Category Archives: Anxiety

The Ill Timing of the Ill Child

Nothing can cramp the status quo day of a working parent more than a sick kid. I wake up in the morning eager to greet the world and earn my much-needed paycheck when my little angel stumbles into the kitchen.

“Mommy, I don’t feel good.”

The Virgo in me wants to immediately correct his grammar.

Well, Sweetie. You don’t feel well.

But because he don’t feel good, I hold my tongue and touch his forehead.

Damn. It’s warm. But I tell myself otherwise. It’s not a fever. Perhaps he was just too bundled up while he slept.

He coughs.

Ditto damn. I try to ignore it. He’s almost 6. Maybe his voice is changing.

Then I hear the gag. I try to pretend I didn’t notice it. I instinctively jump out of the way as he vomits all over my jammies.

Crap. I guess he really is sick.

Some working parents earn a salary and can take time off work. Others get an ample amount of sick pay and can take a day off with pay, then take the second day off after they catch the nasty bug from their bedridden babe.

The unlucky working parents who don’t get compensation or time off have a lot of choices, but they’re all between a rock and that place that’s even harder than the rock: stay home with the kid and miss work, pay, and possibly jeopardize their jobs; sneak their sick child into work and risk contaminating the whole office; pump the sick kid full of medicine and send them to school with fingers and toes crossed; or let their little Typhoid Mary stay home from school alone, risking dire consequences and the possible wrath of a Child Services intervention.

Unlike most working parents, I have one big advantage.

I work from home, so if my kids are too sick to school, I put them back to bed, turn on the tv, and plan on taking a few more breaks playing nursemaid – serving soup and medicine, and sucking up to lots of whining. I can stay home and cuddle with them because although they’re sick, what really makes them feel better is to just have their Mommy. I fantasize about wearing a surgical mask and latex gloves and protecting myself with a 10 mil full body bubble, but since I don’t wear protection when I’m hugging and kissing their sweaty foreheads, or wiping their green snot, or double-wiping their diarrhea butts (thankfully the girls are older and I make them do that themselves) there’s a chance that all those abnormal bodily fluids pouring from my kids’ orifices today are going to be leaking from mine tomorrow.

I don’t think childless adults can possibly comprehend the sheer panic that goes into the instantaneous schedule juggling that goes into effect when your child suddenly takes ill. Any plans you might have – work, social or otherwise – must immediately be cancelled. The problem is, it’s hard to find the time to cancel those commitments because your child has a bowl resting in his lap while you race for the pediatrician’s office before the small window of drop-in hours closes. The minivan careens through early morning rush hour traffic with the parent voice-dialing her iPhone, and in between business calls she shouts in the direction of the back seat at her ill little imp:

“Aim for the bowl! Aim for the… DAMN!”

And as Brando himself would pine:

“The horror! The horror!”

You can spend 200 bucks on an auto detail, but that putrid puke stench is never going to completely come out of your carpet.

Jake at the pediatrician’s office not looking all that sick.

Last Friday, Jake woke up crying. He said his throat hurt – so bad in fact that he couldn’t even eat Cookie Crisp cereal, so I knew it must be bad. I tried to take his temperature, but our thermometer is a little off, so what I have to do is take my own temperature and assume it’s normal, then take his and add or subtract. I was 95.1˚ which would normally mean that I was already dead from hypothermia, and Jake was 98.4˚ which would in Goldilocks terms seems just about right, but by making me 98.7˚, Jake was actually 102˚ which means that he officially had a fever. This combined with the sore throat could possibly mean strep throat, which apparently is incredibly painful and therefore would explain Jake’s tears.

Call me Sherlock Holmes. That was exactly the doctor’s diagnosis.

After the pediatrician visit, a trip to the pharmacy for an antibiotic, 2 oz. of cough medicine and 1-1/2 oz. of Children’s Advil, Jake was happily clutching his favorite blanket and looking forward to an entire day watching SpongeBob.

And after walking about 30 feet away, I went back to work.

Thank you God for my work-from home job, for walk-in hours for pediatricians, for children’s liquid antibiotics that taste like bubble gum, for Otter Pops, for fluffy blankets that are machine washable, and for husbands who will eventually come home from their jobs and take over nursing duties.

