See all those spindles? All 48 of them? We painted each and every one of them. By hand. And guess what?! We get to do that again, two more times! That is just the primer. I think it looks fine, what do you think?

At the beginning of August our house was prepped to be painted and boy was I excited! They were only able to get to the front of the house that first Saturday. When they came back the next weekend it started pouring at 1:30 and they only had the back of the house ready. I was so disappointed, but I survived and waited on pins and needles for the next weekend. Actual painting!

This is what our house looked like late afternoon on the 17th. I could get a real sense of the color combination and was anxious to have all the brown painted white the next Saturday.

Well, that Saturday came and went and the brown is still there, but I don't care (well just a little) because they were able to finish the south side of the house that had extensive damage and needed a lot of TLC. They were, however, able to prime my front door. I painted the first coat of red on it last night, just two more coats to go and then it will get a black glaze finish. See the brackets? We ordered them last year and my husband put them up. We will finish the spindles and put up the second story railing this week. Then we will start on the black shutters. They get three coats of paint too.

Oh! and if you are wondering about my toe. It no longer hurts. Now it just completely grosses me out.

That is not polish. How in the world am I going to cut it? Oh man it makes me cringe just thinking about it. Blech!
We have had a change in the visitation schedule for my stepkids. Which parent's home are the kids visiting when the split is 50/50? My answer: both parent's homes. When you put your head down on a different pillow every two nights how can you feel like you have a home? Even the terminology "visitation schedule" gives no sense of home or stability.

We changed last week to every Thursday night and every other weekend, EOW. The Thursday night, preceding a weekend spent at their mom's, will be a date night. On that night my husband will take his 9 year old daughter and 4 year old son out to dinner and have them back to their mom's by 7:30.

This change came about the week before school started. Their mother called and said that their daughter had asked her if she could stay at one house more. She felt like she didn't have a home, and she wanted to stay longer at her mom's. This is understandable considering how close my stepkids are to their mom and how they spend a large amount of time, each week, with their extended family on their mom's side. But my husband was crushed.

A couple of days later my husband, his ex, and their daughter met together at the ex's house. The normally passive, timid, and daddy pleasing little girl was able to express her wish to change the current schedule. She has hinted around at this possibility before, but very indirectly just testing the waters. I think staying at her cousin's, two times, for an entire week this summer made having one place to stay more appealing.

During their conversation several ideas were tossed around. Every weekend was pitched by their daughter which both parents agreed was not practical. Their mom's idea was Tuesday and Thursday nights they could come over to our house after work for dinner and be back to her house by 7:00 or 7:30. In addition, she would like the weekend schedule to end at 7 or 8 Sunday night so that they could sleep at her house the night before school. I think my husband stayed quiet, just taking it all in and suggesting that they all think about it and decide in a week. Did I mention he was crushed? His ex told him later that their daughter asked if she had hurt Daddy's feelings. Could you imagine? How sad for her, and him. Before they started talking he told her to just be honest and say what she would like to change. He told her that even if it hurt his feelings he still wanted what is best for her and what she wanted. He knows, even though it is painful for him, giving her a home she can stay in more than two nights is important.

Divorce completely sucks; even though I absolutely love my husband, I know in my heart the best thing for those kids would be for their parents to be together. He feels like he already had limited time with them and now it will be even less. What can you say to that?

My daughter and I have not seen the kids since the Monday morning the 18th. It has been weird, especially for their father, and my daughter misses them. For me, I have noticed my stress level decreasing, not because they cause me stress, but because of the stress I put on myself when they are around. I tend to need things to be "just so" and I need to stay busy just to relax and deal with the family dynamic change that happens every two days. But it has gotten a lot better for me as we are now in our second year of marriage.

We have them this weekend and I know he is looking forward to it. I think he is coming to terms with the necessity to provide stability for his kids but as he says, "It just hurts, you know." I think he was hoping, when the time came for a change in the schedule, our house would be the primary residence. We moved to a large house, together, so that each kid could have their own room and space to call their own. His daughter's room is almost as big as ours and their rooms are right across the hall from each other. We have a new puppy, a trampoline, a sister that adores them, neighborhood kids that play until dark, and they have their rock, their dad; but, no matter what all we can give them, we can never replace their mom and their love and adoration for her.

