Friday, April 28, 2006
Could have just used my forehead
In case it wasn't common knowledge, I thought I would let everyone know that Children Are Evil and Must Not Be Seen in Public, and as a corrolary, No Mother Can Possibly Adequately Supervise Two Children On Her Own. *I* didn't know, so I thought I'd share.

Know how I found out? Because I gave blood today. With two short helpers along for the ride. I was planning to meet Willem there to hand off the prisoners, but he had schoolwork so we just went anyway. Stopped first to buy fresh new coloring books and crayons, life was wonderful.

We arrived at about 1:00, pretended to read the pamphlet that everyone pretends to read when they arrive, and then got our number: 76. And then we sat.

And sat.

And sat.

And then - they called a number!


Uh oh.

And then we sat for another ten minutes. Turns out that though there were 8 semi-private little curtained things to check in, there were only 2 people actually DOING check-ins. I don't know where the rest of them were. But not there.

So we sat.

After 68 minutes of sitting (I had decided we would wait until 2:15 and then go), there was a sudden influx of Red Cross employees, back from their leapfrog competition or whatever. And so, bang bang bang, things started moving. Which was good, because coloring only stretches so far. By this time, Emily was standing over by the two bouncers at the door - elderly ladies who thought she was just cuter than the most preciousest of the Precious Moments dolls - and Jacob was dancing his baby thing to "Crazy Train," because, really. Can YOU think of a more appropriate soundtrack for giving blood than Black Sabbath? Me neither.

So my number - which was written in 128-point font but was announced in 4-point font - was called, and there was much rejoicing. Emily decided she wanted to stay and continue sharing every embarrassing household detail with the bouncers, reminding me that I am *so* glad I haven't had her memorize her Social Security number yet, so I wandered into my own personal little curtained area with Jacob.

The Red Cross Check-in Lady - let's call her Cranky White Coat, for short - was not happy to see us. Her first comment to me was, "Oh, YOU'RE a brave one." I gave her my very best no-firing-neurons look and said, eloquently, "Huh?" She sighed and rolled her eyes and said, "Here with two kids. That's ....[uncomfortable pause].... brave." I just sort of shrugged and said, "Yeah, they'll be okay."

She started the check-in process and then, abruptly, and with no perceivable external trigger, said, "You know, there are other blood drives. Other times and places. You don't have to be here with the kids now." Ohhhhhhh, now the light dawns for me - I have offended her with my reproductive ways and she doesn't want my cute, quiet, well-behaved son near her. So I decided to continue with the benignly clueless attitude and said, "Oh, I'm sorry. Do you want us to leave?" Cranky White Coat got very upset very quickly - apparently I wasn't playing her subtle passive-aggressive game correctly. "NO. I never said that. If YOU'RE stressed out having TWO kids all by YOURSELF like that, don't take it out on ME."

Now I really was clueless, so I was happy I had started out acting that way. I hadn't realized I was putting off stressed-out signals of misery, and in fact I had thought that I was enjoying some quiet time letting my kids just be themselves. Clearly I was woefully misinformed about my own attitudes. Thank God she stepped in to straighten me out. So I said, "I guess I didn't realize I was stressed out. Would you rather I leave?"

"NO," she snapped, and started going through the check-in routine at speeds which would have made the Micro Machines man writhe in envy. "Inthepasttwelvemonthshaveyouhadsexwithaprostituteorotherpersonwhoacceptedmoneyforsex?" And she went from question to question without bothering to look or listen to my actual answers. So, clearly, I had to whip out the hard-of-hearing card to play along with my clueless card, asking her to repeat every third question. And - because I'm not that much of a sociopath - I feel compelled to insist that it was really loud in the room, with Black Sabbath serenading me from somewhere below Cranky White Coat's not inconsiderable derriere, with seven other check-ins happening nearby in semi-private but not soundproof little curtained things, and so on.

Then we got to the point where she actually had to *gasp* get near me. First was the iron check. She said, "I need one of your fingers," so I offered her my right index finger. She sighed, as though I just mis-added 2+3 AGAIN, such an imbecile, and very deliberately folded down my index finger and unfolded my middle finger. Which, by that point, I was more than happy to offer her. Especially because I'm pretty sure she used the largest, bluntest finger-pricking device she could find.

Then she had to take my blood pressure, and got mad at me because I was wearing a sweater. "THIS is going to make it hard for them to collect your blood." Well, gee, ever so sorry, I was under the impression that you could push the sleeve up. My bad.

It was at this point that she made an odd little notation on my super-secret personal information sheet (protected by a veritable fortress of a manila folder), and I realized she was requesting that the actual blood collector tap a vein in my forehead rather than my arm.

So, anyway. After that, things lightened up significantly. When it was my turn to actually bleed, I set both kids up at the long table with as many prepackaged Oreos and pretzels as they could eat, and they both sat there happily while I did my thing. I had planned on watching them closely the whole time, but apparently Cranky White Coat has minions, because there were at least three white-coated people standing in a straight line between me and the kids at all times. I figured I'd hear any screaming, so I just relaxed and continued to have blood pressure.