But thank God mostly to Nickelodeon for SpongeBob. Now I can get some work done.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Family, Humor, Illness, Kids, Parenting, Recuperating

Be Prepared: Massacring the Boy Scout Motto on a Cub Scout Campout

Last week I went on my very first Cub Scout campout. More specifically, I went on my very first Cub Scout campout with my 5-year old son Jake, which makes it sound so much more legitimate than the singular “I,” which would have been really creepy. My daughters spent the weekend with my ex, so Jake and I brought along my current husband, mostly because he is also Jake’s dad. (I like saying “current” husband because it’s fun to watch the troubled look on people’s faces when I say it, and fortunately Tom’s got a great sense of humor so he doesn’t care).

Because I have been incredibly uptight for pretty much my entire life, I’ve been making a point of not taking life so seriously by not over-thinking everything. I tell myself this in retrospect, because the cold hard truth is, I didn’t spend as much time and thought as I should have on packing for this camping trip.

The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared,” so I figured that if I forgot anything, these responsible scouts would probably have it in spades. And they did turn out to be quite well stocked when it came to preparedness items like a first aid kit, fishing bait and new batteries for a dead flashlight. However, Camp Whitsett is a far cry from Motel 6, so if I thought that they might have something like a spare disposable shower cap, I was sadly mistaken. Fortunately for me, I didn’t take a shower the entire 3-day span. Unfortunately for my fellow campers, I didn’t take a shower the entire… you get the picture. Or at least you can picture the smell. By the last day, I literally felt like Charlie Brown’s buddy Pig Pen with a putrid path of stinky stench trailing my every step, followed by a tornado of flies.

Naturally a Native American or Aborigine can survive in the Mojave Desert or Australian Outback with just a spear and a loincloth, but I’m a 21st century woman with survival skills that don’t run past the BRAT diet or placing the Magic Mommy kiss on a boo boo, so my haphazard packing skills could actually affect the safety, well-being and comfort of the rest of my family. Here were some of my packing faux pas:

The first night, I unwrapped a sleeping bag from the plastic kitchen grocery bag I store it in and found that instead of grabbing the sleeping bag, I packed our 6-foot stuffed Frankenstein’s Monster from Halloween. Besides not being very functional, it’s really not the face you want to see late at night in your flashlight beam when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

I ended up stealing Tom’s sleeping bag and being the manly man that he is, he forged his bedding from a couple of bath towels. I also didn’t pack his toothbrush or a jacket, and I mistakenly brought Emily’s water shoes instead of his. On the other hand, my 16-year old’s feet may actually be bigger than my husband’s.

Because my summer attire traditionally consists of a camisole and yoga pants, that’s what I packed for clothes. The outfits came in a variety of colors, and I thought I was so fancy by bringing one extra combination in case of an emergency. However, I had no cover-up to protect my torso from the sun except for a hooded sweatshirt which would have been unbearably hot since the mercury hovered over 90 degrees every day. And it took only about two seconds of actual camping for me to realize that I really should have packed a pair of pants with some pockets. I went through my cargo pants stage only a few years ago, so you’d think I’d know better. Instead, I improvised by stashing bottled water, the camp itinerary, my camera, sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses and my hat in places like my socks, my waistband and my cleavage.

A few weeks ago my family and I spent three nights in Palm Springs and Tom, Mary and Jake had all purchased new sun tops in red, yellow, and blue respectively. I nicknamed this crew The Primary Colors, and when they traveled in a pack around the pool it was easy to spot them. For the camping trip I packed Tom’s and Jake’s shirts, but instead of grabbing Jake’s blue, I packed Mary’s yellow, so Jake spent the entire weekend in a sun shirt that stretched down to his knees.

One thing I deliberately didn’t pack was our tent since we were told that the camp contained not only tents, but also cots. It sounded so luxurious – as if Camp Whitsett would be like Lexus camping rather than VW Bug camping. It turned out to be more of the VW variety – and not like the recent Beetle model but rather more akin to the beater VW van that needs to be pushed down a slope and kicked into gear to get started. The tents were the Army reject variety with occasional holes, placed over punctured plywood. Their canvas bottom edges didn’t quite reach to the ground so any number of small creatures and giant insects could wander in and cozy up. The cots were made of metal springs that were so stretched by decades of overweight Den Leaders that it was like sleeping in a hammock. There was a thin ancient mattress over the cot, but it still didn’t keep me from lying down and having my butt immediately fall to within an inch of the floor. Fortunately the stuffed Frankenstein’s Monster came in handy. I shoved him under the mattress and it filled the gap made by the sagging cot. Almost. I couldn’t flatten Frankie out evenly, so it felt like I was sleeping on a pad covering several rolling anthills. And frankly, with the number of stray bugs in the tent, that might not have been far from the truth.

