Saturday, December 26, 2009

A quiet Christmas

We had a good day today. We were up at 7:30, ate cinnamon rolls (which came out darn well if I do say so myself) and helped the children open presents. After that, K was happily busy the rest of the day playing with her loot and we made phone calls to family and did exciting things like nap. We ended the day with cheese fondue for dinner, bathtime and an easy bedtime.

I guess this is a sign that I'm really a grownup, because since we're seeing most of our family next week, and B and I are planning to get a new tv as a gift to each other, there were very few presents for the adults. And yet I'm okay with that. Getting stuff is nice, but there's nothing I want so badly that I mind not having it. I was just happy that everything I got K was a huge hit.

Now last night, mind you, was one of those nights where you wish your children would grow up faster. We went to the Christmas Eve service at church, and wound up walking with Alec at the back of the sanctuary for most of the service, added to the dubious milestone of the first time I ever had to march K out of the room to give her a stern lecture on proper behavior (she wanted to run between where I was sitting in the pews to where B was with Alec, you see. I was helpfully told later by someone that this church is very child-friendly and people don't mind children running around, but it's going to take major tranquilizers before I'm okay with my child running up and down the center aisle during a service). I remember hearing a sermon on Christmas once where the minister talked about "feeling Christmas," and that's what I kept thinking about when I looked at K last night: she was feeling Christmas, in a big way. Honestly, given that's she four and it was Christmas Eve, she wasn't bad at all. But while little kids make Christmas morning really fun, I was missing the quiet Christmas Eves we had pre-children where we went to the late service and then left to go into a cold, quiet starry night and go home and drink mulled cider.

It was worth it, though, when during the children's message the minister was asking the children what animals live in a stable and K piped up "Unicorns!" I had given her a stuffed unicorn the day before as a way of smoothing out a bad day by giving her a present early. It was a huge hit, and she sang in the children's choir last night with her unicorn clutched in her arms.

That's children in a nutshell, isn't it? Transcendently wonderful and hair-pullingly awful, often with the same five minutes. But they're by far the best present I could get:


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow day

We woke up to the phone ringing this morning, telling that the city libraries would be closed today due to snow. Normally, the way the city shuts down for a tiny amount of snow has us sneering about southern pansies who can't seem to figure out that if you get multiple significant snowfalls every year, you might want to budget some money for plowing. But today, we've had a snowstorm that is worthy of the name even by Michigan standards, with 16 inches falling at Philadelphia International Airport. I'm glad I made the effort to get bread last night - the grocery store shelves looked like they had been attacked by locusts as people stocked up for the coming snowcopalypse.

We've spent the day cozily inside, enjoying the relaxation and gift of an unexpected vacation. K and I finished the Christmas presents we've been making and I suspect tomorrow will be devoted to Christmas cookies, and hopefully Christmas cards. Since another five inches is expected to fall tonight, I would be surprised if church happens tomorrow. Instead, we'll stay inside another day and be glad that we have shelter and food, and don't have anywhere we need to be. I had a number of plans for this weekend, but I'm finding I'm really enjoying the enforced inactivity. It's been several months since we had a two-day weekend, and the break that comes from having two parents home at once is welcome indeed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holidays which it is starting to look a lot like

We put our Christmas tree up Saturday night. Up to now, it hasn't really been penetrating that it's less than two weeks until Christmas, probably because we're not doing the family celebration until New Year's, which means I'm not feeling any pressure to finish my shopping. K, however, isn't suffering from that problem at all, and it became clear she was going to explode from pent-up holiday excitement if we didn't get the tree up.

After the tree was up, we HAD to wrap presents. Only the only presents were for K and I clearly wasn't going to let her wrap them herself, so she brought me some of her books to wrap instead. So I did, and I admit they looked nice under the tree. And the next day, when K simply HAD to open them, it wasn't a problem.

As for her actual presents, I think I'm pretty much done shopping, except for a trip to the bookstore to get a few books. K has been asking for a castle for the past two months, so that's what she's getting. The alert might remember that she got a large castle last year, but she wants a castle for her appalling little Disney princess dolls that have removable rubber clothes and teeny tiny shoes that come with their own mini black hole so they can get lost that much more quickly. She wants it badly enough to have kicked all of the dolls out of her dollhouse to install her princesses in instead. And while my first instinct was that she doesn't need another castle, my second was that there's no rule that she can't have her own little empire if she wants, and why should I waste my money on things I think she should have instead of buying her what she really wants? However, I wasn't about to get the crappy $50 plastic castle that got universally bad reviews on the web for falling apart almost instantly, which was the one she kept saying she wanted. But I lucked onto a great sale and managed to get a cute little Melissa and Doug princess castle for $25, and when it was hinted to K that she might get a pink castle for Christmas, she pretty much instantly forgot about the crappy plastic one. She had also asked for some horses to go with her castle, and I found a cute little wooden horse and carriage that I think will fit the bill. In addition, because I feel a bit guilty about not getting her the crappy plastic castle she actually asked for, she's getting another horrible little Disney princess doll set.

On the non-castle side, I found a cute little school playset on extreme clearance this fall, and some puzzles and a make-your-own princess doll. We'll get her a couple books, and I think I might get her the stuffed unicorn that she plays with every single time we go to the bookstore. That should be plenty for her princess-obsessed holiday.

As for Alec, he's not getting much, but he's getting more than his sister did for her first Christmas, which is to say that he's getting something from us. With K, I didn't see the point of buying her things and wrapping them when it would mean absolutely nothing to her and we already got her things all the time. With Alec, I'm getting him a few things mostly because I think his sister will expect it. So I got him one of those classic baby toys with the little animals that pop up when you press their buttons, and will probably get him a carseat toy. When I bought him a jumperoo for him earlier this fall, I justified the on-sale but still not cheap expense to myself by saying it would be most of his Christmas present. And goodness knows we've gotten our money out of it, so Merry Christmas, Son. I hope you appreciate getting your present way early.

It's definitely feeling more like Christmas around here. I've spent the past couple days acquiring all of the Muppet Christmas specials so we can have a big Muppet Christmas marathon starting with John Denver and working our way through to the latest not-great-but-considerably-less-mediocre-than-most-recent-Muppet-offerings special.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

So it turns out I have a very limited amount of time every evening where I have the use of both hands. When I commit to typing, I can usually pound something out on a semi-regular basis. But apparently when I commit to a large act of sewing, like a winter coat for an overexcited four-year-old, that eats up all of my bimanual time and typing goes straight out the winter. Alas. But I think we have a good chance of the coat being done before spring (did I mention it's a very small amount of time?).


It's amazing how quickly "Huh, the baby's nose is running but doesn't have any other cold symptoms. I wonder if he has some upper teeth coming in causing irritation?" can turn into "Here's the nebulizer for the bronchiolitis and I prescribed a larger dose of amoxicillin than usual because that ear is so severely infected." I swear, the only symptom he had yesterday was a runny nose (which, in conjunction with the drool made the entire area between his nose and chin shiny wet most of yesterday) and a very occasional cough. However, when he woke up shrieking this morning after a restless night, that clued us in that maybe he wasn't feeling well. We are brilliantly observant sometimes. Even so, while he definitely hasn't been himself today, even the pediatrician remarked that he was incredibly cheerful for a baby that sick.

Poor little bunny. He's now medicated to the gills, and I devoutly hope he will sleep better tonight than he did last night.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Not much time to type tonight - I have promised K a new winter coat, and I've been busy copying the pattern and then cutting it out. This is reminding me why I like working on things that don't need patterns, because after two evenings of tedious work, I'm just about ready to start cutting the cloth. Developing a pattern is fun. This is just tiresome.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Almost forgot to post

When I thought about our Thanksgiving weekend this year, I realized with a bit of distress that the only day B and I would have off together was Thanksgiving itself. I couldn't see a way around it though, unless I wanted to beg the other librarian to take Sunday for me.

However, apparently in the category of "Careful what you wish for," there was another way. I woke up last night about 4 am, feeling sick. I wasn't sure I was going to throw up until I got up to go to the bathroom and smelled the chicken carcass in the crockpot converting into stock. That did it. And once morning arrived, I called in sick to work. On Saturdays and Sundays, it's just the museum worker and the librarian, and for safety reasons we can't open without two workers, making it difficult to call in sick. But Fridays, thank goodness, our manager is working as well, so while I could have dragged myself in to shed viruses all over our visitors, I stayed home instead and made up for some of the sleep I missed last night.

Not my first choice of ways to get a day off, but at least it was a relaxing one.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

to everyone in the US.

I am full of pie and happy to be home with my wonderful family. I hope everyone has had a day equally as good. And now for a little Thanksgiving entertainment:

Alec at five months

If I had to choose a word to describe this age, it would be "handsy." The desire to explore and manipulate objects has intersected with new manual dexterity to create a baby from whom nothing within arms' reach is safe. He pulls down the toys dangling over his bouncy seat until he can cram them in his mouth and pulls the toys on his play arch down from their hooks. Then he examines them with thorough scientific interest before cramming them firmly in his mouth.

