
We missed the Domes boat due to their 4:00 closing time and went on a haunted walk through the Greendale woods instead.  Coen questioned everything our teenage, uncomfortable, zombie tour guide said.  After it was over his Coen's grandpa (president of the Greendale Historical Society and volunteer at the event) asked him how he liked it.
Coen's reply: "boring."

Not only does he think everything is boring, but he also talks back all of a sudden.  Yesterday at the pumpkin farm when I said it was time to go, Coen said "No."
WHAT?  No?  What the hell.  Since when does he say no to me.
And sometimes he even calls me Alie.  Sheesh!

And you know how that is when you're with a friend who you respect, who you think is an incredible parent..and then your kids acts like a big jerk face in front of that friend.  And you feel sort of bad and sort of inadequate.  Because during these times of disrespectful, rude or just plain annoying behavior, I always wonder what I'm doing wrong as a mom...  But you know, I came home with that feeling tonight and I did two things that made me feel better.
1. I called Tad
2. I called my mom.
And I thought about a few things.  My friend is my friend who likes and respects me no matter what my kids do and I know that like any parent, she's been there. We have all been in a moment when our kid is not acting like....well...our kid and we know that all this stuff, however hard and weird and impossible it normal.  And also there's this...

When we were at the Pumpkin Farm and Coen said "no" when I said it was time to leave...  I didn't freak out or yell at him.  I took a breath and walked towards the exit and stood there. Within moments, I heard Coen say "Lucy. Mommy is waiting for us. We have to go." And they both came.

Today when we went to dinner after the walk, I went up to Coen and put my arms around him.  He melted into my hug and wrapped his arms around me. When I pulled away, he hugged tighter and gave me a kiss. "I love you Mommy." he said.

But you know in those moments, I never think wow, what am I doing right.  I think, what a great kid.

Parenting is hard.
Being nine is hard too.

And who Coen is...who he grows up to be... It's not all based on my parenting.  It's part how he's parented, it's a dash of environment, circumstance and experiences.... And it's the rest who he is.  And who he is is a great kid...a great person...who's nine.  And learning about social filters, parental control, and asserting who he is respectfully is part of his job as a nine year-old right now.  And teaching him that is part of my job as one of his parents.

Jeez. I better get some sleep.

Coen holding Lucy on his lap down the slide at the pumpkin farm because she was afraid to go alone

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Something about this time of year makes me feel really reminiscent. It makes me think of the days when I was single.  I was talking to my sister this morning and my friend Stephanie the other day about this same phenomenon.  What is it about autumn?

I know part of it for me at least is that Autumn was always a time for new and fun stuff.  Soccer, Halloween Parties... My study abroad trip to London was in fall.  New school year and people to meet in your classes.  And Fall is when I first met Tad in our party-filled apartment on Frederick Avenue and every single night, there was something fun to do.  The weekend started on Wednesday with Burger Night at the BBC.  Thursday we had soccer and then went over to Paddy's Pub. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were....well, Friday Saturday and Sunday. 

Here's me and Beth in 1996.  Look at us with our hemp necklaces.  And am I wearing overalls?!!!  That fall meant new found freedom for my sister, moving out for the first time.  It meant house parties and meeting people at UWM.

The next picture is Beth and I in 1997 in Barcelona, Spain.  We were there on a brief holiday from school during our semester abroad in London.  That year fall meant British poetry, creative writing, dance clubs, fish n chips and pubs.

Down below was taken in Tad's apartment in fall of 1999. Foot ball is probably on and I'm mocking someone's touchdown celebration, quite possibly.  That fall feels so pivotal to me.  I was waiting to hear back from the Peace Corps about my assignment.  Tad and I became friends.  That fall meant soccer, parties, lots of time in East Side Bars.  It was my first year out of college.

This picture is the last year I dressed up and went to a Halloween Party that had nothing to do with children.  It was 2002.  I was just home from the Peace Corps, Tad and I were together.  I lived with my sister again.  That fall meant being Tad's girlfriend.  It meant starting my career in the disability field.  It meant balancing the parties life with trying to be an adult. 

