Sunday, November 28, 2004
Thanksgiving turkey
We made it home. Lot of driving, lot of family drama, but we're all home and relatively intact. Jacob's been asleep for the past 4 hours and I really should wake him up and try to salvage some semblance of sleep routine, but I just don't have the energy right now. Gotta purge myself of some of the holiday ridiculousness and then I'll go back to being Mama.

Our first leg of the trip required driving from NH to NJ. We made it to the NJ state line in 3 1/2 hours... if you're familiar with this part of the country, specifically Connecticut, you will realize that this is nothing short of a miracle. We watched an 8-mile back-up form on the opposite side of the highway, and my guess is that some of those poor people are still sitting in their cars swearing at their family members. I really wish I had some sort of tin-can-telephone type device that would allow me to warn the unsuspecting fools flying down the road toward the mess to STOP AND PEE, NOW. (And that they could let me know, too, of course. This is not a purely altruistic bladder-saving measure.)

We arrived at the hotel and proceeded to play Musical Rooms until we could find one that was (1) non-smoking, (2) equipped with a operational bathroom plumbing, and (3) wired to a working telephone line. Then we had dinner at a too-fancy-for-kids (but we brought-our-kids-along because we don't-have-a-sitter-400-miles-from-home) restaurant, where my delightful father-in-law proceeded to have the same conversation with me four times. The gist of it:
HIM: So, do you believe that there are neurochemical differences that appear in the brain when people listen to upbeat music versus sad music?
ME: I don't know, I'm not a neuropsychologist.
HIM: But, no, I know that. I'm asking about the CHEMICALS in your BRAIN.
ME: Yes. Thank you. I'm not a neuropsychologist.
HIM: Okay. I understand. But the brain chemistry, what about that?
ME: No, no. See, it's like being a doctor. EXACTLY like being a doctor. Because I will be one in a year. Really. And doctors have specialties. You should know this, being a RADIOLOGIST. I won't ask you questions about my OB-GYN care. EVER. So please don't ask me to pretend to be an expert in a different field than I specialize in. Wanna talk about serial killers??
HIM: No. I don't know anything about serial killers. But, music, and brain chemistry, now...

Great fun.

The Thanksgiving dinner itself went okay, except for the fact that my daughter spent the entire morning being ridiculously over-indulged by a group of older relatives. My husband is the only child-bearing member of his clan at the moment, and people like my son but none of them are willing to breastfeed him, so that leaves my daughter to soak up 100% of the attention right now. Which she loved until it was time to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner and suddenly people were, *gasp* paying attention to something other than her. (Even though they were willing to watch her chew, they still occasionally wanted to glance at their own plates.) So, MELTDOWN. MELTDOWN. She literally ended up missing the entire meal, which is sort of the point of the holiday. Ah well, her loss.

Jacob has hit a delightful point in his development, in which he looks at everything very intently and really processes it for a moment before deciding how he feels about it. Which means that when someone else is holding him, which happened a LOT this weekend, he would swivel his cute, round little head around, find me, and the look on his face was: "Is that a tree? Is it furniture? No, it's MAMA!" accompanied by a sweet grin and a full-body wiggle. It's nice to be appreciated.

There were a few other highlights, but this is long enough already and I need to start getting myself back in home/school/work mode. I hope everyone else's holiday was delightful, or at the very least not traumatic. I'm sure we'll be entering into Post-Grandma Syndrome here very soon.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Yay, Guilt!
So after a very Eeyore-like weekend, my husband sort of shook off some of his mood for a while on Sunday... enough to suddenly notice that yes, I have been spending a TON of time on the computer lately, but I haven't been posting my brains out or surfing porn over here, I've been frantically trying to pull together enough words to make a reasonable first draft of my dissertation proposal. (WHICH, by the way, I turned in yesterday - yay! I'm nowhere NEAR done, but now I at least have something to work with and refine rather than still needing to create from scratch.)