As we left, I counted: 5. Five. Five separate people came up and congratulated me for having such sweet, well-behaved children.

Take THAT, Cranky White Coat. May you never procreate, and if you do, may they meltdown in public on a weekly basis.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Woe is he.
Oh, the trials and tribulations of having 2 children.

My dad and Emily often sort of spark off each other - their personalities are really similar, each HAS to be right and they both contradict and bicker over the smallest things. I can co-exist fairly peacefully with each one individually, having had a lifetime of training, but the two of them drive each other insane. And my dad is enough of a grown-up to recognize and feel bad about it, and he does a good job of not favoring Jacob just because Jacob is easier to be around.

So. My dad's weekend ends today, he'll head back to work this afternoon. And to have some quiet time with just Emily, he offered to take her in the Big Truck while he goes shoe shopping. I'm not 100% comfortable with it because she's not in my car, but she has her booster in there and they're just driving around town, so I said sure. So she's all twittery and excited, and now I'm just hoping they don't kill each other and stuff the bodies into shoeboxes.

Which leaves me home with Jacob. Who has suddenly, overnight, developed enough of an awareness of things to get the concept of jealousy. He's way too small to go anywhere in the truck - so even though I timed a diaper change for their actual departure, he knows they're gone, he misses his Mimi, AND he knows the truck is gone... poor guy. Life is tough.

But I know that, being the second child, he'll be able to ice skate younger than she did. It all comes out in the wash.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Don't eat that.
This post could alternatively have been titled, "She doesn't stick to the refrigerator," or, "Head games with a 6-year-old."

Emily was messing around with her toys yesterday, and goofing around, and generally being 6. And somehow, though no one knows quite how, she swallowed a magnet.

Now, before you start imagining scary things, let me be clear: it was a magnet about the size of her pinky nail. Some little pebble-like thing, part of a Museum of Science type kit, not bigger than a Tic-Tac. So, she is safe and not endangered and so on and so forth.

BUT. Since (a) she did a stupid thing, and (b) she is not physically in danger, that therefore implies that (c) I am Constitutionally required to mess with her. (I can't remember which Amendment that is, but I'm sure it's in there somewhere.)

So, I've spent some time pointing to various household objects - the cat, the TV, the coffee table - and saying, "See that? Don't eat that." And hilarity ensues. Then, we've been discussing which things are metal in the house, and wondering whether she would stick to them: the oven, the computer, the ceiling heat vents. And more hilarity ensues. Even she gets into the game, which is a delight to me because I don't know how I would cope if I raised a humorless child.

Though she also has been true to her Drama Queen self, and frequently has complained of a bellyache, and called me to her room several times after bedtime last night, to ask things like, "Are my bones made of metal? Will it stick to them? What if the magnet grows bigger in my belly? Should I sleep away from the [metal] railings on my bunk bed? My belly hurts." But I went on an evening Friendly's run for the grown-ups, and since she's got the week off from school I got her a sundae too. Astounding, I tell you, how much better a Monster Mash mint sundae can make a girl's stomach feel. In such a short amount of time, too!

And in a fun afterward, she came out tonight, well after bedtime, to tell me, "Mom, guess what? When I pooped earlier, in the bath, well, no, not IN the bath but when I got out and used the potty during bathtime, well, I think the magnet came out of me then because now my stomach feels all better!" We had her go rub up against the fridge, and, no, she didn't stick. What a relief.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Kate and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Blanket
I just finished my first-ever knitting project. It's gawdy and hideous and visually offensive, and I love it.

The mid-size version of the story is, my great-grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 10ish, spending time with her at her summer place in the Adirondacks, in New York. Very fond, warm-and-fuzzy memories, all that. I always intended to learn to knit from her, too, but never got around to it.

Then when I was 25, she was hospitalized and then ended up in a nursing home, and a little reality bonked into me. That whole "Hey, we DON'T have forever here" thing. So I took Emily (who was about 3) and a big blanket and a bunch of toys and crayons, and brand-new knitting needles and yarn, and we camped out in Grandma O's room for 2 days, just chatting and knitting and intermittently napping (less me than the other two, on that last part). I didn't learn anything fancy, but I learned the basics and got to cross one more Big Regret off my potential list.

She died last summer, the day before we moved. That was chaotic. We had visited her just the week before - another Big Regret avoided.

So, on to the present. After she died, her belongings were farmed out to the family, and I was reminded once again that there are certain members of my father's family about whom I can only hope that the genetics lottery chose to sprinkle little in common between me and them. You know how some people shine under pressure, become graceful in times of stress, rise to the occasion? Yeah, not so much. But in that whole scramble-and-snarl experience, I inherited all of Grandma O's knitting and sewing supplies. And decided to start a project. But I wasn't yet ready for a sweater or anything comparatively complicated - I didn't even want a pattern for a blanket - so I decided to just start knitting rectangles of various sizes, however big the ball of yarn allowed them to be. I chose yarn based on texture first and price second, with colors that I liked, individually, but no thought to the overall color scheme.

