Thursday, August 30, 2007

Conversation About Conversation

It's been an interesting week for conversation here in Lilyville. What do I say? What don't I say? How do I say what I mean? What are the kids saying? What do they mean by it? After more unpleasantness whereby my ex told me that the letter from his attorney threatening to try to take my parenting rights away was a "compromise" - I decided I needed to tell my kids that there was more going on than whether they wanted to live here or there. I've thought about every single word I've said. I strive to make sure I give as much accurate information to the kids as possible with as little emotional stress as possible. It's hard work - especially knowing how little Mr. Tapioca Head thinks before he speaks (or sends me email.) After talking to my lawyer (who sounds just like Terri Gross from Fresh Air!), I decided that my response to the threats is to follow the protocol in our divorce documents. I'm going to try to go to mediation over this issue even though I'm fairly sure it will be as useless as it was for the previous issues. I'm going to ask for more conversation.

As much as I don't think mediation has a snowball's chance in h-e-double hockey sticks of succeeding in this case, I have come to realize that deep down I have a surprising amount of faith in words as a means to resolve problems. Aside from the fact that our document REQUIRES the attempt, I want to try one last time to talk through our parenting disagreements. The talking turns out to be important to me. I lie awake thinking of what was said, what needs to be said. I find comfort in the idea that the mediation process is out there (and required as a first step) in this "battle" over what's best for my children. I pay very close attention to what my guys are saying and what they're not. I've been re-reading emails and processing what's said there. I've thought about why I choose certain words and what the emotional connotation is of the words that are being hurled at me. The more I've thought about the words, the communication process - the more centered and hopeful I've felt. I see (hear, think about) words differently than I have before. It's a bit like when you take an art class and the teacher shows you how to look at the world in terms of light and shadow, line and hue - instead of the way you're used to seeing things. On some days I've thought about one word over and over until it begins to sound bizarre and mean nothing. Other days I've turned over phrases and instructions, interested to see how sometimes clarity arrives out of the blue. I don't know that it will amount to anything concrete - but I have to be fully me as I wade through this crap. Being fully me means being aware and intentional and committed to the communication process for as long as possible.

And it's not just the legal stuff that's got me thinking about language and communication. It is exciting to live in a new place. It is amazing to me how much the "cultural dialect" changes just moving one state over! My kids seem to be dealing with the newness remarkably well. They're finding friends - many of whom are newcomers too. With the university so close, there is always a large and diverse transient aspect to the community. In my kids' schools, one fifth of the students are "new kids" which definitely takes the stigma away. My kids have new friends from Russia, San Francisco, Birmingham (the one in Alabama AND the one in England), and Boston. In addition to new friends from new places, the kids are navigating new schools - each with its own lingo. The primary wing, the kiss and go circle, the cafe, the Seven Aces - all of these are new and important labels my kids had to decipher on the fly.

I'm not as good at deciphering as they are. I had lunch with Havoc yesterday. Havoc's new buddies Tommy and Ben were pointing out the kids in the class and telling me everyone's names. Ben was born here and Tommy, though a transplant, moved from New England a whole year ago and is quite the expert now. Tommy is diligently passing his hard won knowledge on to Havoc, and by extension to me. He took it on himself to make sure I learned about everyone in Ms. A's third grade class. The row we were sitting on had an Erin (from England - been here a week), a Sophie, a Brandon (from LA), a Zin yu (from here), a Noemi, and a Zoe. It was hard to hear over the din so Tommy had to repeat some of the names a couple of times for me. One name in particular was hard for me to understand - Themeena? He said it again and again - finally getting out of his seat and coming around the table (which is against the rules) to say clearly right into my ear, "She's THE MEAN ONE - Havoc needs to stay away from her. She thumps people." I couldn't help but laugh. (And of course I told Havoc that if that girl ever thought about thumping him, he was to talk to a teacher immediately.) I never did learn her real name.

