altarflame: (TheUniverse)
I had 8 crappy phone conversations today.

Six of them were from and to my doctor's office re: my test results. I have benign tumors on one ovary that they want to follow up on with a second ultrasound in 4-6 weeks, is the gist, but with all the details in hand and too much time googling hemmoragic and free fluid and this and the other thing, I had a lot of questions and basically nobody wants to answer them. As I understand it right now, it's very normal to have cysts on an ovary, though it may be causing some of my abdominal pain and bloating, and it could be either the cause of or the result of my heavy periods. But it's pretty unlikely that it's cancer based on appearance and commonality (not to mention my age and childbearing history). But, they have to look at it again, because there is that very very small chance and because sometimes even benign cysts cause big problems when they get huge or rupture.

Seven was G the nanny calling to update us on The Headlice Situation. Most likely we gave Dama head lice while she was here, just regionally it's very common in South Florida and not so much in Kansas, although it is possible she gave it to us or we all got it from the rented van or whatever. But G has it too, and somehow as a 28 year old Florida native...she's never had it before O_O So she's really freaked about it, she sounds angry and violated as though we did this to her, though she did not actually say that or anything like it (although she did say that in the middle of the night at the height of tedious combing she was telling herself she'd never come back here again). It's just kind of frustrating that she's taking multiple days off and acting so completely "life on hold" about it, since we all knew it was "around" last Friday and so I would have assumed everyone could get rid of it over the weekend and not wait until the night before a shift 6 days later to even check for it...whatever. It was just an awkward conversation. I think we're on the same page now. And hopefully everyone will be totally bug free semi-immediately.

Call eight was my mother going on about how the house they went back to in Jacksonville has been broken into, there's broken glass all over, and the landlord had cleaned it all out for their eviction, and she doesn't have any money or cookware or know what they're going to do because some check didn't come and some other people want a deposit she wasn't prepared for, and I'm just thinking, yeah. Why why WHY did you want to go back to this so badly? How can you sound giddy and happy to be living in a rural part of nowhere with no vehicle, in an empty house with a missing window? Also, I can't handle the unspoken pressure for money. I project that she feels we are rich. She doesn't say this, it's my own idea, but it's hard to shake, because I remember pre-settlement how homeowning people with multiple cars and savings accounts seemed to me. And, having paid for her to get down here and then paid to move her back, it's hard to not feel like she's at least hinting if not manipulating. But damnitt, aside from those moving to and fro expenses, we also gave her a chunk when we first got the settlement, AND gave her $3000 for dental stuff she couldn't afford a couple of months ago.

And I was happy to do that at the time. I still feel like that was money well spent. But it is adding up to a ridiculous extent, at a time when I am concerned my own medical expenses are going to rapidly outpace what we have left.

At least she won't have internet access for awhile ;)

So now I know that some of my big belly, in addition to a diastasis recti, is free floating fluid from the ovarian cysts of yesterday. It makes me feel helpless and hateful about the state of my body. I enjoyed having a typical Cuban body that meant that no matter how much weight I gained, I would always have a defined waist and a relatively flat belly. It was like an expanding hour glass. Now it's like a late pregnancy, if I were pregnant with an upside down triangle.

There is so much wrapped up in my horrible body image. It is not just the aesthetics. It's scars all over that are linked to ptsd and remind me, oh that's where they pulled out the drainage tube and I screamed, that's where Jackson expanded the scar 4 inches in each direction and it started unfolding and opening, that's where they messed up my muscles as they pulled out pieces of dead intestines. Half of it is completely numb. And, the big protrusion and strange shape are future surgery hanging over my head. My back aches don't just hurt, they depress the hell out of me, making me feel like an invalid, like damaged goods, like my days are numbered.


Grant came home this evening as I got back with everyone, from soccer practice, and he cleaned the kitchen around me in silence as I made dinner. Simple dinner...roasted quartered potatoes, boiled corn on the cob, chicken tenderloins rubbed with barbecue sauce and put on the George Foreman. And a little skillet of sauteed mushrooms for Ananda. He cleared the far too cluttered counters, emptied and refilled the dishwasher, took out the trash.

He listened to a medical and weight and so forth rant that expanded on the emails I sent him at work today, and involved tears.

Then he went and got two early birthday presents for me from wherever he had hid them. GORGEOUS beautiful garnet rings. They're meant to be interchangeable with my engagement ring, that I now wear on my right hand, for different outfits and moods. The engagement ring is a ruby, and it's perfect in and of itself, he is good at this. And it made him so visibly happy to give me these things, and they are SO INCREDIBLE.

Dinner was good. Everyone liked everything and nobody was very loud. Then he and I layed together all cuddly and nice while he read and Elise climbed on us, and I felt like, ok. Perhaps things will be ok after all.

On The Agenda For Tomorrow:

-Morning and afternoon chores, as per usual
-Rite Start Math
-Phase One of a sheep making kit we got at Target a while back
-Me knitting copiously
-early dinner
-overlapping soccer games at 5:45 and 6:00
-Grant meeting us at the Y for family swimming at 8
-snack, tooth brushing and immediate bedtime for kids
-Hopefully, packages coming in the mail
-Hopefully, mommy and daddy time with kids in bed

Things I'm Thankful For

-living in a time and a place, with the means, that health problems can be detected and really puts things in perspective to think of how people die in the streets of things they didn't even know they had, in some parts of the world
-ELISE. My laughing, talking, super affectionate adorable warm big ol baby girl
-3 year old Jakey, who asks me every day, "Do you know what we have? ...A LOT OF LOVE!!"
-That counseling is something Ananda loves, that is very obviously helping her big time. I was not at all sure she'd be into it, but this is great.
-Fall...big carving pumpkins, medium pie pumpkins, small decorative pumpkins, Halloween costumes, planning Thanskgiving dinner, major weather improvements (mid to high 80s instead of mid to high 90s, with no more mosquitoes and way less humidity) - I LOVE FALL, even though we don't have apple picking or changing leaves here.
-That Isaac is not only so much easier than he was 6 months ago, but also is trying to be cuddly with me just because "Daddy told me that even though I don't really like hugs and kisses they make you feel special".
-this house, a million times over
-yarn, needles and time
-all the signs and nudges I get as a Christian, little though I often deserve them, from God
-discovering Nina Simone, and Justin Roberts
altarflame: (excellent)
I got up, did a lot of whirlwind cleaning, got the kids up and dressed and fed and nursed and all that, and then G (nanny) came over. I had a plan for her "shift" (it is a shift, why am I using quotes, why does that word feel so weird?) today. First I took a shower/bath with Elise; our roman tub has a portable shower head in it, so I sat while she stood and it was some cute fun. Got us both dressed, and came out to find G drawing pictures and stamping and tracing hands and other things, with Ananda, Isaac, and Jake, while teaching them silly songs about fish with pockets to put their stuff in. Made myself a quick egg on toast while listening in as she included Elise and then talked and laughed with her about how totally surreal and bizarre it is that she does things SO SIMILARLY to how I do them, with me in the background making an egg for myself silently - it's just bizarre.

Did a little research, made a list of school supplies we need for this year, took it over to Spellbound Books, with A and A (only). They played with their friends there for about half an hour while I browsed and confirmed what I wanted with the mom/owner lady. I feel really good about where we're going, school-wise, I want to make this whole big detailed plan for the first time and maybe we'll stick to it, even! Ha. But, some of the things I'm excited about are a cd of the actual poets reading their poems - Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, many others, and there is a read along book. The readers that I picked out, from Abeka. Story of the World activity guides. And other things. Lots of other things. We ended up going with RightStart math after I found out that Saxon Math, which I'd planned on, was going to be $850 per kid. Seriously. I laughed out loud when I saw that online.

Got back, and G, Isaac, Jake and Elise showed me the dance and song they'd coordinated while I was gone - SO FUNNY AND COOL. Elise was even getting into it, I could die. Checked in, nursed Elise, talked with G some more, went back out - ALONE - made a couple of phone calls, inquired about YMCA membership, got stuff for our lunch, and came back. They were all playing board games. She left, we ate, and then went over to Kristin's to pick up my long-neglected belly cast.

I realized recently that I've been avoiding Kristin and all PATH people all summer because I'm ashamed of myself and uncomfortable about how I'm...I don't know...not doing well all the time. PTSD in general. I don't want to deal with telling my AP mommy friends or my homeschooling group that I've hired childcare help, am in counseling, and can't sleep at night. So I just haven't. I'm really glad I did, with Kristin, today, though - we just had the best talks for a couple of hours, and all the kids had a blast with her kids and her pool (throwing things in and fishing them out when they bobbed to the edge). We made plans to go back and swim on Saturday, after we go up to Miami and have lunch with Grant.

She's also organizing a co-op for chickens and I cannot WAIT to have chickens!!!! They're like $1.50 per bird this way (plus transport), it's insane, and you get all females still as chicks, so they imprint to your family and property and will neither peck you or run off, when they're older. We have to wait til our fence is done and then plan the chicken run around the garden, which has yet to be in the ground, but she hasn't found enough people yet anyway. So hopefully the timing will work out.

I talked to Dama on the phone and found out she is still coming down here, she just had some temporary glitches with paying for the plane tickets because someone stole their account info online and, thusly, her vacation money. So it's just temporary and not some awful thing, which makes me really happy. They're really coming!!! My kids have been writing her kids a TON of letters, I have two sealed and stamped ones sitting right by my arm right now...and wouldn't it be awesome if we had chickens by the time they got here? Chickens, Dama! I'm getting emails now with subject lines like "Bawk bawk bKAWK!" full of pictures of chicks that look like they're made of fluffed out teased wool, or that seem to have hair rather than feathers, all kinds of fascinating ornamental whatnot.

The AWANA kick-off party was tonight, and that was a mixed bag...Dropping Isaac off was a half hour long affair of tantruming, panic, indecisiveness, etc. He is a lot of work. There was a time when I'd try to explain how I did everything right, but I'm over it. They all had a great time in the end. And I had a really productive grocery shopping trip with Jake and Elise while they were in there. They are both always so good and easy to take out.

I've had someone emailing me for info about Nancy because they want to vbac with her, and just talking about how amazingly supportive, helpful and WONDERFUL it is to have Nancy during pregnancy, labor and even a transfer situation just made me warm all over.

So I've got my belly cast hanging in my room. I've got a date for Saturday, a visit from out of state friends tentatively planned, lots of general stuff on the agenda for the next couple of days (like therapy tomorrow, while G is here with the kids, and then Shrinky Dinks with A and A once I'm back, and game night Friday) and all our school things on their way. I've got a house stocked with food and kids who went to bed at pretty good times. My children just had a nonstop fun fest from waking to sleep, with only chores to break it up. I'll take it.