She might not act or do things the way we think is best or proper but her love for them, or rather their complete love of her, has not been questioned. There were times, when she first hit the dating scene, that the kids were put second but I think that is common with newly divorced people, and she was no different.

I think this was the best decision, not just because I am the wicked stepmom, but because I could not imagine moving back and forth between two houses every other night. I know they say the kids adjust but do they really? or is a 50/50 schedule just selfish on the part of the parents? See, divorce sucks.
I am trying, seriously, I really am trying to not get caught up in the whole Super Mommy Wars that goes on in elementary school. But I am a dweller, a big time dweller. What breed of dog is it that never lets go of its prey? Mastif? Rott? Well whatever, I fixate and don't let go until I have talked my way through it and tortured all of my friends who let me into their dimly lit offices or answered my calls even when they see my number on caller ID. (you know who you are, and I apologize, but too much medication will effect my job performance, sorry)

Anyway, I am still reading The White Trash Mom Handbook, which I would highly recommend you buy unless you are one of the Muffia, and then I think someone should have the nerve to highlight passages and slip it under your windshield wiper while you are propositioning schmoozing the principal.

My previous post,where I threw myself my own pity party, and unknowingly joined the fray of the Mommy Wars because I expressed my jealousy for SAHMs, was written on the fly. At the time I just had this feeling that I was not measuring up and that I was letting my daughter down. This was coming from all the regret I had for working so much when she was younger and not being around. Now that I am no longer going to China six times a year I want to be as active as I can in her life, but I still keep my job. That is why yesterday was so painful for me, maybe. Do I wear that guilt and jealousy on my shoulder? Does my attitude exude contempt for all forms of social climbing? I am not sure, but there is something, definitely something, that makes it difficult for me to join in with the other moms at my daughter's school.

Yesterday was horrible, and yes I am dwelling, and since my husband has turned an unsympathetic ear, and he is the only person I can hold captive to hear me out, I am blogging about it. My other 'go to people' have either heard me out and have moved on with their lives, or they didn't answer their phone when I called yesterday. I felt just like I did at my sixth grade graduation dance. The same dance that I go a new "do" for. A "do" that required a perm that made me look just like a blonde Orphan Annie. An orphan with Battlestar Galactica glasses wearing a kick-ass Espirit sailor top with parachute pants and matching Keds. I spent that night watching all my friends get asked to dance and tried to pretend that I didn't care.

I was the wall flower at the dance at a meet and greet for kids and their parents. My daughter begged and pleaded with me to take her to a local cafe where all the school kids got free cookies and milk and the parents got to know one another. I told Anna I was not sure if I would be able to I would just have to look at my schedule. She wanted me to call my boss at home and ask if I could. Obviously this was important to her. One of her BFFs parents own the cafe so this made it even more important to her. So, I surprised Anna by being outside her classroom when the dismissal bell rang.

Without going into all the details, we went to the bakery and Anna saw all of her friends. I said hello or waved to some of the mothers I recognized. They were all grouped up in little huddles. Anna wanted to go sit with her friends but she didn't want me to be alone. I was completely self conscious that I had no one to talk to and tried to keep my self busy by getting a drink, walking up to the display case, and texting. But I hated being there!

This has happened before when I have gone to her school events, the dances, the field trips, the class parties, and their kid's birthday parties. It is just awkward as hell for me. Why? I am super extroverted, Type A all the way. I try and channel my sister, the one who is such an elitist she has never let her kids play in a McDonalds play yard (not that I blame her but COME ON!). But I have no idea what she would do, this whole thing comes natural to her. She thrives on social status and jockeying for position.