To add yet another current to the communication stream - this week we've gone from zero to four foreign languages being studied in our household. Chaos is taking German, the Princessa Latin, Mayhem and Havoc both French, and Bug (who is coming back on Saturday to live with us permanently!) is studying Japanese with Linus. Havoc came home yesterday and announced, "La fenetre!" as he pointed to a window. And "la poubelle" as he threw his snack wrapper in the trash can. Chaos can count (to 9) and say (most of) the alphabet in German. We are quite the melting pot family. We're cross contaminating each other with all of our separate new experiences. I love it. I love that it's deepening and enlivening our family tongue.

I think all families develop a pidgin to some extent. Families have nicknames, inside jokes, and funny references to family events that might be hard for outsiders to follow or understand. The patter changes with the ebb and flow of shared experiences. Our family patois is rich and has roots in Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons, sci-fi books, and unusual board games. Recently we have all watched (over and over) the stand up comedian Eddie Izzard's show "Dress To Kill". (He's an actor in films like Mystery Men and Ocean's 13 - but it's his stand up that we love.) He is bilingual and did an encore of his show in French. In the show itself he has several bits about studying languages. His comedy seems to magically fit our family's ethos right now. (Although it's not really a family values kind of gig. It's definitely pushing things to have Havoc watch it - just so you know. I semi-justify it to myself by talking to him about the inappropriate bits. I also console myself with the fact that no matter what I did, his big brothers would quote it to him - so I may as well not leave him out.) If you had been at our supper table last night you would have heard an amazing array of out-of-context Eddie Izzard punchlines like "Of which there are five'', "Were you surprised? I was surprised!", "The City - uhhuhh", "Cake or Death?" and "Love all this!" We were in stitches. You probably would have smiled and nodded and looked for the closest way out.

The laughter helped. Everyone had a line to throw in and everyone laughed. Laughing together helped open everyone up to talk about their days. It helped us feel closer to each other. It just helped everything. I wanted to bottle a bit of it to save for a rainy day. While laughter can't be bottled, it occurs to me that one of the great thing about words is that they can be shared, remembered, saved, and used to evoke past good times. I think the next time one of my kids is gloomy, I'll offer them "Cake or Death?" (I think sharing a real smile is worth possibly having to explain myself to the family court judge!)

Monday, August 27, 2007


Blogging has gotten harder because I don't want to spend my time whining and wailing about my ex - but it's very much on the surface for me. I work so hard not to let any of it out in front of the kids. Then I sit down to blog and that's what spills out onto the page. Thank heavens for the delete key! The trouble is I spend an hour typing and deleting and end up with a scant paragraph that is pathetic - mostly explaining why I don't have a real post!

I thought I'd figure out a good system over the weekend - but as you can see - nada.
I thought this morning - with the first day of school to tell you about and Bug having to leave and Mayhem having his 13th birthday and all - that there'd be plenty of Tapioca free post fodder. But everything, everything here is slimed.

What I do have free and clear is thanks. Thank you for the helpful comments and support. I can't tell you how much it's helped. I can feel it all sinking in and beginning to be processed.
Perhaps by this afternoon I'll have gotten my filters in place enough to post a real post. I have an interview for a part time job today - that should be blogworthy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Back To Basics

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I have a mutant adrenaline system. When I get triggered, my adrenal glands make enough adrenaline for twelve emergencies. We're talking serious overkill. It's all well and good to have a burst of energy when you perceive a threat. I can see how that evolved. I can picture my ancestress minding her own business gathering berries or what have you when out of nowhere lumbers some huge predator. If she can get it in gear in a nanosecond to leap over the river or hot foot it away, she's got a much better chance of surviving long enough to pass her genes down through the ages until they land smack dab in the middle of me. The problem is that I seem to have gotten my entire generation's share of instant energy production and I can't figure out how to share the wealth. It's like having 100 fabulously cooked lobsters and no refrigerator or friends. You will be sick to death long before you manage to eat them all, they will stink up the place unless you get rid of what you can't use, and you will still be hungry tomorrow.