His gross motor skills are slowly but surely coming along. He can roll over, but he doesn't like it much. But he still manages to wiggle around quite a lot. He can sit for short periods when propped from behind by a Boppy, and I suspect he's about a month from sitting on his own.

If I could use two words, the other one would be "wet." The drool, it threatens to submerge the house. The fountains of spitup are slowly but surely drying up, but it doesn't matter because we still have to change his shirts two or three times a day. One wickedly sharp tooth has poked through, and another is gouging its way up, bringing on a waterfall of saliva. We're waiting on solids until six months, but this morning B noticed that Alec was watching him very intently as he ate. He may well decide that he's ready for real food before we do. He has that spiffy new tooth to try out, after all.

All in all, he's a big, happy baby bursting with vitality. I wouldn't necessarily call him a mellow baby, since he has quite the high pitched shriek available when life is less than optimal, but he's a very happy baby. And we're very happy to have him.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I am trying very hard not to be sulky and despondent over the fact that we can't go home for Christmas this year. We thought B had two (2) vacation days and that we could scrabble around for two more, but instead he has zero (0). Once January comes around, he'll have all of his vacation for the year available to him so we can go then, but it's not the same.

I keep trying to force some perspective by remembering that I grew up 1000 miles away from my relatives and we basically never spent Thanksgiving with relatives and only saw relatives at Christmas every other year at best, so it was often just the four of us. On the other hand, we were never in the position of leaving a widowed disabled elderly mother alone on Christmas by not travelling for the holiday.

Sigh. We'll survive, of course, and we'll figure out our own holiday traditions with our nuclear family. It's mostly that we're not terribly happy here, so not being able to leave is harder than it would be otherwise. And it really chafes that we wouldn't be having this problem if B had been allowed to use more than five days of sick time for paid paternity leave. And this is the point I think of the blowhard who was haranguing us at work a few weeks ago who claimed that city workers have more time off than they actually do working and want to punch him in the face all over again.*

For Thanksgiving, Thursday is the only day we actually both have off all weekend. I contemplated cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner with only two adults and a preschooler to eat it. Last year, I was far too sick to face raw poultry, so we went out and it was lovely. I ate about three bites, but that gave us just about as many leftovers as B wanted. And there were no dishes afterwards. So this year, I think we'll be going out for dinner, and cooking pies. K can have fun helping cook pies, and I don't mind lots of leftovers when it comes to pie. So pie. I also bought some pumpkin waffle mix at Trader Joe's, and bought a waffle iron to make them with, so we'll have a nice breakfast too. And pie.

*Wanted to punch him in the face, that is, not actually punched him in the face. I did, however, at that point politely as I possibly could ask him to shut his squawkhole. I had sat through the racism, and the brilliant ideas for solving the city's financial problems, but he was starting to tread on some very sore areas.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Right now, Alec is sitting on my lap, carefully manipulating my fingers to scientifically determine the best way to stick them in his mouth and chomp on them. He's like a very intellectual piranha. Only cuter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's not really in the spirit of NaBloPoMo to announce every night that I'm insanely tired and don't have the energy to write a real post, is it? I suppose not.

I am insanely tired. I had an extremely unproductive day at work, mostly because I was the level of tired where I knew I would spend the day making boneheaded mistakes that would make anything I did a wash. Instead, I showed my co-worker K's baby pictures. I bet you're really impressed with our work ethic now, aren't you?

And then I got home and helped make K a house out of a large box by cutting holes for windows and a door that opened and shut. K moved into it with Cattie the Cat and Boy the Pink French Poodle. Then she told me that special species of joke known as the Four-year-old's Knock Knock joke:

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Na na.
Na na who?
Na na moo!
(cue hysterical laughter)

It doesn't happen as much as you might think, but sometimes you have exactly the sort of evening you imagined you would when you first thought about wanting children.


On the continuing Facebook games front, I have now earned nearly half a million dollars in Mafia Wars solely by not playing it at all. I log in periodically to send gifts back to people who send me gifts, and out of curiosity over how much cash I have now. I put all but 900 dollars in the bank last night, and currently I have $30,000. I'm also pretty close to going up another level. I would try to figure out how to really quit this game, but I'm so fascinated by how far I can go in the game just by getting attacked by other people that I can't turn away. I certainly never expected how much fun this game could be once I stopped playing.

Meanwhile, I tried Fishville and Cafe World yesterday. Eh. I played Fishville for a couple hours and spent it wondering when the game got interesting. Cafe World had more variety and challenge, but it has a rat on a treadmill aspect that I'm finding stressful. Games I play for fun shouldn't be stressful. I think I might try My Zoo next. Or maybe try doing something actually productive in the real world, but that's just crazy talk.

A lazy post


PB211949 PB211950





Saturday, November 21, 2009


I missed yesterday for no better reason than I got busy with children and chores and general tiredness. And today, I'm tired and grumpy and feeling overwhelmed by the tidal wave of crap that washes over our house constantly. So no real post tonight either.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Glee night is the happiest night of the week

A Wednesday evening motley:

* I'm not often given to bragging about great shopping finds. But I have to share the incredible Ebay score I made last week: a Best Ever Baby Jacket, two bodysuits, a pair of pants and a pair of baby shoes, all Hanna Andersson, for $30. I would have been happy just to get the jacket for $30, even used. I love Hanna Andersson clothes - they're adorable and have good gender-neutral options, they wear like iron and are designed to fit for a long time. K was able to wear a size 70 bodysuit for two winters, which is remarkable for a child under two. The only problem is that when they go on sale, they're only twice as much as I can afford (and they often sell for a lot on Ebay, so you can't even count on that). I splurged one year and got K a Best Ever jacket new on sale, and it actually turned out to be worth it because she wore it for two winters and it still fits well enough to wear now until I can sew her new winter coat. It breaks my heart that they don't make them larger than size 90, or I would just buy her a new one.

* Sonya has a bald patch around her neck from her collar, and I was scritching her this week when I saw a flea marching across it. Ack! And once I saw that, I realized that all of the cats were scratching.

All of the cats have had a dose of flea medicine, and this weekend will see the great Linen Cleaning of aught nine. All of the beds need to be stripped and laundered in hot water. I'm not sure what we're going to do with the stuffed animals. Then the carpet cleaning will start. And throughout it all, I will resist the urge to give myself a flea dip, because every time I see the cats I start to itch.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's odd, the things you learn about yourself by playing Facebook games. Right around the time Alec was born, a couple friends were sending me blandishments to join their various games. I ignored them all because I needed a new time suck like a suppurating gut wound (well, actually I had one of those already, and I can say I really didn't need it) and sadly, I didn't have the brain power.

But recently, I got another invitation, sat on it for a couple days, and on a whim starting playing Mafia Wars. I went along for a while, doing jobs and working my way up the ladder. And then, I started getting attacked by other players. It was never a big deal, although occasionally I would losing a huge amount of money just as I was trying to earn enough for something. But I also gained money that way, so it evened out. I tried putting most of my points into defense and offense for a while and continuing with the game.

But here's the thing: I would make my husband a happy man indeed if I liked playing games more. The reason I don't isn't so much that I'm a sore loser (well, I am a bit, but as long as I don't get absolutely skunked, I'm usually okay with losing), but I hate getting attacked or having people working against me. I take it personally, even when it couldn't be more impersonal, like random Facebook strangers.

After a few days of this, I decided that there's nothing I like that's inherent in Mafia Wars that I couldn't get in other games and quite a few things I didn't like, so I sold off everything that cost money to maintain, banked most of my money and went off to Farmville, where everyone is nice to each other.

The interesting part is that since I'm still technically a player in Mafia Wars, I'm still getting attacked, which means that I'll periodically log back in to discover that I've earned money and experience without doing anything. I left my account with about $10,000; my high was $150,000 and currently there's about $60,000. Recently, Facebook helpfully informed me that I had lost $272,000 in one day. I'm awfully busy for someone who isn't doing anything.

It's occurred to me that I might like playing games with B more if we played something cooperative. That would certainly thrill him. Meanwhile, I'm happily harvesting away.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Speaking of difficult conversations

Last night, I was driving home with K and saw a black and white cat running under a car. I pulled over and went to look, to discover it wasn't Olwen. But then I had to explain to K what I was doing and why. She seemed to understand, but she's asked about it several times since then, trying to process it. I'm not sure how well she remembers Olwen, since tonight she came into the living room when all three cats were in it and said, "There's the cat!" So I explained again it was a different cat and we went on with our evening, but it's clear this is a disturbing concept for her.

On the cute side, after never really caring about naming her stuffed animals, K has suddenly decided they all need names. So far we have Blackie, the brown and white horse, Boy, the pink french poodle and Clifford the Big Yellow Lab. We also have Clifford the Big Red Dog, so I'm not sure how we're supposed to tell them apart.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Social connections

I haven't had time to sit down with the camera yet, so no pictures. The baptism went off far better than we deserved, given that I had to wake Alec up ten minutes into a nap to change him into his gown during the sermon. He was good as gold and smiled beatifically at everyone. He really is the most extraordinarily social child. Well, extraordinarily social for a child of mine.