The end result:

See? Gawdy... but somehow it clashes so much that it works. At least, I keep telling myself that. And it's *really* soft.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Good Old New England Weirdness
An important part of the New England personality is the ability to self-delude when it comes to the weather. Every year, Novemberishly, we all gape owl-like at each other and say, "We're supposed to get six inches of snow tonight! Can you believe it?!?" As though we've never actually seen this phenomenon in action before. Then there's a run on shovels and road salt and dirty movies, just in case we're snowed in.

Similarly, once spring rolls around, we're so brain- and nerve-dead after 14 consecutive months of snow and blizzards and slush and colors like blue and green on the weather map that as soon as the predicted (predicted - we don't even need the actual) temperature goes about 50 degrees, we convince ourselves that it's warm outside and we rush for the playgrounds, picnic benches and beaches.

And let me wholeheartedly 'fess up here, I partake of the same seasonal idiocy with the same awed, surprised, owl-like looks every year. It's tradition. We're big on tradition.

So, on Saturday, it was in the low 50s, and that meant that of course I had to get the kids outside. Two years ago, that meant sending Emily out back to play while I sat near the window and semi-watched her, but now that Jacob is mobile but not yet blessed with any sense of Darwinian self-protection, I have to go, too, at least until he figures out that face-first is not always the preferred method of slide descent.

We went to the playground at Emily's school, which is another one of those weird psychological quirks that I think most of us has: the school playground is boring and lame and uniteresting when we're there for recess, but if Mom takes us on the weekend, then that is just cooler than Lion King socks. (Not that we have any of those around here. But if we did, trust me, THAT would be the new baseline of Ultimate Cool.)

I expected us to pretty much have the place to ourselves, because all the cool moms grab their Ultra Double Mega Caffeine Laden Fat Free Beverage and convene at the playground on the town common. Which I do, upon occasion, but the fact that I don't drink coffee and don't follow Jacob around within arm's length makes other people look at me funny. At least, I'm telling myself that's why and would appreciate no further heckling from the peanut gallery. Anyway, so, there were two other people there - Mia and her grandfather. Mia is almost 8, and Emily just turned 6, but they got along beautifully, bossing each other around and pretending Jacob was the Baby Monster which they had to avoid at all costs - isn't it sweet how they include him in their games?

Mia's grandfather, well... I imagine he meant well. Within half an hour, I knew how many children he has (4), how many children his wife has (5), how many they have together (0), how old he is (80), and all sorts of other demographic, professional, emotional, sociological, personal and gastrononic details about Grandpa and everyone he has ever known in his whole life. It was one of those occasions where I really, really wished I'd had the foresight to fake deafness from the moment we arrived. And it amused me, because New Englanders have another reputation, for being somewhat laconic and buttoned-up... but apparently this one isn't 100%.

Though he did talk about the weather.
Friday, April 21, 2006
We've lived here for about 8 months, and just haven't bothered to hook up with any babysitters yet. My friend Deb will watch the kids for me if I have a midday appointment or whatever, but I don't like to ask her to watch them in the evenings so that we can go out to dinner - the last thing she needs during the dinner/bath/bed chaos time is 2 more kids. She already has 2 little ones AND a husband, that's enough.

So, we just haven't looked. And we were spoiled in Keene, because him being a high school teacher meant that he had access to unlimited qualified, smart, trustworthy kids to babysit, so we didn't go out often but we went out whenever we wanted to.

Two days ago, then, Willem said, "Everyone in my department is going out on Friday, do you want to go?" And I said no, because whenever we took the kids to those out-after-work things in Keene, it ended up being like show-and-tell - "Here's my wife, here's my kids, now watch while she takes care of them while the rest of us have adult conversation." Not all that fun for me, I'd rather just stay home or go somewhere kid-friendly or, you know, poke knitting needles in my ears until I smell colors. So he said, "We need a sitter." I said, "Sure, sometime."

He took that to mean, "Get one ASAP." He asked a couple of his former students who are now in school with him, but they're busy, and they live 20 miutes away, and they're in college... so a lot of disinterest there. So this morning, he said, "I can't get a sitter in time." Well, yeah. I figured he meant for next month - no way is two days enough time to arrange that, especially since I need time to meet them, check references, act intimidating and efficient, etc. So I said, "No big deal, I'll call the high school and see if I can get any recommendations there."

He just called me to ask if I'd had any luck lining someone up for tonight. Ummmm..... no. Though I have put a big sign in my front yard saying, "Hey, pedophiles and thieves, anyone want to come spend time alone in my home with my babies tonight??" I'm hopeful we'll get some good responses from that.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Intellectually Virtuous
I watched the History Channel's 3-hour (but really only 2 hours and 30-odd minutes, I *love* DVR) biography thing on Abraham Lincoln tonight. Instead of home remodeling shows or true crime. So I'm feeling all intellectually virtuous... like the mental version of going to church, just because it's the Right Thing To Do.

