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Friendly Neighbors

My husband and I have been in our new home for a little over a year now, and I couldn’t be happier about leaving the world of renting far behind me.  The downside to home ownership is that, unlike apartments, your neighbors remain pretty consistent.  Move in next to a lovely family, and you’ll have an easy ride.  Get stuck by a bad neighbor and you can expect to deal with nonstop nonsense for the next 30 years.

While our home was being built, I was excited about the existing neighbors, who had a child around the same age as my own.  He was a very polite and well-spoken boy who lived there part time (divorce/separation having half his time with his bio-dad).  Other than seeing some pretty ugly drama between the woman next door and her ex, things were pretty quiet.  Even the first time they threw a party, the gentleman next door came over to let us know there would be noise and cars, and I really appreciated that.

The second time they had a party, there was no friendly warming before the bouncy house was inflated.  There were drunk people sitting in our front yard, littering cigarette butts everywhere. There were kids in our driveway.  The man of the house (who I christen Pussy Whipped) blocked off the entire street with flashing lights so the dozens upon dozens of kids could run around screaming.  Their house is at the end of the street next to an empty cul-de-sac and giant field, yet they HAD to play cornhole right at the edge of our property, resulting in people all over our yard.  Not cool.

In the spirit of neighborly love, we let it go.  When one of their children was standing in our driveway, shooting darts at cars, we let it go.  When they lost their baby in our yard because the lady of the house (who I’ve named HorseFace) was too busy Facebooking on her phone, we let it go.  When their new puppy continuously got loose and came scratching at our back door, we let it go.  When their child started picking on my kid and stole his toy, we let it go.  When HorseFace confronted me about “kicking her kid out” of my yard, asking me if she did something to offend me, I let it go.  I didn’t want to let it go, seeing as how her stupid kid was standing in the middle of my yard to play catch and upsetting my dog, not just retrieving a ball like she said he was, but I did.

Things got to be too much when HorseFace and Pussy Whipped suddenly decided that having a dog was too much work.  They began chaining the puppy outside around 6:30am and leaving her outside for most of the day.  The puppy would be outside in the pitch dark and cold until nearly 10pm, barking nonstop while my kid tries to sleep.  On the weekends, we would be woken up early by the barking.  Just like the postal service, that puppy would be outside in rain or shine.  Alone.  A couple weeks ago, they moved the puppy’s chain so she’d be further away from the back door (which also meant she would be in two yards that didn’t belong to her)  After hearing the poor dog bark to be let inside for NINETY MINUTES STRAIGHT IN 50 DEGREE WEATHER AND POURING RAIN, I contacted animal services so they could do a wellness check.  I don’t care who you are or what you have going on, there is no excuse for neglecting your dog.  And that is exactly what leaving your dog out in the rain while you’re comfy inside would be called.  Neglect.

Yesterday, we saw a message on NextDoor, a community message board for my neighborhood.  It was titled “Friendly Neighbors” and read:  “Don’t we all feel like if a neighbor has an issue with a pet in the neighborhood that for whatever reason is bothering someone as a community they should be an adult and go and talk to the other neighbor before they call animal management for instance?  Just really annoyed that we have neighbors make complaints on a puppy for barking but they have a dog as well that barks as well!”  HorseFace’s strong suit is not the English language.  Or punctuation.  Now, I do agree that talking to a neighbor should be the way to go if it’s an issue of noise.  This was not.  This was an issue of neglect.  A puppy needs attention and direction, not a chain and alone time for hours upon hours.  I would never call animal management out of spite.  I called because that dog needed help.  As far as MY dog barking, of course my dog barks!  Every time their puppy comes by our door, my dog barks.  What my dog does not do is get left outside unsupervised to bark his head off until someone gives a damn.  Idiot.

An awesome person on NextDoor replied to HorseFace saying:  “If a dog is barking that much, that means that it wants attention and the owner is not taking responsibility for it.  Yes, no owner is perfect, my dog barks too, but when a dog is left outside barking non-stop, that means the owner is being ignorant.  People also have to remember to be responsible pet owners.”  This is my new favorite neighbor.  HorseFace replied:  “Well barking was not the complaint and she only barks when she is wanting back in.  We pay plenty of attention to her as well as play with her.  The people even make it a point to park across the sidewalk so my kids can’t ride their toys in front of their house so I don’t believe there is a true issue except they are simply being childish.”  At this point, we are enraged.  I park my car at the end of my driveway not to spite her kids (honestly, who they hell accuses someone of doing that??) but to stop cars from turning around in my driveway.  The cul-de-sac is not paved, so people use my driveway, resulting in headlights shining through our windows at all hours and people leaving skid marks everywhere.  We had drunk people leave tire tracks all over our drive as they peeled out after a party, and we had a motorcycle do donuts in the street and our drive, marking it up.  That aside, HorseFace (and half my street) parks in the exact same fashion, completely blocking the sidewalk.

My husband has had it at this point, so he says we need to go over there and talk to them face to face (I recorded this conversation so they couldn’t try and spin it later).  As he rings the doorbell, HorseFace says “it’s them, I know it’s them” before opening the door.  My husband greets them calmly and asks if there is anything we need to talk about.  HorseFace says “I don’t know, you guys seem all of a sudden, don’t seem to wave, don’t seem to care, we have a complaint on the dog, you’re our only neighbor.”  Pussy Whipped is standing behind her, holding their baby.  My husband let them know that of course we filed a complaint on the dog because she was out in the rain for an hour and a half.  HorseFace says BULL!  My husband says it’s definitely not bull, as we live right next door and can see/hear everything.  At this point, they’re talking over each other, HorseFace saying we should have come and talked to them, my husband saying it’s not his job to convince people to be good pet owners.  Pussy Whipped and HorseFace both then tell us to go right ahead and call the police/animal control/etc.  So I guess now it’s okay to call?  It’s hard to keep track.