I had a weird moment this morning when I felt like the settlement has altered my life so completely that I can't even see it from the inside. I was sitting in the giant bathtub in this house I own with my baby, while the nanny played with the other kids. And was like, huh. What the hell is this nonsense :p But then I had another moment, talking with Kristen about how I feel and all I've been dealing with, that I was just blown away that the money is gone and yet I'm going to be living this for a long, long time. She is one of many people who think I was crazy to accept the sum that we did. Which I may as well just say was half a million dollars. My mother was making me crazy, she was so adamant that I deserved millions - and I understand where she was coming from. I had days in the ICU, I nearly died after a month of pain and fear and lots of doctor visits, I was separated from my 6 month old baby who needed special home therapies for a week and a half...and then unable to lift her for weeks, when I returned, which made re-bonding awfully freaking hard. But...Most "retained surgical instrument" cases in the Massachusetts area only get like $250-350k if they go to court - we were told this by multiple, unaffiliated attorneys, and saw it ourselves when we looked up headlines and case histories. You only get a million dollars for dying (no thank you). And, lawyers take like 40%, when you go to court - after YEARS and years of appeals. Whereas we got it all, and very quickly. AND, I wasn't really trying to get rich off of the damn hospital, I felt like the sponge thing was an honest mistake and they treated us - medically and as humans treated us - very, very well otherwise. I would still reccomend that hospital to people. I didn't want to destroy that awesome OBs career because the scrub nurse screwed up. It was an emergency situation, they saved Elise's life, all that. I just wanted to be able to seek counseling, and live with Grant's business killed by the whole affair, and stuff like that. So we got what we wanted...

And yet I have a whole other major surgery hanging over my head to fix my belly, since that bowel resection. I choose every single day, when I wake up - do I want to spend 10 minutes squeezing into this crazy thing and deal with wearing it all day and have to dress around it to hide the weird straps, and be that much hotter in the heat...or do I want to have a very bad back ache, hasten herniation and be asked when I'm due everywhere I go? Bah.

I had some sort of inexplicable epiphany today, wherein I suddenly looked in the mirror naked and thought I was sexy. That has not happened in a LONG TIME. I feel sexy fairly often, without being able to see myself, because I have a really great husband that seems to genuinely think I am, and caters to/reassures my insecurities, and so I can be uninhibited with him in the moment. Sometimes, wearing my big support thing with the right clothes over it, I see myself and think I look good, but I think it's a ruse. I like my face, my hair, my style. My boobs. I have a reeeeeeeeeally hard time with my body, though. My belly has become "my body" for me, it's all I see or something...Could have something to do with the many many scars, the messed up texture, the assymetrical hanging, the fact that my daughter abruptly stops talking and rushes out of the room if I take off my shirt, out of fear from seeing my wounds being gauze-packed so often? :/ Not to mention how, when I turn sideways, this crazy lump protrudes out all disfigured - a hard ball of muscle that there is a dip down behind. *shudder*

Anyway, yeah, I still had the assymetrical hanging and the scars and the texture today, but they were in the context somehow of my exaggerated hourglass figure, and all soft and nice, just didn't seem disgusting. It just seemed like my body, it seemed "ok". The lump was there, but I have more control over those muscles than I did a few months ago, by far, and so it doesn't seem to just be some dead jutting disconnected mass. It's...maybe something healing? Slowly? A girl can dream, anyway.

I went out without wearing my thing and thought I looked good, and have been trying HARD to build up my posture and practice keeping my ab muscles engaged (which over YEARS can pull a severe diastasis back together...mostly...sometimes). It's very difficult, I couldn't even feel them TO engage not so long ago. Tomorrow might be a whole different story where I just can't find the perception I had today again, but this has been good, so again...I'll take it.
altarflame: (hospital)
I've become really ambivalent about livejournal and fantasized about deleting my lj without a backwards glance. I was writing about this in a letter to [ profile] rainingkisses when I realized that it's because I don't feel like I can be honest here anymore.

I don't lie. But I don't give the whole story, either; I don't have the same time or energy to give to blogging that I used to and so it usually seems like a lot to get into to tell the rest.

the rest )
altarflame: (life I love)
I went to the ENT this morning. He was a tall, thin, friendly middle aged man who immediately set off my Gaydar. He was funny, and nice, and when he looked into my first ear he nearly shouted, "WHOA!" and then "Wow!" After suctioning copious pus out of both of my ears and looking in them a lot more he proclaimed me to have an inner, middle and outer ear infection, in both ears. He got bonus points for being on the up and up about breastfeeding-friendly antibiotics (a male ENT knows, but everyone from maternity ward nurses to female OBs seem clueless, go figure...) I'm on oral and topical antibiotics now, with a follow up appointment in one week and warnings that I will probably need a "long term plan" for ongoing ear health, possibly involving homemade drops I use after showers and things like that. $85, cha-ching!

Dropped off prescriptions at Walgreens and came home, helped G get everyone ready and then ran up to various places in Pinecrest as a family, starting with Wild Oats as he wanted to get healthy snacks for his work week. He's doing INCREDIBLE staying off of sugar and refined flour, he's already lost over 20 pounds and some pant sizes. I don't know how much he spent there, but it was a couple of bags worth of stuff, and we got one of those Feed 100 bags like I've been meaning to every time I go there, which is $35 by itself, so I'm guessing $75 total? cha-ching!

He's wanted a flat screen tv forever now, and a good one at a compromise size finally went on sale to where it fits in with what we budgeted for it. I was very skeptical about this initially, even though the tv we've been using for years is missing buttons and sometimes refuses to turn off even with the remote - I mean it has fake wood paneling and everything, it is a dinosaur. But I have to admit that the image clarity on this new one is amazing and it's pretty awesome to be able to view slideshows of pics of the kids on it and, well, it is great to have something wall-mounting that the kids won't be able to ransack and steal buttons off of because it's up too high. It's one of those HD tvs, "1080p" whatever the hell that means. $1099, cha-ching!

And then we went to Wood You because I've always wanted to check that place out. It is pretty cool...we never bought chairs to go with our new dining table last fall because I just can't fathom spending hundreds of dollars per dining chair when we need 8 of them. We've been using our old 6 that don't match the table, plus the computer chair and sometimes a bucket turned upside down under Grant if Shaun or Laura is here. It works, you know :p They have some pretty great chairs, though, for prices like $59 each. I had been planning to get some from Target that are $150 per pair, even though that still seems exorbitant to me (especially plus shipping), but these are really solid and nice. We're still thinking about it. In the meantime, I was so thrilled to finally see good sturdy kids' wooden rockers for $49, rather than the standard 100-200 I always seem to see, that we bought one of those on the spot. $49 plus tax, cha-ching!

Great local pizza place that is way healthier than normal takeout pizza (and tastes better), ordered to-go and taken to the park - $21 and change, cha-ching!

I ran most of the way around the track at the park, with Isaac. Man, I haven't run in a long time. I haven't sweat and been out of breath in a long time. It felt really good, like hard but not nearly as hard as I would have thought.

Swung by Walgreens on the way home to get my prescriptions - $130. I'm tired of cha-ching-ing.

I'm tired of money in general. We've burned through most of the settlement so fast on "responsible" things - debt, home, home repair and renovation, cars, tithing and giving, and setting aside a "financial buffer" - that we're considering getting a Home Equity Line of Credit that we can use for more frivolous things as the next couple of years go by. You only pay on what you spend, and if we got, say, a $40,000 line of credit and spent every red cent of it, our payments would still only be about $200 a month (for 10 years), which isn't bad. It would facilitate things like taking a somewhat extravagant (by our standards - like staying in hotels rather than with family, leaving the state, etc) vacation, flying in friends like I had originally planned to before home expenses got crazy, and letting the kids do less essential but super enriching activities. Like flute lessons for the flute I'm not proving a very good teacher at, with Ananda. We could use our money that we already have for most of this since we would have the HELOC as the buffer, and not need a separate cash buffer anymore. So it would be possible that we wouldn't even need to use the majority of it (meaning we wouldn't have to pay it back). It could be "peace of mind", because right now we are both having a constant headache about money. Refusing to go into the buffer, knowing how much we just burned through, trying to make it seem real that we still have all the assets and we did good things, trying not to be all spoiled and bitchy and depressed about the things we WANTED to do (vacations, friends, nicer furniture) that we can't really afford with the roof, and the fridge, etc etc etc...

This makes sense in theory but scares the HELL out of me because, really, I didn't (don't) ever want to borrow money against our paid-off house, you know? Especially before we even move in. Grant and I are switching off regularly, between being the one who thinks it's a perfect solution to a lot of things we want to do and being the one who thinks it's suicide, insanity, asking for trouble, etc etc. It comforts me to some degree that we are both set on something like $40,000, when we could potentially qualify for like $300,000. We have SOME sense, at least, I reassure myself.

I'm going to post some other pics later tonight, that I promised my mother and sister, but for now I have some pics of the new house ready.

These are not great pics...and not of nearly everything, either. I just got a few while we were there the other afternoon, right after we got the piano. )

I need to hire someone to do "blog photography" for me - that's the future of the business! People to come in and do [ profile] ditls for you.

I think I just can't be bothered with the details of taking better pictures. Which is funny, because I made kung pao chicken from scratch, risotto, honey glazed roasted carrots and steamed brocoli for dinner tonight, and THAT didn't seem like a bother at all. "It's all how you look at it", as they say on PBSKids.
altarflame: (MeandJakesleeping)
We've been hibernating with severe illness. The oral virus struck me just as predicted. There is always something really sweet about being sick together. I suppose that sounds ridiculous, but I love it when I see Ananda dripping in sweat because her fever has broken, red-faced and miserable with her own sudden heat, and I can come put a cool rag on her head and watch her wolf down a plate of cold watermelon chunks. That relieved, slightly disoriented smile kills me. I love it when I'm shaking with fever of my own and about to lose my mind from the teeth-rattling internal freeze, and Grant suddenly appears out of nowhere, swipes away my blankets, and drops a new one fresh from the dryer on me. I swear I moaned and instantly fell asleep.

Last night I was sitting up on the couch, with Elise sitting in my lap asleep and Jake laying next to me asleep. I was dozing off and on and she squirmed her way onto him - they woke each other up, face to face. I was ready for sick-kid hysterics, but instead they freaking looked at each other and grinned, and then commenced to do things like stroke each others' cheeks and give sloppy kisses for about 5 minutes before Grant ran over with the video camera. They were sitting up at that point, her leaning back against him and his arms around her.

Saturday was not any kind of ok...G had to work 12 hours, I hadn't slept much and I had to watch Aaron crying and shaking with pain and fever :/ All while very ill myself. I was feeling like my arms weighed 100 pounds each, so imagine my..uh...we'll call it "lack of amusement" when I realized the solution to his dilemma was to drag the portable hammock he's in love with out to the super warm sunshine in the yard and let him lay in the fresh air.

Anyway, it worked O_o And since then "sick with help" has been a nice contrast to "sick here by myself", particularly when I'm napping or eating something G's cooked.

