Sunday, October 30, 2005
Post-Traumatic Grandma Disorder
It's been two weeks, and I think my children are finally recovering from their recent bout of Post-Traumatic Grandma Syndrome. It was touch-and-go at times, but they're beginning to resemble MY children again instead of whiny, demanding, instant-gratification-hungry beasts.

And let me back up a second to say that this is NOT a rant against my mother-in-law! (For once!!) I think it's just the nature of grandparents - they get to shower your kids with attention and sometimes gifts, and they don't have to spend a single second concerned with silly things like discipline or long-term effects. By the end of a visit, the kids realize it's kinda NICE to live that way, and then they get irritated when mom doesn't simply fall in line with that approach to things herself.

So for a couple of days, we had a few really intense tantrums and screeching and squawking. An endless string of "I want, I want, I want, can I, can I, can I?" Lots of "Mom, watch me get a cereal bowl! Mom, watch me get a spoon! Isn't that amazing?!? Mom, watch me take a bite!" Yes, dear, now shut up and eat.

But it's easing off, and they're nearly civilized again.

Last weekend Emily went to a Halloween party, and it was the first one for her where (a) parents were encouraged to stay with their kids, and (b) they shouldn't have been. The kids had a blast, because an outdoor party on a 50-degree day when it has rained for the past 4 days is fun if you're 5. I'm not.

Not that I had a BAD time, it was just boring. There was nothing for grown-ups to do, and nowhere to sit, so we all just sort of stood around and occasionally made pained efforts to chat. But it was like playing catch with a bowling ball, not a smooth or graceful process at all. I'm sure that I have a ton in common with each person there, but I lacked the energy to try and find out those things, so instead I felt like, "HEY, guess what?!? We both procreate and we both breathe! Hooray."

We had a much better time at the science center in Manchester last weekend, stuff was interesting and chairs were available and not one out of the 6 children under 5 in our group had a meltdown. Amazing.

And now it's Halloween, which I love. I love carving pumpkins, I love eating pumpkin seeds, I love making costumes, I love eating candy. Just love it. It is just a tad on the commercial side, but no one pretends it's got a deeper meaning, so I'm okay with that!

I took the kids out trick-or-treating tonight, because for whatever reason we do that on the 30th here. It was great fun to watch Jacob struggling manfully to open and consume a Kit Kat all by himself.

And now for the inevitable sugar highs and lows of the week following Halloween... as a good mommy, I feel it is my duty to steal as much of their candy as possible to prevent unreasonable hardship on their own bodies.

Friday, October 28, 2005
Back when I was clueless
When I was pregnant with Emily, The Girls they were expanding, so I went to Target to pick out a new maternity/nursing bra. I was standing there trying to decide whether I should just get one new bra or if I should get several at once (that is, were these things EVER going to stop getting bigger?!?), and another mom with a toddler came over to the same display. I asked her, "Is that your baby?" Yep. "Okay. What should I do?"

She said, "I'd wait, if I were you. When I was pregnant, I went from a C-cup to a G."

I swear that I almost passed out right on the floor. At the time, I didn't even realize bras came in letters bigger than DDD! I had to go home and lie down.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Weekend at Lizzie's, Part II
Where was I? Oh, yes, about to leave my children at the mercy of my mother-in-law.

So we had dinner Friday night in Boston, and then headed to Fall River with what should have been plenty of time to get us there by 8:00, in order to catch the tour of the house. But between bad weather and a few wrong turns, and baffling directions at the end, we pulled up to the Lizzie Borden House at about 8:30. The had held the tour for us, or simply gotten distracted chatting, but in any case there was just enough time for us to drop off our bags and catch the start of the tour. Which was given by Eleanor Thimbault - if you've ever seen a TV show on the Lizzie Borden house, she's the brunette who appears in many of them. She's quite compelling, and very willing to chat - our 45-minute tour took 2 full hours!

There was quite the cast of characters in our little tour group, including a gentleman from North Carolina who takes himself and his ghost-hunting very seriously, though it was occasionally difficult for me to do the same given his bib overalls and tendency to return to the topic of vortexes and to take 700 digital photos per room just in case he could catch a vortex on camera. Click, flash, peek, erase. Click, flash, peek, erase. There were a handful of other couples, each of whom was interesting in a hey-why-don't-you-go-stand-over-THERE sort of way.

