Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Next Time I'll Just Use the Drive-Thru
Both kids survived their first morning back to school... chances are that since they've made it to 10:30 and I haven't gotten any frantic calls yet, they'll make it through the afternoon... and the next day, and the next, and the next, and so on into the oblivion of the American public school system.

My biggest worry was for Jacob, who has never spent time in any daycare/school type situation before, aside from two hour-long trial visits last week. He was a little clingy, but then the teacher distracted him with a bucket of beads that are sort of like these ones except they are fish and turtles and starfish instead of plain old cylindrical beads. Jacob was completely engrossed by the concept of anally violating a series of ocean creatures, so I was able to leave without a fuss. One might even say he was happy as a clam [insert laff trak here].

Emily started first grade, which means this is all old hat for her. I wasn't able to be home while she got on the bus, but after I got Jacob settled in I was able to get to her school in time to see her arrive. She has a locker this year - in first grade. Very grown-up. All of the lockers are about a foot wide, but they have a vertical divider down the center, apparently to prevent all but the very tiniest students from getting shoved into their locker by the resident bullies. Good to know the school has thought this out.

And then I stopped at Dunkin Donuts to get myself something, and I picked up a coffee for Judi, too, since I was late coming into work this morning what with the distribution of my spawn around town. The line for the drive-thru was out to the street, so I parked and went in (and I checked - I DID get out two cars sooner than I would have... it's good to be right). And watched the otherwise lovely young man in charge of iced coffees bend over to scoop ice and display several inches of hairy parts that I just do NOT want to see at that time of the morning. Or, ever. And the kid was wearing a belt.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Deep Thoughts by Dave
I had dinner out with my dad tonight. And afterward, as we thought about the rest of our evening plans, he said something which will stay with me for the rest of my life:

"If we don't have a first ice cream now, then we can't even think about a second ice cream later."
Three V's of Parenting
This afternoon, I took Emily over to her school, to meet her first-grade-teacher-to-be and see the classroom-to-be and generally not learn a whole lot new about the plans for the upcoming school year, which ohbytheway begins TOMORROW. Ready or not.

Her teacher, Mrs. L, seems like a nice enough woman, but she's not the sharpest cheese in the fridge. Apparently 20+ years of teaching first grade blunts one to the finer - or even blatant - aspects of adult conversation. That's fine, what I need is for her to educate my 6-year-old, not to entertain me over dinner.

While we were in the classroom, there was another little girl, Abby, who was also being introduced to all of the to-be's, and she was not the tiniest bit enthusiastic about any of it. She was there with mom and dad and grandma, and spent the time clinging to their respective legs and asking anxious questions. "But what if I have to go to the bathroom?" "But what if I'm the only kid who wears glasses?" "But what if I can't find my locker?" And no one bothered to answer any of her questions, because Mrs. L was too busy trying to soothe the anxieties and worries of mom and dad and grandma. Poor kid. Life doesn't go any gentler on you just because you're not prepared for it.

Another mom and I stood around and looked maternal for a while, and then she made a comment about, "Geez, that must be an uptight house at night." I very offhandedly replied, "Yeah. I bet they don't use my Three V's of Parenting nearly enough... Valium, vodka and Vicodin." She snorted Pepsi out her nose.

I wasn't intending to be quite that riotous, but I was happy to spread some mirth.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Attack of the Potty Monsters
Our house has had an invasion of potty monsters, complete with sticker chart and then a reward for Jacob making deposits in the proper receptacle... it's one of those activities which is just so Mommy and stereotypical and bizarre to me, how can I possibly be expected to help another human being regulate their own gastrointestinal activities? But we managed it once, so chances are we'll figure it out again this time.

And for the moment, when you perch on the Porcelain Throne in my house, you are faced with a battalion of potty monsters. Consider yourself forewarned.

Saturday, August 26, 2006
Surreality Check
Let's pretend you're my husband and it's Friday night.

You'll head to bed around midnight, and by the time your wife comes to bed you'll have been asleep for two hours. You'll be mildly irritated because she insists on turning on her bedside lamp and reading before she goes to sleep, even though you grunt and breathe accusingly every time she does it. The fact that YOU read every night before bed, and YOUR bedside lamp has a 400-watt light bulb, has no relevance to this situation.

After sighing and sleeping in a pointed and assertive manner, you'll notice that there's a lot of movement and twitching and blanket-shifting from the other side of the bed, so you'll roll over and deign to open one eye, prepared to snarl and grumble incoherently. Instead of peering directly into your wife's face, or maybe the side of her head, you'll find yourself glaring at her ankle.

"What are you DOING?" you'll mutter, although only your wife will know what you said. To the casual observer, you'd have said, "Whayadun?" She'll explain that there was a spider on the ceiling and she can't sleep knowing that it was planning to strategically drop eggs from the ceiling into her hair.

You'll say, "Am I the only person in this house who can kill an animal without standing on a chair?"

Then you'll go back to sleep, and your wife will try not to over-analyze that particular pearl of bizarreness.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
The Good
This past weekend was just so jumbled and emotional and intense that I can't figure out how to put it all into one post. So I'll borrow a cliche or three, and split it up.

The good part was, I was reunited with my kids, and spent the weekend in Niagara Falls with good friends and their kids. We all had a great time (and if they didn't enjoy themselves, they faked it well enough to convince me) and I really needed just an estrogen-soaked weekend. None of us drinks, so we didn't sip the margaritas that would have best matched the mood, but I did make a big old pan of Chewy Gooeys (and no I will NOT share the recipe) and we fueled estrogen with chocolate.

I did the traveling in my minivan, with Wendy and her son Daniel, and Emily and Jacob, and we all behaved ourselves in the car. That is, I told my kids long ago that their music simply won't play in my car, so we didn't listen to a single Wiggle or similarly cute character. The kids alternately ate things and stowed the remnants in odd places on their bodies and in my car, read books and threw them on the floor, and played with toys and threw them at each other. Toddler bliss.

We went to breakfast and talked. We went sightseeing and talked. We witnessed a shoplifter and talked. We stayed up late and talked. It was lovely.
The Bad
There was little bad news, and big bad news.

The little bad was, as we were driving toward my mother's house to pick up Emily, I was rolling along in a line of 30-mph traffic when I got penalized for not tailgating. A bozo travelling in the opposite direction turned left in front of me, the road was slick, my brakes locked... and, yeah. No one was hurt. Unless you consider me clenching my jaw and glaring real hard at the other driver.

He was driving a black pickup, and I'm happy to report that my soccer-mom-mobile won... if you look in the picture, you can see a black streak of something or other starting above the headlight spot and heading backward - that's actually a strip of black plastic that my minivan ripped out of the back bumper of the pickup. Take THAT, stupid in-a-hurry driver.

And he was ticketed, and he was insured. So it worked out okay... or, it should. We'll see.

The big bad news is that my father-in-law died on Sunday. He wasn't a good man, but he did the best he could with what he had, and I liked him. Willem had spent the prior week there with his mother and brother (and Jacob), and so his father died with his family near him, in his own home, as comfortable as he could be made given the circumstances.

