Saturday, June 30, 2007
Date Night
We spent all day in a frenzied orgy of spring cleaning, and now our breezeway, play room and crafts closet look like humans live here, instead of a bunch of flea-infested wombats hopped up on speed. Who don't put anything away.

Then in the evening, my dad decided he wanted to take the kids out to McDonald's for some unhealthy food and germ-intensive play place action. So Willem and I quickly got dressed and out of the house before he could change his mind, and had dinner at a nice, non-child-friendly place and then wandered around downtown Portsmouth, soaking in the upscale wicked cool blasé yuppie atmosphere and listening to live blues on the street and eating our weight in ice cream, and generally were about as adult and datelike as we could possibly be.

It's good to know that I still enjoy his company. Handy, in a marriage.
Friday, June 29, 2007
The Audacity to be Right
Tonight, Willem was watching the Red Sox game, and they were playing against... some other team. I'm a bad sportswife; not only do I not pay attention to important details like who they're playing or what their record is, but I don't even care. I passively and distantly enjoy watching, because I find Jerry Remy's voice and the cadence of a ball game to be hypnotic, but I don't tune in much.

And when I do, I get in trouble, because I'll apply principles of psychology to the game and then Willem gets mad when I'm right. Like, tonight, the pitcher was involved in a temper tantrum regarding a close play at first base. It was the bottom of the ninth with one out to go, and Willem was muttering some mantra along the lines of, "Just one more out, just strike the next guy out..." and rocking back and forth. (I'm not sure if he was in a religious trance or if he just had to pee.) And I remarked, "He can't just throw the next guy out. He's all riled up now, he's going to be all over the place for a while."

And sure enough, he hit a batter and jiggled and wiggled a bit, before finally getting his last out.

"I hate it when you're right," muttered my dearest love, my best friend, my life partner.

You'd think he would be used to it by now.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Proof of my Horribleness
See what insomnia/fatigue does to me? It makes me babbly and takes my sense of humor in a perhaps inappropriate direction.

Because I was just reading this article about the professional wrestler that strangled his wife and his son, then killed himself, last weekend. I have lots of thoughts on it, political stuff and sociological stuff (have any of you seen Jackson Katz's film Tough Guise?) and criminal justice stuff and psychological stuff and that-poor-baby stuff... but for the moment, the standout detail of the whole affair, to me, is the fact that, quite a while after killing his family, he hung himself on his weight machine.

Which means...

That which does not make you stronger, kills you.

Ugh. I'm sorry, it's not funny, I know. But it kind of is.
What Do Jack the Ripper and Winnie the Pooh Have in Common?
The same middle name.
"Mom, There's a Bus Stuck in my Hair."
Certain sentences are just never uttered in childless households. And have been uttered in the past 24 hours in mine.

"Are your underpants dry?"

"Hand me that truck."

"Quiet and eat your dinosaurs."

"Stop licking the cat."

"Mommy, there's a bus stuck in my hair."

"Hold still and watch TV for five minutes, would you please?" (This last while I attempted to turn my son from a 2-year-old Beatle-wannabe into a teenage sophisticate.)
Stuck in my Head
Is it possible to get a song stuck in your head that you're happy with? I'm starting to think that maybe it's the simple experience of having the song stuck there, lodged, crammed into the dark recesses of your brain, that makes the song undesirable, even if it's actually the best song ever.

And the one I have now? Clearly not the best song ever. It's Hinder's Lips of an Angel, which does have a certain power ballad wonderment to it, but any song lyricizing infidelity? Not my best thing.

It's really good to HEAR your VOICE, saying my NAME...

I'm going to go take a shower and either pound my head against the wall or just run water into one ear and out the other, in hopes of exorcising this particular demon.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Sometimes my job is a true privilege. I'm allowed - invited, even - into people's lives at their very lowest moments, to see them at their very worst, most broken, most hopeless, and given the opportunity to listen, and sometimes I can help. Sometimes I leave a person feeling like I just gave them something they didn't have before, a new perspective or a validation, something to just get through the night.

That's an honor, and a thrill.

Othertimes, my job is a farce. I'll be facing legitimate, intense, worthy problems, and will be completely unable to do one measly little thing to help. There are no words to make it better. There are no hospital beds available anywhere within a 90-minute drive to keep the person safe. There is no magic pill or special secret to healing, or coping, or just living. And I leave feeling helpless and sad and, worse, useless.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Wet Sleeping Bag Contest
As promised, a photographic journey through our tenting adventures in Canada... these would be most realistic if you went out and sat in the passenger seat of your car for ten hours first, then completely drenched your bedding in the coldest water still available in liquid form, then woke up in the morning too cold to shiver. And yet somehow, even though the first adjectives that come to mind when I reflect on the weekend are wet, cold and tired, I'm still glad we went. And gladder that we came home.

We started off our Canadian trip with an all-American breakfast... and nap.

We spent the first night at a dear friend's B&B in Truro... to minimize (but apparently not eliminate) the stalkers she adds to her guest register, I won't name the spot. But if you're planning to head to Nova Scotia and need a place to stay that feels like the home of old friends, if your friends happen to live in a gorgeous house with beautiful well-behaved children and impeccable manners, then let me know. I'll hook you up.

There were several bucketfuls of children, between my two and her four, so most of the photography was aerial.

Smart people would have stayed right there, for at least two nights, basking in the cleanliness and comfort of an official B&B.

We, evidently, are not smart.

We drove several more hours, up to Prince Edward Island. For those of you who've never heard of it before, don't worry about it - apparently it's a very American thing, to have no idea where this place is. It has still managed to become heavily touristy and commercialized in small pockets, but for the most part its very invisibility has allowed it to remain a worthwhile vacation spot.

We got our tent sweet tent all set up, and the kids were inordinately excited.

So, apparently, were the grown-ups, because if you look carefully, you'll notice that the windows are not tied down, and there is no rain guard tied to the top of it as we drove away to dinner.

Of course it rained. It poured. It thundered. There are no pictures from that evening, because we were too busy panicking, and then hanging out in the laundry room. My initial reaction, which I will blame unabashedly on this autoimmune nonsense, was a complete and utter inability to cope. "Everything's wet? Let's go home." After a trip out for quarters, I was able to regain enough stamina to actually check the clothes bags instead of believing Willem's doomsday statements including words like soaked and dammit. Our clothes were not soaked; only our synthetic, manmade, dries-in-mere-moments sleeping bags were. Five dollars and a couple hours solved the problem, and we toughed it out.