I joined the church as well. I'm glad to finally get my membership transferred from a church in Indiana that I haven't attended in three years, and I really feel connected to this church. In most of the churches I've attended, I've done all right the first couple weeks when we're new, but once people get used to us and stop paying attention, I never quite know how to make that further connection. But here, I manage to find people to talk to every week and feel like it won't take much time at all to actually make real friends. We made a great connection with the minister last week when she came to our house to discuss the baptism. We talked about that for 15 minutes and about everything else for an hour and a half (with periodic "Okay, now we should really talk about the baptism now..."). It was a good sign when she looked at our book shelves and asked "So who's the Dorothy Sayers fan?" That would be both of us, although I came to her earlier thanks to my mother (and I discovered looking at the shelves that I have three copies of Gaudy Night for no reason I can think of. I mean, I love the book, but not so much that I feel the need to have three copies open at once for serial reading). As it turns out, we have a lot of authors in common.

My uncle came out from Connecticut and my mother and her aide got here Thursday night and are leaving tomorrow morning. I wish my mother could stay longer, but she has to consider her aide's schedule as well. It was good to see them, and I'm looking forward to seeing them at Christmas. After some initial panic, it's starting to look like it will work to go home for Christmas, which makes me very glad.

A very full day

It's been a long, long day with lots of family, so this is it for the day. Baptism tomorrow, and hopefully pictures.

We're watching The Opposite of Sex for the first time in several years. I had forgotten just how incredibly eeeevil Dedee is.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Difficult questions

"Grammie can't walk."

"No, she can't. That's why she uses a wheelchair."

"Oh. Really?"

"Yes. And her hands don't work very well either, which is why she has Lisa to take care of her."

"Oh." Pause for thought. "Lisa made me eggs."


I've been wondering for a long time how old K would be when she would start to see that my mother is different from her other grandmother, and different from most people. I guess the answer is four. We had the above conversation yesterday when I was telling her that my mother and her aide were arriving today. Several months ago, she drew a picture of my mother and included her wheelchair, but I wasn't sure if she realized what the wheelchair meant or if it was just something she saw as part of my mother.

We haven't gotten to why Grammie can't walk yet, and I'm not inclined to offer the information until she asks, hopefully not for a couple years. I'm not eager to introduce the idea that driving in a car can be very dangerous and leave you permanently injured. At her age, it could completely roll across her back, like when she asked what a building was today and I said, "It's a funeral home," which she shrugged off without a thought. Or it could result in terror of the car until she's old enough to be able to put fears and dangers in more perspective.

Was I ready for the conversation about what a funeral home is for? Kind of. I've actually been trying to introduce death a little bit, though I'm not going to push it until she starts asking questions on her own. But another thing I've been waiting for is when she starts asking why she has one grandfather she can spend time with and another that she only sees in pictures. When we look at pictures, I always point my father out to her and tell her who he is, but while she knows him, she hasn't asked yet about where he is.

I know a lot of parents get nervous about the idea of the sex talk, but it never bothered me. I brought a couple books home when I got pregnant, and have used diaper changes as an opportunity for basic anatomy lessons. Right now, it's just anatomy. It's definitely nothing compared to some of the conversations I know we'll be having over the next few years about some of the other facts of life, and death.

Ma vie en rose

This started out as a comment on someone else's post on boys and gender issues, but it's getting long enough that I'm making it a post instead.

I've found the gender issues for both of my children have been remarkably interrelated, which shouldn't be surprising since gender politics are interrelated. With Alec, I've confronted new issues that I haven't before with K, because it's more accepted for girls to transcend gender barriers. This, of course, is because boy stuff = good and girl stuff = bad, so it's more accepted for girls to do boy stuff than it is for boys to do girl stuff.

At the tender age of four months, the biggest area this has come up for with Alec is with clothing. When I was pregnant, K wanted to buy Baby Brother an outfit every time we passed baby clothes, and I was often happy to oblige. But I found myself steering her away from the frilly dresses she was attracted to, once biting down the words "Boys don't wear dresses" right before they came out of my mouth. Part of my motivation with this was that we already had plenty of baby girl clothes, so if I was going to spend money, I'd rather do it on more boy-oriented stuff. But the other part was the same thing that made me initially set aside the hand-me-down baby clothes from K that were pink or had flowers. It wasn't even so much my not wanting to see my son in pink as I was afraid of having to defend putting him in pink when we were out in public.

However, one night I was looking at a pink flowered nightgown that was of the type I liked best (snaps up the front), and decided that 1) it was stupid not to use perfectly good clothes because society has arbitrarily decided they're not for girls, 2) why do I care what random strangers think about how I dress my children, and 3), if I'm willing to buy dinosaurs for K, I should be willing to put Alec in pink. So now I do. I haven't put him in any dresses and I don't think I will, but so far the adorable pink sleeper with the bunny on it has failed to cause his penis to fall off. I'm still a little shy of putting him in anything too girly to go out, mostly because I'm pathologically conflict-averse and just don't want to deal with nose old ladies with rigid gender expectations.

This Sunday, Alec will be wearing the christening gown my grandfather wore in 1906. In fact, he wore dresses until he was three years old. I suspect he also wore pink since it was considered a boy's color in those days. He was still manly enough to father two children.

As Alec gets older, there will certainly be more clothes issues - would I let him wear a dress in public? Will I let him have long hair (given that his father has long hair, almost certainly). The issue again will not be as much what I'm comfortable with as trying to negotiate his desires with what the rest of the world thinks. The nosy old ladies will turn into his peers, and I'll have to decide how to help him balance expressing his true self with peer acceptance. But that will be true whether he wants to wear a dress or not.

But I'll also butt up against things that are more my issues, that I'm already dealing with K - as a feminist, what sort of toys do I allow my children to play with? And as usual, it's the girl toys that come up suspect. Out of the entire world of boy toys, military toys are the only ones that give me pause, and I haven't come to a real decision about that. But with girl toys, there are tons of things that bother me. Cooking and housework toys are fine, since I don't even considered those gendered toys as every adult needs to know how to feed themselves and keep up basic household hygiene. Baby doll play is about nurturing, which again I consider applicable to both sexes. Dollhouses are a miniature version of household play. All fine for both of my children.

But then we get to princesses, which I've already discussed. And Barbie. I'm more leery but consider both of those more or less inocuous if we approach them the right way. But then there's hair dressing toys, or play makeup kits, or fashion design software.

There are age issues with those things as well, but I don't want to get into that here. Let's say right now they're being considered for a hypothetical ten-year-old, and the makeup won't be worn in public.

When I ask myself, why is it okay for my child to pretend to cook or take care of babies the way she will when she's an adult, but not pretend to style hair or put together pretty outfits the way she will when she's an adult, the only answer I can come up with is that unlike housework or child care, those are things women do that haven't become acceptable for heteresexual men to do as well. Women are judged by how they look in a way that men just aren't, and knowing how to put yourself together well is an important skill for a woman who wants to be professionally successful. I often wish I had had more opportuntities to learn that sort of thing when I was younger. But because this is something that only women do, it's of course seen as superficial and worthless. But just try climbing the corporate ladder with no makeup on. So I wouldn't buy any of those things for my preschool daughter, but when she's older, well, why not? Do they truly have inherently less social worth than playing paintball? And if my son shows interest in these things, I can't in fairness deny then to him any more than I would refuse to buy my daughter a skateboard.

It's astonishing how far down the internalized sexism goes when you start interrogating it. And no wonder this got too long for just a comment. I just keep trying to remind myself the conclusion I came to when I started wondering why I didn't want to buy K pink: the only thing wrong with the color pink (besides not especially complimenting her complexion) is that it's the code color for girl that everything meant for girls is required to be coated in. There's nothing wrong with being a girl, therefore there's nothing wrong with pink as long as it's balanced with all of the other colors.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I have any number of things I would like to write about, from the excellent meeting we had with our minister today to my new parenting plan to my conflicted feelings about how Glee is handling disability. But instead, we've had two horrible nights of no sleep. I'm not sure which was worse - the night when both children were awake for three hours or last night when Alec slept perhaps two hours between 2 and 8 am. He's in the middle of the 19 week developmental spurt AND cutting his first tooth, so I suppose we should be grateful he sleeps at all. I'm working on three hours of sleep here, so I'm not even going to try to string words together in a functional way. Instead I shall go collapse.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Last week, K and I went to the fabric store to choose a fabric for a new winter coat I'm going to sew her. K initially said she wanted a puppy coat (a coat with puppies on it, I'm assuming, not a coat made out of puppies a la Cruella Deville), but when we found a princess print, she was instantly sold. Two yards, on sale, done and done.

