Friday, December 29, 2006
See You on the Other Side
I might find time to post over the weekend, but I also might just bask in the sublime ecstasy which is spending time with my family and shoving 2006 out the door. It was a long year. Mostly good, and also a bunch of bad, and in general I'm tired of it. I'll try and review it in the next few weeks, but I need a tiny bit of perspective.

And I had forgotten the inexpressible bliss which comes with sharing a hobby with someone... in this case, it's knitting with my sister Sarah. We're working on separate projects, sort of toddlerlike parallel play, but we share an interest and I'd forgotten how cool that feeling is. Almost makes me want to go out and find some sort of knitting circle or something locally. Almost.

But not quite.

Anyway, I won't likely be here much in the next few days, so a big HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all. May 2007 treat you gently and kindly.
Your Good Deed for the Day
Go here and post a comment... I don't entirely understand the concept of corporate sponsorship for a blog, but when it takes 10 seconds out of your day to cause a company to donate to a charity, then click away, I say. Click away.

And kudos to Kelly at Pass the Torch for organizing it.
IKEA Grenade
They came, they saw, they fell fast asleep...

Yesterday, a pile of us went down to IKEA... my father and I had been there before, of course, so we were at least minimally prepared for the sensory onslaught, but my sisters and Emily were lambs to the slaughter, as far as retail overload is concerned.

I drove down, and everyone on the passenger side of the car slept most of the way. Emily stayed awake, as did I. Then we shopped and shopped and shopped, and then my dad agreed to drive home... which allowed everyone else in the car to pass out like someone had dropped a hand grenade of ether into the minivan.

Before we went, I would tell my sisters, "This store is unique. It's amazing. Seriously. Wait till you see it." And they would nod smugly and brush me off as being a little too hausfrau and sheltered. Silly, worldy girls - take THAT.

So now I have an eventually-nice sideboard which is currently in several small pieces on the floor of the minivan because no one had the energy to unpack that puppy last night. And we arrived home to a full lobster dinner cooked by Willem, who announced the night before that he didn't want to "drive four hours to go to a furniture store." Sily, misguided man - IKEA is not a furniture store, it's an event. But it meant he stayed home with Jacob, and there was enough room to bring my new toy home, so I can't complain.

I'll hit him with an IKEA grenade some other time.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Gay Pride Yahtzee
Nobody needs a full play-by-play of the Christmas revelries here, especially because they were pleasant and unnoteworthy. Which doesn't make for fascinating reading, but it's wonderful to actually just experience a holiday with no tears or hurt feelings or permanent scars.

So, instead, just the highlights:
My mother-in-law was quiet.

Mary enjoyed her llamas. Which, I can now tell you, weren't actually llamas. They were actually keys, of all sorts and sizes, plus a soldering iron, so that she can start on a new project while at my house. Her last project was to use beach glass and mosaic the top of a former microwave stand in our kitchen. This time we're thinking she can solder (and no, I don't know why it's pronounced "sodder") keys together to make a lampshade or bowls or whatever. Look:

People do TOO get suicidal on Christmas. Lots of them. But I was able to be home for the opening of presents, the cooking of the meal, and the end of the eating of the meal. And I got paid well. So it was fine. (Less fine for the suicidal people, but even then... it all worked out.)

Willem doesn't like my taste in rings, he thinks I like things that are too wild or weird or... something. Edited: Willem, I'm kidding. I know you like some of my taste in rings. Just not all..... pfbllghtt. But he picked out a lovely ring for me, which I need to get sized so I can wear it on my right hand. My poor right ring finger has been ever so naked ever since the emerald ring he gave me for my 25th birthday got all warped and cranky, started wearing a lot og black eye shadow and not making eye contact, you know the scene. Look:

We had dinner at our house last night for Willem's birthday (all together, now, "Happy birthday, Willem!"). The guest list was comprised of my dad and his new girlfriend, whom we had never met before - she's very nice and sweet and she picked up Gripe Rummy just like that, so she earns the stamp of approval.

Gripe Rummy, you ask? It's a complicated card game that apparently only about two dozen people on earth play. We're always on the lookout for new victims.

As for the Gay Pride Yahtzee thing, just trust me that it was much funnier in the moment after a night of hanging out, but it stems from the fact that those Hershey kisses with the candy coating - these things - make a sound just like dice when dropped on a wooden table. See? Not funny now, but last night, trust me. High humor.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
A Rare and Noteworthy Experience
We made it through the Christmas chaos... and guess what? This is wild. And a potentially one-time-only event; it's certainly unique in the greater scheme of things. So I'm marking it in the spirit of being fair and generous, as well as sliding a little snark in along the way... my mother-in-law behaved beautifully.


I was amazed. She was quiet most of the time, and when she did speak she said nice things or she was out of earshot. She didn't whine or bitch in my presence. It was almost like being around a socialized, adult human being.

Now, the snarky side is, I believe she's worked herself into a clinical depression, what with all this woe-is-me'ing and obsession with my father-in-law's death. It's not that I don't think she deserves to have grief or even that you're only allowed to have grief over the loss of people you have positive regard for... but you have to understand the ridiculousness of the contrasts here. When my father-in-law was alive, she complained about him con-stant-ly. Every day. Speaking with strict honesty and accuracy, I cannot remember one single instance in which she said anything nice about him that wasn't at least qualified by a snotty, resentful statement. And most of the time, she didn't bother with the nice part. She was just so constantly negative and bitter, I truly can't come up with words to express how unpleasant and angry her words and attitude were. Always.

So, now, suddenly, for her to be unable to speak about him without blubbering, to gasp adn clutch her heart at quiet moments when no one is paying attention, to drop phrases - daily - such as "the love of my life" and "totally devastated" and "floored by how upset I am." Of course, even now, she makes sure to qualify every statement with a negative slam on his character... "Even though he had such a thorny personality, I still loved him." "I'm totally devastated by his loss, despite our relationship." And so on, and so forth.


The point is, she has worked herself around to a full-on depressive state, complete with closed-up body language and a tendency to withdraw... but I make a living being around people in a bad way, mentally. I'm pretty comfortable allowing people to experience their emotions without jollying them out of it or brushing it aside. It's very natural for me to let her sit there quietly on the couch and stare at nothing, and when live-and-let-live converts to don't-get-insulted, well, sign me up!

But even more exciting, she had behaved nicely even before coming out. Granted, she was flaky and annoying in her refusal to make specific plans for when she would arrive, but that was more a glimpse into old habits than an enduring theme for the visit. For the first time ever - in ten years of our being together, seven Christmases as a married couple - she treated Willem and I equally in the gift-giving regime.

Now, this is noteworthy. Personally, I don't worry about whether my kids get equal numbers of presents, or equal dollar-values of gifts. I make sure I think of each of them and what they might like, but if I end up spending more hours on one or more money on the other, that's okay. Christmas ain't a competition.

But in my mother-in-law's world, you're darn right it's a competition and the only way she can smooth things out is to make sure that her sons get precisely the same amount of presents. To the point where I have seen her go out and buy bags of M&Ms to even it up to the dollar.

That way, when she turns around and gives me a $15 watch alongside Willem's several-hundred-dollar gifts, I get the message. It's never been about the money for me, but since it is about the money for her, then I understand when I'm being put in my place. That wasn't upsetting to me, so much as confirmatory. I understood where I fell in the food chain.

So this year, she gave Willem and I nearly identical gifts. I don't know whether that's because she's actually coming around and planning to treat me like family, or whether she just doesn't want to make Willem mad again after the Thanksgiving snottiness, or whether she just lacked a high enough motivation level to bother shopping for effectively communicative gifts and it was just easier to buy two of everything. I don't care. The motivation behind the act isn't any of my business. What matters is, she treated me a lot like Willem, and she was generous, and I appreciate that.

Which gives me the willies. It's very weird to have warm, positive regard for my mother-in-law. But, you know what? If it happened that I had to spend the rest of my life dealing with her being nice to me... I could cope.

I won't hold my breath.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
A Sign of Illness
This morning, by an act of some unknown benevolent deity, everyone in my family slept in until 9:47. I'm still logy and slothlike now, at 10:32, but Willem and the kids are showered, breakfasted, dressed, and out the door to run errands.