I don't have anything deep or meaningful to say about his death, or death in general. It's part of life, it's hard on the people left behind, it's not glamorous or pleasant.

He'll be missed.
The Ugly
And where, one might ask, was my mother-in-law in all of this? Sitting by, quietly, grieving yet recognizing her questionable status given their imminent divorce, considering the needs and feelings of others during a difficult time?

Yeah, right. Have you EVER read this blog before?

She has been horrible. Truly. I've had to finally face the stark reality, which is that she's not just selfish, she's not just passive-aggressive, she's not just thoughtless or confused or midguided. She is actively trying to hurt me. And sometimes she succeeds.

Like on Saturday, when she insisted that I go to her house to pick up Jacob, rather than going to my father-in-law's house, where she and Willem and Jacob had been staying for the week. My father-in-law was still alive and conscious at this point, and I had hoped to say good-bye. But she couldn't fathom how my friend Wendy could possibly not make my father-in-law uncomfortable and awkward (I'm thinking, by not going in to talk to him, but apparently I'm just being silly and not considering his telepathic abilities coupled with a give-a-darn level which extends to social niceties while in the end stages of illness), and I didn't think it was worth a fight, so I didn't fight. So I didn't say good-bye. This isn't the end of the world for me, I'll cope and have closure anyway - my father-in-law and I occasionally argued, but we always settled it and came to an understanding, and I don't feel like there's anything left unsaid or otherwise worth regretting. But it's annoying.

And more so because my father-in-law fell into a coma on Saturday night and never woke up again, and he died Sunday afternoon.

The kids and I remained in Niagara Falls Sunday night because, logistically, it just didn't make sense to leave before then. We went to my father-in-law's house on Monday morning. And - get this - Wendy went, and behaved herself, didn't do or say anything audacious or upsetting. Go figure, me not having idiot friends. I doubt my mother-in-law noticed.

I did my best to just steer clear of my mother-in-law and brother-in-law Adam, for very different reasons. Adam has always been an enigma to me, quiet except when he talks and then he talks AT THE TOP OF HIS VOICE, shy except when he takes over the conversation, passive except when he's arguing or lecturing. My friend Jeff's gaydar goes off around Adam, and it's true that Adam is 28 and never had a girlfriend, but who knows? He certainly won't come out as long as his conservative homophobic outspoken parents hold any influence over his life - and death has nothing to do with influence. Anyway, he's always been somewhat erratic and impulsive, and though my in-laws have consistently treated him horribly (they assigned Willem the role as The Good Son and Adam got to be The Loser), he was devastated when my father-in-law got sick and more so when he died.

I have a theory that the more complicated your relationship is in life, the more difficult your grieving process will be after death. Adam - and, for that matter, Willem and his mother - had an extremely complicated relationship with his father. So now he is just flooded with emotions, and so fragile that it seems like a simple hug or sympathetic glance will shatter him.

And my mother-in-law... in an effort to give her the benefit of the doubt, she also had a very complicated relationship with my father-in-law and has a lot of emotions to work through. But you know what? She chose him. She chose to stay with him for many years of what she claims was mistreatment. Then she chose to stay with him for another decade in this weird quasi-separated state. Then she chose to go back and play around-the-clock nurse to him when he got sick even though no one asked her to and she was 2 weeks away from the completion of the divorce - which SHE initiated. At least Adam and Willem can comfort themselves with the knowledge that they didn't choose their parents.

So I gave her a wide berth on Monday because I was already feeling hurt by her actions on Saturday, and I really, really, really, really, REALLY did not want to start anything, or say anything, or hear anything, that would have bigger repercussions than it should have had, given that it was all less than 24 hours after my father-in-law died. I mostly succeeded. But the one time we were close enough to have a conversation, it went like this:
MIL: [Staring at a calendar] Wow. There's just so much to do.
ME: There is. But give yourself time and space, it'll all get done. Don't feel like you need to accomplish everything at once.
MIL: Yeah. I know. I have to plan the memorial get-together for October, I think Columbus Day.
ME: Okay. Be sure to let me know if I can help at all in the planning.
MIL: Oh. Are you planning on coming to it?
ME: [blank stare] Sure, of course. He was family.
MIL: Oh. Right. Well, I guess you can come, you can watch the kids. But Willem and Adam and I will spread the ashes.

First of all, of course that should be left to the immediate family and I would never consider asking to be involved. I demonstrated an iota or three of tact and sensibility at Willem's grandmother's memorial in 2004, I think I'm still carting around some of that awareness. Second of all, I don't want to handle anyone's ashes, thankyouverymuch. Just not for me. Third of all, and maybe this should have come first, bite me. Twice. No matter how hard you push, lady, I'm still a member of this family and just because you wish me away does not mean I'll disappear. I'll be attending family gatherings and paying my respects and continuing to live and breathe and exist, so there. Nyah.

So, she's just horrible. I don't know if I'm adequately conveying why her words hurt me... but I'm still tired from it all. Not to mention that I came home to work a 36-hour shift. So, just, yeah. It hurt.

I think my mother-in-law views grief like a bucket of marbles. A finite thing, with only so much to go around. She wants to be the sole person in charge of distributing those grief marbles. Which means she gets the vast majority, and she'll grudgingly give some to her sons so that she has someone to "share" this experience with. But no one else, LEAST of all me, gets to have any guilt. It's just not as REAL as her guilt.

She told Willem, "There's no love lost between Kate and H." Except that I actually did care for the guy. I don't dare say love, because to me that's a reciprocal emotion and I don't know what he felt for me. I think he did like me, and I know he respected me, and I think he was fond of me. That's good enough for a guy with more issues than your average newspaper.

So, no marbles for me.
The Sweet
At least one good, strong, pure memory has come from all of this.

I was in my group of friends, four moms and five kids. We had just looked at the Falls for a bit, and were walking up Clifton Hill to have lunch at the Rainforest Cafe, when Willem called to tell me about his dad.

My knee-jerk reaction was, "I'll be there as soon as I can." But that meant, not until after lunch when the kids were back in the hotel room - which made it almost 3:30 in the afternoon before I could even consider leaving, and then once you factor in the 90-minute drive plus a Customs stop, and it was very doubtful I could be back in time for bed, and I didn't want to bring the kids. So that didn't happen. But in the moment, I thought it would, and I'm a big believer in letting the kids know what the plan is for the immediate future, so moments later I knelt down to Emily's height to tell her that her Opa died.

She got sad, and asked a few of the standard and inevitable questions. We don't follow a religion, so we've had to come up with an alternative explanation for death. I borrowed a story from Billy Joel (who used this as the basis for his song "Goodnight My Angel," which now always makes me weep), and told her, "As soon as you love someone, a little piece of them comes into your heart, and a little piece of you goes into their heart. They stay as a piece of you, and you stay inside their heart, forever. No matter what. So you know where Opa is now? He's inside your heart. Forever."

That made sense to her. For the rest of the walk to lunch, she was quiet. And as she walked, she held a hand over her heart.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Something is Wrong in the World...
...when a 19-year-old calls the Emergency Services number and, after some time, states that she took an overdose of various drugs and is starting to drift off, and then hands the phone to her father, whose reaction to the news that his daughter may be in serious physical danger is, "What an [body part]."