I am a fun-addict.  I admit it fully.  And I think part of the reminiscence of fall is that it used to be a time to play and go out and do exactly what I wanted to do.  But now, as a mother, it means getting back into the swing of having a routine.  It means having to schedule any and all time to do exactly what I want to do.  It means suddenly having to figure out what to do indoors with my children because it's cold or rainy outside.  And that's why fall can be a bit melancholy, at least for me.

But you know what? I look at those pictures and in 1996, my journal is FULL of lamentations about loneliness, single hood, not always feeling good about myself.  That picture in Barcelona?  Right before we went back to our hotel, I was with my sister by these beautiful fountains crying my eyes out about who-knows-what.  The picture watching football?  I was having lots of fun, yes.  But I was searching for something. Something I have now.  Confidence and deep-down end of the day satisfaction.  And that last picture?  I just couldn't wait to go home with Tad when that party was over.  And now I go home with him every night.

So I embrace the melancholy of fall.  I listen to old Toad the Wet Sprocket or 10,0000 maniacs and walk around looking at the beautiful leaves.  I know that laced in my perfect memories were feelings and sadness that I have all but forgotten.  And I joy in parenthood fall traditions like taking my kids trick-or-treating and our neighborhood's Halloween block party and going to a pumpkin patch.  And someday, I'll look wistfully back on these times when my kids were young and feel reminiscent for this time.

Funny how life is. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rush hour

If only my mornings were like this:

  But, alas, they are more like this:

This morning, I did my usual, telling the kids that if they put their shoes on, they could have 10 extra minutes to play.  Then I tell them, fifteen or so minutes before it's really time to leave, that it's time to leave. 
Coen, playing with his legos, said, "Just a minute, Mommy. I'm just finishing something."  And kept playing with his legos. 
Lucy followed suit at the table, laying out her barrettes and headbands, trying to decide which to don.  A few minutes later, I patiently and nicely said, "Okay guys. It's time to go." 
"Just one more minute Mommy." said Coen again.
 Lucy tried to draw me into a game. "Mommy." she said authoritatively. "I'm the shopkeeper.  You can buy any of these barrettes." 
"Honey." I said. "We have to go, but would you like to leave that there so we can play later?" 
Lucy sighed. "I just wanted to sell you one thing!" 

Finally they both got their coats on and as we were about to walk out the door, Coen said, "Oh! I forgot my books!" and ran upstairs. 
After waiting very patiently for three full minutes I called up the stairs, "Coen, let's go!" in a very singsongy voice. 
He made some sort of animalistic wail and I heard what could only have been him flouncing on the ground in frustration.  He came down with his books.  We went outside.  As Lucy and I were getting into the car, Coen started hitting baseballs in the yard.  I went back out of the garage.  "Coen.  We're going to be late. It's time to go." 
Finally both kids were in the car and we were pulling out of the garage.  As we rolled down the alleyway, Coen sighed.  And said, "Mom...why do you always rush us?"


Monday, October 15, 2012

Some of us like to wear actual clothes with our Halloween costumes

I love Halloween. I love costume shopping and
dressing up.  But I tell you, I go shopping for costumes these days and I am beside myself.

What gives?

Check out the prisoner costume for men
to the right there.

There's the stripes, the hat, the ball and chain. 
Totally appropriate prison costume. We all know what he is dressed as, without even having to ask.
 But now, I tell you, look to the left at the women's prisoner costume. 


I don't think they'd allow heels like that in prison, for one.  They could be used to stab your cellmate could they not?  For two, they take the handcuffs OFF you when they throw you in the slammer.'s a S & M reference? Oh, right. I get it.

And I'm fairly certain that there is neither cleavage nor thigh showage in the women's prisons. Except maybe in the showers.

Come ON!

On to the next costume

The pirate!

Look at this guy! Straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean.  He's got his bottle of booze, his tall boots, his fancy hat and long coat.

He's a pirate! Obviously. I don't even have to ask.

Nice costume.
 Ah, but let us look to our left here at the women's pirate costume.  She's got the hat. Yep. Pirate-looking belt and gloves.  Even a pistol. 

