In Which I Tell A Very Gross Story

Remember Jeffrey’s math problem about the flies? So I figured out the answer:

(Preamble: I hate houseflies. Not just passive, annoying hate. Real, burning with the heat of a thousands suns, wish to immolate them with my vision HATE houseflies. If there is so much as one fly in my house, I’m not resting until the little bastard is dead. I really, really do not like houseflies.)

So back in August…  way back then (was that only last month?), a screen-less window was left open in our house by a friend while we were in California, and a few flies got in. I went on a killing spree, and got most of the them. Or so I thought. But flies are sneaky. And they live longer than I thought- 35-40 days (!) and I supposed more got in than I first suspected. Day after day, I continued to swat at the little buggers.

I broke my flyswatter. I got a new flyswatter.

I checked all the screens. I yelped at the kids to keep the doors shut. But still flies kept appearing. Just a few, here and there, and it annoyed the crap out of me, but I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then, on a particularly warm day, there was a sour smell in the kitchen.  I thought it was my garbage disposal, so I threw a lemon and some soap down there, and ran the dishwasher.

The smell persisted. I dug under the sink, cleaned out the fridge,  took all the trash out, crawled around on my hands and knees sniffing. Go ahead and laugh. You know you’ve been there- what is that smell? and where is it coming from?? I could find nothing. It wasn’t super strong, but enough that I couldn’t ignore it- and I couldn’t find it.  It was localized to the kitchen, but from the laundry room right below the kitchen, I could see and smell nothing. I scrubbed the baseboards, emptied the recycle, looked for water leaks.

And still flies kept appearing.

(You suspect where this is going, don’t you? ha!)

Finally, all I can think is maybe a mouse or something died in the wall or under the kickboard. But I can’t figure out where! So now, I am patrolling the house each night, one flip-flop on my foot, one in my hand, because I’ve broken another flyswatter. (they’re easier to thwap at night) Some nights I would get one or two, one night I got 12, and that totally grossed me out.

I decided it must be the birds. Jeffrey and I take the birds out of their cage and pressure wash the cage, then give it a bleach rinse and leave it outside in the sunshine all day before I let him bring it back in the house. Made no difference.

I become the Mad Midnight Fly Thwapper, limping around the house each night with my shoe in hand, TWAP!! mumbling to myself as I count flies and sniffing around my kitchen.

This goes on all of September. By this time, I know the 35-40 days are up, and these buggers should be dead now. Where the heck are they getting in? Or why can’t I find the dang smell? Are they connected? I suspect they are, but I can’t figure it out! This is absurd- I’m a smart woman. But I am reduced to a crazed insect killer chasing an elusive icky smell.

Today, while Bean was working on his homework, I decided to pull the grill off the bottom of the fridge, wondering if maybe there was a deceased mouse or something under there. Lying on the floor in my kitchen, I jimmy the grill off, and the smell is strong, but under the fridge is dusty and dry, and there are certainly no flies. I vacuum the dust up, and decide since I’m down there, I should just pull the fridge out and vacuum behind it too.

As I stand up to shimmy the fridge out from its cubby, there is a thunk, and about a dozen flies come buzzing out from behind it. Oh. Crap. On NO. Oh damn, I cannot TELL YOU how much I wanted to run screaming from my house. I wanted so so so so so badly to have a  husband I could call to deal with whatever what happening… EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING wanted to run.

Screwing up my nose and trying to keep my skin from crawling off my back, I yanked the fridge out, and there behind it was a….


Yes. A bag of potatoes. Or- rather, what was once potatoes. Now they were purple mush, and they had fallen behind the fridge who knows how many weeks ago, and the flies that had gotten in back in August had been having a grand old time in them- or what remained of them.

Using barbeque tongs, plastic bags, insecticide and a wooden spoon and a roll of paper towels, a bottle of disinfectant, and two doubled-up trash bags, I am happy to report that my house is now stink-free and fly-free. And mercifully, garbage day is Thursday, and my garbage men are in for a real double-bagged treat. I’m really looking forward to putting away my flip-flops for the year. Also, the back of my refrigerator has never been so clean.

And now I have no shame. I cannot express how much this embarrassed me. I felt like a failure that the flies and the stink could not be conquered. But TODAY– TODAY I CONQUERED NATURE! At least in my own very small kitchen.