But in the process, I re-proved that I'm a horrible person. Because a good bit of the show was devoted to the fact that Abe had severe depression, really severe, just awful, bad bad bad. And my primary response? I am uplifted. Simply delighted. Not that I'd wish that upon anyone, exactly... though I can think of one or two people somewhere out there who could use a good dose of self-doubt and silent sulking... but it's just so nice to know that someone can go through all that misery and still be, like, the Greatest Human Ever. Gives me hope that I can slog through my own crap and maybe possibly accomplish something, someday. Because my depression isn't on par with Abe's, but then my ambitions aren't so big, either.
What a Difference a Day Makes
See, now, THIS morning, I not only feel the obligatory love for my family, but I even like them. And, therefore, I even like myself a little more. Cue the acoustic guitar music and dreamy visual scene.

First, I was smart enough to go to bed at 11:00 last night instead of 1:00, and let me tell you, that extra 1 in the time makes all the difference. Then, I was smart enough to be hard of hearing, so I didn't hear Jacob wake up at midnightish. Willem woke me afterwards to let me know which drugs he had administered by which routes, but I barely had to grunt into consciousness for that part.

So when everything occurred simultaneously at 7:00 this morning, I was sleepy but not Satanic. How's that for an improvement over yesterday?? All at once, Jacob woke up, Emily needed to be awakened (break out the jackhammers and miniature goats, the girl is not good at waking up when WE want her to. Though magically, at 6:45 on any given weekend morning, she's up and chattering away to herself... grounds for smothering, I say), Willem was on his way into the shower, and my alarm was going off. Exciting stuff. But everyone managed to exist in peace and harmony, sweetness and light, all that stuff.

I have to wake to the radio, rather than a beeping, because my hearing loss is such that I am completely deaf to certain tones. I may or may not be able to hear my alarm beep, but I don't want to risk not on a morning when I need to be up by a certain time, and I am neither smart nor motivated enough to try a practice run on a morning when the time don't matter. I do know that I am deaf to the pitch of Willem's alarm clock, which just seems like a lovely little piece of karma in the world. So, this morning, I had on some classic rock station and was able to start my day with Major Tom in a tin can. There are worse things.

And we discovered, as I laid there and badgered myself to get up and Willem returned from the shower, that the radio is very sensitive to other people in the room. Him walking around made the signal come in strongly or fade out at different points. Which led to inevitable antenna/body part suppositions, so I got my RDA of frat boy out of the way before I even sat up. Though we also covered tomorrow's RDA, because somehow our conversation later centered around the likelihood of me spending my day sleeping with everyone in the neighborhood, including the obsessive neighbor WITH leaf-blower, and this was apparently funny. Somehow.


Anyway, I also landed upon a fantastic Mommy game. Emily hates to get motivated, but she is also a compulsively competitive kid... so calling her in to snuggle with me for a few minutes, then telling her that I would race to see who got dressed first, then remaining prone while she rushes off to throw clothes on. Fun stuff. "I won, Mom!" You sure did, Speedy.

And now I'm off to prepare for the various household chores I've been neglecting for several days. Not necessarily to DO them, mind you. Just to prepare. I'm such a Boy Scout.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Talking his way out of trouble
It's a good thing Jacob is cute. It's saving him a sore bottom, from sitting on the curb holding a big "FREE" sign. And people in New Hampshire will take ANYTHING from a curb with that magic word on it.

My current favorite toddler mispronunciations: "hay-pee" and "shad" as Jacob goes through his repertoire of faces. He also does "piiiiize!" for surprised and "skeppal" for skeptical, but somehow it's his versions of happy and sad that make me smile.

I also, in a twist of mommy-masochism, think it is hilarious when his diaper is full and he tells me "stinky -- poop." All very enunciated but with a big break between words. This stringing two words together is still pretty new for him.

Maybe I'll wait till tomorrow to plunk him on the curb.
Toddler irritation
What a fantastic way to start the day, that reminder that while you always love your children, you don't always like them. Sometimes, not at all.

Jacob has been up since 6:00, SCREAMING. Willem spent 15 minutes trying to get him to go back to sleep, and somehow that clicked this weird illogical thing in my head that said I should continue trying to get him to sleep. So I spent much longer than I should have, trying. He continued screaming throughout. I am so irritated with him that I'm excited for him to finish his %#$^%$^% bagel so I can go poison his brain with pointless television. Take THAT, ya little beast.

And to top it off, when I handed him his bagel, all cream cheesed and cut up small and prepared, he said, in this tiny little boy voice, "Oh, fanks, Mama." Little brat, don't you try to be all cute and heart-melting on me now. I EARNED this funk.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Drugs and Brain Surgery
Forgot two other tidbits from the weekend...

I don't know why people do drugs. Alexis and I were quite happy to blow up birthday balloons and punching balloons and then slouch way down in our chairs and giggle at the ceiling fan.

