Wednesday, November 30, 2005
He lives in a world populated by ducks.
Jacob has brought himself into a little word explosion just lately... he's still not exactly verbal as far as kids go, but we went for a long time without a single word at all, so I'll take what I can get! He reliably says "mama," "key" (for his Kitty, whom he's only had for a month but who already smells rank and disgusting like a proper lovey... I'll be doing laundry tonight...), "go," "shoes," "train," and "Mimi" (for Emily).

He also has a "whoooaaaaa" sound, which is reserved for answering the phone. Or the remote control. Or Willem's calculator. Or a stapler. Or the computer mouse. Or a sock.

He's big on animal sounds, too, though they all end up sounding the same - vaguely ducklike. Certainly, all birds in his world say "waaaaat, waaaat." As do cats, dogs, hippos, mice, squirrels and buffaloes.

It's great fun to watch him play headgames with Willem right now, too. We've heard him - Jacob - say "dada" lots of times, but just lately he WILL NOT say it. Instead, we'll ask, "Can you say Dada?" And Jacob says, very smugly and with a little poo-eating grin, "Mama." "No, Dada." "Mama." The wee beast.

Jacob's also signing quite a bit, still. Cute story from the other week...
Willem had made cookies the night before, and they were still on their cookie sheet in the morning. So he got Jacob up, and Jacob immediately saw the cookies and started his grunt-and-point routine.
Willem said, "Do you want cookies?" Grunting and pointing from Jacob.
"Jacob, how do you say cookie?" Blank stare, and some grunting and wiggling.
"Jacob, cookie?" GRUNT.
"Jacob, can you say please?" The sign for please is to rub the hand on one's chest in a circular fashion. Jacob started rubbing his entire torso with both hands, with enough enthusiasm that we thought he might set himself on fire.
He got his cookie.

Emily's cute and precious, too. Just no new stories for her, at the moment.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Happy Day, Turkey.
We have ventured into the strange and alien world of New York, and returned largely intact.

Thanksgiving dinner was hosted at my mother's house this year, which was initially a perfect situation for me because it meant there was really no likelihood at all that the in-laws would show up. In several recent years, we've gone to Willem's aunt's house in NJ, but they just came up to visit the other week and we didn't feel quite strong enough to face his whole family at once. We thought about having dinner at home, but then there is the very real risk of my mother-in-law inviting herself, and I haven't figured out how to cope with that situation yet. It happens with alarming regularity, and so far my Polite Self outranks my True Desires Self.

But neither of my parents-in-law like my own parents, so we were safe at my mother's. However, then came the new and fun dimension of my parents' very recent (i.e., the summons happened 2 weeks ago and it will be final within the month) divorce, yet my father invited himself to my mother's. Hmmm. All sorts of potential nastiness there...

But, alas, what a disappointment. Everyone behaved themselves beautifully, and there were no traumatic incidents at all. How am I supposed to write long, whining posts without some drama? I mean, REALLY.

(Though I seem to be managing just fine, I think...)

The only change of plans occurred when we left a day earlier than expected. Since we started dating, Willem has had an allergic reaction to something in my mother's house. My mother always blamed it on the cat, which is an indoor cat and lived only in the (finished) basement, which is also where the pull-out couch is. This never quite jived with me, seeing as how Willem grew up with great multitudes of cats - I think his mother had 10 at one point - and they never gave him the sniffle-and-snort syndrome that he developed at my mother's. My guess was some sort of mold in the basement which the rest of us aren't sensitive to.

The cat died a few weeks ago, and since then my mother has completely steam-cleaned and rearranged the basement. So it LOOKS great, and she insisted that this way Willem could sleep down there. Now, let me back up a second - Willem's allergies would flare up the worst in the basement, within 10-15 minutes, but he was leaky and whiny anywhere in the house within a few hours, so I can't blame it on just the basement. And steam-cleaning the rug doesn't fix the couch and cushions and everything else... but there I go, injecting logic into the world again. I'll stop.

The moral of the story is, this year, for the first time, Willem's allergies went beyond oozing and complaining into wheezing and gasping for breath and having pain in his lungs. And I know that some people might consider his desire for oxygen to be a tad unreasonable, but I was willing to accept that *maybe* breathing would make for a better weekend.