Overall it was great fun and a terrific learning experience about what to pack for our next camping trip which takes place in only a couple of months. The first week of November we’ll be roughing it at Catalina Island’s Emerald Bay. After hearing stories from the other Cub Scout parents about the choppy boat ride to the island, there’s only one thing I know I absolutely must be prepared to pack for that trip:

Dramamine.

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Husband, Kids, Parenting, Vacation

Missing the Kodak Moment on the First Day of School

I am a terrible mother.

Today was the first day of the 2012-2013 school year. I dropped off Mary at the middle school gate, walked Jake to our local elementary school and into his new class, and since Emily is in high school I just gave her a firm kick out the front door. After my kids were tightly locked down into their three respective LA Unified schools, I came home, poured myself another cup of coffee and posted the following to my Facebook page:

“It feels so weird to have the house to myself.”

I hit “post” and then proceeded to read my friends’ News Feed for the morning.

That’s when I realized I deserved the Worst Mother of the Year Award.

Every single post of every single parent of a school-aged child had already uploaded a photo of their little angel’s first day of school. The kiddos were carrying Angry Bird lunch boxes and had Dora the Explorer backpacks over their shoulder blades and their spotless shoes were glittering and their shiny outfits were so new the tags were probably pulled off on the way to class. They were posing with old friends and new teachers, clutching siblings, and wiping the tears away from their sobbing parents.

I, on the other hand, had completely forgotten about that precious Kodak moment. And now it was too late.

It’s not like I could barge into my 16-year old’s French III class with my iPhone blazing. “Excusez-moi, Madam,” I could have said, and that would be the end of it since I don’t speak French. Then I’d take a quick snapshot of my daughter hiding under her desk. For the rest of her high school career, she would be known as That girl with the crazy paparazzi mom.

I wouldn’t have been allowed to sneak into my 11-year old’s drama production class and loudly proclaim to her teacher that being the thespian that he is, he should understand why I must stop the class in their tracks from learning a Shakespeare sonnet or a David Mamet play or some improv demonstration where they all pretend to be caterpillars just so my daughter can be seen on the big screen (big depending on how large your computer monitor is). Normally I humiliate her just by breathing. This stunt would have pushed her so far over the edge that she probably have come home and tried to OD on gummy vitamins.

And now that my baby boy is a big 1st grader, he’d be completely mortified if I popped into his new class and interrupted a lively reading of Junie B. Jones.

“Stand over here next to Hendrix and say ‘cheese!’”

Then I’d reposition him and shove another of his soon-to-be-former friends into the group.

“Let’s do another one with Charlotte since you weren’t smiling.”

Then he’d excuse himself to go to the little boys’ room and never come back.

I could have had my first day of school Facebook photos. But alas, I missed my moment.

So here’s my re-creation:

I took it after my kids got home. Notice that Emily and Mary are already wearing their pajama bottoms.

It’s too late to capture that first day of school moment. But at least I still have time to embarrass my kids.

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Humor, Kids, Parenting, Public Schools, Teenagers

Very VERY Busy Stagnation

During the summer when I’m on hiatus from work and the kids are off school, the world is my oyster and the possibilities are endless. I wake up in the morning excited about my choices for the day. Should I clean out my closet? The kids’ rooms? The garage? The pantry? Weed the side yard? Trim the trees? Plant grass seed in the bare spots? Read a book? Update my address book? Hike? Go to Pilates? Take the kids to the beach? To the park? Write a blog or shoot a vlog? Sort through emails? Juggle the bills?

Where do I start?

I start them all.

I started gutting the kids’ room, but now the living room is filled with donation bags and their room looks like the Wicked Witch of the West flew through it.

I started sorting through CDs, but I’m halfway done, so there’s still a pile on the living room floor. “Blues?” “Alternative?” “Heavy Metal?” I’m mainstream rock so I have to ask Tom about his categories.

I started cleaning out my closet, so now I have a pile of too-big-or-too-small clothes and hangers on my bed.

I started putting in a landscape border for plants, but the border is still stretched across the driveway.