However, in the intervening time it's taken for the pattern to arrive, she has been carrying the fabric around the house, sleeping with it and wrapping her stuffed animals up in it. And now she is absolutely refusing to turn it over to me to be turned into a coat.

It's actually about the right size to put on her bed as a blanket (although that would involve her not dragging it around the house), and for ten dollars, I can afford to let her use it as a security blanket and just go get some more fabric for a coat. But the question now is, do I get more princess fabric? Or go for a puppy coat? Or I could get a dinosaur print. What I'm sure of is that I'm not going to let K pick it, unless I want her to spend all winter roasting under an ever-growing pile of fleece blankets while simulataneously freezing from a lack of a coat.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Long week

It's going to be a long, strange week. Both and K are going to be home on Wednesday because of Veteran's Day (after being off for the election last week and Columbus Day two weeks before that. Because apparently people on the East Coast don't believe in sending their children to school in the fall. I think I can count on one hand the number of full weeks of school K has had so far. Yeesh). The plan is to use that day to clean, because my mother and brother (and , who is taking the opportunity to come see her sister as well) are coming to town for Alec's baptism this weekend.

My aunt and uncle are considering coming out from Connecticut as well. My mother has found the antique family christening dress. Somehow, this baptism is turning into a Production, which isn't like us. I mean, my mother is coming out for the baptism, but also because it's a good excuse to see her grandchildren. My brother is coming because it's a good opportunity to hitch a ride to come see us. My aunt and uncle are coming to see my mother and meet the baby. And yet there are going to be five guests from three different states in the pew on Sunday morning, which makes this baptism feel like a much bigger deal than we're inclined to make it. It shouldn't be a surprise at this point for me to say that the idea of conspicuousness makes me squirm, should it? Of course, if that's the case I shouldn't arrange events where I have to stand up on my hind feet in front of an entire congregation and say things. But there are many worse things in the world than having enough relatives willing to travel to visit you that you'll make a small crowd at church. It should be a fun weekend and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone.

So of course, this is the PERFECT time for and I to get sick. He has a lousy cold, I have something a bit more ineffable, involving lots of pressure in my sinuses and ears, a coy little cough, lots of fatigue and an entertaining dizziness when I stand up, but no nose drippiness (yet). The only thing that would make this better would be for Alec to get the cold and then wake up Sunday morning screaming from an ear infection. However, we're both still functioning and the kids aren't sick yet. With luck, we'll both be better in enough time to clean the house.

And it's not the flu. We continue to avoid the flu, and I am most grateful for that.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


* We have a cloth book that crackles and has rubbery bits attached that Alec just loves. He sits and flips through the pages, waves it around, then crams it in his mouth. The only problem is that after about ten minutes, he starts to get overstimulated, but he can't figure out how to just let go of it. So he sits and cries, the book clutched in his hand, crackling away. I usually have to go pick him up and forcibly pry it out of his hand and comfort him. Poor little overstimulated brain. In case you were wondering, babies aren't very smart.

* I am feeling Very Clever at the moment. One thing I really dislike about our house is the lack of closet space. Currently, all of my hanging clothes are in the closet in Alec's room because he certainly doesn't have any clothes that need to hang. But it's inconvenient and annoying to have to go to a different room to get dressed for work, so I started thinking a small wardrobe would be just the thing. The rub there is that even a cheap one from Ikea is more than I'm willing to spend, particularly for something that would wind up being particle board.

So instead, I decided to make my own wardrobe. I bought a Gorm shelving unit, with only the top and bottom shelf. The I got an Antonius clothes rail and screwed it to the underside of the top shelf. Et voila, the $25 wardrobe, and it's even real wood. It works perfectly to hold the clothes I use the most and is small enough to fit easily in a corner of our bedroom. At some point when I'm feeling ambitious, I'll probably paint it and make a curtain, but right now it's fine just the way it is.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Not the best way to convince me

"I want to go the bookstore."

"No, we should go home. You're getting cranky."



I spent the evening doing this and that - going to BJ's to replenish our frozen foods (to replace what I bought just two weeks ago, including $15 of organic chicken *sob*), searching high and low for the baby undershirts I bought for K to wear under her bodysuits to prevent me from having to turn up the thermostat and her from turning into a babysicle so we can now keep Alec from turning into a side of frozen baby, making a fruitless trip to Target to try to buy baby undershirts only to find that they don't have any smaller than 2T (am I really the only person who doesn't want to put a short sleeve bodysuit under a long sleeve bodysuit to prevent having to spend all day snapping? Or do other people profligately heat their houses so they're actually warm? ) and finally finding the undershirts.

And then it was after midnight and I had missed a day of NaBloPoMo for colossally dull and trivial reasons, and then tried to make up for it with a tremendous, barely understandable run-on sentence. Well, I haven't been to bed yet, so I suppose I can say it's technically still Friday. And I'm not being graded on this, thank goodness.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The miracle of refrigeration

We went out yesterday morning* and accomplished buying a new refrigerator in very little time. It wasn't that hard - we got the cheapest one Sears had that was large enough to accommodate a decent amount of food and also had a freezer. That didn't require much looking. We were lucky enough to have hit upon a 20 percent off sale, so we have a slightly better cheap refrigerator than we would have otherwise, but it's your basic Kenmore low end model.

However, now that it's sitting in our kitchen, it's gorgeous. It's so clean, and it has functioning shelves and drawers that don't fall out when you pull them just slightly too hard. There's a shelf in the freezer, which is the sort of thing you don't think about needing until you don't have it. And of course, it cools and freezes when it should cool and freeze.

We went out tonight and spent less than I thought we might to fill it with grocery basics. Even so, it feels very empty. A broken refrigerator has the same sort of cleansing effect as a fire or catastrophic pipe bursting. It forces you to get rid of all of the suspect things that had been hanging around the back, not quite spoiled but not appealing enough to eat, and the hopelessly freezer-burned food at the back of the freezer that had been hiding under the food that gets eaten often enough to get regularly rotated.

*Requiring that I cancel a dentist appointment, since we wouldn't have any time to do it otherwise until tomorrow, and that seemed like a long time to go without the ability to refrigerate breastmilk. This is par for the course, since I seem to have contracted some sort of dental curse since moving here that prevents me from going to the dentist.

I had my first dentist appointment since 2006 last week. And it's not like I was being negligent and avoiding the dentist for three years. I have no real excuses for 2007, except that we moved to a new city and my father died, and there's nothing like the knowledge that you need non-urgent dental work to make a trip to the dentist seem less than appealing. But we finally got it together enough to make an appointment in May 2008. And that week, we all woke up with pinkeye. It took a little while to reschedule, and by the time that appointment came around, I was pregnant and throwing up every time I brushed my teeth. So I rescheduled for the second trimester, since surely I wouldn't be throwing up by that point. And then I woke up that morning with stomach flu. At that point, I threw up my hands and made an appointment for when I wasn't pregnant any more... which then got rescheduled by the dentist's office. That appointment was last week, and I was very very late to it because I had to take K to the doctor. But at that point, I was going to fight my way through all the minions of Hell if it meant not having to reschedule again.

Miraculously, despite it being three years and my having terrible teeth, I only had one cavity. They agreed with previous dentists that I could use a couple more crowns, but they didn't seem at all in a hurry to schedule. So I scheduled an appointment for this week to fill the cavity and the dance begins again. So far, I have a message on my answering machine from the dentist moving my (rescheduled) appointment up ten minutes. We shall see how much more that moves by the time this ends.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stockholm syndrome

I suppose it shouldn't come as too much as a surprise, given that I owned several Muppet movies and albums long before I had children, but today I found myself switching to a cd of Backyardigans in the car when the radio got too depressing. And there were no children in the car.

What can I say? A great deal of it was because that was what was in the cd player and I didn't feel like going through the contortions of getting a different disc. But part of it is that, um, I actually like the music. I can guarantee that if the disc had been that wretched Sesame Street album where Elmo sings the Macarena, I would have gladly listened to all six hours of Shoah first. But the Backyardigans use a large variety of musical styles and the lyrics are genuinely clever and funny. I can't say I like the show enough to watch it on my own the way I do the Muppets, but I'm always happy when K wants to watch it because it's cute and funny and while they may periodically learn Valuable Lessons, it's generally free of the painfully obvious morality plays that plagues much of chldren's television programming.

Having watched quite a variety of children's programming in the past couple years, I've found there are two main kinds. The first is the painfully earnest sort that is aimed at children and only at children, which consists of the things that the writers think children find interesting. They're the ones that hold children in unholy thrall while their parents fantasize about opening a vein to get sweet relief. This includes things like Barney, Caillou, Ni Hao Kai Lan (speaking of excruciating morality plays) and Dragon Tales. Dora. Diego. The list goes on and on.

On the other end of the spectrum is shows that while they're intended for children and usually take pains to be developmentally appropriate, the writers are clearly writing the things they find interesting and funny. This is what made the Muppets brilliant, as well as Sesame Street (this is still the case, except for Elmo's World, which careens right back into category 1). These are the shows where you realize you don't mind so much if you get the songs stuck in your head. This is sadly a much shorter list.