But pearls?  And no pants?  I mean, come on! What kind of pirate is going to be successful wearing no pants?  I ask you!

How are you supposed to climb aboard another person's ship, steal all their booty.....(OH, perhaps she already HAS the booty...maybe that's the point.)... 

I just don't see how you can do any thing pirate-ish with out any trousers. It makes no sense at all.

 So here's the football player.

He looks fierce, huh?

He's got all his padding and his helmet and ball. 

Number eighty-eight.  Looking good! 

Aside from the unlaced converse, he looks completely ready
to throw a pass or make a touch down.

Nice football player costume.

Ah, but here we have the women's football player costume.  Now, I'll admit that the NFL doesn't have women playing, so maybe it's hard to imagine what the uniform would be like.  But I'm guessing it would look PRETTY MUCH LIKE THE ONE ABOVE!!!!

I don't think those lace up thigh boots are very practical at all.  And I don't see how an exposed midriff is getting her anywhere.

Really, she's just a walking head injury or dislocated shoulder waiting to happen if you want my opinion! 

And I suppose, while we're on it, we should all take a look at her number.  The guy above may be eighty-eight...but I'd like to introduce you to "star player" number ...wait for it... sixty nine.  Of course! Why shouldn't her football player number be the same as the one given a sex act.  Of course.

Come on Halloween costume makers!  COME ON!  Women are not all interested in looking like a slutty version of whatever it is we're dressing up as!  We really aren't. 

I just can't understand why I have to bring my daughter up in a world where, as a child, her options are princess, fairy and ladybug.  And then when she grows up she can suddenly be  a prisoner, football player or pirate...but she better be showing some skin. 

Well, the good news is this: I must be doing something right because this year my daughter wants to be an elevator.  Though I admit, in the eleventh hour, she will likely default to some kind of princess.  And because she can be whatever she wants to be, I will not argue. 

I'll just try to educate her that she can be a princess...or an elevator if she wants to. But while she does it, she will always be her strong, brave, smart self underneath.

I am declaring electronic independence.

In 2006, when I received my Master's Degree, Tad's parents and mine pooled together and gave me a laptop as a graduation gift.  Over the years, Tad began to take over that laptop with music and photos and school work.  Suddenly, it was no longer mine and it was filled to the brim with information.  Last Christmas, Tad bought me a new/used laptop from his dad and it was mine...all mine.

I told Tad that he was not to touch my laptop. I wanted none of the thousands of photos that Coen takes (Tad calls these photos "Coen's art". I call them "Coen, playing with the camera").  I wanted none of Tad's photos (he's a much less harsh editor than I and his phone is usually filled to capacity with photos of our children in a matter of months).  I wanted none of his music, only my own.  I spent hours editing down my photos to a manageable amount, and hand selecting each song I wanted in my itunes library.  My computer. Mine.

Last night, Tad was having iphone issues and trying to update his phone.  Because his laptop is full to capacity, it can no longer update to a new operating system which makes it impossible to update his phone.  After some trying last night, Tad was asked to restore the original settings, which of course, deletes all your photos, music and other things you have on it. 

"Well." Tad said, "I put all my photos on your computer a couple weeks ago, so I'll only lose a few."
"WHAT?!! No! That's MY computer!" I ranted. "I got a new computer so you couldn't put all your crap on it!" 
Tad looked amused. "I'm sorry." He said. "I needed to put them somewhere."
"I demand electronic independence!" I yelled, marching around the house!  "I will share my house with you. I will share my thoughts with you. I will share my life with you! But I do NOT want to share a computer with you!!!"