My husband says “if you have something to say, don’t go online and say it.”  Pussy Whipped then says “I tell you what, get your fucking car out of the way, how ‘bout that?”  Cute how he grew a pair while not noticing that his car is blocking the sidewalk as we speak.  Pussy Whipped then accuses us of blocking the sideway to keep kids away.  My husband explains it’s because our driveway is the go-to for cars to turn around in because they don’t want to use the pile of rocks that is our temporary cul-de-sac.  HorseFace starts complaining about her kids having to go out in the street, seeming to forget the countless times her kids are playing in the middle of the road, ignoring cars that come through, while unsupervised.  Pussy Whipped brings the topic back to our dog barking, where I step in and say the reason he barks is because they moved their dog’s chain so that the puppy can come into our yard.  Pussy Whipped then says he can’t go outside without my dog sounding like he’s going to tear through the wall and attack him.  For those of you who have seen my dog, do you see him capable of breaking through the walls of our house and attacking our retarded neighbor?  No?  Me either.

HorseFace continues to deny that their puppy was outside in the rain for so long, or that they neglect her at all.  I need to stress that this puppy is continuously left outside along in godawful weather and/or in the dark.  Not once have we ever seen this dog be taken for a walk; she’s just thrown in the backyard.  I guess to their credit, they do have a dog bowl sitting out there for her, which is helpful when she’s left alone for hours on end, barking her little head off.  HorseFace THEN says that animal management never even came out, which is strange considering her post about animal management coming out.  At this point, my husband gives up and we walk away while HorseFace yells out the door about how childish we are.  Pussy Whipped comes out of the house now; my husband is on the other side of our driveway and I am barely in my own yard at this point.  She’s still yelling at us, so I lose it a bit and call her out on having drunk idiots in my yard and driveway.  She yells back about me being mean to her poor little angel boy (because saying verbatim “hey, can you please get out of my yard, you’re upsetting my dog” is PURE EVIL).  The same boy who crushed another neighbors young tree while playing in their yard.

So NOW, Pussy Whipped says “we were here first, bitch.”  I start walking back to my house, saying “fucking asshole” as I turn around.  He THEN says “Yeah, do something!”  I point out that he is holding a baby while trying to antagonize me.  Idiot.  He yells “yeah, you’re so tough!” and accused me of starting shit.  While holding a baby, Pussy Whipped keeps trying to  get me to “do something.”  Me, not my husband; the guy wants to fight a chick.  As much as I want to punch this bald asshat square in the face, I go back inside my house instead so we can laugh at them in private.  Big shocker as well; for the rest of the day on Sunday, they let their puppy back in the house as soon as she started barking.  Weird how that works.

I don’t regret calling animal management for one second because the end result seems to be that now the puppy will be let back in when she barks instead of left outside for hours unattended.  With winter coming and the temperature dropping, I’m happy that she won’t be suffering.  I mean, her owners are idiots, but outside of that, she will be fine.  Now, I might have been more willing to go and speak to her about the puppy if her reaction to the whole kid in the yard thing had been more positive.  Not once did she acknowledge that the kid shouldn’t have been in someone else’s yard; her first reaction was to accuse me of having a problem with her family.  That isn’t what a rational adult does.

Since I’m not dealing with a rational adult, talking is pointless.  The three minutes we spent “talking” to them yesterday proved that even more.  There is no reasoning with HorseFace, a woman convinced her children are so charming, anyone would be honored to have them running around in their yard.  There is no reasoning with Pussy Whipped either, a man who hides behind his wife and child, threatens a woman, and thinks that being somewhere first means you own the entire block.  The air being let out of two of my tires this morning could be a weird coincidence, but I’m getting as much as possible on record now because people who use the “we were here first” argument are the same people petty enough to damage someone’s property.  I need a lawyer.  And a shotgun.  And a ten foot fence.

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What About Me

I’ve been getting a lot of new visitors to my page lately and I wanted to open up a little to anyone who is willing to read.  My morning was spent Google searching About Me questions that I can answer for you.  Below are a few of the ones that I felt were worth answering.  Please feel free to answer some yourself in the comment section!

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DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
I have an eight year old son, who is smart as a whip but as stubborn as his mom.

PHOBIAS?
Spiders!  I still have a small fear of the dark; I’m not afraid of the boogeyman but I don’t like that something unknown could lay right in front of or behind me.  Heights don’t bother me, but I do have a fear of falling, so if I’m up high I had better be secure.  Scientologists also frighten me a bit.

WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
I want to say yes to this question, I really do.  But honestly, anything extreme such as bungee jumping, skydiving, or cliff diving scares the piss out of me.  I’m not afraid of heights, but the whole possibility of death is enough to put me off of taking that particular plunge.

TWO PET PEEVES?
Rude eaters; keep your mouth closed and keep the sound effects to a minimum.  Bad drivers; use your turn signals, drive somewhere close to the speed limit, don’t tailgate, and get off your phone!

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ARE YOU RELIGIOUS?
I am not.  I was raised Catholic but began to doubt the existence of a God once I was able to educate myself about other religions, science, and was able to directly expose myself to different types of people and beliefs.  I am a proud Atheist.  That said, I DO in fact have morals and values and I encourage my son to believe what he wishes (he was baptized as a baby and currently believes in God in the way you’d expect an eight year old to believe).

DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
I do.  I’ve been through a lot of hellacious situations and I somehow have survived them all.  Health scares, financial turmoil, family turning against me, losing nearly everything I’ve owned, and things I’d never mention in a public forum.  I don’t often give myself proper credit for it, but I am definitely a strong individual.

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
How they are dressed, their hairstyle, etc.  I’m not looking for fashion statements or designer labels, but looking for whether or not a person seems put together, neat and organized, clean, and respectful.  If you’re covered in filth or wearing socks and crocs, I’ll likely write you off.  If you’re clean and you look like you made sure you were properly put together prior to leaving the house, I feel that you’re worth my time.