So yesterday I accepted mediocrity in my parenting and spent every available second typing, and when he got home I was able to give him a quick review of the State of the Children (both of whom, I might add, were sleeping - such a fantastic feeling) and then rush out the door to hand it in to my advisor. I don't meet with my advisor for another 2 weeks, so this way I can completely leave the dissertation out of my head while we travel but yet something will be happening with it.

I had class yesterday evening, and I came home tired and eye-strained but feeling pretty good about myself - especially for a Monday, which are usually the days in which I swing deepest into PPD. And it turns out that while I was gone, my husband decided that we had had enough crankiness around here for the weekend. So to make up for it, he made dinner... and not just spaghetti and sauce, but chicken with crabmeat stuffing and rice pilaf. He baked banana bread with chocolate chips in it (he prefers raisins). He got both kids ready for bed. He even threatened a backrub, though let's not get ridiculous here, that didn't happen. And I went to bed at 11 and he stayed up till midnight with Jacob.

So, yes, he was fantastic last night, and I didn't even have to apply a guilt trip, he did it all by himself!

Okay. Must begin the frantic chicken-with-head-cut-off style running around that precedes any family travel... we're heading for New Jersey tomorrow morning, then to upstate NY for Jacob's baptism on Sunday. I'll be out of commission, internet-wise, until Monday.

So, have a delightful holiday, one and all! May your meals be delicious and low-drama!
Thursday, November 18, 2004
The Husband Translator
Didja ever notice that, every once in a while, husbands don't quite say exactly what they mean... and that every once in a while we don't say exactly what we mean to them? I've started compiling a list of those occurrence in my house just lately.

He says: How was your day?
He means: Are you the woman I married or are you the blubbering, intermittently pissy, emotionally unpredictable creature that spends three or four days a week in my house?

He says: Wow, you've lost a lot of the pregnancy weight.
He means: Our sex life has been so sparse that I would lay down an elephant right now if I thought I would get some satisfaction from it, so in comparison you're looking pretty fine.

He says: I did X, Y and Z to get the baby to sleep in his crib.
I say: That's great, thank you.
I mean: I don't care if you are doing a naked emu mating dance and then sprinkling pickle juice on him, I'm getting an extra hour and a half of sleep while you put him down and then we all sleep better at night so I'm happy.

He says: Wow, you got the dishes done and started the laundry today.
He means: What do you DO with your day? How busy can you possibly be if you never leave the house?

He says: I stayed home with the kids today.
He means: Holy #&^#$, I'm exhausted and I wasn't able to do more than toss a slice of bread at the 4-year-old at lunchtime. I didn't realize people could live like this. Where did the day go?

I say: The kids are both asleep, shall we...?
I mean: You haven't gotten laid in 2 weeks and I feel guilty. If you get 15 minutes of bliss and I get a short nap afterwards, then we'll both be happy for a while.

I say: I'm still breastfeeding, ya know.
I mean: If things do progress into the bedroom, you are not to even LOOK at my breasts, much less touch them. They are tired. They are functional, not fun, right now. If you start to mess with them I will likely have a letdown and douse you in milk.

Big sigh. I think I'm ready for my Ultra Double Secret Decoder Ring now.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
The Conclusion of the Mac & Cheese Incident
This visit is endless.

When we last heard from our intrepid heroine (that would be me), we had made it through Thursday night with a few bumps and bruises but no permanent scars. Still the same situation now, I'm tired of the constant head games and defensiveness but there have been no glaring experiences of social ineptitude.

Yesterday morning I made a discovery: I can be bought, for the price of a big grocery-shopping trip. I'm willing to provide all kinds of forgiveness and deliberate memory loss to someone who whips out a credit card at the end of a first-payday-since-mortgage-week shopping extravaganza. I used to get all prickly and snobbish about not wanting her to be throwing money around so much, but then I realized that buying things is her only way of showing affection, and I simply don't have the heart to stifle that outporing of love. Go ahead, permanently mess up your children's sense of self-esteem and respect for others! Irritate everyone who has ever spent more than 15 minutes in a conversation with you by your sheer inability to listen to another person's complete thought! Get other people to do things for you by faking incompetence just so you can criticize their efforts! Just throw a couple hundred dollars at us, and we'll forget all the bad stuff!
I know, it's pathetic.