So we left early.

Spent the day Friday in Syracuse with Jessi and her family, lunch at the Dinosaur, where the food is good and it's loud enough that my children appeared to be well-behaved in contrast. Then a few hours at the MOST (Museum of Science and Technology) before we embarked on the 7-hour drive home. Which was annoying in the moment, but on Saturday it felt soooooo good to already BE home.

Even the drive was uneventful - the only moments of excitement happened on the 30 miles between Albany and the first rest area on the Mass Pike, when Willem and I just watched the gas gauge go down, down, down, well below that orange section which indicates "empty." We did manage to coast into the gas station, and he put 19 gallons in the tank. Which only HOLDS 19 gallons. Yippee, what an adventure. That is, Willem viewed it as an adventure, as evidenced by his maniacal laughter as we neared the gas station and then his tactful and restrained gloating that he always knew we could make it. I was a wee bit less enthused as I pictured us all shivering at the side of the road, in the dark. Next time I'll pay the extra 30¢ per gallon in New York, thanks.

So, we're home. We've been home three days and Emily has already had croup and a GI bug. Busy girl. Now we all have head colds and are appropriately sniffly, but Willem is breathing again so life is good.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
I just can't like Walmart.
I try, but I just don't like it. Argh. I know, it's contributing to the downfall of Western society, and I'm okay with that. More to the point, it would keep right on contributing whether I was okay or not, so I might as well not gt pent up about it. I also know that it sells cheap plastic crap, and have given myself permission to occasionally buy cheap plastic crap. But I don't have to like it.

I took the kids to Walmart this evening to drop off film. Feeling virtuous, or at least penny-saving, the whole way there, because it's a 10-minute drive versus 2 minutes to Walgreens, but it's several dollars a roll cheaper for film developing.

Bear in mind that this is after I took a nap today, and I don't do well with naps. I'm still hungover from it, 7 hours later. Just headachy and disoriented and groggy and cranky... isn't that like 4 of the Seven Dwarves right there?

So we get into Walmart and wander back to the photo center, which takes me a while because it's in the middle of the store instead of the back, and I realized I hadn't been there once since we moved here 4 months ago. There were 13 people in various lines there - but 10 of them were for the digital processing booth things, so I felt okay about being 2nd in line for the actual counter. HAH. 14 - yes, I counted - minutes later, I finally made it to the counter, just to drop off the film. This was at 4:30. "We're running a little behind, so this won't be ready until 6:00." Okay, no problem.

So we ran some errands and came back to wander and shop, and at 6:30 I finally went back. Stood in line for another 11 minutes, wondering (a) is slow movement a required job skill here? and (b) WHY do you need to ring up an $1100 purchase at this particular register? and (c) why is that other guy back there playing with the envelopes instead of running the other register? The world may never know.

Turns out, they hadn't gotten to my pictures yet. "We're a little backed up." Yeah, I know, but that's why they added an extra half hour to the time in the first place. If I'd known it would be longer, I'd have gone home a long time ago. So I talked them into offering me the film for half price, tomorrow, and went to the front of the store to check out.

There was no one in line in front of me. But one of my items was missing a UPC label, so I stood there for ANOTHER 20 minutes until they finally said, "Look, we can't find another one. Is $3 okay?" Sheesh.

So I'm home and still cranky. Yippee!
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Tired. But it feels sooooo good.
Phew. Long couple of days. But I did SO much that I just have to brag a little...

8:00 a.m. - Wake up, stumble around house incoherently. Nurse Jacob. Mumble and smile at him.

8:30-9:40 a.m. - Clip coupons. This means 5 newspaper inserts' worth, since it'd been a while, plus emptying the little folder thing of expired coupons, which Jacob took from me one by one to put in the drawer of Emily's old dresser which was temporarily in the kitchen. He's in his "gazinta" stage - everything gazinta something else, always in a random way!

9:40-9:50 a.m. - Get myself and Jacob dressed and ready and out of the house.

10:00-10:55 a.m. - SPRINT through the grocery store. I have never shopped so fast in my life. Running old ladies over with the cart, swiping items out of strangers' hands, tossing frozen goods onto Jacob's lap...