And when Jacob got his Easter Baggie, he spent a good 20 minutes sitting on the floor, legs out straight and baby-posture perfect, opening it and extracting jelly beans like a very short, spiky-haired brain surgeon. But if I ever had brain surgery and the surgeon then eats whatever he pulls out, I will not like it.
Do Peeps Come From Cadbury Eggs?
We had a quiet Easter morning. We hid eggs around the front yard and let the kids find them, and then we powered them up on enough candy to give our neighbors diabetes. I have a vague admiration for those moms who refuse their kids all tastes, glimpses, or even thoughts of candy until the kids are in college, but I am weak and just can't turn down that blissful 3 minutes of absolute silence while they tax their little pancreases into overdrive. The concept of egg-hunting was weird for Jacob, but he went along with it, very much in the way that you see celebrities having photo opportunities with orphans or homeless people (but not the mentally ill, celebrities don't get THAT humanitarian), smiling benevolently for the camera and trying not to call attention to the basic bizarreness of the circumstances.

In order to properly stock their Easter Baggies (yeah. Baggies. Baskets are so over-rated.), I stopped at Walgreen's the other day. While there, I also bought a thing (skein? length? flock?) of rope to tie shut the door-flap of the bouncy house... because, really, what good is an enormous and costly container intended to overstimulate and bruise small children, without a closeable door? It so happened that the rope came in a bag with very similar proportions to the candy bags. So the cashier rang up the candy, got to the rope, and said, "Um." And stood there. Then - "Um. You know you got rope, here, and not another bag of candy?" I told her, "Oh, yeah, thanks. I just want them to sit still while they're eating it, I hate when they get chocolate on the couch." I'm still waiting for DCYS to knock on my door.

The party went far better than I had any business to hope. Eight big kids and four toddlers came, which made for a very manageable crowd, and for once, every single guest behaved just like they were actually descended from human beings and not crazed lemurs on crystal meth. The weather was lovely, and even the parents who decided to stay with their kids were able to carry on intelligent, appropriate conversation. It was like a miracle, only with more bananas.

My personal favorite moment of the soiree was sort of a side event. We have a very small (shoebox sized) wagon which is intended for toys at the beach but which more often gives toddlers bruises down the outside of their thighs because the concept of "too small" is not relevant to their worlds yet. So, Jacob's friend Samuel, 20ish months old, was pulling it around, and I knelt down to check in with him and say, "Hey, Samuel, how's it going?" in my Party Mom voice. Then I glanced into the wagon and saw this ENORMOUS (just under shoebox sized) spider, which was bright yellow and shiny with circular black markings - the kind of thing you see in National Geographic Magazine with captions like, "World's deadliest spider discovered in the jungles of Brazil; three acres left lifeless." It waved at me, and I swear it whispered, "Hey, get out of the way, I'm going to eat that kid." So I kept my Party Mom voice on, and said, "Ooh, Samuel, can I see the wagon for a second?" And I took it, and turned around, and went BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG on the ground and then jumped up and down on the enormous steaming carcass. And then smiled, handed the wagon back to Samuel, and chirped, "Thanks, hon! Have fun!"

We had the bouncy house all weekend, and so the only right and proper thing to do was buy a bunch of glow sticks and such, and go out and bounce at night. I made the discovery that after birthing two children, my bladder just is not as able to withstand the onslaught of a bouncy house and some over-tired giggling as it once was. I did not dampen myself. I did take three trips into the house to "check on Jacob" and also "check on the bathroom."

My mother-in-law arrived late morning ("I'll be there at 8:00 for the egg hunt," "Okay, see you at 10:00."), and told a story of how she was at her hotel this morning and wanted to check her email, but there was another woman using the hotel's computer. So she - mother-in-law - got a cup of coffee, sat down in a chair about three feet away, and STARED at the other woman. "It only took about three minutes, and she got up and left!" She told this story like it was a good thing, like she had done some admirable problem-solving and reached her objective in a satisfactory way, NOT as though other hotel guests are now at home telling their loved ones about the creepy staring woman who hung out in the lobby. One more victory for passive-aggressive behavior, what a relief. I mean, God forbid she actually find an open and direct way of navigating through life.

Tonight is Willem's last night of fantasy hockey. It's been both a good and a bad thing in our house. Bad in the sense that it is evidence of testosterone poisoning at its most grotesque. I don't know the details, but something about the game means that he has to set his alarm clock so that he can get up at 3:00 in the morning to beat all the other doofuses (doofii?) out there to make the perfect selections and whatever. This is a man who slept through my initial symptoms of appendicitis and early labor. I'm happy to know where I rank in his list of priorities. First, pretend hockey. Then, sleep. Then, wife. Gotcha. The good news is, he is just as aware of his idiocy as I am - though some bizarre vestige of his adolescence keeps forcing him to say, "But at least you could have some sympathy for me, this isn't as fun as I hoped." - so it's a nice reminder to all of us that his doofusness is a limited, intermittent occurrence, not an ongoing ritual. He says right now that he'll never do this again, because it's just too obsession-prone. Ask me in a year if he actually managed to avoid it.