I'm at DEFCON 14, adrenaline pouring out of my ears, hands shaking, all senses ramped up - hyperfocused on everything and there's nothing immediate I can do. What I'm facing is a legal struggle that could take weeks if not months. I'm here to tell you that adrenaline is not a useful substance for a weeks or months long effort!! Even finding a lawyer is a process drawn out over days as I make calls, leave messages, and wait for return calls. There is only so much Googling that adrenaline will let me do. Cleaning is the same. It works for a while but my insides know that scrubbing the shower is not a concrete step towards being done with this threat. Hanging out with the kids is great because it grounds me in what I want (ie my family to get to stay together) and it uses up the right kind of energy to pay attention to them (as they are usually all going in different directions at once.) Soothing though it may be for me, there is only so much mom teenage boys should have to put up with. It should also be noted that hanging out with your kids involves doing what THEY want to do. There is only so much Job For Cowboy I can listen to or Full Metal Alchemist I can watch before it's not so soothing anymore.

What I'm learning (or re-learning or remembering) is that converting all this adrenaline overdrive into a steadier, more long-term energy base takes being kind to myself. In some ways it seems counter-intuitive to focus on myself when what I want to do is pour my whole being out into fixing the "problem". But when I pay close attention to my daily care, when I skip nothing - that's when I feel more centered, calmer, quieter and stronger inside. It's not that I think washing my face, taking my vitamins, and pumicing my heels is a secret recipe guaranteeing my success. It's just that the little routines give me structure and out of that structure comes the energy I use to follow the bigger routines that in turn fuel the care I provide for my family. Being thorough and gentle in small ways gives me confidence and clarity in big ways. Amazingly mundane stuff that. But magic nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Does ANYONE Ever Answer These?

This is the text from some spam I got today that cracks me up:

Hi, my dear friend I've been searching for a man of my dreams,
of my desire and I indeed hope that you are that person, and I have somehow fallen hopelessly and undeniably, though virtually in love with you. To be honest, I never thought I would ever utter those words, but now, they come forth effortlessly and with great sincerity. I'll be forever grateful to you if you show me just how shallow my life was. At last, I have a chance to give it depth and purpose. It would probably be better to tell you this during meeting in person, eyes to eyes, but I knew that the proper words would escape me. I wrote you this letter instead. Please answer me at ...

Why, why, why do people write and send this crapola? Of course that line of thought leads to the question of why does anyone read it? And here I am someone who read. I didn't open it though. (I didn't inhale?) My preview was on and this drivel was the email the cursor was on so I saw the first lines even as I was deleting. Does that at all protect my computer from getting worms or viruses or whatever? But that's yet another side issue. My main point is what is the purpose of these? How could anyone fall for it or find anything interesting enough to click the link? Surely it's code. It made me think back to when raves used to be held in different places - warehouses and such - and you'd have to find the address by putting together seemingly random info from a couple of different band posters that were stapled all over the city. (Um, and in case you are wondering - I had friends who were cool enough to know how to do all that. On my own, I'm sure I not only wouldn't have understood how to decipher the address - but I wouldn't have even known what a rave was.) Anyway - I figure this stuff is just some scattershot process to get people to porn sites - but for the life of me I can't imagine why anyone would go to the trouble of writing, sending, datamining for addresses, risking getting caught, etc. Where is the payoff - for anyone??

Pep Talk For Myself

I will not be getting any of these when we finish up school supplies shopping tonight. Maybe I'm wired differently than other parents, but if I truly felt like my kid would need one then I wouldn't be able to let them go to school - ever. Am I an ostrich? I know how random and unpredictable violence has gotten. Of course I think about Columbine and Virginia Tech. I just can't help but think that the solutions that lead to safety and peace for our children are not down the path of better defensive armament.