Which raised the philosophical question: Does this mean that our family motto is, "We Don't Quit," or, "Stubborn to the Point of Stupidity"? It's a fine line.

Other highlights included indoor black-lit mini-golf... cows in awkward positions...

...and goofy, blissed-out facial expressions following the Best Mussels in the History of Mussels.

I'll even post the recipe, they were so good. Take a propane stove, and a steamer pot. Dump in homemade lobster stock (okay, go ahead, get storebought... won't be as good as mine, but whatever), crushed tomatoes with basil and canned mushrooms with juice, bring to a boil. Set the steamer pot inside, toss in three pounds of $1-a-pound fresher-than-a-12-year-old-boy-in-timeout PEI mussels, and clamp on the lid. Wait until the mussels open (by melting a half-stick of butter on the other burner, you know, just to pass the time) and then try not to embarrass yourself by diving face-first into the pot.

Meanwhile, have the foresight, a half an hour prior, to cut up a half-dozen potatoes, a Vidalia onion, and some garlic butter, toss all into an aluminum foil bag, and throw on the fire for a while.

It's touch-yourself good. Seriously. My God.

Then go out for dessert. It's worth the drive.

Jacob got a new friend during our dessert run. This is Brown Cow:

What? He's not brown, you say? Well, he tried very hard to become so, by diving into the fire pit, rescued by an alert Mama fearful that Jacob would feel honor-bound to try and get it himself. How now, Brown Cow?

Our last morning in PEI, we finally reached our coping capacity when it comes to the hordes of Tiny Ultrasonic Minions of Satan, otherwise known as mosquitoes. You mock, I hear you - but I have never in my life experienced a pestilence like this. Literally dozens and dozens of them swarming you from the moment you breathe until the moment you throw yourself off the nearby cliffs in abject despair. Bathing in DEET, inhaling it, had no effect. We'd planned on leaving the campground around noon, and were on the road by 9:30. Frantically and itchily.

Sunday night, we erred in the Stupidly Stubborn and Plan-Dependent side of things. We'd left PEI early enough that we could have made it all the way home that night, but we decided to stick with the original plan and stay in New Brunswick. Which is neither as pretty, nor as quaint, nor as soft-grass-campsited as PEI. So none of us slept well, and we were on the road by 7:30 on Monday morning.

It was neat, I'll grant, to be someplace with such intense tides. At the left is the view across Oak Bay from our campsite in mid-afternoon... at the right is the same view, six hours later.

Not to mention, fun to bond with the children over the simple pleasures of throwing rocks in water.

But still. Better to be home. In a bed. Out of the rain.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Triumphant... or Stubborn? decide.

We're home. The vacation was fabulous and horrible, sometimes at the same exact moment. I'll write up a synopsis - new! with pictures! - soon. Tonight, I hope. Because it is a trip worthy of remembering, and with my brain in its current Jell-O-like state (Idaho, perhaps?), it's imperative that I apply words to the experience immediately, before it all evaporates and vanishes.

I'm still dealing with this erythema nodosum stuff (yes, thank you, Firefox, I realize that you don't recognize the spelling of those words. No one does. I wish I didn't, because it is such an annoying and useless condition). It's not especially painful - just bruiselike - or intense, just tiring. As in, I can go from wide awake to ungracefully asleep in the space of about 5 seconds. I was, quite literally, too tired to knit during most of my 30-plus hours in the passenger's seat this weekend.

So, I'm here and home, and there's more to come. Honest. Soon.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Off the Grid
We're heading off to a weekend of Enforced Family Fun Time, spending one night at a friend's B&B in Nova Scotia and then tenting three more nights in various spots in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. No computers, no cell phones... it's really going to be quite the bizarre and amazing experience, I think. Willem and I may actually have to have conversations, and don't even get me started on all of the nature and imaginative play the children will have to do.

See you on Monday night...
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The Nightmare Before Wednesday
I've been up since 4:45 this morning. I gave in and got out of bed at 6:30, tired of rolling around and feeling irritated. This is not the norm for me; I'm someone who will hit the snooze button five times on any given morning, only because hitting it six times would just be ridiculous. I can sleep, and I do it well. Most of the time.

But lately, it's become a lost talent. It's taking half an hour to fall asleep at night, which is about 29 minutes longer than it usually takes me. If I wake during the night, I'm up for long enough to get mad at myself for being awake. And if I wake after daybreak, forget it.

Last night was particularly bad, because I fell asleep around 10:30 and woke up at 1:04 with a nasty nightmare. Some people have bizarre, technicolor, creative nightmares involving zombies and plushies and blackberry ice cream; not I. I have very realistic and very upsetting dreams involving the people I love in very believable, if unlikely, circumstances. I've had dreams about my kids getting sick, dreams about fires, dreams replaying old traumas... it's very Lifetime Movie in my head, only less pretty and with unpaid real people in the place of campy actors.

Last night's was a long episode of A Life Unraveled, starting with Willem admitting that he had allowed a relationship with some random woman to become inappropriate, and then admitting that there had been another, and another. In my dream, I could picture, with aching clarity, the meetings with divorce lawyers, the packing and moving to a new apartment, the need to send my kids to stay with my mother while I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital with suicidal tendencies. I went through a whole broken life in the space of five or six hours.

I have the extra added benefit, in my nightmares, of having episodes and chapters to it all. When I woke up, upset, at 1:04, it was just after we'd had the initial horrible conversation, in the car, on a specific road near our house. I've had enough experience with bad dreams to know that I shouldn't go right back to sleep; I know to get up, walk around, have a drink of water, and generally wake myself up as much as possible so that I don't just roll over and fall right back into the same dream. Didn't work last night. Each time I woke up and later went back to sleep, I was picking up after the next commercial break and following the same story. So I was up several times during the night, and by 4:45 I was more exhausted than if I had just stayed up until then in the first place.

And I don't know how to convince Willem that having nightmares like this does not mean that I don't trust him enough now. I'm fully aware of where dreams like this come from, and I'm fully confident in the strength of our relationship when I'm awake and conscious (not always the same thing with me, lately). I do not believe that dreaming about things means that I'm actually, deep-down, secretly obsessing over the possibilities. I think it's a topic that would be upsetting to dream about, regardless of our past, and my brain just has some nice, pre-defined pathways all laid out, to know exactly how it feels to live through this stuff because of prior experience.

I've noticed that I've had increasing difficulty sleeping for the past few weeks, and I wonder if it's related to this erythema nodosum crap; perhaps there's a certain cosmic cruelty that makes me drag my leaden body around all day, longing for the next chance to nap, and then revs up my brain at bedtime and afterward. I've certainly noticed more fatigue and achiness since being told by a doctor that I should be tired and sore, and I can't decide if that's just latent hypochondria rearing its ugly head or if I'm more aware of what was already there.