That's just not right. That kind of energy in the morning just isn't normal.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Her Eggs in My Basket
Okay. The big secret. It's not actually that complicated or space-taking, unless the space you're talking about is in my head. Then it seems to take up a lot of space, but so far it's been pretty comfortable and non-invasive. Which, to me, says something... though I'm not quite certain what.

Anyway. The short version is this: my close friend Jenny is not able to support another pregnancy, and she and her husband are interested in pursuing surrogacy as an option to have a third child. She floated the idea to me, I considered it, I talked to Willem, and we ended up deciding, "Sure, we can do that."

So, yeah. A big deal, and deceptively simple. There's lots to think about, but what it boils down to is, the reasons to do it are predominantly emotional in nature (because I can, because it would feel good to help out a friend, because it feels good to do something for someone else, because I enjoy being pregnant but am not ready to have another of my own just yet, and so on) and the reasons not to do it are predominantly logical (risk to my own health, it's out of the normal range of things to do in your spare time, possible confusion and extra worries for Willem and the kids, whether it's possible to gestate a human being and then hand it over to someone else to raise without emotional consequences, and so on). So far, all of the objections have not been strong enough, alarming enough, freakish enough, whatever, to overwhelm the basic rightness of the decision for me.

After I told Jenny we were willing, then she told her husband, who responded - at least from my outsider perspective - with deafening silence, so we sat up here for a few weeks thinking, "Well, okay... if nothing else, that was interesting to think about." Then when Jenny and I met for dinner on Sunday, she told me that Mark has made an appointment for them to meet with a counselor/information specialist/whatever at a fertility clinic, beginning in early January, so apparently this is actually going to happen. Or at least we'll all try real hard.

Wild, huh?

Let's see, the fine print... I've been asked a few times about why they want a surrogate, why they can't have another the old-fashioned way, why they don't want to adopt, why they don't want to stop at two, why, why, why. And I've had various responses, but they all boil down to, "It doesn't matter." It doesn't.

Well, I bet it matters to them, but it doesn't matter to me. What matters to me is, here is something that my friends have asked me to do, and the background isn't mine to share.

Another common objection is, "What about your kids? How will you explain it to them?" I haven't decided upon a script yet, but we'll muddle along just like we have with anything else. I don't see this as a threat to their wellbeing or sense of belonging in the family - the trick is to begin with a mindset that this isn't our baby, it never was, and we're just helping to take care of it for a little while. The world's longest babysitting job, I suppose.

Then there's the, "How could you possibly hand over someone that has lived inside you for so long?" Well, sure, that'll be tricky. Again, it's all about the mindset right from the start, that it's not mine. That child and I will always have a bond, even if the baby doesn't know it, but I'm not handing it over to strangers. I'm working with close friends, whose parenting I trust and whose stability is no more questionable than my own.

And, of course, the question of compensation. What's the going hourly rate for a uterus, anyway? I haven't given this one much thought at all, because, frankly, I'm not that desperate for cash. It's not why I'm doing it. Jenny and Mark will cover whatever expenses come up that my insurance won't cover (and I just found out today that as of March, my work is upgrading to a much better insurance provider, hooray!), and that's where my concerns end.

So, there you have it. The big secret. Since we're still mostly in the abstract, ideas phase of all of this, I'm still very open to "Have you considered...?" and "What about...?" sorts of questions. Once this becomes reality, well, you can still ask the questions but I'll be less open to the discussion. Sort of like how my father-in-law called us up, very upset, when he learned from his aunt that I was pregnant with Emily (not intentional on our part... but the guy had spent the prior weeks in a camp in Maine with no telephone, electricity, or toilet for that matter... you make yourself uncontactable, and then you get mad because we didn't contact you? Okay.) - his statement then was, "Why wasn't I consulted about this? What about the repercussions? What about.... blah blah blah." And my response was, "Well, we weren't exactly thinking about you at the time... and it's a done deal now."

Phew. So glad to have THAT off my chest.

Oh, but one more thing. If you're among the elite crowd who knows me or my family in real life, I've already talked to my parents about this, so that's fine. I have not, however, shared this with my mother-in-law. Chances are she'll find out about it someday, especially if I actually end up pregnant, but until then... I just don't want to know how she'll make it about herself, but you just know she's going to find a way. So, don't casually slide it into conversation with her, okay? Okay.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Belligerent Drunk
Willem and my dad went out last night, and did their best to relieve the town of its clear oversupply of beer. Makes me sleep better at night, knowing they're addressing this serious problem.

After they came home, they were both belligerent and loud, but giggly. Like a schoolgirl in a 'roid rage, only without the pigtails. Willem did some drunken emailing - and you know it was typed under the influence, regardless of the perfection of the grammar, because he had to ask how to spell "infidel" and "hi ho the dairy-o." Which created a controversy, clearly split along gender lines: men think it should be spelled "derry-o" and women think it's "dairy-o." I came to this conclusion after a rigorous scientific study of the entire population of my living room, and considering that two-thirds of the subjects were feschnikered (spelling provided by a now-sober Willem) and the other third was the always-right and only-female-in-the-room me, I'm comfortable relying on the "dairy-o" result.

Which somehow reminds me that recently I was able to achieve a higher state of being, in fact a leap beyond my normal supremeness. Before falling asleep the other night, I was able to use the word "Fanilow" in a sentence. Willem had never heard the word before, so I was basically able to sacrifice a virgin.

Seriously, it's a challenge being this cool.

How's that for a rambling, random post? I'm so tired I'm having trouble pointing both eyes in the same direction. I stayed up until 1:30 this morning finishing a sweater for MB's baby, who is due to make her debut any second now, and then today I had a FABULOUS (sure, why not?) staff meeting followed by five hours of Christmas shopping. I'm about to slide into a retail coma.

Which actually kind of sucks a wee tad bit, because I have an important (to me, anyway) post brewing, all about the big secret I've been carting around for a few months which is close enough to reality that I have to talk about it or explode, plus I've been given permission to go public... it's the thing I was referring to in Vignette #3.

So, on that big mysterious note... I'll come back tomorrow when I have more than one firing brain cell, and try to organize my thoughts about it all.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Not a Boy, Not Yet a Man...
My brother-in-law is 28.

TWENTY-eight. Not just 8.

My mother-in-law is "letting him stay home alone for Christmas," even though she really feels guilty about it, because he said he doesn't want her to sit around and mope on his behalf while he's at work, which will be both on Christmas Eve and the Day itself. She's being all maudlin about "the first Christmas since H died..." We've heard this song before, and I'm giving her one more refrain in my house before I hit the mute button. (The mute button in my head, that is. Though, oh, what a wonderful world it would be, if my mother-in-law had a mute button on her forehead.)

So... because we can't possibly actually treat him like an adult...

She's hiding his Christmas presents, so that on Christmas morning she can call him and tell him where they are and then listen to him open them.

I want to capitalize some words in that paragraph but I just can't decide which ones.

28. Christ.
Don't Eat the Meatballs

Yesterday there was yet another holiday luncheon at work, this time with a different department so I wasn't invited to the lunch itself - but the leftovers were brought to the staff room to share. I had some meatballs, some sweet potato pie, and some veggies and dip.

Line those suckers up against a wall with little number placards, because one of them is guilty. I spent last night sleeping, moaning, watching my head spin off my shoulders and splat on the floor, and a few various other activities which I'd rather not describe in detail both because this is not an episode of South Park and because I'm still nauseous enough that I'm afraid vivid language might send me a-runnin' for the bathroom... blech.

I was so sick last night that the majority of my evening was spent curled up in the corner of the couch, attempting to molecularly align myself with a pillow so that I could simply disappear, like the monk in the Great Wall of China only with fewer conspiracy theorists knocking on my door. I couldn't even knit, I was so blah. I lay there and watched hockey with Willem - but lest he get his hopes up, I was also watching commercials and the arm of the loveseat with equal intensity. I'm just not a good sportswife.

I slept on the couch, because the flatter I got the more the room spun. I'm at work today, because ... I don't actually know. I find it difficult to take time off of work, and what good is a day off if you mar it with guilt? Plus I'm taking a half-day on Tuesday for Willem's birthday, and I'd rather be home happy than be home spinning.

