Friday, December 17, 2010

Best laid plans

B's uncle died at the beginning of the week. He had been fighting pancreatic cancer for a year and a half and was only in his 60s, and we are all quite sad, particularly for his wife. He was a kind and funny man and will be missed by many, many people.

The funeral is in New York this weekend, which is a complete departure from my previous weekend plans of working on Saturday and maybe doing something Christmassy on Sunday. But it will be good to see the rest of the family, even though I wish we could find ways to get everyone together that didn't require anybody to get married or die.


And now that I've said all that, here's sampling of the running dialogue in my brain for most of today: So we need to get packed and how will we keep two small kids quiet at a funeral and I need to get work done tonight and work both jobs tomorrow and make something for the staff Christmas party tomorrow and I've been chosen for a new project at work which is theoretically a compliment since I was chosen because of my good work but mostly it's a pain the ass because it's suddenly added four morehours of work to shoehorn into today and tomorrow and we should dig out and clean up baby equipment to pass on to B's sister this weekend and did I mention I now have houseguests and no time to actually spend with them and let's not forget packing to leave for Michigan next week and we should really shovel out the car and AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

So there's that. I'm going to concentrate on the fact that thanks to the houseguests we have the grandparent babysitting service who are at least taking the children off of my hands and be thankful for that.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tantrums and thriftiness

Two months ago, I kept wondering why it was I thought I hated early toddlerhood so much. Was it because when K was that age, B was out of work and we were insanely stressed? Because our current toddler was unendingly delightful.

Now, I can remember why: because at 18 months, they turn into little monsters. Little screaming, tantrumming, perpetual motion, howler monkey monsters. Actually, K waited until she was 19 months to really pull it out (although to be fair, my memories of that period of her life are very hazy because of the little distraction of moving to Philadelphia), while Alec is proving to be precocious. Or maybe it just feels that way, since the headbutting has made this quite literally a painful phase for all of us.

Despite waking for the day at 4:30 yesterday morning, he still manages to be cute enough to keep himself from being put out on the curb with the recycling. He seems to have a good sense of when to pull out the cute and distracts me from finding a cardboard box by playing peek-a-boo. K was cute at that age because toddlers are naturally cute. But Alec has been deliberately clowning to make me laugh for several months. The difference between an introvert and an extrovert, right there.

I've been feeling a bit smug lately because I've managed to keep him occupied for hours lately with two simple things that cost less than $10 together. The first is two sets of Mardi Gras beads from the Target dollar bins. Alec adores putting things around his neck, so these are perfect for him to put them on, and take them off, and put them on again and take two off and drop one and put the other one back on... you get the idea. We always let him know he's very pretty in his beads, which makes him happy.

The other was the $6 purchase of a large poster board, to which I glued down some train track. Alec loves the train table at the bookstore, but when I tried to pull our trains out at home, he was interested but couldn't restrain himself from lifting the track up, descending like the hand of God to ruin the fun quite effectively. Now, we have a nice little track setup that lives under the coffee table until gets pulled out so he can play on it happily for hours (often after we've found him lying on his stomach attempting to push trains on the track under the table). Our little train boy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I took a trip down the basement stairs Saturday night. My feet flew right out from under me and I went sliding down on my butt. K was walking down in front of me, and my legs rather neatly slid under her and she travelled down on top of me until she landed safely at the bottom. She thought it was a lot of fun, but the big bruise on my ass would beg to differ.


Alec's new habit of expressing his frustrations by banging his head on things has ramped up. I will grant that it certainly makes it hard to ignore a tantrum (not that ignoring it was ever our approach to tantrums), given that if we wait too long, he winds up with carpet-patterned bruises on his forehead. Our poor little soccer hooligan. I have sympathy for the fact that he's feeling things that are far too big for his undeveloped brain to handle yet. I had less sympathy when he bent my glasses last week. And it wasn't so much that he tried to headbutt me in the face last week that gave me pause so much as the fact that he put his hands on either side of his face to aim better.


B came home sick today, complaining of general malaise and achiness. I thought I was fine until I went to pick up the kids from school and daycare, and by the time I got home, it was quite clear that I was sick too.