I am at a loss and I felt like a loser yesterday. My husband just laughs and tells me that is what I get for having my daughter in that school because that is what that school is known for. My boss is all what do you expect when 90% of the mothers don't work and they all grew up with each other. I guess I didn't realize how tough it would be. On me! Not my daughter, she loves it and she has friends and they all seem to like her too. But her mom? Not so much. So I will keep reading my White Trash Handbook and keep my chin up because I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!
I regularly read a blog Joy Unexpected by Yvonne. I forget how I found her blog, probably from a blogroll somewhere. I read her post that was a letter to her body, it was amazing. Then I started poking around and read that she was brought up similar to me in regards to religion and God. I think her family might have been a bit more extreme but not by much.

She is going through a pretty rough patch and is exploring her interest and her lack of interest in having a relationship with God. When I read her entries I can completely understand where she is coming from; and if had written a blog in my early twenties I would have written many of the same insights and feelings.

Today she writes about her recent struggles and how she is trying to give God a chance but finds it difficult to shake the memories and indoctrinating of her childhood.

Since I rarely talk about my own personal faith because in no way do I want the exposure to be known as a failure or hypocrite I thought I would paste what I wrote in her comments here.

My Comment to Yvonne:
I grew up with "Like a thief in the night" and still believe it will be like that, but I am no longer scared because I now have a desire to know God and I have assurance that I am saved. The scariest part of growing up in a strict Bible Thumping family and church was thinking I could lose my salvation. That was the crux of my hang ups. For example: If I willfully said G-d Damn would that be the unforgivable sin? And yet even with that fear I just didn't care and tried to work it into every conversation. I wanted to live my life and all this religion was holding me back.

I went to one of the most strict Christian Fundamental University in the US, Bob Jones. I also graduated from Bob Jones Academy. There was a time I woke up from a nap and it seemed like no one was on my dorm floor. I completely panicked that the rapture had taken place and I was left. I was quietly crying while walking down the hall looking for someone, someone else that was left.

What I find so incredibly sad is that there is a whole generation rejecting God's love and grace because of the fear and legalism our parents shoved down our throats. Will the parents and pastors be held responsible for their children's rejection of God? I don't know, but I sure hope that I am able to show God's amazing Grace to my daughter, family, and friends.

At my lowest point I looked up a Stephen's Ministry in my area. It saved my life, literally, because death felt like the only option. I hope that whatever it is you choose to help you through this rough time it will reveal the love that God has, not His wrath. I wasted a lot of years doing it my way, and believe me, my way had to have been the hardest way.

On a side note of fear and how I still can't shake my legalistic upbringing. Because God had to complete break me by leaving me with nothing but faith, I can't help but think that if I turn away from God again to do my own thing he will use the death my daughter to bring me back to Him. How messed up is that?
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I bought White Trash Mom, the Handbook this weekend. I think I am going to love this book. My real hope is that it will crush my expectations and bring me back to reality. My reality. The reality that I, being the major breadwinner in our family, must work.

Here is the list of things that I simply cannot do without the threat of losing my job, my mind, and the minisucle amount of time before bed I get to spend with my daughter. These are the things I seem the other mothers doing, in designer sweats.
  • Walking her to her classroom every morning. Instead I drop her off on the corner and make sure she waits for the safety lady to give her the go ahead to cross. If we are early I can take her to her daycare and she can ride the van to school, even more "special".
  • Picking her up from school and being the first person she tells her day to.
  • Volunteering to help the teacher.
  • Volunteering
  • Serving on a committee. All the meetings are either in the morning or right after school.
  • Picking my daughter up from an after school activity. (Due to what amounted to begging, she will be a girl scout this year because I got permission to block out the last hour an half of one day per week to go an pick her up)
  • Serve or prepare a dish for the Teacher Appreciation Monthly Luncheons.
  • Eat lunch with my daughter in her lunch room.
  • Take my daughter to Back to School Swim night-night being from 4-6.
  • Chaperone more than one of her field trips per year. (She was the only, and how is that even possible???, kid that was not taken home from the kindergarten Zoo field trip)

I am sure there are more, and possibly even less because right now I am having my own little pity party.

I always thought that the struggle with coveting would be about material things: cars, houses, clothes, and stuff. This year it seems even harder for me to take Anna to school and see all these other moms casually talking to one another in various stages of dress, ready to go to the gym or home to finish the breakfast dishes. I never knew that I would struggle so hard to be understanding when I hear stay-at-home moms say they just don't have time to get something done. This is such a myopic view, I know, but some days it just really gets to me.