It absolutely torques my pique when my mother-in-law starts working on making my daughter neurotic and weight-obsessed. I have a beautiful little girl, and she would be beautiful if she was 40 pounds overweight and had vicious growths all over her face, because she's smart and precious and MINE. And my husband and I have worked hard to praise her for the stuff she can control ("Hey, great job not dropping your mac and cheese all over the floor!") more than the stuff she can't, such as her appearance. So last night Emily was plying dress-up and got her fairy princess outfit on, and she half-pranced-half-gallumphed her way to my mother-in-law and said, "And what do YOU wish for, Grandma?" And Grandma instantly says, without a moment's pause, "I wish for you to make my butt smaller." And Emily, bless her little heart, replies, "Why? Do you poop too much?" Gotta love her.

Oh, have to run, Jacob's waking up and my mother-in-law looks like she's thinking of cleaning my kitchen. And no, no, don't let that fool you into sympathy for what a nice lady she is... her version of cleaning is to ineffectually wave a sponge in the general direction of the dishes and then place them, food chunks and all, directly into the cupboards. (And don't let this make me sound like a cleaning freak - believe me, I can put up with a LOT of clutter and even some dust in the corners, but we're talking about huge chunks of who-knows-what, sometimes big enough to make my FiestaWare stick together.) Tres gross, and far more work than it would have been for me to just do it myself.

I think I can make it one more day. I think I can... I think I can... I think I can...
Thursday, November 11, 2004
The Mac & Cheese Incident
Oh, if the rest of my weekend continues like this I'll be checking myself into the nearest locked psychiatric ward on Monday.

My husband had the day off, so we started off the morning by doing a total overhaul on our basement - our house is a split-level, and we used to use the basement as a playroom and an office, but they had over time morphed to large storage rooms for boxes, blankets, dust bunnies and cat hair. So we decided to move stuff and throw stuff out and run the vacuum cleaner 15 times, and generally convert it all into a playroom and a guest room in preparation for the onslaught of family that will descend upon my house at Christmastime.

Wow, more information than you needed, huh? I've spent the past 4 hours being alternately ignored and interrupted, so I'm taking blatant advantage of the fact that you ladies can't interrupt me. Ignore me, sure, but I'll never know! Ignorance is bliss!

Anyway... so I spent the morning alternating between manual labor and nursing and sneezing and stepping on the cat. But the basement looks GREAT and I didn't have to do it all by myself, so YAY. AND we have at least a dozen boxes already packed in preparation for our move in the spring.

So noontime rolls around and it's lunchtime. Emily wants mac and cheese. Sure, why not? We don't need nutrition here, we have a few dust bunnies leftover downstairs! You can have that with a cat-hair chaser, life will be fine. Warm it up in the microwave, open the door, and then my day gets ugly. I somehow flip the bowl over on its way out, and suddenly I am briefly hip-deep in noodles and orange cheeselike substance. I swear there were 8 pounds of mac and cheese in there, I don't know how, musta multiplied while the door was closed. (In our house, this mysterious multiplying phenomenon is called the Brita pitcher effect. Know why??)

And to make this even more fun, Jacob's carseat bucket was on the floor just in front of the microwave, so it caught a few pounds of noodles itself. There was mac and cheese inside the little slots where the seat belts go, on the canopy, on the floor, stuck to the wall, stuck to the inside of the microwave door... as you can imagine, I could scarcely contain my glee.

And have you ever had to pick mac and cheese up off a linoleum floor? It's just sticky enough to stick like glue, but not sticky enough to wipe up with a paper towel. And you have to understand, there were literally handfuls of this stuff everywhere. Tres gross. I understand why some haunted houses have you put your hands in a bowl of noodles and tell you it's brains, I really do.

