Thursday, December 30, 2004
My life is pretty darn good.
I sometimes irritate even myself with my tendency toward negativity, and I know that I spend far too much time venting the bad/sad/mad stuff online... so I thought I'd take a minute to remind myself that my life really is pretty neat.

My 13-year-old sister has been here for a week. She has muscular dystrophy, so she's about average height for her age (5'2" or so) but weighs about 60 pounds. She can't jump, she can't step up a curb by herself, and she can't smile. But she has the most beautiful, upbeat attitude about life, and she is so, so good with my kids. She has spent hours playing trains with Emily in the past week, and trust me, if you knew just how bossy my 4-year-old can get you'd know that this is no small feat. She can't carry Jacob around, but she has developed a real knack for feeding him cereal - so even though we had just been giving him about a teaspoon a night for practice, we've been letting her feed him because she loves it, and he's been gnawing through 2-3 tbsp a night. And would probably eat more if we prepared more. So, that has been wonderful.

As obnoxious as my husband can be at moments, it's only annoying because I have a non-annoying baseline to compare him to. He is thoughtful and careful and obviously just loves his kids to pieces. And he has only whined a few times about not being able to get the new "Half Life" game (not because we can't afford the money, but because he would want to disappear into the game for a week straight and knows he can't), such maturity.

I pulled off a vastly successful Christmas, with nice gifts and a good spread of food, despite the snottiness of my mother-in-law.

My children are beautiful and smart and healthy and kissable. And they were both intelligent enough to take the very best of my husband and myself, when selecting out their DNA strands.

And I'm facing a new year with some huge, but positive, changes in store. I will finish my coursework - all that will be between me and my doctorate is my dissertation (I just, literally seconds ago, turned in my draft proposal, so it's moving along!) and a year at internship. We'll be moving across the state (60 whole miles, woo-hoo!) to a new house, so that my husband can go back to school for his doctorate. I'll be working full-time for the first time since 2000.

So, while I won't for a second promise to whine less in the New Year, I did want to take a minute at the end of this one to point out the positives.
Monday, December 27, 2004
Ho, ho, humph.
Well, we made it through the Christmas weekend with all limbs intact and some small modicum of sanity still hiding away in the recesses of our brains - really, what more can you ask for?

The sad thing is that if you take my mother-in-law out of the picture, it really was a very nice holiday. My father and sisters, and my husband's parents and brother, all came out, so we had a full house. But the two dads got along well - they both love a good, loud debate, so they got into it on several different topics (politics, the metric system, hurricanes, dental floss, baggage handlers, prostitution, the use of Kleenex in public... these men are willing to debate anything, anytime, step right up to see the Amazing Argumentative Men at work, ladies and gentlemen! May involve language too rough for children.) So they kept each other entertained and out of my kitchen, life was good there. And my sisters took turns playing with my kids, so again, fewer people in my kitchen.

Now, my brother-in-law is a semi-professional chef. Semi in the sense that he's had the full training at a sort of famous school in NYC that a few people have heard of and he actually had a real job for a while there, but he's never been taught to have realistic goals and expectations for his life, so he refuses to accept an entry-level job and work his way up - he thinks that since he has finally, for the first time in his life, finished a school-like course (8 whole months, watch out!) that he deserves to be plopped down in his own, prestigious kitchen with a 6-figure salary, right off the bat. I do admit that he seems to know what he's doing in the kitchen, but I feel that his arrogance is misplaced. But I digress. My mother-in-law is just so tickled that BIL is finally, finally semi-succeeding at anything in his life that she whips out the camera and takes pictures every time he's in the kitchen, so it worked out that she annoyed him out of my way. And when he did do stuff in the kitchen, he asked first and was delightful about it - like making Christmas breakfast for everyone.
I could stop right here and have told a nice, pleasant family story.