This week is filled with new student orientations, placement tests, and meet the teacher nights. I keep typing and erasing what I want to say about this. We had a short family meeting with the kids to get organized about the week and to say that we'd found out Mr. Tapioca was no longer moving here and that he was suing for custody. We told the kids that when they felt like sharing we wanted to hear how they felt. We had to make some decisions and certainly wanted to take their thoughts/feelings into consideration. I'm sure I'll hear more as I have more one on one time with my guys this week but it's hard. Mostly it's hard to see my kids now torn about investing themselves here. Chaos got home from the time with dad and didn't want to look at his schedule to see what classes he got. Havoc (the 8 year old) told me last night while we were waiting for the muffins to bake, that since I'd gotten to have him for the weeks and Dad had only gotten the weekends for the past six years, then he thought maybe he wanted to live with dad for a while. Very interesting to me that Havoc quoted the six year part. He doesn't track time like that. He's never once shown an awareness of how long his dad and I have been divorced. It was hard to hear him parrot his dad's type of reasoning. I let him keep talking and he began to sound more like himself - trying to find a solution, trying to put things together one way and then another. He told me it was hard - he didn't want to have to choose because really, he wanted to choose both. He said part of him wished dad and I hadn't gotten divorced so we could all live together still. Then he said that wouldn't work because he'd miss Linus. He said he'd still have gotten to see Bet (as she's known them all their lives.) He finished by saying he didn't know what to decide.

I told him that I needed him to understand some very important things - the first one being he never had to "choose" one parent over the other. He could say where he wanted to live, he could say how he felt - but he didn't ever have to make a choice of one over the other. He gets to love his parents as much as he wants no matter what the living arrangements are - and that none of this custody stuff changed how much we loved him. I explained that I needed to know how he felt because that informed my decisions, but that he didn't have to make any decisions, the decisions were for the grown ups to make. He said, "Yeah the judge." I told him I still hoped his dad and I could work this out without a judge but if we couldn't then yes, a judge would have to decide for us. My peacemaker middle child, Mayhem said whatever happened would be ok with him.

Interestingly, Mayhem just came in to snuggle and talk to me. God, I love my kids. They are so ... good. I keep reminding myself how lucky we are. This custody stuff sucks. I feel threatened. I do not want my kids taken away from me. I believe with all my heart that they are better off with us because we know how to be present, how to build family, how to help them with school and how to teach them life skills. Mr. Tapioca hasn't yet been able to maintain any of that even in the time with the boys he has now. He talks a good game - but work always trumps family for him. I can't imagine how he thinks he'd be able to do all that needs to be done in daily life with the boys. But for all that - even if the "worst" case happens and I lose in court - it has to be remembered that my kids are not in a war zone; they are not doing drugs or in trouble with the law; they are not being abused and molested. And in addition to all the bad things that aren't happening to them, they are, at heart, naturally sweet guys! They will be good men. Even if this patch for our family is rocky, they will be good men.

That helps. Some. I think the more I remember it, the more it will help. I had NO IDEA that parenting would require learning to give myself pep talks. Feel free to give me advice on how to do it better! I'm not at all sure I've got the hang of it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

When Not To Bike To The Beach

Our bike trips seemed to be plagued with extreme weather. Last year we chose to bike in Upstate New York and Canada thinking to avoid the heat. Sadly two of the seven days we biked were the hottest on record there - and incidentally some 10 - 15 degrees hotter than home! Then in April Bet faced record breaking cold temperatures while biking in the South. I don't know why we didn't expect the 104 degree day we had on our first day biking to the beach! I was done after two days but Bet biked the 73 miles on the last (and coolest day) to finish on a very strong note. Here are some images from the trip:

Bet and I checking our gear just before take off.

Fluffy dog saying goodbye to Mama.

Fluffy dog not so fluffy anymore.
Wasabi barked at the waves and tried to bite them. I wish I'd been able to get a picture of him when he'd only gotten his legs wet and the rest of him was still dry. He looked like a cotton ball with chicken legs. Later when his face was soaked and his beard hanging all bedraggled, he plunked his chin down into the sand and pulled it back up again - with sand dreads dangling from his chin. We burst out laughing which made him run around some. All in all it was a fun trip to the beach. (I'll gloss over the part where Linus, the Princessa, Bug and Bet all stayed out in the sun between 12 and 4 without enough sun screen on. They are all peeling now. I'm peeling too - but if I hadn't sat under an umbrella back in the state park headquarters for those four hours, I'd probably still be in the hospital with sunstroke.) The boys should be home tomorrow and school starts in a week. Summer is coming to a close. This time of year is both sad and exciting to me. This year it might end up being more of both of those things. I'll try not to be a bore about it here on Lilymania, but I just got a certified, return-receipt letter. (I hate those fuckers. They are never good.) This one was from my ex's new lawyer saying that not only has my ex decided not to move, but he's decided to sue me for custody of my children. Soooo pleasant, that. I'm hoping he brings my kids back to me as scheduled tomorrow. I'm hoping I won't whine and carry on here. But I might. It helps me process. Hope the summer is closing out nicely for everyone. I'm off to see Order of the Phoenix a second time.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Shopping Carts And Bicycles