I understand, kids are hard work and 19-year-olds fall into that category. But really? Namecalling as parenting?

Sometimes I have doubts that there actually is a limit to how badly we can treat the people we consider to be family.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Too tired even for a nutshell
But for the moment...

Niagara Falls was wonderful. Good friends and good conversation, the kids were well-behaved and it was all a lovely time. Which I really needed.

My father-in-law died yesterday. I'll miss him.

My mother-in-law is being a total nightmare. I mean really. Actually hurtful, not just annoying.

I'll have lots and lots more to say, soon. Just not yet. Tired, and my brain is too full.
Friday, August 18, 2006
"If You Catch It, You Can Keep It!"
A few weeks ago, we went up to Storyland for the weekend of Jacob's birthday. We brought along Emma, a friend of Emily's, so that they would play and sort of cancel each other out, leaving us able to focus a little more on Jacob. They played, they frolicked, it was a lovely time to be had by all.

Inevitably, Emma's parents act and speak differently than we do, and of course every family has its own set of rules by which it operates. And apparently Emma had never previously heard of our standing rule about wildlife: "If you catch it, you can keep it." (The codicil to this, by the way, is, "If you can catch it in your mouth, you can have two.")

So while we were at Storyland, the kids discovered the duck pond. And Emma tried so hard to enforce that rule. I even tried to help her get a little closer to the duck (I love that children giggle while yet wholeheartedly believing that you actually would toss them bodily into a duck pond). I'm happy she failed, only because a duck in the minivan for the two-hour drive home would have been unpleasant, I bet.

It's Good to Know...
...that even in a world full of craziness and uncertainty, even in a world where a man in Thailand confesses to the international media that he was there when JonBenet Ramsey was kills and therefore the whole world is content to call him guilty without the fuss and bother of due process or the court system, even in a world where I order French vanilla coffee because it's been a long week and I haven't been sleeping well and I get blueberry coffee though I like neither coffee nor blueberries, even then, my mother-in-law can find ways to be audacious and mercenary and selfish and irritating.

Such a relief.

This week's episode is, of course, wrapped up with my father-in-law's illness. First, she has been by his side nearly 24/7, complaining to everyone who will listen about how hard it is and how much she's doing, but refusing help and conveniently forgetting that no one, NO ONE, asked her to do it. The word "martyr" comes to mind, but I can't think why.

Then, the other day she and Willem were cleaning some stuff in my father-in-law's house (she and my father-in-law haven't lived together for 10 years or more, but she just this year filed for divorce) and she found some jewelry with a note attached reading, "If I die unexpectedly, please give this to So-and-So." Which got her panties in a tourniquet-quality twist because "*I* wanted that bracelet." She was all set for a good sulk, but Willem told her, "Dad is right downstairs, how about you just ASK for it?" She did.

Willem wasn't there for the ask/response bit, but later he asked how it went. And she said, "He said yes, I could have it." This is supposed to be a good thing, right? HAH. No. "But he hesitated before he said it." She's having a feminine sulk because the man didn't respond quickly enough to her request for a piece of jewelry that he didn't even want to give her. Really? And let's review... in the past month, he has had at least 2 TIA's and a heart attack, he is on 24/7 oxygen dependence, he is unable to count to five or tell time, and she is upset that he hesitated before replying? Lovely!

Then came my personal favorite. This one requires some backstory. When my mother-in-law filed for divorce, the general reaction fell along the lines of, "Huh? Why *now*?" This includes my father-in-law. They had lived apart in a sort of detente for over a decade, and so he was shocked and unprepared and dramatic when she announced her plans for an official actual divorce. She started the process, and then he had the insensitivity and audacity to - can you believe it - hire a lawyer on his own behalf. The horror. And the lawyer decided not to let my father-in-law just roll over and hand over anything and everything.

So, that brings us to this week. Earlier in the week, my mother-in-law was stalking around and angry about something or other, and made some comment to my father-in-law about, "Is this final?" and he said, "Yes." She huffed and puffed and avoided all semblance of confrontation like any good passive-aggressive diva. Then later that night she employed her favorite means of unpleasant communication, which is to get on the phone with her friend S and talk loudly and in the same room with others, so she's not *officially* telling anyone anything, but we all hear it anyway. The last instance was when I was there in July and she told S how, "No, she hasn't noticed my weight loss... I guess it's not as dramatic as I thought... or maybe she's just so self-centered and thoughtless that she's not saying anything." With the she being yours truly. [BOWS DEEPLY]

Anyway. This week's phone call to S but directed at Willem was along the lines of, "He changed the will so that now instead of 70%, I'm only getting 50%. Can you believe it? After all I've done for him? What a bastard."

Apparently, among other things, the lawyer encouraged my father-in-law to change his will. It had been set so that my mother-in-law would inherit 70% of his estate, with 15% to each Willem and his brother; then, when the divorce proceedings started, mother-in-law got knocked down to 50%. The gall of the man, can you imagine? Only giving his ex-wife half of everything once she legally and publicly announced that she did not want to be his wife anymore.

Ugh. It's just nasty and yucky, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Or maybe that's the blueberry coffee.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
You Are Here ... But She Is There and They Are Over There
So. Where are we?

First, a brief but sincere shout-out to my sisters, I am so glad they came out this weekend. We were just as New England Seacoast stereotypical as we could be, visiting three different beaches and putting TWELVE lobsters to death, along with four pounds of mussels and six pounds of steamers, over the course of two days. When lobster is cheaper than steak, that is a sign from the Grocery Store Gods that I have moved to the correct area of the country.

My mother came out with them, I'm also glad she came. And not just because she paid for everything. But because she kept it together and acted like a [frustrated, irritated, not-quite-angry] grown-up to my father's insistence on interfering with her vacation. My parents' divorce became final in January, and my father has lived in my house since last summer. My mother very carefully planned her visit for a Friday-through-Monday, which would have precisely avoided my father's normal Tuesday-through-Thursday weekend. He is a truck driver, out on the road Thursday-through-Tuesday every week. Except for last week. He claimed illness Thursday, so he decided to stay home until Friday morning. Then, since my mother and sisters were due out on Saturday, he decided to take another day to be able to visit with the girls... even though my mother came with the package and explicitly did not want to spend time with her ex-husband on her vacation. I hope that he enjoyed his time with the girls, really I do, because otherwise he unnecessarily added stress to a perfectly nice weekend.

Anyway. That was the weekend. Monday morning at about 10:00, my mother and sisters returned to New York, with Emily. Who, at 6, is apparently ready for the weeks-at-Grandma's-house that my childhood summers were characterized by. (I'm learning now that this is not all that common an experience. Willem never spent a week away from his parents with any relatives, until he was an adult. One more bit of proof in my raised-by-wolves theory.)