Wait, what am I talking about? Hockey is one of those annoying sports with a 13-month season. It is always on. Ask me in a few minutes.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Caricatures of themselves
Oh, we are so in the middle of post-Grandma hell, and we're not even all the way post yet. We're home, but we have my sister Mary and her friend Alexis (OHHHH what a relief to finally be able to type that, it was killing me, keeping it a surprise from her!) for a few days, and several grandmother types on their way tomorrow to spend the weekend.

Emily talks talks talks, nonstop, and alternates between repeating inane things she's already said and bossing people around. Jacob is fine except that he suddenly has decided that the basic activities of daily life, like eating and sleeping, are for mere mortals, which he clearly is not. So between the two of them, I have little veins standing up all over my forehead. Emily has always been talkative, and Jacob has always know what he wants and when he wants it. But this is ridiculous.

Within the next 5 days, I have several hours of typing to do for work, planning of a 6-year-old's birthday party (It BETTER not rain. I can not have 15 6-year-olds in my house. I just can't.), dyeing of Easter eggs and planning of Easter dinner, plus, you know, I think I should shower. One of these days. In between not killing my children.

Monday, April 10, 2006
His head is purple and my socks are wet.
So, once again, I have taken myself out of the running for 2006 Mother of the Year. Took me until April this time, but at least I did it in grand style.

First, yesterday afternoon, Jacob took a long nap and I changed his diaper, without incident. No crying, no squirming, no whimpering - from either of us. An hour or so later, he started whimpering and patting the front of his diaper, but not like he was terribly upset - just sort of whiny, which could be for any of a number of reasons, seeing as how we're traveling and he's teething and he's 20 months old and the sky is blue and so on. So, we went out and had a general failure of an evening with Grandma - not that it was a bad evening, it was just a series of "Let's do this," followed by, "It's closed," or, "It's too far away," or, "The kids don't want to."

Got home, and my mother-in-law bathed the beasts. Afterward, she said that he seemed a little uncomfortable and did I want to check him out? So I did - and found a tiny, head-of-a-pin-sized piece of baby wipe tucked into a particularly sensitive area, and as a result the entire area and then some was all red and inflamed and miserable. Poor little guy, my heart aches for him. He still goes willingly for a diaper change, but each time I have to attack him thoroughly with a wipe and then smother him in antibiotic ointment, so by the end he is anything but willing.

So, that's sad and pathetic, and I feel guilty about that.

Then, this evening, Emily and I were in the dining room and he was in the living room, just a few feet apart. I was talking to Emily but could hear this odd clink-clink-clink sound. It took a few seconds for it to filter into my consciousness that it was the sound of small things being thrown down the stairs. So just as I turned to investigate, I hear BANG-BANG-CLUNK-BANG-CLUNK, and sure enough, after throwing small wooden pegs (my mother-in-law has a pegboard with roughly 2-inch-tall wooden pegs, to play Chinese checkers), he decided to toss himself down the stairs as well. The upper 2 flights of stairs here are carpeted, but the lower one is hard wood, so my mother-in-law had put a heavy wooden bench across the top of the stairs, meant to be a reminder not an actual blocking agent. I think Jacob was leaning on this while tossing pegs to their death, and he nudged it just close enough to the stairs. Only 7 steps, though does the word "only" EVER apply when it's your kid lemming-ing down the stairs??

So he ended up with a huge, raised, purple welt on his forehead, poor baby boy. We snuggled with an ice pack and watched Dora, and he seemed well enough not to go to the ER, but still. Such a preventable injury, and yet not.

And in my rush to get the ice pack and settle down, I somehow flipped the bin of ice cubes off onto the floor, and I completely forgot about it, until, hours later, once he was asleep and I was ready for a good strong dose of headache meds, I wandered into the kitchen and got a good sockful of really cold water. And another one when I found another little puddle on my way to the light switch. And one more on my way to the drawer where the towels are.

So, I am not exhausted and feeling guilty. What a fabulous combination. I'm going to go collapse on the couch and try to pacify myself with Chunky Monkey.
Tidbits from my Mother-in-Law's
I feel weird even posting from here, all Benedict-Arnold or something. Can I really post uncharitable things about my mother-in-law from her own computer???

Yeah, I think I can.

She's away now, had to attend a funeral in Florida, so the kids and I are here by ourselves. Which leads me to realize that apparently I have an entirely different worldview from her, in terms of privacy and boundaries. (I know, what an epiphany, you never could have know THAT before.) Like, I don't like other people to use my computer, and I don't like other people to go in my purse without my knowledge. And when I say "I don't like," I mean, "I get nauseous and shaky and can feel the beginnings of a 'roid rage without the 'roids and I swear my teeth and nails grow sharper and longer." And, the concept of her eating half her food at a restaurant and then saying, "I can't finish this, should I package it up for anyone else to eat?" brings the bile right up to the back of my tongue.

She doesn't share these lines, and doesn't understand what I mean when I say I'm not comfortable doing them myself. So, I wouldn't use her computer unless I was specifically looking for something, and then it was an in-and-out maneuver. Because, seriously, I feel very intrusive and uncomfortable, like I'm wearing her underwear. Which is actually not my idea of a good time.