I really need to get better at complaining about my physical ailments; my general attitude is, "Why bother complaining? It doesn't make me feel any better and there's nothing anyone else can do about it." But by not verbalizing it, I tend to minimize or forget that it happened.

So, whatever. I'm tired, physically and mentally, and ready for a nap. Except, whoops, I've just started a 24-hour shift, to cover for a coworker whose brother is dying of AIDS. Sure, I've got an official ailment and could probably beg off work, but in my book, death trumps tired.

Everybody just stay sane for another 23 hours, okay? Thanks.
Monday, June 18, 2007
It All Comes Back Around
Turns out that an autoimmune disorder, such as my current friend, E.N., makes one much more prone to miscarriage.

I'm not really sure how I feel about that. Relieved, again, because this is one more thing that would have made a pregnancy very scary and stressful; and sad, again, because maybe if it weren't for this I'd be craving turnips and unable to watch game shows because they'd make me too choked up.

It's all as it should be, I think. It removes that little niggling doubt that maybe I miscarried because there was something wrong with the parts themselves, that this was a harbinger of things to come. Removes the wonder about what I might have done wrong. And very much reinforces that we need to wait until I have a completely clean bill of health before we try and inflict that particular roller coaster upon me.
File Under "Normal Doesn't Live Here Anymore"
Okay, this is weird. Even by my standards.

When I was in Paris, I noticed these sore spots on my shins, raised up a noticeable amount from normal shin level. First just one, on my right leg, then another there and, a few weeks later, another on the left. They hurt like crazy if someone has the audacity to brush past me with anything stronger than featherweight force, and I can't sit on my knees on the floor, but otherwise they're quite ignorable. Just another bruise, you know?

But here it is, a month later, and they're still sore to the point of me yelping and eeking if I roll over wrong. So, after unsuccessfully searching for someone, anyone, to agree with me that it's probably just bruises, no big deal, they'll fade, I gave in and went to the doctor today.

She asked lots of scary questions, about my breathing and my glands and my joints, and sent me in for bloodwork and a chest x-ray. Turns out I have something called Erythema Nodosum, an autoimmune disorder which, when said very quickly by a doctor while you're wearing half a sheet and shivering, is the Scariest Thing Ever. It turns out that's just a fancy name for Weird Painful Lumps on Your Shins, and it's evidence that your body is reacting weirdly to Something Else. Hence the chest x-ray, to rule out sarcoidosis, and the bloodwork, to rule out whatever else.

"It's weird," said the doctor, once I stopped hyperventilating, "because the most common cause of it is actually strep throat. Have you ever had it?"

"Why, funny you should ask," I replied. "I just had a nasty case of strep in April. I didn't mention it, because somehow I don't associate shin pain with strep throat. My bad."

So, she's pretty sure that's what caused it. I don't have sarcoidosis, and the other causes aren't likely. There's no real treatment for it, other than rest and ibuprofen and waiting for it to go away, and if it doesn't go away on its own in a few more weeks then I'm supposed to go back to the doctor, get mostly naked, and see what to do then.

Do I know how to have a good time, or what?

And, not to be bothersome, but rest? Really? I have two children and a plan to drive 600 miles away this weekend to go tenting. What about that scenario allows me to take it easy?

Apparently I'll be sleeping in the car.
A Bad Day to Be a Child
I just watched several consecutive stories on CNN.

A 4-year-old died in Texas due to flash floods.

A 15-year-old died in Tennessee trying to watch drag-racing. (Which is a sport with a wildly misleading name. I expected far more sequins.)

A couple had sextuplets, and so far three have died.

There are such things as pedophile rings, and if it took 10 months and 35 agencies to find and deal with this one, how many smaller, work-from-home operations are still running?

Five children died in the same fire in Pennsylvania.

A 5-year-old girl survived a boating accident while her grandfather died.

Another 4-year-old boy is going to live his life without his mother.

A pregnant woman is missing in Ohio, leaving her 2-year-old home alone.

Life is dangerous stuff. I'm going to go gather up my babies and keep them in a bubble, if you don't mind.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
The Color of Good Parenting

The bright, glow-in-the-dark red of your child's back, sunburned for the first time, because the first application of sunscreen might not have reached her back, and the second application just somehow never happened.

Nothing makes you feel like a good parent quite like a nasty, painful sunburn. At least she's not to the point of blistering or bursting into flames. Still.
Friday, June 15, 2007
What Does Blonde Sound Like?
After appearing in court today for a commitment hearing (something which is far, far more mundane than it sounds), I stopped by the Admissions office of the state psychiatric hospital to get copies of some forms. I've talked to the various people in Admissions on a weekly basis for a year now, but had never seen any of them face-to-face.

Which means they hadn't seen me, either. When I met one woman, she kept looking at me oddly, in a check-your-teeth-and-wipe-your-nose sort of way. Finally she said, "I just always thought you were blonde. You don't sound like a brunette."

I'm kind of surprised she didn't ask me for ID.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Not Quite Defeated
He is an ex-husband, a weekend dad, a non-custodial parent. He finds out many things after the fact, and others at the last minute, when it's too late to offer any well-thought-out ideas or opinions. He ends up saying no a lot, more out of a desperate need to have some input, some control, than out of an actual desire to prevent things. He cares deeply about this troubled and brilliant child, and he wants to protect him, especially from things he doesn't understand.

He has said no to psychiatric medication. He had grudgingly agreed to therapy, only because he couldn't think of any dangerous side effects of talking. "You can put him on medication," he announces, "if you can guarantee me that there will be no side effects." And no one can guarantee him this, so he has held his ground. In most states, the no of one parent trumps the yes of everyone else in the world, even the other parent.

Now he stands, helpless and oversized, many inches taller than anyone else in the hospital, except for the seven-foot-two security guard. He is dressed in khaki pants and a button-down shirt, but there are telltale paint stains on his hands and jacket, belying his blue-collar existence. "I'm not a bad guy," he whispers. "I don't want to hurt him, or prevent him from getting help. I just don't want to throw medication at him and worry that I'm causing permanent damage."

He seems to hear the feedback: with the possible exception of his ex-wife, no one here thinks he is a bad guy. His mere presence is appreciated, in a world where 13-year-olds can overdose on Tylenol PM and lie alone in a hospital bed while the parents refuse to spend another long and boring night in the emergency room. It is clear to anyone who can get past his initial gruffness that he is a scared, overwhelmed, underinformed father who can't quite understand how ten years have moved a squalling, helpless, protectable infant into an intelligent, volatile, emotionally dysregulated boy. The hospital staff would rather have a concerned parent saying no than a dilatory, absent parent, any day of the week.