10:55-11:05 a.m. - Drive behind a series of the slowest people on the planet to get to Emily's school for 11:00 pickup. Get there just in time to interrupt the message she and her teacher were leaving on my cell phone. Apologize profusely, then pack everyone back into the car.

11:08 a.m. - While about to pull onto my street from the busier road, I see a smallish gray fuzzy thing wandering around in the road. I realize it's a puppy, so I pull over to the side of the road and call him over. He comes right over, very sweet and docile - which is good, since his road-wandering activities suggest he's not going to make it through life on his brains. I stand there by the side of the road, holding this snuggly fuzzy thing, looking completely dumbfounded - now what?
After a few minutes with no divine intervention, I decide to take it home and call the police from there. I put him on Emily's lap, and as I'm getting back into the driver's seat I notice a woman at the house nearest me. She's just standing in the front yard, sort of scanning the grass - not calling, not moving around much, sort of looking like she's lost a mitten or a set of keys. She looks at me oddly, and continues scanning her yard. After a few seconds, I say, "Do you have a dog?" She says, "Yeah. I don't know where he is."
I say, "Is it a puppy?" She nods. I say, "Oh, well, I just found this puppy in the middle of ______ Rd. I was about to take him home to call the police." She says, "Oh." She takes the puppy, who does seem to recognize her, and they disappear into the house. No "thanks for not letting my dog become roadkill." Hmmph.

11:18 a.m. - Get home. Shovel yogurt into Jacob at lightning speed, then put him down for a nap.

11:30 a.m. - Start spaghetti sauce. This takes hours, intermittently. But it's soooo good.

12:00 p.m. - Start reorganizing breezeway. This involves dragging Emily's very heavy old dresser from the kitchen to the breezeway, after first rearranging all the stuff that was out there to make room, then rotating freezer to a different wall, then carrying a cupboard out so that we could store canned goods out there.

12:45 p.m. - Nearly done with breezeway when I hear Jacob start to peep and squawk. Rush in, snuggle him into submission, lay him back down, and finish at breakneck speed.

1:15 p.m. - Finish with breezeway. Gasp and pant for a few minutes, then realize I forgot to eat breakfast or lunch. Shrug and start gathering materials to hang pot racks in kitchen.

1:20 p.m. - Jacob awakens. Change and feed him, and bribe the kids with TV so that I can put up the pot racks.

And so on, and so forth, you get the idea.

By the end of the day, I had cleaned the kitchen, started laundry, gone up into the attic crawlspace to put some things away and ended up rearranging most of the boxes up there to be ready to get down the Christmas stuff next week, made chicken parmesan to go with the sauce, fed and bathed the kids, and put Jacob to bed. Then we had dinner guests, who were gratifyingly appreciative of dinner and who looked at my photo albums as though they were actually interested, so they earn mucho brownie points with me.

It was a long day, I was totally exhausted by the end of it, but it felt so good to be productive!

Today, "all" we had were Emily's dance lesson and then a trip to the Science Center in Manchester. We got to meet Nisa and her gorgeous girls, all the better!

Tomorrow I really, really don't want to leave the house.

Or rearrange it.
Monday, November 14, 2005

Really. Just ugh.

My mother-in-law. Argh.

I'm still not verbal yet, apparently.

She called this morning to back out of babysitting the kids during Willem's birthday party. His overnight birthday party in Boston. So I have that to deal with.

Why, you ask?

She says that it's because the party is meant for his friends not family (DUH that's why I asked you NOT to attend it - that's why I asked you to babysit if you absolutely *had* to come out!), and because it being a week before Christmas and his actual birthday she'll just wait until then to come out. Fantastic.

But, as I found out soon enough, that's not the real reason. The real reason she won't come out is because she's mad at me for a post I made on Jacob's photos website:
11/1/2005 - 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! She did a great job taking them for the weekend, and I'm grateful - and the kids should be grateful, too, because it would have been miserable to spend the weekend in a cardboard box while mom and dad went away.

And I went on from there, in the post. But apparently disclaimers mean nothing to her, and HER children never spent time away from her so they never had the opportunity to have difficulty adjusting. I got to listen to a full 15-minute rant (I timed it on my cell phone) about "I tried really hard to not buy them lots of things and to let them know that these are Grandma's rules and not Mom's rules and I tried not to spoil them and they didn't even know you were gone and it was great and now I can see that it messed them up for weeks and I should never spend time with them again."