Rant over. Besides, if I had to choose to be at home with a nursing baby and a two year old I would take every bit of what I wrote above back. But once all the kids are in school or Mother's Day Out? well that is what I am comparing myself to. See, totally myopic.

When you have young children under the age of, let's say five, and you are single and dating, as opposed to married and dating, your children are part of the dating dance, the tango or cha-cha-cha, if you will. For example, when the phone rings in the middle of bath time, your child gets to be snatched out of the tub sopping wet and run, dripping, with you to get the phone, just in case it's him.

That is why, while my daughter was spending time with a recent college grad and this grad drove by a guy's house because she wanted to see if his car was there, I was able to alleviate her worry that no, she had not initiated Anna into stalking. The difference was that Anna was too young to repeat my moment (by moment I mean monumental) of weakness to anyone.

However, I did tell this young twenty-something that if she wanted to teach my daughter how to keep her arms down to her side in a V while locking her elbows then I would be all for it. To which my husband responded by saying, Whew! So I wasn't the only one that got that move. We assured him that no way, that is the universal signal for shirt stays on and hands off the breastesses. But then we were left to explain the drive by. He does not get it.
You are getting much bigger and more active. You still sleep alot but your ADD with chew toys has vanished. For a full five minutes, maybe longer, you will now chew on the toy we give you to keep you from chewing on us, the carpet, and the furniture and I think that is progress. You still do not answer to your name, Millie, and you fail to come when we call you, but we will continue to work on that. You will be trained with food rewards that will have to be completely cut out of your life as an adult due to hip problems prevalent in labs of your stature. Please don't hate me then or beg too much, it will break my heart.

When you nap you let it all hang out. No modesty for you, if we don't like we have to look away. And I try not to think of what the boys will think of you when you get older. Girls that let it all hang out do not have the best reputation, but your beautiful green eyes and brown hair might make up for it.

You love to get under the couch. Lately you are whimpering just a bit when you are trying to get out. Pretty soon your parents will have to lift both ends up to extract you from your hidey hole. Will you learn then?

You still have some of you baby teeth. I dread the day I am walking barefoot on the rug and your fang lodges into my foot, because I am a little protective of my foot right now. Yesterday, we had a plumber at the house and you whimpered and cried the whole time, scared of his noisy drill. I laughed at your fear, I hope this won't scar you.

As I write this, I know I am jinxing myself but, you have seem to have conquered the crucial period of puppyhood, potty training. You have not had a single accident in over a week and you go out through the doggy door on your own. Our little Millie, you are growing up and soon I will not be able to lift you.

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My little girl started second grade today. When did I get to this point? How did she and I together make it to elementary school? That first year after she was born seemed so dreadfully long that I never thought about elementary school. When I bought my first house I didn't even know what school district I was in much less what the test scores tell you about a school.

I was in complete denial. Similar to when I found out I was pregnant. Oh no, it was not happening to me. I was still going to work at Warner Bros. eat in the commissary, go to Starbucks and Trader Joes every single day. At eight months I told everyone I worked with that nothing was going to change, nothing. They chuckled, completely under their breath, because in my hormone induce psychosis no one was willing to burst my delusional bubble.

Part of my psychosis while I was pregnant and getting a divorce, was to give my daughter her father's last name. I mean if I was going to go through the humiliation of having my mother as my Lamaze partner, then by God the last name will prove that I was married dammit, not just knocked up by some guy. Like a name makes everything okay.

Fast forward to our life now. My daughter is the ONLY one with her last name, even my ex's mother has a different last name. My various last names are a source of many jokes. Professionally, I have always gone by my maiden name but my passport and license is my ex-husband's last name. I wanted this so Anna and I would have the same name. Easy fix, I started to hyphen it. But then I got remarried and since I am not royalty three last names is a little much. At my company's Christmas party I got an award and the Director named off all three of my last names and said, well whoever you are come on up. Super classy.