And yet he is deflated, sinking into himself. He has heard his ex-wife's tales of their son's uncontrollable outbursts, his violent acts and his screaming fits, but he hadn't yet seen it in action. He had convinced himself that this was one more instance of the woman playing head games, and the boy was fine, would continue to be fine. He was doing the best he could with what he had, and he had believed it was good enough.

But now, he stands in the emergency department, hovering in the doorway, shocked and frightened to watch the boy devolve from a talkative, polite pre-teen into a kicking, whining toddler at the mere mention of having blood drawn. He goggles at the admission from his ex-wife that this is the sixth attempt in a year to draw blood, and every other time the boy has thrown a large enough tantrum that she has given up and gone home. He agrees that blood work is necessary, given certain alarming symptoms, and can't understand why it hasn't happened before now. He nods as he's told that the boy will be physically restrained for the procedure, and acquiesces to staff requests that both parents remain in the hallway for what is going to be an unpleasant experience for everyone if the boy continues to escalate his protests.

He has learned that the best he could do was not enough, because his child is not okay. This is not how a normal 10-year-old reacts, and it has clearly moved well beyond a power struggle into the horrifying and confusing realm of mental illness. He pulls aside the mental health worker to whisper, "Would medication help this? Would it help keep this from happening again?" He nods at the answer, which, like anything else in mental health, comes with caveats and uncertainties.

He is reminded that the child is lucky to have parents who are so concerned, lucky not to be alone. "As long as I'm alive," he said, "he will never sit alone in a hospital." The father is reminded that there is every reason to be optimistic that serious and long-term changes are possible to make his child's life, his heart, feel better. His nod is barely perceptible.

From behind the closed examination room door, screams and moans erupt that are unlike anything anyone - including the staff - has ever experienced. The noises continue for a long time; more than 20 minutes, though it feels far longer.

And the father stood very straight, back against the wall. And tears flowed, unchecked, down his face.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
House of 1000 Dressers
We live in a pretty quiet neighborhood, if you ignore the mufflerless and overaccelerated testosteronemobiles of the teenage boys next door. No lines painted in the road, lots of people out walking after dinner... you get the idea.

It makes sense now, though we hadn't anticipated it when we moved in, that this makes for an ideal setup for getting rid of crap. We've stacked any number of random useless item at the edge of the street - we don't even have curbs - and it has become a game, guessing how long the latest cast-off will last. We've offloaded an old television, several plastic storage bins, some cheap rickety cupboards, even a pile of rusted and hole-infested gutters, all within days or even hours.

I'm now learning that it's quite possible that everything we've gotten rid of has ended up in the same woman's house.

She came to our door today, a little manic and intense, to ask what we were doing with the big table-looking thing at the side of the road. Since we were all sitting inside at the time, the answer was pretty clearly, "Nothing. We're ignoring it. It's been bad." But I didn't offer this answer, because I'm not sure she could handle it. Instead, I gave her a sanitized version: it was inherited from my great-grandmother to my uncle, and I'd gone to pick it up from his house on Monday - but it needs more refinishing and care than I'm willing to give it. I don't have the space and time to pick up refinishing as a hobby.

I didn't tell her that the only reason I considered keeping the dressing table at all is because we, in my family, refer to my great-grandmother, deceased as of 1996, as Jimmy the Greek due both to her political ideology and her physical appearance. And that it was kind of fun to talk about having Jimmy the Greek's dressing table. Again, I didn't think she could handle it. (Besides, I have Jimmy the Greek's china. It is the ugliest set of china in the history of dishes. Seriously, it's amazing.)

Anyway, I gave her a short version of all of this, and she replied, "Yes, I was driving by the other week and I saw a dresser out there. I hate to see wooden pieces going unused, so I picked that up, too."

Willem helped her move it away from the road so that her husband could come pick it up later - lucky guy! - and then decided that this woman must have a house just crammed to bursting with every piece of furniture we've ever gotten rid of. It's like the little-known sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, this time with hardwood.

I almost feel guilty, thinking of the wooden twin bunk bed set that we gave away via last year - now this woman doesn't have a complete set.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Do you like surprises?

'Cause I don't.

I don't mind things in the gifts-as-surprise genre. I don't even pick up packages and shake them at Christmastime, and I don't try to weasel hints out of the gift-giver. I can sit, smug and comfortable in the knowledge that, eventually, I will be able to open that gift, and then the mystery will be over.

But I'm realizing, of late, that I actively dislike the "get dressed and ready by 7:00 on Saturday, we're doing something" type surprise. And everyone around me seems to just loooooooove perpetrating this type of event upon me. I wasn't allowed to know where we were going for my birthday dinner, and two of my closest friends have organized "a day trip" in mid-July that I'm only allowed to know that I should block off the date on my calendar.

I can understand that it's fun to try and keep things on the down-low for a while. I've done it myself - I worked hard to keep Willem's 30th birthday plans a secret until the last possible second. But I'm realizing it makes me a tiny bit berserk when the tables are turned, so I'm thinking that will continue t be the exception rather than the rule.

It's just this: if I don't know what we're going to do and where we're going to go, then I can't get properly excited. The anticipation is so formless and blurry, and it's just hard for me to really sink my brain into it. I like counting down the days, and planning out my outfits, and watching relevant TV shows or what have you.

So, pretty please, if any of you out there feels the need to shower me with gifts, you go right ahead, and I can comfortably promise not to open them before the appropriate deadline. But if you're planning an outing, please just go ahead and let that cat out of the bag right from the start, okay? Cats don't like bags much, anyway.
Sprained Brain
I think I may have done a little too much thinking lately. I may have strained something. I don't think my brain is actually broken, but I do think I should watch some mindless television - Game Show Network is always a good bet - and knit something I've already been working on and generally do what I can to figuratively wrap an Ace bandage around the afflicted area and keep off it for a day or two.

I've just been far too involved and worried and useless when it comes to my father's life. He's still living here, still trying to negotiate some form of relationship with his girlfriend, still trying to decide how and when and where to go back to work. The best I can offer - and, yes, I recognize, I'm offering enough and it's good enough but I still feel inadequate - is a safe place to live and good food to eat, and some basic respect and intelligent conversation. He needs to make the ultimate decisions himself, and me offering unsought (or even sought) advice or worrying overmuch won't be all that helpful. Not that that stops me.