I started going to Pilates, but I didn’t stay for the optional final stretching because I had too much to do at home.

I started weeding through emails, but I’ve only made a dent.

I started writing about a dozen different blogs but didn’t post any in the past two weeks.

I’ve started three dozen things, but I haven’t finished anything.

I am so completely overwhelmed, my completion rate has become stagnant. If I have a choice in time management, I end up running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Someone should cut off my head.

My husband tells me to breathe. I’m trying to meditate, but my mind keeps wandering back to my to-do list.

Yesterday I was determined to finish the half-done things and today I finally reached a turning point.

I’ve finished my first blog post in two weeks (this one).

The kids’ room is clean, the donation bags are banished to the patio, and the CDs have been sorted and alphabetized. The grass seed is planted. I’ve deleted a ton of emails and only have 2975 to go. I’ve put about a thousand miles on my new minivan transporting the kids from one summer activity to another, so my mom points are back in the black.

I’m on a roll. The rest of my tasks are coming along.

I’m done hyperventilating.

Just in time to get ready to go back to work.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Family, Humor, Husband, Kids, Multitasking, Parenting

Playing Whack-a-Mole with 0% Balance Transfer Promotions

There was a time when I was floating near the top of the other 99%. My student loans were paid off. Other than my mortgage, I had no debts. My credit score was just short of 800, and I could stroll into nearly any shop or restaurant and charge it, then pay the full price 25 days later without ever giving it a thought.

Then I had kids. A divorce. Studios started paying tv sound editors five days of pay per show instead of six. The television season shrunk and fewer union films were being made. Overtime dried up. I remarried, and we bought a fixer upper near the top of the market and took out a second mortgage at the peak to start repairs. I went back to school for a second master’s degree while my new husband earned his MBA and started on his PhD. We had a baby. A year later, the writers’ strike brought the entertainment industry to its knees. And then the final nail in the coffin: the housing bubble burst.

It all sounds like some bad made-for-tv movie from the 1970’s, but instead of being a woman in peril running from my wife-beating husband or recreational drugs gone bad, I was trying to escape from something much more sinister: the flailing American economy.

Although our home hasn’t drowned completely underwater, it’s basically bobbing in the sea like a buoy. If I was Noah, those animals would already be picking bunkmates.

Our savings ran out. So did the second mortgage. But with our great credit score, we started seriously considering the offers that we used to throw away along with craft catalogs and obscure charity labels.

Receive 0% Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for one year.

It was like free money – almost. We just paid a 3% fee and we could postpone the bills. Certainly we could pay it off within a year. We signed our John Hancocks and slept like babies.

And then the roof caved in… literally. We replaced the 80-year old pipes and windows, but the funds ran out before we got to the Spanish tile roof. Each winter the tarp over our house grew bigger until we had a 1700 square foot sail strapped over our entire roof billowing against the wind, ready to make our home airborne as if we were Dorothy flying over Kansas. Tiles were flying like exploding landmines and this back burner fix suddenly became a front burner emergency.

We took advantage of three different credit card offers to come up with $11,700. And within months we were robbing Peter to pay Paul – taking out one balance transfer deal to pay off the balance of the one the year before.

Accumulated stress caused me to have a serious case of shingles to my head and eye and landed me in the hospital for nine days last November. The hospital and doctor bills came to over 100 grand. Insurance paid for most of it, but we were still responsible for about $3,000. I also missed weeks of work in an industry that doesn’t offer sick pay.

Needless to say, we have been taking huge austerity measures these past few years. We rarely eat out. The only movies I go to are at the TV Academy where I’m a member. We shop at thrift stores, and only when we absolutely need something. The Eurozone would be proud.

In the past few years I have become quite adept at the balance transfer jugging act. I have billpayer and autopay paying more than the minimum amount each month and I’ve created fluorescent notes reminding myself to have the balance paid before the interest goes into mafia amounts.

We had two cards doing just that in mid and late July. So on June 24th I applied for yet another balance transfer, and this one had an even better deal – no balance transfer fee.

As the day got closer, I started calling the automated operator of the credit card cards being paid off to make sure the transfer was made.

It wasn’t.

Because it was under Tom’s name, they wouldn’t talk to me – the lowly wife – so I had him call. He was told that they were still considering the request.

Considering a request? This card loves us! We did the dance with them two years ago, paid off the balance, and didn’t touch the card for a year. We had available credit of over ten grand.