So we're down to my mother-in-law. Within seconds of her arrival, we knew we were in for it. She and father-in-law live in separate houses (but are not divorced, very twisted and annoying relationship to try and explain to a 4-year-old), in the same town, about 500 miles from here. They often come here at the same time, but they always travel in separate vehicles - she says he drives too slow and smokes too much, he just prefers to be alone (smart man?). But this time, for whatever twisted, bizarre reason, they came in the same car. (Want to give yourself a serious, throbbing, hangover-without-the-preceding-buzz kind of headache? Ask my mother-in-law a direct question and try to get a simple answer. Go ahead. I dare you.) So when she arrived at our house alone, it was moderately alarming. Turns out that no, they didn't argue, no, he didn't smoke the whole time, but simply being in my father-in-law's presence for 5 hours was enough to send my mother-in-law over the edge, so she had to drop him off at the hotel before coming to the house.

Hotel, you ask? Yes, they don't like the idea of sleeping in a guest room. Not enough amenities. My father-in-law has never slept here, and that's fine, we're all comfortable with that. My mother-in-law usually does but she hates my family (again - ask her about it! You won't get an answer, but it's fun to watch her stutter and lie!) so she wouldn't stay here with them.

Anyway, just a lot of crankiness from her. She came into the kitchen 6 - yes, I counted - 6 times on Christmas Day to ask if I wanted help. No. I'm proud to be hosting a big meal for the first time, no. I don't want help. My kitchen isn't big enough for two people to comfortably maneuver. No, I have everything planned out and under control. No, you were just complaining about not seeing the kids enough, go pester them. NO. NO NO NO NO NO. No.


So I'm the bad guy for that. I'm the bad guy for making a truly wonderful, traditional, huge Christmas dinner (if I do say so myself) (and I do!). She hates to cook and hates it more that I like it, and hates it even MORE that I'm reasonably good at it.

I'm also the bad guy for hand-making many of my Christmas gifts this year, "They mean so much more than store-bought and I wish I had the time to make things," says the retired woman who has no small children, no job, certainly no exercise regime, and no other big claims on her time. For several female relatives, I sewed shut Jacob's outgrown clothes and stuffed them as pillows - I waffled and waffled about whether to give her one, and finally decided that I'd get in more trouble for leaving her out. So I gave her a cute little rugby shirt, about which she immediately - literally seconds after opening it - announced that she didn't like it, it "creeped" her out, she couldn't stand the fact that it didn't have a head, she would screen print a picture of Jacob on it and sew it on herself to make it better. Bite me, lady - how about, "Thanks"??? I wasn't TRYING to make dolls, I was trying - and succeeding - to make pillows.

I'm also the bad guy for hand-sewing a quilt for my husband, out of samplers that his grandmother (my mother-in-law's mother-in-law) made. His grandmother died in August, so this was a really huge, timely, special project. And it really irked my mother-in-law that I found the time to do it, that it made my husband and his father cry (two stoic Dutchmen crying, quite a successful gift!!), and that it came out so nice. She accused me of stealing the samplers from Grandma. Yes, you read that right. Stealing them. "Did you get these from her stuff after she died? Because we haven't inventoried all that yet, you know. I want to make sure I get the samplers I wanted, too. Did Willem grab them while he was in Holland for the funeral? Did you tell him to? How did you get them?" For the record, I got them when we took our then-13-month-old daughter to Holland to visit Grandma in 2001, she gave them freely and was happy that I showed an interest in them.

So, it's done. My husband's birthday was yesterday, somehow we managed to go out just the two of us. It was weird. Sweet, but weird.

And I know that there are a lot of ways in which my mother-in-law could be worse. But this is bad enough for me, thanks.

Just for fun... here's the quilt!
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Saturday, December 18, 2004
Ain't what it used to be
Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I decided that it had been far too long since we'd had any physical contact other than accidentally bonking into each other when trying to get dinner ready, so we should make time for it in the evening. Not hugely romantic or spontaneous, but there's some old phrase about beggars and choosers. Plus I've never exactly had a high-octane sex drive (that is, *I* am not the beggar in this scenario). Once things quiet down around here at night, my first and only thought is, "Hmmm... oooh, yeah... sleep..."