I've also been mired down in the emotional abyss of family dynamics, specifically whether we should - or will - have a third child. I want to. Deeply. Desperately. Truth be told, I want two or three more; I really enjoy the four-year spread between my two now, and I'd like to be done before I'm 40, which means I could sneak three more in and still maintain both of those criteria.

That won't happen. Willem will very likely faint dead away at the mere reading of such a preposterous concept. He's comfortable with two, and until about a month ago was flatly disinterested in having a third. We had a long and involved conversation on the drive to Potsdam last month, and somehow I managed to say the right things, because now he says he's on board with planning for another.

Things seem to work that way for him: he can think one way, have a conversation, and flip a switch. I don't know whether I'm more prone to sulking, or ruminating, or what, but I don't adjust that quickly. I've heard him say the words, and I believe that he means them: he's comfortably, if not ecstatically, ready to talk about having one more child. But my heart hasn't bought in yet. When I was taking a pregnancy test the other week, and then dealing with a miscarriage, I had the expected range of disappointment and sadness, but also a relief - because I was scared of his reaction. Not domestic-violence-and-black-eyes scared, not even yelling-and-sulking scared - I knew he'd do the right thing, be the right guy. But still scared, because I didn't believe it would be okay. And a large proportion of my own okayness rests on his okayness.

And ambivalence about a miscarriage? Doesn't feel okay. Wanting desperately to have another child but not being able to convince your heart that it will be wanted by both parents? Ditto.

So, yeah. My brain is tired. I recognize that the bottom line is, my dad will work things out and be okay, and I'm glad that we're able to help him in any capacity at all. We'll try for a third baby someday, and it will be wonderful (but, yes, hard work), and I'll accept the fact that three will have to be enough, because more than that will not be okay.

And in the meantime I'll put some ice on it to try to numb the process of getting to that bottom line.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Short-Term Leasing
Sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning, Emily apparently entered into a short-term lease agreement with Satan. It may have been brokered without her awareness, as she is claiming ignorance and the non-binding nature of a contract entered into before age 18, and I have my suspicions about the use of Tom & Jerry cartoons as a portal for such transactions.

Be that as it may, she spent the majority of Saturday convincing me that there's a good reason why many animals eat their young, and reminding me of one of my central rules of parenting: You always have to love your children, but you don't have to like them all the time. And on Saturday, I disliked her with a vengeance.

Then, around 6:00 p.m., the lease expired. She was suddenly polite and fun and sweet again, and we made it through the rest of the evening without incident; no small feat when there wasn't a single consecutive hour through the rest of the day in which I didn't have to repeat myself, apply a consequence, or glare sternly.

Kids are hard work.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Not How it's Supposed to Happen
Early morning. Slow pan through children's rooms, oddly still filled with sleeping children, into parents' bedroom. Husband wakes up, rolls over, begins to gently and romantically awaken his wife: quietly and affectionately rubs her back, arms, other strategically selected areas. Wife stirs, rolls over.

WIFE: Mmmm.


WIFE: Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.


WIFE: I feel like I'm going to throw up.


Late evening. Slow pan through living room, lights left on, television paused long enough for screen saver to activate, knitting project and computer game abandoned on furniture. Various items of clothing scattered in hallway. Children, again, sleeping in their respective bedrooms. Parents in bedroom, considering further enactment of activities interrupted earlier by a head cold and vertigo.

WIFE: My dad is still out with his girlfriend. If they come home, see the living room, movie on pause, lights still on... I might die.

HUSBAND: You're 30 years old. You have two children. I think they know you've done this before.

WIFE: [PAUSE] Yeah, I might die.


Some time later. Husband and wife exit bedroom, somewhat disheveled and out of breath. Wife enters bathroom, husband continues to living room. Close up on wife's horrified expression as muffled male conversation wafts gently from living room. No lethal weapons immediately apparent, so she waits for mortification to kill her on its own.

Friday, June 08, 2007
In a Just World...
...Paris Hilton would assault another inmate following a heated exchange on the general topic of the worthiness of pocket-sized dogs as pets, thereby earning a several-year extension onto her sentence. Instead, she will get a book deal, and maybe even a (not-NC-17-rated) movie out of a couple of weeks of minimally just consequences for illegal actions.

...More people would read this story and, instead of invoking God and luck and miracles and rabbits' feet, would take a moment to pause, reflect, and say, "I wonder what the kid in the wheelchair is up to." Instead, the assumption is that the presence of a wheelchair creates a feebleminded, pathetic, innocent creature who couldn't possibly have just been bored and looking to shake things up. (Note: I don't know any more than what's in this type of article - maybe he is faultless. But am I really the only person in the country willing to consider an alternative hypothesis?)

...Idiotic medical conditions would strike people mute as well as causing pain. Instead they get you published.

...the phrase "half a foot deep" would apply only to liquids.

I need to not read the news. Not even yahoo's fake pretend cutesified version of news. Argh.
Gentle Advice
If, God forbid, you find yourself in a hospital emergency room, for the second time in two days, being assessed for mental stability to determine whether it's safe for you to return to your home (where you'd rather be) or you need to be hospitalized involuntarily in a psychiatric unit halfway across the state, it might not help things move in your favor to hand your lunch tray to the security guard, flip it up into his face, and then attempt to escape, hospital gown a-flappin', out the nearest doors. There's one very specific reason why those particular doors are kept locked, and you are it.

I'd also encourage you not to tell your friendly neighborhood mental health clinician that it wasn't you that was assessed yesterday, but rather a woman named Jenny who is trying to take over your life and is your identical twin but isn't because your real twin lives out of state. Statements like this don't make you seem less> crazy, even if they're stone-cold truth. Especially because, unless the mental health clinician is also having visual hallucinations, you look about as unfemale as a person can look without walking around naked. (And, please, don't do that. Really, really.)
Too Much Volume
I stopped at the grocery store for milk and some odds and ends (odds, Aisle 3, Ends, Aisle 12 - I don't know why they don't shelve them together), and used the self checkout to escape the store.

The prerecorded Exorcist-meets-2001 voice announcing the prices and walking me through the process, just in case I was actually a Capuchin monkey with a recent lobotomy, was FAR LOUDER THAN IT NEEDED TO BE.

I'm just glad that I wasn't buying anything embarrassing.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
We all knew, right, that I was not as completely unruffled and untouched by the miscarriage as I thought I was. Right? I'm still not depressed. Aside from a brief and hormone-fueled burst immediately after figuring it out on Saturday, I haven't cried, haven't felt the need to. But stuff like that doesn't happen without a price.

