Thursday, January 27, 2005
The electrified crib strikes again
So sleepy. And cranky. And tired. And did I mention cranky?

Apparently sometime during the day yesterday someone ran an electrical current through the springs on Jacob's crib mattress. Or maybe they replaced his socks with popsicles. Or perhaps they released a herd of frantic weasels into his diaper when I wasn't looking?

I don't know.

What I do know is, every time I have tried to lie him down in the past 24 hours, he screams like nobody's business. I pick him up, he stops instantly. Put him down, immediate misery. Occasionally he would give in and sleep out of sheer exhaustion, and I would have precisely enough time to stagger into my room, lie down, and pull my nice warm covers up to my ears, when, "WAAAAAHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhh..." Mutter, mutter, mutter, glare at sleeping husband, go snuggle baby again. A few times I had to just let him cry while I took a break... I'd go sit on the edge of my bed and hold my head (to keep it from simply rolling away - not that I really need it, I just don't want to have one more thing to pick up in the morning), and after about 23 seconds my husband would grunt, "Aren't you going to get the baby?" Grr, bite me, you sleeping pile of husband, you - "Yeah, I'll get him, I just need a break, go back to sleep."

Lest you think I'm a true queen among wives, let me just say that we have an agreement, Monday and Wednesday nights I get Jacob no matter how many times he wakes up, because on Tuesdays and Thursdays Willem teaches high school from 7-3 and then teaches college from 4-8. I have no problem gently nudging him directly onto the floor on some nights, but he needs the sleep these nights, I'm home with the kids these days...

Oh, I need my sleep. If any of you have seen it, please loft it back my way, okay? I can blame the patches of drool all over me on the baby, but it's embarrassing when someone asks me a simple question (like, "How are you?") and my response is, "Um."

There he goes again. Got a whole 10 minutes of nap this time. Ugh. Okay, if you can't find my sleep but you DO happen to have an extra ticket to the Bahamas, I'll take that, too. One-way is fine.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Stay-home-mom-dom, here I come...
Ooh, I'm feeling nervous but less stressed than I have been, so I think I've made the right decision even though I know I'll catch flak from friends and family alike for it...

As background, I'm currently in my last semester of classes toward my doctorate. It works out nicely, because I live about a mile from my school, and my classes meet just one day a week - for 2 1/2 hours at a time, so I can stop home between classes to feed Jacob and we have a truly wonderful woman here with him while I'm gone. I'm working two jobs, one as a supervisor at a testing clinic in the same building as my school and the other teaching at a nearby college - for those, I'm never away from home more than 2 1/2 hours at a stretch. So, it's been really, really busy for me, but it's all been working out, so I'm home with my kids a lot but still making some academic and professional progress.

So, on top of classes, this year I've been involved in the application process for an internship, which would run for a year starting in July. It was a huge, nasty application, and then I had a pile of interviews, and things were generally looking pretty good - like I was going to get a decent internship site. I didn't get an interview at my first choice, but the other places seemed pretty good. But I wasn't enjoying the process, and I kept putting off writing my thank-you notes, and was generally feeling very stressed out about how I was going to rank my sites (it's all decided by a computer program, I rank my top choices and they all rank me, and then the computer figures out where we all get placed), etc. And I realized that I don't WANT to go to internship next year.

Jacob will be a year old, Emily will just be starting kindergarten, and I just feel like I need to be home a little bit longer to help with the transitions. We'll be moving over the summer, my husband is going back for his doctorate in math, I'll be weaning Jacob sometime around then, and so on and so forth... I just feel like I need to be home more. If I take an internship, I'll be out of the house at least 40 hours a week, more likely around 60 (40 hour placement plus an hour commute each way). I just can't do it yet! But if I wait another year, then Emily will be in first grade, full days in school, and Jacob will be 2, much easier to place in day care or Montessori.

So, phew. It's been a really tough decision to make, and there's so much pressure at school to do everything a certain way, but I feel like this is the best decision I can make for my family...

Wish me luck, this is hard! At least I've done stay-home mom thing before, so that won't be total culture shock!
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
I'd like to introduce our remote, "Dada."
Over the weekend, Jacob started saying "Dada." At first he was pretty indiscriminate with it, but now he pretty much only says it to two things: my husband, and the television remote. I'm not sure whether there's a connection there...

I am ready for a "Mama," now. I wasn't feeling too concerned one way or the other about Jacob speaking, but he chose "Dada" first so now I'm super-ultra-mega jealous, and my communications to him in the past 2 days have consisted almost entirely out of me saying "mama" in various inflections.

No, not really. But I do want to hear it, darn it!

In other news, Jacob has learned how to tug on his ear and take off his socks. Does this mean that he's preparing himself for an eventual career as a baseball manager or a stripper?