At 10:05, my mother-in-law called, quite hysterical and uncontrolled and generally unlike herself (passive-aggressive and loss of control don't mix well for her, apparently), to report that my father-in-law had taken yet another turn for the worse, and she actually - wait for it - called to state a preference. She asked Willem to come out to help her for the week, and possibly say good-bye to his father. This is not a family which has ever been close or supportive, and I am just too cynical and snarky to believe that a deathbed reunion will suddenly fix decades-in-the-making problems, but the point was, she asked, so Willem went.

But he had a summer class to teach, a child still at home to worry about, and about 4,000 household details to attend to before leaving, so he couldn't just hop in the car and leave. Instead he wrapped up and delegated his class (which, for Willem, is a major accomplishment - delegation is akin to root canal without anesthesia), did laundry and packed, and decided to take Jacob with him because I still have to work. I chose not to go because I can't come up with one single way in which my presence would make things easier or better for either of my in-laws. They have spent a lifetime dealing with crisis in a certain way, and there is no reason for me to try to bring honesty or my version of healthy coping into their lives now. ANd because I have to work.

So Willem and Jacob left yesterday morning, and I was woeful and self-pitying yesterday. Not out of plain old missing them - that I can cope with - but out of a sense of being totally unprepared and un-in-charge of the situation. I've had some time to process, mainly by way of knitting and watching TV centered around Bad People Doing Mean Things. Don't knock it till you've tried it, man.

I spoke with them all on the phone last night. Emily is near Binghamton, NY, and her account of her day at my mother's was just SO SIX:
Em: Hi Mom! I am having SO. MUCH. FUN!
Me: Good to know! What did you do today?
Em: I don't know! But it was fun!
Me: Wow. How about one thing you did?
Em: Um. Hmm. Well. I ate broccoli at dinner! And... [dramatic pause here] I LIKED it!
Me: Fantastic. I like broccoli, too.
Em: Yeah. Okay, good night, Mom! Love you! [click]

Jacob got his moment on the phone, too. He is SO TWO:
J: Hi, Mama. Love Mama. Bwaah. (which is, to the uninitiated, a kiss)
Me: Hi, Jacob! Are you having fun at Opa's house?
J: Yeah! Bwaah. [coaching from Willem in background] Nigh-night, Mama! Don't bite the bedbugs!
Me: Good night, Jacob. You don't bite the bedbugs, too.

Then Willem and I chatted, and it was awkward, because I feel guilty that I'm working and can't be out there, and because I don't believe that his mother is as blameless and martyrworthy as she presents herself. And he feels guilty because I'm working and can't be out there, and because he's trying to be optimistic about his mother in the face of my not-quite-scorn.

And now I'm at work, benefitting from the fact that Judi doesn't think I'm capable of getting my own water from the cooler by myself, because she has been running around like crazy all morning and I have been reading blogs.

Which reminds me, I really want to learn how to create topic-relevant archived links, so that I don't have that long list of my favorites over there on the right, so that I can start a list of other blogs I read without having sidebar insanity. If anyone out there can make me smarter about this, I would be ever so grateful. I know I could figure out a way to hack around and make it happen, but it wouldn't be pretty and it wouldn't be graceful.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Things I Don't Care About
I don't care about whether we can bill for two separate Emergency Services Crisis Assessments in one day. I don't care about whether we need copies of every lab drawn at the hospital, or only even-numbered ones, or only certain ones for certain people. I don't care that by bringing back copies of all of them, I am creating an extra two pieces of paper in the shredder bin in a day.

I don't care that my father-in-law wants to give away his earthly possessions before he dies. That is, I support his choices, but I don't want anything from his house and don't want to fight with my mother-in-law over the inevitable process in which I, under duress, randomly pick something, only to have her decide that I have chosen the one item that was her most favorite in the history of items. I don't care that she's worried that she's making the wrong health decisions; she's not a doctor. I don't care that my husband doesn't care about my father-in-law's earthly possessions.

I don't care that my poor high-mileage-and-full-of-crap Saturn is still sitting on the front lawn, albeit to the side, waiting for me to get my act together, clean it out, and either donate it or slap a "For Sale" sign on it. I don't care that when my father is home, we have four private vehicles and the cab of a semi parked at random intervals in front of my house. I don't care that it actually kind of looks like a little piece of West Virginia (or - if you're from West Virginia and easily bruised, Alabama) in New Hampshire, with the number of vehicles out there. I even had a couch out there over the weekend - I didn't care about that, either.

I don't care that my parents make each other so unhappy, in such clueless and thoughtless ways. I don't care that Willem's parents make each other unhappy. I can't make them treat each other better, so I care more about how they all treat my brood. Including me.

I don't care that my decision to breastfeed for more than a year each time is "gross" to one friend and "weird" to another. I don't care that my decision not to let my kids cry it out at night makes their (former) pediatrician look at me as though I have burst into diarrhea on his exam room floor. I don't care that my father believes that two-year-olds shouldn't whine.

Ready for this one? It's a big bad one. I don't care about the situation in Israel. I don't care about tsunamis in the Pacific. I don't care about the health and welfare of the President. Of anything. I am not unaware or ignorant about these things, and I have strong opinions, but in my world, caring implies imputing enough emotion to a topic to feel a personal stake in the outcome. I can be knowledgeable about something without caring about it.

Lest one assume that my give-a-damn level has completely evaporated, I do have things I care about. Plenty of them. I just try to pick my cares based on my own life, not based on someone else's priorities. And having a week alone, I am faced with lots of decisions about how to spend my time and caring and energy.

Week alone? Oh, right, I haven't updated in a few days. I'll do a separate, less soapboxy post for that. Because that's stuff that I - mostly - DO care about.
Monday, August 14, 2006
The Wheels on the Jeep go Guilt, Guilt, Guilt...
We got a call from my mother-in-law this morning. My father-in-law has apparently taken a turn for the worse and she wants Willem out there right this second.

Well... sure... but we live 8 hours away. And Willem is teaching a summer course, so that needs to be finished up, and he has a family here that needs to be cared for, and the various other details of life, so he can't just pack up and leave on ten minutes' notice. No matter how horrible that makes us.

Or - to be precise - me. It makes ME horrible. Because clearly Willem would never made a single decision that his mother doesn't like, so it must be my fault.

So, the plan is, Willem and Jacob are leaving first thing tomorrow morning, to head west. Jacob would ordinarily stay home with me, or I'd travel with them, except for this pesky JOB thing I have now. Ugh. Nothing worse than trying to be a responsible employee. I've been juggling all sorts of alternatives, how can we keep Jacob happy and cared for in the midst of craziness, and the best one I can come up with is to have him go with Willem, along with a list of phone numbers of people who can take Jacob for a few hours if things get REALLY bad.

They'll drive out, and then either Jacob can continue to Rochester with Willem or the ycan meet my mom part-way and Jacob can go with her. I asked my mother-in-law if she had a preference, and she was quick to (*gasp*) state a preference: "I think Jacob should see his grandfather one last time." Okay, a tad melodramatic, but at least she was stating a preference.

Then: "Where is Emily? Will she be coming out, too?" I explained that, no, she's at my mother's for the week and I don't think it's appropriate or necessary to interrupt her vacation to visit a sick grandfather. "WELL. Fine. You're the mother, it's your call. But if he dies and never gets to see her again......" [ominous trailing off here] ...what? If that, then what? Then her last memory of her grandfather will be of him coloring with her rather than of him breathing with an oxygen tank and barely able to speak? Oh, the horror.