So the answer to Jeffrey’s math problem?  599 flies + 67 flies = POTATOES

School Mojo

Whew. Not sure why, but I’ve been stressing about school this quarter. I think it might be just getting used to three new professors and being unsure about their expectations. I was feeling like I’d maybe bitten off more than I could handle, but I feel better now. I turned in my first three-essay paper to my literature class, and I got it back with a 4.0. *huuuuge sigh of relief*

It may sound silly to some of you that I’m stressing about this -but for me school is still the great unknown, and I have my dark thoughts and my demons that like to poke me in the middle of the night and keep me awake. “What if summer was a fluke, and I can’t cut it?” was on repeat in my mind, no matter how much I told it to shove off. I won’t give voice to the rest of the committee that lives in my head, but you know what I’m talking about.

So. Onward now. Two more papers to write this week, and one test.

Let it Ride

Today was not a good mom day. Jeffrey woke just before 2 a.m. early this morning, and puked all over my bathroom. Towels, bucket, cool washcloth, clean-up, and by the time I got the boy settled down again, I was completely wound up and couldn’t fall back asleep.

When he woke, he felt great and wanted to go to school, and I was wiped out from not falling back asleep and also having him crash in my bed and kick me all night. Grumpy mama. Chaotic morning, as it always is when I can’t wake up, because breakfast was late, homework was lost, missing shoes could not be found, and snack weren’t what the preferred kind. Grrrr…. Breathe. Just get them out the door…

Got them off, and plopped down to check out my homework for the day and try and muster the energy to make my regular Monday morning gym time, and realized I was not only too exhausted to care, but somehow I knew if I went the school would be calling me to pick up Jeffrey. Sure enough- at 10 o’clock the phone rang. Rinnnnnng!! “Oh hello Ms M, Jeffrey is here in the office not feeling well.” Yes, I’ll be right there. Abby, get in the car…

When I walked in the office, he was sitting on a cot in the nurse’s office eating a package of crackers, and the nurse said he felt better now. Coincidentally, math was now over. Hmmmm….

I took him home anyway.

By the time we got home, it was clear I was not only not going to the gym, but not getting much of anything else done today either. There was a nice sunbeam falling in the front window, and I crashed next to Jeffrey while Abby watched cartoons and we took a nap. Surrender to the chaos was the best option today, and had I kept trying to fight it, it would have been a disaster of a day.

As it was, it was just a push. But I did get a nap in a sunbeam. So there’s that…

Seen Around Our House Lately

I found these ladies kickin’ it in my bathroom sink. Their names are both Polly Hermaid. Or so I’m told.

Abby decorated it herself. Can you tell? Bean was a tad more reserved with the crayon-flavored sprinkles.

I forgot to put this one up, from the first day of school. Such cooperative tykes I have. Oh yeah, and I went with red over chartreuse for the door, but have yet to get that final coat on. It takes a lot of red paint to cover a black door.

Talk Me Down

Get out your violins… Generally I try and be positive about what has been a pretty sucky situation. Today though, I woke with a heavy weight where my heart should have been, and felt like the Dementers had sucked all the happiness from my life forever. I kept reminding myself that these days happen- it won’t last forever- but it took everything I had to keep from crawling in bed and crying all day.

Most of the time I feel like I can DO this. The fact is, I don’t have many options- I HAVE to do this. But today, I just felt like I was crumbling under the pressure, failing everywhere I turned. Part of it being wiped out from summer with all three kids by myself. My own school has started, and while again, I know I can do it, today the doubts got the best of me. I stressed about new profs, new assignments where I’m not sure what the expectations are, and three very heavy reading and writing classes.

Then there is home- where I am in charge of all the normal household-y mom things like cooking, cleaning, laundry and the house, along with all the other stuff that a spouse might take on- like garbage, recycle, mowing, raking, edging, weeding, the garage, the car, oil changes, banking and finances… all of that is on me too. And yes, I know my divide is sexist and traditional, the irony is not lost on me. I lack the energy to be more creative at the moment.

We’re not getting any child support, and have no horizon on when that might change. The X has not seen the children since the first week of January, and that also may not change. It’s out of my hands completely. Even if he does gain the right to see them again, it will have to be with supervision for only three hours per week, with me providing transportation to and from, and negotiating and providing a supervisor.

