Monday, May 23, 2005
This *is* normal for us.
Things have settled back into a more predictable, happy sort of chaos here. My husband is back from his weekend away, and he spent yesterday in the grips of a lovely hangover. Seems like appropriate punishment for having the audacity to enjoy himself without my stunning company. But in any case, we did miss him and it feels so much more normal here now. I just didn't know what to do with myself in a house where no one was sarcastic or pestering me for sex.

Jacob is not showing any signs of damage from his leap off the changing table, though now he is teething. Which for him means drool. Copious amounts of it. I've already changed his shirt three times today, and I am not the type of mom who normally changes a baby at the first sign of messiness. ("Hmm... well, he HAS been wearing these pajamas all day, but the applesauce from breakfast and the sweet potatoes from lunch sort of blend into the pattern... I think he can make it till bathtime when I have to get him naked anyway...") But he has been soaking THROUGH his bibs and I don't want his chest to get irritated, so we've been playing peek-a-boo a few more times than usual today.

The next month promises to be pretty hectic... between the normal weekend madness and our move at the end of June, I have a few thousand details to deal with. And I'm never able to predict what will be easy and what will be hard. Getting home insurance, not a problem (once I called someone other than DAVE who just wanted to KNOW how much the HOUSE was WORTH and WHEN we would MOVE and WHY we'd used our CURRENT insurance for WATER DAMAGE and he wasn't SURE he'd be able to INSURE us until DECEMBER so couldn't we just WAIT to MOVE...). Finding out about the cell phone, problem. I live in New Hampshire, which has only one area code - so it's always sort of a mystery whether calls will be local or regional or long distance. At the new house we'll be in good network, so my plan is to have local-only at the house and use the cell for long distance. The only thing I needed to verify was, would my current cell number be a local call from the new house, or should I get a new one?

Now, is that a complicated question? Seriously, is it?? Because it took four people to answer it. I generally find that telephone places are sort of tied into their little scripts and they HATE it when I ask them an unusual question - but if it was a usual question, I'd be able to figure it out myself, or go online, or something, right? So I only need to call when it's something out of the ordinary, and they just hate that. "Well, ma'am, the local calling area for --" No, I don't need to know what towns are in the local calling area, I need to know if this number is in the local calling area. "Oh." [LONG PAUSE] "Well, the local calling area consists of --" No, honest, I don't need that information. "But you can call those numbers locally." Yes, thank you. Can I call THIS number locally? [PAUSE] "Well, the local calling area --" Argh.

(The final answer is, in case you're curious - get a new number.)

Anyway, enough rambling. Must go find another courteous sales representative to put me on hold.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
I have 15 children and my son has 27 legs.
And "Mommy of the Year" goes to...

...somebody else. Though I do think I should get an Honorable Mention for keeping both of my children alive today. Just a wet, yucky, rainy New Hampshire day, and I live in a small, remote town with no mall or McDonalds with a playground or friendly neighborhood sociopath with a merry-go-round in the backyard, so we were all cooped up and cranky. My daughter is 5, and she knows EVERYTHING. Seriously. If you want to know how to play a board game, how to read a book, where a missing sock is (and whose fault it is that it went missing in the first place), how you should sit at the dinner table, what the words are to your favorite song, what foods you like or don't like, anything at all - just ask Emily, she'll tell you. Loudly and forcibly. I knew it was a bad sign when I got to sleep in until 9 this morning and by 9:20 my husband had gone back to bed and Emily was in her first time-out of the day.

And then there's Jacob. He's cute and he's small but he's noisy and willful and hungry alllllllll the time. But only for about 47 seconds at a time, after which he wants to get down and play some more. So fun. My nipples are tired, my ears are tired, my back is tired, and I have run out of happy faces.

And, wait, I'm sorry, did I say "both" children? Because I meant all three. I know that the Husband Who Shall Remain Nameless means well... at least, I keep telling myself this... but UGGGGHHHHHH I need a time-out spot for him too. "Jacob's really miserable and whiny today," [in a nasal, dare-I-say whiny voice] "what should I do?" Well, have you fed him? Burped him? Changed his diaper? Given him new toys? Yes, yes, yes and yes? Then you've done everything that I would have done, too, I can't offer you anything different to try. Maybe take him on a walk? "I don't waaannnnnnaaaa, I'm tired, it's cold outside, I don't feel like it." Then DON'T ASK FOR MY HELP. (bad words, bad words, bad words, mutter mutter mutter)

Seriously, by mid-afternoon I felt like I was running a daycare for serial killers in training. There were, physically, only two small chidlren here (and one large one!), but I could swear there were at least 15 or 20 in spirit. All in the midst of a seriously manic, oppositional state.