But I'm rationalizing it now by seeing that the kids are playing happily and I have 2 hours before I'm going to head back over to Jessi's (who, in an offense which is only forgiveable given her recent surgery, has a toddler who sleeps until 10:00), and I can run a System Restore and clear the cache and all that other fun stuff, basically the cyber equivalent of washing her underwear before I put it back in the drawer.

Still, *shudder*.

Jacob and Emily are behaving well enough to stay alive, but are obviously trying to milk the No-Rules-at-Grandma's-House myth for all it's worth. I haven't been able to convince them completely that rules are more like a AAA membership - they follow the person (um... ME) not the place or vehicle. Ah, well. They'll figure it out, or die tryin'.

One of my mother-in-law's cats sounds like a squeak toy. It gets louder and louder as the evening progresses.

Both of her cats are very shy around children, so they only come out after the kids are asleep. And I typically stay up later than my mother-in-law does, so when I'm the only one awake, they both come talk to me. Not in an annoying way, just in a head-butting meow/squeak way. I mentioned this to C after the first night, and have apparently totally offended her. Apparently her cats are HERS and are *only* supposed to interact with her and are supposed to hate everyone else. Guess I'm just out to steal her cats' affection just like I stole her oldest son's.

*sigh* I suppose a disclaimer is in order here. I honestly don't hate, or even seriously dislike, my mother-in-law. She and I are able to get along fine when it's just the two of us, or even just us and the kids. She just carries around a huge pile of rage and defensiveness and imagined slights and long-held grudges, and she doesn't show the slightest sign of wanting to fix that. It's all old stuff, I don't think much of it is REALLY directed at me - I'm just a good vessel for it. And it's all poorly contained, too she's like a lit match in the hospital room of an emphysema patient - there's always a weird sizzle in the air and you're just waiting for the explosion.

So, I don't hate her. I just cannot feel comfortable around her, because I can't be honest with her - and honesty is where I'm most comfortable because it means I don't have to keep track of half-truths and avoidances. I feel like, if I was honest with her and let her know how hurtful she has been to me, upon occasion, she would simply implode. And while fascinating to watch, that's not the kind of situation I want to precipitate.

So. I vent here, and then pretend everything's fine. That's healthy, right?
Thursday, April 06, 2006
I Don't Like People.
Oh, I am in a Mood. And not, as one might suspect, a good one. Surprise.

About a month ago, I applied for a masters-level psychologist position at the prison. I had all sorts of ambivalence about the application, because it was doing very much what I would like to be doing, but it starts 3 months before I was planning to return to work. But I applied, anyway. Because my supervisor, when I was volunteering, would be my supervisor for that job, and he handed me the job description and said, "Please apply for this."

Ohhhh, okay. Twist my arm, why don't ya?

So, I sent in the application. Which was a pdf form, but was screwed up so that I could enter in text but couldn't save or send it. Fantastic. But I could print it, so I did. And mailed it. How archaic.

And sat through deafening silence for a week and a half no acknowledgement of receipt, nothing. I called, and got, "Oh, we're still processing it." It's a 6-page form, how much processing does it take? Apparently, a LOT.

Another week and a half goes by, and I call again. This time it's, "We've never received an application from you, you're not on the list." Ummm.... huh? And lest you think this is a case of getting lost in a huge corporation, there are a grand total of THREE employees in the HR department. Three. Two of them remembered speaking to me, and yet couldn't find the application. Oh, wonderful. So I get transferred to the supervisor, who says, "Oh, no, we got your application. But you don't have a master's degree in psychology, so we threw it out."

Oh dear. Let me try and express the incredible effort in self-restraint it took not to freak out on the woman. And really, it wasn't to save her feelings, it was to prevent my kids from learning some pithy new words.

So I explained that, yeah-HUH, I did SO have a master's in psychology. So she said she would refer it to HER supervisor, who would "get back to you soon." Baloney. This was a Friday afternoon, and it was 75 degrees and sunny in New Hampshire. That supervisor was so far away from her desk that her comfy little chair pillow no longer bore the impression of her inefficient and illiterate butt anymore.

So Monday rolls around, and I start making calls. And I reach the supervisor's supervisor, who apologizes and asks me to resend the application, because it was, indeed, thrown out. This time I was able to email it, because, having been nearly a month now, they'd had time to fix the original pdf form.

Also, just to make this whole thing that much more FUN, in that month they had juuuuust slightly changed the requirements of the position. Now, instead of needing just a master's degree, I needed a master's plus one year of full-time experience after that master's. My heart is warm and fuzzy, and I will be smiling with bliss when I open fire, let me tell you. Because I do have more than a year of work experience, but it's after my master's degrees (degreeS) in criminal justice and in mental health counseling, not since the one in psychology. So now, suddenly, I don't quite meet the requirements of the position. BUT, she says, "Come in anyway, and take the exam for it and get the background check going. I think we'll be able to work around that."