I've run out of motivation to be witty and verbose. You do it instead, okay?
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
If You Don't Write to Santa, the Terrorists Win
Let's just get this out there and in the open now, rather than continuing to allow you all to wonder and suspect without confirmation: I am a bad American. It's true. I do lots of good-American things, like standing during the National Anthem and not clubbing baby seals and not wearing flag-print panties, but when it comes down to the big thing, the important act, the one thing that sets America apart from the rest of the world, I don't meet minimum expectations.

I'm talking, of course, about the commercialism of Christmas, and writing letters to Santa. Simply put, we don't. We don't do Santa. We don't write letters, or bribe my kids that if they don't behave they won't get presents, or leave out cookies and milk. For real, we don't.

(I'll just sit here and wait until you overcome the faintness that will naturally overcome you at the realization that I'm such a bad example of consumerism and materialism.)

(Feeling better? Good.)

I just hate the whole attitude, that Christmas is all about what you get. I have worked hard to shift the focus onto what my kids can give or make, even if it's as simple as some scribbles on a piece of paper or something. We sit down with a list of family members and talk about each person, and what they would like best, and we try to cater gifts, blah blah blah... just like you do when you're a grown-up, but without the credit card. I don't try and pretend like it's more fun to give presents than to get them, but I talk about how we can control what we give, and we can ask for certain gifts but we smile and say "thank you" even when it's a lame bad present.

Plus - and this is important - I, frankly, want credit for the gifts I give to the kids. I want them to know that it was Mom who picked it out or made it, not a bunch of elves or some fat guy; just like how I want to give credit to them for their work instead of praising some imaginary elf.

I don't want them to feel like this Santa Claus guy is basically a catalog: you send your list and he responds by checking off items based on your behavior. Emotional blackmail just doesn't appeal to me, somehow, even when it's geared in the direction of making kids behave. How's about they behave because it feels better to be nice to people, rather than because if they sit still or eat their peas they'll get one more package under the tree?

Besides, the whole Santa thing is so all-or-nothing. You either get presents, or you get crap. Literally, in some cases; I saw a display in Walmart the other day, of packages of petrified reindeer turds "For the Bad Boy on Your List." Now that I think about it, my father actually got that from his parents about 20 years ago... though by then he was 27ish (yeah, do the math, my parents are babies) and chances are he recognized it as a joke rather than as a punishment.

So, it bugs me, this whole expectation that I've had my kids write to Santa, that my kids have asked Santa for stuff, that Santa will bring presents and joy and world peace. I'm all for magic in the world, but it seems like there actually is plenty of magic out there every day, in the patterns and coincidences and interactions of nature and faily life, without having to invent a big guy in a red suit with flying reindeer who administers retail bliss upon the masses.

This allows me to avoid the awkwardness of questions like, "But if Santa gives things to kids who are good, how come poor kids don't get stuff? How come Jewish kids don't get stuff from Santa? How come not everyone gets everything they want?" Because it's not about Santa, and because different people believe different things, and because life isn't fair.

It also allows me to avoid the gimme-gimme-gimme attitude that society seems to not only expect but encourage. A couple of weeks ago, there was a Christmas breakfast at Emily's school (God bless New Hampshire, we don't even pretend to recognize religious diversity). On the tables, there were some coloring pages and crayons, activities to keep the kids busy, when not running around and spazzing each other out, while the parents ate. One of those pages was along the lines of:
Dear Santa:
I want _________________________________

No "please." No "thank you." No "How are you?" Just, "I want." I was appalled.

My kids didn't fill one out.

So, yeah. I'm a bad American. I don't encourage my kids to feed into the commercial frenzy of the holidays. I talk with them about what they would like to get, and I explain that I'll share those wishes with family and people who care about them, and they might or might not get what they ask for. But what matters more is the time they spend thinking about what to give to the people they care about, and then the time they actually get to spend with those people.

And, of course, what matters the most of all is that they give lots and lots of stuff to Mom. Right?
I Watched a Cat Get Hit by a Car on Sunday
But this is a LOT funnier.

Oh, yeah... umm... not quite safe for work.
Monday, December 18, 2006
My Faith in Humanity Hath Been Restored
So, an update...

Today was my work Christmas party, when we were to find out who our Secret Santas were. I hadn't initially been planning to go - I don't work Mondays, and I could have just written a note to Shannon to let her know. But given the cheapskateness of it all, I felt obligated.

Jacob and I got dressed and in by noon, and there was a list on the wall of who-had-whom for Secret Santa, along with the obligatory totally random potluck food and awkward social conversation with people you work with all the time anyway. We ate, we chatted, we schmoozed... and we read the list.

Turns out that the person who had my name is D, an administrative type - not an up-front administrative assistant, she mostly stays in the back office and does filing and the like. Maybe we don't want to expose the public to her, I don't know. She's been with the company for about 400 years, and there are times when I suspect they just constructed the building up around her rather than trying to get her to go somewhere else. She's pleasant enough, but apparently she has a reputation far and wide for skimping out on gifts, contributions toward potlucks, raffles, Save the Children funds, blood drives, etc., etc.

So sometime last week, she was all self-congratulatory in the office, bragging about how she had been so stingy frugal this year. And Lucy, a manager whom I know slightly because she attended the conference I went to last month, overheard her.

Fast-forward to today. After the party, at which I was able to smile nicely and say "Thank you" to D, and not kick her in the shins, someone said to me, "Hey, there's something in your mailbox." I went to check it out, and there was a nicely wrapped gift in there, something that is actually perfect for me, with a little note from Lucy saying, "I wasn't in the Secret Santa but when I saw this I thought of you, and I couldn't resist."

I didn't cry. But I did get a little teary.

So, Lucy goes up on my list of Good People. She made my day, and restored a little more of my faith in humanity. I still don't have faith in D, but you can't have everything.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Secret Freakin' Santa
I know, I've been a bad blogger lately. Y'all can line up to administer the spankings later. It's been busy.

But I'm carving out a few minutes because I have to rant. It's a well-deserved, incredulous, holiday-related rant. And it's something I'm not especially upset about but am still feeling self-righteous, so it's really the best of all possible worlds.

So. Being the new guy at work, I decided to be a good team player and sign up for the Secret Santa thing, which, it was explained to me, was a five-day affair. We each drew one name, and each day of the week we were supposed to give them their gift, either by leaving it on their desk or hiding it in their mailbox, whatever. Okay, not a problem. Maximum total cost of $15 for the week, so it was really just meant to spread holiday cheer without breaking the bank. Gotcha.

So I went out and bought $15 worth of small but thoughtful Walmart gifts... mostly in the Cute Office Supplies genre, like a nice address book and fancy paper clips. I actually spent $15 on four gifts, and for the fifth day I made a lovely soft scarf out of remnants of yarn I already had at home. Aren't I good? Aren't I sweet? Aren't I just the epitome of Christmas Spirit?!?!?

I hope that the Gods of Karma were smiling on me at least enough to make it so that my recipient, Shannon (shhhh... don't tell her yet!), wasn't the person who drew my name in return. Because whoever got my name is a CHEAPSKATE. I'm sorry, I know, that's not what the holidays are all about, blah blah blah - but seriously. The first day, I got two pieces of chocolate ($1). The second day I got a package of mints ($1 - and I'm being optimistic). The third day I got a homemade decoration type thing consisting of pine branches and berries ($0). The fourth day I got a sample-sized hand lotion ($1 - or the cost of a hotel room, you decide).

Which brings us to the fifth day, Friday. Now, Thursday had been a long day here. Not a bad day, just a long one... another endless staff meeting, took Jacob for a haircut, took Emily to the dentist, and so on, and so forth. And on Friday morning I was doing my zombie imitation (without the actual flesh-eating) in the shower, and suddenly I remembered the Secret Santa thing and I actually perked up. "Oh, yes!" I thought. "They've been sort of light on the substance thus far, so maybe they've been saving up the brunt of the $15 allotment for today, and it'll be a nice way to end the week! How lovely! Hooray!"

Um, no.

Friday I got three more pieces of chocolate ($1).