My price has been this sense of weird. That I'm forgetting something; that I've missed some crucial detail or am about to make some huge mistake. It's a sense of vulnerability, a lack of self-confidence, that I find alien and yet all-too-familiar. A year ago, two years ago, this would have blossomed into a full-fledged depression, complete with hibernation and caustic humor and an inability to quite be myself at any given moment.

I know it would have happened, because it did. I had post partum depression for over a year with Jacob, which wasn't entirely the fault of the pregnancy because I was married to a man who was profoundly unhappy at his job and therefore unhappy in most of his life, and I find it very difficult to watch that kind of misery on a daily basis without getting a little on me. But the pregnancy, the stress of it all, and the ongoing hormonal roller-coaster of breastfeeding and working two jobs and grad school... it wasn't good.

Then I started to swim out a little. We moved across the state, we had a fresh start, I got to stay home with my kids full-time... life eased up on me a little. I picked up a new hobby, knitting, which has become a way of life now. Things were on the mend. Until I got run over by the You Didn't Get an Internship Steamroller and was flattened for several more months. Especially because, hard on the heels of that, came the You Can't Continue to Stay Home Jackhammer which just eroded at my core well-being. No insurance, no money, working at the only low-cost mental health provider in town... all added up to just fumbling through, just coping.

I can say, with honesty and confidence, that I've been better for the last, oh, eight or nine months. Since the fall, sometime, when I accepted the necessity of a full-time job, and learned to take pride in the work I was doing with such hurt, damaged people. When I was able to really see the fun and sociability my kids were enjoying at their respective schools. When I was watching my husband - whether he wants to admit it or not - succeeding at grad school.

Which is why I'm able to sit here now and recognize my weirdness without falling down into that funnel again. Because that's what depression is like for me - it's like sitting at the bottom of a huge, slick funnel. You can't climb up the sides; there are no footholds, and every time you make it a few inches, something happens and you slip and wind up at the bottom again, only worse because it's again. Things keep coming over the edge and falling down on you, and you're at the bottom so they can't land anywhere but on your head, and you can't avoid them. Life just keeps pounding away at you, and on the really dark days you wonder what would happen if you just let go.

I'm not there now, to begin with, which is what is allowing me to keep it together through the various stresses falling down around me. I'm not at the bottom of a funnel, so some of those stresses are able to miss me a little - not everything feels like it's my fault or my responsibility. Such a relief.

But I'm still weird. I'm moody, and far too easily frustrated. Just ask Willem and my kids about what a paragon of stability and cheer I was last night. They'll say, "What? She was? I didn't notice, what with all the yelling." I'm impulsive and reactive, doing instead of thinking. I took the first step toward rejoining a message board that I'd left a while ago due to my own inability to figure out how I fit in, whether I fit in; I'd been thinking about going back for a while, but I don't know for sure that I was done thinking. I think it'll be good for me to get back; I miss some old friends and am in a better place to be myself without referencing others' responses. But still - I'm not normally impulsive, so it's weird.

Adding to this all is my recent experience with both my parents, in which I have been more Something than each of them. It started with my mother, in France - I'd traveled internationally before, so I knew things about air travel, and using a subway system, and speaking French, that she didn't know. And it put both of us into an odd relational spin, because normally we're both pretty willing to live and let live, but in this case I felt the need to step in and be more of a leader of our little group. My mother doesn't like it when someone else knows things she doesn't know, and she doesn't like being told no. (Does anyone?) So it was weird.

And now, with my father, watching his relationship with his girlfriend roller-coaster up and down - he's thinking of moving back in with her - and at first thinking, "This is all way too fast. What is he thinking?" And then realizing that my parents got married at 17 and only officially divorced about a year and a half ago. He may have had other short-term flings before now - let's not delve too deeply into that thought, okay? - but this is only his second relationship, ever, that he is sharing with the family and sticking with for more than a few months. So, yes, it really is sort of unsophisticated and impulsive in a lot of ways - negotiating relationships is a learned skill, not an instinct.

So, yeah. I've been weird. There've been other examples - I applied for a per diem neuropsychology job this morning, an hour away, which would probably be a good thing for me but, again, not like me to just bang out a cover letter and C.V. like that. I ate the better part of a pint of Ben & Jerry's last night, and I've come a long, long way from daily overeating. You get the idea.

But I'm not out of control, and I'm not depressed. Know how I know? Because I'm not playing mindless computer games for hours and hours at a stretch every day. That's one of my early symptoms - I fall into card games or thoughtless Windows games and can't stop. I've done my share of solitaire and played Hoyle's gin for a while last night while my father watched the Republican debates, but I'm keeping an eye on it. So far, it's all been a choice - "I think I'll play for a while" - and I've been able to stop when I want to, instead of staying up until 3:00 in the morning for one more game of Jezzball.

So, for now, weird isn't bad. And with a little luck, I'll shake it off soon.
Something is bothering me.

Itching my brain. Pestering. Niggling.

Like I've forgotten to do something, but I can't think what.

I'm sitting on my couch at 12:17 a.m., wandering through my consciousness. It started off as a systematic process, and now I'm just throwing stuff everywhere in the hopes that one of these neurons will move out of the way and reveal Whatever It Is.

I've already remembered several things that I thought I'd forgotten - like, we're supposed to send in cut-up fresh fruit to Emily's school tomorrow so they can make a fruit salad. I have some shopping to do, pronto, post-haste, yesterday, for a group gift, that I keep forgetting until it's the completely wrong time to do it. (Such as, midnight.) We're painfully late on Emily's thank-you notes for her birthday. I have to send my uncle an email about picking up this antique dressing table before he moves. I have to figure out where we'll put it once it arrives at my already-cluttered house.

I keep hoping that one of these light bulbs will be the one to squelch the nagging sense that I'm going to wake up in all-too-few hours and immediately smack myself in the forehead because of The Big Important Thing.

So far, no luck.

Let me know if you think of it, okay? I need to try to get some sleep.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
One of my favorite quotes is by Piero Scaruffi: There is a limit to human intelligence, but there is no limit to human stupidity. And the longer I work in the mental health field, I think it would be safe to twist it around a bit: There is a limit to human kindness, but there is no limit to human cruelty.

And I'm not even talking, right now, about the times when family members hurt each other, when parents call their children stupid and worthless, when fathers attempt suicide in front of their children, when blame is placed and when responsibility is refused. That stuff happens every single day, and on a good day I'm able to remain somewhat aloof and superior to the foibles of these people who probably don't intend to hurt anyone but just can't figure out a healthier way to live in the world. On a bad day, I hover close to despair because it shouldn't be this hard to live a respectful and harm-minimizing lifestyle.