My pattern business has kept me afloat thus far, but as we head into the holidays, stores are already stocked, and orders dwindle to almost nothing. In normal years, this would be the time to start working on new designs. For the life of me, I cannot figure out when this could happen- let alone muster the creative juices to actually flow. What that means is I am experiencing the pinch and grind of living on the edge of all my resources. It’s like looking down from a tightrope over a canyon, and having the world swim before my eyes.

I have to snap out of it.

I know I have many blessings, and I need to kneel down and count them. And I hope tomorrow it will be easier and brighter to do so. Tonight though- I am just so weary, I want to lay my load down and sleep by the river.

Harvest Moon

Under the front window where I sit, the pumpkin vines are taking over my flower bed and creeping amid the rusting rose bushes and  last, brave geraniums. If we’re lucky, the egg-sized pumpkins might actually be softball size and maybe even orange by next month. The lawn is still emerald green and cries to be mowed, but since school started, I haven’t been able to light a fire hot enough under Jeffrey to actually get him out there. The stitched flag on the porch has blown and caught itself in the sunflowers by the front door, and they sway and tangle together in the breeze. Is that disrespectful, letting my flag dance with my sunflowers? I think it’s okay.

The washing machine is churning away in the basement, stoically chewing through the casualties of teaching a little girl to sleep without a diaper, and piles of fresh-smelling kids clothes fill plastic baskets near my feet. I’m ignoring the piles of t-shirts and grass-kneed jeans for now, but I know they are patient and will always always always be waiting for me.

My nose is cold. I tuck my hands under my laptop now and then to warm them on it’s little electronic apple-heart. It’s that time of year where the mornings are still chilly, but by afternoon, everyone is pink cheeked and covered in a sheet of sweat from hard playing. Too cool for the fans, too warm for the heater. Instead I grab a zippered sweatshirt from the back of my closet, and begin the annual rotation of the clothing. Soon enough it will be parkas, boots and missing stocking caps.

Today is the first day of classes at the University. My syllabi and calenders are printed, folders labeled and books perused. On the counter near where I store my school books is a mug with an entire box of new No. 2’s, all sharpened to wicked points and waiting- prettier than a bouquet of mums. I love school. I love being challenged and having my mind stretch and expand and swallow up new ideas and information to be drawn upon at some future, exciting date.

It’s going to be a big, swollen fat moon tonight. It’s a Harvest Moon. The Equinox rolls around, and balance is found for a fleeting moment in the year- only twice. Spring and Fall. After tonight, the season tips and darkness, at least here in the northern hemisphere, will dominate the light. We will continue the journey into the darkness, until the winter solstice, when the sun will be reborn and begin once again to beat back the darkness. It’s a timeless and universal dance.

Random Crap

Bean lost his first two teeth, back to back, the day before and the day immediately after his seventh birthday. Now he can’t leave the hole in the front of his mouth alone, and he’s given himself a little sore on his tongue from sticking it through the gap all day. The tooth fairy and the birthday fairy had to appear together in one night, and boy was she glad she’d stashed a little cash for just such an emergency. The tooth fairy doesn’t have such a hot record at our house.

My life of leisure is about to come to a close. School starts in just over 24 hours again, and I have 45 hours a week of classes. Yeah, I know. But I can do it. To celebrate my last few days of liberty until Christmas, I finished watching Veronica Mars on Netflix. Love love love that show. Logan is Veronica’s lobster.

Time to winterize. It’s still balmy fall here, but there was enough of a snap in the air the other morning that the heat kicked on. Love that dust-burning smell of the first heat of the season… ick. Took all the fans downstairs and rolled up the sun blinds for the season. Welcome fall, my favorite season- though it’s hard to get too excited when decorating and crafts are pretty low on my totem pole.

I miss Mo. Yeah, we didn’t see each other every day or anything, but there was always the option of popping over to see each other on any given day. Now she’s all by herself, and I am too. We tried to plan a visit, but alas, so far, it’s been a bust. I need to just throw the kids in the car and show up one weekend. Stupid school and responsibility grown up stuff.

Reading Superfudge to the kids each night before bed. Nothing, and I mean nothing, had made them laugh like Uncle Feathers saying to Fudge’s ex-kindergarten teacher “Bonjour Stupid!” It’s the phrase of the day at our place. Bonjour Stupid! I’m not sure if it’s the genuine funniness of the bird calling the teacher dumb, or the illicit naughtiness of saying “stupid” over and over, but whatever it is, they giggle their butts off.