I was also rather validated when the huge pot of from-scratch chicken noodle soup I made for everyone was actually universally well-received. The last time we were sick and I spent hours making stock and chopping things, nobody ate it but Grant and I. Big improvement.

This "oral virus" is really weird, btw. I was drooling so much in my feverish sleep the first night that I kept waking up all wet. Not acceptable. Apparently (according to the pediatrician) my sister and Brian have such deep-rooted systemic yeast problems that their immune systems are shot, so basically anytime Brian gets sick, he mutates it into something way worse and then passes it along. Which is right in line with TWO incidences now where his little play group had a mild, 24 hour illness that landed Brian in the hospital and then got my family ultra sick for days. I think we are going to have to institute a week long quarantine on him from now on, from whenever he "seems better".

While we all wallow about with blankets and bottles of C-Boost and Gatorade, time is playing tricks on us...Grant and I's anniversary was yesterday. We had plans to make plans, but, well, yeah. I could barely lift my head for parts of it, so we're tentatively talking about using it as an excuse to celebrate belatedly...

And Elise will be 1 in 8 days.

And we'll be closing on a house "on or before" 14 days from now, assuming nothing drastic happens.

G and I kind of looked up suspiciously, earlier today, realizing all this in the midst of our haze.

My diastasis is HORRIBLE from 2 days not wearing my support thing (I just haven't had the energy to put it on, or the will to deal with wearing it) and the nonstop coughing. Everytime I cough, the whole big lump of drooping, hanging muscle (it's right above my belly button) enlarges drastically and jumps. It freaks Grant out big time to see. It HURTS, is my thing...and yesterday afternoon it woke me up hurting so intensely that I was really afraid, almost frantic - it was VERY intense pain. I felt around that area and actually pushed something back through, and then it went back to normal "Oh man this sucks" everytime I coughed. I mean that's what herniation IS is something (fat, organs, anything) coming through a muscular separation, and I've been warned that this thing is itching to herniate, but yeah. Alarming nonetheless.

G approached me today about going in for the whole reparative surgery. I look 6 months pregnant right now dressed, deformed naked, and hate my body desperately, but he is most concerned about having to rush me to the hospital again for some emergency procedure or other when I get something strangulated in there. After clamming up, getting nauseus and generally feeling like I would cry over the terror of more surgery, we agreed to talk more about it another time...I've sort of, semi-resigned myself to possibly going with some sort of "wear my thing as much as possible now, and have a consultation to see if it's actually really dangerous, and then plan to get this done when Elise is weaned and Ananda is over the trauma of me dissapearing to hospitals" plan...which would allow me to lose some weight, which would make the surgery less complex/dangerous and more aesthetically good.

Mostly I'm still shuddering. The last time I had surgery, I woke up in the ICU with a face full of tubes. The time before that, they left a sponge in me and it nearly killed me. And all that after I was willing to do ANYTHING to avoid more surgery just from the screwed up experiences before...

Whenever I think of what it would actually BE, I seriously almost have a panic attack. I have to consciously shut down and just NOT think about it anymore.

Even before and after pictures give me the fucking willies...I look pretty cut up already, but nothing compares to that uneven, winding river, hip-to-hip red slice people have after a tummy tuck :x I feel like I'd start shaking everytime I saw my belly in the mirror and run from the bathroom.


What the hell.

Ok, so, we have everything all worked out, right? All of our debt paid off, all of our tithing done or mapped out, 2nd car purchased, house due to close. We've got necessary renovations, furniture we're missing and a buffer for our first year living there budgeted in, along with a few other things.

I got a bill in the mail today.

For $190,000.

One hundred and ninety thousand dollars!!

It's from Brigham and Women's, for Elise's NICU stay.

How in the world is it even legitimate for me to be just getting this bill for the first time now, when she's about to turn a year old? She was discharged at 3 1/2 weeks, and during her stay we met with the social worker and care coordinator plenty about their hassles with getting Florida Medicaid to pay the bill...and I remember the relief, albeit through layers of mind-numbing stress, when it was all worked out and taken care of. One less thing to worry about, awesome. So why now are we getting this bill? They've had my contact information all along and I've been communicating with them often, it's definitely not as though they just found me. Aside from legal stuff we dealt with, I've talked with her nurses and the care coordinator plenty to update them on her progress, and this has never been mentioned. And I received and paid some of my own bills that Medicaid wouldn't cover, for pathology and things. MANY MONTHS AGO, like last summer.

They're trying to act really generous in the bill, saying that if I pay promptly, they'll take off 20%. Yeah, I don't have that much either. Not unless we back out of a legally binding contract with a bank, forfeit a $22k deposit and take the loss of the cost of inspectors and surveyors. Not to mention, NOT GETTING A HOUSE.

I'm calling them tomorrow and trying to see what I have to do to fight with Florida Medicaid and get them to pay this, from my end. I mean, come on, they were SO good to Elise, and I DO want them to get paid, I am forever grateful to that NICU on about a million levels, but damn. I'm already negotiating a $111,000 hospital bill down here for my ICU stay last fall. Which was THEIR FAULT. We got a big sum of money dropped on us, yeah, but it's seriously just enough to set us up to live on G's income with a budget, independantly, debt free, and having given 10% (which we both felt was really, really important, especially after all the help WE received from total strangers last year...). We aren't in the Riviera on our yacht or anything, we're buying some tote bags from etsy, and once it's gone it's gone - with some new little cushions like life insurance that we never had before. The first thing we had to do was write check after check to doctors and labs and ERs and neurology departments, for 3 days, when we got it. The "writing year" with Grant not working was a pipe dream when we sat down to figure it out, and I'm "settling" instead for flying down some friends of mine that I'm dying to see.

Anyway, yeah, sudden year old but presented as brand new $190k bill that I was told was taken care of by insurance = not ok.

Elise is wonderful. Some of her new tricks include saying a consistent two syllables that she clearly thinks means "pick me up", and getting up on the dining table and my desk whenever people forget to push in the chairs.
altarflame: (Time is coming for me.)
My day was mostly horrible. I got almost no sleep at all, last night, due to Jake being insane, Elise refusing to go to bed and Isaac having some kind of stomach pains all night long. Then I spent all day frantically busy trying to clean out, pack, clean up, tend to kids, etc...there is so much to be done that if I take the time to make any sort of progress with things like going through a closet or shelving, the rest of the house gets trashed in the process and I am SO behind on every type of housework, even though I haven't stopped for a minute. I feel like I'm beating my head against a wall, here. Today, from the kids' room, I filled FIVE TRASH BAGS with stuffed animals, two with dress up clothes, two with diaperbags, backpacks, beach totes and my purses, two with things to donate and one with things to throw away. THE ROOM IS NOT DONE. I am realizing how desperately it needed this as I realize that I am still hanging on to things like string bikini tops that were really too small, like, 3 bra sizes ago, and jean cut offs I wore to summer camp when I was 15 but will never fit in again and would never be caught dead in anyway. I realized I am old enough now that even if I lost the weight to pull of a tank top showing my sides with some overalls, that is incredibly dated and I wouldn't feel comfortable anymore anyway, flashing everybody. I mean, really, what the heck.

I cannot quite let go of my platform combat boots.

We have really lived here for a long time.

I really have my work cut out for me, it makes me feel so tired just to think about it. I mean I spent an entire afternoon cleaning out the entertainment center, and got a full trash bag of garbage (we got rid of all the jewel cases for dvds and video games we have flip-books for now, and donated two different "educational" game systems the kids have never used that were covered in dust). Likewise for the adjacent "baby toys" part of the living room.

The kids' room, though, is really nuts and kind of epitomizes just how much we've outgrown these living arrangements - not only will Isaac and Jake's stuff be separated out into a whole different bedroom than A and A have at the new place. Also, all of MY clothes, shoes and purses will be in a closet in my room, all the skates, skateboards, helmets and backpacks will be in a hallway storage closet, and all the books will be in the library. We have like 400+ childrens' books, not counting what I think of as "school supplies" (those are in the dining room) O_o As it is I go in there almost nightly, and make the kids spend at least half an hour in there each afternoon, all just to keep the STUFF from being some sort of knee-high tide you have to wade through. Every bit of under-bed space in there is those giant rubbermaid tupperwares you slide under beds, each kid has one stuffed with anything they consider to be ONLY theirs and that they don't want others touching.

Aaron is so clever. We were driving to Oma's (Teresa/mil) tonight, and he said he made up a joke. This is usually painfully bad news, but we asked him to go ahead. "There was a t-h-e, and an e-n-d", he said, and then fell silent. "Go on", we prompted. "That's 'the end'", he said.

I laughed a lot.

My mom was laughing so hard I thought she was going to rupture something, on the phone earlier, when I told her that frequently Elise will start pulling Isaac's hair or trying to pull something out of his hands, and unlike all of the others who can manage her on their own, he always squeals for help like he's in mortal peril. Because of his mispronounciations, 5 times a day I hear him crying, "MOMMY, A LEECH IS GETTING ME!!"

Jake still calls her Leeth-t :)

The bank that owns the house we want has counter-offered $220k to our 214, which I actually see as really good news: The house is appraised at 277, last sold for 305, and because it's in foreclosure, was listed at only 235. The realtor said that was very solid and she didn't think they would go down. Of course I hoped they would accept 214, but I was really really hoping that if they did counteroffer, it would be 220. We re-did and re-signed the first page of the contract tonight, and assuming they're cool with us requiring an inspection as a contingency, and that the inspection goes well - THIS IS OUR HOUSE! :D They're going to be trying to get the power on Monday for an inspection assuming the bank ok's it.

I went nuts on etsy and bought some great stuff. I feel really good about it, all of it is unique, really cool stuff and all handmade by people who I would rather give my money to than some big corporation.

Come and see the Etsy goodness )

I have also recently purchased lion brand "kits" (instructions and all materials necessary)for two projects. This goes against my normal snobby yarn sensibilities on several levels: I've never made anything with a pattern in the past, and I like more awesome yarn, generally speaking (variegated, hand-dyed, yada yada). But, well, I am not that great of a knitter (usually sticking to crochet), and am hoping to learn something, in the first case, and in the second case, I've had a thing for granny squares lately. Anyway they're both throws I think will be great around My New House:

They're both made of wool-ease, which is supposed to have "all the warmth and softness of wool, but the durability for machine washing".

I won't be able to actually work on either of them probably until after we've moved, settled in a bit AND Christmas has passed (since I'm making several kid gifts and house things as it is) - but it will be very nice to have them there once the time comes.

Tomorrow is the PATH campout. There is a 50% chance of rain that I really hope doesn't effect us too much. I also hope everything goes well; Grant works tomorrow and is going to be joining us at around 8 pm. It's going to be me and them out there from about 4 until then. It should be fine - there will be a bunch of other PATH parents around all vying to hold Elise, most likely, and there are scheuled activities for Ananda, Aaron and Isaac. Still and all I have never done any tent-pitching myself thus far. It feels like famous last words to say "It can't be that hard, right?" :p
altarflame: (nicoletta)
There were packages galore today.