At the end of the day, I tossed both kids (the small ones) in the tub, and yes, I did give them water, too. (Thought about just tossing them into an empty tub, but the water actually helps absorb some of the echoing whines.) Normally I can escape the room for a few minutes at a time, but tonight Jacob's happiness and my proximity were directly related, such that the closer I got to the door, the louder he got and the redder his little face got. So I asked Emily, "Will you please distract him so I can get a book?" Her method of distraction was to throw a medium-sized dump truck at him. Lovely. So instead of a moderately soothing bathtime experience, everyone screams and shouts and get shuttled out of there post-haste. I send Emily in to get her own pajamas on, and start work on Jacob, who had apparently, unbeknownst to me, metamorphosized into a squid while he was in the tub. He had dozens and dozens of appendages, flailing madly all over the changing table, and just as soon as I would get one inserted into a leg-hole he would whip it around and wrest himself free of the pajamas again. I came close to letting him sleep naked, but he sleeps very heavy and still, and he ends up with very cold baby toes and baby fingers. So we wrestled, and I'm happy to report that I won.

So, for the moment, all 3 of my kids are sleeping, thanks to a liberal combination of the Three V's of Parenting... Valium, Vicodin and Vodka.

Hee hee... no, no, no, not really. Yes, they're all asleep, but without chemical assistance. And I'll go to sleep soon, myself, just as soon as I'm done pounding my head on this wall...
Saturday, May 14, 2005
The Chaosinator
Anybody out there have any vertical piles in their house? Maybe your books are stacked neatly on your bedside table, or your magazines are artfully arranged on the coffee table. Or perhaps there are people who own containers with things IN them - you know, your single-sock basket has socks in it, your toy bin has toys in it, that sort of thing. Perchance your movies and DVD's are lined up in some semblance of order, or you have cupboards in your kitchen with kitchen things in them.

I writhe in envy at those of you who experience this. I used to be fairly organized. My things stayed where I left them, and I knew where any given paper or book or sock was at any given moment (or, in my mommy-addled state, I have deluded myself into believing that I was once like this). Now, Jacob has discovered the absolute joy of chaos, and I'm fighting the urge to just give in and let him destroy everything. He's still not quite mobile in the traditional sense of the word, but now through a combination of butt-scootching and rolling and stretching he can sort of morph anywhere in the house (it's a bit like the hour-hand on the clock, when I watch, it doesn't move, but if I look away and then back again, it's somewhere else altogether). And everywhere he goes, he leaves a path of destruction. It's like a slow-motion Tazmanian Devil.

But it's cute, so I sigh, put things back in their containers, and wonder whether I'm doing it to keep the house clean or to set up future entertainment for my little Chaosinator.

Jacob has recently learned to clap, and he now firmly believes that everyone on the planet has been placed there specifically to smile and clap at him. And maybe he's right, because that's what everyone does. He also shakes his head, which he does in direct response whenever we shake our heads "no" to him (as in, "Jacob, no, let's leave the folded clothes in the laundry bin," and other exercises in futility) along with a wrinkle-nose grin.

In other news, we're well on our way to moving into the new house. It's not an especially exciting or unique house - a single-level ranch in a suburban neighborhood with a fenced-in yard - but it's low-maintenance and convenient. I'll wait on my 1800s-farmhouse-chock-full-o'-charm dream a few more years.

Have to run, I'm in the middle of cleaning out my car, which hasn't been done thoroughly in five years, and it's about time to vacuum up the carpet cleaner stuff. I know, there isn't a spray bottle in the world that can actually return that upholstery to anything approaching its original color, but at least the car won't smell like juice boxes and Cheerios for a few days.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
For the love of God, just SMILE.
I really, really need a drink and a long, hot bath. But I don't drink, and my tub's too short, so you all get to hear me whine instead. What fun!