So, fine, we got through that. My mother-in-law showed up an hour earlier than planned, ("Oh, I didn't think you'd mind, so I didn't bother to call.") so Jacob and I were in the shower and my husband was at the dentist. I get dressed and come out to find her just burying my 4-year-old in gifts. It's not the gift-giving that bugs me (okay, it bugs me a little, since Emily already owns every toy ever), it's the twisted lying..."I got this on sale, it was only two dollars, I couldn't say no." It's a full outfit plus shoes, it did NOT cost $2! And you're rich, don't brag to me about saving a few cents at Target when you just spent 3 weeks in Italy on vacation.

She looks up at me and says, "Oh, Jacob's gotten so big! And hi, Kate. Looks like you're having more trouble dropping the pregnancy weight this time, huh?"


What's the phrase I'm looking for? Hmm... oh, yeah. Bite me.

Since then it's jst continued to be awkward and uncomfortable. She acts like she's never been around children or babies before, asks me how to do the simplest things, then rolls her eyes and sighs when I answer her. She interrupts my husband and I all the time in order to distract Emily or give her another present or generally encourage snottiness, rudeness or entitlement in my daughter. She also LOVES to ask a question and then not bother to listen to the answer.

So fun.

Okay, have to go start the bedtime routine here. One last chance for some more child-rearing-related eye-rolling before we go have a forced, awkward, disinterested conversation.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Note to self: Must post when happy, too.

Remember how Jacob used to be a fantastic sleeper? Remember?? Well, I think I remember, but the past 4 days of not more than 2 hours sleep at a time has made my memory a bit cloudy, not to mention making my temper short and my balance all weird. I walked smack into the wall the other night, and I'm not even sure where I thought I was going, there's no door anywhere near there.

I don't know what the deal is. Could be teething, could be a growth spurt, could be suddenly unhappy about me being out of the house on Mondays (though this started on Saturday, so I want to have a chat with whoever taught him how to read a calendar). I don't care. I just want him to sleep.

He won't sleep in his crib. His eyes literally burst open the second I try to lay him down. You would think that I was running an electric current through the springs. But if he doesn't move out of his bassinet soon we'll need to fold him in half and jump up and down on him to fit him in there.

Just, ugh. I have to keep telling myself that maybe tonight he'll start sleeping more, because if I don't convince myself of that possibility then I might just run away. Or, rather, lurch away at moderately high speed with no discernible grace.
Monday, November 08, 2004
The Original Mother-in-Law Story
Oh, save me from the nightmare of irritating in-laws...

This has come up in a few different conversations lately, AND I just found out that my mother-in-law is coming to visit this weekend, so I thought I would post my classic Terrible Mother-In-Law story.

As background, she and I actually get along fairly well when my husband isn't around - so it's not *me* that she hates. It's that I "took" her oldest son... and even worse, I hold him to some standards of behavior and expect him to treat me with some respect. So she gets all weird and competitive around him. AND she's textbook passive-aggressive, so when she does these snotty, petty things, she totally denies that she meant to do them. Usually it's little stuff like, she wore black to my wedding, or when she goes out for coffee she brings something back for everyone but me, or she tells me I am selfish for breastfeeding because it means she has less time with Jacob - though she lives 7 hours away. But the ultimate story happened just before Willem and I got engaged...

We were both in grad school, me in Boston and him in upstate New York, and we decided to go away on Spring Break together. So we were sort of waffling about where to go, and his mother called him. She spends winters in Florida (not because of her age, but because she does Dressage horse-riding), and she wanted "us" to come down. Now, we all know that what she WANTED was for him to come down, but she recognized that I was part of the package so she was willing to endure my presence as well. I mean, she and Willem had just gone shopping to pick out my engagement ring, she knew I wasn't a passing fling!

Anyway, so, she said that not only could we stay with her, but she would pay for our plane tickets. How could we turn that down? We were broke college students! So, great, sure. And the tickets come in the mail a week later.

His are in First Class.

Mine are in Coach.

Yes, really.

We told our story to the airline ticket people, and after they fell on the floor laughing, they got up and arranged it so that for the flight down we both sat in First Class, and for the flight home we both sat in Coach. Mother-in-law was unhappy with that, but there wasn't much she could do about it.