For those of you not bothering with a mental tally, let me bring you up to speed. I ended up with five pieces of chocolate, a thing of mints, some yard waste, and some hotel-style hand cream. A grand total, if the person was shopping sloppily and extravagantly, of $4.

Merry Freakin' Christmas.

Here, now, I heard about the $15 limit, and I thought it was going to be a challenge to stay under that. Now I learn that $15 is the height of wantonness, and in fact it's possible to be in a Secret Santa exchange for a whole week and still get change from a five-dollar bill.

And for those of you ready to defend the giver... "Maybe she couldn't afford more..." (I work in a mental health agency, it's a safe bet that it's a "she.") To you I say, "If she can't afford it, don't enter the Secret Santa thing in the first place! I would happily double-up and give to two people if someone is that badly strapped for cash... at work..."



Friday, December 15, 2006
Mary Christmas
In honor of my gift-giving debacle for my sister...

The Llama Song

And a shout-out to Corey for the link...
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I Don't Know... or Care.
I had a moment of pithiness and wit at the office this morning, before the staff meeting. There's an office-wide contest for wall decorations in one of the conference rooms, whichever department has the best wall wins... something. Whatever.

Initially, Perfect J was adamant that she did not want to have anything to do with the wall decoration, she didn't want all of the responsibility to fall on her, she can't draw anyway, blahbitty blahbitty blah... but then as soon as Supervisor N started working on it by herself, Perfect J couldn't stay away.

So when Somehow Normal K arrived this morning, she asked, "What's going on with the decorating wall? Is J doing it?"

And I answered, "I don't know. But you could replace 'know' with 'care' and it would still work."


Then Curmudgeonly J started with the loud donkeyish laugh until I started to fear for his health. Glad I could toss a joke grenade his way.

And staff meeting was actually not quite as painful as normal today, because there was an almost open-and-honest discussion of just how horrible staff meetings have been lately, how much free-floating hostility is evident, how badly I want to drink before coming in on Thursdays... not that I actually think there will be long-term changes, but it was good to feel heard and understood, and I was certainly not the only (or even the initial) person on my side.

Plus it's always cool when Supervisor N directly and politely dresses down Perfect J and Curmudgeonly J about how, if they HAVE to argue like an old married couple, they have to do it in private and they have to learn how not to take it out on the rest of the team.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I'm somewhat hampered in my posting ability by the fact that my sister reads this blog and the topic at hand is her Christmas present. So for the purposes of intrigue and a bright-eyed bushy-tailed Christmas surprise, we'll refer to Mary's gift as a llama. Actually, a bunch of them. From all over the world.

I had never used eBay before yesterday. But I wasn't able to find any llamas in local stores, nor was I able to find a satisfactory llama online at a regular website, so I figured, let's take the plunge.

My first two auctions, I was mercilessly and cruelly outbid at the very last second. Woe was me. So I bid on several more auctions, expecting the same situation at least most of the time.



You already know how this ends, don't you?

Yeah. I won all of them. All of them. Every single one. I have - or will, once the shipping happens - llamas coming out my ears.

Mary BETTER like llamas, that's for sure.

So, on top of the fact that I just accidentally won 5 auctions, there's the nasty little Paypal gnome making my life miserable. The first four transactions went through smoothly and prettily, not an issue, hooray. And this last one WILL. NOT. COMPLETE. Keeps telling me that it can't validate the card. Even though it validated every other time without a problem. I'm not above any sort of transaction limit, either a dollar amount or number of transactions per day... it just WANTS to piss me off because, really, why not?


She better like these damn llamas.
No More Morning Who
Today has already been weird, and it's not quite 9:30 yet. Bad sign.

It actually started about 12 hours ago, when I was falling asleep on the couch and decided I might as well go to bed early. Now, "early" for me is 10:00, and I usually consider myself ahead of the game if I'm in bed by 11:00, so being asleep by 9:30 is very unusual. And now I remember why. I woke up at about 3:45 wide awake, argued myself back to sleep, and woke up again at 5:30 to an argument between Willem and Jacob. Apparently one of them wanted chocolate milk, the other was unwilling to provide refreshments in the middle of the night, and much haranguing and posturing ensued.

After that, I was not able to get back to sleep. I did, however, stay in bed, for two reasons. One, brought to you by the higher-order intelligent part of my brain, was because if I was that tired last night, I clearly needed the rest, so I should lie there and be still even if I couldn't sleep anymore. And two, brought to you by the technology-inept and pathetic part of my brain, couldn't figure out how to turn off my alarm clock before it went off.

So I laid there and was reminded of why I wouldn't do well in prison. The concept of being awake and not being able to do anything doesn't go over so well with me.

My alarm finally went off at 6:45, and I bounded out of bed as though a catapult had been installed. This is a bit of a departure from my normal three-whacks-on-the-snooze-button-and-whine routine.

Willem, having a few minutes to kill while waiting for me to get out of the shower, decided to put in some music for the short people to wake up to. A nice idea and I'm all for it, but it happened to be The Who and now the words "miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles" are hermetically sealed into my brain.

Later, as part of the driveway departure process I learned that the annoying seat belt warning beep in my minivan doesn't activate when you're driving in reverse. This is important information, and if I eventually get arrested for driving to work backwards, you'll know why.

See, in New Hampshire, the Live Free of Bite Me State, seat belts are optional for adults in the front seat. I'm all for wearing seat belts, let's be safe, let's not crack our heads on the windshield, blah blah blah... but I really, really hate it when my car tries to act like my mother, nagging about putting a seat belt on for four full minutes before it gives up and sulks. Makes me all oppositional, and I end up deliberately NOT wearing a seat belt while playing the radio really loud just to put one up over my car.

Shut up. Like you're always logical and more emotionally stable than a minivan. Whatever.

Then at Jacob's school some little shithead big kid announced that Jacob wasn't allowed to play with blocks today because he's a baby and he'll ruin their buildings. At which point Jacob started to re-whine (I had been holding out faint hope that, after last night's Whine Extravaganza, he might have strained his whine muscle) and cling to my leg. Then he cried. So I lectured the big kid and de-latched Jacob and headed to work, and we all know how lovely it is to leave your kid behind amidst a flurry of toddler angst.

So I'm here at work now, waiting for the next weird thing. Bring it on.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The Tau Epsilon Phi Debutante Ball
Boys are so weird.

My husband was in a fraternity in college, and for the moment we won't harp on my views of the misogyny and degradation of morality engendered and perpetuated by the Greek system, nor on the more personal realization that Willem's involvement in his fraternity directly led to emotional damage and actual danger of physical harm for me. Because, really, why bother? Old history, water under the bridge, that keg has been tapped.

It's on my radar now because of next year's alumni reunion. It's the 40th anniversary of the founding of the fraternity (I made the mistake of referring to it as "the 40th reunion" to someone at work, and her response was, "My God, I had no idea Willem was that much older than you!") and they're planning a big party. And apparently, party-planning brings out the inner society queen in all of us.

Or, at least, in all of them.

It's been an ongoing issue, resulting in various emails and conference calls and venting sessions, and what it boils down to is that people in this world, whether they're sane, normal people (I hear a rumor that such people exist) or ex-fraternity brothers, fall along a party-throwing dichotomy: either you plan everything and provide games and nametags and a dress code, or you provide the bare essentials with the philosophy of, "If you inebriate it, they will come."

On one side of the camp are several possibly well-intentioned and just as possibly misguided individuals who believe that the basic point of the party is to raise money for... some group, the nature of which I'm not clear on. The Alumni Association? The Board of Trustees? The Party Planners? Something. Whoever. This group wants to schedule the weekend to within an inch of its life, including hiring all four taxis in the godforsaken town where we all went to college as a shuttle service, having the event catered, and inviting three different bands to perform. They want to charge more than I pay in a week for daycare, for two days' worth of testosterone (and this is not counting gas and hotel expenses just for the privilege of being in the same place at the same time). And if financial considerations might prevent people from being able to attend this t-shirted and beer-laden affair, well, sorry guys... save up your money, maybe you can attend the 50th reunion.

