Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Scooter" Works Here

I don't want to be a cheeseball, but sometimes I just can't help it.

I was leaving work tonight, walking to the elevator and out to the parking garage alone, 20 minutes after my day officially ended, thinking how much I enjoy my co-workers (except that One) and how much I enjoy going to work each day. Don't mistake that to believe that I enjoy my work every day. Sometimes it's draining and exhausting and overwhelming and it makes my cry, and the Very Last Thing I want to do is walk through those doors and see the mess of work that I left on my desk the previous night. But in general, interacting with the Good people I get to see each day is worth braving the Bad.

I like seeing the same people each day and laughing about the Insanity Du'jour. I like that each co-worker has a different personality and I like knowing what kind of conversation will come from interacting with each one. I like my supervisor. And my director. I even like the silly nickname I mistakenly incurred last week. I like knowing that after a year, and after trying to resign 6 months ago, that I belong there.

I don't think I've ever talked about what I do. I'm an investigator with Ch!ld Pr0tective $ervices. (Trying to hide it from search engines.) And last September, I became overwhelmed and felt that I was putting the children of my county before my own children. I was having more migraines and getting less sleep. I was obsessing over a mom I feared would harm her children and the lack of evidence I had to do anything about it. I was tormented by fear each time I had to testify in court. I dreaded the ring of the phone when I was on call and the sound of a police officer on the other end. I hated having to make decisions regarding someone else's family.

So Tim and I decided together that I needed to resign and find something less demanding and part-time so I could give my family the attention that they deserved. Except that my director would have none of that. She gave me one of her Famous Pep Talks and told me that I was a keeper and that she would create a position for me to prevent me from leaving. And she did.

So. Since October, I have been off the streets and in the office fielding every report of ch!ld @buse or negIect (being incognito again) that comes into our county. And during that time at my desk, I have gained confidence in my understanding of state child welfare code and in my assessments of child endangerment. I have learned when to give more of myself and when to not. I have learned when to go home at 4:30 on the dot and when it's important to stay late.

In less than a month, my position will be obsolete and I will be going back to investigations. I am strangely looking forward to it, grateful that when my position changes yet again, the people who make me laugh from 8-4:30, Monday-Friday (and after-hours on-call and the occasional weekend) will still be in my life, still cracking me up with our twisted sense of humor.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Enjoying the Small Things

It's February in Indiana.

Life outside is dreadfully gray and soggy and a bone-chilling cold. What snow remains on the ground is edged in soot and the shine on our cars is dulled by salt. Everyone's recovered from the Christmas Rush only to face trudging through the days, Spring Break a mirage on the horizon. For us and for our children, each day blends into the next - a blur of activities, patchwork dinners, homework, alarms that go off too early and buses that come in the dark.

Mackenzie finally finished out her swim season, exhausted but happy to have swam and now she returns to concentrating on her grades which have been somewhat neglected since Christmas.

Joe is knee-deep in Show Choir Competitions, practicing during the week and traveling each weekend, somehow dipping ice cream in between.

Dillon is still loitering around, attending EMT class and trying to find his new niche in life and manage without license nor vehicle.

Alex has had a hard month, be it a reaction to his medication, puberty, or his own form of Cabin Fever that's causing his erratic behavior. He's been disagreeable and combative nearly every night in recent memory and it's exhausting for those who care for him.

Sometimes I find myself wishing time away. Thinking, "If we can just make through the next 4 months then Dillon will get his license back."

"If we can just get through this year then Joe's meets and competitions will be off the calendar."

"If we can just make it through next year, then Mackenzie can drive herself around."

"If we can just make it through puberty with Alex, then Life can return to peaceful."

"If we can just get through the next 6 years, then all the kids should all be out of the house and Tim and I can finally settle down."

And then tonight Dillon came upstairs to talk to me. Mac was downstairs studying, Alex in bed, Joe at school, and Tim at the firehouse. I was sitting alone on the couch, TV off, computer on my lap, red wine within reach, having just been purposefully urinated on by Alex in retaliation for making him bathe. Dillon had clearly come topside to check on me and we chatted for a few minutes before he said, "There's been a lot of tension in the house lately." He wasn't making a judgment, not placing blame, just noting his observation. My immediate response was to apologize and then the phone rang, Tim checking in one last time before bed. Dillon waited until I was off the phone and talked with me a few minutes more, then kissed me and went to bed. I sat there a moment, thinking what a wise and insightful young man he is. Whether or not he meant to, this Man-Child I raised while raising myself reminded me to Enjoy the Small Things.

