Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Merry Christmas and Happy Bite Me!
Seriously, you know, there just comes a point where my in-laws behave so predictably as to become stereotypes of themselves. It's the sort of thing where I always know something's going to happen, I'm just never able to predict what.

The current episode in this apparently endless miniseries began on Christmas Eve, after my father- and brother-in-law had retired back to their hotel. Yeah, hotel. Not because they'd be unwelcome here - that's a separate issue - but because they refuse to stay here though they've been invited many times before. I've stopped feeling offended by it, and now am just relieved that they go somewhere to break up their visits.

So it's about 9:00 at night, Jacob's sound asleep, mother-in-law is on her way out the door, and Emily's starting to settle down for the long winter's nap, blah blah blah. Of course she's revved for Christmas, but she seemed to be in control with it all. Until.

She comes wailing and screeching down the hallway, such that I need to full-on tackle her to keep her out of the living room, where I am finally getting around to wrapping her gifts, though I'd had them here for several months by then. I lead her back to her room, and in between moans and panic I am able to discern that she is freaking out because we didn't leave a plate of cookies out for Santa, which means he won't leave her any presents, etc., etc. Meanwhile Carol escapes to her hotel before any of this even begins to near resolution.

Now, this doesn't sound all that unusual for a 5-year-old on Christmas Eve, right? Except for one tiny detail - we don't DO Santa here. I know, I'll lose my citizenship and possibly my birthday, too, for admitting it, but I just despise the annual emphasis on "What did you ask Santa for?" so we just dropped the whole gift-giving part out of the Santa story. We treat Santa just like we treat Thomas the Tank Engine, Nemo, George Bush, and any other imaginary character you might encounter. (Kidding! Kidding! We don't talk to our kids about George Bush yet! They're too young.) But we've never done letters to Santa, never left out milk and cookies, and so on. And it's always worked well. Up till this year.

Emily's version was, "I promised Grandma I would leave out milk and cookies. I PROMISED! If I don't, Santa won't leave me any presents!" Now, I don't much care about the specifics of any interactions that happened between said Grandma and Emily - all I care is that my daughter is miserable, sad and panicked on Christmas Eve, precisely because of a myth that I've spent 6 Christmases discouraging. Fine. We calmed her down, convinced her that presents had nothing to do with cookies, and she went to sleep. And woke up the next morning to lots of new toys and fun stuff, hooray.

Willem and I were each pretty unhappy about that happening, because while I don't imagine that everyone everywhere knows our views on Santa, I do know for sure that we've talked to my mother-in-law about it before, with a painful level of clarity. She insists that she understands and agrees with us, but this is the same woman who had presents to Willem, who turned 30 yesterday, "From Santa," under the tree. So...

We obviously want to avoid that sort of experience again next year, so we knew we'd need to say something about it. My plan had been to wait until after breakfast, in that post-breakfast pre-dinner-cooking lull around 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning. Instead, as we were getting ready to start cooking breakfast, Willem suddenly says to his mom, "Oh, by the way, you made your granddaughter cry last night," and launches into the anti-Santa campaign. Not the best timing nor the best delivery, I know. Her response was to immediately say, "I didn't say anything to her about it. I don't know why she did that." Well, first of all, given that WILLEM is still getting presents "from Santa," I do tend to suspect that perhaps she's more attached to that particular tradition than she's willing to admit. Though I didn't see a need to point out that little tidbit. Because, second of all, as I told her, "It really doesn't matter to me what words were said, to her or from her or whatever. I just want to offer a reminder of how we choose to do things here, so that we can avoid a repeat in the future." She flat-out ignored me and continued to protest her complete innocence, and I was neither surprised nor especially upset by this - it's just what she does. Complete denial combined with ignoring what she doesn't want to hear is sort of a personal specialty. So I was all set to let it fade out and try to have a better talk about it at a later, less chaotic time.