Lest I sound totally insensitive, I do plan on taking her out for a short visit this weekend, on our way to Niagara Falls. But otherwise - no. She's six. That's an age that deserves some protection from the unpleasant realities of life, in my view. I wouldn't even be sending Jacob, if I had a choice, but I know that Willem will protect him from any really awkward situations (a death itself wouldn't be horrible for him to be around, but it would be very upsetting for him to see Dada and Grandma upset, too).

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

I don't NEED a guilt trip to make this harder. It's hard enough already.

I've already gone around and around in my head about whether I should pack up and go, too. My end-answer is no. Because there's nothing I can do to HELP my father-in-law, and my presence (or, for that matter, Willem's or the kids' or anyone else's) could be more stressful than supportive at this point - my father-in-law has been very explicit about not needing us out there, not wanting company, and so on. If I felt like there was something I could do, then screw the job, family's more important. Argh.

This being-a-grownup thing is just a lot more work than I was looking for.
Friday, August 11, 2006
The Unbearable Weight of Perfection (Or, "No, I Didn't. I'm sorry.")
My job involves a certain amount of client interaction and actual therapeutic skill. It requires a lot more paperwork, telephone contact with insurance companies and hospital admissions offices and so on. Lots and lots... and lots... of room for errors, large and small.

I've been there two months. Clearly I have not yet begun to scratch the surface in the enormous iceberg of potential mistakes that I can make. Know how I know? Because I work with Judi. Judi has worked at this agency for 400 years, and at this particular position for at least 250. She knows everything. She knows everyone. She knows what the right thing to do is in every obscure bizarre one-of-a-kind circumstance, whether it has already happened or whether it is a mere possibility in the endless universe.

And she never, ever makes a mistake. Nor will she. Ever.

The downside is, she's actually a really nice woman. Downside, you ask? Yeah. If she was just nasty and cranky and curmudgeonly (and I'll get to Jack some other time), it would be easier to shrug her off or despise her with impunity. But the thing is, when she's not pointing out the millions of tiny ways in which I could have done something better, we have pleasant chats and I enjoy her company. It's just so hard to be faced with such insurmountable perfection on a daily basis.

Now I know how Willem must feel, living with me. Ha.

I have learned, though. I've learned that when Judi starts a sentence with, "Well, did you...?" the correct response on my part is NOT to try to explain why I did what I did. The correct response is a properly humble, "No, I didn't. I'm sorry."

"Well, did you sign on both pages, with a date on the first page but not on the second?"
"No, I didn't. I'm sorry."

"Well, did you make a copy of the secret third insurnace card that they didn't tell you they even had?"
"No, I didn't. I'm sorry."

"Well, did you clairvoyantly know that a nurse was going to spill her coffee on this intake form and you were going to need to make an extra copy of it before she spilled?"
"No. I didn't. I'm sorry."
Thursday, August 10, 2006
I Heart the Internet
So, today, I got a free pull-out couch. It's not a sexy, perfect-condition item, but it was FREE and it's sturdy and it's not ugly nor offensively stained. I got it from, and let me just offer both a shout-out and a good firm pinch to Kim for getting me hooked on that. One more site to visit at work to risk the wrath of Rick.

And I just joined a blogroll,, because I'm really, really bad at simply surfing the web. I know people can do it, and do it well, and even like it. But me, I click on three different sites and then I pull a blank and I get bored and I log off. Here's another way to let me wander into cyberspace in between calls at work. Can you hear Rick simply brimming over with bliss?

And while we're at it, this past January I started watching Grey's Anatomy, which has become my mental floss. (I also heart DVR.) And the Grey's website has a writers' blog that kept me entertained for hours on Wednesday. Hours. HOURS, Rick!
Better is Relative... Relative is Better.
As far as I know, my father-in-law's condition has improved from "the sky is falling, the sky is falling!" to "newsflash." Still bad enough to warrant several phone calls a day, but not bad enough that I'm writing from the road. We're planning to head out that general direction next weekend, I was planning a weekend away with the kids to meet some friends in Niagara Falls (not in a "hey, baby, what's YOUR name" sort of way, mind you - just a get-together so that I can put some faces with some names) and now Willem will be riding out with me to spend the weekend with his parents.

Lucky dog.
Push! Push! Puuuuuuuusssshhhhhhhh!
No, I wasn't coaching my two-year-old son in Lamaze and natural childbirth this evening. I was trying, desperately and wildly unsuccessfully, to convince him that there is more to do on a tricycle than sit and look cute. He was happy to wear his helmet and pads, happy to sit properly, happy to watch for cars... and completely unresponsive to any and all of my efforts to explain the role that his feet can play in forward motion, bikewise.

But the evening was not a loss. For one thing, we wandered around the corner and discovered a lovely old-fashioned Norman Rockwellian gaggle of children riding their bikes and giggling and being all cute and summerlike. I didn't realize that kids these days actually could go out and play without an accompanying new story which ends with, "...and she was only two blocks from her home at the time." Emily was instantly best friends with the other two girls in the flock, and after chatting with the mother-in-charge for a while I decided I was comfortable enough to let her stay outside and play without me watching while the strangers came and abducted her and sold her on the black market. Or when she pedals her bike under the nearest speeding 16-wheeler. Or when she starts telling embarrassing stories about her mom. Or whatever horrible thing is supposed to have happened.

Because none of that happened. Instead she went and had fun and ate popsicles, and in the evening there was a lemminglike progression of children and moms through the neighborhood, dropping the right number of children off at respective homes until the census balanced. I even got the right kid at my house.

And while she played, Jacob and I inched back home. I was able to catch a wave on the nearest tectonic plate, so it only took 3 million years to make it two blocks. He's got the lightbulb over his head, I know he understands bicycles (which, in Jacob's world, contains every vehicle from his three-wheeled plastic contraption to the biggest, meanest Harley ever to grace New "Live Free or Die on a Motorcycle Because Helmets Are Optional" Hampshire) as a mode of transportation. That little lightbulb just isn't *on* quite yet.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Further Proof of my Inherent Awfulness
Okay, here's my deep thought for the day.

How come it is that as soon as someone gets sick or dies, everyone assumes that they are/were a good person?

I like my father-in-law. I care for him. But he is not, and has never been, a good-hearted individual. He doesn't show concern for the feelings or circumstances of others, unless it is in his whim to do so. But if it is inconvenient or just not in the right mood for him, he won't do good, caring things for others, even if the overall benefit would far outweigh any inconvenience or irritation in the moment. He does not do charitable acts. He views simple human kindness as suspect. He has said horrible, cutting things to family members which will continue to sting for the rest of their lives - on purpose to hurt them, not in the heat of the moment. And he meant them.

So why is it that my mother-in-law, and everyone else who knows about his illness, is insisting that "He's a good man who doesn't deserve to suffer"?? One hundred percent, absolutely, completely, I agree that he doesn't deserve to suffer. No one does. But he's not a good man. I don't think he's a BAD man - he's not a child abuser or a serial killer or a president - but he is not a GOOD man either. Somewhere in the middle.