On the other side are the more stereotypical guy-party-planners, who are of the notion that as long as you get enough men in the same place with enough beer and enough card tables, and maybe some chips and chicken wings, then they'll all have a fine time and can save their extra money to put toward bail after the Saturday Night Impromptu Buffalo Tipping Contest. Their version of a shuttle service is to make the new members drive them around, or maybe their less-inebriated (and perhaps unimpressed) wives, and they're willing to let the local McDonald's worry about providing fuel.

Somewhere in between the high society, glossy approach and the grunge-and-townies approach lies a happy medium. They have until May to figure out what that might be.

It puts me very much in mind of wedding planning - some people go for the bare bones Justice of the Peace ceremony on lunch break, others go for the black tie, $50-a-plate country clubs. There's not a wrong way to go about it, it's just a matter of philosophy. Are you throwing the party to have a nice-looking affair that will look great in pictures, or are you throwing the party for a chance to hang out with friends and remind yourself why it's a bad idea to do a shot for each letter of the alphabet? Personally, I tend to err on the side of the latter when doing my own planning, but I've also enjoyed attending the more expensive soirees that others put on.

It's all great fun to watch, because whenever someone else is upset about something that you don't feel strongly about you can be smug. Or, of you're sitting in a room with Tom Cruise, you can be glib, because, really, what's a little vocabulary between English speakers?
It's Jordanna's Fault
The me-not-getting-work-done thing. Today, anyway. Today's time-wasting delightful movie-related game is brought to you by Jordanna, though the good news is, it didn't take me as long to accept defeat as on the previous game.

I got 14/20.
Monday, December 11, 2006
And You Thought You Could Just Get Work Done Today
...but instead, I'm posting this and am throwing down a challenge. I got 32 in 18 minutes, and can't come up with any new titles. I don't consider myself an expert in the field, so 32 out of 50 ain't so bad.

How'd you do? Which ones stumped you? There's a clump of them, down near the big orange ball, that I can't get. Plus the hotel one, the big fish on the lower left corner, and the blue dress.
Not a Good Day for the Mother-of-the-Year Committee to Stop By
Unless, of course, they're overwhelmed with candidates, in which case, come on in! I can help you cross one more name off the list, no problem!


Jacob is just being very extremely overwhelmingly two today. I find myself eying the various boxes we have around the house, to decide which is the best size to ship him off somewhere. Anywhere. As long as it's somewhere else.

He started the day with a sustained whine guaranteed to sharpen your teeth and lengthen your fingernails through sheer pitch and duration. Most days, when this is how he starts things, a change of scenery keeps us both sane, so I packed him up and we headed into my office. I decided to be a good soldier this year and take part in the office-wide Secret Santa cuteness, so I needed to drop off today's gift (five days of exchange, not to exceed $15 total... nothing like random cheap stuff to brighten the day and spread holiday cheer just as thin as it can go).

We got into the parking lot, and Jacob announced that he wanted to be carried. I parried with, "No, thanks, my hands are full." He came back with the quick and incisive, "NO." This little exchange ended with him, in all of his octopus-squirmy glory, being crammed back into his carseat and serenading me with a list of concise and pithy complaints while we returned home. Then he and I yelled at each other for a while, tantrums burned off, and we decided that we could try again.

The second trip to the office was vastly more successful, as measured both in actually-going-inside and in no-toddler-meltdowns. One of the customer service reps had a package of Halloween candy left in her desk, so Jacob was able to partake of - no, I'm not kidding - a gummy nose and a gummy ear. He didn't seem to understand why I did NOT want a bite, thankyouverymuch.

We went from there to the grocery store, where we stretched a quick trip into $150, but he behaved himself well enough that I didn't leave him in the freezer case. Then we got home to a new drone, this time of, "I want Diego Go yogurt. Diego Go. Diego Go. Diego Go." Stupid advertising, and stupid Mom for buying it, and stupid planet for not allowing for instantaneous transport from the dairy aisle to the kitchen table.

He got home, took precisely three bites of Diego Go, and decided he was done. Fine, then it's naptime. "It's NOT nap time." Oh, but it is, you short, loud, willful-but-powerless creature. He deigned to finish the yogurt, and then asked for a granola bar. Of which he took two bites and decided he was done. Fine, then it's nap time. This time he agreed, we got through the pre-nap story, and then he announced that he was ready to finish his bar.

It was at this moment that my patience evaporated. I'm all for choices and autonomy, but seriously. He's yelling at me from his bed now, and I'm rejoicing in my near-deafness.
Until He Can Be Bothered to Get a Gmail Account...
...I'll just have to keep copy-and-pasting. Woe is me.

Willem wrote:
Emily missed the bus this morning because I got all ambitious and cooked french toast. We were walking out of the house just as the bus was leaving. So I drove down to the other elementary school, where the bus was waiting, and dropped her off there. It was funny - she walked up to the bus door and waved at the bus driver, who obliviously waved back, only to finally realize that her salutation was intended to result in the opening of the door. So he did, and she got on, no problems. But then, I realized that I was facing the wrong way in an obvious one-way flow of traffic. I decided that I didn't care and instead of turning around, left via the entrance. This caused the undergarments of the volunteer crossing guard to become tied in a knot, as she tried desperately, through a bizarre dance of hand gestures, to display her displeasure with my decision. Whatever, lady... your orange sash doesn't scare me, despite your uncanny resemblence to Jack Nicholson.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Mathematical Certainty
Wednesdays are our busiest day of the week. I work until 8:00, though I can come home at 5:00 if there aren't any active hospital calls. Willem comes home between 3:00-5:00 to collect the various children from their various schools, and then waits for me to break the plane of the door, at which point he rushes off to teach his night class. We have two sitters who are "on call" along with me, so that if I get a hospital call they come right over to watch the kids, and I pay them for holding the evening open whether they come babysit or not.

This week was particularly chaotic. After I was done at the hospital, I realized that I wasn't sure whether Willem had already paid the sitters, and I didn't have cash. I very rarely call during his class times, but this was a need-to-know situation. And, since there is an unstated rule that says that if Willem were to actually answer his cell phone when it rang, the Earth would spin off its axis, I left a voice mail message.

A few minutes later, my phone rang. Our conversation went thusly:
W: Hi. I only have time for four words. Well... actually, five words.
K: Okay.
W: I did not pay her.
K: Okay.
W: Bye.

And I had no choice but to be highly amused, because if he hadn't corrected himself, I never would have noticed that it was more than four words. But by correcting himself, he nearly doubled the number of seconds we were on the phone.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Down to the Bottom of the Pyramid
This will have to be a short post, because there's only so much time in between explosions here and I have to conserve my energy. It takes a lot out of me to hold my breath for 10 minutes at a stretch, change a diaper from arm's length, and then wash everything in sight.

Nobody needs me to describe the minutiae. The bottom (ha) line is, I'm waiting another 7 minutes for the pediatrician to open so that we can get an appointment to find out if Jacob's ventures into a realm which starts with "D" and rhymes with "Hiya, Rhea!" have been assertive enough to make him dehydrated.

Willem, Jacob and I were up from 3:00-4:30 last night dealing with back-to-back explosive - literally, explosive - situations. I've had an accumulative four and a half years of diaper-change experience, and I have never seen anything like this. It was horrible. And poor sleepy, poopy, grumpy, dopey (but not happy, bashful or doc) Jacob was such a trouper through it all, just hanging in there and allowing the inevitable dignity-less circumstances which attend middle-of-the-night explosions.

By now we're up to five Major Incidents with several Minor Skirmishes along the outskirts. But, I'll have you know, the most recent engagement was at least a draw, if not a clear victory by Mama, because I was able to put him back into the same clothes at the end of it all.

Abraham Maslow had this theory that we all have a set order in which we address basic human needs, that forms a pyramid. He says that, no matter how evolved we might be, when the life stresses pile up, we return to the most basic needs and address those before we can move up to less critical things like acquisition of property (no Christmas shopping happening today, that's for darn sure), morality (charity breakfast at Emily's school? Not for us! Though we may send Emily and Willem to try and avoid penalizing her for her brother's, how do you say, mishaps) or sexual intimacy (just, no). Instead we all get very focused on the very bottom of that pyramid, especially that little word "excretion" over there on the right.