So, moral of the story is, we made plans a few hours in advance. And apparently my son, who barely recognizes his name and finds ceiling fans to be the height of humor and entertainment, heard us whispering in the kitchen and decided that there would be none of THAT happening in our household, not if he had anything to do with it. Jacob usually goes to sleep around 10, and last night he fell asleep at 9:45... and 10:00... and 10:10... and 10:20... and 10:22... and 10:45... and 11:00... and 11:15... And interspersed with this, we had the lovely barking and hacking of our daughter, who has had a croup-y cough for the past 2 days. So, baby whining and child barking - you've got the mood music right there.

But finally, both kids slept (see, ain't pediatric valium GREAT?) and we wandered into the bedroom. I observed that the green glow off his face from the light on the baby monitor was quite flattering. Who needs candles? We had our mood lighting.

We proceeded to get a ridiculous case of the giggles. Both of us. It was very mature and sexy, to be sure. While trying to calm down and get things in a more adult-themed mood, the comforter and sheet fell off the bed. We decided that we had embarrassed our bed in our pathetic attempts to have sex, and it was not going to stick around for any more of this disgraceful performance.

Happily, that little interlude had a happy ending - for both of us, no less... first time in several months for me, yee haw. I had forgotten why people do that when not trying to procreate.

So now we hunker down in preparation for the onslaught of a family Christmas. My father and sisters will be here, which is fine, they're low-maintenance houseguests. But my in-laws will also be in town (though they'll be sleeping in a hotel, which gives me 8 hours a day to recover!), and they are just about as high-maintenance as you can get. They both like to start a conversation by saying, "Not to be offensive..." or, "Now, I don't know much about it, but..." and then say the most outrageous, small-minded things about whichever minority group they've decided to hate for the day. Could be racial minorities, could be gays, could be women - my in-laws are pretty much equal-opportunity in their willingness to disrespect and abuse everyone who's not just like them. LOVE exposing my kids to that. But until I can find a way to strike my children deaf at will, we'll just focus on damage control after they leave.

There is a light at the end of this particular tunnel; after they leave here, my in-laws are headed to Florida for three months. So, my advance apologies to anyone in Florida, but they're on their way.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
No, no, I *said* I was DONE.
Thanks, all, for the kind wishes. I haven't had one of my mad dashes for the bathroom in about 5 hours, so things are looking up on that front.

Jacob, sweet, darling little beast, thinks it is hilarious when I puke. We had a couple of times where I would have him and I would start to get that magical feeling... so I'd toddle on down, lay him, gently but hurriedly, on the bathmat, and sing my precious, froglike songs. And he would lie there and giggle. So glad I could provide him with some extra entertainment, since I clearly don't spend any of the rest of my time catering to his every wish.

BUT, alas, my day actually took a sharp downswing at about 3:30 this afternoon. I was walking down the hallway, laden with Jacob, of course, when I suddenly got a screaming, stabbing pain in my foot. Very happy that Willem was home and able to grab the baby from me - I sat down, bent myself all yoga-like, and found a 1/2" splinter poking straight into my foot, in that think callus-y part at the base of the toes.

Bad words, bad words, bad words - oh, my goodness, that was far more pain than that tiny little piece of wood deserved to cause.

And most people, when they decide to impale themselves on something, opt for something sharp. I impaled myself on a hallway.

Of course, it broke off under the skin, so I had to give in and go to the ER. ("Let me give it a try," Willem says. Bite me and the horse you rode in on, bucko - you are one insane individual if you honestly expect me to let you even look closely at my foot! If *I* can't get it out, there's not a single, solitary snowflake's chance ANYWHERE that I'll let you try it.)