Somewhere in the middle is a lot of shows that you find yourself enjoying a little despite yourself, because they're clearly not meant for you, but they're a little funny and the writing is decent. Blue Clues and Wonder Pets fall here (I'm always kind of conflicted about Wonder Pets. The music worms its repetitive way into your head and burrows there like a Ceti eel and a lot of the plot points can be spotted a mile off, but there's a demented sort of humor running underneath and Ming Ming is amusingly snarky for a duckling with an annoying speech impediment).

And then of course there are the shows where the writers have clearly done too many drugs, like Yo Gabba Gabba and Wow Wow Wubbzy. Watching them is kind of like having a fever dream and makes them impossible to categorize, since adults tend to either love or hate them.

A corollary to this is music groups: just like it's not hard to tell the difference between writers writing things they think children will like and writing things that they like, there is a painful difference between a band consisting of people who came together out of a genuine passion for writing and performing music for children, and people cast by executives out to make a buck in the lucrative children's music field. I think of this every time I look into despairing eyes of the Fresh Beat Band attempting to act like it's cool and fun to sing about bananas (why do I allow this on my television? Nick sticks it in front of their On Demand programs and I'm not always alert enough to fast forward).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Shouldn't you catch it?

Yesterday, our refrigerator started making a worrying hum, all the more worrying since Spiderman villain Hum Dinger was nowhere in the vicinity. And today, I opened it up and realized that despite the fact that I could hear the motor, I couldn't feel any cold air. Up in the freezer, none of our blue ice had frozen and things were steadily defrosting. Ack. Our refrigerator had stopped running.

Normally, this would be where renting would come in handy, but while I normally like our landlord, one of his drawbacks is that he doesn't provide a refrigerator. It's worth it because we're living in a very nice neighborhood for a lot less than you would expect, but our current refrigerator is the one that the previous tenants left behind. It's, er, not exactly a huge shock as to why. It's ancient, has a tiny freezer, is missing several shelves, and generally gives the air of an appliance ready to float down the River Styx at a moment's notice. And lo! It's gone on its final journey.

The problem with refrigerators is that it's one of the only appliances you can't live without for any amount of time. If the stove broke, we could use the microwave. If the washer or dryer broke, we could go to a laundromat and use the clothesline, or even use the bathtub. Heck, even if the furnace went out we could shiver in front of a space heater for a couple days. But nothing will refrigerate food except, well, a refrigerator. And as much as I hate to lose an entire refrigerator and freezer full of food (really hate, since I just made a trip to BJ's last week to fill the freezer), it's the breastmilk I'm producing that makes it vital to have refrigeration. And, of course, I've finally just reached a point where I've pulled ahead a bit of demand and have a bit of a surplus.

Sigh. When we started hearing the hum yesterday, we started responding to listings on Craigslist. But none of the leads have panned out, so I think tomorrow morning we're just going to have to suck it up and go to Sears, who is at least offering free delivery and will haul away the wretched husk of our old refrigerator. This wasn't what I wanted to spend money on right before Christmas, but we can more or less afford it. And I have to admit, I will look forward to a refrigerator that doesn't have an empty pizza box replacing one of the shelves.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Alec at four months


Guess who's teething?

Our gigantic baby, that's who. He was 26 inches and 17 pounds, 3 ounces at his well baby visit today. I expect our health insurance to cancel his coverage any minute now. He's in the 90th percentile for height, weight and head circumference, making him a very well-proportioned baby. And you can really see it - he has a decent amount of chub, but he's not at all fat, just big. He's firmly into 9 month clothes now that all of his wrists and ankles are sticking out of 6 month clothes and we can't snap any of them under his crotch without endangering our future grandchildren.

In physical developments, he has started rolling over. And like magic, the boy who never wanted to play on the floor is suddenly thrilled to be under his activity arch. He's even happy to be on his stomach for quite a while. He isn't making any forward movement when he squirms around on the floor, but he will often wind up 90 or 180 degrees away from where he started by rolling around. He's become much more interested in holding and examining objects, and he frequently becomes frustrated when he's under his activity arch because he can't hold the dangling toys and hold them the way he wants to.

Socially, he's the most incredible flirt. It's not just that he will smile at anyone who looks at or talks to him. He will also deliberately catch the eye of people passing him and give them a coy, come-hither smile.

He has started laughing, in response to being tickled, to many of the things K does, and to being sung nonsense. Honestly, I'm not sure why I bother to remember lyrics to songs when the thing he finds most hysterical is my chanting:

A dee-dee-dee,
A dee-dee-dee,
A dee-dee-dee-dee dee-dee-dee!
[vigorously move baby's arms about in various semaphore positions]

Not exactly poetry for the ages. But who could resist making this face smile?


Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaBloPoMo day 1

After failing NaBloPoMo spectacularly last year, I'm trying again to try and get back into more regular posting mode. So here goes:

I drove off to work yesterday with our virgin pumpkins in the back of the car, so sadly, B's Halloween afternoon activity of pumpkin carving with K was cancelled. But despite the early fly in the ointment, Halloween went off pretty well. After I got home, we dressed the children and took them back to my museum with a cute dinosaur:


and a princess (who was torn between dinosaur and princess until the costume was purchased)(and yes, that's a Disney princess dress on the child who has an entire trunk full of handmade princess dresses. But small children don't quite understand the frugal principle of wearing something you already own for Halloween instead of getting a new costume, and she certainly wears those dresses enough that we'll get our money's worth out of this one too):

After Halloween2

Since we're a big mansion that can look spooky in the dark, we decorate for Halloween every year and open up for the local trick or treaters. K and Alec were met with gratifying acclaim by my co-workers and the (female, middle-aged) volunteers. Then we went back home and B took K out around the neighborhood while I answered the door.

They came back when K's bucket was full and she kept giving it to B to carry between houses. They had only covered a quarter of our street, which brings home to me how much more dense this neighborhood is than the typical suburban subdivision I grew up in. All of the houses on our block are duplexes, and are long and narrow, so the narrowest side of the house faces the street. That makes for a lot of houses packed onto a street.

The trick or treating had pretty much ended for the night by 8, in time for the baseball game to start, and we poured our tired, sugared up princess into bed for the night.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Last minute Halloween costume - Kakashi / ninja mask pattern

So you may or may not remember that I used to make a not insignificant amount of money selling Naruto cosplay costumes on Ebay. I gratefully gave it up when I got the online job last year, and while I haven't returned to that job, I have absolutely no desire to go back to the sewing mines either. Because of that, I've been meaning to post my patterns for a while for the benefit of any cosplayers who want to make their own Kakashi costume, starting with the mask (which also makes a good generic ninja mask). I had meant to post this earlier than the day before Halloween, but I had a sick kid this week instead. And hey, tomorrow's Saturday and you'll have all day to sew before the evening. This mask shouldn't take even a novice sewist more than an hour. And cosplay is a yearlong hobby, so hopefully if you're preparing for a con this can help you as well.

A note before starting: at some point I may work up a good tutorial with pretty pictures and everything, but right now, I have a sick kid and a young baby and if I waited until I had time, you'll have to wait until they're in junior high. So instead, I'm going to assume you know the basics of sewing and am going to just give basic text instructions. Really, it isn't hard at all.

You will need:

-Black or dark blue stretchy fabric. Joann Fabrics has a nice rib knit with a bit of lycra to give it a nice stretch without getting misshapen, but anything that lets you breathe through it will do. I would get half a yard to have enough for making mistakes.

-Something that lets you mark on dark fabric, such as a white pencil, or my personal favorite, this white marking pen with ink that disappears after a while. Or failing that, a gel pen with bright, sparkly ink will often show up well enough.

-six inches hook and loop tape (aka Velcro). Velcro makes an iron-on velcro that works really well and will save you tons of time. It's a bit spendy, but since you only need six inches or so, you can get a small pack and not spend much.

Here's the basic pattern marked with instructions (click for full size):

However, it needs to be 10 x 9, which is too big for one piece of paper, so here's the version that prints on two pieces of paper, to cut out and tape together:

This mask generally fits about a range of 12-16 inch neck. If you suspect your neck is larger or smaller than average, adjust the width of the cloth accordingly.

1. Cut a piece of cloth 10 inches tall by 18 inches wide, and fold in half to make a 10 x 9 inch piece.
2. Lay the pattern on top of the cloth and trace it.
3. Sew along the lines for the nose and the chin. Trim along the sewn lines.
4. Cut along the two other lines.
5. Fold over the raw edges with about a half inch seam allowance and sew.
6. Cut the velcro in half so you have two three inch pieces of hook and two three inch pieces of loop. Attach to the back of the neck - one set on the outside (I recommend the scratchy side, so you don't have it scratching your neck) and one on the inside of the other side.

When you're done, it should look like this:

And you're done!