Oh, must run, His Royal Whineness is calling me...
Saturday, January 22, 2005
A gross night at my house. (Really.)
On the up-side, Jacob had some fun little firsts yesterday. Twice, he got fussy but wouldn't fall asleep while nursing (which is the norm here), and after 20 minutes or so of fussing and face-rubbing, I put him in his crib, turned on this little "kick-n-play" piano, and wandered out, mostly to give myself a few minutes out of whine range. And both times, I'd tiptoe back in a few minutes later to find him sound asleep! YAY!! And he slept for an hour each time, YAY YAY YAY!!!

In between that, he had his first self-driven drink from a sippy cup and his first taste of a Ritz cracker. I had him in his high chair, and he was watching very intently while my 4-year-old DD and I were eating crackers, so I put one on his tray, made a fist, and PLUNKED it into smithereens... as much for the amusement of my daughter as for his own cracker-related safety. He spent a good 45 minutes chasing little cracker crumbs around his tray, and when he'd catch one he would either eat it or shove it up his nose (saving them for later?). I also put a little water in a sippy cup, and after batting that around the tray for a while he figured out which end had the spout and how to tip it up, pretty cute. Shocked him every time he got water - he'd stop and flail for a few seconds, but then try again, and would be shocked and flail-ful again the next time he got some. Goofy boy.

So, that was the fun part of my day. The not-fun part started after bedtime. During the week, my husband works from 7-3 some days, and from 7-8pm on other days, so while I'm at home I stay up later with Jacob (he now goes down around 9-10 but he was staying up till midnight). Fridays and Saturdays, I go to bed early. I headed in around 10, and was just crawling into bed all shivery and excited about my down comforter sinec it was -10 overnight, when I heard an odd sound. Sort of a whimper, high-pitched, coming from across the hall. "Was that one of the kids?" I asked my cat. She didn't know. Then, again, "Mmph," from across the hall.

I got up, went into my daughter's room, just in time to witness the erupting. She threw up all over her bed, all over herself, all over her room... it was truly, truly, truly horrifying and disgusting and awful. I yell for my husband and kind of stand there helpless for a few seconds.

Let me interrupt myself to say that I do not handle vomit well. I mean, no one LIKES it, but I really get all twitchy and nauseous and skeeved out by it. My husband is not as squeamish, so we have an agreement that I deal with the blood in our house (which doesn't bother me) and he deals with the vomit. A sort of bodily-fluid battle plan, if you will.

But last night, the sheer scope of this incident was way too much for one person to handle. So I left Willem to wade in and clean out the bedroom while I escorted Emily to the bathroom. We get in there, and the first thing I do is aim her at the toilet and say, "If you need to be sick again, try to get it in the toilet, okay?" She immediately turned around and threw up all over the bathroom, in a clear and hugely unattractive arc.


So I just turned on the shower and started throwing things in there - bath mat, towels, my sweats, my socks, the foot stool, etc. Then I started to get her undressed, which is no small feat because her collarbone is still broken (backstory: she fell out of bed 2 weeks ago, twin-bed and carpeted floor, landed just wrong and snapped her collarbone in half - she's not in much pain anymore but still in a sling), so we need to carefully but at arm's length try to ease her out of her well-soaked jammies and suddenly-nasty sling.

Finally get her naked, toss her in the shower with everything else. Then rush to get a laundry bin to throw everything (except her) into, leave it in the hallway for husband to add to.

Yesterday, I had the experience of cleaning banana out of two people's hair. Let me tell you, pureed baby food banana is MUCH MUCH easier to clean and much less likely to make me retch than previously eaten banana. My daughter has very long, curly hair, so it was that much more of a challenge to get it out. BLECH BLECH BLECH.

Just not a good evening for me. By midnight, she was back in bed, as was I, but she got up twice more to throw up - at least those times we had covered her bed in towels and armed her with a garbage pail lined with plastic bags, so there wasn't the same level of excitement again last night.

Not that I would normally wish this on anyone, but please join with me in earnestly wishing that she had food poisoning and not a stomach virus. None of the rest of us needs to share in her misery.
Snippish follow-up to gross night
Thanks for your good wishes... so far (KNOCK WOOD - or just bang forehead on table, whatever), we've had no more vomit-related issues today. Everyone's tired, so we're all snotty and snippish... my husband and I got in a big snit because - are you ready for this? - I said I would do the dishes this morning.

(Seriously. He said he'd do them, I said, "No, that's okay," because when he does them it's a two-hour process and I just wanted to get them done quick. He decided to take it personally, like I'm bashing his dish-cleaning capability and therefore threatening his manhood. Aren't we wicked mature??)