First off, I got my incredible Steve Madden shoes:

I am so in love with them and so drunk on being newly appreciative of shoes and having money at the same time, I also ordered these today when I saw they had them:

I'm still considering whether I "need" them in white, burnt orange, brown and red, too. I mean, come on, I'm actually going to have a closet of my own to display them in, soon ;) My justification is that I can wear them to church every Sunday for the rest of my life; as in, even if there is no other occassion to wear heels to, there will always be that, so why not get some to match any conceivable dress :p

Elise's new fitted diapers came.

Then, in an onslought, UPS delivered the big old Gymboree box along with my Nicoletta Ceccoli print and some things of Grant's.

I don't know what to think of my investment in higher quality childrens' clothing. I got them all dressed up in their new duds and they looked so adorable I thought, I need to make a habit of this. And then LITERALLY within the hour, Aaron had ripped a hole in the knee of his pants, Isaac had pooped "but only a tiny bit" in his shorts and gotten Nutella all over his face, and Jake was soaked down the front from the hose.
It was cute while it lasted )

I don't really know how anyone manages to keep kids' clothes in resale condition, especially BOYS' clothes. I really don't.

The Nicoletta Ceccoli print - which is the picture used for this icon, her painting "Corvi" - is incredible. First of all, in something larger than 100x100 pixels (it's actually 14"x14"), you can see the richness of the grass and the brushstrokes on the hair and it's just great. Also, whoa, it came hand signed and numbered 87/101, both in pencil. No wonder the thing cost $300. I mean damn, I just wanted to find it on or something ;)

I really, really, REALLY wanted to go to FIU's art department's "Spring Review" tonight, and had planned it in advance, but a whole lot of things conflicted and it wasn't meant to be, I guess. Sorry we weren't there, Shaun.

Speaking of culture and glamour, tomorrow we're spending all day long de-lousing again *big sarcastic thumbs up*!!! Honestly I am so sick to death of headlice, I would like to never see one again as long as I live. Mindy's girls keep giving it back to us when they come over here to spend the weekend, and then they get rid of it but I don't realize Annie has hatching eggs again and they go home with it, etc etc FOREVER. Laura is terrified Brian is going to catch it and keeping his head buzzed, I am beyond over combing through hair, and I REFUSE to move into a new house with head lice on board. I've designated every Friday in April as "Lice Day": we're doing the whole shebang with shampoo, vaccuming, bedding through ultra hot wash with tea tree oil, couch cushion covers, spraying toxic chemicals all over the house, ALL OF IT, with boiling brushes and combing until my hands are numb. And then we're doing it again the next Friday. And the Friday after that. And the Friday after that. Mindy and Teresa are doing Patrice and Nadia's hair and entire house, too, also weekly. If there is some way that somehow something somewhere is missed after all of that...I just don't know. I really don't. The best I can come up with is, maybe the girls get it from school and can't come to our new house until we know they're totally free of it. I'm just hoping that doing it once or doing it two weeks in a row wasn't thorough enough, because it always seems as though they are totally gone after we do it, for a few days or a couple weeks, but then I guess more eggs hatch or something?

For the record, I spent months trying to use baby oil as a 3-day smothering agent AND as a one time combing aid, tea tree oil, the new homeopathic lice treatment, we've been doing the whole Suave Coconut Oil shampoo and conditioner thing...please spare me the natural tips. I know there are people who swear by mayonnaise, vinegar, and/or vaseline, but eww, DEAR LORD EWW and I've read about that taking WEEKS to rinse out and being impossible to comb through anyway. My toddler and preschooler are not going to sleep in shower caps. This is it.

Elise is just getting copious combing and nitpicking, as I can't bear to put RID on her head yet, and don't think I could safely keep it off of her hands or, thus, out of her mouth, anyway.

As far as "our house" (the house we really want, that I wrote about):

Due to all kinds of talk with the listing agent and going back and forth with Teresa and the amount of properties the bank has to deal with, etc etc etc, we ended up submitting an offer early yesterday morning for $214,000 along with a refundable cashier's check deposit of $22,000 (the bank had apparently set up terms with the listing agent that they weren't taking anyone seriously without at least a 10% deposit up front), all contingent on an inspection not revealing more than $7000 in problems with the property. We were supposed to hear an answer today but it looks like tomorrow, now. It is KILLING ME waiting. Killing me. We are apparently the only people who've made an offer on this house so far, which I think is partially because it's a very low traffic area and partially because the pictures online are HORRIBLE, blurry, non-enlargeable thumbnails that do it no justice whatsoever. Teresa expects them to counter-offer at least once as it was listed at 235k, appraised at 277 and sold last time around for 305. It's surrounded by houses that sold for 250-400k. But, if they accept our initial offer, which I feel like has to be at least a possibility with that deposit and our paying cash, our closing date would be APRIL 25. SO SOON!!

It is very surreal to be feeling almost wealthy for the first time in my life during a time period when the economy is flagging so badly...there are foreclosures on nearly every block in many neighborhoods here in Homestead, and I was reading yesterday about whole subdivisions in places like Cleveland and Denver that sprang up 2 years ago and are ghost towns now, with bank lockboxes on nearly every door. There is a nationwide spiking demand for low-cost apartments as former-homeowners try to avoid homelessness. They are estimating 1.2 million foreclosures in the past 12 months, and expect the next 12 months to be worse.

One of our favorite stores, a locally owned place in the shopping plaza we often walk to, is closing down. The co-owners have been in business for 14 years but they are blaming the economy. They sell things like handmade quilts, expensive fancy candy from bulk bins, unique cards and tons of frou frou old lady stuff like antique-looking-but-actually-brand-new furniture. We bought our dining table there last Fall. Anyway, it is a little bit awesome to have a place with a lot of things I like putting all their merchandise on clearance when I am buying my first home and have some money to spend outfitting it; on the other hand, though, that was really the ONLY "class" in that plaza, and the kids LOVE going in there, and the owner is almost what I would call a friend. She's followed our whole story, with Boston and Elise and the sponge and all that crap, and sent free gifts to my hospital room. It just bites to see people struggling on all sides. I feel very grateful to be "safe" from short-term recession problems, with Grant having just landed a very good job with a ton of advancement opportunities, a great benefits package and 12 hour shifts that allow for either 3 or 4 days off in a row each week.

It is WEIRD being treated differently because we have some money; we were at the bank putting $300k in a Money Market account to gain interest while we aren't using it, and the lady helping us was like, running to the printer when she had to get something for us to sign, and being all extra-special-nice. Grant was sitting there in his crocs-with-socks, shorts, tshirt and straw hat, and he theorized while she was sprinting to our hard copy that we probably seemed "Eccentric" to her and perhaps she was seeing my gigantic, red $20 Claire's purse as being worth a whole lot more :p

Sidenote: we can actually make like $900 this month just by letting that three hundred grand sit in a money market account instead of a regular checking account. And we can still access it and everything, in the meantime (though only a limited number of times without penalty). There isn't risk involved or anything. What the heck.

I will leave you with a few other pictures that I took today.
+5, mostly Elise )
altarflame: (MeandJakesleeping)
I'm feeling really extraordinarily emotional tonight. It's a big jumble of a lot of largely unrelated things.

-I have this statue thing on my desk, that I bought the other day - it's a mother holding a swaddled baby close in the circle of her arms, with her face touching the baby's. It captured a feeling I get very well. So well that I have no doubt whatsoever that there will come a point in maybe a year when I look at it and just ache from the idea of never having another baby again. It has text on the back that actually made me cry in the store, just based on the day I was having. It says, I may never paint a masterpiece, write a novel or sing onstage, never orchestrate world peace. But when I look at you I know that you are my masterpiece. You are music from Heaven. You are my Peace. I've been cuddling and snuggling alone with Elise for hours while the rest of the house sleeps,'s so easy to make her laugh, and she's so communicative now - with her nodding yes and shaking her head no, and waving and signing milk - she points at things now, too, and has such a temper. She's figuring out all these little things, like whenever I ask anyone to look at her she immediately looks to them when she hears it, or if Grant picks up his keys, she runs to the front door like she wants to go, too. And then Jake, you know, my Jakey...I don't even know what to say about all of this. They are just so small, and so sweet, and so adorable together, and when I have them in my lap I remember holding Ananda and Aaron in my lap and I squeeze them, and nearly burst from love and thankfulness.

I feel like that Neutral Milk Hotel song,

What a beautiful face I have found in this place
That is circling around the sun,
What a glorious dream that could flash on the screen
And be gone in the blink of an eye from me
Soft and sweet, let me hold it close and keep it here
With me

And one day we will die and our ashes will fly
From the aeroplane over the sea
But for now we are young, let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see...

Sometimes I think I'm not going to be able to stand it anymore - having so much to lose, I mean. Some days I just start crying because I feel so vulnerable and it scares me so badly. That girl who broke up with Grant semi-annually just because I couldn't deal with him being mortal still pipes up sometimes that this is all just a little too intense. Ananda and I went out to dinner alone last night and the whole time I watched her grinning and shining with "Just me and mom" vibrancy and it was like I used the back of my brain to follow the conversation but the whole front was just awestruck. How did that baby I fell asleep staring at every night turn into someone who says things like, "We still have a lot of time to teach Isaac how to deal with things better, before we unleash him on society."

-Totally unrelated, but I've wanted to talk about our tything because it thrills me to the core...but not known how, because it would interfere with the privacy of some people other lj'ers would recognize, and I don't want to just feel like I'm tooting my own horn or something. It feels so good, though, and it makes me GIDDY to be able to do - what an amazing thing, to have the opportunity to really, really help other people in ways that will truly impact their lives, you know? I'm going to talk about it a little, because it rocks.

There is a little girl with severe disabilities who needs medical equipment not covered by insurance that could possibly improve her quality of life, and I can buy it for her so she can have that chance she deserves.

There is a single mother who loves her special needs child THROUGH THE ROOF and suffers guilt because she's often at work, can't give everything she wants to, to him, and struggles by on a tiny budget, and I have been over the moon imagining her opening her mailbox to be surprised by a FAT check she never saw coming that she can do whatever she wants to with.

The Catholic church paid my rent and gave me bags of groceries more than once, when *I* was a single mother, and individual Catholics have also inspire my faith in big ways, and I can donate something significant to a church near me.

I can give back to the church A and A went to VBS at, where they and Isaac have and love AWANA every week.

Grant can make a contribution to the church he has been loving going to, that he feels is doing great things in Homestead.