I finally cut her off and said, "Listen, I'm really sorry you took it that way. It's not how it was intended. I don't have a single complaint about anything you did with the kids that weekend, and I've written a thank-you note and called to say thanks again and said it to your face before you left, all the time repeating how great it was that you took them and what a great job you did with them. If you can't hear that, I can't make you. I don't know of anyone, anywhere, who can have a fun vacation weekend and then not need some transition time at the end of it."

I feel bad that's she's so gosh-darn defensive, I really do. It must be a horrible way to live. But *I* did not make her that way, and I don't feel like it should be my job to stroke her ego and fix the defensiveness thing.

Oh I am so frustrated.

Plus she already invited herself here for Christmas and now she's thinking about "just stopping by" when we're at my mother's for Thanksgiving.

Three hours away.

My hands hurt.
I spent about 24 hours in the car over the weekend. No, not in the car. In Willem's Jeep. My car is nice to me. It has a comfortable seat. It has a nice, smooth steering system. It runs quietly. Willem's Jeep is LOUD and BIG and MANLY and its steering system is really stiff and vibrate-y and difficult. All of which might be desireable attributes for certain things and certain activities, none of which I was doing in the Jeep this weekend.

But my car has almost 160,000 miles on it and I just don't wanna be that person you see on the side of the road, banging my head on the steering wheel and swearing. So it was a lot of uncomfortable driving, and my wrists and hands hurt now. Wah.

But overall it was a fun weekend. The drive there, I was all by my lonesome in the Jeep, which was an amazing experience. People without children don't get to have that particular contrast, whereby 99.9% of the time you listen to the music quietly with frequent interruptions for the latest news bulletin from the backseat: "Look, Mom, it's a cow!" "I'm hungry." "Where's Jacob's toy?" "How much longer?" (Emily has long since learned not to ask, "Are we there yet?" since my answer is always, "Yes. Get out.") Anyway, being the only person in the car, I could argue with talk radio, pick whichever CD's I wanted, play the radio as loud as I want... it was wild.

I arrived at my mother's just in time to collapse in a big drooling pile on the couch. I did have time to appreciate that the house is almost entirely different inside - amazing what some paint and reorganization will do - so I remembered not to get up in the middle of the night lest my shins pay for my new unfamiliarity with the layout. And I noticed that her new dog, which she named after me and can't figure out why I'm not thrilled to pieces over it, likes to sniff my nether regions more than the old dog did. Another good reason not to wander around in the dark.

The next morning the girls and I got packed up and on the road in what must be record time for them... 10:00. It seems to be a family gift that early starts and on-time arrivals are not overly common occurences. I know that I used to be in that particular club until I married a man who can't stand being late - peer pressure ain't all bad, says I.

We drove to my great-grandmother's house first, which had the potential to be a very melancholy experience. She died in June, and I loved her to pieces. But her son and his longtime fiancee were there, just on their way out but decided to stay while we were there. So the process of moving things out into and onto the Jeep, from her nearly empty house, ended up being more comical than maudlin given their gentle background music of sniping and ignoring each other in the way that only long-term couples can.

Aunt Shirley - they've been engaged longer than I've been alive, she gets the title of Aunt regardless of paperwork - spent the time offering up really odd bits and pieces of things that we could take with us "but only if you want to." Like partial rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, mismatched glassware, and this enormous electric convection oven that "Grandma used this once to cook a turkey and she didn't like it, maybe you could take it?" No, thanks. "Wasn't it on your list of things you wanted?" Nope, didn't know it existed. I just wanted the roasting pan. "But I was sure you wanted this too. I thought that's why we didn't sell it at the yard sale." Well, there's a price tag on it, maybe no one wanted it. "No, I'm sure it was on your list." Not likely, since I didn't know such a thing existed anywhere in the world, much less here at Grandma's house. But thanks.


And then Uncle Garry just sort of tagged along through the house while my sister Sarah and I loaded up the Jeep and my sister Mary shivered and looked pretty, with a constant ongoing bout of verbal diarrhea. I stopped listening after about 10 minutes, but both my sisters are inherently better human beings than I, and continued to make polite listening noises for the whole time. Though I did have to tune back in when *he* tried to get them to agree to take the convection oven.