And of course I can't say this out loud anywhere, because that makes me look like a total beast. So I'll just whisper it quietly onto my lonely little blog that is hidden out in cyberspace... 50 hits a day, that's still secret, right?

But really, isn't it better, more validating, more caring, to acknowledge someone for who they are rather than who you want them to be? If I were to pretend that my father-in-law was a gruff curmudgeon with a heart of gold, that wouldn't be true to who he is. Which is, a conflicted, complicated man who was often hurt by life and often chose to hurt others in return. He was generous when it suited him to be so, and I believe he did the best he could with what he was given.

I hope that I'm a good person. I try to be. But I also hope that at my funeral, people are able to laugh at my idiosyncrasies and recognize my humanity. Perfection is just too intimidating to me.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Despite All My Snarking...
... I really do like and care for my father-in-law. Push comes to shove, I even care about my mother-in-law, though I won't insult anyone by lying and pretending that I like her. But they're the family of my husband, and HE cares, so I care. Simple.

And I do like my father-in-law. He has a tendency toward outrageousness and a total lack of social propriety, but he's so in-your-face and yet out-there that I have to respect his outlandishness. He's one of those people where, you know every emotion he is having while he is having it, and even if he hates you one minute he might love you the next - and either way, he lets you know right where you stand. He's a conflicted guy, lots going on internally. I don't want to be like him, but I appreciate who he is.

So, I'm worried and sad and scared for him right now. His health has not been good since I've known him. Apparently - who knew? - drinking a 6-pack or more a day and smoking at least two packs of cigarettes is bad for your health. I mean, he's only been doig it for 40 years, but you really can't expect him to know better... he's only a medical doctor... whoops.

So he should have known better. And he did. And yet he did the bad stuff anyway. I'll always wonder whether he was intentionally hurting himself without actively hurting himself.

Anyway. He has just very recently gone from being in-poor-health-but-that's-just-him to being in crisis. We're literally sleeping with the phone next to the bed now. Apparently, about a week ago, my brother-in-law stopped by to check in, as he is wont to do, and discovered my father-in-law still in bed at 11:00 a.m. Which is completely unheard of - the man typically goes to bed around 6:00 in the evening and is awake at hours which I only ever saw from staying out too late partying in college. And the news didn't get better. Adam did his best to keep it all secret, per father-in-law's request, but after a week and a half the strain was just getting too much, and he told my mother-in-law. Who badgered and bossed and got him in to see a doctor.

Turns out, my father-in-law has apparently had a "minor" heart attack, one or more TIA's (like a small stroke, only not cuter), progressive oxygen deprivation and lung shut-down, and a thyroid disorder. In theory, his digestive system is still working okay, but he's not eating so we can't even be sure about that. He's already lived at least 10 days like this, so we're hoping that he can hang in there util next weekend, when the kids and I were planning on driving out that way anyway - a single trip in a single vehicle would just be a better idea all around - but we're making contingency plans, and worrying.

It's just sad in a lot of ways. Sad that he created a life for himself in which he is secretive even about life-and-death issues. Sad that my mother-in-law is in such a complicated situation, with a man she is in the process of divorcing who is allowing her to step in and make serious health care decisions for him. Sad that she brought her situation upon herself and can't own that. Sad that my brother-in-law has fluctuated between being such a troubled, black-sheep, demonized member of the family to being the sole keeper of my father-in-law's health secrets, which would be a heavy burden for anyone but especially hard for someone not used to that level of responsibility. Sad that my husband is way out here 500 miles away, trying to decide how he feels and what he should do and what he will do.

And sad that we have to figure out a way to tell our kids that Opa is very sick and might not get better.
Monday, August 07, 2006
I Have Been Rendered Obsolete
Tonight, the kids took a bath together - as usual. But this time they were in there for a good hour or more, and I didn't have to wander in and glare menacingly once. Then Emily helped Jacob get out of the tub and climb onto his potty seat, and she cheered in a very Mommy-like manner while he created output.

Then she cleaned up the bathroom, sent him to me ("Go tell Mama what you did!" in the precise tone and cadence that I have him go tell Daddy), and then politely requested dessert, after reading two books on the couch. She'd have gotten their dessert on her own if she could reach the freezer.

Right now she's reading him a bedtime story. I am apparently useless. But neither one of them can reach his CD player, so I'll be useful sometime soon... however briefly.

Nights like this make up for the days when I would swear that someone has snuck sextuplets into my house when I wasn't looking.
The Apprentice Becomes the Master
When we were in Rochester last month, my mother-in-law, in between tantrums and nasty looks, said, "Maybe later this summer, Emily could spend a couple of days with me. If you could drive her out here, I could drive her all the way home, save you a second trip." I am certain this happened. I was there. And I haven't had auditory hallucinations since ... well, ever, actually.

Then, last week, I gave in and called her to make actual plans for this hypothetical trip. Now, "plans" is a bad word to my mother-in-law. On par with "homosexual" and "Hillary Clinton." Her very favorite phrase is, "We'll play it by ear," and now that I have come to recognize my own need to have some vague idea of what we want to have happen when we travel or have holidays, I realize that she has stumbled upon a true gold mine as far as driving me crazy is concerned. I swear, she says, "We'll play it by ear," and I HEAR, "Go ram a knitting needle in your ear."

I've learned not to hold sharp objects while on the phone with her.

Anyway. I called her, and she said, "Yes, I still want Emily to come out. But I'm having all of these legal issues and so I really need to be home every day to check the mail. I just don't feel comfortable being away from home right now." Which is just stupid. First of all, she's not having legal issues like Martha Stewart or Ted Bundy had legal issues - she is pursuing a divorce and it is endless and long and annoying and decidedly NOT A NEW SITUATION. She's just shocked right now that my father-in-law had the audacity to hire himself a lawyer and is therefore preventing himself from being absolutely eviscerated in the process. Weird, huh? Wouldn't you assume that asking for a divorce after 30 years would result in cooperation, sunshine and cheer? And second of all, last I heard they weren't delivering mail on Sundays. She could leave on a Friday, hold Saturday's mail, and return on Sunday and still *gasp* not miss anything. And third of all - SHE is the one who suggested this. *I* would not randomly decide to subject my daughter to my mother-in-law without me.

I spent the week sort of waffling and wondering, do I insist on her keeping her original bargain, or do I let her mess with plans once again, or do I hand the whole slimy pile over to Willem and let HIM sort it out?

I went with option C.

So, I got to listen to Willem's half of a phone conversation with his mother today. Which was primarily characterized by statements such as, "But you said the other day that..." and "Let me go over this again." Apparently now she is insisting that (a) she never said that she would come all the way out here to bring Emily home, and (b) she never said she had to stay home because she needed to get the mail, she just doesn't like all that driving.

[insert random muttering here]

But - by the end of the conversation, Willem got to whip out a lovely zinger on her, all the more effective because it is borrowed directly from her own Arsenal of Passive-Aggressive Comments: "Well, if you're too busy to have her, then Emily can just wait and try to come visit you next year. She'll have a week with Kate's mom, that'll be fine."