I hope these directions make a bit of sense. Really, it's not any more complicated than cut out and hem. Happy cosplaying!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

And the verdict from the pediatrician is:

A double ear infection!

Wait, huh? I asked her about her ears and got a firm negative. But according to the doctor, sometimes ear infections manifest as referred pain in the stomach instead. Bizarre.

The jury is still out on the urinary tract. She refused to pee at the doctor's office, so we didn't get an immediate dip and their lab takes several days for results. In any case, she's on antibiotics now.

She was pretty chipper this afternoon, which is impressive given that her fever never went below 100. I really hope it finally goes away tomorrow. She's staying home no matter what because school won't let her back until she's gone 24 hours without a fever. I understand their reasoning, but it can be a bit infuriating when you know what your kid has isn't contagious. Fingers crossed that the antibiotics kick in so she can go back Thursday.

Monday, October 26, 2009

(Not) The flu

K woke up this morning hot to the touch and complaining that her stomach hurt. As I heard that, I got a sinking feeling in my own stomach at the realization that the flu had caught up to us. I had been recently cursing the Philadelphia schools for sending home permission slips to give the H1N1 vaccine and then deciding that they weren't giving it to the preschoolers (yes! We shall give the vaccine to all students except the ones most vulnerable to complications from the flu! This makes perfect sense!), and my curses doubled up. Anyway, we gave her ibuprofen and settled in to wait for more symptoms to show up.

Meanwhile, we got a call from our pediatrician's office asking if we could reschedule Alec's well baby appointment today because the office was filled with sick kids. Gosh, do I want to take my currently healthy four-month-old into the cesspool of disease and pestilence masquerading as your waiting room? Why yes! Or not. We rescheduled the appointment. Although I suppose it doesn't matter if we try to avoid disease by staying home if K is going to bring it home to us from the plague grounds of preschool, Seventh Seal style ("The salmon mousse!").

At noon her fever was down to 100 and she was more chipper, but not showing any other symptoms. She slept most of the afternoon. In the late afternoon, I tried asking her if anything hurt, trying to find out what symptoms she might be developing (at this point I had pretty much decided she must just have one of those anonymous viruses small children like to pick up), and she said again her stomach hurt, but nothing else. Did it hurt when she pees? Yes. Was it her lower stomach that hurt? Yes.

Drat. Another UTI. On the plus side, not the flu and not contagious! On the negative, it was 4:30, half an hour before the doctor's office closed and an hour after the appointment we had given up for Alec and decided not to take K to instead because what could the doctor do for a virus? Sigh.

We have an appointment for her tomorrow morning (a mere hour before the dentist appointment that I've been making and breaking for the past year and a half, but that's another story), and hopefully getting antibiotics will get her well enough to ship her back to school on Wednesday, poor bunny. And I will continue to be grateful that we're continuing to dodge the flu bullet. As hard as it is to watch the numbers climb on the thermometer as your toasty warm preschooler lies limp and flushed, the terror of a young infant with the flu is one I would just as soon avoid.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Library loot

Traditionally, the library is supposed to be a good way to reduce the number of books you buy. Tradition, however, has not reckoned with that most seductive phenomenon known as the library used booksale.

It's a beneficial thing for all parties involved - the library gets to simultaneously get rid of weeded books and donations they can't use and make some money, and book lovers get the thrill of picking through acres of Harlequin romances and John Grisham novels for rare gems. Growing up, my local library had quarterly book sales, which rarely netted me much useful because I tended to go on the last day, the dollar-a-bag day, the library's shameless attempt to lure people into carrying away as much chaff as possible left over once the wheat had been thoroughly picked out the two days preceding. It was quite a deal, assuming your heart's desire including all the bodice rippers, Agatha Christie novels and Time-Life books from the 70s that your arms could hold. I have occasionally found some rare gems this way, such as my hardcover of Peter Beagle's Folk of the Air (which Bunter later peed on, the wretched creature), and a gorgeous edition of Canterbury Tales in Middle English with lovely color illustrations. Trying to read it is a bit like trying to read mock-Swedish, but goodness, it's pretty to look at. But mostly, I've come away with armfuls of dreck, falling apart paperback mysteries and cookbooks from the 60s that I thought I might conceivably be interested in that I wound up eventually handing right back to the library as a donation.

In recent years, libraries have begun to realize they can get make money more consistently if they have a constantly running booksale going, which can range from a lone bereft table in the lobby to bookstores that boast an entire room or two to themselves and some semblance of organization. But they're all similar in that you rarely pay more than a dollar for a hardcover. This encourages more discernment in choosing your books, but is still a low enough price point to seduce you into some real stinkers. The large print version of Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time for instance, which is certainly a good book, but as it turned out, one I already owned. In normal print.

Currently, we have access to all of the books B's library has for sale before they're available to the general public, which is so, so bad for us. We've cut down on the crap quite a bit. But in terms of sheer volume of books coming into the house, we've gotten much worse. I keep coming across children's classics that I want for the kids when they're older. Or I find book three from a series I've always wanted to try, or books that I want to give as gifts, or copies of books we own but in better condition, except we keep forgetting to get rid of our older copies. Recently B came home with ten classic science fiction paperbacks, most of which are probalby going to go right back, as they're magnificent examples of 50s misogyny and Red fear. K seems to be under the impression that she can buy anything she wants at the library because we'll generally buy her anything she finds that she wants off of the booksale racks because after all, it's only a quarter. We've found some really good stuff. We've replaced the flimsy Science Fiction Book Club editions of the first four Harry Potter books with full size copies in lovely condition. Somebody keeps buying science fiction and fantasy novels in hardcover, reading them once and then donating them to B's library, which has resulted in our acquiring things like the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel for a dollar.

In any case, this weekend the friends group at B's library held their quarterly booksale, which meant there were lots more books available, and I came away with what seems like a classic sampling:

-a romance novel by an author I don't want to like but somehow can never put down, in poor condition, which will probably go to my library's booksale once I read it and then get over the resulting feelings of vague shame and self-loathing

-two mystery novels from a long running series from which I've read three or four books, which I may well get around to reading, or quite likely they will go on the bookshelf for a few years until we move again and I need to make some space

-Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, a book I loved, which has me wrestling with my conscience because my first instinct is to put it in my library, but I want to keep it clutched in my grubby hands. There's no reason that I should feel obligated to give books I want to my library, but I enjoy the idea of children finding a book I love. I think a lot of the instinct of a librarian is wanting to share books you like. This is why I own multiple copies of some of my favorite books - my copy, and the lending copy. In this case, however, I'm keeping it.

-Search the Seven Hills by Barbara Hambly. This was the real jewel, since it's a wonderful mystery by an author I love that's virtually impossible to find.

I don't see our cheap bookbuying habit ending any time in the near future, even as we find ourselves hip-deep in mediocre paperbacks. Because out for every ten books we sorta wanted to read sometime, there's the irresistable prospect of find Homer Price in hardcover.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And yet

Of course, just when you're ready to set your child out on the curb for gypsy pickup, she manages to save herself by singing sweetly to her brother:

"Rock-a-bye baby,
Up the tree top,
When the cradle falls,
You'll fall asleep."

I think I'll keep her for now.

Those parents

Yesterday, I was THAT mother, you know, the one who has a firm grip on a struggling child as she marches them along, clearly at the end of her temper. The one people tsk at because what sort of abusive parent is so rough with their child?

In my case, it was because K decided it was funny to run away from me. I had let her run around on the grass with some kids at school pickup, and when I said it was time to go, she decided it was time to run instead. I can't let that sort of behavior slide, because what happens when she decides it's funny to run away in a parking lot or crowded store? So I grabbed her around her upper arm, because she was inclined to go boneless and there's a danger of dislocating a child's elbow by pulling them by the hand too hard; a very common cause of this is by a child going boneless while a parent is holding their hand. So while a hand around the upper arm seems much rougher, it's actually a lot safer.

Anyway, I eventually got us back to the car, although it involved at least a few feet of walking while holding each child around the middle. And K lost her promised trip to Burger King because if I couldn't trust her to stay with me in public, we needed to stay home.

Today, I was one of THOSE mothers, you know, the ones who futilely try to reprimand misbehaving children while not actually backing it up. The ones who are creating the next generation of delinquents with their permissive parenting?* We were having lunch before going to buy her Halloween costume and I had let her sit in one of the comfy chairs at Panera, which she took as license to use it as a jungle gym. Meanwhile, I really desperately needed to eat at least a bit before leaving and Alec was drinking with his eyes closed, giving every impression that if I fed him just a little while longer, he would fall asleep. And chances were good that I was actually bothering more people by nagging K than she was by climbing all over her chair. I should have left immediately when I saw what her mood was and knew it at the time, but I was desperately hungry, so instead I threatened and threatened until she moved into outright defiance and deliberate provocation, at which point the Halloween costume got cancelled and we headed home, because if I couldn't trust her to listen to me in public, we had to stay home.