We'll aim for homeostasis around lunchtime, maybe.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Something occured to me the other day, as a sort of follow-up to the review thing... someone mentioned, in the comments on that site, that I had better hope I wasn't her psychologist because... now, wait, let me go copy it verbatim because I want to get it right... "I tell ya what, if you were MY psychologist and I read about myself on your blog? I’d kick your ass first and then look into suing. Cuz I’d be a crazy person and all..."

And she's got a point, and I just want it covered here because... well, because.

So, if she were reading about herself on my blog she'd be making stuff up. I don't plug disclaimers in every post - maybe I should, actually - but I'm afraid of HIPAA (don't click on that link, please. It's really boring - the short version is, HIPAA is a bunch of rules about privacy and confidentiality and it scares the bejeezus out of anyone in the health field who is interested in not losing their job or all of their money). Anything you read on here, case-wise, client-wise, even sometimes hospital-wise, is not accurate. I change ages, genders, locations, details, and so on, so that I still get my basic point across but am not risking anyone's privacy.

Now that I think about it, I'm almost godlike in my ability to shuffle around basic demographic information on a person without them feeling a thing.

Seriously, though - even if I wasn't concerned about people's feelings (and, um.... being a psychologist, isn't that part of the job requirement? Actually, it's not, but I do it anyway), I'd be legally obligated to protect certain information.

I'm not prepared to be tortured or extorted for this information, so let's just not push it that far, okay?

Moral of the story is, what you read here is not reflective of reality, and if I did ever slip up and give away something about a client's identity, then I would deserve to get my ass kicked. And sued. Maybe both at the same time.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
The Unbearable Weight of Baby
Jacob and I are sharing some sort of headache/stomachache virus sort of thing right now, and allow me to just say that it is true proof of the generosity and humanity of my spirit that I'm not describing any more of our symptoms to you.

But one symptom is sort of a constant dragging fatigue for me, which I can only assume he feels as well because after a 2-hour nap he got up and came and laid on my chest on the couch, for another hour. And he is now lying on the floor trying to watch TV, which is two feet off the ground and somewhat behind him so it's more of a challenge than I usually try to give myself for simple media consumption.

For that hour, though... go ahead, just TRY to have a sleeping baby snuggled up on your chest, when you're already feeling tired and under-the-weather, and stay awake. Just try it.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
One Big Existential Mess
Oddly enough, I'm not feeling depressed or overwhelmed or down, any of those themes that I seem to fall into once in a while because just-plugging-along is so passe. I'm in a fine mood, looking forward to the holidays even though we already screwed up Sint Nikolaas Day and my mother-in-law is threatening to come out for Christmas. Kids are both healthy, though Jacob's on some sort of hunger strike, and Willem's current spate of crankiness and gloom should have an end in sight, since his semester ends next week and his first round of comps is scheduled for January.

So, we're okay. But I'm off. Dealing with a big steaming pile of existentialist musings about who I am, what I want to do with my life, what I want to do with my blog, and so on. I'm neither whining nor sniveling, honest - I'm okay with not knowing where I fit in here. It's more just a dawning awareness that I don't know, and maybe I should try and figure it out.

I can't think of any one trigger for this attack of vapidity. Several small ones just piled up. The big one, of course, is the psychology internship application abattoir and the fact that I was granted at least one interview this time around. So far, I've been rejected by one and offered an interview by another, with resounding silence from the other five sites I chose. This marks an improvement over last year's 100% across-the-board rejection, but then again it all depends on how you define "improvement."

The thing is, I'm not entirely sure I want an internship. It'll mean 5-day, 40-hour work weeks, and at least a 45-minute commute, and a heavy investment in a lifestyle I've been moving away from for the past two years. Willem and some of my close friends have adopted a stance of, "Oh, what a shame that you put so much work into school only to get stuck at the finish line. How unfair. How sad. You must be so disappointed." And, for a while, they were right. I was overwhelmingly, crushingly, wicked disappointed for about the first half of 2006. I'd never failed before, and clearly I'm not very good at it.

But I've had time and space to deal with it all, and I've come to a point where I'm okay with not completing my doctorate. Money down the drain, sure, but that's not as much a concern as it used to be. I have settled into a routine that I (mostly) like, though not working at all would be even better, and I do have long-term plans that include working with the mentally ill and aiming toward a prison setting, but I don't feel as consumed and defined by those plans anymore. If I can't work my dream job, I'm okay with that.

So. Interview, hooray, but who cares? How's about a little ambivalence mixed in with the apathy?

Then there's the blog thing, which is admittedly a far less pressing issue, except, well, I'm here now, aren't I?

One part of the blog-weirdness is, I was reviewed examined bantered about on a website yesterday. I don't remember signing myself up to be reviewed, but when I first started working I signed up for a bunch of blogrolls so I'd have some guidance in my aimless wanderings online while at work - so I probably registered there then. Not a big deal. I'd read the site, and saw my blog on their list, and thought about asking them to take me off their list after realizing that they have a severe, possibly fatal allergy to mommyblogs (not that I blame them) - and then decided I didn't care enough to bother and let it go.

So, yesterday, I start getting some hits from this website, and sure enough, I was reviewed. Their biggest problems with me seem to be that I have a mommyblog (which, admittedly, makes me squirrelly too, but those short people in my house do tend to suck up most of my energy these days) and that all of my blogrolls are about/for/comprised of women. Which apparently makes me sexist, and possibly creates a situation where I want to eradicate all of the testosterone from the blogosphere. Learn something new every day. Since they didn't (nor would I have expected them to) actually go into my own personal blogroll ("Clickworthy" over there -->) then they didn't see any evidence of male bloggers in my world. 'Sokay.

So that just had me take a minute, pause, reflect on how others see me, and be glad that I'm not embarrassed or insulted. I at least did better than the other two sites they reviewed that day, how's that for rampant vindication. (Oh yeah - and I use too many big words. Who knew?)

Edited to add: In rereading this, I sound more negative about it than I really feel. I thought it was interesting, and since I've watched them really tear into people before, I'm glad I didn't rate that low with them. Not a big deal, but for the timing/perspective.

Hard on the heels of that, I went home, and in chatting with Willem we briefly touched on the idea of him getting his own blog, or contributing to this one. And you know what? I realized that I would love to have him on here. I get tired of myself all the time, and I would love to have his input. A he-said/she-said, whatever. He's funny. You'd like him.

I don't know whether he actually will... technology makes him twitchy, and he thinks he's being cool by avoiding bandwagons like cell-phone-ownership and DVR-use... though, um, sweetheart... you have both. So, we'll see. It's intriguing, anyway.

So, there. That's what's been in my head, and now it's on a screen and, I hope, out of my head for a while. On to the next thing.
Bad Parents
Every time I start to think that we've got this parenting stuff figured out, just a little, I get a resounding reminder that we're actually just idiots.

Happened twice yesterday. Both with Emily, who is actually the lower-maintenance of my offspring at the moment. She had a dentist appointment, and in one of those circumstances that makes me doubt her maternity just a little, she loves the dentist. Goes happily, smiles about it, looks forward to it... all clearly signs of early mental illness.

She left her appointment with three more appointments over the next month, to deal with five cavities and two extractions. We've been assured, repeatedly, that we're already doing all we can by having her brush her teeth more than once a day (even risking the ridicule of the Neanderthals at her school by having her keep a toothbrush in her locker), flossing, using fluoride wash, gargling with bleach, etc. But the combination of weak enamel inherited from my mom and from Willem, and unfluoridated water where we used to live, have added up to cavity-prone teeth in her head.

And I don't care about genetics and fluoride. When you find out that your kid has cavities, you feel like a bad parent. Especially when it's FIVE cavities.

Then last night was 12/5, so in keeping with Willem's family's version of the Dutch Sint Nikolaas Day, we set out wooden shoes with apples for Sinterklaas' horse and cookies and milk for the Man Himself... we don't write letters to Santa or use Santa as a means to bribe our kids to behave, because I just hate that tendency for people to ask, "Oh, and what do you want for Christmas this year?" Too much materialism, too little emphasis on the other things the holiday might be good for, like doing things for other people, spending time with family, and eating too much. So Sint Nikolaas Day is our way to mess with the kids' heads about magical men sneaking through the house when they're not paying attention, without them feeling like they need to behave just right in order to get a bunch of toys.