I’ve been invited to speak in Seattle in November, and I’m really hoping I can swing it. Have to look over the syllabi from my courses and see how the weekend shakes out.

Hitting the gym again, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Spent some time reading over the archives from the last few years. Two things about keeping a fairly regular blog: First, it’s nice to have a journal of your life, and the little details you might have forgotten had you let them float away on the eddy of time. And second, holy cow my life has been a bucket of sad for a long time! I’m so focused on plowing forward I don’t think terribly much about the wake behind me- and when I went back and started reading some of what happened, the rawness and  brutality was shocking- to me!- and I lived through it. And, I never told you guys everything either. So the tidbits I did write opened up little land-mines of memories. It was a somber reminder of things I had begun to forget- or at least things that had begun to dull with a little bit of time.

My birthday is fast approaching. This year, I want child support for my birthday. That’s all. Regular, reliable child support.

Crazy Chicken Annie called me last night, and it was awesome. I love her so much, and we had a good visit when I was down in California last month. She sent Bean a birthday card that sings to him, with some birthday money. He still gets more excited about quarters than he does about dollars, but he loved the singing card and lays his head on it on the table.

Abby slept last night without a pull-up. It was not brave, it was necessity- those dang things are expensive, I was out, and I wasn’t about to put all the kids in the car and run to Safeway on a Sunday night to buy some pull-ups. Okay chicka, so here’s the jumping off point- here’s where you turn into a big girl. Mama’s sorry this couldn’t be more gentle. She did well- she was a little damp in the morning, but not bad. Second night in effect now.

Jeffrey wrote a story problem for his math class tonight: “There are 599 flies in our house, and I left the door open and let in 67 more. Now my mom is insane, how many flies do we have?” I kid you not. I hope his teacher has a sense of humor.


The kids were up early, and I lay in bed longer than normal listening to them chatter, peppered by bits of bickering. The season’s are changing, and it’s probably time to slide my windows shut, I thought as the almost-chilly air slid over the sill and down onto my head. I love when the seasons change; the air turns before the leaves even begin. I’ve been watching my big maple in the front yard, waiting for the first edgy haze of orange and yellow- but not yet.

Once upon a time, September 18th was the happiest day of my life. Today would have been my eleventh wedding anniversary, if I were still married. It’s just an ordinary day now, maybe special for someone else, but not for me. Can I still claim the happiness that once was, despite the flaming catastrophe that immolated that happiness and the family it created? Do I want to?

Happy Birthday Bean!

Yes, that’s a turkey-baster he’s holding, and it’s what he said he wanted for his birthday. The joy is apparent on his glowing face. This kid breaks the cockles of my heart wide open, and gives new meaning to the full gamut of human emotion. He took that turkey baster to school with him, more pleased than if he’d gotten a new video game or a trip to Disneyland. Happy Birthday Bean. Mama loves you more than I can ever express.


We have  old-school malboxes that teenagers like to swat with baseball bats on bored summer nights.  That’s never happened to mine, but judging by the cages some of my neighbors build around their mailboxes, it’s happened to them. It used to be that I loved when the mail came. I’d listen for the gravel crunch  and tinny-plink of the old metal door being slammed , followed the rev of the mail wagon as it lurched towards the next mailbox.

Not anymore.

It’s a simple, mindless pleasure that is not more. Now I dread the mail- usually in contains something sad or stressful. Even though my divorce is final, there are things that are still unsettled. Like the big house. Despite my listing it with a realtor and having it on the market for months, it’s heading to foreclosure. There is nothing in the world I can do about it, but the letters and stress this generates is difficult. It also is a constant reminder of the someone else who should have taken care of this and us, and opted not to. I don’t want to be reminded. My plate is overflowing, and I don’t want to think about things that bear no fruits.

It’s been almost 10 months since my children have seen their father. I do not know when this will change, honestly. I had been holding the thinnest threads of hope that he might be able to still function as a parent at some point, however the more time that goes by, the dimmer and more fragile that hope becomes. My children have stopped asking, for the most part, and that makes my heart ache for them. Again, there is nothing I can do.

Tomorrow is Bean’s birthday. He’ll be seven years old. I’m dreading the mailbox both today and tomorrow- not for what it might contain, but for what it might not contain. Someday the mailbox will be a good thing again. Someday…