Only first I had to stop to mop up when I discovered I had managed squeeze juice from the juice box I was carrying all over the carseat, and then had to deal with the boneless puddle of child on the floor of the car. I feel a certain amount of pride that this is the first point in the past two days that I started yelling, which was just about as effective as it usually is, which is to say that she started laughing. I feel so much sympathy for spanking parents at times like these, but I also know that times like these are part of why I don't spank, because I don't think I want to allow myself to use violence when I'm that angry. As it is, I can't say I was terribly gentle when I pulled her up and put her in her carseat.

On the way home:

K lost tv privileges for the afternoon due to egregious seatbelt violations

My back started spasming, not doubt due to having to haul around a struggling forty pound child

I had to stop suddenly, causing my large cup of iced tea to hit the floor

K announced that she had spilled her juice

I won't even go into what it took to achieve a bath tonight. I have rarely been so happy to see bedtime come tonight. I think four may kill me.

So any guesses on how many more times we have to go through this and how many more patient explanations it will take before she finally realizes that defying me in public will result in staying home?

*And this, of course, is how a parent can never win, because if you don't discipline enough, people give you the hairy eyeball for being too permissive, and if you do discipline, you get the hairy eyeball for being too harsh and a possible abuser. Think upon this the next time you find yourself judging a parent in public: you are only seeing a brief snapshot in time of their relationship with their child. Try to be charitable.

Monday, October 19, 2009


We went to an openhouse for a local Friends school Saturday. It was a nice little school, with small class sizes and a good philosophy. It looked like the sort of place we could all be very happy with.

I've been thinking a lot about our educational options for K lately, as we need to start working out now what we want to do for kindergarten for next year. One of the reasons I wanted K to get into the public school preschool program (besides being FREE) was that it seemed like a good way to experience the local public schools at a point when it won't have too many negative effects on her education. So far, I've been kind of iffy on the experience. The preschool itself is okay. They have a decent classroom and only 20 kids, which is excellent compared to class sizes at higher grades. They do a bit of academic work, but at one letter a week, it's hardly academic hothousing. K's class is very diverse, which I like quite a lot. I don't think we would ever have to worry about diversity sending her to city schools.

But I don't think they could possibly be more unfriendly to working parents, given that they don't offer any before or after school care. Between the legal holidays, inservice days and the weekly half day, it feels like she's been out of school more than she's been in. We're already having headaches dealing with her care on the one weekday I could work, and I'm having palpitations at the thought of trying to work around her schedule if I get another job. More concerning is the fact that whenever I do actual research on the Philadelphia public schools, I find that their reputation of being crowded and violent is entirely deserved.

I'm a big proponent of public schools in theory. But there's a definite tension between my ideals and my obligation to the real child standing in front of me to provide her with what she needs to be successful in life, which at minimum involves a good, safe place to learn. I'm not sure the public schools here can even live up to that standard.

And after that, there's the question of how far we go to find the situation that's the best match for K. This dovetails with two things I've been thinking about a lot lately:

1. Every day since last March, K has woken up and said "Today's not a preschool day." I'm pretty sure it was a new baby anxiety issue, especially since it reached its absolute worst right before Alec came. For the most part, she gets dressed and goes to school pretty readily, and even if we have trouble getting her out the door, she's usually fine by the time we go to school, and fine when I pick her up. But a couple weeks ago, I got the first attempt of her coming up to me and piteously announcing that she can't go to school because she's sick, followed by the world's most fake cough.

And oh, my heart. She had managed to step directly into the deep pit of my school issues. I spent years pretending to be sick to get out of going to school. Part of it was the social hell (more on that in a minute), but I think part of it was just that I wasn't physically suited to that environment. I'm a very strong introvert and I suspect I have some significant sensory issues as well, and I think being surrounded by that many people all day long was just too exhausting for me, so I needed periodic breaks. It almost certainly would have been easier on me to attend a smaller school.

I'm wary of projecting my issues onto K, since I don't necessarily think her not wanting to go to preschool is more than an extension of her continuing attempt to meld herself directly to my skin and possibly burrow into my torso. Right now, this is a wait and see issue. But I'm pretty sure she's an introvert too, which wouldn't be much of a shocker given that she has two introverted parents. She seems to have gotten a large dose of my personality, although thankfully with less shyness. But the introversion is definitely there and I have to wonder what going to a huge, crowded public school will do to her.

2. Reading this post, where the author talks about discovering her son is being teased and how it brought back her own bad experiences with bullying. I had started to leave a comment, but it was turning into this post so I decided to save it for my own blog.

To put it mildly, her post hit a nerve. The author posted a picture of herself from the teasing period, and if you had added glasses and a retainer, it would have been me in second grade. For me, the teasing lasted from second to tenth grade. I'm dreading the day it happens to my children, because there's not much I'm going to be able to do about it. The plain truth is that you can't teach a child to combat a bully. If they're not the type of person to be able to come up with a snappy comeback on the spot, they're probably not going to be good at delivering any lines you supply them, and those lines may or may not be relevant to the situation. I can say from experience that piously informing bullies that they're revealing their deep insecurity is, um, ineffective. You can tell someone to ignore the tormenting all you want, but let's face it, we're social animals. We care about what other people think of us. When someone truly doesn't care about other people's opinions, it's considered a personality disorder. The only real defense from bullying comes from the school taking an active anti-bullying approach.

So what are the other choices?

1. Homeschooling - we have the option of online charter schools here, so it would be possible to homeschool while not having to take charge of the actual teaching and planning if I don't feel up to it. My worries about homeschooling are more in the social areas. I know it's perfectly possible to homeschool and still adequately socialize your child. But so far, I've done an absolutely lousy job of getting K regular access to other children without sending her to daycare or preschool. We've had a handful of playdates with one other child we met through her daycare last year and that's about it. The other factor is that I freely admit that I have discovered that I'm not well suited to be with my children all day, every day. If I could somehow homeschool while having someplace to send K for a couple hours a day, or even three days a week, I would seriously consider it. There's actually a place in the Philadelphia suburbs where I could send her part of the day, but it's on the other side of the city. Homeschooling would kill any hope of my working any more than the paltry hours I am now, unless again, I was able to find someplace to send her part of the day.

2. Private school - we would love to send K to a Friends School. It would expose her to her Quaker heritage, and I really like the idea of her going to a school where kindness and respect for others is an explicit part of the curriculum. The drawback? Most of the Friends schools around here average $20000 a year. I am not prepared to go into debt to send my child to kindergarten. The Friends school we saw this weekend is much much cheaper, to the point that it's actually conceivably within the realm of affordable if we're thrifty enough. One thing I keep reminding myself is that next year, the car will either be paid off, or we'll be paying a hopefully much lower car payment that will be further diminished by getting car payments from my brother. But on the flip side of homeschooling, I would almost certainly have to get more work if we want to be able to save any money while paying for private school, however cheap it is.

3. Decide that K is unlikely to get knifed in first grade and send her to public school while doing our level best to get the hell out of Philadelphia. This idea has quite a bit of merit, but revolves around being able to find a job someplace else. So, you know, not something entirely in our control.

So that's what's filling my brain lately. Well, that and occasional feeling guilty for rampant class privilege, but good education shouldn't be a privilege.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's not that nothing is going on in our lives these days. It's just that every single thing I do these days involves at least one of my hands. If I'm not feeding, soothing, wiping, swaddling, jiggling or otherwise entertaining a baby or small child, I'm pumping. Or in my miniscule spare time, sewing. Plus, very little in our lives is actually that interesting. We just keep doing the same things every day, and before I know it, over a week has gone by and I haven't posted anything.

So here are a few random things I can think of to keep another week of silence go by:

* Our trip to California was, on the whole, worth it. It was every bit as inconvenient and exhausting as we expected a trip across country with a baby and preschooler would be, with some extra jabs thrown in just to make us just that much more tired, but I'm glad we went. The wedding was lovely, I got to see a cousin and her daughters and we spent time with some college friends. And I have now been on the West Coast and seen the Pacific ocean for the first time.

* Alec rolled over today. I thought he might not make it, because he was clutching a toy in the hand of the arm he was rolling on, but once I helped out by taking the toy away, over he went. Last Thursday, he laughed for the first time. My tiny baby keeps insisting on growing and developing. Is college next?

* Every day, K comes home from preschool with a new drawing, almost always of our family. It's fascinating how her drawing has been progressing in the past week. First, we were largely just heads. Then we were heads with bodies and limbs attached. Then she started drawing in details like hair and B's beard and a very definite attempt to have one of us holding Alec. Today, we all had glasses on and she had made a very creditable attempt to sign her name with at least three recognizable letters. I've made no secret about the fact that I find four a very trying age, but there are parts of it that are just so incredibly cool. I don't know when my kid got so smart and capable, but it's wondrous to behold.

* I love the cool crispness of fall, which fell on us this year with a startling suddenness that left us sitting there blinking. I've been scrambling to put away the short sleeves and pull out the sweaters as the temperature in the house plummets. The cats like us again as they compete to crawl under the covers with us when we go to bed. It's amazing how they're suddenly ready to accept the new messy small creature in the house when there's body warmth to be shared.