Instead, my father-in-law, who has mellowed in recent years but is still one of the loudest, most domineering and tyrannical individuals I have had the pleasure of being related to, chose that moment to step in and, well, flip out. He immediately began berating me, complete with swearing and finger-pointing and maximum volume, for choosing that moment to bring up such an inappropriate topic. After a few minutes of listening to him get louder and increasingly tangential, I yelled back, "I didn't choose the time or the delivery. Stop pointing at me, and don't tell me what is and is not appropriate to do in my house." So he stormed out.

Lovely. Nothing like a big old jolt of adrenaline AFTER the presents on Christmas morning.

So I waited ten minutes, and then went out to resolve this with my father-in-law. I felt like it all started with a conversation between Willem and his mother, which my father-in-law and I got involved in when we probably shouldn't have. Over an hour later, we finally reached a point where I was willing to let him back into the house, and there's no way I could possibly recount the whole argument, even if some masochist out there wanted to read it. It was just too convoluted and circuitous. In summary...
HIM: You are too rigid. You have to allow me to behave however I want to in the moment and then pretend like it never happened. There is no such thing as a private conversation between my wife and anyone else which might not involve me. If you were a good psychologist you would have handled the whole situation differently.
ME: I may be rigid, but that's my right in my own home, and when it comes to rules about shouting and swearing and generally misbehaving in front of the kids, you're darn right I'm rigid. I don't have to allow you to behave like a petulant 9-year-old. Your wife has a whole separate life away from you, seeing as how you haven't lived together for 10 years, so she does have conversations you don't know about. And how I am as a psychologist has nothing to do with how I am as a mom, in my sweats, in my own home, on Christmas morning - if I were acting as a psychologist I'd have billed $150 and said, "Come back next week and we'll continue this."

(I know, that's supposedly the SHORT version! Trust me, the real-time event was just endless.)

We did end up working it out and reaching a mutual understanding, which forestalled his repeated threats to leave on Christmas Day and never return again. And truly, at the end of it all, I'm really glad we had the conversation/debate/argument, because I think he and I both behaved badly at points and needed to work that out, and I feel like we did.

But my mother-in-law will never, ever admit that she might possibly have had anything to do with any of it, and I ate cold eggs on Christmas morning.

At least the rest of their visit was uneventful. They left this morning. *phew*

Blech. Too many words, too much information, I know. Consider this one a vent rather than a cute little blog entry. I'll try to be funnier next time.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Has anybody seen my crowbar?
Ah, bliss. There's just something delightful about a toddler who insists on being physically attached to your neck every waking moment, and several of the sleeping ones as well. Jacob has wandered his way into some sort of delightful new phase, whose primary hallmark is this weird screeching tantrum-like response if I don't hold him all the time. Sitting on my lap is not acceptable, nor is a hug while he's standing - it must involve a change in altitude and clinginess to the point where I could let go of him and he'd remain, burr-like, on my neck. I keep checking to see if I have a magnet embedded in me somewhere.

Still not in the yippee holiday spirit yet, but inching toward it. Most of our gift-shopping is done, and in theory we'll go *tomorrow* to get the tree. Hah. Nothing like a 3-day Christmas tree. Oh, well, if we procrastinate this much with getting it then I imagine we'll just be able to redecorate it for Valentine's Day...

The good news is, my dad did not lose his job, so he's home for his "weekend" now and back on Thursday night. Big relief, for everyone, there. Something about gainful employment really brings out that yuletide cheer.

So we went to get our annual family portrait taken today, at a one-hour chain place in the mall. The end result was fine, which really takes the wind out of my ranting-and-raving sails. We stopped in on Monday, having been suckered in by their "We heart Walk-Ins!" sign, only to discover that they apparently only heart walk-ins when there's not an imminent bunch of holidays piling up. So we made an appointment for 12:10 today, and then I got the blank and innocent stare from the clerk when I dared to be frustrated at not actually starting our appointment until 12:45. Jacob promptly melted down, but she was able to sneak in two decent shots first, one of the whole family and one of the kids, so, fine, I don't get to have a good tantrum at them. Maybe next time.

I also gave blood this afternoon, and am feeling all sorts of woozy and droopy now. Only five more dwarves to go and I'll be the complete set!