I'm surprised we were both on the same plane.

And it gets better! About a week after we got home she called me up and asked me to pay her back for my ticket - "It cost more than I expected it to." So I wrote a check to Willem and had him write a check to her on one of his own personal checks. Of course she refused to cash it.

To this day, she refuses to admit that she holds any responsibility for this debacle. "I didn't have enough Frequent Flyer miles to get 2 seats in First Class." Hmm.

I just try and keep a brick wall handy when she's around, for convenient head-bashing.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Anyone qualified to do a babyectomy?
I have not been able to get more than six inches away from Jacob allllll day. And I love him to pieces, but every other day for the past 6 weeks or so he has taken a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon. And yes, he takes his nap in the swing, but I get a break and it makes us all happy, so fine.

But today, he is super-ultra-mega-clingy. I don't know if he's teething or has a sore belly or if he's upset about the election results. I can't put him down, I can't get him to sleep. As long as I am talking directly to him in my lap, we're all fine. I was singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" while I peed today because otherwise he'd scream at me (it seemed like the reference to rain was appropriate).

I have nursed at least once an hour all day long. My nipples are tired.

My husband got home at 5 and he was like, "What can I do to help?" Grow breasts and lactate, please. That'd be great.

No, seriously. Start grunting, I want to see some boobs over there!
Friday, November 05, 2004
Random insanity
Things are always crazy busy at our house... but recently the emphasis is a bit stronger on the "crazy" part...

I was breastfeeding Jacob (14 weeks old today) last night on the couch, and he let go, gave me a big milky grin, and proceeded to latch onto the side of my breast hard enough to leave a hickey. My God, son, let's develop some better aim, shall we?

My daughter is 4-going-on-14, complete with tantrums. But it's okay, because I can subtly get back at her by stealing her Halloween candy while she naps.

On Tuesday I was cleaning up the yard and taking down the Halloween decorations while the kids slept. I had a jack o'lantern in my arms and was walking down our deck steps when I slipped and fell down the last three steps, somehow the pumpkin bonked me under the chin so I bit my lip, and I landed flat on my face in the grass. Just as a group of high school boys from the track team ran by. So sexy. I sprained my ankle and I have a suspiciously orange-tinted bruise under my chin.

Jacob has moved into size 3 diapers and 6-9 month clothes. Know how I know? Cuz we were at a (really, really boring) birthday party for one of my daughter's friends when Jacob had a sudden poop explosion - out the sides and top of the diaper, all over his outfit, and on a big section of my shirt. And all we had in his diaper bag were size 2 diapers and 3-6 month clothes - that's what fit him a week ago! But no, the diaper was straining at the edges and his poor little toes had to curl up in order to cram him into the outfit. And my poor, shy little boy, who hates being naked at home, was thrilled to pieces at being free and easy at the gymnastics building.

This morning, I accidentally closed my cat in the sliding glass door onto the deck. We've got it down to a routine, I know just how far to open the door and just how long to keep it open, she slips in and life is good. But either my timing is off or she's getting slower, because even though I close the door slowly, I still caught her in it. She's perfectly fine, never even yelped at me - she's just a bit longer and thinner now, I think.

I took a shower with everyone in my house last weekend, one at a time. It was nice to get some alone-time with each person, but I was all pruney by the time we were done. And it felt a bit like a circus event, we're considering selling tickets to the neighbors next time.

Big sigh... the fun never stops...
Monday, November 01, 2004
Guilty pleasure
If you've got older kids, admit it, you already know what I'm talking about... but for you first-time mommies, I thought I would let you in on one of the supreme pleasures of life that will probably start next year, almost certainly the year after: stealing candy from your child's Halloween bucket while they nap. Emily is happy to share her candy with us when we ask, but there is just something unexplainable about sneaking it out of the bucket and dampening those telltale crinkly sounds in the middle of the afternoon... priceless.

You can tell yourself that you're trying to minimize candy consumption to help them keep their teeth healthy, but seriously, let's be honest in cyberspace if nowhere else... there is just something cool about taking candy from a baby!