I was starting to sweat. I juggled some bills, got some temporary advance cash and had funds covered the day the big interested was to start. We had another 3 grand due for this card the next month so there wouldn’t be any need to stop the payment.

Phew!

In the meantime, I kept calling the second big interest card, but that one still hadn’t gone through. I bugged Tom to call them again.

It turns out that we were denied.

What? Why?

Because we already had an account.

Duh!

Apparently the credit card company thought they were sending the offer out to some random Joe who had no credit history with them at all. Since we already had an account, we weren’t eligible.

That’s like offering a homeless guy on the freeway off ramp your leftover McDonald’s fries, but when you discover that it’s your next door neighbor you nab the greasy bag back.

I’m not by nature pushy, but I suddenly became the cartoon wife with the rolling pin in her hand, demanding that her husband fix this or else.

Tom convinced the credit card to give us the deal… almost. They wouldn’t give us the free fee. But it’s only 1%, which is $100 cheaper than the standard 3%.

So now we continue with our game of financial whack-a-mole. I start back to work in September, and we’ll continue paying down our huge accumulated chunk of debt.

Now I know what it’s like to be Greece.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Husband

It’s My Fundraiser and I’ll Cry if I Want To

I love our school. We’ve been going to Colfax Charter Elementary School since Emily enrolled in kindergarten in 2001, and since then I have accumulated literally hundreds of friends who are in my iPhone contact list – most whom I am happy to say are probably not dodging my call.

I’m on the Restaurant Committee, which is the team that lines up monthly fundraisers at local restaurants that give our school 20 – 30% back. We publicize the event on our marquee, on Facebook and Twitter, in an email blast, and by putting flyers in the kids’ backpacks.

These events take place during the school year, but recently I suggested that we try our hand at summer fundraisers as well. With the exception of flyers in the backpacks, we could publicize the events every other way, and instead of a monthly event, we could make them bi-weekly since the kids and parents will certainly miss each other and want to have a mass gathering.

The first fundraiser of the summer was yesterday at California Pizza Kitchen. Our last CPK event at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year brought in over $800 in profits for our school, so I was anticipating more of the same.

All three of the other current members of the Restaurant Committee were out of town, so I did all the typical social media posts and then shared them on my Facebook page:

 I’m going at 5:00 today. Who wants to join me?

I sent emails to everyone who was in Jake’s kindergarten class, and any other kindergartners who were in my address book, and even though it’s been a year since Mary moved on to middle school, I invited all her friends as well.

As I picked up Mary from drama camp in the Colfax auditorium I shouted out for everyone to join as for dinner at CPK at 5:00. I did the same when I picked up Jake from Colfax’s Farm Week Summer Camp.

Right before we left for dinner, I looked at my Facebook post to see how many Likes, Comments or Shares I had for the gathering.

Not a one. Nada. Zip. Bupkis.

Colfax’s Facebook page had one Share: Mine.

Usually at least someone would have given me a half-hearted Like, which might be something in between a 🙂 and a 😦 – maybe like a :/, but then that would have required a Comment, and as I just said, there was nothing. This post was in Facebook Wasteland.

The lack of comments to my post truly reeked of disinterest, as if I had suggested something duller than my kitchen steak knives:

Who wants to join me for my annual dusting of the ceiling fans?

Who wants to join me in the heart of a Sig Alert?

Who wants to join me at the DMV?

At least these posts might have sparked a laughing  :-)) or ;) winkingwinking 😉 response.

Undaunted, I forged ahead with my dinner plans. Mary, Jake and I arrived at 5:15, just to add a little time for possible latecomers. Unlike last fall’s CPK fundraiser, there was no long line of cars waiting to be parked from CPK’s complimentary valet. There was no crowd of four dozen people outside waiting to get a table. And as we walked in, there were customers at only three tables, and I didn’t recognize a one.

I thought of walking away without buying anything. We actually don’t have the luxury of eating out in our budget. The bill just gets tacked on to the credit card we won’t have the money to pay off until I start back to work on Season 2 of Once Upon a Time next September, and September is still a long way off.

But CPK only offers free valet parking if you get validated, and you can’t really get a validation if you don’t buy anything. Also, since I’m on the Restaurant Committee and the only member in town who could participate, I’d be a hypocrite to walk away without buying something.