After the tour, we just sort of hung out for a while, everyone chatting a bit but mostly listening to our friend from North Carolina - we were calling him Dwite because calling him Intense and Creepy seemed rude - and then we went to bed. That first night, Willem and I stayed in the John Morse room, where Abby Borden was killed, but I'm mostly happy and a little disappointed to report that there was absolutely no paranormal activity at all that night.

We spent Saturday doing totally grown-up things, like driving around lost without feeling pressured or worried about potty breaks, and hanging out in a coffee house for five hours because we both had work to do. It was so neat to just sit, drink hot things without moving them away from the edge of the table, chat with my husband without being interrupted, do work without being interrupted, and generally do what I imagine people in their late 20s do when they didn't start having kids at 22.

Not that I, for one little second, regret having Emily when we did. But it was a neat little peak into the other side of things. I think I like my way better, interruptions and bodily fluids and all.

We thought about hitting Fall River's "Factory of Terror" haunted house, but decided that we were already paying to stay in a supposedly haunted house, and we didn't feel like standing in line with 500 18-year-olds for an hour. Instead we wandered back to the house, I heard a ghost, we took a walk around the neighborhood and then watched a movie.

"Evil Dead 2," of course. What else?

Though I didn't find it to be all that scary. More just messy and bizarre.

Hmm. Not unlike childbirth, in some ways.

We also tried to call home to check in that night, which was more of a production than I'd expected. First, our home phone wasn't working due to a problem on Verizon's end, so we had to call my mother-in-law's cell phone. And second, we couldn't use our own cell phone because reception in that house is WEIRD. You could literally go from 4 bars to 0 bars by moving six inches in any direction.

The best part about that night was, we had the whole house to ourselves, except for the owner, Lee Ann. Six other people cancelled at the last minute, apparently due to illness. Tell you what, famous grisly murder sites are just a tad creepier when you're there alone.

Around 8:00 or so, I was standing in the front hallway reading through the guest book, and Willem was in the bathroom directly upstairs from me - no way he could have left without my hearing, the door is loud and the floors creak, and he thumps along like he's trying to scare away predators anyway. I wasn't sure where Lee Ann was, so when I heard footsteps coming down the back stairs I didn't think anything of it. I didn't see anyone, but that wouldn't have been too weird either, since you can go straight from the 2nd floor down to the basement without coming into my line of sight there. I just figured LeeAnne had been upstairs for something and then was going to the office down in the basement.

But then a few seconds later, she popped her head out from the dining room to see if anyone was there. I could see both doors for the dining room, so there's no way she could have snuck in and then peeked out again, and Willem came out - loudly - a few seconds later, so it weren't him. Very wild stuff!

I was, and still am, extraordinarily skeptical about the whole idea of ghosts, but having someone else hear it with me definitely helped make it all seem a little more real.

Sunday, we stopped by Lizzie's grave and then headed home. It was a fabulous weekend to step out of our normal lives, and it was fabulous to come home feeling refreshed, remembering why it was I married this guy in the first place, and ready to step back into our normal lives again. Whatever "normal" means.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Weekend at Lizzie's
For our fifth anniversary, Willem and I decided to go down to the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Mass. Lest this sound totally bizarre and unromantic, it was a place I wanted to go but didn't want to take the kids, and when else would we have a reason to travel someplace nice without the kids?!?

So to prepare for this, my mother-in-law came out to watch the kids. The prospect of this was, to indulge in a moment of understatement, daunting to me, but she had offered, rather vehemently, quite a while ago, and I couldn't come up with a reason not to have her come out. So out she came, though of course the mere act of getting her here was a snafu.

She was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday at 3:00, at the airport. Her plane was 3 1/2 hours late. Which, okay, I guess you're right, that's probably not entirely her fault. Maybe.

And normally, I wouldn't care. Planes get delayed, weather is bad in the Northeast in the fall, etc. But this time, I had made these big plans to surprise her for her birthday, because I irritate myself greatly with a tendency to treat people the way I want to be treated, not the way they treat me. So I had gotten in touch with her sister, and she and her husband had driven up from New Jersey to surprise my mother-in-law for a week-early birthday celebration. So the delayed flight meant more juggling of plans. Just sign me up for the circus!