I don't know what it says about our shopping habits that we have discovered the following since the move:
-You can buy caskets online from Costco.
-You have to be careful in the freezer section of the grocery store lest you end up with these instead of the ones for kids. (By the by, do you know what national holiday August 2nd was? Random, I know. Also? I missed it. Wasabi didn't though! He celebrated with his new favorite treat.)
-Here broccoli is more expensive (in a price per pound kind of way) than steak. Linus freaked out a little bit about that.
-Feeding ten children dinner at a baseball game takes almost all nine innings. Baseball fan that I am (not), I think this is the exact right proportion of funnel cakes, cotton candy, and hot dogs to strikes, balls, and conferences at the pitcher's mound. As an added bonus, you get to say things to the kids like, "Stop touching your uvula!" This won't stop them from daring each other to do weird things in public, but it will ensure that the other baseball fans scoot over to give your group a wide berth. You should try it sometime. Of course, if you happen not to have ten kids of your own, you could maybe borrow some of mine. They're the four on the back row and the one in front on the left. You'll have to talk to St. Ann about borrowing the other five.

Although now might be a good time to ask, because she could use a break! On her drive back to PA, she ended up with a scarily high fever from mastitis. Instead of staying in bed (or going to the hospital!), the crazy girl went to her job interview on Monday. Sure hope she gets a job she wants that bad! Send some good mojo her way.

Finally, we're leaving tomorrow morning to bike to the beach. Yes, it's 103 degrees here. Bet and I have realized that we cannot possibly plan a big bike trip without the weather gods freaking out. What with record high temperatures for us in Canada and NY last summer and record low ones over Spring Break - we've come to accept that we're doomed to bike in extremes. If you have any mojo left over after sending some to St. Ann, you could send the remainder out into the Atlantic to make sure we don't have a surprise hurricane or something.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Going Postal (By Way Of The DMV)

Postal Thing One: I went to the post office in Tennessee before we left and got a "relocation packet" chock full of completely useless crap. It had thirty-seven coupons I didn't want and only one change of address form when it turns out only the most unblended of families can manage with just one. Even though there is a check box you can mark to indicate that you want the address change to apply to the whole family, it doesn't do diddly for you if your family members happens to have different last names. We were three forms short. I had squillions of errands to run and dammit, I had already marked the post office off the list! Grrrrr. I had no idea how to get everything done. I had to get immunization records for all the kids, their school transcripts and report cards, the dog's vet records, the HIPA (are there two P's?) forms to release my medical records, forms to have Havoc's gifted program qualifications transferred, and so on and so forth. Then I was told by some helpful soul that you can change your address with the post office online and have your mail forwarded immediately. Hurray! Or rather, it would have been "Hurray!" if we'd been able to do anything online, but some dipweed at the cable company disconnected our internet two days early. Grrrrr. When we could get online (in East Asheville, halfway through the move), guess what we found out? You CAN change your address online if you have a credit card in each name and are willing to pay a dollar per change. Even if I were willing to pay the stupid dollar fees - I don't have credit cards in my children's names! Duh! And grrrrrr.