I'm always torn as to whether it's worse to have to take care of sick kids when you're sick, or kids that are disgustingly healthy when you're sick. On the one hand, sick kids don't move as much, but they often demand more attention. On the other, healthy kids can often play on their own, but they have lots of energy to get into trouble and still need to have attention paid to them. Either way, parenting while sick sucks golf balls through garden hoses. We didn't actually resort to sowing the carpet with cereal for them to eat for dinner, but it was under serious consideration.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

So apparently when I decide to lose NaBloPoMo, I decide to lose hard. I've been home the past three days and haven't had to work my online job, so I theoretically should have had time. But instead, I think I've mostly been recovering (and working my other job, and doing solo childcare today, so maybe it hasn't been much of a spa trip).

Thanksgiving turned out to be lovely after a rocky start. I woke up to discover two fractious children, a fed-up husband and a pumpkin pie that needed to be made again. As it turned out, Alec is taller than I thought and I left the pie too close to the edge of the top of the stove, so he pulled it off and then grabbed the crust to pull it half out of the pan. At least he was finding it tasty before other inconsiderate people came along to ruin his feast. Our plan had been to go see an early afternoon showing of Tangled, then come home and do a relatively simple Thanksgiving meal, but after I took in the general mood, I suggested we go out after the movie.

Tangled was just great. We accidentally went to the 3d showing, and while it wasn't worth the extra $9, there were parts that were lovely in 3d. It was also nice to find out that I can handle 3d all right. I've always wondered about that because I'm Magic Eye-impaired (really, I'm pretty much the guy in Mallrats who spent the entire movie trying to see a Magic Eye. Every once in a while I can start to see shapes starting to move, then I lose it). I'm also prone to headaches if I ask too much of my eyes or from motion that's too quick or weird. But this movie, at least, was fine.

It was also just a great movie. Really funny, good action, an evil witch who managed to be incredibly evil but in a way that didn't terrify K, which I think will put this movie high up on our Disney Princess rotation. She's of the Cinderella's stepmother school of honeyed barbs and psychological warfare instead of the Maleficent over-the-top cackling and shrieking evil (what Terry Pratchett called "hearing the clang of the oven door" when talking about witches going evil). I think K will always be a Cinderella girl, but Rapunzel is going to be a close second. For me, I enjoyed it just about as much I did Beauty and the Beast, which is one of my favorites, for a lot of the same reasons (I admit, I've never actually been much of a Disney Princess person at any point in my life, but I've liked the new wave of Disney animated movies that started with Little Mermaid).

Alec slept through 90% of the movie, so we were all much more chipper leaving the theatre. Then we discovered the restaurant we wanted to get dinner at wasn't going to be serving dinner for another 45 minutes, so we decided to go home and take a crack at cooking after all. I made another pumpkin pie* and then an apple pie, then we cooked a turkey breast with dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy. Along with some spiced cider, it made a nice meal that didn't overwhelm us with leftovers or require anyone to stick their hand in a very personal area of a dead bird. And then, of course, the pie.

So then I worked Friday and B worked today, but not only do we both have tomorrow off, my best friend and her husband are visiting tomorrow! Hooray!

* Previously, my only experience with Thanksgiving food getting pulled off of the table was one year when we were eating with family friends who had a large irish setter, and the leftover turkey had been left on a table that was just about at his eye level. Really, who could possibly blame him? I hadn't thought of toddlers posing so many of the same dangers as dogs, but maybe K actually knows what she's talking about when she calls Alec "Puppy" and tries to make him heel and fetch.

I guess toddler pumpkin pie will go down in the rich family history of holiday meal disasters that nobody will ever let die. There was the time we had rubbed the turkey with oil, which meant there were very few drippings for making gravy and what I could get had a lot of oil in them, resulting in a tasty gravy that nonetheless was very off-putting for its tendency to separate into a ropy, gluey mess. Or the year my mother forgot the sugar in the cranberry relish, or my father put the dough for the rolls into the oven to rise and my mother came along and turned the oven on to preheat it for the pie, resulting in one very very large and burned roll. I know those two incidents couldn't both have happened the same year the dog stole the turkey carcass, but somehow it's all melded together in my memory as one very disastrous Thanksgiving when I was about eleven.