We planned to meet Aunt and Uncle at the restaurant next to their hotel, by me claiming a sudden and desperate need for ice cream in the evening. But wiht the plan delayed, we had to drive directly to the restaurant. This wasn't awkward, however, due to the presence of a certain 5-year-old, ice-cream-obsessed individual in the car. So we parked, and walked in.

As we were approaching the restaurent, I could see where Aunt and Uncle were sitting. So when we got to the hostess booth, I just sailed on by and walked straight to the back, where they were. Willem knew what was going on, but my mother-in-law was following behind us totally befuddled and growing increasingly anxious for my own sense of social propriety. Especially since Aunt and Uncle were hiding behind their menus, so it looked like I came in, went straight to a table, and sat down with a pair of strangers. It wasn't until they lowered their menus that mother-in-law got the idea, and then there was much rejoicing.

The next day we spent visiting Emily's school, custom-making teddy bears and visiting a Children's Museum, followed by a seafood dinner out. All specifically designed to give mother-in-law and her sister a good day, and, I'm pleased to report, it did.

She even said, "Thank you," to me. Will wonders never cease!

Willem and I left the following day for our weekend, but this post is already long enough...
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Think I'll keep him.
About 15 minutes after I laid Jacob down, I hear him fussing and then full-on crying, so I went in to give him a snuggle (with a sinking, oh-but-we-were-doing-so-well feeling) and then put him back down. He immediately stood up and started to cry again, but he was also pushing at me. So instead of picking him up, I sat in his rocking chair and asked, "Do you want to snuggle me?" He shook his head no. "Do you want Daddy?" No. "Do you want Kitty?" No. He starts to point at his mouth and then jam his fingers in as far as they will go. "Oh, your teeth hurt. Do you want medicine for them?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah! Mama, yeah!"

So I had Willem bring us some Tylenol, and Jacob sucked it down like it was going to self-destruct in 3 seconds. He stayed standing after Willem left, so I said, "What do you need, baby?" And he said, "Mama." So he got snuggles for a while. Sweet boy.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
There is ominous music playing in my head.
My mother-in-law is coming on Wednesday. Flying in. I have to pick her up at the airport because the prison is a lot closer to the airport than home is. Which means an hour alone with her in the car afterward.

She has a gift for pissing me off beyond all words, but in ways that I could never anticipate and therefore prepare for.

She hates my father. My father, who lives with us now. And his "weekends" are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So their time here will overlap.

I'm hosting a surprise birthday thing for her, because I treat her far better than she treats me and I HATE that about myself. Her sister and sister's husband are coming up. While this is well-intentioned, I guarantee that I will get a "Oh, you shouldn't have," which makes my ears bleed just thinking about it. If we don't do something, she pouts - literally, lower lip pooched out, pouts. And if we do something, it's too much. Shut up and be happy for one day in your life, you passive-aggressive beast.

Plus she SAYS she loves her sister but they snipe all the time.

Then I'm leaving the kids with her for the weekend while Willem and I go away for our aniversary. This sounded like a great idea back in January but now I don't want to leave them at all, much less with her. She always acts like she has no idea what to do with children and can't entertain or feed or clothe or generally manage them on her own, so she'll call us in a panic and then say... "Oh, no, don't come home, they'll be fine!"

I'm just glad that Jacob already took his first steps last weekend, because if he had not yet started walking, I can guaran-gosh-darn-tee that I would come home to her saying, "Oh, he took his first steps!" Even though I bet he wouldn't really - she would just say so to poke one more hole in my already addled brain.

I am also, snottily, glad that he has been having a hard time going to sleep lately. No reason to think he'll sleep better for her than he does for me!

Though I bet she'll say he did, just for fun.

AAAAAHHHHHHHH look at what this woman does to me! She's not even here yet and she has already turned me into a paranoid, bitter person.

I'll be off practicing my deep breathing, visualization and dissociation techniques until she arrives...
Monday, October 10, 2005
Argh. Seriously, just, argh.

Jacob has never been a great sleeper, and his big hallmark has always been unpredictability. Just when I was about to throw a big, embarrassing tantrum on the floor of the hallway outside his room, he started going to sleep without a big fuss. Right when I was about to simply keel over and die from sleep deprivation, he started sleeping for longer than 3 hours at a stretch. As my breasts were about to detach and move away out of protest from overuse, he stopped needing to be fed in the middle of the night. And so on.