ARE YOU SHY?
I’m very shy upon first meeting someone; I tend to lean on someone I know until I become comfortable with the new person.  I also become shy and withdrawn when thrust into unfamiliar situations.  Public speaking is only an issue when I feel unprepared; if I’m asked to stand and say a few words unexpectedly, I will likely freeze.

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WOULD YOU FORGIVE SOMEONE FOR LYING TO YOU?
It depends what the lie is.  If my husband lied about an affair or something else of that nature, forgiveness would come hard or not at all.  If someone tells me I look pretty when I look like I just ran a marathon after being mauled by a tiger, I’ll forgive that lie and love you for it.  Lies that protect me from silly things of that nature or that protect you because you’re not ready to tell me something about yourself can be forgiven.  Lies about serious things (you once killed a man, you stole my cash last night) may eventually be forgiven, but certainly not forgotten.

ANY TATTOOS?
I have ten.  I’m a big fan of body art and I love expressing myself through the pictures decorating my body.  I hope that one day, people will stop associating tattoos with criminals, deviants, and slackers.  I do plan on getting more; I’m working on a half sleeve and I want to add to a couple existing pieces.

BEST PIECE OF ADVISE?
If you have to poll your friends and family about your situation prior to making a decision, chances are you already know the answer and are simply looking for either an assurance that you are correct or looking for someone to talk you out of something.  Trust your instincts.

REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT?
Neither.  No party out there has it all and I don’t want to align myself with any of them.  Some definitely have more valid points and better views than the others, but none of them have gotten things right enough for me to jump on their bandwagon.

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DO YOU PREFER EMAIL/TEXT OR PHONE CALLS?
My current cell phone plan has 400 minutes, of which I use about 20 per month.  I’d decrease the minutes if Sprint would release a data plan with fewer.  I used to be big on talking on the phone, but now I prefer to text or email.  I can’t really carry on a conversation here at work, and when I’m home I’m busy with my husband, son, and dog.  I’ll text you immediately, but if you call, I’ll probably let it go to voicemail.

WHAT IS YOUR GOAL IN LIFE?
I want to eventually earn money for writing, be it through books or blogs or articles for a newspaper or magazine.  I’m slowly getting there, as I do earn a bit of cash from this blog.  I want to become fully financially stable, for myself, my husband, and our boy.  I want to be happy with who I am; I know I may never be 100% satisfied, but I need to be close to it.  I want to learn to relax and take things in stride.  Whatever happens around that doesn’t matter so long as I can do those things as so long as I have my family with me as I do them.

Riled Up And Rowdy

On Tuesdays, my mother-in-law usually picks up our boy from school so he can have some fun quality time with grandma before coming home to his boring parents.  This past Tuesday, he talked her into a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese for pizza and games.  After insisting he had behaved beautifully in school to both her and to us over the phone, we agreed that the trip sounded like a great idea and off they went as my husband and I went in search of sushi.  The boy came home with goodies won with tickets, got his bath and some playtime, and went to bed with a smile.

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The next morning, I drove the boy to school minus the husband who stayed home to telework, and went to work in an attempt to get through those eight hours as quickly as as smoothly as possible.  Shortly before noon, I got a phone call from my son’s elementary school.  From the principal, to be more specific.  She had my son sitting in her office while she explained to me the reasons he had landed himself there.  First, he stomped on a boy’s foot at recess on Tuesday before telling him “if you tell on me, I’ll beat you up.”  Then, after the child’s mom called the school to complain, my boy was called down to the office.  Once he realized he was in trouble, he proceeded to throw a fit so violent that he had to be restrained.  Once he calmed, she told him that she would get me on the phone.  He was still agitated as we spoke, learning that he would lose his recess for the rest of the week and possibly longer if he didn’t reign it in.

When I picked him up Wednesday afternoon, he knew he was busted and made no effort to hide it from me, although he did ask me to hide it from daddy.  He knew I was upset, especially since two weeks ago, he got in trouble on a field trip for bullying 3 and 4 year olds.  I wish I could say he learned his lesson, but he has been a disaster the past couple of days, breaking the rules and coming up with ridiculous lies to try to save himself from getting in trouble.  He knows from experience that we always find things out (mainly because he’s a terrible liar) and knows that he gets in less trouble if he comes clean in the beginning, but he still keeps lying about the smallest and stupidest things imaginable.  He’s been grounded from TV, video games, and most of his toys, but the lesson is still lost on him.

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What frustrates me is that my boy knows right from wrong and knows it well.  He’s one of the smartest kids in his class and has been in previous years as well.  His teachers always comment on how sweet he is, and they’re absolutely right.  There’s just something in his 7-year-old brain that pushes him to jump into action even when he knows that nothing good will come of what he’s about to do.  He will bully other children, knowing full well how awful it feels to get bullied since he went through it.  He’ll lie about what he did even if you saw him do it.  The thing that bothers me the most though is that he just doesn’t seem to care sometimes.  He doesn’t seem to understand the effect his actions have and the stress it puts on his parents.  His only concern seems to be how things affect him and how soon he can get his privileges back.

There are quite a few moments where I take a step back and try to see what I’ve done wrong.  What did I do wrong, what did I miss, where did I screw up?  He knows darn well that we didn’t teach him to bully people or lie, and he even admitted that to my husband on Wednesday night.  The awful things he does are not things he learns at home, through us or through television.  We don’t spank him, so he’s not learning that it’s okay to hit as long as you have a good reason for doing so.  We don’t BS him about things and he’s not witnessing us lie to each other or anyone else.  Try as I might, I can’t see where I’ve slipped up or what I can do in order to have my words sink in and for him to finally come around.

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I know, I know; he’s just a kid and this is what kids do and I need to get used to it because it’s just going to get worse.  I just cannot stand this careless attitude combined with the silly lies.  I want the best for him and he’s not going to get the best unless he fixes himself up and quits beating on kids in school before he’s old enough for them to throw him out or lock him up.  I want to rid him of the habit of lying to get out of a bind so he doesn’t grow up to be a totally dishonest and untrustworthy person.  This kid is incredibly smart and lovable, and he can do great things.  I just want the best for my son and I want him to be able to come to me with his problems without instantly assuming that I’ll be angry and that his behavior must be masked or downplayed with lies.