So I arrange for my dad to watch Jacob and for Willem to come home early to pick up Emily. And I drive an hour to go take these exams and meet with the woman. Who, though she saw me beforehand, waiting in the lobby, didn't bother to notify me until AFTER all this insanely privacy-invading crap that, "Oh, sorry, I found out that we can't certify you for the position without that year experience. But maybe something else will come up, sometime. We'll keep your file."

Oh, I was livid. Livid, I tell you. Not that I didn't get the job - it's their party, and they can make up arbitrary, last-minute rules if they want to. I was livid at the rampant chain-jerking that went on. If I want someone to waste my time, I can go hang out at the DMV or head over to a preschool to teach physics. I don't need to drive an hour each way.

Though I did have to stop twice on the drive - once for a flock of deer and once for a huge turkey wandering in the road. This is all a little too rural for me. Though I feel that if New Hampshire is going to go through all the trouble and expense of putting up moose signs everywhere, then they are contractually obligated to show me a moose. I'm not moving until I see one.

Anyway. So I get home, and just to rub some salt in that wound, it turns out that Jacob had a horrible morning with my father, missing me and crying a lot. Fantastic. No reason that anyone should get through this untraumatized, right?


So, I'm leaving tomorrow for Rochester - we decided to go after all. Parts of the trip will be fantastic, such as the times I'll be spending with Jessi and with the ladies from my message board who allow me to pretend I have a social life and can continue to avoid meeting people here. And parts will not, like the times I'm trying to make non-defensive small-talk with my mother-in-law (in an over-hyphenated sentence).

Oh, but I forgot to post. I've had proof that I'm a bad person. I'm moderately glad that someone died. Horrible, I know. But it's someone I met once in my life, at another funeral, and had no connection with. He's my mother-in-law's ex-brother-in-law, and he passed away a few days ago. I'm sad for his children, who will miss him... but I am happy that his daughter called my mother-in-law and asked her, as her (the daughter's) godmother, to attend the funeral on Tuesday morning. In Florida. So, I'll have a bit of a break in there.

I know, it's just confirmation of what we already knew, just one more step on my road to hell. Ah, well. I'll see some of you there... mmmmwwwwwaah.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Oh, to be not-quite-2 and to just be able to give in to the urges I have to worship the Cookie Gods.

Willem and the kids made cookies tonight... by opening a package and breaking apart the little cubes and plopping them on a cookie sheet, but I'm extremely Machiavellian when it comes to cookies. The ends justifies the means, every time.

And, let's be more precise. Willem put them on a sheet all by himself. He handed a raw cookie cube to each child, who promptly popped them into their respective mouths without the slightest hesitation. They have priorities.

Jacob did, at least, contibute to the actual baking process. By standing worshipfully in the kitchen, staring at the oven, chanting, "Cookie...? Cookie...? Cookin'."
Monday, April 03, 2006
Don't ever park behind my husband.
So, a few years ago, Willem was up and out of the house at the veritable crack of dawn to teach at the high school. Still sleeping in the house, each in separate rooms mind you, were myself, Emily, and my friend Corey, a classmate who felt that 3 hours was an unreasonable amount of time to commute between classes so he stayed at our house once a week. Twisted logic, I know.

Anyway, we're all sleeping, and Willem comes back into the house after a few minutes to tell Corey, "Look, you don't need to get up, we can deal with it later. But I just backed up into your car and your hood is all scratched up." Willem's vehicle du jour was a phallic symbol on wheels, a big red Dodge Ram, and Corey's was a Neon, perfectly aerodynamically shaped to allow the truck to scrape allllll the way up the hood.

Annoying for Corey? Sure. Embarrassing for Willem? Of course! But no real harm done, just some insurance agents who giggled a lot at the story and then made me tell just one more associate...

Now, fast-forward a bit. Tonight, we're sitting at the dinner table, and let me point out that I just spent a whole day with Emily without any mention of anything unusual. Suddenly she bursts out, "Mom! Dad bonked your car with the Jeep this morning!" And procedes to laugh hysterically. Good times, apparently.

The difference is, now Willem drives a Jeep Cherokee, which is considerably less ballsy and is lower to the ground... so instead of peeling the paint right off the car, he just nudged it a little. I bet if Emily hadn't been there, I'd never have found out.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
I Hate Ambivalence... I think...
So now it's not 100% certain that I'll be going to Rochester... I was going to go to help out my friend J for a few days, she just had surgery and if you don't watch her close she'll be doing cartwheels while earning the Nobel Prize in between being Supermom. But now her mother has decided to stay an extra few days, and my time out there was limited on the other end of the visit by Emily's birthday party - I have to be home by the 13th to get ready for a horde of spastic short people to invade my home. And it doesn't make a ton of sense for me to make an 8-hour drive on Tuesday only to turn back around and come home again on Thursday... but it might still be helpful, and that's important to me... but then I wouldn't have to pull Emily out of school and stay with my mother-in-law... but then I wouldn't be seeing my sister on her birthday... but then I'll be seeing her 2 days afterward anyway...

Blech. Emily tells me that she can't wait to be a grown-up so that she can be the boss of everything. I tell her that I can't wait to be a kid again so that someone else will make all the decisions for me.