BAM! BOOM! ZAP! KER-POW! Guilt *and* competition with the other Grandma, in one fell swoop!

The man learned from the best.

Emily will be going to my mother-in-law's in two weeks, and my mother-in-law will be driving her all the way home.

Funny how victory doesn't taste so sweet when it involves sending my firstborn to the Den of Annoyance for a week.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Why I Love My Husband
I got this email from Willem... I just can't keep it to myself.

Read this article. You know, if Rick isn't watching over your shoulder. It's not inapropriate for work.

Readers of a US parenting magazine are crying foul over the publication's latest cover depicting a woman breastfeeding, with some calling the photo offensive and disgusting.
Really? Offensive AND disgusting? Maybe you all need to look those words up again. Racism is offensive. Maggots are disgusting. A breastfeeding baby gazing up into its mother's eyes is neither.

"I was SHOCKED to see a giant breast on the cover of your magazine," one woman from Kansas wrote in reaction to the picture in Babytalk, a free magazine that caters to young mothers. "I was offended and it made my husband very uncomfortable when I left the magazine on the coffee table."
Look again. The breast is not giant. It's taking up about 15% of the cover. The baby's enormous head is the focus of the shot. And, if you really were so SHOCKED, then why did you leave it on your coffee table? Where was the logic in that decision? Gee, I'm really offended by this, I guess I'll share it with the rest of the family. Oh, and by the way, your husband wasn't uncomfortable. Guys love boobs. In fact, if they really want guys to read those parenting magazines, they would add a centerfold. The only thing he was uncomfortable about was you being offended about it. He would have much prefered that you said, "wow honey, look at the boob - do you think we should get more pictures of boobs in the house?"

Several readers said they were "embarrassed" or "offended" by the Babytalk photo and one woman from Nevada said she "immediately turned the magazine face down" when she saw the photo.

"Gross, I am sick of seeing a baby attached to a boob," the mother of a four-month-old said.

Again, vomit is gross. Pus is gross. Dog bombs are gross. Babies are not gross. And, you're currently the mother of a small baby?! Even if you aren't choosing to breastfeed whatever you spawned into this world, how can you possibly be offended by something that is fundamental in nature? And embarrassed? Why? What are you hiding? Seriously, it may be time to put your kid up for adoption and get your tubes tied because you clearly have been in the desert too long and need to remove yourself from the genepool.

Another reader said she was "horrified" when she received the magazine and hoped that her husband hadn't laid eyes on it.

"I had to rip off the cover since I didn't want it laying around the house," she said.

Horrified? Try watching the news sometime. Or do a search online for "pictures of dead people". That's horrifying. Or how about that woman who has killed in the Boston tunnel a few weeks ago? To think that you could be killed so quickly and suddenly because of shoddy workmanship, in America - that's horrifying. And why are you worried about your husband seeing it? What would he do? Run away? Jerk-off to it? Either way, you should be examining the current health of your marriage. Ripping off the cover is a good solution, too. Way to go on that one. What were you planning on saying to your husband when he asked,"hey honey, how come this magazine doesn't have a cover?" Were you going to lie?

Unbelievable. People are so stupid. Instead of working to solve problems, we're spending our time writing letters to a FREE magazine - yes that's right, we're not even paying to be offended - to complain about a photo that isn't any more offensive than any of the celebrity pictures on the magazines in every supermarket register in America and beyond.

Okay, I'm done now. Enjoy the rest of your day.

The Incompetence Magnet
Or maybe it's a beacon. I haven't decided yet, whether incompetent employees are unwillingly drawn to me like I'm broadcasting some sort of reverse-invisible-fencing or whether a sign that I can't see is suspended above my head so that they can seek me out. Or maybe everyone is subpar and I'm just now becoming aware of it. Somehow that last option scares me the most.

Anyway. Two stellar examples of customer service today.

First was at the Home Depot ("You can do it. We just don't think you can do it on your own."), where I took the kids for their monthly free craft thingy. Which, right there, three of my favorite words. Free. Craft. Thingy. Hooray!

So, I showed up with the kids, not with Willem. Which apparently was the equivalent to painting a big "HELPLESS LITTLE LADY" sign on my forehead. Because this almost-elderly male employee came trotting right over to where we were set up, and insisted, despite my immediate and unambiguous "No" to his "Do you need help?" The project for this month was a pencil box, so it required 4 cute little nails and some precise alignment. Clearly, this was a task well beyond any single mom, even if she's not actually single. This gentleman's version of helping involved, at one point, taking the hammer out of my hand to start the project, and at another, insisting on holding the box still while I tried to hammer... that is, exactly the type of assistance that I provide for my kids, only they're, you know, KIDS. I finally got frustrated with him, took the hammer and the box back, and pointed at Emily's little Home Depot apron, which has a pin on it for each project she's done at their free craft thingies. "See her apron?" I asked. "She has 19 pins on it. That means I've done 19 other crafts with pretty good results. I really, really don't need help right now." He got all huffy at me, offended that I wouldn't be helpless or pathetic.

Because, as we all know, "capable" actually is Sanskrit for "bitch," right?

But wait, there's more!

Because I had promised the kids that I would take them to one of the local pools, which is actually two pools - a regular 3-7 foot one and another one which goes from zero inches deep to about 3 feet. We tried to go there right from Home Depot, but couldn't because it wasn't open yet. No hours posted anywhere that I could see them, just not open. Fantastic.

So, we went home for lunch, my offspring napped, and then we headed back over. And this time the pool was open... but it wasn't. That is, the big pool was open, but the kiddy pool had a single cone at the entrance side, with a sign that said "Closed for Maintenance." I asked the lifeguard - who was surprisingly frumpy and appeared even more so because her bathing suit was too big - whether the smaller pool would open at all, and she said, "Oh, not today. It doesn't need maintenance, we just don't have enough lifeguards."


There went my plan of letting Jacob paddle around while I sat on the side and read some light and un-intellectually-improving novel. But, fine, we all have to make sacrifices, so I got in the big pool with Jacob and we enjoyed it. For all of 15 minutes. At which time the same Frumpy Lifeguard blew her cute little whistle and announced, "Lifeguard switch, everyone out of the pool." Huh? You can't trade places while we swim? Okay. Fine. I cannot imagine that the town allows the 16-year-old Frumpy Lifeguard to make the rules, so I'm not going to get on her case for following them. Yet.

We all got out, and instead of the lifeguards trading places, they all headed toward the office. I caught up with Frumpy and asked her, "How long will this take?" She told me it would be a half an hour.

A half hour?!? To switch lifeguards?!?!?

Really. Wonderful.

I asked her, "Was this scheduled?" She gave me a really, really good impression of a Kewpie doll's blank stare. I elaborated. "The lifeguard switch. Does it always happen at the same time? And always take a half an hour?"

The light dawned. "Ohhhhhhh," she said, "No, I didn't say lifeguard SWITCH, I said we had to take a BREAK." [Let the record show that I did NOT, at this moment, throw a tantrum because she did SO say "switch."] "But, yeah, it's always at 3:00."