Off to inhabit some large, comfortable surface and act like gravity doesn't run my life...
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Ready or not, here it comes.
Christmas, that is.

I think we're mostly ready. I've bought all the gifts I'm going to buy - that just leaves Willem with his family (they hate me, I won't buy them gifts, so there, nyah nyah nyah) and whatever he has to do. We've done *very* little decorating yet, I'm hoping we can go tree-hunting tomorrow. Then wrapping over the weekend sometime, probably before Sunday... ;)

Emotionally, I am so not in the holiday mode. Between my internship nightmare and other stresses, I've been down for a few weeks anyway. Just found out tonight that my dad (a truck driver) bumped into a light pole in a parking lot today, so he's terrified that he's going to lose his job. I don't know the industry or this company well enough to know how accurate that fear is, but I hurt for him. Plus I don't *want* him here 24/7, you know? I love him but I also like having alone-time. PLUS he doesn't handle stress well, having had his first heart attack at 30 and two more since then, so I'm really worried now.

But I'll decorate and bake and smile till my face hurts, and will feel better when I hug my kids.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Things I didn't know I didn't know
I learned a lot this weekend.

Like, RSVP'ing is apparently totally passe and old-school. People just don't do it. I don't know the new cool way to find out whether people are going to show up to a given event, but RSVP'ing is NOT the way to go.

And, Willem and his friends like to drink beer and play bar games. Wait, no, I knew that one already. But it was nice that he enjoys that, since that's what they did for his birthday party on Saturday.

I learned that Willem can handle a lot more to drink than one might suspect, given that he's really allowed his beer muscles to go lax over the past few years. Something about fatherhood has reduced his beer consumption, oddly enough, and yet he was able to consume far too much on Saturday without spending any time in the bathroom, calling Ralph on the big white telephone.

I discovered that bathroom attendants creep me out. Jen, Laurie and I each were handed a paper towel personally ripped off by a frighteningly trendy, bored-looking woman whom I can only assume actually worked at that bar, rather than just having a weird auditory bathroom-sounds fetish. We all decided that her towel-distributing abilities, while consistent in their ripped-ness, weren't worth a tip.

We learned that while Willem can handle his alcohol, he still gets goofy. My two favorite quotes of the night:
1. (while sitting in a booth, thumping himself on the head with both hands) "Hey, look, I can pat my head and pat my head at the same time!"
2. (after being gently but firmly berated by a bartender because playing cards is illegal in bars - who knew? ... apparently Willem, he just conveniently forgot) "But we've already been playing for an hour and a half." Like the bartender's going to be like, "Oh, really? Well, then, continue on, by all means!"

Which creates the set-up for some pretty horrible outcomes in the justice system. "You have to stop killing people." "But I've already been doing it for a year and a half!" "Oh. Sorry. I didn't realize. Carry on!"

I also learned that Jeff and Laurie have two wonderful, beautiful girls who did a fabulous job keeping my children alive while I went out and played with the big kids for the night. I won't make comparisons of their child-watching skills to my mother-in-law's, because they're all good at that part, BUT I will say that there was no guilt trip waiting for me when I got home.

I'm sure I learned other things this weekend, too. Such as, I can cope and move on from getting 15 rejections and only the one, half-hearted interview that every other applicant got. (I'm still moping a bit about it all, but no longer despairing... sort of in the space between despair and problem-solving, at the moment.) Such as, my daughter talks a LOT. Such as, 5 hours of sleep after a night out with the big kids is not quite enough, and I'll end up asleep on the couch by 9:00 that evening.

But the big thing was, I learned that we can still have a great time out with friends once in a while, without it being in a child-friendly atmosphere where they serve chocolate milk and grilled cheese.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005
Still blue... but more of an aqua, maybe turquoise...
I'm still miserable over the internship crap. I did get one interview - but it's a place that says right on its application, "We interview almost every applicant, so pick your interview date below and save that date." I did meet *one* guy last year who didn't get an interview there, but his degree was from an online "university" that doesn't actually have, you know, buildings, so he had a hard time getting any interviews. I think he had two, and the site I was at with him seemed sort of morbidly curious about his pretend school rather than actually interested in him.