Right now, though, I'm talking about Rickhead, the resident IT guru and Snotty Man Extraordinaire. Witness the following exchange of emails, beginning on Friday. The printer at the hospital (WDH) stopped working earlier in the week, and Perfect J had been in touch with the Rickhead about it before then.

Hi, Helpdesk,
Do you know if anything has been done with the WDH printer today? It hasn’t printed in two or three days – if you send something to print, it starts to make the initial noises like it’s about to print, but then does nothing. I stopped by this morning, still no luck. I’m on my way there for an assessment, and wanted to know if I should just handwrite the paperwork this time...

Hi Kate,
I won’t be able to get over there to troubleshoot until Monday.
You’ll need to handwrite or email to yourself for printing elsewhere until I can get to that.
Sorry for the inconvenience.

There aren’t any other printers available onsite there, so I’ll just handwrite. No big deal – thanks for the update.

If you must submit notes immediately then I guess you’ll have to handwrite.
You’re welcome for the update.
Just a reminder that all requests for assistance need to go FIRST directly to the HELPDESK so they don’t fall through the cracks, like this one apparently did.
Hopefully I can get it resolved on Monday.

I'll forward your reminder of the proper helpdesk procedure to the rest of the team, including our supervisor. My first note, today, was indeed directed to the Helpdesk, and I was under the assumption that you had already been working with a coworker earlier this week on this problem.

Perfect J:
He attempted to walk me through the corrections over the phone on Wednesday, and said he would take care of it by going to WDH.

A fabulous start, to begin with. Nothing screams "PROFESSIONAL" louder than a handwritten assessment and a printer that has been offline for a week. Not to mention his pointed use of CAPITAL LETTERS.

FYI ES Team,
Printer at WDH now printing/working fine. It was 'OFFLINE', something that presumably happened when someone configured the printer's FAX capabilities and altered some of the printing preferences.
Unless it is not printing (or printing improperly) the settings/preferences should not need to be altered. If you do need to have the settings modified, or if there is another printing problem, please contact the HELPDESK. We'll troubleshoot it for you.

Sanctimonious P:
Complicated email describing a workaround because the printer still won't work.
Ends with, "There must be an easier way."

That’s odd Paul, it worked fine yesterday afternoon at around 3:30. I’ll swing by again and have another look.
I will go back again at my first opportunity (hopefully today) and make sure it’s printing properly. I will let you all know as soon as I’ve done that.
To avoid any confusion, I’m going to ask that anyone who uses that computer at WDH please NOT adjust the printer or printer settings without checking with me first.

Hi, Vic,
I do appreciate your involvement and hope we’re able to reach resolution soon. I would like to say that it’s very unlikely that anyone from the ES team changed the printer settings – aside from sending things to print and changing ink cartridges, and using it as a fax machine directly from the machine, we tend to notify the helpdesk quickly instead of trying to fix things ourselves. I can’t imagine anyone opening the printer preferences and changing any settings through the computer.

Great. That’s a good tendency. Please keep it up.
It’s always nice to be appreciated and I’ll let you know as soon as it gets resolved.


Perhaps I'm just oversensitive and vulnerable... but if so, then everyone else I work with is, as well, because four of us in my department happened to be here this morning for this particular email exchange, and I'm certain I was not the only one feeling condescended to. And, guess what? I don't like that.

Rickhead has shown a particular tendency to seem threatened by me because I made the mistake, early on, of telling him that I used to work on IBM's helpdesk. Thereby proving that not only are my testicles bigger than his, but that I was able to escape with some semblance of people skills.

I remember well, that IT-tendency to act as though the central role of any business is to have computers and anything else that the business happens to do - say, providing therapy - is secondary. Not to mention the attitude that only gods disguised as men (and manly women) deserve to be allowed to touch the inner workings of a computer, not those mere peons outside the IT department, and yet at the same time there is a scorn when those peons don't know the correct vocabulary or the Secrets to Technological Perfection.

Somehow I don't get the same attitude from the other specialized fields - my plumber doesn't scoff at me when I ask for help with an exploded water heater, and my doctor doesn't dish out 'tude when I call for a prescription. Makes me wonder whether working in IT changes people, or whether a special certain type of person often gravitates in that direction.

And to be fair, I know any number of sweet and caring people, with social skills and without an over-reliance on the CAPS LOCK key, who work with computers. So it's not inevitable... it's just annoying.
Monday, June 04, 2007
I just had a whole day go by without a single bit of drama or crisis or oddity. At least, no new oddity.

It's kind of freaky. I don't know what to do.

In the morning, Jacob and I went out shopping, because I needed some ribbon to finish a sweater I'd been working on. (It's on my knitting blog, go see! It's cute! And finished!) I was able to find the right color ribbon for $0.59 each. In stock.

We stopped to have my car inspected. It passed.

I went into Walgreen's to pick up a few things. They were on sale.

Jacob ate his lunch and took a nap just like we planned. Emily came home from school uneventfully.

No major injuries occurred during the course of the evening.

I made a baked tilapia dish that came out perfectly.

Willem brought me ice cream. Several kinds, actually.

It's just... odd. I'm going to go to bed soon, before that Godzilla foot comes crashing down. And how sad, that a normal, smooth sort of day seems like such an anomaly.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Yeah, by now I'm sure. I'm still surprised by my own unruffledness; I'm not exactly skipping around and singing, but nor am I wallowing. I think if I'd gotten a positive pregnancy test earlier in the week it'd be a different tune, but as it is I'm not getting what I already expected not to get. So I'm okay.

Physically, for those not versed in this particular experience, and I wish that this applied to most everyone, I'm hovering right in the middle of the cosmic pain scale. A miscarriage, even this early, is more painful than a regular monthly event, more uncomfortable than a sprained ankle or a tattoo, but not as bad as a severe migraine, strep throat or childbirth. Ibuprofen deals with it, though I found last night that top-shelf chocolate martinis (two, thankyouverymuch) help take that edge off just fine, too.

Even feeling emotionally okay, I'm deeply appreciative of the comments here, and notes and phone calls, because this okayness is certainly not a given. Any number of small details, slightly altered, could have snowballed into the sort of baffled, betrayed self-loathing that I've done twice before.

It's actually quite bizarre, feeling this normal right now. It's as if I shouldn't laugh or enjoy the kids; I don't feel guilty so much as confused. To the point that I wonder if I'm just innocently grazing in a field, unconsciously waiting for that big lizard foot to come smashing down. But I don't think so. I hope not.