Can you see where this is going? Because it's screamingly obvious to me now. We woke up this morning to Emily saying, "Hey, that's weird, Sint Nikolaas didn't come. The apples and cookies are still right here."

Nice going, Mom. And Dad, YOU'RE the Dutch half of this family, you can share in the guilt, too. Ugh.

So we played a head game whereby Willem took Emily outside to "look around" while I scrambled to hide the apples et al. and scatter candy around, Emily came back in, found the candy, oh hooray, whatever, Mom. She didn't give me that world-weary look, but I think that's only because she really wanted a piece of chocolate and she knew that attitude is not the shortest line between her and gratification.

I also forgot that my mother-in-law sent a package for the day - but that actually allows me to perpetuate the head game, because I can stop home, display the package with a note saying, "Dear Emily and Jacob, Sorry I was late this morning. My horse got sick. Thanks for the apples, they helped the horse feel much better. Here's a special treat just for you. Love, Sinterklaas."

Lame, I know. Whatever.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Too Much Fly Fishing
At home right now, I'm transcribing an hour-long interview with some guy who is apparently somewhat famous, if fame in your world involves saltwater fly fishing. In my world, it does not.

And you know what? You can, in fact, run out of things to say about fly fishing. At least, things that are interesting to anyone who doesn't own hipwaders. Within about 5 minutes, actually.

And along these lines, I stumbled upon a concept earlier today that makes me instantly anxious and threatened even though no one has actually suggested that I have to consider it: the Dvorak keyboard. I've been doing transcription for about 7 years now, on and off, and had worn the letters off of several keys on my old laptop. I didn't even notice when it happened - but the first time a friend asked to borrow my computer, it took him for-ev-er to send an email.

So the mere concept of being asked to relearn how to type on a non-QWERTY keyboard makes my pupils dilate and my heart rate increase. And not in a good way.
The Five Senses of Hell
Over the past 48 hours, I have had the privilege of experiencing each of the five senses of hell. It's been an edifying and strengthening experience, I'm sure... though I'd rather forego the suffering, if it's all the same to you.

Taste was the first one on the list. We'd had Chinese food delivered over the weekend, which is very exciting because we live in a small town in New Hampshire (so, not a lot of buildings to begin with, and even fewer actual, you know, Chinese people). Before this weekend, we only knew of one place that delivered, and its food was, well, sucky, to use complicated gustatory terminology. So Willem found this new place in the new phone books which had been delivered unceremoniously underneath the rear bumper of the minivan sometime last week, and they brought us Chinese food, and it was good.

So I was looking forward to having my leftovers for lunch on Sunday, and this time Willem did not violate the sanctity of the three-day rule, so it was waiting for me, happily sitting in its environmentally incorrect styrofoam packaging. I got Jacob down for a nap and Emily set up somewhere, anywhere, else, and sat down to a quiet, solitary plate of General Tso's chicken.

This stuff was a tad spicier than what I was used to from other places, which was a selling point for me, and there was much rejoicing. Right up until a rehydrated hot pepper found its way into a bite of fried rice and attempted to kill me on the spot. I'm a fan of hot food, I enjoy spicy chicken wings and hot salsa and so on, but when the heat reaches a point where the wax melts in your ears and your eyes water and you start randomly grabbing bananas, bread, milk, cat food, anything, dear God, anything, just to make it stop burning... not so much. I've stopped hyperventilating and weeping, but now I am distrustful of anything ensconsed in styrofoam.

So, then, smell. That evening, after bathtime and the laying-on of pajamas, the kids were wandering around the house in a desperate attempt to play play play, one last time, quick, now, before bedtime, must have fun, hurry, hurry! Then Jacob came out to the living room and told me, "I need a fresh clean diaper. My belly hurts." Okee-dokee, kiddo, way to get your mileage out of the previous one - you must have been wearing it for all of 10 minutes.

Into his room we went, down zipped the feety pajamas, and WHOOOOOOOSH-WHAM out came this horrible, truly seriously bad, smell, which was my only warning of what will heretofore be referred to as an Incident. Oh, it was bad. Whenever a diaper change results in everything within a three-foot diameter being crammed into the washing machine in the evening, it's just not a happy time.

My bliss by this point must have been palpable, truly. Can you feel it even now?

So, with two of the senses down, the rest of Sunday night and Monday morning were quiet. Too quiet. Ominously quiet.

Monday afternoon, Jacob and I headed into Emily's school for her school's "holiday concert," which is New Hampshire's attempt to be politically correct in its labelling even though all they sang were Christmas songs because clearly there can't possibly be any non-Christians in the public schools here. Poor kid had been sound asleep in his bed at 1:33, and by 1:43 we were seated on the floor of the gym/cafeteria/auditorium, surrounded by bored overdressed children and parents delusionally dreaming of the next American Idol.

The sound/sight of hell were both achieved in one fell swoop during this performance. At one point, some misguided or perhaps malignant adult armed a pack of first-graders with bells which might once have been in tune but were now so discordant that the sounds they emitted set Jacob's head rotating on his little neck and caused dogs in the neighborhood to rise up and dance and impelled Congress to allow Presidents a third term in office. It was truly a horrible, awful, terrible, no good, very bad noise.

And the only thing which helped distract from the noise was the delightful sight of my daughter, her particular frantic bell-shaking episode now finished, up to her elbow in her own nose, spelunking for whatever treasures she might find. In the first row. In front of everyone. Oh, was Mama's heart just aching with pride.

And I have it all on video. Though Willem and I watched it last night, and the soothing powers of distance and a lower-quality microphone rendered the Satanic brown note powerless and almost (though not quite!) pleasant. Never fear, though, the nose-picking is just as painfully evident after the fact.

Which brings us all to touch. This happened over the course of last night. I started to get a headache around 8:00 or so on the evening, which is not especially rare for me - I get 1-2 migraines a week and have worked my way through a large enough pile of preventative and abortive meds that now I have have a prescription for Vicodin and a wish for good luck from my doctor. Whenever a headache comes on after dinner or so, I typically just tough it out and go to bed, because I've never had a problem sleeping and sleep is cheaper than med refills.

So, by 10:30, I was ready to crash. Except for the fact that I was freezing. Ask Willem. It was as though there was simply no blood anywhere in my body. I was too cold to shiver. Just, brrr. I finally warmed up and fell asleep sometime around midnight. This is not the hellacious part.

I was vaguely aware, right around midnight, that Willem heard Jacob waking up and went in to check on him. This is one of the advantages of being hard of hearing, I can sleep through any number of nuisance and ignorable sounds (though the tiniest squeak from a nursing infant and I'm up like a shot). At some point, he woke me so I could try to repress the child, who had been awake several times by 1:00.

Long story short, the touch-part of hell can be encapsulated in the situation whereby you are still cold, you have a screaming lights-flashing migraine, you have just stubbed your toe so hard you had to lean down and reattach the damn thing before you limp into your son's room to try and determine why, after FIVE HOURS, he is still whining. And then you return to bed, doze for a while, and find yourself involved in a snarkfest with your husband whose logic and communication skills are not, shall we say, sharply honed by lack of sleep and abundance of frustration.

Good times, I tell you. Can't wait to find out that hell has created a sixth sense just for me.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
I'm Just Going to Bob's Room
It has not been uncommon, in the past few weeks, for either Willem or I to refer to a friend of his from college while in bed. Bob, to be precise, who is a brand-new blogger and ain't he cute? And, yes, I mean his name comes up in bed, and not while wearing the Sweatpants of Disinterest.

But, alas, we're not doing a role-playing kinky sort of thing, at least not where Bob is concerned. (You know, it's sentences like that, that make me remember that I don't know whether my mother reads this blog.) It's instead a reference to the fact that until I've been on the patch for a month (having gotten my Alien Communication Device IUD removed a few weeks ago) we're relying on a backup method because a baby in August is just not on the agenda.

And, along those lines, did you know that Ramses the Great is believed to have fathered almost 100 children? If Wikipedia says so, it must be true. Just a slightly ironic eponym for a condom company, no?