But anyway, 11 rejections. Yippee. Tomorrow is *supposed* to be the final day of notification, so in theory I'll hear from the remaining 4 with interview offers. HAH.

At least I'll know something by then.

I also have found out that my sisters may not be coming here for Christmas, which bums me out no end. I know, I live 7 hours away so it's a hassle to travel, but I miss them. They may still change their minds - they're REALLY good at that... but I'm sort of mentally preparing for the worst just in case... otherwise it's just the four of us and my in-laws, WAAAAAAAAH.

On the up-side, between Willem taking the computer all day today and me having lots of pent-up anxiety, I made major inroads on reorganizing the kids' playroom. We now have an official craft-supplies closet, and clear paths from my dad's room and the office to the rest of the house. It won't take more than half an hour to finish, I just don't want to do it now because it involves moving toys and that's always noisier than I expect it to be.

And Jacob got a haircut yesterday, so he's got the sweetest fuzziest dandelion-down head now. Granted, it's leaking his own body weight of snot out the front every day, but it's still a cute little head.

On the bizarre front, my dad backed his truck up next to our house yesterday so that they could clear out an area in front of the house but off the street to park it - and now it is STUCK solidly. He and Willem have spent tons of time going outside and making Manly Noises and offering Manly Suggestions ("Maybe if ya rock it... do ya have a winch?") and not moving it at all. I see a tow truck visit to my house in the near future.

No other significant news... which is probably a good thing.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Feeling blue...
Remember how insane I went, this time last year, with the whole internship application process?? How I had to make 16 copies of this 30-page application and mail it out and then sit and wait for replies? Well, that was *nothing* compared to my misery this year. Last year, I at least got offered some interviews - this year, so far, I have gotten 8 rejections and no interviews yet. Still waiting on the other 8.

The way the process works is, I send in applications in October, then in December I find out whether or not I'll have an interview somewhere. Then I interview in January, and then in March I find out whether or not I get a placement. Which is horrible and sadistic all on its own.

I got several interviews last year - this year, so far, not a one. I'm not loving the rejection. I barely made any changes at all to my application, except to update the new work I've done on my dissertation and the prison work I've done, so the only real difference is that I've taken a year off. I kind of suspected that it might be harder to get a placement if I took time off - companies TALK about "work-life balance," but when it comes to a one-year internship where they get 200 applicants for 2 spots, they might as well take someone with NO priorities outside work, since the person isn't likely to totally burn out within that year, anyway. I just didn't realize it was going to be this bad for me.

I'm still waiting on those last 8 sites, pessimistically by now, and cringing every time I open my email or mailbox. I've had a fair amount of success in my life, and it's not like I applied to only super-competitive sites, so this rejection is really throwing me for a loop - I'm not good at it.

If I don't get an internship, I get one more year at home with the kids and then I can try again next year. If I don't get placed NEXT year, then I literally will not be able to graduate, and all of my student loans will be an essentially useless debt, without the higher-paying job that I would get with the degree. So, I'm a tad strung out just lately...

On the up-side, a friend and I each lost about a pound yesterday. We donated about 12" each to Locks of Love. So I got a fantastic day out in Boston with two wonderful friends, and NO CHILDREN AT ALL, so there are bright moments in the midst of all my panic and yuckiness here...
Monday, December 05, 2005
Bonked yet skeptical
Babies are so funny.

Jacob smashed his bottom lip on the coffee table tonight, blood and everything. So Willem is trying to get him to pooch out his lip a little, so he can do a tooth-count and whatnot. Jacob is wailing away and burrowing his face into my shoulder, until I said, "Jacob, can you show Daddy skeptical?"

And the little head pops up and he gives Willem his skeptical face, which involves lowered eyebrows and a pouty lip. Mission accomplished! We were amused. And glad to know that he wasn't *that* hurt.

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