The boy is grounded again today and on his way to having a very uneventful weekend.  The goal of my husband is to make him hate losing his things so much that he will never misbehave like this again.  I usually give in after feeling bad and return some forbidden toys to him early, so I’ll have to be tough this time around and stick it out.  I’m very hopeful that he can bounce back, stop the crazy lies, and knock of the bullying before he pushes the wrong kid and gets knocked out.  I’m trying to remember what it was like to be 7 and trying to understand that he still has so much learning and growing to do.  I think he has a pretty good support system in my husband and I, plus an amazing grandma and fantastic extended family, so I hope that between us all, we can keep him on the right path and get that little punk in line.  Meanwhile, I think a beer is in order for the stress of this week.  Cheers.

Fast Fun

About 27 years ago, on my fourth birthday, my parents took me to McDonald’s for a birthday party with my friends from the neighborhood.  It’s one of the few birthdays I had as a child that I still have crystal clear memories of.  This particular restaurant, in a small town on Long Island, New York, was split into two sections and partitioned by panes of glass with strategically placed doors to allow for convenient passage while still allowing parents to keep a close eye on their rowdy children.  On one side, customers would order their food and could sit and enjoy their meal in the same manner which we’re used to today.  On the other side, there was a massive indoor playground taking up two-thirds of the area.  Booths and tables hugged the glass wall and a second exit led outside to a fenced in outdoor playscape for warm and sunny days.

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Ronald McDonald made an appearance at my party, as he did for just about every birthday party at that location.  We had a woman, decked out in McDonald’s gear, who painted our faces with glittery paints.  My friends and I went down slides, climbed on every surface possible, spun each other around on the mini merry-go-round, and let our imaginations run wild.  Our food was brought to our tables by employees who also supplied us with an official McDonald’s cake.  I opened my presents, thanked my friends, and we quickly got sugared up and back to playing.  That birthday party is one of my favorite childhood memories.

When I was a child, I loved going out to various fast food restaurants, McDonalds or otherwise.  The food was never the focus though; the goal that my little brother and I always had in mind was finding the best playground and spending as much time as possible playing on it.  Food was simply the last obstacle we had to work through in order to get to that playground.  I can’t count the amount of belly aches I gave myself by cramming food down my throat in a rush to jump into the ball pit, slide down the fireman pole, or climb up the miniature rock wall.  We didn’t love fast food joints for the food, we loved them for the play.

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My son is not quite as lucky as I was when it comes to fast food restaurants and their appeal.  I can count on one hand the amount of fast food establishments we have been in together where he’s been able to hit the playground after our meal.  The majority of restaurants either have no playscape to speak of or have one that is so poorly maintained that I cannot allow him to play on it without fear of him hurting himself or getting sick from the various bodily fluids left behind by gross little kids.  The latter is rarely a problem though, as I can’t remember the last time we’ve been in a place that has had any type of play area, indoor or outdoor.  The closest we’ve gotten in the past year is our local Burger King putting in brightly colored children’s chairs in order to create a sort of lounge area around a television set on the wall.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when the decline happened, but I went from seeing brightly colored playscapes all over the place and seeing restaurants compete to have the best one to seeing playgrounds torn down and replaced with additional seating or possibly an outdoor picnic areas.  Instead of slides, fast food is giving us flat screen televisions on every wall so we have something interesting to look at.  No one wants our children to come in, have a meal, and play for a while.  They want our children to outgrow kid-sized meals as quickly as possible so they spend more money.  They want our children to get extras off the value menu to supplement their meal, possibly also adding a milkshake or other dessert.  They want us to sit, stuff our faces, and leave as quickly as possible.  Or, in an extra effort to keep their contact with us to a minimum, they will add an extra drive-thru lane in order to encourage us to go that route and not even set foot inside the doors.

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Fast food isn’t exactly healthy.  Their establishments aren’t known for being warm and comfortable.  We don’t enter a fast food restaurant thinking of having a relaxing night out or bonding with our family.  It’s known for being quick and easy, and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever.  But what was wrong with having more?  What is the harm in having a special area for children to be children?  With having families anxious to get inside to grab one of the coveted tables near the playscape so they can relax as their kids cut loose?  Were establishments hurting that bad for space that it didn’t make sense to waste it on a slide or two?  Did maintenance on a plastic playground eat away that much of their profits?  Why is it now so rare for me to see these playgrounds?

I find it incredibly sad that the general public would rather have 12 inch flatscreen televisions mounted to the walls as they eat their burger and fries than have a fun area where their children can burn off some of the calories gained from the chicken nuggets and honey mustard dipping sauce.  We’ve taken a lazy activity — ordering and eating fast food — and made it even lazier by subtracting the one thing that would allow our children to get a bit of exercise, and possibly us too if our children are rowdy enough.  We made a two-part experience into a boring trip that is about nothing but the unhealthy food.  I’m grateful that my childhood was filled with playgrounds, but it breaks my heart a bit to know that this particular area of our world is nowhere near the same for my own child.

Baby Spray Tans

Ever since Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi confirmed that she is indeed pregnant and engaged, she’s been the topic of much conversation, gossip, and criticism.  It’s not really necessary to actually watch a single episode of Jersey Shore to know that Snooki is a hot mess.  Season 5 had her peeing everywhere except in a bathroom, 4 had her flashing her lady bits to the world, 3 had her ass in a freezer, and more than half the aired footage had her drunk.  She cheated on her boyfriend, acted like a total idiot, and engaged in behavior that a monkey would find unacceptable.

She’s also written two books, designed a line of jewelry and slippers, scored a new reality show with her partner in crime, Jenni Farley, scored guest spots on quite a few television shows, and cemented herself as the unofficial star of Jersey Shore.  After this last season, I definitely feel that it’s safe to say she acts like a total idiot on camera and should be ashamed of most of her behavior, but she’s also got a good head on her shoulders and has proved she can be business minded and is focused on her future after the Shore.