Now my daughter wants to change her last name. She wants to be the same as our new family. I don't blame her I would want that too if I didn't know anyone that shared my last name in my immediate family. This year we were going to change it.

Last week during orientation, Anna went to the bulletin board to see who she had for a teacher. She saw that her last name had not change and she got a little teary even though she had the teacher she wanted. I told her I would handle it, thinking it can't be that big of a deal just some white out should work. Uh no. I was told, ever so patiently brusquely that her records would not change, she can "Go-By" her desired last name but nothing will change at the office and she will have to let her teacher know. In addition, she will still have to submit anything for the office using her name that is on record.

All this is fine and good, got it. But then the school receptionist said that her state lunch card will have to be in her legal name not her "Go By" name, and that is when I used The Tone. The Tone that ends all further conversation, The Tone that wins all arguments, The Tone that let's you know I think you are a complete idiot. Using The Tone, I told her that we don't have a state assistance card, we bring our own lunch. Thank you very much. And that all I was trying to do was allow my daughter to have the same last name of everyone else in her family, AS SHE REQUESTED. Not only was this woman suggesting I couldn't afford to buy my daughter lunch she was also confirming, in front of my daughter, that no matter what you call yourself you are still an outsider. I was hot and probably taking all of this too personally. Just sensitive to this I guess.

But this morning when I took her into her new classroom there on her assigned desk was her full name, the name of our new family. She pointed at it and smiled up at me. I hugged her and told her that see it was all taken care of.

Now, not only is my little girl a second grader but she is now has written proof that we are all one family. And I had more proof that The Tone is still effective.
Initially, I was more concerned about my bedroom carpet yelling, GET A WASHCLOTH!! THERE IS BLOOD!! My husband was all, WTH?? what is happening? But then the realization hit me of what had happened and the floodgates were opened. I was crying like a baby and frantically yelling to get a WARM washcloth, not THAT ONE, THE WET WARM ONE I JUST USED ON MY FACE!!! Oh My GOD, I AM DYING!! I was crying harder than my husband has ever been a witness to. He actually thinks I never cry. Well I proved him wrong-see I do have feelings!

I am assuming my toenail lifted completely off of the nail bed and slammed back down again, in less than 1 second. The reason I have no idea what exactly happened to cause such a injury that hurt-still hurts-worse than labor is because I was in complete shock that blood was dripping off the end of my big toe. What just happened?

Before I broke down in a howling heap, holding my foot with the required washcloth and trying not to throw up, we had been joking around about where I had put the Dean Koontz book. I was sure I had put it on his nightstand, he couldn't find it, so I said maybe downstairs, and since he completely hates it when I change my mind I said, or maybe right there in your nightstand. At that point he slid, that's right slid, not hard, not fast, no bounce, just slid a small paperback novel across the carpet and it came in contact with my toe. It must have hit just right because it immediately ripped my toenail up. What are the chances? 1 in 99,999,999,999,999? I am no statistician, but those have to be some pretty good odds.

That is why when I went to the Doctor on Tuesday because the pain was excruciating and though it was no longer bleeding it was 'seeping' (how disgusting right?) , I told her Yes. Yes, even with his vasectomy there actually might be a chance I am pregnant.

I wouldn't let the doctor touch my foot. I started crying before she even made a move to touch it. I told her I would rather they go ahead and amputate my toe so no one has to touch my nail. There is nothing that can be done but just wait for a new nail to grow and push this one out. She mentioned that it will fall off on its own or get RIPPED off on accident. I passed out with that statement.

She gave me an antibiotic and I have to soak it twice a day. I just thank GOD it was in the summer because no-way-in-hell am I putting a shoe on. Okay, I'm back, passed out again.

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The guys didn't leave until 3:30 this afternoon. I was amazed that they could stand the heat for that long. But look what they accomplished today on our house.

Power Washing the outside and gutters

Caulking all seams and cracks (2 cases of caulk!!)

Spackling and caulking old peeling paint and split wood.

Tearing out crumbling caulking and replacing with new.