So before I sleep tonight, I'll simply Enjoy these Small Things:
  • the bottle of water Phyllis brought me today when she heard me say at work that my Peace Lily was thirsty
  • new sneakers
  • Joe, coming to check on me tonight after hearing about the evening
  • writing a post
  • the piles of folded laundry on the table (thank you, Dillon!)
  • Alex, being a sweetheart at JoAnn's Fabrics tonight
  • Babycat's meow
  • my pants fitting better
  • the new treadmill that's on it's way
  • Mackenzie's magical ability to calm Alex down during a meltdown
  • the fire in the fireplace
  • a husband who makes me laugh
  • and last but not least, 2 doggies keeping me company on my big empty bed

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Alex

Last night was not a good night. Alex started to melt down around 2 in the afternoon and nothing we did could change the terrible path of destruction he was on. Sometimes, there's a trigger for his meltdowns and we watch and we learn to adapt and eliminate the triggers from his environment. But sometimes, like yesterday, the meltdown is like a fantastic spring storm that you first see on the horizon. You take measures to try to prepare for it and take precautions to minimize the damage, but sometimes no matter what you do, the storm is inevitable. Sometimes it's too big to try and avert with our meager human ways and all we can do is resort to damage control.

Yesterday, the storm started at 2 and didn't end until it was knocked back with medication and wrestled to bed just before 7, leaving a swath of destruction and tears and a fair amount of pain in it's wake.

But today. Today, Alex couldn't have been more wonderful. He hugged and kissed me when I got home from work, he stopped playing his airplane game without complaint to get in the car and fetch Mackenzie from practice, he sat down to eat with just one no and then moseyed off to the bath after I asked only once.

Then, he signed that he needed to sit to take his shoes off.

He signed "sit!" And I've never seen him do that before. We communicated! He told me what he needed, and I was able to help him!

It's days like today that make the very gray and stormy days fade into the background of our consciousness and allow the Baby Steps that we yearn to see float to the surface and restore our Hope.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mackenzie Turns 15

For 15 years, I've been continuously amazed by this wonderful creature. As a baby, she was so stubborn, she wouldn't let anyone other than me push the grocery cart or her stroller. She walked before 9 months, surprising everyone with her tiny upright body. Her fluffy, cornsilk hair turned into crazy red-brown corkscrews right before my eyes. Then one day, she she started talking, and hasn't stopped since.

Mackenzie is wise beyond her years and her maturity, at times, puts me to shame. She adapted to a new stepfather and 2 new brothers with amazing grace, and took the initiative to learn American Sign Language to better communicate with Alex. I can always count on her to step in when my patience with him runs low. Her compassion and empathy are impressive (considering how much she doesn't like babies).

After we moved back Home, Mackenzie quickly made friends and in school, she ranks 19th out of her class of over 500. When she needs homework help, she's on her own. Mackenzie's a dedicated athlete, and has to talk me into dragging my butt out of bed to take her to 5:45am practice. This spirit is probably why, as a freshman, she competes on the Varsity Swim Team.

Mackenzie makes me laugh. She is in my head and I in hers. When no one else "gets" us, we "get" each other. Sometimes we just have to look at each other to know what the other's thinking and it's all over for the people in our midst. We dissolve into giggles like two best friends at a slumber party. I can always count on her to tell me Which Shoes? or answer me truthfully when I ask, "Do these pants make my butt look big?"

Mackenzie hasn't decided what she wants to be when she grows up, but has ruled out her baby dreams of being a Mounted Police Officer. Last I heard, it was a toss-up between Sign Language Teacher in a Special Needs Classroom and News Anchor. She's got a while to decide, and I plan on just sitting back to enjoy the ride.

You all know how I believe in Serendipity. And what a happy accident that I was appointed to be her mother. I know that Mackenzie is destined to grow into a stunning and extraordinary woman, someone we can all be proud of.

Raise your glass to a memorable Past and a wondrous Future.

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Listening to Mac

A year ago, I bought Mackenzie the Twilight series for her for Christmas. She promptly read them all in less than a week and then accosted me with the entire series, saying I MUST read them Right Now. But I was busy. I was painting the house and starting a new job and still adjusting to the addition of 3 more boys into our Girl House. And I didn't read them.

Then out of the blue, just after Christmas this year, I picked them up and read them all in under 2 weeks. The only reason I didn't read them more quickly was that pesky job of mine and my terribly annoying habit of falling asleep the moment I get horizontal.

I LOVEDLOVEDLOVED the entire series and each time I had to put one of them down, I couldn't wait to pick it back up again and learn what was happening with Bella next. They were an easy read and sometimes silly, but the story did it's job and took me away from Child Protection and dishes and 100-pound-meltdowns, to a Make Believe world for a short time each evening.