I used to like Snooki; I thought she was funny and entertaining with just the right amount of airhead behavior.  This past year however has shown her to have become one of those females I feel sorry for.  Bed hopping, falling over in the dirty street after a few too many shots, babbling nonsensically like a toddler, and all on camera for the world to see and to be archived in the MTV vaults and on Youtube until the end of media as we know it.  She has no shame and while she seems content in chalking that up to confidence, I see a girl with low self esteem and low personal standards.

Right now the debate is whether or not Snooki and her timid fiancé will turn out to be good parents, the popular opinion being that this baby will be screwed.  I don’t agree with the trash talking because having that baby enter the world can bring about great change.  Snooki is in the public eye and currently filming her new reality show, so she’s almost forced to ensure she receives excellent prenatal care and avoids alcohol and cigarettes.  That alone puts her above many of the future mommies out there.  She’ll be under great scrutiny once her baby enters this world and will either be forced to be a great parent or find herself stuck in a Britney Spears type situation.  You don’t have to be intelligent to know that isn’t the way to go.

The thing that bothers me about all this is that the concern seems to be on how quickly Snooki will fail and how much amusement we can get out of it.  No one seems to have much concern about the child, and if you’re going to stick your nose into someone else’s business, at least stick it somewhere important.  Is this kid going to be subjected to the wild world of reality TV, growing up with a camera in its face and being harassed in public?  Will this kid grow up and be ashamed over seeing mommy’s lady parts online, seeing her cheat on daddy, and being mocked by peers because mommy still sleeps with stuffed animals after getting too wasted to walk?  People are laughing at how badly she is going to fail as a mom and I don’t think they realize that her failure would be at the expense of an innocent life.

Part of the fault of the reality TV phenomena lies with the viewers for demanding that type of entertainment.  Part lies with the gossip magazines and websites that cover these new celebrities from every possible angle.  Part lies with the media outlet who created the show and made it all possible, who made it easy to find fame in this manner.  But most of the blame for the negativity stemming from reality TV comes from the people who agree to take part.  If Snooki was just another girl who got pregnant on the Jersey Shore and had to knock off her binge drinking for a while, no one would care.  Because she agreed to take part in MTVs show, we all either care or know enough to form opinions and talk her up.  She chose to put the worst parts of herself on television, knowing full well that video tape doesn’t lie, and now it seems as though she wants the impossible and desires a somewhat normal family life with her new baby.  It’s not going to happen.

I’m not against reality TV in general; there are plenty of shows out there that you can be on without securing yourself a place in history as a sloppy drunk, an habitual liar, a drug addict, or anything else that would cause later embarrassment and shame.  As a parent, I can’t be selfish anymore because my decisions will all either directly or indirectly affect my son as well as any kids my husband and I decide to create later in life.  I can’t let myself be videotaped making out with one of my girl friends, then bed hopping from one guy to the next.  I don’t get to act like an ass anymore because that child is going to be forced to live with my bad decisions, especially if I sign myself up for The Real World and proceed to enter myself in a one woman contest to see how many STDs I can rack up within 30 days.

 

How would I be able to tell my child that sex is something you do when you’re in love when he can Youtube me doing three different guys in a week?  What business do I have saying it’s not healthy to drink when I’m on TV downing shots until I puke?  I’m less than a blip on the radar as far as public exposure goes and even I feel overexposed when it comes to my kid.  He’s learning by my example and I have to ensure I do everything in my power to show him that I believe what I’m teaching him by my behavior.  With everything else Snooki has screwed, she unfortunately also screwed her kid out of a whole lot of normalcy and her new family out of any self-respect.  I wish her luck.

Diagnose Me

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often persists into adulthood. ADHD includes some combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Children with ADHD also may struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school.”

Stimulants are the most common treatment for ADHD in children and adolescents. They include methylphenidate – Ritalin or Metadate — or amphetamines, including Dexedrine and Adderal.”

When I was in elementary school, I was misdiagnosed twice with ADD and ADHD and declined twice to begin taking Ritalin to treat my symptoms.  Once I began flooding myself with extra projects and extra credit work and once I started becoming heavily involved in the gifted program, my so-called symptoms vanished and my diagnosis went from ADD/ADHD to being nothing more than a child that was bored with her schoolwork and wanted a greater challenge.

On February 15th, my husband and I went to a parent/teacher/social worker conference to discuss our 6-year-old, Dominick.  Prior to going, his teacher and I both filled out a questionnaire as part of the Connors test.  Upon reviewing with the social worker, we were told what we already knew; Dominick is an incredibly smart but incredibly hyper and sensitive little boy.  His hyperactivity is multiplied when in daycare and kindergarten, which put him in areas of concern on the Connors scale; at home he showed only slightly above normal.  The social worker then pulled out a separate page with ADHD written across the top in giant letters.

Around the time Dominick was two, he went to be evaluated because some daycare worker without a degree decided he had ADHD.  The psychologist who evaluated him reported that he was bright and perfectly normal.  At three and a half, a new daycare worker (the Dragon Lady from the school we pulled him out of) decided he was learning disabled, so I called the First Steps program and was told that he didn’t qualify for evaluation as his “symptoms” weren’t those they see with the disabilities they deal with.  As soon as the social worker pulled that ADHD paper out, my brain went into FIGHT-mode and I was ready to leap across the table.  To my surprise, she informed us that while she isn’t qualified to make a diagnosis, any physician would look at the Connors test results and immediately conclude that Dominick does NOT have ADD or ADHD.  He’s just a bright, excitable, sensitive little squirt.