There is a website called - you should all go check it out! It is amazing. You lend - that's right, you get it back - money to people in impoverished countries that have no banks to help them get businesses started. Small time entrepeneurs, women trying to expand their fruit stands, men trying to start a shoe store, families that could get ahead if they just had 3 more sheep to sheer each season. The payback rate is like 98% - WAY highher than US banks. You go to the website, read through stories and look through pictures and decide who's cause you want to get behind. If someone needs a $300 loan, 30 people can do $10, or you can go put in $150 until someone else comes and does the rest, or you can pay it all for a few people, or whatever. We set up an account there and can just keep putting it back into different people every time we get it back again (there is no interest as it is a non-profit).

Do you know how long I've wanted to sponsor a child or two for? Specific kids, over the years - medical stuff, food, education, writing letters back and forth, maybe even meeting one day? Do you know how I've cried about the state of Russian orphanages and wished there was something I could do, even if it was just donating supplies or something so meager?

It is great to buy a house, very exciting but also scary and a little overwhelming. It is INCREDIBLE to pay off $62k in debt in a few days. It is nice to have a retirement fund growing or life insurance for peace of mind, it will be cool and very convenient to have a second vehicle. But all of it leaves me with this deep unease, this sense of " that's it, and I'm supposed to think this makes up for the lowest point in my life? And all the future complications I still live in fear of every day? I'll just forget the sense of violation and the freaking mind-numbing pain I dealt with and the walls I had to put up around my heart to keep thoughts of my kids creeping in..." I could go on. I could go nuts. But when I imagine that little girl I mentioned actually making some progress because this whole deal facilitated help for her family to get the things she needs? When I think of that other mom taking that check to the bank? When I imagine being a part of big organizations of help and healing and small individuals' lives at the same time...It feels like healing. Like justice. Like...Alright - maybe in the end, this WILL have been worth it.

It is a very good thing to be blessed with the resources to give back, when I've received so much help from other people over the years.

Speaking of which, it is also very cool to be able to directly "give back" to some of them specifically - like my sister, my mother, Shaun and Grant Sr specifically.

-Again, totally unrelated: I've been thinking of how I'm kind of hiding behind this whole "Will I get to OFFICIALLY write full time for a year" idea a lot - I don't want to write for a couple of hours on some of Grant's off days or when I have the energy at night, I want it all or nothing. And it's that same part of me that is afraid of vulnerability. I'd like to hedge my bets for success, you know, and I'd feel safer with the validation of that support, and I'd like to have an out, too, like, if I DON'T get that year, then I can feel like a person who never got the chance and the chance was all she needed. She was incredible, she had great ideas, and oh yeah OF COURSE she was motivated and discplined enough to really make it happen - but instead she sacrificed her opportunity for her kids. Which is admirable, she's a great mom, her kids are awesome.

I was cranking out short stories about once every two weeks and planning my c-section book in little bursts, but ever since this idea has been on the table, I've been paralyzed with anticipation and excitement and fear, and not done any writing or planning at all. I've just sat around on pins and needles, updating this thing all the time and talking with G about our options.

What I'm saying is, I think that if it's going to happen it's going to be because I MAKE it happen. When I wrote Cracked, it came pouring out night after night in the wee hours of the morning, constant and gushing. I'm basically up all night alone again, now. Shopping online and link hopping on LJ and watching late night tv for too long after whoever I've nursed down on the couch has dropped. Procrastinating doing the dishes by reading news stories and looking at nonsense. I could be getting a lot done, if I just started doing it. Should I be sleeping? Yes. Will I be awake regardless anyway? Yes again.
altarflame: (life I love)
When we first found out how much and when we were getting the settlement, we started obsessively looking through real estate online. We thought, hmm, ok, we can get something tiny in a decent neighborhood down here (like a 1400sf 3/2), with a 1/4 acre or less of yard, or something HUGE, like 2 stories, 3000 sf, garden tub, island in the kitchen, loft, 2 car garage, etc etc - but with NO YARD AT ALL, with houses pressed so closely in on either side that they literally don't put windows on the sides of the houses at all. Either way, it would be like $300,000 or more.

The places we really wanted were out in the Redlands, which is a little more rural, but they run around a million dollars each now. Some are "as low as" $600,000 or so. It just wasn't a good option at all; we would have had to get a mortgage we might not even qualify for and then die a slow death in property taxes and home owner's insurance. Argh.

We made the mistake of looking at Jacksonville real estate, and realized we could get a 2500 sf house on a 1/2 acre in a good area, for $300,000. So much more for our money. We had this big grappling struggle to deal with whether or not I could stand to leave my sister, break up the cousins, drop our established social network to start fresh. I hated it and thought of all the unique things I love about here - like the Florida Keys, the Everglades and the unique cultural and educational opportunities for the kids as they grow - and finally I said, you know what? I'm not going up to Jacksonville. Period. I can't do it.

Laura was thrilled, we were ok with it, we started looking again. Then my mother sent me this place, though - this crazy ass ranch house. 3000 square feet on 5 acres (in Jacksonville). It was listed at 399k but we were talking the guy down. Pool. All this stuff, convenient to downtown. It meant leaving, but bunny patch, leaving, but growing all of our own vegetables, leaving, but blah blah blah.

As time passed and we worked out our budget, though, it was like...ok. Tything 10%. Giving about $25k to friends and family as repayment for help last year. $62k in debt to pay off. Buying a second vehicle outright. Retirement plans. Possibly me writing for a year while Grant takes off work. Either way, some amount of financial buffer, and we're gonna need more furniture and an extracurricular budget to pull from...we realized we really couldn't afford a house that cost $300,000, let alone more. Not if we wanted to pay closing costs, or had to renovate at all, or wanted to take a vacation...

Then we realized, with a pang of sadness, that we could get what we have available here - the huge house with no yard or small house with little yard in questionable area - for only $200,000 or less, up there. We felt resigned to go.

Then, we went for a walk to Spellbound Books last week. I joked as we set out that maybe we'd buy a house along the way to Game Night. A couple of blocks later, in a great neighborhood, I saw a For Sale sign on a house I've always looked at and thought was nice, over the years. It has a fenced back yard, and then also a separate fenced side yard that includes a HUGE raised, deck-like patio that spans the entire length of the house, and is deep in places too, with ceiling fans and shelving. Foreclosure and everything. I called, and found out some great things.

2500 sf, 4/2 with kitchen and dining room, living and family rooms, upgrades like garden tub and double sinks in bathrooms. Tons of windows and french doors letting in a ton of light. Listed at 235. WOW, I thought, I got all excited and when I got to the bookstore and unloaded everyone and everything I immediately called Grant, and my mother about it. G looked up some inside pics online and said it looked great inside, the kitchen was really big and nice and there are some great wood floors in certain rooms. It was also appraised at 277k and last sold for 305k!

We told his mom (a realtor) that we wanted to see the inside. She got the lockbox code but stuff kept happening - including her being hospitalized for a possible heart attack :/ Grant and Isaac spent a morning there with her, and all of us went over one afternoon. She seemed/seems fine, but it was really scary the night she called the ambulance. She's only 47 or 48, still works fulltime and is raising Mindy's kids. There have been many prayers. It has been reiterated a million times to her that she doesn't have to rush to showing us houses, but she seems genuinely excited and like it's something she's happy about - her husband pulled me aside and told me to just let her do it because it actually takes her mind off of other things that DO stress her out.

In the meantime, while we couldn't see the inside, we called and got more info - that one room was unfinished terrazzo floor because they had to pull out some carpet, that there were a couple of broken tiles where the previous owners pulled out an in-floor safe, and that we'd have to get a new oven and dishwasher. None of it is too big of a deal, especially at that price. I was thinking, this is going to be mediocre but acceptable. A good price for the square footage and location, and a way to stay in Homestead. We went over there twice and looked around outside, mentally mapping out the yard - above ground pool, shed and garden could go in the back, swing set, picnic table and trampoline on the side, and our old dining set that's on the back porch here (cheap, light wood, much smaller table) would be fine on the patio.

Tonight, we finally went over to look at the inside, with Teresa. When we got there, there was another realtor there showing it to some other people, which struck panic in my heart. The prior salesperson in me identifies this as "fear of loss"; realtors should plan these things on purpose. Anyway, they left before we went in.


I love it. It surpassed my expectations about a million times over, inside.

When you first walk in, you're in what would be our library, with what would be our tv room to the right through sliding/pocket french doors, and what would be my office to the left. You're stepping through nice wooden double doors with decorative glass panels, the tv room has french doors to the big old patio. Windows everywhere. You keep walking straight, and the kitchen is on your left, dining room on the right. The kitchen is nice and big, plenty of room for helping kids - it has a granite bar to sit at, a giant pantry with shelves that roll out towards you, a spot for the double oven I'm dying to have, stainless steel KitchenAid refrigerator. There is a big box window popping out from the house above the kitchen sink, for an herb garden. The dining room has these huge, deep accordian-door storage closets full of organizational shelving, which is perfect for us as we currently keep all the homeschool supplies, arts and crafts stuff and board games in the dining room hanging out all over on bookcases. The dining rooms has french doors out to the patio, too.

Keep walking straight again, and you're in the hallway - you have the first bathroom on your left. First mini-room is oversized mirrors, double sinks, and shelving recessed into the wall, then there is the toilet and tub room. WAY nicer than the one bathroom we're sharing now. Across from it is the AC closet, which has room for storage.

Next to that bathroom is the laundry room, which has plenty of room for our mountains of laundry, the Ultra High Capacity washer and dryer we're buying, and an exterior door. Across from that is the first bedroom, which has a huge walk-in closet full of built in organizational shelving, buckling wood laminate flooring we'd have to replace, and french doors that go out to the patio.

Next the hallway splits left and right. To the left, you have a MASSIVE walk-in storage closet (it's like 8x8, at least, I thought it was a tiny bedroom at first) with that coated-wire shelving already installed all over. Go a little further, and you hit bedroom number 2, which is nice, windows, whatever.

Go right and you hit "the master suite". First it's another of those mini-bathroom-rooms with double sink, built in linen closet and plenty of mirror. There's a door to the main part of the bathroom, with a toilet and a GIANT GARDEN TUB WITH JACUZZI JETS and a portable shower head. The master bedroom has TWO big walk-in closets full of built in organizational shelving, double rods, etc, a window, and french doors out to the patio. Also very nice wood flooring. (What would be the fourth bedroom, way up by the front door, is what we're calling the office - it would be Annie and Aaron in one room, Isaac and Jake in one room, and Elise with us for at least awhile more).

I love it. I really love it. I love the layout, I love the size, I love the bathrooms, I love how unique it is to any other house I've been in, I love how outside-oriented and full of light it is. I love the incredible amount of storage, and the laundry room, and all of it. I forgot to mention that it has a security system installed already, and nice ceiling fans all over the place, and is freshly painted inside and out. A good yellow, outside.

I was all squinty eyed and suspicious about "those other people who were looking at our house". But I'll bet they don't have cash, bwahahaha.