I'm obviously not quite myself tonight, because it has taken almost 45 minutes to come out with this pathetic little excuse for a post, and it's neither witty nor intense. Just vague. Which is really how I'm feeling - like someone has turned down my volume, except for these odd little moments of moodiness which everyone just loves.

So I'm going to go back to my heating pad and stop with the drivel. For now.
The Pendulum Swings
Hell of a day, yesterday.

It started off normally enough, for a Saturday. I got up with the kids, dealt with breakfast and clothing, no big deal. Except that I found myself hair-trigger reactive to the slightest thing; the normal daily allotment of whining and balking struck me as unreasonable and infuriating instead of being just another day in paradise. I never lost my cool with the kids, but I was certainly playing fast and loose with it - the kind of parenting where, even as it's happening, you're thinking, "It would be so annoying to be in a store watching me with these kids right now. Not call-Social-Services annoying, just irritating."

I was edgy. Noodgy. Irritable. Like PMS - the "pre" of which still, 6 days late, would have applied yesterday morning. I recognized it while it was happening but still was unable to do much more than dilute the moodiness a little. I couldn't just vanquish it with mere recognition.

We made it through some errands in the morning, including a wildly unsuccessful attempt to have my minivan inspected. I'd made an appointment for 9:00 a.m., showed up at 8:55 with both kids and quiet activities, and was told, "Oh, the girl who did the scheduling somehow put two inspections in at the same time. It'll be a while before we can get to yours."

"Well, how much of a while?" I asked.

"We haven't started the other one yet... so maybe half an hour, 45 minutes."

I didn't bother to ask how come the other one took precedence over mine, if we were both scheduled at the same time, I was on time, and I had infinitely more children than anyone else in the waiting room. I just announced, "Okay, then, we're going to go somewhere else. Come on, kids."

Which is apparently code, at this certain car-care chain (starts with M, rhymes with bidas), for, "Everyone get excited and get the manager, this woman is about to unleash a 'roid rage upon innocent bystanders." Because I was immediately accosted by a sweaty, self-important man in a tie - thereby proclaiming him as a manager, I suppose - insisting that he can't help it, the scheduling was done by someone else and now they're late and there's nothing he can do. Throughout which I gave him my best freak-show quizzical look and then pointed out that I wasn't angry or upset, I was simply going to find another establishment more willing to uphold their own appointment book. He continued to bluster and gesture even as I was pulling away.

It was, at least, nice to know I wasn't the only one with a bit of a self-censor malfunction.

From there we went to Home Depot for their free kids' craft, because I just love the word "free," and made actually pretty neat little biplanes. Came home, had lunch, and I did my best to steer clear of any child-related interactions that would require me to speak or, you know, interact.

The pendulum of the day continued to swing toward "bad" for a few more hours. I had increasing discomfort, starting in the morning at "hey that hurts" and escalating by early afternoon to "WTF." Hard to go from cranky to cheerful while grinding one's jaw, somehow.

I'd been informed that my dad was going to babysit for us while Willem took me out for a birthday dinner, though because [insert unknown guy reason here] it was all supposed to be a big surprise about where we were going and who we were meeting. I'm someone who enjoys the opportunity to look forward to an event, so surprises are kind of lost on me, but it seems to make Willem happy. I'd been provided with a departure time of 4:30, so around 2:30 I headed into the bathroom. I figured, whatever we were doing, it was going to require a shower within 24 hours of said event.

Now, I won't go into detail here. You're welcome. But the outcome is, I'm fairly certain that the reason for my moodiness and pain was explained while I was in the shower. I don't think it was a mere case of delayed need for feminine products. I'm as positive as a non-doctor can be that I had a very early miscarriage. Bear in mind that just two days earlier, I had established that (a) I wasn't pregnant and (b) I wasn't ready yet, so this wasn't the total full-out crushing blow that the last time was. It's more disturbing, unpleasant, but at the same time a relief that there's some non-bipolar reason for my inability to control my own moods.

That was the low point of the day, right there. Because I don't care that I wasn't ready yet - there's still a sense of inadequacy and brokenness to the concept of miscarriage. And pinning a reason on my emotional roller-coaster wasn't enough to just stop that particular train. So I cried, and hugged my husband, and briefly thought about crawling into sweats and sending Willem out for Ben & Jerry's and hibernating for the rest of my life the night.

Instead, I put on a nice outfit, smiled nicely for my dad and his apparently-on-again girlfriend, who both watched the kids for free while we went out, and got into the minivan. Willem took me down to Beverly, MA, to eat at a place we loved when we lived in Salem, and we met Mark and Jenny there. We had a fabulous time. The meal was amazing, the dinner conversation was fun and intelligent, and Willem was seated jut perfectly to be able to sneak glances at the baseball game being televised in the bar.

Afterward, we drove over to Salem Willows, watched a violent thunderstorm pass quite close but not enough to rain on us, and wandered through the vintage '80s arcade games. I doubled the top score in Tetris, which is the only video game I'm good at but I'm really, really, really good at it, Willem reminded the Galaga universe who's boss, and Jenny played games involving rifles and zombies. Mark, the most inveterate gamer of us all, sort of wandered around with the awed overstimulation one might expect of a pilgrim finally making his way to Mecca.

Being all parents and still 99.44% lame, we were all ready to head for home by 9:00, but first Willem and I took a detour around Salem and Peabody to revisit the places we lived and worked way back when. Did you ever live someplace that just felt right, like the very air you breathed was a better match for your lung chemistry? That's how I feel about the North Shore. I'll be back. Someday.

So, a day that ran the gamut from brief but intense misery to a perfect birthday dinner out - kind of exhausting, but somehow right, too. There's something to be said for balance.
Friday, June 01, 2007
My freezer isn't working.

But only when I'm approaching the house or actually inside.

I called Willem on my way home with the kids, and he said he was having "some sort of emergency... not a major one... but still." Of course he was. It's already been that kind of month.

I arrived home to find our crammed-full stand-alone freezer slowly rising in temperature. This was enough to push me over the line from moderately stressed - busy afternoon at work, ongoing weirdness with Emily which is either just normal 7-year-old bossiness or the sign of a serious personality disorder, toilet-training issues with Jacob - to unable to cope. I just stood there with an idiotic look on my face, replicated all of the things Willem had already tried, and then realized that I really needed to head back out because I'd gotten another hospital call.

The moment I stepped outside, the freezer started working again.

Shortly, I'm going to leave the hospital. Anyone want to place bets on how close I have to be to the house before the freezer dies again?