The moral of this story? We should all listen to Mackenzie. She knows of what she speaks.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Reading List 2010

Someday, I'll start reading again. For now, I keep plugging along...

  • The Alchemist's Daughter ~ Katharine McMahon
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ~ Mark Haddon
  • ??
  • Three Junes ~ Julia Glass
  • While You Were Gone ~ Sue Miller
  • Tamar ~ Mal Peet
  • Sarah's Key ~ Tatiana de Rosnay
  • The Glass Castle: A Memoir ~ Jeanette Walls
  • The Help ~ Kathryn Stocket
  • A Reliable Wife ~ Robert Goolrick
  • Fortune's Rocks ~ Anita Shreve
  • Her Fearful Symmetry ~ Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Kitchen House ~ Kathleen Grissom

Friday, December 25, 2009

7 Days:Day 7: Paige is the Queen of Wii Bowling

(But not the Queen of Wii Basketball.) Tim got Wii Resort Games for Christmas (mostly because they have the basketball and he loves the basketball.)

Unlike real bowling, where the longer I play, the more tired my arm gets and I start to suck more, Wii Bowling is easier! Lighter! Less frustrating!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

7 Days:Day6: Christmas Eve

This is Alex, Tim, Paige, Joe, Dillon, and Mackenzie. These kids are what makes us laugh, and makes us worry; they're what makes us proud and what makes us love. These kids are the reason for everything we do and we couldn't be happier to be their parents.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

7 Days:Day 5: Silver (Spiced Rum!)

Tim and I tried this Captain Morgan's Silver Spiced Rum last week at his work Christmas party. It was delicious and I've had a fair amount of it for dinner tonight.

And! A side note... Note the antlers I am wearing. Today was a weird day at work. Monday and Tuesday, no one wanted to report any child abuse or neglect. But today! Today, people who saw someone hurt a child 2 weeks ago (or longer!) decided to make a report. We did not understand this as it is Christmas Eve Eve and we planned on not working too much today. ANYWAY... So I wore these antlers in an attempt to keep our mood light and happy. THEN! I wore them home. I have 4 teenagers in my home. Alex (15, Nonverbal Autism) saw me and was so excited to see that Ma turned into Rudolph during the day and kept signing, "Rudolph"! Then, separately, I conversed with Joe (18), Dillon (21), and Mackenzie (15). Not a one of them mentioned that I was wearing antlers on my head. It was very surreal.

When asked, Mackenzie stated that it just didn't seem out of the ordinary to her.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

7 Days:Day4: Paige in a Box

So. Today you get a photo of me at work. Though any "work" you see here is simulated as it is 2 days before Christmas, we are working with a skeleton crew, and wholly unmotivated.

Monday, December 21, 2009

7 Days:Day 3: Reading

Mackenzie and I trying to read after a hard day. She had a swim meet in Indianapolis, I worked. Then we baked cookies!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

7 Days:Day 2: Toasty Treat

This is Fire in our new fireplace! For the past 2 years I've lived in this house, there was an antique (read "unuseable") gas heater and an awful draft to this fireplace. This year, thanks to my husband, I am warm and toasty.

(He, of course, has to sit around in his underwear because the living room is an inferno.)

7 Days:Day 1: After

7 Days is back. I neglected to post the Fall 09 run and it seems that "Cartwheels" could use a jumpstart so here we go!

After the Firefighter Christmas Party. I suspect that Tim might have a headache tomorrow. Thank you, Russ, for the reminder! I saw it at 11:52pm. Just in the nick of time!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

We're Booking Now!

Eight months ago I started to read a book. Tonight I finished it. I think it was good but I really only remember the last hundred or so pages. And then I cried at the end. It's name is "Firefly Lane."

Now I am faced with the awesome task of choosing my next book. There are several that have languished in my bookcase for quite some time (or years - I'm looking at you, "Poisonwood Bible"), the last book in the Kay Scarpetta series... I thought about "Vanishing Acts" but I fear that I have already read it and I just don't remember. I have a book in there called "Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress." I think I'll try that one next as anything too deep these days causes me to lose interest with alarming speed. I've wanted to read "Wicked" but I am afraid that all those made-up names will distract me from the story. Mac wants me to read those vampire books. (What are they called?) I could totally do that but it seems like a huge commitment - have you seen how big they are? They could be the last books I ever enjoy at my current rate of reading.

I have read "Fireman Small" countless times over the past two years but that can only take me so far in the Literary Satisfaction Department. Therefore, I'm currently open for suggestions. If you have a book that you lovedlovedloved, please let me know. Just don't let it be too cumbersome. I can only dedicate a limited number of brain cells to reading lately. Thank you for your participation.