They got it out, so life is much better now, at least from the ankles down. It's been 8 years since my last tetanus shot, so they decided to add insult to injury and hit me with that, too. So now my arm hurts too, AND I have to listen to my husband's snarky comments about how HE would have coped if HE had gotten a splinter. First of all, I have given birth twice, had an appendectomy, broken my wrist and my tailbone, etc., etc. - I am actually really good with pain, and I did NOT complain about this. And second of all, BITE ME! You are male, and therefore, by definition, you have no measurable pain tolerance and you would like to convince me that you have ever, in your life, experienced anything remotely similar to active labor - and you have not - so just hush.

Ugh. But he was at least smart enough to drop me and the baby off at home and take our 4-year-old out to dinner and Christmas shopping, so I've got some downtime while Jacob naps. Maybe I'll try eating some saltines.
Stick a fork in me
Oh, I am so done.

About once a semester, I end up with just that much extra work to do, and I end up staying up far too late to get it all done at once. That was last night. Got home from class at 7, ate dinner, juggled the baby and writing a paper until 10, put Jacob down to bed, and then stayed up until 2 correcting papers.

The last paper was completed, I sat back and sighed. And thought, "Hmm, I have a weird taste in the back of my mouth. I'll grab a glass of milk before bed." Just then Jacob started to wake up a bit, so I went in to settle him back down. He decided he was hungry, so I sat down in the rocking chair, latched him on, and spent the next 20 minutes simultaneously breastfeeding my son and trying my darnedest not to vomit all over him. (Though it does seem like turnabout is fair play, no?)

Finally gave in and dredged my husband out of bed. You have to use small words and short sentences once he has fallen asleep; he's a very bright guy but apparently his subconscious doesn't know this. So: "Willem, wake up. The baby's awake. I'm sick." "What? Huh? What do you mean?" "I mean, get out of bed. I am sick." "Why? How?" I decided not to continue the conversation, as it seemed I was about to demonstrate in 3-D instead of explaining.

So I strolled, calmly and gracefully, into the bathroom, and proceeded to call up Ralph on the Big White Telephone. Ugh. I was never even that sick when I was pregnant. And the whole time my husband is pacing outside the door with the baby going, "Are you okay in there?" Cough, gag, retch. "Sure, I'm great, let's go to DisneyWorld!"

This went on all night, with occasional change-ups. Not to get too graphic, but let's just say my body made an announcement: "Everybody out! Two exits, no waiting!"

So now I'm exhausted. Got a grand total of about 2 hours of sleep but too jittery and blech to lay down. Hoping very much that this is just a stomach bug or food poisoning or the wrath of God and not the flu - my daughter has had the flu shot but the rest of us couldn't get it. There's a fantastic idea, SHE can run the house while the rest of us lie on the bathroom floor and whimper.

Hoping no one else is feeling like this. This is not fun. It's not even Chuck-E-Cheese-style entertainment.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Chuck E. #$%$#^% Cheese
We took Emily to Chuck E. Cheese last night. What a totally overstimulating experience, they really should start handing out Xanax at the door - not for the kids, let them work off that hyperactivity, but for the moms and dads. After an hour there, Jacob and I were both sort of blankly staring at the Whack-A-Munch game with long lines of drool connecting our chins to our shoulders. So sexy.

Lots of odd fashion choices wandering around Chuck E. Cheese. Several little girls with outfits my mother still wouldn't let me out of the house in, and lot of little boys in camouflage. Which is bizarre, you'd need to wear a Christmas tree in order to blend in there. I did feel that I was adding to the fashion ambience, because I've got my cute little Old Navy low-rise jeans which rub directly on my C-section scar so I wear high-waisted granny panties with 'em, they end a good inch or two higher than the jeans waist. It's the post partum ghetto look, very cutting edge. Oh, yes, AND if my shirt rides up at all (i.e., while bf'ing) I can show off my all-the-way-around-the-waist stretch marks, just really adds to the overall sex appeal.