What with a house to buy, two ginormous trucks to unload, ceiling high stacks of boxes to unpack, kids to care for, and people to feed in the midst of it all, I will admit that it took me a couple of days to get myself down to my new local post office. I'm such a slacker!! I filled out all the forms and handed them to the nice lady. (Nice here being a euphemism for scowling bitch.) I asked her about the online address change process. It seemed to me that not being able to change your children's addresses is a drawback to the system, so maybe I'd missed something. She explained (while rolling her eyes to indicate what a moron I was) that the credit card requirement prevented terrorism and identity theft. The system protected postal patrons from having strangers submit false address changes. Ok. I then handed her four cards where I had filled out my children's names at the top and then printed and signed my name (which in no way matches that of my children) at the bottom. Did she bat an eye? Did she ask to see my ID or any type of proof that it was my children for whom I was submitting address changes? No and no. Apparently terrorists and identity thieves are totally stymied by the online credit card obstacle and never, ever think to use the paper forms. Being ever so helpful, the nice lady snarled at me for not filling out the other side. Er, other side? There was one long blank with something like "Address of Post Office" written underneath. No explanation. Had I realized I was supposed to have written something there, I still wouldn't have known what to put without asking. Ms. Snarlyface gave a huffy puffy sigh and explained that OBVIOUSLY I had to write the name of the city from which I had moved because my mail was still there, not here. In the four seconds it took me to fill in those blanks, she managed to add, "You know, most people do this BEFORE they move." So pleasant. I wanted to klonk her on the head with the two tons of paperwork I did manage to get done BEFORE I moved.

Postal Thing Two: Our mailbox is attached to our house, not on the street. It came that way. For the first few days after we unpacked, we got mail. Not a lot and mostly junk, but we got mail. Then for a few days we got nothing. Zilch. Those few days happened to coincide with the arrival of our fabulous guests (and their two minivans - which is the relevant piece of information vis a vis the mail although we didn't know it at the time.) I wasn't particularly worried about the lack of mail, but Bet was. She's a very orderly person and the empty mailbox with no explanation was driving her crazy. While the rest of us were entertaining ourselves by inventing strange and unlikely reasons for dearth of mail, Bet marched down to the post office for the official word. The post office was holding our mail. Our pull-through driveway had not been so pull-through due to the five cars in it. At the post office they said that the mailman should have left us a note explaining the situation. And he did. Look. This is the note the mailman left us:

Am I the only one who thinks it is absurd that the official explanation of why we had no mail delivery is a note scrawled upon a piece of mail that the mailman REFUSED TO DELIVER? This piece of mail (from my bank and clearly marked "Time dated material - response required") was mixed in the pile with all the other mail being held. PO can stand for pissed off and for post office. Coincidence? I think not. Be that as it may, the Post Office is the model of convenience and efficiency compared to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Ask me how I know.

DMV Thing One: Linus, The Ninja Princessa, Chaos, Mayhem, Havoc, and I spent three hours at the DMV today. The children needed to get state photo ID's (required for air travel now, even for kids) and Linus and I needed to change our licenses from TN to NC. The idea behind the DMV process is that there is a triage desk at the front where they assign you a number based on what you're there for. Driver's test? Your number is B233. License renewal? Your number is A111. Anybody need a study booklet? Here you go. Bing, bang, boom.