That's Paul, he is from Argentina. He moved his family here so his wife could live by her sister who moved here with her husband in the early 90's. Isn't that sweet? Actually, all the husbands moved here from Argentina so the five sisters could live near each other. My dad has hired all of the brother-in-laws at one time or another, and some of them have gone on to create their own businesses. Paul has worked for my dad since 1996. During that time he has painted all of our houses: my parents, three of mine, three of my middle sister's houses, and two of my youngest sister's houses. He is the best! He used to be really impressed that I listened to the Gypsy Kings and knew a little Spanglish.

At the end of the day this is what we have. A house that is sealed and ready for paint. Vertical stripes are so slimming.
We are going to buy a new railing at Lowes and it will be painted the same white as the trim.

Look at that seam. No wonder they went through over 24 tubes of caulk.

The guys will be back next weekend unless one of my dad's other jobs starts falling behind schedule. Remember, cross your fingers, rub a rabbit's foot, hold up one leg, and say the Lord's Prayer. I am on cloud nine. My dad has actually been able to make this happen and I am slowing letting my expectations rise. I cannot thank him enough. If I can get him to stay for dinner I might just make his favorite, Hungarian Goulash.
My dad's foreman, Paul, has just arrived with two other men. It is 8:20 a.m. and they brought a power washer and they will also use ours. The prep work might go pretty fast. I am so excited but trying to restrain myself so I don't drive anyone, my husband, absolutely bonkers.

I will take pictures and updates as the day goes on but right now I need another cup of coffee and a shower. Talk to you soon.
Our House, what a very, very, very fine house. It's in the middle of the street, our house. I have been holding my breath all week and on Saturday morning I will be able to slowly let out some air. Slowly, very slowly because on Saturday morning my dad is sending over some of his crew to prep and paint (cross your fingers, rub a rabbit's foot, hold up one leg, and say the Lord's Prayer) our house.

This is pretty much what our house looked like when we bought it in February '07. We had seven trees in our front yard. The picture does not reveal my husband's broken vertebrae that he lost while pulling the English Ivy from every single inch of the front yard and even on the trees. The green stuff in the trees? It's not leaves, that's ivy. We tried to send the kids up into the tree to help pull it down. They didn't go for it, slackers.

Behold the naked house. We had four trees cut down when this picture was taken. The tree on the left, it passed away during the ice storm. In other words, our house is now exposed! She lost her camouflage and is showing herself in all of her luscious fecal brown glory. Her banister is exposed for all to see her rotten and decrepit railing.

Our neighbors tell us on an almost daily basis what a good job we are doing fixing up the yard. We get to hear about how disappointed they were when the President of the Garden Club (seriously, she was) terraced her yard and gave up grass for ivy. But now we are getting asked, so subtly, what color are we going to paint it? Oh? she needs paint? I guess no one wants to be reminded of a bowel movement when they drive pass our house.

I kid, I kid, think about all those people that are homeless? They would love to live in a poop colored house. Another man's shit is another man's treasure, right?

So annnywayyy, after much hoping but not pressing, and dreaming but not expecting, my dad is actually going to start the process of painting this weekend. And I am so incredibly grateful. When he called yesterday to tell me, I about started to cry while on the phone. But I held back because that would put too much pressure on my dad and it might postpone the job. (Yes, I have issues, big major issues but that is not what this post is about)

Saturday morning they will power wash and prep. My dad has instructed them to start painting the upper half above the garage and go around the back if they have time Saturday. They will have to come back next weekend (cross your fingers, rub a rabbit's foot, hold up one leg, and say the Lord's Prayer) to finish. The colors will be a sagey green on the bottom half brick, a creamy whitish beige on the top half, off white enamel on the trim. All Benjamin Moore colors just not sure which because we are getting leftover paint from some of his jobs. The shutters will be black. Don't you see the shutters? well they are going to be there. Board and Batten shutters that we thought we had time to build or buy because I refused to get my hopes up in case it didn't happen this year.

I am so excited! I am going to Sam's to get a case of water because it is suppose to be 110 with the heat index. Lovely.

Looks like we might have to really decorate for Halloween this year in order to have the scariest house in the neighborhood.
We'll have a beautiful house in the neighborhood, a beautiful house in the neighborhood....