But, snippish is sooooo much better than puking.
Monday, January 17, 2005
Carpe guano... seize the poop...
Every once in a while, Jacob has these explosive bowel movements that strain the diaper and create reverberations throughout the house. (Note to self: I should start watching the cat closer to see if she gets weird and jumpy beforehand, like they do before a thunderstorm hits.) Today was one of those experiences. It just fills the diaper, eeks out the sides and up the back, and generally creates one poop-intensive baby.

Luckily, he was wearing a white outfit - it'll BLEACH, YAY! - and even luckier, he wasn't wearing a onesie underneath, so we didn't have to deal with the poop in the ears and hair and armpits today. A little disappointing, yes, but sometimes cleanliness is worth the trade-off of less fecal excitement.

So, he's on his changing table, babbling and grinning away. In the past few weeks, he's gotten quite a bit better with his hands... which includes figuring out that, "HEY, there's something down in this diaper-area that's kind of fun to poke at!" So he's poking, I'm trying to keep the chaos minimized, and he suddenly reaches just a little farther than usual, and comes up with a big old handful of poop.

Now, I'm all for exploration and I'm not freaked out by babies touching themselves or wanting to explore their environment or wanting to taste everything they can grab... but I draw the line at sticking poop-covered fingers in the mouth. I'm holding onto his arm, using my body to deflect his other arm away from the Demilitarized Zone down below, and trying to develop a third arm to grab a wipe for that suddenly-offensive little hand. (Another note to self: ALWAYS buy pop-up wipes from now on, these reach-ins take up critical extra seconds in the decontamination process.)

Luckily, the situation was successfully defused without him ingesting any of the yuck. We've restocked dozens of small-and-hopefully-interesting toys up by the head-side of the changing table.

So glad today is laundry day anyway....
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
If you ever wind up in prison...
... do whatever it takes to get a second-floor cell.

Trust me. REALLY.

(And, please don't eat while you read this. Or, if you've got a weak stomach, don't read it at all. Or, at the very least, don't blame any resultant ooked-out-ness on me. You've been warned.)

Maybe it's only me who finds this sort of thing supremely gross.


Every day, my supervisor and I go on rounds - meaning, we go up and down all of the hallways in the max-security building to peek in on each one of the cells, as these are populated by gentlemen who are confined to their cells 23-24 hours a day and confined to within about 20 yards of their cell 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not exactly able to pop in to the Mental Health hallway and say, "Hey, ya got a minute?"

So we pause at each door, check in, sometimes make an "appointment" to meet the guy after rounds, down in the medical exam room because there are no other even remotely psychology-friendly rooms that they are allowed to visit. He'll be handcuffed throughout, which is probably best for all concerned but which certainly changes the tone of any therapy that might accidentally happen. But I digress.

Each hallway is probably 20 yards long, give or take a bit. You can easily see the length of it, but anything on the floor at one end isn't clearly identifiable from the other end.

So, today, we're at the start of one first-floor hallway (hence the importance of upper-floor accommodations), and our guard escort, a lovely woman named Melissa, said, "Be careful at the end of the hall. Do not step in the water." Very clearly articulated and emphasized. I looked, and I could see a dark stain at the other end. She went on to explain, "There was a drain backup, and those... are bugs."

Those? Bugs? Huh? It just looked like a black stain on the floor, dark enough not to freak me out about human waste and only about 2 feet in diameter, and therefore easy enough to avoid. But then we got closer, and I could see that it wasn't uniformly black - it was obviously water with these weird, small, black clusters in it. Mold, maybe? Though it would be odd for mold to grow that fast, I don't think the water had been there for more than a day.

Closer still, and I realize, no, it's not mold. As we stepped past, I made the mistake of glancing down. It was, indeed, bugs. Lovely Melissa was right. They were very strange and slimy and apparently confined to the water, as none had escaped to leap into my face. But UGGGGGHHHHHHHH it was the grossest thing. Seriously. Ever. Smooshed-up bugs in parts, with chunks of wings and what have you. And in other places, larvae. Which were black and long and thin, looked a lot like really really BIG silverfish.

I literally shudder every time I think of it. Words can't do it justice.

I felt the need to boil my feet in bleach on the way out the door, just in case one of those suckers was clinging to the sole of my shoe. Then I jumped in a snowbank. I scuffed my feet all the way to my car, and then banged my shoes on the side of the car next to mine (meanwhile balancing precariously on the other foot - January in New Hampshire is no time to be standing barefoot in a parking lot), administered a memory-flushing agent to myself, and then banged my head on a tree a few times for good measure. And yet still, the image stays with me...