Anyway, Teresa is doing the paperwork tonight to submit our offer of $201,014.75 cash, with an initial refundable deposit of $2500, pending an inspection and a survey, after which we'll give them like ten grand assuming all goes well, and then the rest at closing.

I am all on pins and needles and crazy giddy about this business. Will it work? Will they accept that offer, since it's a bank-owned foreclosure that needs a little work here and there? Or will they counter-offer? We told her our next offer would be 215, if so. Mainly I don't want somebody else to buy it out from under us. Most of the houses in that neighborhood have sold for $3-4 hundred thousand since about 2005, but of course that was a really big peak for the housing market down here, and the bubble has definitely burst. Our financial advisor thinks the real estate market is going to continue to drop for the next year before it turns around, so, surely the bank that owns this house also knows that. And it has to be a perk, when you've been burned on a mortgage, to have cash buyers available. The neighbors made a point of introducing themselves while we were there, and seemed nice - they have an 11 year old girl, a 9 year old boy and a 4 year old girl.

This all seems so crazy real to us. We're buying a house. Even if this one falls through, we're buying some house or other soon. We're actually going to walk through the display kitchens at Lowe's or wherever and say, we'd like this, and that and that. It kind of gives me the tense, anvil will drop out of the sky any second feeling I had in the weeks before my wedding, and it is definitely going to be weird leaving this house after being here longer than I've ever lived anywhere else in my life...but I'm thrilled.

PLEASE PLEASE THIS HOUSE!!! I know that if we don't get it, it'll be for some reason or other, opening a door when He closes a window or whatever, and I'll try to respect that, but for right now? I'd really like this house bad.

It's caddy-corner across the street from a guy with a HUMONGOUS leechy tree, who is so sweet that he goes in and gets a ladder and sheers and bucket to get you dozens himself, if you ask if you could maybe pick a couple. I know from years gone by when I'd walk around that area when Annie and Aaron were all I had. And we'd still be in easy walking distance of bringing Aracelia baked goods or A and A having a playdate with Isabel and Sydney or seeing Diane's latest baby birds (all neighbors here on this street). It's only about 4 blocks away, but definitely 4 blocks further into the really good part of the neighborhood, and 4 blocks further FROM the bike stealing, rock-throwing unattended kids around the corner from us in the other direction. It would be a longer but doable walk to the grocery store, and 4 blocks less to walk to get to the bookstore the other way.

Now I guess I'm supposed to go to sleep? HA!
altarflame: (Elisepeeking)
I am tired of the world being built only for families of 1-(MAYBE)3 children.

Something that irritates me to NO END is the ridiculous maximum occupancy laws this county has...for instance, did you know that we would not legally be allowed to move into a 3 bedroom apartment in Dade County, with 4 kids? A couple of years ago we looked into it. Five people is the maximum for a 3 bedroom apartment. That's not even two per bedroom, and it made no difference to them that I was talking about a bunch of tiny children. We've been living, all 7 of us, in two bedrooms here. We sleep with Jake and Elise, which would have been the case regardless of how much space we had, and then Ananda and Aaron are in bunk beds with Isaac in a toddler bed, in the other room. The idea that it might be ILLEGAL is beyond ridiculous to me. Especially when we have a big living room, an office, a kitchen, a big dining room, this computer area, front porch, back patio, yards, the bathroom, the laundry room is even big - I mean there is a ton of central living area here and I often spend a couple of minutes finding someone! I really think it's just that the world is no longer accustomed to what was common place a generation ago - really, I doubt our grandparents all had 8 bedroom houses for their six kids, you know?

Registration forms for a zoo membership or AWANA or birthdays at the ice cream parlor on your discount card or ANY-DAMN-THING, have 2-3 lines for kids' names. The family forms for nurseries at churches don't even have enough space. Dental insurance apps for Grant's jobs don't have enough room for "all of us".

You can buy tshirts with customized people on them - up to five, including parents!

You can buy new age wood carvings of families - with one or two kids in them.

Nobody at any of the dealerships we've been looking at knows anything about conversion vans, which after all have to be converted because nobody just MANUFACTURES passenger vans to seat 9 or more people.

Stores and companies routinely give away "Family Vacations" good for four people.

I am over it.

You know what I love? I love it when we're at BJ's shopping and they have double-wide carts that have attached bench seating, such that FOUR kids can be in it at once strapped in, being pushed along.

Also, - which is a Christian, hippie, natural living, attachment parenting website with great service - has shirts that say "I am one of many blessings" and it shows abstract figures - two big ones with their arms around a circle of five small ones.

Oh oh - I told you about the Gymboree order. You must want to see pictures of everything I've ordered for Elise, right? I girl clothes, come on, who can resist?
look at this )
altarflame: (Time is coming for me.)
I feel like panicking about this money dissapearing so quickly. It isn't, really, everything we're spending is in our budget, but...GAH.

-$11,000+ check for my last surgeon
-$1,119 check for pathology in the hospital
-$216 for Elise's labwork at Newton-Wellesley last year
-$219 for the biopsy of my mole last fall

I've written those checks, plus $50 for the PATH campout next month, $500 paying my grandparents back for a loan they gave us last fall, and ordering of some things the last two days. I splurged (within my allotted splurging) on some awesome stuff for Elise - organic clothes and advocacy wear, a few fitted diapers and two pairs of llamajama longies to round out our otherwise-fuzzi-bunz stash, some AMAZING little dresses, like handmade patchwork things, from ebay. I got Aaron new Crocs because his broke and Isaac new Crocs because he only has the sandals unlike everyone else and his feet get tarry black everywhere we go. I got myself a spare sausage casing support garment and a strapless one, as well, because I can't wear the same one all day everyday or it will be filthy. I got Steve Madden Mary Janes with heels - I don't think I've ever paid $70 for a pair of shoes in my life! I got a Lion Brand "kit" with all the yarn, hooks and pattern to make a given thing, that looks really great.

Grant has paid off...

-the $9000+ corporate credit card
-the $1000+ corporate credit card
-the $800+ water softening system bill that remained
-and will be or did pay off the $20k we still owed on the van, as well as...

Getting a Playstation 3, and a modest video camera. In like 2 days.

It's hard to remember this is totally ok and not panic. It feels like it's just slipping through our fingers, even though we're systematically clearing debt and working seemingly frivolous spending through an Excel spreadsheet.

Tomorrow we go look at that house that is just a few blocks from here (on the inside, with Grant's mother who is a realtor). If we like it we'll probably have an inspector out there next week and make an offer. After the initial walk through tomorrow, then we're going over to Bayleaf Peddler, where they are going out of business and having a clearance sale - the lady there, who is something of a friend and gave us a great deal on our dining table a few months ago, said we could get 5 different wide, deep, 6' tall, solid dark wook bookcases (very heavy and sturdy) for $500 total, and they'll deliver them for free. We want one of the central living areas in our house to be a library, so this works out great. We have a lot of book stacked on top of each other and piled all over, most of them in those unstable, 3-5 foot high, $30 pressboard bookcases you get at Target and places like that, or these big weird hutch things that are Grant Sr's and not coming with us.

And then we're headed down to Key West to see my dad.

Ugh...Jake and Elise crawled around all over us refusing to sleep and generally being crazy from 11 until after 3. Then I had a sinus attack and went to pee and take benadryl, and got caught up in the computer having "child free" time. Now's it's after 5.
altarflame: (bleeding roses)
Got up just in time to talk to the life insurance guy - they sent someone over to take our blood, urine, bp and medical histories. I am a fool and, like half the other times in my life I've taken a cup into a bathroom to pee into, I set it on the edge of the sink, sat down, peed as I usually would, and then went "Oh damn! Argh!" Luckily the guy was here long enough that I had some time to chug some ice water :p I felt incredibly validated by him stopping my non-biased, facts-only brief recount of my medical history over and over to say things like, "How could the OB do that? Do you know that's unethical?" and "I can't believe how you've been cheated and injured by hospitals" and things like that. He was genuinely shocked that I'd been routinely scheduled for an induction on my due date with no suspected complications, in a first pregnancy, for instance, and duly horrified by Isaac's misdating resulting in unnecessary prematurity.

Laura showed up at the same time he did, we all played in the yard for awhile after he left - Grant lying in his new portable hammock, which we'll be taking on the PATH camping trip next month. Had lunch at Chili's, very delicious, and then went up to Miami for FROZEN KEY LIME PIE DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE ON A STICK. If you are in South Florida, you absolutely have to go to the Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory and have one of these. My gosh, I freak out about these things - YUM. Sublime came on the radio and we were both singing along laughing I had a million dollars, but I - I spent it all!.

Then we hit the park for a couple of hours - again with the hammock (and Laura), along with Aaron's recovered bike and Annie's new bike, which she is trying to learn to ride with minimal success due to excessive fear of failure :/ It was a good time, though. My Dad called the cell, just to let us know he's euphorically happy knowing that Elise is walking and talking, I'm alive and doing well, Frank finally got hired by the fire department, G and I are getting a big ol' chunk of money, and we're giving Laura some money to help them get their own place, just that everything is well and we're all great. He sounded so good, like he's relaxing for the first time after basically a whole year worried about us. We're probably going down to Key West to hang out Sunday, when Grant is off again - my dad has a boat he wants to take us out on.

On the way out of the park, Ananda looked sad, maybe about the bike riding thing or maybe because Aaron is better at approaching other kids than her and she ends up left out, but I picked her up and put her on my hip, which is definitely not common anymore - she weighs 74 pounds. But it made her laugh, and squeeze my neck, and I could tell it really went a long way to helping her out. Then I got in the van and Grant told me I shouldn't do that - and he's right, I shouldn't do that, it makes my diastasis bulge out horribly and is going to cause a herniation, which I'm desperately trying to avoid by wearing that thing every day and doing all these special excercises, so I don't have to go through a really extensive reconstructive surgery...and I just cried half the way to Kristin's house, in the van.

I hate how hard it always is to hold my babies, that I have to choose between my back or their comfort, my belly or their safety, my pain or their bonding. I hate that I feel guilty whenever I wear someone on my back or put them in the mei tai because of this, I hate it that Grant has changed all of our newborns' diapers for the first few weeks in the night while I can barely sit up, and that I spent SIX WEEKS this past winter weeping with frustration because I had to call someone else whenever Elise was crying for me with her arms raised. It just feels good to run around the park and climb on things with Jake, you know, like I'm maybe almost normal and not freaking fragile and disabled like Ananda and Aaron both see me as...

It took me off on this whole tangent about how terrified I am of having to go get a serious abdominoplasty as this situation with my muscles and organs deteriorates...multiple drains. Huge infection risk. Two months baseline recovery. Massive amounts of drugs for incredible pain. I don't want to ever have an IV again. I hate being out of control. I hate all of this bullshit. I don't want to die! I get so angry - SO ANGRY - sometimes. I'm writing the most psycho short story about someone cutting themself to pieces just to feel in control after a bunch of surgeries. She can't even feel it from the numbness half the time anyway. ARGH.