Then you get some teenage boy dressed up as The Mouse come wandering through getting all the little kids all riled up. Didja ever stop to think about the job this kid has? "Here, put on this big, heavy, fur suit. And a full-head mask that smells bad. Great. Now, go wander through the crowd, most of whom are too short for you to see while wearing the mask, so you'll step on them. And they'll all come running over and give you a great big hug - and again, given their height, they will be hugging you with their face directly at crotch level. Enjoy!" Sounds like a great job for a sex offender, but the rest of us might feel there are better ways to earn a buck, ya know?

(I actually dated a guy in high school who would dress up as The Mouse, we determined that I'm far too prudish to incorporate the costume into my dating activities. No "plushies" here, thanks.)

Just a generally spastic place. Then we stopped at Toys-Backwards-R-Us on the way home, and the little girl running the cash register (since when can you get a job at 6??) was just not the sharpest cheese in the refrigerator. Took three tries to convince her that, no, really, this is a credit card, not a debit card. Really. Honest. No, no, not a debit card. No, we don't want cash back, it's a credit card. No -- you get the idea.

Such fun. So glad we live an hour away, so we're not expected to make that little trip again right away. I need a month or two for my blood sugar level to come back down.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
It's DONE!
Done, done, done!

Easily 100-150 hours of my own time (wish I'd kept track), plus God only knows how many hundreds of hours Willem's grandmother spent on the samplers... and we have a finished quilt!!!

I don't dare take or post a picture of it yet - I've managed to keep it secret this long, I would be so unhappy for him to see it or find out now... but I'll be sure to post as soon as we get our Christmas photos back.

He darn well better like it, or fake it real well... cuz if he ends up sleeping on the porch, I won't let him use this quilt to stay warm!
Thursday, December 09, 2004
My poor, stupid husband
Okay, so, first off, I am not a cryer. Even dealing with PPD (which, by the way, seems to be easing, since today was the first bad day I've had in over a week), I don't cry much. So it's a big deal that I spent most of the morning sniveling and feeling sorry for myself.

The background is that, in 2001, Willem and I took Emily to Holland to meet her grandmother. Parts of the trip were wonderful and parts of it were awful, but overall we had a nice visit and had some good time with Grandma. She had serious back problems which left her basically confined to bed all the time, so she spent her days making these absolutely gorgeous cross-stitch samplers and such. She sent us home with 6 or 8 of them, and I had these big plans to stitch them together into a quilt. Ha, ha. I started my doctorate 3 months later and the samplers sat in the closet.

Fast-forward to April 2004. I had to leave my job because of complications with the pregnancy, but my daughter still went to preschool 4 days a week and my husband was at work. I was pretty limited on what I could do, physically, so I decided to get started on this quilt. Mapped it all out, measured and cut the material, called Grandma to let her know I was doing it and to get advice, blah blah blah. Had to stop around June, and it just so happened that my husband was never around when I was working on it, so after a while I started to deliberately keep it a surprise.

August, 8 days after Jacob was born, Grandma died. Willem went over for the funeral, which was stressful for everyone, and we all mourned her loss. And I realized that the timing was really perfect, finish this quilt that she made - I'm only piecing it together, she did the hard part - and present it to Willem for Christmas. Visions of warm celebrations, adulation, a family heirloom-to-be, etc.

So last night, we're sitting at dinner, and I mentioned that I'm pretty close to finished with this big project. Willem still doesn't know what it is - he knows I've been working on something, but not what. It's not like we've been playing guessing games about it, it just didn't come up. And out of the clear blue sky he says, "I don't know what you're working on, but I'm impressed with how much time and effort you're putting into it. I just hope it's not something sappy and grandmothery, like a quilt or something."