Anyway, Bob. And condoms. It all goes back to fall 1996, when I was still technically officially ring-on-the-finger still engaged to Someone Else but was testing the waters of Willem, so to speak. We hadn't Done the Deed, but ... well, put it this way: if I ever came home to find Willem testing waters in quite that way with anyone else now, I'd have to stop blogging, at least until I got out of prison.

So, one night, on what became the last night I was part of an official couple with Someone Else (though we did sort of drift together again several years later... but that's a whole other story and Bob had nothing to do with it), Willem and I were spending some quality time on his couch, and it started to seem like the Deed was, in fact, going to be Done. I insisted that he suit up. He was unprepared, not having been a Boy Scout. So he stands up, assures me, "I'm just going to go to Bob's room, he always has some. I'll be right back."

So I waited.

And waited.

And sat up and fixed my clothes and brushed my hair and turned on the TV and waited.

And waited some more.

Fifteen minutes later, after having apparently opened every single door in the entire fraternity house, Willem returned, a bit out of breath but waving the sought-after box triumphantly. "I found them, finally! Timmy had some."

"That's great, Willem, but you gave me long enough for my brain to start working again. I need to end things with Someone Else before I start things with you."

My memory has faded at this point, and I honestly can't remember if Willem just sort of shrugged and walked me home, or wailed and gnashed his teeth and begged, or simply burst into flames. I got in my little red truck, drove directly to Someone Else's house, and woke him up to break up with him and return the ring. I didn't immediately drive back to Willem's, but instead returned, alone and pent-up, to my own room and slept for the next three or four days, maybe a little less.

So now, whenever the topic of condoms or just taking way too long to find a simple-yet-crucial item, one of us will invariably say, "I'm just going to go to Bob's room."

Glad that Bob can share these moments with us, even if only in spirit.
No Bowling Balls Here
You know how sometimes having a conversation with someone is like playing catch with a bowling ball? You cast desperately about, and land upon something to say. You laboriously launch it their way, and then they give a one-word answer and let that bowling ball hit the floor with a resounding thwunk. Awkward silence ensues, and then one of you figures out something else to say, strains to lift that ball back up, and then thwunk. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Conversations with my brother-in-law are like this. A lot of hard work with no real outcome, and the constant risk of squished toes and weird bruises.

Last night, my friend Molly called me. We'd been playing phone tag since the post I wrote a few weeks ago, after which I sent her an email and then we just never seemed to catch each other at a good time.

We hadn't connected for over two years, and even though I was pretty sure it wouldn't be awkward or soulless, there's always that whispering little worry in the back of my mind. What if she's gone all mainstream and Donna Reed? What if I had? What if she's holding some unknown grudge for something I hadn't realized I'd done? What if she annoys me? What if she's just not Molly somehow? What if I'm just not Kate?

It took about 4 seconds for those fears to be evaporated like the idiotic and impossible delusions they were. Molly and I just have something special and tight and complete. Time and distance doesn't seem all that relevant.

We talked for 106:48, according to my cell phone. It was just so... right. So smooth, and comfortable, and fun. She sounds good, really happy and healthy and just off-the-wall enough to still be Molly. It felt so right, like a piece of myself that I didn't even realize was missing had suddenly clicked back into place.

Not a bowling ball in sight.
The Difference 27 Years Makes
My town had a Christmas parade today. It was lame. Boring. A bunch of bored-looking people wandering down the road while a bunch of equally bored-looking people drank Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate-resembling-beverage and watched them. When Jacob announced, an hour into the parade, that he was ready to go home, I was relieved and grateful to be able to skip out before the traffic piled up.

But from Emily's point of view, "That was AWESOME! There were SO MANY TRUCKS! And people! And candy! That was so cool, Mom! I can't wait to tell my friends at school all about it! Thanks, Mom!"

And Jacob: "I had fun, Mama. It was fun. I liked a parade."

Either I've just become jaded with age, or I've seen enough halfway decent parades that this one isn't up to par. So either I need to prevent my children from aging, or never take them to a parade in any other town in the country. Or I'll just wait till the letdown of jadedness sets in.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Thanks, Eli
I'm not sure what reminded me, exactly, but something tonight made me think of a friend of Willem's, who has the unfortunately all-too-rare honor of having flabbergasted me in a positive, warm-fuzzy sort of way. Willem gets to do it regularly, and a few friends and family members are able to, but the general public, from acquaintances to thankfully-still-strangers, is able to appall and disgust me on a daily basis.

But. Setting aside the cynicism, which is sort of inevitable after watching a woman sit in the emergency department for 12 hours because she's too delusional and confused for a psychiatric hospital (stop and think about that one... too crazy for a psych ward... boggles the mind) but five years too young for a geropsych unit. Please, any of you out there, if you're thinking of developing dementia, don't do it until you're 65. It's really hard to get good any care before then.


June 2005, we've got most of the house packed up into a series of oddly shaped boxes, many of which were crudely and cutely labeled by 4-year-old Emily, in whose still-pudgy hands a permanent marker had suddenly transformed from a weapon against upholstery to an actual writing utensil. It was one of those high-humidity New Hampshire days in which thermometers simply burst into flames instead of bothering with silly things like numbers, and I was waiting at the house for Willem to return from the U-Haul place. And return he did... with the first of three cute tiny little Volkswagen Beetle-sized trucks instead of the single city-block-sized truck we had reserved. Fabulous.

We had asked Eli, a fellow almost-former-teacher at the high school, to come over and help him load up the truck, since our movers had ditched us for a more lucrative job two weeks prior and I was interested in keeping the children alive instead of tossing them into their own boxes. We promised him $300 for the day, which we thought was pretty reasonable for a planned six or so hours of heavy manual labor.

Twelve hours later, after the normal expected misery of sloughing boxes and furniture and big wooden swingsets around the yard, needing to ask Eli to drive across the state and back because of that third U-Haul truck, a completely unexpected bout of unreasonableness with the buyers-to-be of our house, and a truckload of other horrible unbelievable things that I keep trying to block out, we pulled up outside of Eli's apartment. It was mostly empty, he said, because he had already moved most of his things back to his parents' house, where he planned to live while he figured out what profession made sense as a follow-up to high school teaching. (Rumor has it he's a mercenary in Panama now, which is a totally logical progression to me.)

He got out, and waved good-bye. I got out, too, to hand him the check, which now seemed pathetic and inadequate for how much work he'd done that day, but which was as much as our cute little high-school-teacher/grad-school-student budget could handle.

"No, thanks," he said. "That's what friends are for."

Willem and I goggled, fumbled, and tried to insist, but he just smiled and went into the house. I never saw him again.

Even to this day, I could weep. Well, no, okay, let's ratchet back the melodrama a little. I do get choked up and teary, though. It had been such a horrible, stressful, upsetting day, and I didn't even know yet that my great-grandmother had died that morning. And by that one simple act of generosity, Eli restored my faith in mankind. Not all of it, of course. But in him.

So, thanks, Eli. I'm sorry we weren't able to thank you any better. I owe you one. Or many.
It's Tough Being Two
The following conversation has been a recurrent theme in my house just lately, with details changed to protect us from predictability:

MOM: Okay, Jacob, it's time for school. Let's get a coat on.
MOM: Not an option, chief. Do you want to choose a coat, or me?
MOM: Okay, then. Red coat it is.
JACOB: I don't WANT the red coat.
MOM: Last chance to choose. Red or blue coat today?
[Flurry of wrestling and whining which ends up with the child ensconced in the blue coat and the mother irritated and cranky and unconcerned that the coat somehow ended up backwards because the hood muffles the whining a little.]
JACOB: I want the RED coat.
MOM: You can wear the red coat tomorrow. Off we go.
[Doppler effect of whining raising in pitch and then fading off as the trek to the car continues.]

Argh. I know, he's 2, it's what they do. And this whole patient-parenting thing is probably a better plan, in the long run, than giving in to the urge to stuff him into a cardboard box and ship him anywhere at all. By the time we arrive at his preschool, 4 minutes later, he's happy and mellow again. Traitor. The least he could do is be snotty around the people who are PAID to put up with that.