I decided to get the food to go since I was going to get something for Tom anyway. Fortunately Emily’s a vegetarian who doesn’t eat wheat or dairy. I’d just tell her the whole menu would give her the trots.

I ordered a kid’s mac & cheese for Jake, kung pao pasta for Tom and jambalaya pasta for myself, and the portions had better be enough to split it for lunch tomorrow, dammit!

Mary wanted pizza AND salad, and I nearly choked. That girl always has champagne tastes with our beer budget, or since Tom and I don’t drink, it’s kind of like Dollar Tree apple juice vs. Martinelli’s sparking cider. I told her we have frozen pizza at home, so she settled on the Caesar salad. No chicken.

The bill came to $46.93, and I tried to look on the bright side: over 9 bucks back for our school and I didn’t have to pay a tip for a waiter.

We sat at the counter waiting for our order while Jake colored in the kid’s menu and Mary practiced her Belle lines from Beauty and the Beast.

No Colfax families. No big 20% back check. No fun reunion.

I wanted to cry.

But this was a public place and I would look like a wacky woman.

On the other had, no one here knew me.

There weren’t any Colfax families here to witness it.

I wanted to cry even more.

I held it together. Barely.

About ten minutes later, a miracle occurred! A Colfax mom arrived with her 4th grader. Heather and I did the Box Tops fundraiser a year ago, and I was so happy to see her, I wanted to cry – in a good way. But it turns out she was having a special mother/daughter dinner while her husband and son were gone fishing, so I didn’t want to intrude.

A couple of minutes later, Lina arrived.

This is when I really want to cry, and not in a good way.

Lina is my mother-in-law, and I invited her to join us for dinner. She drove herself to CPK after a hard day at work, and here I was, about to grab my to go bag. I had completely forgotten that I had invited her. I offered to stay and get a table or buy something for her so we could go home or to her house and eat it, but she was obviously despondent. I could tell she felt rejected, and I didn’t blame her.

I felt terrible.

I mostly felt terrible because I assumed she was feeling terrible that I didn’t have the thought to let her know that the evening was cancelled. She walked away without validating her ticket, and by the time I caught up to her she had already paid the valet.

That’s when I started to cry.  It began as a silent whimper. I felt sorry for my mother-in-law and our little school and the fundraiser that didn’t bring any money. That whimper snowballed into a bottomless shame pit.

You’re the dork who thought we could have a successful summer fundraiser!

No wonder no one came. Nobody likes you anyway!

How the hell are we going to pay for this meal anyway?

Your mother-in-law hates you!

Now your kids are hearing you cry out loud and they’re going to either be scared or think you’re emotionally unstable!

You really are emotionally unstable. Doesn’t a straightjacket in a rubber room sound like a good solution?

I used to go down this rabbit hole a lot in middle and high school, but I thought I had gotten better as an adult. Obviously not. By the time I got home I was blubbering like an idiot.

My husband Tom has absolutely no personal comprehension of the mood swings created from PMS or menopause or insecure women feeling downright bonkers. But he gave me a hug anyway and wondered out loud how such an intelligent lady can spin out of control so quickly.

He invited me to go to Family Swim at the Y, where no one would question why my mascara was running. And after watching Jake dog paddle while wearing his goofy goggles, I felt better.

Today, nearly 24 hours later, my original Facebook post still sat empty. So under the Like – Comment – Share buttons I wrote a comment to myself:

Nobody likes me.

Maybe someone will click the Like button on that one.

But then it begs to question:

Does that mean they Like me?

Or do they Like that no one likes me?

I shouldn’t be on the Restaurant Committee for my elementary school. I should be enrolled in the elementary school. Because clearly, my self esteem in this instance is still in the 1st grade.

On the bright side, our little CPK fundraiser ended up with 14 Colfax receipts, taking in $605.80 and a donation of $121.16.

To the other 13 families who came to Colfax Day at CPK last night:

Thank you so much! I’m so grateful I could cry.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Family, Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Husband, Kids, Parenting

SPF: Severe Pigment Fry

Ouch! Where’s the aloe vera?

As a kid, during the summer months my skin perpetually existed in three distinct states: burn; blister; or peel.

This was before suntan lotions had SPF ratings. SPF actually stands for Sun Protection Factor, a standard that really should more accurately be called I Wish I was Born an African American to Why Wasn’t I Born an Albino?