But we had the Jeep loaded to the gills and were thereby safe from the oven, and idiosyncracies aside it was lovely to see Garry and Shirley, and off we drove. We had to make a stop in Manchester to get Jacob from Willem - Willem and Emily were going to a hockey game and I just didn't think Jacob was ready for that kind of overstimulation just yet. I know, mean Mommy. But he got to have a diaper emergency and a run through Toys backwards-R Us for new diapers and a new outfit, so it wasn't all bad.

And now we're back to normal, or the nearest approximation of normal I can do. I've inherited a blanket chest, a coat tree and a quilt rack, plus an enormous bucket of yarn and sewing notions to keep me busy for a while. But, I would hope, not too busy to find some chaos and ridiculousness out there somewhere.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
I know why some animals eat their young.

Emily was having a great night tonight, right up until bedtime. Willem taught her this trick to do with yarn, and afterwards I told her she couldn't keep it to play with, because I was afraid she would get messing around with it and cut of circulation or some such thing. ANd I didn't want it left out for Jacob do to the same. And she had this horrible, falling-down, screaming-right-outside-the-baby's-door tantrum.

I got so angry at her, because we'd had a really nice evening and everyone was getting along and here she flips out just because she's told "no." My hands *hurt* now from clenching them so hard, but I figured I had the choice of either clenching my hands too hard or picking her up and shaking her until I had dislodged whatever had crawled up her butt, and I opted for choice A. I'm just so bummed and disappointed about it now, can't WAIT for the teenage years.


On the bright side, I had a wildly successful consignment store visit last weekend, 5 pairs of jammies and a shirt for Jacob, 1 pair of jammies and 2 shirts for Emily, all for $30, and one of the things I got for Jacob is all brown and fuzzy with a teddy bear face on it, very thick and warm. He's just about the cutest thing ever when he's wearing it - from behind, he looks like a spiky-haired Ewok. It's the kind of thing that makes me totally understand why people have children.

And I have to keep in mind, too, that the 99% of the day that was wonderful with Emily is more important than the 1% taken up by the bedtime tantrum. It's just that I don't seem to be carrying any lasting ailments from the rest of the day.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Oh, right, I have a life.
Ugh, so I finally finished my internship applications. I had to go through this same process last year, before I decided to take a year off -- completing a 32-page application for each of the 15 or 16 sites I wanted to try to get an internship at, which included lots of overlap but some stuff unique to each site, plus a CV and recommendation letters and transcripts and some extra stuff... it's all a tad excessive. But they're all done and in the mail, and now the waiting game begins. In a month from now, I should find out if I got interviews at any of the places (I expect maybe half of them)... then a month later I will actually HAVE the interviews... then a month later I will find out *whether* I got a placement, and a few days after that I will finally find out where. So it's a big game of hurry-up-and-wait.


Anyway, for better or worse, it's done, and I've officially embarked on the process of working out of the house starting next summer. I've got whole piles of ambivalence about that, but plenty of time to procrastinate actually dealing with that.

And now I get to resurface, much like a deep-sea diver, sputter a bit, and look around at my surroundings. And go, "Oh, dear, what is this place?!?" So I have a few projects around the house I need to deal with... like, say, putting away the clean clothes which the Laundry Fairy was nice enough to fold sometime recently. I love the Laundry Fairy.

Jacob is officially One Who Walks now, he's so proud of himself. We did experience the downside of that this afternoon, as he tumbled forehead-first into the corner of the coffee table. Luckily it's not sharp-edged, but still it raised an immediate, HUGE, bright purple goose egg. I strapped him into the carseat all ready to go to the ER, but he didn't get sick or fall asleep and he was his regular happy self, so we decided to stick around home. I'll still be checking him over the night just in case, but I think it's a case of looking WAY worse than it is. And Emily is so, so 5. Lots of fun and playing and artwork and giggling, plus whining and picky eating and drama.

Before I start my list of projects around the house, I first have a Very Important Thing to do, I must go collapse in a lumplike heap on my couch and eat chocolate PB ice cream while watching mind-numbing television. Anyone care to join me?