I managed not to beat him with the lazy susan, and instead focused on the baby until I could stop clenching my jaw. But all morning, I wandered around feeling so out of sorts and confused - should I still complete this quilt? Should I give it to him? Should I buy him some cheap manly gift and give the quilt to my kids? Ugh.
And my husband really is a good guy, I know that when he sees it he will (1) appreciate it, and (2) feel like a complete ass for his statement.

So, big sigh. Feeling like I have just wasted a huge part of my life on this quilt that he doesn't even want, even though I know it wasn't a waste and that he will like it (whether he likes it or not!!) and that it will be fine.

But - big sigh.
Monday, December 06, 2004
My friends have lame friends
You know the idea of six degrees of separation, right? Everyone is connected to everyone else with six or fewer steps, if you could only figure out the right connections. Well, apparently I live in a constant state of being two degrees of separation from excruciatingly lame, boring people. Because *I'm* not lame and boring (just humor me here, okay?), and my *friends* aren't lame and boring, but it is just far too common that I end up at a party with lame, boring people simply crawling out of the woodwork.

I just left such an event. We got stuck making bizarre small talk ("Have you noticed that there are more squirrels in town this year?") with a man who is an actuary. Which means he does a lot of number-crunching for an insurance company. This might sound boring or intimidating to some, but my husband is a mathematician, so he thought, great, someone I have something in common with. No, no. My husband can carry on interesting conversation. This man gave me the opportunity to completely plan out my Christmas gift list, remind myself to get the oil changed, think out a grocery list aisle-by-aisle and alphabetically, mentally rewrite my dissertation, and consider the fascinating alternative of watching paint dry. It's not every day you get to see a living, breathing stereotype in action - but this guy was truly the boring, stuffy mathematician.

And he was the most interesting person at the party!!!

Ugh. I know I sound snotty, but please, someone, watch the news or read a book or ask me an intelligent question about myself or tell me something new and different about yourself. I'm a psychologist, I can listen to ANYTHING and act interested, but right now my head hurts from straining sooooo hard to force myself to stay conscious. I don't want to act interested, I actually want to BE interested.

Whine. I'm sorry to be so negative. Of course I'm lucky to even get invited out, and to have friends who throw parties once in a while - especially kid-friendly ones! - but ugh, ugh, ugh, I get out of the house so rarely, I was really looking forward to some adult conversation. Maybe next year.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
got poop?
Thought I would pass along the e-mail I just sent to my husband. Looks to be a fun day at my house! We'll all be wearing raincoats.

According to my computer, it is 8:18. But according to your son, it is POOP:30.

He slept till 5. By 5:45, I thought I would send you an e-mail this morning, titled "Two Poops," expressing my surprise at his early-morning gastrointestinal enthusiasm. He went back to sleep till 7. By 7:15, I mentally rewrote the e-mail under the title "Poop Three Times," and it was going to contain both an apology and a reassurance: that particular effort occurred on your pillow, but there were no leaks. But once again - actually, twice again - he has outdated my title, as we are now up to FIVE TIMES.

And I'm not counting every little grunt-and-thunder, mind you. I'll wait out the two or three requisite bursts, and then wait ten minutes to be sure. Then we wander into his room and I lay him down and attack him with a cold wipe. (And why does he like that so much?? I would be a much less pleasant person in the morning - not that I'm fighting off Congeniality Awards as it is - if someone ten times my size applied cold baby wipes to my derriere every day.) Then we return to eating or playing or what have you. And then he will pause... attaining an almost prayerful attitude... and then PFBLLGHTT.

So, just so's you know, I won't be getting any housework done today. Or schoolwork, or even basic personal hygiene. I will spend the entire day existing from explosion to explosion (because none of these are disappointing efforts; he really is outdoing himself in fecal output today).

Give me a call or drop a note when you have an idea of what time you'll be home. You'll be able to find the house by aiming for the tremendous, steaming pile of diaper-filled garbage bags accumulating outside. So, so glad he's not on solids yet - at least these aren't nasally offensive experiences!

Must go apply another clean diaper. After all, the Artist requires a clean palette, no?