I was calmed down by the time we got to Kristin's. And it was really, really good to be there. That's where I had my Blessingway and belly casting, with Elise, and she is so understanding and like-minded about all of this...she needed to see my boobs, to finish the paint job on the cast. So she saw my "prosthetic torso", too, and I told her about that, and about how I actually look under that thing, and we just talked a LOT. I really think she gets it-

Kristin: I want you to know that I will NOT be offended, I mean I'll really totally understand, if you get this belly cast home finished and you take it straight out to the backyard to flatten with a hammer.
Me: I was actually thinking an ax.

I laughed as I said this, though the thought really had crossed my mind, but she didn't laugh.

All of our bigger kids (5) played in the backyard with Grant while we caught up and she showed me her photography - she's doing candid portrature for people now, very similar to [ profile] babyslime's stuff in content though I am not one to judge talent or style - I like them a lot, as a lay person, anyway. She said she needs practice and wants to shoot my kids, so, heck yeah that would be awesome! A whole lot of really high quality free pictures? She'll even order the prints from this fancy place she uses that does an ultra-high quality job, at cost. Elise ate one of her homemade rolls and REALLY liked her toddler, Naja. I am increasingly frustrated by my own inability to get good pics of my kids, lately, anyway.

The belly cast as it is (almost done), is overwhelming. Not least because it is just SO. BIG. I seriously just gaped at it in disbelief, shocked and unable to comprehend that my belly was...that big. I put it on over myself now, and G just nodded like "Yep." WHOA.

Before we left, it was dark, and she took us out in the yard and used an owl call to get the owls that live there to swoop down over our heads. It was neato, the kids loved it.

There is a great house for sale at an EXTREMELY good price for the size and the land, though it needs a little fixing up, just a couple of blocks from her. She was basically ordering me to buy it. G and I had gotten out and looked at the yard, peeked in the windows. But...I don't know why. It creeps me out. The first time I went and saw it, alone, I got goosebumps and the hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I felt like when someone is chasing you in a nightmare. I wrote it off the list of options then, after clearing that with Grant, but today we were right there and I guess I wanted to see it with him, on a different day, and prove I was being foolish. And to see what he thought. It mostly just seemed, today, like a good deal but old inside. Slightly creepy. I would not have walked around back without Grant. I just...I dunno. Maybe I'm being stupid. It creeps me the hell out, though. Kristin says drug dealers were living there two tenants ago, using the garage to grow pot...the last tenant was a single mom with 7 kids, and her mom. Bah.

I have great plans for tomorrow. Tomorrow, Friday and Saturday G has 12 hour shifts and will have the van, so we have to be inventive, but I am feeling inventive anyway. Ananda, Aaron and I were talking today about how she has such a long-running love affair with painting, and he seems to have such an ear for the guitar, and I'm going to start structuring in an hour each for those things for them, on "school days", with accompanying "assignments".

Picture dump...+11 )

I opened my devotional journal for the first time in weeks tonight, and prayed for the first time in days. I mean I've done dinner and bedtime prayers with the kids, little things here and there, but not really repented and connected and sought after God for guidance. I'm glad that I did. I actually came up with a budget that made me feel like things can be simpler and easier to plan, once I had, and I really credit one thing to the other in a big way...
altarflame: (bleeding roses)
I came out here this morning to see a document open on the computer. It went:

Aaron's B day list


pogo stick

"He typed that himself," Grant told me. ! He made Grant an Easter card. Before I ever even knew what he was working on at the dining table, it said "Happy Easter" on the front and "Easter Bunny" on the back, in really incredible handwriting. He wrote "I love you Dad" and "Rainbowed Egg" with a rainbow-colored egg drawing, on the inside. He got the gg backwards, but other than that the whole thing was perfect.

I was telling Grant earlier, that because of his sensory issues, we've never really seen Aaron as "smart"...and I think that's wrong of us. We never thought he was dumb or anything, don't get me wrong, but he's seemed very oblivious. Just a year and a half ago you could point to something three feet away to show him, and he'd be looking in the other direction shading his eyes with one hand, to stare into the distance for what you were the living room. He was a very late talker who still shook his head no, for yes, and nodded for no at like almost 3. He has always looked right past the obvious, had a VERY hard time grasping sequence, taken figures of speech literally to ridiculous results, and been unable to "act normal" if there is a lot going on. I've sometimes wondered with alarm if he will be able to function in the world, like when halfway through a reading of Curious George, when he was 4, he suddenly exclaimed, "HEY! A monkey!" Around the same time he would constantly ask if it was morning throughout the day, or if it was raining while we were outside in the sun. The combination is that he seems like what Laura would call a Wackadoodle, and I refer to as a Flibberdigibbit :p

He's got major physical dexterity, EXTRAORDINARY determination, and very above average intuition - that has sort of been Aaron's "skill set" in my view for a long time. That he's unusually empathetic and insightful about people and feelings, that he sets his mind to things and displays nearly adult-level perserverance, and that he could ride a skateboard and climb a tree when he'd just turned 2. Now he comes to us thoughtfully, though, and asks things like, "If something is not symmetrical, but you cut it right down the middle, will the two pieces be symmetrical?", and "I wonder if centrifical force would work if you..." He's always thinking. He's constantly READING everything, too, in a way I think is normal for a lot of kids his age but has not been the case with Annie, who avoids reading whenever possible. And he is a boy, which usually is a disadvantage there, and has been worked with SO little in comparison to her that he really takes me off guard with his independant leaps. He's expanding my view of him every day. He's also taken on this whole responsibility for his own health thing that's caught me off guard - he refuses treats the others are getting sometimes even though he's obviously kind of sad about it, "because it's not healthy for him", and has started trying to think of vegetables he can eat all the time - raw carrots in salad dressing and honey glazed roasted carrots have been added to his usual sparse repertoire of corn, peas, potatoes, tomatoes only on subs or tacos, brocoli but only in terriyaki stir fry, whatever comes in salsa, and peppers but only in fajitas. He's definitely the pickiest vegetable eater around here.

I took banana bread across the street to Aracelia this afternoon; it's funny, she has a 20 year old grandson living with her for awhile now, and he's pale, redhaired and freckled! He speaks fluent Spanish, but with NO accent, total gringo sounding spanish...We talked about him and Isaac and laughed, today, and he said he just got a job at Chili's and everyone there is calling him Irish. He keeps trying to tell them he's Cuban and lives in a house where he's the only English-speaker, but they think it's a joke he won't let go of.

I told them about the settlement today. Aracelia cried for us - we were both in the hospital at the same time last Fall, having abdominal surgeries. I'm taking her more food lately because she's actually able to eat solids for the first time in YEARS, after having to only do pureed stuff from the blender...I'm going to miss them a lot.

After we got the check, yesterday, this went down:

Me: I know this is crazy, but when I first saw that thing my first STRONG impulse, was to just rip it up and throw it away. Without opening it at all.
Grant: I tell you what - how about we go cash it, I buy a jet ski, and then you can rip up the rest of the money.


The financial advisor came back today. It was better. I told him about our much-lower-than-his-suggestion (but still very significant) retirement investment plans, and we outlined the monthly budget we had written out for once we're living mortgage, car payment and debt free, how writing might or might not factor into that, etc. He was reasonable and thought we were being realistic - I mean I'm accounting for birthdays, for illnesses, for outgrown shoes, for trips I know we'll take to restaurants even if we planned not to. He'd come because he had more forms about the life insurance, and official quotes. We have somebody from the company coming by tomorrow for health screenings. And he'll be back in a week or two to talk about where we want to stick the money for retirement, exactly, and help us do it...For the record, for those of you suggesting we go with someone else - this guy is REALLY renowed throughout the richer parts of Miami, and is seeing us totally for free as a favor to my sister because he was her finance professor and she did great in his classes, cracked him up and brought him a lot of good homemade food while she was still there. I think he's also interested in our unusual circumstances. No charge for any of it, which I think is pretty great for multiple home visits based around our schedule, you know? And, we are TOTALLY off his beaten path - he is used to people with "help" - like cleaning help, landscaping help, child-raising help, poolboys and things like that. So while that is part of why we clash, it's also great to have someone I feel I can trust, motivation-wise, who really is just trying to be honest with us and acting out of concern, or at the very least kindness towards my sister.

Lastly: I have a real love/hate thing going on with Linkin Park. They are more mainstream and angry than most anything else I've listened to for years, and yet I really think they sound GOOD. I love the hard rock/smooth rap/piano thing they have going on and, as such, think "Hybrid Theory" was an INGENIUS album name. But WHY do they have to spell the band name wrong? WHY? Mostly though the love and hate is because they have really captured just how I feel a couple of times, in the past year, and it is awesome to crank it up loud and let myself be pissed off and raw...and yet I can't help but think I'm happier and a better person when I can NOT languish in my anger and think in terms of being a happened after Elise was born, I kept hearing them on the radio - "I tried so hard, and got so far, but in the end it doesn't even matter - I put my trust in you, pushed as far as I could go - for all this, there's only one thing you should know - I PUT MY TRUST IN YOU"...I was close to God, but also ready to scream at Him. The song would kind of topple me off the fence I was straddling and leave me with a barrier between us, in a way that was almost delicious. *sigh*

Now "Crawling" is always on the radio. Every day I spend 10 minutes getting my unnaturally lumpy, partially numb, scar crossed abdomen into this crazy garment designed to keep me from needing more surgery for herniation, every time I see myself in the mirror in the bathroom it's a long row of metal hook and eyes down my middle, and this is exactly how I long to yell from the rooftops that I feel )
altarflame: (Default)
Well well well.

Financial advisor highpoints:

-I now understand how and why long term investing is safe, but short term investing is risky, and thus that a 34 year variable annuity would be pretty much a sure thing, whereas a 1 year 5% interest bearing money market account would not be.
-We're getting life insurance - well, he is for sure, for me it depends on what the rates will be based on my previous...experiences. I've wished we had life insurance for a long time, but it's something we never got around to.

Financial advisor lowpoints:

-This is a man who is on his second marriage and freely admits he was not around while his son was growing up, because he worked so much, but that he got wealthy that way and now has an estate for his son...which is completely ass backwards from my own priorities, and it showed in every point of the conversation. He also didn't anticipate us wanting to tythe, and generally talked about "people our age" a lot and acted very condescending, albeit (I think) unintentionally - that part is probably related to him teaching college part time, I guess.