It was at this point that I sensed that I was about to start bleeding out the ears. "Do you think, maybe, then, it might make more sense for you to POST THAT INFORMATION somewhere? So that I don't get into the pool with my kids only to have to get out 15 minutes later? Maybe?"

And her response? Her bratty, arrogant, incompetent, only-from-a-16-year-old response?? "Well, it's been that way for YEARS, how come you didn't know it already?" Oh, you little snot. I didn't know it already because, unlike you, I have actually lived other places in the world, and I hold a certain expectation of professionalism for employees of establishments I frequent. Not necessarily HIGH expectations, but expectations nonetheless.

I did manage to leave without flicking her, locker-room-style, with my towel. Or throwing a child at her.
Now, I'm exercising great, great restraint right now. Serious self-censorship. Because while I want nothing more than to vent righteously about an interaction that I had with Rick, the IT guru at my work, I also don't dare because I'm frankly not interested in losing my job because I posted about it all. So, I'll write about what DIDN'T happen on Friday.

My computer WASN'T working right, because it DIDN'T have the right video driver installed. So I COULDN'T fix it myself, not being an administrator account. I sent in a work order to have it fixed, and I DIDN'T get a reply or a warning before my computer magically began operating itself. I DIDN'T assume that it was my work order being processed, because I am gol-durned certain that my work order did NOT include a request to change the wallpaper on my desktop from plain blue to a pretty picture of ocean waves or to rearrange all of my icons. So I tried to use the mouse to open Notepad or Word to ask, "What's going on?" and that DIDN'T make the tech on the other end happy.

I got a nasty email, suggesting that I NOT play "mouse wars" (oh, the marketing possibilities) when I was the one who had asked for help in the first place. I replied as calmly and professionally as I was able to - that is, I DIDN'T list off the ways in which the situation could have been improved. To which I got a nasty email in reply, careful to remind me that my "Favorites" list had been checked and I was clearly using work resources for personal use and that WASN'T allowed. And that my supervisor HADN'T been informed, BUT....

I just love being threatened by a "but." Especially since my supervisor already knew, since I'd been copying her on the emails and had spoken to her about it.

Long story short, Rick was less and less warm and fuzzy as the day wore on, and my supervisor finally stepped in and squelched it. For which I'm grateful - I had made the decision not to reply anymore, but how can you not-reply without telling them that you're not-replying, which is in itself a reply? Oh, the conundrums. (Conundra?)

I would so love to simply post the email thread here, in full. But, for one thing, it's way too long. I mean, really. I know I use a lot of words, but get this - *I* was actually the taciturn one in this particular exchange. And for another, if I do, I think that would cross the line from vague references to gloating unprofessionally. But at least, with a name like Rick (which, incidentally, is not his name. But the joke still works with "Rick," so we'll just stay there, okee-dokee?), he has opened himself to a lovely and catchy nickname.

And, the supreme irony? Once, long, long ago, in a previous life, I actually WAS an IT guru. At IBM, no less. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
So far I've been pretty good about avoiding using my full name or similar on this blog... I'm not sure why. But to stay in that vein, I'm not using my last name here, even though it's pertinent to this post. Let's say that it's Mallinger, that's close enough to get the point across. Because it was amusing. To me.

Last night Willem was holed up in our bedroom to plan his class and do whatever other mysterious teacherlike things he has to do, because it's the only air-conditioned room in the house. (Yes. I do, as a matter of fact, experience Mommy-guilt because I have an A/C unit in my bedroom and my children do not. But so far I've been able to cope.) He's using a laptop on loan from the college, and it's got all sorts of fancy unnecessary gadgetry, like fingerprint recognition and voice recognition and handwriting recognition... I'm frankly surprised it doesn't greet me by name when I enter the room.

So at some point he was playing with the handwriting recognition feature, seeing how close to accurate it came. With his signature, pretty close. So I tried mine... not so close. Instead of Kate B. Mallinger, it told me that I had written "Rationally."

There's just something so Rorschachian about writing my name and having it come back with the word "Rationally." Because that's just about as far from how I've actually felt, lately, as one could possibly get. The only way it could have been less accurate is if it had come back with "Thin and Sexy" or maybe "Unreasonably Rich."
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Big Eyes and Perpetual Smiles
Jacob just turned two on Saturday. And such a good little two he is. If you ask him, "How old are you," he replies, firmly, "No."

But he's really a very sweet little soul, and I can't imagine my life without him. Last night he was wandering around the living room greeting everything that he could imbue with a personality (me, Emily, the cat, the couch, his blocks, and so on) with, "Hi, cutie!"

We went up to Storyland for the weekend, it was my nod to birthdayhood without throwing a party for him. We just don't know enough kids his age - I can think of three that might have come, but two of them would have had to drive over an hour, and most likely that means their parents would have had to bring them because most 2-year-olds can't drive more than 45 minutes without getting tired or lost.

So we rented a hotel room and went away for the weekend. Which is apparently unheard of and offensive to my mother-in-law, who left four messages on the answering machine within a 24-hour span, all increasingly whiny and entitled. Starting well enough, with "Hi, it's me, I wanted to wish Jacob a happy birthday..." to "Well, for all I know, you're all lying dead on the side of the road and nobody bothered to contact me..." Seriously, the woman must be psychic, to know that if I was dead on the side of the road she wouldn't be the first person I would contact. I recognize that we are morally and spiritually and guilt-ally obligated to inform her of our every move, so that she can forget about it all and ignore the parts she doesn't like anyway, and so by daring to go away for the weekend without notifying her we were offending her down to her bitter, angry core. How dare we.

She also sent a birthday package to Jacob, addressed to Emily. Just thought I'd put that out there. And people wonder why I think she favors Emily.

Anyway - that's a side note and didn't actually impact the weekend, since she doesn't have my cell phone number and we didn't get the messages until we got home.

We were able to wrangle Emma, a friend of Emily's, for the weekend, so we ended up with two 6-year-olds and a 2-year-old in the minivan, and once there we met up with Jenny, who has a 4-year-old and a 16-month-old. Lots of children. Looooooots of children. But they were, in all honesty, all wonderful. There was never a moment when I had to step in and bang two small heads together, and that whole industrial-sized jar of pediatric Valium that I packed just took up space, it never got used.

The whole crew of short people falls right into the ideal age range for Storyland, old enough to not be freaked out by the rides and big-eyed smiley characters but not so old as to be worldy and jaded and whiny about it. Emily and Emma are both fairly intense, strong-willed kids, but instead of sparking off each other they seem to understand where each other was coming from - in other words, they seemed like actual friends, not just comrades thrown together by a fluke of age similarity. Wild stuff.

And now we're all home and settled in... Jacob is settled into his big-boy bed, and we got this Thomas the Tank Engine tent type thing which right now is on his bed but I think will be moved to the floor for easier access. That, along with his Elmo sheet set and various trademarked stuffed animals, has created a shrine to toddler capitalism that is truly a sight to behold. Big eyes and perpetual smiles from wall to wall.