* I'm taking new member classes at church, although I'm not able to attend many of them between our travelling and my work schedule. That's okay though. After confirmation classes and new member classes at three different churches, I think I'm pretty much set when it comes to the history of the UCC and the rights and responsibilities of a member of a UCC church (basically, we vote. A lot, on pretty much everything). I suppose it's a little quick to be joining, but after almost three years, it's time to transfer my membership from our Indiana church, and I really like this church. Alec is getting baptized November 15, and my mother and brother are coming out. I haven't seen much of them in the past year, so I'm really looking forward to it even though they're not staying long.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


We just got back from spending the weekend in California, attending B's sister's wedding and trying to shoehorn seeing everyone we know in the Bay Area in one day. Is there no end to our crazy cosmopolitan jetset lifestyle?

Well, I would feel more cosmopolitan and jetset if B's parents hadn't had to pay for our entire trip, since we couldn't have afforded to send even just one of us. Heck, just the baggage fees represent a staggering blow to our current budget. So we are incredibly grateful to them.

Anyway, we are now very very very tired. So this is the "I aten't dead" post that will be elaborated upon later.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Alec at three months

My baby has reached the ripe old age of three months, the official end of the newborn stage. His skin has gone from mottled and translucent to smooth and creamy. He's lost his werewolf pelt of dark hair on his ears and shoulders. His eyes are alert and fixate on objects and faces, no longer gazing into the mysterious world only newborns can see. He's eating larger and larger amounts at a time, which gives him the ability to go longer between feedings. His skinny little chicken legs have been replace with meaty drumsticks. He can stay awake happily for two hours at a time now, and happily entertains himself under his activity arch, grabbing at the dangling toys on his bouncy seat and investigating the myriad wonders of his new Jumperoo.

He's a very social little thing, doing his best to flirt with and charm whomever he meets. He spent Sunday at church developing a devoted fan following by smiling indiscriminately at anyone who talked to him. He demands interaction from us by cooing at us like an insistent little owl and then flashing a full-face smile when we look at him. He loves being sung to, with favorites including Alouette, Lydia the Tattooed Lady (I'm not sure why this is a favorite of my babies, but they've both loved it), Alice's Restaurant (which turns easily into Alec's Restaurant), and Union Maid (which I would turn into Union Lad, but "There once was a union lad, who never was afrad" doesn't quite work*). What do these songs have in common? They're upbeat and I can remember the lyrics. It shows exactly what sort of library geek I am that I have been known to sing to my children with an open copy of Rise Up Singing in front of me, but when it comes down to it, the things I remember are the things I've listened to all of my life, which is mostly folk music and assorted oddities like Tom Lehrer. Thus, I have a wide repertoire of union songs and gospel songs which leads to my frequently singing to my children about the death and the coming apocalypse, along with populist rabble-rousing.

Physically, he is getting quite good at reaching out and grasping, as well as starting to manipulate the toys on his Jumperoo. He has excellent head control and when held up can stiffen his legs enough to hold himself in a standing position. On his stomach, he can lift his head for a little while and he's practicing frog-like swimming motions by lifting his arms and legs and flailing.

I'm a little afraid to speak of sleep, but it's perpetually surprising to me that we just swaddle him up or pop him in the sling and he's usually asleep within a couple minutes with no fuss. He's starting to be able to sleep without being held as well, and has even started falling asleep in the car seat. In fact, he's starting to not be too bad when it comes to the car seat. If he's awake and cheerful, he'll happily sit and entertain himself in the car, and when he's tired, he can now be convinced to go to sleep. Today, he even fell asleep entirely on his own. This can't possibly be a baby of mine.

Three months is one of my favorite baby ages. They're old enough to be social but too young to fear strangers. Old enough to start developing a routine but are usually still flexible enough to be able to sleep anywhere. Able to play and entertain themselves for a while, but not in any danger of moving on their own. Quite possibly the cutest things on the face of the Earth.


More pictures here.

*Oh, the words don't have to be clever,
And it doesn't matter if you stick a couple extra syllables into a line,
It sounds more ethnic if it ain't good English,
And it don't even got to rhyme...Excuse me, rhyne.

Friday, September 25, 2009


One of the few advantages of pumping full time is that you know exactly how much milk your baby is getting. I typically pumped about 22-25 ounces a day with K, but she nursed over night so I never knew precisely how much she was eating.

With Alec though, I'm pumping it all, so I know precisely how much I make. I'm currently producing 28-30 ounces a day, which is almost a quart of milk a day. Moo indeed.


1. Our driveway slopes downward, which has its disadvantages when it rains and our garage floods yet again. As you can imagine, it gets rather tropical in there in the summer, and mold is the very expected result.

(The much less expected result is the opossum that moved into the garage recently. We have to leave the door open periodically so things will dry out. Meanwhile, we saw Olwen recently, so we baited our live trap. We didn't get her, but we did find a very full opossum, who apparently decided to stick around and see if we felt like leaving out more food and hey look, here's a lovely semi-dry place to hide. We're like the best opossum hotel ever. I discovered it recently when I went out to dig out some of the baby toys and saw a pointy little face peeking at me from the corner. Since it was wearing neither a hat nor stripy shirt, and definitely wasn't speaking in a folksy humorous manner, I think we will be deploying the live trap again and relocating our guest)

Anyway, one of the casualties of the mold was our older Graco stroller. I had taken it in the house so I could try to wash the moldy fabric, but it was sufficiently inconvenient to remove that I hadn't gotten around to it. We have a much better stroller, a Baby Jogger City that I got at a shocking discount and love with an indecent passion, but it would be nice to have a stroller we could clip the baby's car seat to. And for preference, not so teeming with microbial life that it could possibly walk away on its own.

Enter Babies R Us, which decided to run a sale where you could bring in your old baby equipment in exchange for 20% off of new baby equipment. So we unloaded Biohazard Stroller on the suckers them, and were even allowed to use a 15% off coupon on top of that to acquire a double stroller, for about the price I see for lightly used ones on Craigslist. And now we can take both children for long walks without either having to flog K into walking the entire way or wind up both carrying a 15 pound baby and pushing a 40 pound child, a recipe for hot back death if there ever was one.

2. I did a bit more research on the tax incentive for buying a car this year and discovered that 1) it was for new cars and 2) it wasn't really that good. So since my brother is going to have a lot of trouble coming up with enough money to pay off our ten-months-left-on-it car loan before paying the rest in installments, we decided to wait a while on the new car. The longer we wait, the more he'll be able to collect, and the less will be owed on the loan. I don't want to wait until next August to do this, but certainly we could wait until spring.

I've still been doing car research. A phrase I never thought I would utter when car buying is "I think we should seriously look at this Kia." And yet, the Rondo has that right combination of more space but not too big, decent gas mileage and a good reliability record. Apparently Kia has been improving a lot in recent years. And while I've never thought I would be the type of person to be changing cars so often, my goal for this car is really to last long enough that someone comes out with a good station wagon or minivan as a hybrid or other alternative fuel vehicle. What I would really prefer is to own something like a Prius for driving around town and a minivan that B could drive the mile and a half to work and we could take on trips, but we can't afford insurance for two cars living here.

Another phrase I really really never thought I would utter is "I think we should look at these SUVs." And yet, apparently the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V are both relatively small and have comparable gas mileage to the other cars I've been looking at. The main drawbacks are that 1), they cost considerably more than the other cars I've been looking at and 2), I saw a couple up close in a parking lot the other day and found myself thinking that even though I know they have decent mileage, they're still so large that I would feel like an asshole driving around in them. Part of my problem I'm sure is having to accept that if I want a larger car, I'm going to have to deal with a car that's, well, large, but there are larger cars with less aggressive profiles than an SUV.

So currently the state of the car project is still unexpectedly leaning towards a Kia and waiting for spring.

3. My mother's birthday gift to me this year is money for a new dress for B's sister's wedding, since nothing in my wardrobe fits over my breastfeeding rack. Surprisingly, I have no tales of agony and woe, stumbling through store after store full of clothes that have been beaten liberally with the ugly stick. Instead, I found a dress from Lands End almost immediately and ordered it without hesitation. It's a flattering cut, has easy access for exposing myself and has a belt to compensate for the fact that my milk-enhanced bust is a full size larger than my waist. The fact that Lands End currently has a coupon code available that give both 25% off and free shipping was just gravy.

I read a lot of sewing and crafting blogs, which have been giving me a lot of treacherous thoughts lately about converting t-shirts and button-down shirts into dresses. But I keep feeling hesitant about possibly ruining perfectly good clothes so I can produce something that looks amateurish. But then I walked into Target and saw a rack full of dresses that looked like they had been badly adapted from thrift store rejects and then sat upon by a team of elephants for the extra wrinkly look, and realized that if people are walking out in public wearing those, I have nothing to worry about.