-His main deal was being very adamant that we HAVE to invest at least $100,000-$150,000 in our retirement. I mean really, I asked him if there was any smaller amount he could suggest as a minimum to invest now such that it would have time to grow, and he said $100,000 is the least that's worth doing. I just can't imagine that's true. Investing something significant in a retirement fund that we can add to as time passes - that makes sense. I can see the value and importance there. Something like 10-25k. But $100,000? $150,000? He kept saying we have this once in a lifetime opportunity to do this, but we sure do have an awful lot we could do with this money to improve our next 3 decades of life, rather than the 3 after that (which may or may not even occur, and won't feature dependants), you know? I realize this will seem immature to some people, but at 26...I mean how do you make a decision to say, we're going to get a small house, we're going to keep driving one vehicle, we're not going to give back to any of the family and friends that helped us or put the kids in any unnecessary enriching activities - we're not going to pay off all of our current debt or write or travel or anything. We're going to put as much as we possibly can in a vault to grow slowly for the next 34 years so that when we're old, we won't have to work.

Whatever, you know? I'm glad we had the meeting. I think some good did come of it - he got me thinking more seriously about investing for retirement, even if we won't do as much as he suggested, and the life insurance apps have been submitted, so those are good things. I wish he had been more willing to talk about home buying, but that seemed to be very peripheral to him - he said "real estate is not an investment, real estate is a roof over your head". ? I hear him, but...I don't know. If you can leave it to someone when you die, and the value changes over time, and you can sell it for a huge amount of money down the road - if you insure it against damages just in case - I mean, that seems like an investment to me, but I've never claimed to be someone with a lot of background in investing. Financially, anyway.

The check actually came this afternoon. "In Full and Final Settlement of all Claims", it says, which I irrationally fear on some level means, "You are going to cash this, and then die from further complications, and it's got nothing to do with us when that happens". It's burgundy and I joked that it's because it's blood money.

I was actually incredibly depressed after I got it out of the mailbox. Just like...this is it. Here we go. It makes me sick to my stomach in a way I don't know how to explain; all of this is just so big. Prioritizing things is so huge right now.

Speaking of which, I would like to say to all of you advice-laden peeps out there...I'm not really asking for your advice. If you're someone I know and love - or at least know of and respect - I will always really value and consider what you have to say, and if you just have good points, I'll at least hear you out no matter who you are. Comments are allowed because I like commentary. But I felt in my last entry like some people thought I was expressly asking for advice, and I'm not. I'm dumping in my journal, because it's cathartic for me and I like knowing it's being communicated to whoever's reading. I'm going to continue to dump in my journal and to share and to allow comments, but, I don't know... I'm sure that we can't please everyone. I know there will be times when (the general) you think we're being stupid. And that's ok. You just go on thinking it to yourself ;) The last thing I want to deal with is some idea that I have to censor myself over the coming months and years so that we don't seem frivolous to people - because, hello, when you've been broke and struggling for your whole life and get a huge chunk of money dropped on you after the worst year EVER, you're gonna do some frivolous stuff! Hopefully interspersed sensibly between responsible stuff.

Anyway...I spent the whole evening depressed, crying sometimes, just miserable like the wind had been knocked out of me. There's something really invalidating and infuriating about this check being the apology or fruition or whatever-you-want-to-call-it, of what I went through last Fall. And something very overwhelming over how to best divide it up, now that that whole tale is done and I'm supposed to move on. I've gone to work and brought home a paycheck in the past: I feel now as though I earned this money, through pain and suffering and struggling and fear. It is below minimum wage.

Grant is so good. When I feel like that, I am less patient with the kids, I avoid phone calls, I refuse to call anyone else. But talking with him is just like it always is. Like thinking inside my own head. When Elise was in the NICU we couldn't stand to talk to anyone else, sometimes, it just felt like such work to communicate...this has been one of those nights that he knows me so well and loves me just as I am to such a degree that I can't help but be terrified of what I'll do when/if he dies.

My kids did help, too. Well, ok, not Isaac, Isaac had one of his full on episodes - he actually scared the hell out of both of us thrashing and screaming and kicking and howling like an insane was a fit brought on by being woken up after falling asleep in the van, but triggered more specifically by being told no, he couldn't have any peeps right then. It was 15 minutes or so of solid full throttle violence and shrieking $#@)(*@!!!. And we don't yell at him, or do anything to intensify it - G did have to restrain or remove him a couple of times, but that's it. I thought he was going to knock a door off it's hinges on more than one occassion, and it makes me really frustrated to see Elise and Jake confused and upset by the way he acts...He was shaking, with bright red ears for quite awhile afterwards. We tried to give him a ton of affection and talk about reacting and feelings and all kinds of stuff...he was cute and articulate the rest of the night. O_O

Elise was a grinning, ticklish bundle of joy, though, fat and happy in my arms, Jake has been talkative and affectionate, and when I went in Ananda and Aaron's room to read to them before bed, they had set up a reading area for me and cleared their mess out of my way and prepared a basket with books they'd like me to choose from. They atually said, "We wanted you to know how much we care about you and that we think of you."

We did not go to Jacksonville as planned, largely because we have gritted our teeth and decided that the ranch is possible, but it's not responsible...we can get it, but we get it with the assumption that although our yard is always a little overgrown and strewn with kid things, and we can't keep up with the laundry, we will somehow be able to maintain 5 acres and a pool with pleasure. And the assumption that because we can buy it, we can afford it, when we don't have a riding lawn mower or a lifetime supply of pool chemicals or a big old maintenance fund or any of that exactly standing by. I mean, we really could maybe get it and be just fine with it and be happy as heck. But maybe we could also get it and end up in foreclosure, or selling it out of desperation, or having it be rundown and getting ratty around us.

Mostly there are too many things it would preclude.

I cannot drink enough water these days. I feel like a glutton for water. We keep a case of bottled waters in the back of the van and I drink one on the way to wherever we're going, sometimes all at one shot.
altarflame: (poor)
I have a horrible deep inner ear infection. It is in the same ear that was infected for months when I was pregnant with Isaac - I went from probiotics and patience to 3 successive courses of progressively stronger antibiotics, and it just kept getting worse. At one point I was so desperate and the surreal, stuffy headed, dizzy feeling and pain from jaw to forehead was so bad, I tried all kinds of ridiculous crap - I bought "Ear candles" from the health food store and tried some random no-brand drops of Grant Sr's for swimmers ear. Eventually, my ear drum ruptured from the pressure. And although I have had permanent, noticeable hearing loss in that ear, the sudden release of all that pressure and end of all that pain, after so long, and being able to lay down on a pillow or hold a phone over there or was awesome. I am one of those gross people who want to pop any pimple in sight, too, so that made it extra satisfying in my warped brain ;)

Anyway, it's only been two days so far, this time...but it's getting worse and worse. I don't have the golf ball sized lump on the side of my face (yet?) but I cried earlier when Jake leaned his head on my face in a way he does all the time. I am already fantasizing about forcing pressure on my ear drum from the outside and making it pop just to get all the crap out and stop feeling this way. I won't do it - I'm too afraid of being totally deaf on that side, for one thing (and I would probably be screaming from it hurting so badly) - but the point is just...this sucks. A lot.

And the worst part is, I SHOULD KNOW BETTER BY NOW. Last week I had a bowl of cereal 4 days in a row. I know what milk does to me. It happens every time, so why do I drop my guard if it's been awhile? Damn that Honey Nut Clusters with Chocolate Clusters, DAMN IT TO HELL. Yes, I realize that sounds ridiculous. But honestly, I realized it was behind my non-stop allergy and sinus problems right before my ear started to swell shut inside. So far I've tried breastmilk in the ear (which works for the kids and is pediatrician approved) and drinking heinously sour lemon water (which does the opposite of what milk does and thins all my muccous membrane gunk and usually helps clear my ears, nose and throat).

The last time I had a significant amount of soft dairy was on the way home from Boston last year. I had ice cream at Dama's house, twice, in the same week that I had like 4 frappuccinos "because it's a road trip!!" (usually I get one like once a month). I got home with tonsilitis, kicking myself.

Although chewing hurts on that side, it is a good food day. Laura was over here, she made this incredible warm-or-cold pasta was that "Healthy Harvest" macaroni that is ultra nutritious, and had a ton of red peppers, artichoke, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, peas, asparagus, olive oil, and...bacon. My sister cannot resist bacon when it comes to vegetables. Ah well. Freaking delicious. She also made my banana bread while she was here, one loaf for her to take home and one loaf to leave here for us. I made 32 bean soup from a dry mix they sell at Wild Oats, in the bulk bins, and bruchetta, for dinner, and brownies for dessert, and it was all super yummy. When I can make a bean soup that Aaron scarfs down a whole bowl of in 2 minutes, I feel good.

It hasn't been easy for me to update lately, because there is a lot of HUGE stuff going on in our lives and I'm not sure how much of it I want to share publically. The gist is, we've accepted a settlement offer from the hospital that left the sponge in me. We are not exactly being lowered into our piles of gold coins via private helicopter, like Scrooge McDuck, but we definitely have a lot of options opening up to us that might not have ever been options, before. So, of course, we're looking at the best ways to spend/save it every waking hour and in our dreams. Some options we've been pouring over tirelessly include:

-An overpriced house down here where we really want to be, vs a bigger and better house for the same price in Jacksonville where we also like it but lose Laura and our larger social network...vs putting money for a house in a CD and waiting for the housing market to drop lower like it's expected to by early next year.
-Getting a big passenger van like we've wanted to forever, so that we can carry along Laura and Brian, or Annie and Aaron's friends, or Shaun, or whoever, and have more cargo room on trips, vs getting a zippy little car for Grant to just use for the commute, leaving me the minivan, vs getting a hybrid minivan because we'd feel better about that, even though they are in their infancy and there's no variety and bad pricing so far
-how much we want to set ourselves up for the long-long term (savings accounts for the kids, retirement funds, paying off all debt, being mortgage and car payment free), vs how much we want to use this once in a lifetime opportunity for once in a lifetime experiences, like traveling to places we've never been and allowing the kids to have a large fund for extracurriculars during their formative years
-whether it's worthwhile and something we can deal with for Grant to take a year off work to let me Write For Real; it was his idea, and I've been in a near-anxiety state of clenched, goosebumpy anticipation since he mentioned it. What an opportunity, and what an amazing affirmation that he believes in me.
-whether or not he still feels a call to ministry and would like to explore ways to persue going to college, which I'm totally ready to support
-how to spend our small amounts of personally allotted "Money for Whatever We Want"

We're also TREMENDOUSLY excited about tything 10% in various charitable ways we believe in and giving certain predetermined amounts to a few people we really feel we owe a lot to.

Basically we're over the moon grateful to have such an opporunity, but TOTALLY overwhelmed with the pressure to not blow it, or have regrets. Prioritizing seems very complex for us right now. We have a meeting with a financial advisor on Monday that I hope is productive and helps us glean some clarity, along with seeing some properties in person and just generally talking this out. Even though that mainly means emailing things out, or using the phone on his way home...because Grant is ALWAYS at work. He's been doing the 76-hour-with-commute weeks for about 2 months now. Although he has given notice at the part time job, so will "only" be a full time employee for one company soon.

kid updates )

May 2017

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