For us? Not so bing, bang. In three hours we only managed to get the kids' cards. Linus and I have to go back in two weeks for ours. We stood in the line to get a number for more than forty minutes before the line even moved. We'd been there about an hour and fifteen minutes before we got to the front. When we did make it to the triage nazi we were told we hadn't brought enough documentation to get our licenses today. Even though Linus and I both had our old licenses, our birth certificates, our passports, our social security cards, the deed to our new house, and our insurance cards - we couldn't get our licenses transferred because we did not have the declarations page from our car insurance packet. Fine, we can come back. The boys, however, are getting on a plane tomorrow morning at 8 am and need their cards today. The DMV woman (definitely kin to the post office matron) went through the paperwork we needed for the kids.
"Birth certificates?"
"Social security cards?"
"Proof of residency?"
"Proof of residency? The deed to our house?"
"Are they listed on it?"
"On the deed to our house?! No. But we're provably their parents and we have our custody papers with us and our names are on the deed."
"No, that's not good enough. We need something with their names on it."
"Like what?"
"Utility bill, credit card statement, that kind of thing."
"For the KIDS?? They don't have credit cards and their names aren't on the utilities!"
"What about the lease? Kids have to be listed on leases."
"We just told you. We moved two weeks ago from Tennesse straight into the house we bought. No leasing."
"You'll have to stand aside until I can get the supervisor to come straighten this mess out."
I didn't move over much. The supervisor happened by.
"What seems to be the problem? No lease? No credit card bills?"
"They're kids between the ages of 8 and 15."
The man cackled, "8 to 15! AH HAH! Then you should have school records!" like he'd caught me out.
"I do have school records. From Tennessee. We just moved here TWO WEEKS AGO and the kids have not been in school yet."
"Bank account statements?" he shot back.
"I haven't had time to open accounts for them and I don't think we'd have statements this soon anyway. Isn't there any way to make this work? The kids are supposed to fly tomorrow. They need these ID's."
No answer. The supervisor walked away, clipboard in hand, to administer a road test. I kid you not. He just walked away! Fortunately for everyone concerned, another DMV worker sauntered over and said we'd have to have affidavits.
"Ok. Where do we get those?"
"Oh we can do them when you get called back. You just have to pay $2 each."
I wanted to scream. We cannot be the first people to ever have just moved to the state with their kids! I couldn't believe it took fifteen minutes of dickering back and forth when the triage nazi could have said in 10 seconds, "There's a small extra charge and a form for you to sign but it's not a problem. Here's your number. Next!"
We took our hard earned numbers and sat down. There were about 15 chairs and about 35 people waiting. The supervisor came through and made everyone who was sitting on the floor stand up. Nice. Random, pointless, and unposted rules for added entertainment value! We were so over our DMV experience. At least we'd had enough foresight to have the kids bring books. They were super as we waited another hour and a half for our numbers to get called.

DMV Thing Two: The triage nazi loudly told incoming people that they'd have to wait for hours. At least two, possibly four. She'd been there 17 years and August was always the very worst month. All these people moving into the area. Clogging up the lines. Many of them associated with the university so they had to get here before school started. So inconvenient of them to all come at the same time. Lots of them furriners whose paperwork took forever to process. I'm thinking sensitivity is not something they screen DMV job applicants for.

Finally our numbers got called. It took under ten minutes to do all four kids. They didn't once look at my license or question if I was the mama even though I signed my legal name now which, again, in no way resembles the name I had on the birth certificates. (I've legally changed my first name and taken my maiden name back.) It mattered not. Silly me for hauling all the divorce, custody, and legal name change paperwork. Who cares about that stuff? The declarations page of the insurance packet, now...everyone knows you can't go anywhere without that!

DMV Things Three and Four: Before it was all said and done, each of the children got to decide whether to be organ donors or not. I ask you - does that make any sense to you?? Yes, it's a good thing to know my children's wishes. Yes, I was pleased that they were all so hypothetically generous with their precious organs, but come on now! God forbid it should ever come to pass that that horrific decision has to be made - but if it does, I should hope that it is an adult who loves my kids and NOT a check box on a form at the DMV that decides the issue. Finally, Havoc (the EIGHT year old!) had to sign a piece of paper saying that he was not a registered sex offender. I have no explanation for this. I did ask if the woman was sure she'd given us the right form. She took it back, looked at it, handed it back and said it was required.
But when we all compared notes afterwards, we realized that none of the other kids had to sign such a form. We were scattered at different desks and passing money back and forth because the $2 affidavit fee had to be paid separately from the ID fees and then the photos were taken way over here and it was a lot of back and forth in a few short minutes. Otherwise I would have asked why the holy hell such a form was required for my cherubic third grader. Profiling? Has there been a rash of unregistered sex offenders of elementary school age?!! Did I miss something?

I'm trying to stay positive about this move. I want very much to invest myself in this community. It's just that today I've begun to wonder what is up with North Carolina. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but I have a feeling that somewhere something is amiss when the state bureaucracy expects children to pay their utility bills with their credit cards and to register their sex offender status. I can only hope that if I keep my children out of the Post Office and away from the DMV that things will be ok.