The social worker told us a couple of stories about children who were initially thought to have ADHD but ended up having more serious issues; one had epilepsy and the other had pinworms.  She didn’t believe that Dominick had any underlying health issues, simply that he’s excitable and presents a challenge to teachers who try to get him to sit still and use his quiet voice.  It concerns me though that ADD and ADHD are the go-to diagnoses for children who act up, and too often the go-to solution is medication the child doesn’t truly need.  Growing up, while I was insisting I didn’t need Ritalin, I was spending a great deal of time with Emily, a girl who desperately needed it.  Seeing first-hand what ADHD looks like and what happens to a child who NEEDS Ritalin once it wears off allows me to be a better judge of whether or not ADHD has invaded my home or not.  Had I listened to the first two people who insisted Dominick was affected and sought out a physician to “fix” him with medication, there’s no telling what damage could have been done or how his development would have been hindered.

Perhaps the reason so many people jump to ADD and ADHD is because it seems to be the easiest and quickest way to solve a behavioral problem with a child.  Pop in some medicine, kid calms down, everyone is happy.  Except for the child who doesn’t need to be on the medication to begin with.  In my case, my ADHD-like behavior was caused by boredom; the teacher would go over and over a lesson that I had learned the very first time and I had little patience in hearing it repeated while my classmates asked silly questions.  I suspect my son is the same way; he’s known his alphabet for ages now and has little interest in sitting around while his classmates catch up.  Some children are just strong-willed and don’t want to stick to a lesson plan when they think they know a better way to get their work done.  Some are having problems adjusting.  Regardless, the answer should be researched fully prior to going to ADHD/ADD and popping meds.

There’s a big difference between being a protective parent and being in denial.  I know my kid isn’t perfect, I expect him to screw up and hope it’s not as badly as I did, and I know that most of his teachers are looking out for his best interests.  I also know enough to not accept that he has ADHD or ADD just because someone who works with children decides that is his problem.  I’m hardly the ideal when it comes to being a mom, but I am going to give myself a pat on the back for not caving and accepting that my son had any sort of developmental disability or challenge just because a couple of people said so.  Hopefully my husband and I can help him deal with his excitability so he can stay out of trouble in school and excel.  I’m open to suggestions.

The Unemployed Working Population

On a glorious afternoon last week when my mother-in-law picked our boy up from school, my husband and I took a detour on the way home to grab dinner and do a bit of Christmas shopping.  I had a delicious Spicy Southwest Chicken Griller from McAlister’swith some creamy potato salad and perfectly brewed tea; I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!  After ensuring our bellies were content, we headed back out into the mini-disaster that is holiday traffic.  As we were leaving the parking lot, I spotted this bumper sticker on a van:

Here’s the kicker:  none of her children were buckled up, one was upside down, and I’m not sure if there were three or five of them back there because it was hard to count with all the flailing, tiny limbs and the toys and balloons being batted back and forth throughout the back of the van.  To call it unsafe would be too kind.  To call this mother irresponsible would be greatly downplaying her lack of attention to her children who would be in great danger in the event of an accident or even a sudden stop or a sharp turn.  This mother’s full time job was less of the great mom she proclaimed to be and more of an oblivious woman too caught up in her conversation with her passenger to pay the slightest bit of attention to the fragile bodies in the back of her vehicle, children totally at her mercy who have zero control over the quality of their caregiver.  I suppose maybe she thought she was on her lunch hour and free from her motherly duties for a few more minutes.

I’m a mom with a full-time job but contrary to what that bumper sticker proclaims and many women believe, being a parent is not a valid claim as my full-time job.  Don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to say that parenting isn’t hard work and isn’t challenging and demanding because it definitely is.  It’s time consuming and often thankless, rewarding at times and frustrating at others.  But it’s no more a job than my marriage or this blog.  By definition a job is many things; a piece of work done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price, a post of full or part-time employment, or an obligation such as being on time or being present for a meeting.

Part of successfully holding a job includes handling people and things you have become responsible for, and I feel this is where the confusion comes in. Children are a responsibility, a rather large one with numerous demands and little time off.  Taking on this responsibility, however, is not equal to taking on the jobs of housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, facilities manager, van driver, psychologist, laundry machine operator, janitor and chief executive officer as this website claims.  Anyone holding one of these jobs, now or in the past, should feel greatly insulted by this site trivializing their professions this way.

Becoming a parent is a choice we make because we decided to start a family for personal reasons, be it wanting to know the joy of having a child or just for the tax break.  Being employed is a choice we make because it means the difference between living comfortably and living under a bridge in a box or in our mom’s basement.  The two are separate and unequal in nearly every way and comparisons need to stop being drawn between them by stay-at-home parents feeling inadequate about their station in life.  A homebound parent doesn’t deserve a salary for caring for the kids and tending to the housework because as challenging as that work may be, it’s what you sign up for when you decide to have kids and desire to be a responsible and productive person.

As far as importance, being an outstanding parent is just as, if not more important than being an outstanding employee or boss.  It’s tough as nails but is often looked at as a cakewalk or a choice for people too lazy for a job outside the home.  People like the van-lady give great moms a bad name with their less than satisfactory mothering accompanied by their entitled attitude and need to be acknowledged as just as important as the spouse/partner who gets the paycheck.  If you are a great parent and a great wife/husband/partner who cares for the home and your family, there should be no need to seek out the approval and recognition of the rest of the world.  You shouldn’t need to compare yourself to a doctor or an executive and you shouldn’t demand a stay-at-home salary from the paid spouse if you’re handling your business, caring for your family, and finding happiness in your life’s duties and tasks.  The minute you feel the need to slap on a bumper sticker justifying your choice to stay home with the kids or the minute you begin coming up with fancy names for being a stay-at-home parent is the minute you need to reevaluate your life, step outside your front door, and find something else you can contribute to that will fill the void you’re attempting to mask with mom-salaries and homemaker titles.