Tad has given me my word he will not do it again. And he has an appointment at the Apple store after work today.  Sheesh. In honor of that argument, I created a little picture for your amusement, below:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

24 hours off the clock

Tad's parents generously took Coen and Lucy overnight last night.  Tad and I had a three-meal spanning date that lasted a bit over twenty-four hours.  We milked that date night for all it was worth.  We did fifteen things (well, probably more things but, 15 that I'm counting) to fill our time alone together.
1. Thrift shopping at a south side resale shop
2. Lunch buffet at Maharaja
3. Coffee at Anodyne and a walk in the rain
4. Stop at the east side hardware store for conversation with the chatty hippies who work there and purchase of new ice cube trays and light bulbs for our bedroom lamp
5.  Excellent conversation about things we've been wanting to talk about with our child or work interruptions for ages while we drove
6. Swimming and hot tub time at the hotel pool while continuing our earlier conversation
7. Walk in downtown Cedarburg to look for a restaurant
8. Purchase of lots of gourmet chocolate at Cedarburg candy store
9. Decision that we didn't actually want to sit at a restaurant and subsequent stop at Sendiks and Water Street Brewery in Grafton for dinner items.
10. Stop at Goodwill to do more thrifting while we waited for our carry-out to be ready.
11. Dinner and a movie on the couch (We both saw the English Patient for the first time)
12. Ten straight hours of sleep
13. Brunch with good food and a Virgin (Bloody) Mary
14. Stop for fancy coffee drinks on the way home.
15. Time to settle in and unpack our stuff before the kids got home

It was heavenly. I feel physically and mentally better than I have in a long time. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The round table was rectangular but that is okay.

Just got back from the round table discussion on sexual assault prevention for children with disabilities and my head is swimming.
In a good way.
It was incredible to be around so many smart and dedicated people who care so much about this topic that I also care so much about.
And I found out that I DID belong at that table. I DID have something to offer. And I'm doing work that almost no one else in the country is. 
How exciting.

It will be nice to see where tomorrow's discussion takes us but beyond that, I'm really excited about returning to work and trying harder to make it a priority to work on prevention. And let others know (including funders) how important prevention is.

And to pay more attention to the stories I let myself and my family be told.  And the stories I make public to others.

The stories we're told about relationships and love
The stories we're told about marriage
The stories we're told about sex
The stories we're told about what will make us happy

All of these stories are leading us to go after unattainable things, things that just get a little out of our reach every time we think we're close---money, possessions, a better body, the perfect relationship, the American Dream....  And we're never satisfied.

We're all so isolated behind our little screens and from there we're isolated in our little family dynamics and then in our communities and neighborhoods and then in our religious or cultural beliefs and all the way up top divided nearly in half by our political party affiliations.

And when people are isolated and alone, they are more likely to reach out to the wrong people.  Or reach back when the wrong people reach out to them.  Because we all really do want to connect. And
that's how abuse is happening to children with disabilities.  It's how abuse is happening at all.

I know it's not quite that simple.  But our conversation today was profound.  And it's hard to get my thoughts together.  At any rate, I am going to work harder. I'm going to work harder at connecting with others, making people feel visible, having fun, and being in the moment...and making change one step at a time.

I want to connect with everyone in the world and tell a story about love and kindness and respect and forgiveness and recovery....

I'm excited.

I feel like a freshman again.  I'm going to go out there with my backpack on and my Walkman (well... ipod) and change the world!  Or have dinner with a friend.  Or both.  Maybe just not in that order.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Washington DC

Today I came to Washington DC.  I will spend tomorrow and Friday at a round table discussion on sexual assault prevention for children with disabilities.  But today I just got to enjoy the city.

My friend Ryan met me at the airport and we went for lunch and walked around and talked.  He was talking about his girlfriend and I was complaining to him how he doesn't get all twittery and gushy about it.  I was having this same complaint with my friend Kevin the other night.  Tad and Kevin were laughing at me, saying "What do you want us to do? Say: 'Oh my god oh my god' I'm SO in love (waving arms around dramatically)
"What?!!" I said. "That's basically what I did!"
Come on.  Don't boys gush ever?  I want to see a man gush! Is that so much to ask?

Anyway, after Ryan left I walked around the capital and took pictures.  I took this one:

But I couldn't walk on the lawn because it was gated off and a sign was up. I thought the sign to be a little dramatic so I took this picture:

Then I went and bought sushi from the grocery next to the hotel.  I soaked in the hot tub and then ate sushi in front of the TV.  It was heavenly. 