So, I suppose, given that pattern, then he should be darn near ready to stop this latest mom-brain-melting set of antics, because I sure feel like I'm right at the end of my tether on this one. He has suddenly, after probably 6 months of being good about lying down in his crib awake and putting himself to sleep, decided that bedtime is a horrible, horrible thing, and the only appropriate response is to scream as though I have dropped him into a tank full of serial killers and small irritating dogs. He's happy through the rest of our bedtime routine... he nurses, he brushes teeth, he is engaged and interactive but in a calm way during our story, he turns off the lights, he dances with me for a song or two on his CD player... then sometimes he even points to the crib as if to say, "Okay, His Highness decrees that His Royal Servant Mother may now deposit him thusly." So I do. Sometimes he even rolls over and snuggles in. And then, within seconds of my leaving the room, WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

We have never in his life had much luck with a true cry-it-out scenario. He has far, far more stamina than I do in that regard. But even the sort of modified situations, where I will stay in the room and rub his back and slowly ease toward the door, have not been working. He will lie down for a bit, then pop up his head and grin at me until I say, "Lay down, Jacob," and then he'll flop back down. But I think this is actually just a form of peek-a-boo to him, and it is clear to me that peek-a-boo is not the type of game for which both participants need to be happy and engaged in order for Jacob to find it hilarious.

I have no right to complain, I know. He eats well, only nursing twice a day and taking a good variety of foods the rest of the time. He plays well, sometimes doing his own thing for an hour or more, which actually allows me to *gasp* get things done by myself. He is snuggly and kissy and sweet, and he is learning lots of great new tricks. But ARRRRGH this sleeping thing will be the death of me. I can just see the headlines: "Mother's Head Explodes in Baby's Room; Husband States it was Another Difficult Bedtime."
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
I wasn't ready yet.
Jacob took 5 steps tonight! No single steps for this boy, and no standing either - he went from doing 0 steps and no more than 3 seconds of standing to taking five running steps to me at a friend's house this evening! I had been holding him and showing him a toy, and then I put him down on his feet, and he let go of me to play with the toy with both hands - so I went to sit down, expecting him to plunk on his butt like usual. Instead, he giggled at me and ran right over.

He's still super-wobbly, but he did it several times the rest of the evening! Eeek!

He also said "baby," "ni-night," "dada," and "weeeee" (for Emily) today. What has this kid been eating???

*sigh* It's exciting, but extremely bittersweet. I got lulled into complacency by his extended babyhood, and BANG toddlerhood hits me in the face.
Monday, October 03, 2005
Snark, snark, snark.
I think I may have accidentally begun practicing polygamy when I wasn't paying attention. There's no way a sigle husband could find this many unique ways to jab at my brain, so there must be a team of them, poking at me in shifts.

There's nothing specifically BAD he's been doing... which is all the more frustrating, because I can't point at something and say, "THERE, that, stop doing that." It's just a general noodginess and petulant attitude that will, I'm sure, drive me droolingly insane before the end of the weekend.

I even think that I know where it's coming from. I have to apply for an internship so that I can finish my doctorate so that I can pay off my student loans, which is an anxiety-inducing process all by itself - each application is about 30 pages long, I'll be applying to about 15 places, and about 10% of all applicants don't get a placement at all. And then if you add in the fact that I don't entirely WANT to go back to work full-time, and you get an anxious, ambivalent, cranky mama. I like being home with the kids, and if I could afford it I would do it for several more years. But I can't, so I won't - but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Though I do have to keep reminding myself that I'm applying now but the placement won't start until next summer. By then, I may very well be ready to get out of the house several days a week and act like a grown-up. Or, at least, to get out of the house.

But anyway, we've spent the weekend in that lovely atmosphere of edginess and defensiveness that comes from the phenomenon that if Mom has a bad day, EVERYBODY has a bad day. I would love to have a day where I could sulk and mutter to myself and have everyone else sort of benignly ignore me and get on with their days, but that's apparently not an option.

So, I'll just keep dragging everyone down with me, and waiting for the next snotty argument to pop up. I hate being grown-up enough to recognize my own role in the crankiness, but adolescent enough not to bother fixing it. I don't *wanna* be responsible for fixing it.