Angry Wives Society

I was browsing CNN.com yesterday when this articlecaught my eye.  The heading read Why We Get Mad At Our Husbands.  As someone who is happily married to a sometimes difficult man, I couldn’t resist checking it out.  The article stated that “46% of moms get irate with their husbands once a week or more” and mothers “with kids younger than 1 are even more likely to be mad that often (54 percent).”  It also states that mothers get angry that their husbands seem unable to multitask when it comes to the kids, don’t help with the chores or create even more work when they try to help, take too much time for themselves and not enough time for the family, and don’t act like an equal partner.  44% of mothers are reported as saying that “dads often don’t notice what needs to be done around the house or with the kids.  We hate that we have to tell them what needs to be done, that they can step over a basket of laundry on their way to find the remote control.”

I will admit, I found myself relating to a few bits of this article.  I expect my husband to know what needs to be done and to help without asking while he expect me to ask for assistance if I feel overwhelmed and want him to give our boy a bath or throw something in the washing machine.  I wouldn’t consider myself a part of the 44% who think their spouse doesn’t notice what needs to be done, but I can sympathize with the frustration of having to ask for help or point out things needing to be done.  It’s a problem that doesn’t need to be one though when you marry someone responsible and who exists on the same page as you.  I may find myself annoyed that my husband can’t sense when I’m overworked and doesn’t automatically jump up to help me, but is that really his fault if I’m too busy storming around the house to ask for a helping hand?  On the surface, moments like this make me feel anger towards him, but in reality I’m angry at the pile of various housework facing me and I’m willing to bet that a good deal of women who reported anger towards their spouse can say the same if they’re being honest with themselves.

Women and men are wired quite differently and it definitely shows when you put my husband and I side by side.  We tackle chores differently and choose different orders and ways to do things.  I prefer to come home from work and immediately tackle what needs to be done so I can get it out of the way while my husband likes to take some time to relax and get in comfortable clothes, unwinding before getting his hands dirty.  He likes to write down a list of everything he wants to accomplish and I choose to play it by ear and hopefully remember all that needs to be done.  We have different ways of washing dishes and clothes, different methods to bathe and feed the boy in the best manner possible, and different directions in which we tackle cleaning and disinfecting various rooms and areas.  If you haven’t guessed, the key word here is different, not unequal or unbalanced, just different.  The key to a peaceful household isn’t being with someone who does as you do but to be with someone who succeeds in the areas you fail and who fills your gaps, allowing you both to operate at 100% as a unit.

It comes as no shocker that the article reports about half of the mothers out there find themselves getting irate at their hubby at least once a week and I’m sure the men can say the same about their wives.  Marriage and parenthood have its downsides that come with all the good and one of those includes being fed up with the person you’re with.  My husband will freely admit that he sometimes goes out of his way to drive me a little batty, mainly because it’s pretty easy to do, but it’s one of those things that will happen whether you intend it to or not.  The best thing us females can do is to ensure we’re picky about who we choose to cohabitate with.  I married someone who is even more germaphobic than I am and who only knows what lazy means on Sundays, someone who doesn’t slack off or procrastinate (too bad) and someone who is committed to getting the most out of life.  It’s the reason I’m a member of the happy half of wives and the reason I have little sympathy for the angry ones out there.  Know what you want and make sure you have it before you even think about adding marriage and children to the equation, otherwise you’re setting yourself up for many upsetting days in your future.

Moving On Up

My husband and I have been in our current home for nearly four years now.  I was absolutely in love with it when we first moved in, both because it was our first place together as a couple and because it was a nice looking place in a fairly quiet area.  We had a blast buying new furniture and necessities and even spent our first wedding anniversary engrossed in a weekend long painting project to try to get our home as perfect as could be.  Our first couch was a donation from a friend, the second was a gift from my mother-in-law that we chose in red to match our kitchen.  We spent quite a while sanding and painting our balcony and storage room with the plan to buy some outdoor furniture and have a nice spot to sit out and enjoy a bit of nature.  As time has passed, my husband and I have made various upgrades to ensure we’re comfortable and that we have what we believe we deserve.

Unfortunately, as we have been trying to move up the ladder, our neighborhood seems to be content edging downward.  What was once a clean and quiet community has become overrun by slovenly people displaying a total lack of pride in their home.  New management brought new signs and a hastily paved parking lot but failed to make any improvements aside from meaningless frills.  The maintenance team replaced our dishwasher due to a leak but failed to address the plumbing problem that caused the leak and also resulted in the garbage disposal malfunctioning.  We’re not big on using the dishwasher, but it would be nice to have the option to use it when the dishes pile up and we’re feeling a bit lazy.  The frustration of living without a working garbage disposal doesn’t need any explanation.  The other plumbing issue is in the second bathroom; for some reason the bath water will not stay hot for longer than a minute or two unless the washing machine is also running.  The sink will scald you, but the tub thinks cold showers are in style.

Those plumbing problems are annoying but fixable and I would definitely be pursuing property management to call in the experts to get it repaired if not for our main issue with our place:  the neighbors.  Whatever wiring is shorting out the light in our kitchen can be fixed.  The lack of consideration from our neighbors can not.  We come home to find trash and cigarette butts scattered around our front door, often thrown in the bushes that the kids have trampled during a game of hide and seek.  The one year we tried growing flowers by our front door, kids ripped them out of the ground and threw them all over the sidewalk.  Our front door has been used as home base for tag, the end zone for a game of football, and a makeout spot by the teenagers across from us.

I’m not a cranky old lady trying to crush the childhood joys of all youngsters around me, but I do expect a bit of respect for my space and an attempt at parenting from the adults that are supposed to be in charge.  I expect parents to tell their kids that it’s NOT okay to throw things against cars and front doors, to tear down parking signs, or to sit on the hoods of cars while waiting for the school bus.  I shouldn’t have to worry about my property being vandalized simply because young adults are bored and their parents can’t be bothered supervising or disciplining.  Bringing up concerns with management results in nothing more than a general notice handed out to everyone, stating the obvious of where trash should go and how people should behave.  As adults, we should all have enough sense to clean up after our pets, yet my husband and I often feel like we’re the only ones who prefer not to step in a pile of doggie presents.