Being here, walking around the capital mall, gave me lots of memories.  I got to the big pond by the capital building and realized that the last time I was right in front of it, I was with Harald and Ryan and my other Peace Corps friends.  I stood there for a moment and looked at the spot where our picture was taken.  And thought about Harald.  Here's that photo:

Rebecca, Christina, Harald, Me, Ryan and Steff

I also thought about when I lived in DC for a month after I returned from Estonia, when I was sent home because of the tumor in my ear that ate my eardrum.  I stayed in the hotel that they send ailing Peace Corps volunteers; Tad called it the Malady Inn.  That month, all I did was what I did this afternoon: walk around, shop, go out to eat and watch TV.  It's funny because now that I'm a mom and a wife and a full-time worker of the world...  and I only get a day like today once in a while... I'm happy in a way that I wanted to be back then but wasn't yet.

Ah, nothing like walking around listening to music in Washington and reflecting on stuff.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not dead.

When I was a senior in high school, I discovered existentialism via the writings of  Friederich Nietzsche, Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett.  Existentialism spoke to me.  I loved the idea that life is just each moment as it is happening. There is no past. There is no future. It made sense to me in a way that no other philosophy ever had.

Now I think I need a revival in that school of thought.

Mostly because I think I spend so much time wanting to be everywhere and do everything and I forget to enjoy the place in which I currently am. 

Here's what brought me here.  Saturday I was at Coen's soccer game.  I heard people leaving, talking about plans for later, plans for tomorrow and I thought  That sounds fun! I want to go too! Like a child, I don't like missing anything.  And what was I doing? I was leaving from the game by myself to go see a friend in Madison, something that was very exciting for me to do.  But why did part of me want to be staying with my kids and taking them to join others at the Urban Ecology Center Fall Fest?  And why, when I'm with my kids do I sometimes want to be alone, walking around and shopping or painting or anything.  Why can't I just enjoy exactly what it is that I am doing?    I know that the answer comes down to one word: Mindfulness.

It's not easy, in this world with phones beeping and radios blaring. The frenetic activity of my children's interest in my attention and my own whirlwind of get this done, get that done.  I have worked very hard on putting housework and cleanliness after spending time with my children.  And now I have to work very hard on putting right now before what's going to happen next and what happened earlier. 

I have to be mindful of all the things that are happening in the moment in which I am because then I can truly enjoy that moment. Because that moment, for that moment, is my life. 

“VLADIMIR: (after a moment of bewilderment). We'll see when the time comes. (Pause.) I was saying that things have changed here since yesterday.
ESTRAGON: Everything oozes.
VLADIMIR: Look at the tree.
ESTRAGON: It's never the same pus from one second to the next.
VLADIMIR: The tree, look at the tree. Estragon looks at the tree.
ESTRAGON: Was it not there yesterday?
VLADIMIR: Yes of course it was there. Do you not remember? We nearly hanged ourselves from it. But you wouldn't. Do you not remember?
ESTRAGON: You dreamt it.
VLADIMIR: Is it possible you've forgotten already?
ESTRAGON: That's the way I am. Either I forget immediately or I never forget.”
Samuel Becket, Waiting for Godot   

Friday, October 5, 2012

My triumphant return to myself.

#27797 Clip Art Graphic Of A Tornado Mascot Character Holding A Megaphone by toons4biz

I am sorry, but if a tornado holding a megaphone doesn't embody everything that is Alie Kriofske Mainella, I dont' know what does!


I had a cold on Tuesday and Wednesday and yesterday, making me slow and lethargic, stuffy and sad.  I spent Tuesday trying to fight it off, but knowing it was coming.  I spent Wednesday feeling like complete and total ASS.  I spent Thursday coughing and blowing my nose, but starting to come out of the haze.  Thursday, yesterday, even though I was feeling better, I felt like still had bad energy.  I went my Nia class and tried to push away my negativity but I could feel it seeping out of me. I knew it was there because I found myself looking around the class, thinking that everyone was thinking negative thoughts about me.  Like I didn't belong there.  I knew it was there because I spaced out and went to the fourth floor and when I came down laughing about it, I was annoyed that the woman behind me didn't laugh too.  I knew it was there because I swear that beautiful woman who dances like a ballerina was looking at me like I was an impostor... But that's the thing about negative energy. We THINK it's coming from other people but sometimes it's actually coming from us and bouncing around back.