Blech. Bring on the bodily fluids, the weird smells, the rats and the prison food. Just, please, please, please, no more bugs.
Friday, January 07, 2005
Broken collarbone and breastmilk
I've been really busy the past few days. Emily's been the big concern, and she's doing much better. (For those who didn't see, she fell out of bed on Tuesday night - specifically, 3:42 Wednesday morning - and broke her collarbone.) She's still in pain, but is moving much more smoothly and is off the heavy-duty painkillers, just Tylenol every 4 hours now. She has gotten to the point where she's milking it for all it's worth... "I think ice cream will make me feel better, Mama." "I don't think I should have vegetables with my dinner, that will make my shoulder hurt more." "I think one more kid's show would make me hurt less." I take that as a really good sign - when she was truly in overwhelming pain she didn't have the energy to push the envelope.

So, she's doing better. Still not up to par, but I can see improvement, which helps me to feel better about the whole thing. It's not that I feel guilty, just sad for her and truly understanding that thing that moms say that their kids look at them with the yeah-whatever-okay-mom look: "I wish I could bear this pain in your place." Because I really, truly would take it from her if I could. Motherhood just makes masochists of us, doesn't it?
I've had two interviews in the past 2 days. Another on Monday, and one more the following week. And wanna know the kicker? I won't find out the results of these interviews until February 25. Yeah. Nothing like prolonging the agony.

My son has stopped taking a bottle. We got lazy over the holidays. Since I was home all the time, we forgot to offer a bottle for three weeks or so, and now he considers it a personal insult. So yesterday and today I was gone for 7-8 hours at these interviews (YES, really - I am sooooo tired of being perky!), and he wouldn't eat the whole time I was gone. Luckily, we had started him on cereal and veggies, so he was willing to take some nutrition, but he wouldn't take a bottle - so I got home and he was ready to latch on through my brand-spankin'-new post-pregnancy-sized business suit.

Funny thing - I had to bring my breast pump with me to the interviews, lest I spring a leak in mid-sentence. So I'd borrow an office every few hours to take the girls down a few notches. I normally pump several times a day, two days a week, so I wasn't worried about it. So, yesterday - the first time, I was just finishing up, and somehow or other I spilled one of the bottles all over the floor of this total stranger's office. FANTASTIC. Breastmilk everywhere, and only a handful of Kleenex to dab at it. And seriously, how do you tell someone, "Um, yeah, thanks for letting me use your office. And if you notice a weird, milky, cantaloupey sort of smell in a few days, that's just breastmilk."

And then the second time I pumped, I was all done - as in, no milk had been coming out of either side in 30 seconds or so, no letdown, 6 ounces in the bottles, okay. So I turn off the machine and take the milker-part off me, and suddenly my left breast goes berzerk and I am literally squirting milk several feet across the room. EEEK, says me. You would think I had never done this before.

So, anyway, I'm exhausted and depressed and run-down and feeling sort of hopeless and cynical right now, feeling like I'll never finish my classes and never get an internship and never sleep through the night and never watch my daughter turn a somersault again and on and so forth. Very woe-is-me. It'll pass - it always does - and in the meantime I'm doing my best not to have any more broken bones or breast incidents in my house.
Monday, January 03, 2005
There are no cat rocket scientists.
I know, there are people out there whose cats are just the smartest things ever. Your cat can feed itself, rub your back, drop the kids off at school, and write your Christmas thank-you notes for you.

Mine can't. She's soft, she's purry, she's extremely passive and gentle with the kids. But she is - no offense to the construction industry - dumb as a brick.

We have these big, overstuffed couches, and she likes to sit on the back of the couch. Last night, she was up there, and Jacob was watching her. He seems to have just figured out that there's something different about her and the rest of the stuffed animals in the house, so he's been keeping a close eye on her lately. I put him up to my shoulder to burp, and he lunged over, grabbed hold of the cat's tail and back leg, and squealed like a pig. Seriously, it was not an intelligent moment for either of them. ("This is my cat, too stupid to outrun a not-yet-mobile baby, and this is my son, Soo-ey.")

Then this morning, Jacob and I were sitting at the dining room table, one of us writing a syllabus for this spring's class and the other one drooling copiously, blowing raspberries and pooping. (I really need to stop doing that at the table.) We have deck with sliding glass doors right next to the table, and my Brilliant Cat was sitting inside staring at nothing. A huge neighborhood cat (seriously huge, it was like a Maine Coon Cat on steroids) gallumphed onto our deck. I saw it coming, but apparently my cat didn't, because she jumped a foot into the air, bumped her head on the underside of the chair, and proceeded to let out a noise such as I have never heard from a cat before. I firmly believe she was swearing.

She's down in my room nursing her ego now. Poor thing.