After one too many nights of being disturbed by the two tiny yapping dogs downstairs, we decided to take a drive and find a new place to live.  On Sunday, we got to view a lovely two bedroom place with an attached spacious garage, an adorable patio and backyard, and an amazing kitchen twice the size of what we have now.  The bedrooms are also bigger than what we currently have and the layout is much more appealing than what we’ve become used to.  The leasing agent told us that he is quite familiar with many of our complaints from people coming from where we currently live and was very confident in saying that those problems are nonexistent in their community.  The cost is slightly higher, but we’re getting an entire garage and a yard to ourselves, two things we can’t say we have now.  We’ll also receive a discount on our cable and internet and have access to a wooded dog park.  At least, we will if we are approved.  Wish us luck!

Part-time Parenting

I watched the first season of 16 and Pregnant and I’ve watched the occasional episode of Teen Mom.  I didn’t pay much attention to the other girls, mainly being interested in Maci, Amber, Farrah, and Catelynn.  Maci struck me as the one with the best head on her shoulders; a young girl forced to become a women before her time who took to motherhood naturally and seems to be a wonderful mom to her son Bentley.  Catelynn and her boyfriend Tyler gave their daughter up for adoption, which is a heartbreaking decision but seemed to be the best for Carly since they appear unable to be stable parents.  Amber and her sometimes-boyfriend Gary could fill a whole other blog with all their unnecessary drama.  And then there’s Farrah, an aspiring model who has sole responsibility of her daughter due to the death of her father.  I feel reluctant to even type “sole responsibility” since being responsible seems to be the last thing on her mind when it comes to her child.

Farrah is in the news now because she has given up custody of her daughter, Sophia, to her mother in Iowa so that Farrah can go to school in Florida, 1600 miles away from her child.  Farrah stated that “Sophia is the No. 1 thing in my life.  I’m just trying to be the best parent that I can. I take care of my responsibilities. I’m happy that I took the chance to move. I would never regret it.”  Farrah’s mother Debra, who was arrested for domestic abuse and assault for allegedly choking and hitting Farrah, is now the primary caregiver for little Sophia with assistance from her husband.

I was a single parents for the first two years of my son’s life.  During that time, I was forced to rely on my parents for assistance, as my son’s biological father provided no financial support and was too violent to provide physical or emotional support; I cut ties with him when my son was 2 weeks old.  Similar to Farrah, I had issues with my mother; she has a violent streak, is emotionally unstable, and did various harmful things such as tell my young son to call HER mommy.  I secured a job that limited the time he had with her to one hour or less per day and moved out of that house as soon as I was able.  Even if my mother was wonderful, she’s no substitute for me, my son’s real mom.  My situation was anything but ideal, but I sacrificed sleep and jobs I truly wanted in order to ensure I was working while he was asleep (when younger) and I was working reasonable hours when he was in daycare so that he wouldn’t be away from me.  My social life took a big hit, but it had to be done in order to be a mother to my child.

What Farrah is doing angers me more than it probably should.  There are plenty of single parents out there who juggle school and work and still have ample time to spend with their child.  Unlike most, Farrah gets a paycheck from MTV for doing nothing more than letting cameras follow her around and film her doing what she’d be doing if the cameras were absent.  She gets paid to be on magazine covers and give interviews.  Easy money, something I wish I had because there are a lot of things I could do with it to benefit my family.  School is important, don’t get me wrong, but there are schools scattered all over the country plus many distance learning programs such as Penn Foster where I am enrolled, so I see no justifiable reason whatsoever for Farrah to go 1600 miles away to a school in Florida.  You can’t convince me that a school there is better than one near her child.  My best guess is that she feels as though she’s missed out on much of her youth and wants to enjoy the full experience of college.  Sadly, not everyone gets that opportunity.  Some can’t afford it, some can’t get into a school, and some have children they should be worrying more about than frat parties and the joys of on-campus life.

Being a parent is a full-time job.  There are many reasons a parent should give up custody of a child, whether it be temporary or permanent.  Drug or alcohol addiction, homelessness, mental instability, violence in the home, or any other situation where it would be unhealthy and unsafe for the child to remain at home with the parent or parents.  Farrah may be a bit flaky but there isn’t anything wrong with her that prevents her from being a mom to Sophia.  If she’s intelligent enough to handle school, she can handle being a parent.  It’s damaging to her child to be away from her mother at such a young age; she’s grown up with Farrah as her mom and now she’s reduced to just hearing her voice on the phone and seeing pictures as a woman who was arrested for attacking her daughter is raising her.  Is anyone thinking of how this affects the little girl?

If you’re irresponsible and get pregnant before you’re ready for it, like I was with my son, you need to prepare yourself and understand that your life is going to be different from here on out.  You can’t expect to be able to enjoy the freedom your kidless friends have and you shouldn’t attempt to live the lives they do.  Your personal freedom is put in the tiny hands of your offspring who will tend to be very stingy with it.  You’re on-call 24/7.  My husband and I are lucky enough to have his mother to rely on during emergencies and on nights we want to have a date or time with friends, but his mother is grandma and can not and SHOULD not be looked upon as a primary caregiver to our boy.  I could never see myself asking her to take him while I left for school for a year.  It would kill me to be away from my little one for that long, plus it’s not fair to my mother-in-law, who is done raising her children and deserves to be free of that responsibility.

I feel bad for Sophia because regardless of what future benefits this trip to school may provide, she is without her mother and father for now and that is damaging to any child.  It’s sad that kids have to go through this in situations when it’s totally preventable.  I hope it doesn’t confuse her too badly and I hope she’s well taken care of.  I also hope that Farrah quits being so damn selfish and stops pursuing things that serve to benefit her while her child is left alone.  Maybe the time away will make her realize how important the bond is between mother and daughter.  Loving your child is very important, but all the long distance love in the world doesn’t measure up to ten little minutes of holding your baby on your lap and reading a bedtime story before tucking her in at night.

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