Last night I, in the interest of returning myself to myself, I let Coen stay up and read until 9:30 and I painted.  And today I woke up feeling light and happy and much more like Alie.

Tad noticed too.

After I came out of the shower and went to make sure Tad was getting up, he said, from under the covers, "Don't worry. I'm up. I'm pretty sure you woke the whole neighborhood up, just exiting the bathroom."

In the kitchen, as he spun around to avoid crashing into me and ducked when I dropped something as it clattered to the floor, trying to put away dishes like a whirlwind, he said, "I just have to get used to you again. You've been out of commission for three days.  I am out of practice dealing with a tornado following me around in the house."

I laughed as I kissed him goodbye.  "See you at school when I drop the kids off." I said.

Tad smiled, "I'll probably just feel your energy when you come in the building."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hooping it up

Last night my friend Natalie and I started a hula hoop exercise class.  We both sweat like crazy, have reports of soreness today, but had a lot of fun.

The class had a variety of levels of hoopsters. There were the women who looked like the cool hippies you see at summer concerts, hooping whilst dancing, twirling, talking, and having no problem keeping it going.  There were women who laughed as their hoops dropped to the floor for the thousandth time.  And Natalie and I were somewhere in the middle. 

As were our hoops.

I am nursing a NyQuil hangover as I have my second cold in less than a month (what gives?!) and dopily staring at my computer screen, waiting for some Disability Mentoring Day mentors to contact me back.

Happy Wednesday.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday night photo shoot.

I was trying to sneak a photo of Tad doing the dishes but he caught me.


You're outta there.

Tad said "Freestyle!" right before the photo snapped.

It was a hard morning but the day got progressively better from there.  I am down to 27 kids left to find job shadow placement for out of 130-something.  I taught a fun class on relationships.  I got home before my family with time to make dinner.   I decided that we needed to grill out for dinner tonight while thebweather's good.  And then off to Yo Mama for dessert to end Monday right!

And we did.

Happy Frickin' Monday.

This morning, after we had all finished breakfast and I was getting our bags all packed up in the kitchen, thinking about what a peaceful Monday we were having, a Lucy storm blew in (which was followed up by a circumstance tornado).

She stood in front of me, barrettes and rubber bands in hand and said, "Will you give me pigtails, Mommy?"
This is not going to end well I thought.
So she took her place in front of my bedroom mirror (which I am now contemplating throwing in the dumpster) and watched while I tried my best to put two pigtails adorned with barrettes in her sparse hair. 
"I can't SEE that one!" She whined, pointed to the one of the left.
"Well, honey." I said, "That's the best I can do. I think you look beautiful."
She stood in front of the mirror and began to ramp up for some sort of a fit.
"Oh no." I said. "I'm not doing this today.  You can take it out or leave it like it is. It's almost time to go."
Meanwhile, Coen started getting upset as we couldn't find his one fitting hoodie and the alternative was way too small for him.
"I can't wear this, Mom." He said. "It's too small."
"Well go find one that fits if you can please." I said.
He found a fleece in his closet. Whew.
But Lucy, marched in the kitchen, her disheveled hair un-pigtail-ed and presented me with her hair things, tears in her eyes.
"I want to be able to SEE the pigtails." She said.
I took a deep breath.
"It is getting late.  Let's go in the car. I'll bring your hair stuff and we'll do your hair at school where there are no mirrors." I pocketed the barrettes and rubber bands.
We got outside and were nearly settled in the car.
"Mom! I forgot my book!"
I let Coen back in the house after complaining that he needs to remember his stuff and we're going to be late and he protested with "I'm SORRY! I KNOW! I didn't even DO anything!"
When he came back out, I pulled the door shut.  Perhaps a little too hard. I didn't slam it....just pulled it and....
The glass shattered all over the place. 
We were, in the end, late for school after all the sweeping that took place. And I was late for work after returning home to tape plastic up.  And I am now eternally grateful to my parents who went over there while I was at work and put plywood up so we can get it fixed tomorrow.

Happy Monday, dang it.