Growing up in sunny Orange County, we often spent the day at the beach. Even though there were four of us kids and we were just a year apart, my mom managed to coat us all with Coppertone to keep us from burning. Yet an 11:00 am to 5:00 pm shift of building sand castles and collecting shells in the hot Southern California sun turned us all into lobsters. It was a miserable trip home with all of us sweaty and sandy and feeling the effects of first degree burns covering 80 percent of our bodies.

Before the magical natural use of aloe vera, everyone used Solarcaine, which felt cool when it was sprayed on, but I’m not sure if it actually did anything.

We winced a lot and walked around with our arms partly outstretched, and it was difficult to fall asleep on sheets that suddenly seemed unbearably rough as sandpaper. We observed the places where blisters appeared – our noses, our backs, our bellies. Once when I was 13 and my bosoms were blossoming, a one-inch wide and two-inch tall sunburn blister appeared directly between the two larger sprouts. My mom nicknamed it my third boob.

Eventually the blisters would pop – either as a natural progression of healing, or more likely because we decided to pop them ourselves as a science experiment to see what lied underneath the bubble (always something gooey and gross).

In a few days, the neon red color would start to fade and our skin would begin to peel. This was my favorite part. And I don’t mean favorite as in a favorite stuffed animal or a favorite ice cream flavor. I was literally obsessed about peeling skin. As we watched television, we’d take turns sitting astride each other’s butts and peel our sibling’s backs. My brother and sisters and I would have contests on who could tear the longest peel. Sometimes we’d save the peel as if it was a prized souvenir. To this day I love to peel things – wallpaper, glue, hangnails. I really should look into a 12-step program for my peeling disorder.

Camping at the beach with my sister and the nieces

From May through September, my nose was one permanent scab. I wore zinc oxide, which for a short time seemed cool because that’s what the foxy lifeguards wore on their noses, but looking back, I think I more resembled a failed mime.

In my teens, I switched from Coppertone to Hawaiian Tropic in an effort to attain the perfect tan. It was an impossible dream. My Irish/Scotch/Finnish lineage guaranteed that the only thing brown on my skin would be my freckles. I dreamed that one day I’d get so many freckles that they’d blend together and become a true tan, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Emily with her porcelain skin

Hawaiian Tropic was later discarded for pure baby oil as I deliberately fried myself in the sun. Once I got past the burn-blister-peel cycle, I actually acquired an honest to goodness tan one summer, but it proved to be way too much work. It required riding the bus for an hour to Newport Beach and lying all day with my fingers outstretched so I would tan in between them, and turning every 20 minutes like a rotisserie chicken to maintain and even color. The bus ride back was an hour and a half, and an hour of it was standing room only with my bottoms full of sand, carrying my towel, beach chair and baby oil, and hoping that I wouldn’t blister.

Mary – my freckle-faced beauty

Thankfully I started a long line non-stop jobs and didn’t have the time to work so hard on my tan. Looking back, I am truly grateful for this calamity as it’s the principal reason my skin isn’t wrinkled like a prune today.

These days I wear sunglasses and a hat outdoors. My daily moisturizer and lip balm both have built-in sunscreens, and I coat my kids in SPF 70 whenever we’re outdoors for any extended period of time. My almost 16-year old Emily has beautiful porcelain skin, and she wants to keep it that way. My daughter Mary has the most adorable freckles, but any time her pediatrician sees them multiplying, the doctor reprimands me like a bad dog, so I try to keep her coated as well.

Jake – the Whitest Boy in America

My son Jake is so white he is nearly translucent. I don’t know if they make SPF 100, but if they do, it would be because they had Jake – the whitest boy in America – in mind when they created it.

Last week we went camping at the beach with my sister Tammie, who is to this day a bona fide sun worshipper. If she was matched with a Sherwin-Williams paint chip, she would be French Roast. Tammie wore her SPF 2 cooking oil while I plastered on the SPF 50-70 variety of creams, sprays and lotions. And yet, somehow I was burnt to a crisp. Not blister-burnt like the old days, thank goodness, but burnt enough to have it smart, and red enough to need regular coatings of aloe vera.

Tammie sun bathing

But now I have mixed emotions. I want my skin to heal and go back to my 21st century acceptable pale complexion.

On the other hand, I’m dying to peel my back.

Maybe I should look into those Peeler Anonymous meetings.

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