It all started at Christmastime. My kids each got beautiful, hand-knit sweaters for Christmas this year, from their godmother. They were a little big for the kids in December, but as we all know, kids multiply in size right before our very eyes, so the other day I decided to get the kids to a portrait studio to get a picture of them before the sweaters become doll clothes. So we got everyone bathed and dressed nicely and fed and napped, and off we went to K-Mart, where we have been going since Emily's birth. I knew that K-Mart and Sears were merging, but the one here in town is still a K-Mart, so I figured the Olan Mills studio would still be in there. My heart immediately sunk through my shoes as we walk in, because the store is essentially empty, save for a few truly hideous size XXXXXXXXL neon pink and orange shirts, a few lonely tumbleweeds, and 5,000,000,000 "90% off Sale!!!!" signs. And there on the side wall, where my beloved Olan Mills once stood, was a big, gaping hole, partly covered by plastic and duct tape. Not the best backdrop for a picture - though, trust me, if I'd brought my camera, we probably would have used it.

So we went home, all dressed up and no one to take our pictures. I called around, but there is not one other low-cost portrait studio within a 45-minute drive of here - there's either the really fancy and expensive Artistic Photographeurs, or nothin'. And we're basically broke, so nothin' it is!

Then last week we were in Walmart, and there was a sign that the traveling photographer would be in town for a week. Much celebration and elation, yee haw. Hours from 10-6. So this morning we got everyone dressed and bathed and fed, but not napped, and headed over there right at 10. And the photographer woman (we'll call her Obnoxious) had arrived just mere seconds before us. So Obnoxious is running around, all flustered, plugging things in and spreading rugs out and generally setting up this little studio.
In the middle of the Lawn and Garden department.


Walmart here doesn't have a studio, and they couldn't find a quiet part of the store to set up, so they plunked this portable little center of photographic hell up between the mulch and the lawn ornaments. Fantastic.

I had plenty of time to stand there and think about it, because it took Obnoxious an hour to get herself all set up and ready to go. I was third on her list - there were 18 poor, to-be-frazzled people in line behind me. So it's finally our turn... throughout this time, both kids have been great, but I am ever-aware of the fact that Jacob's naptime is typically around 10:30 in the morning. We started the photo shoot at 11:00. I know that I should have just left and come back some other time, but you know how mothers can get irrational and unreasonably determined about the dumbest things? Well, this was my turn - I just convinced myself that it would all be fine. Idiot.

As soon as it was their turn, Emily climbed up onto the table and reached for Jacob. He promptly lost all semblance of happiness or composure. Both hands shoved into his mouth, he insisted on looking at me (I was sitting next to and slightly behind them, on the World's Most Uncomfortable Stool, so that I could catch Jacob if he decided to launch himself off the pathetic folding table, thereby saving Walmart from a billion-dollar lawsuit. I guess.), or at the piles of mulch, or at the ceiling fans... anywhere but at the camera.
Obnoxious did not click at all with my kids (as it were). She kept ordering Emily, "Sit up! Smile!" and to get Jacob's attention, she was waving this little black pillow thing in his face. Now, Jacob does not respond well to things in his face. In fact, around here, we refer to him as "Flinch," because whenever anything comes remotely near his face, he makes a lemon face and shuts his eyes. I can only guess that he must have been a professional dodgeball player in a former life.

So Obnoxious is waving this thing at Jacob, he is flinching, and no one is having any fun at all. The next 20 minutes of my life went approximately as follows:
OBNOXIOUS: Smile! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Smile! Emily, sit up! Smile! Smile! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob!
ME: Emily, honey, think of happy things. Just stare at the camera and pretend you see a buffalo in there. Just relax, have fun. Jacob, hang in there, buddy.
OBNOXIOUS: Smile! Smile! Smile! [Frantically waves pillow] Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Smile! Emily, sit up! Smile! Jacob! Jacob!
EMILY: My back is tired. I'm bored.
ME: I know, I'm sorry. Let's just take a picture of you without Jacob.
OBNOXIOUS: No, he just smiled! [Clicks camera 2 seconds too late] Okay, again! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Smile!
JACOB: [Both fists in mouth, reaches for Mama] Waaaaah. Waaah? Waaah. WAAAAAAAHHH.
And so on. Finally, I quit, and took Jacob away, leaving Emily with Obnoxious, who, on top of being flustered, was apparently in the middle of a manic episode by this point. Soon afterward, we were sprinting out of the store as fast as we could, with the gentle echoes of, "Okay, now, Daniel, smile! Smile! Smile! Daniel! Daniel! Daniel! Daniel! Daniel! fading into the background.


So, needless to say, I'm not feeling real confident about the quality of those pictures. We'll find out in a few weeks.

The good news is, we bought a new house, and will be moving in 2 months - so, as long as I can still jump up and down on top of Jacob firmly enough to cram him into his little sweater vest then, we can try somewhere new for a better picture.