Monday, November 22, 2010

So Mom came and went and we all had fun. We let K stay home from school one day to go the local children's museum, and we just spent a bunch of time together, which we don't get to do enough of. The thing I didn't get was time to work during the day, resulting in my complete NaBloPoMo failure because I was too busy making up for work at night. Ah well. I will soldier on this week.


We looked at a house on Friday night. While we like the neighborhood, the house itself was remarkable in its ability to feel more cramped than our current house despite being larger. And the closet space was even more laughably inadequate. There were a number of other things - no garage (ie, place to shove our shit), small yard, nightmarish to get my mother in the house, price that seemed too high for the amenities the house was lacking - that just added up to no go. So we're searching on. It was nice to have seen the house, though, because the cookie-cutter nature of houses around here means that we will know now what that type of house is like on the inside and be able to save ourselves a lot of time.


So poor K is back on antibiotics for the immortal UTI, an antibiotic so esoteric that it had to be special-ordered and can only be stored in glass bottles. And not only does it taste bad, it gives her reflux, so she gets to keep tasting it over and over again. I don't blame her one bit for fighting taking it, which is why we resorted to bribery. Hopefully having a new Rapunzel doll's hair to thoroughly rat up will carry her through the full ten days.


Speaking of new toys, I'm typing this on a shiny new laptop, which I actually didn't want that much. We had been talking about new computers when B's raise finally comes through and we get nearly a year of the backpay owed him, but that hasn't happened yet and I didn't want to spend money we don't have yet (and in the month before Christmas, no less. Ideal timing!). But my laptop, the only computer I can use to do my job, has stopped wanting to acknowledge its power cord, which is what you might call one of those problems you can't work around, and fixing it will require sending it away for two weeks.

This whole dispute about raises has been in arbitration since July, and we're finally supposed to hear by Thanksgiving. I'm quite sure it will be in our favor, but I'm feeling that sort of jiggly anxiety that comes from anticipating something that I'm sure is coming, but I don't know quite when.

It is quite a nice fast and shiny laptop though.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

So why is it that even on the nights that I'm all proactive and get work started nice and early, my computer and/or the work server conspire to malfunction juuust long enough that I can't justify stopping work for the night, but will have to be up obscenely late to get my hours in?

On that note, good night.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Letters to my children

Dear Alec,

Sixteen months is far too young to be able to work a doorknob. Furthermore, it is inexcusably young to be able to open a child-proof cap.


Your harried parents

Dear K's bladder,

We're giving you a third round of antibiotics, and even taking you for an ultrasound just to say hello and make sure you're doing okay. So if you've been feeling neglected, I think we're giving you more than enough attention now. Please get better this time, okay?



Dear bacteria in K's bladder,




Monday, November 15, 2010

Surreal estate

So the next Iron Chef is going to be another white man. What a refreshing change of pace. Sigh. There goes my interest in the outcome of the final battle.


The grandmother has landed! My mother is here, that is, or I should say that she's in a nice hotel. The only way she can get into our house is to go in through the walk-out basement, which only has a doorsill. She can get up out of her electric wheelchair and pivot around to get into her manual wheelchair with the heavy support of her aide. Thank goodness we have a finished basement, is all I can say, since she's never seen the main floor of our house.

I found a nice-looking house for rent on Craigslist tonight, and while we haven't formally said that we're looking yet, we decided to look at it this week. If we took it, we would have to give up hope of moving to the Northwest, but since nothing had opened up there in the first round of hiring and promotions, we may have to wait a while for the possibility of a transfer to appear. The neighborhood this house is in is a nice second choice, since it's a lovely neighborhood with a great elementary school which is right on the edge of the city and therefore a lot closer to all of the things we like to do in the suburbs. And I'm starting to feel like I would happily gnaw my left hand off if only I could have some actual closet space.

Anyway, the way this connects to my mother is that from what I saw on Google Streetview, the house would only have a couple steps to go up, which would make getting my mother in a relative walk in the park, so to speak. Since there have been at least eight steep steps to get into both of the houses we've lived in here so far, it would be a nice change of pace.

Speaking of my mother and houses, she has finally sold her house, my childhood home, a mere two and a half years after moving to her condo. The amount of time it took her to get the house cleaned out completely and actually get it on the market was actually beneficial to me, since it gave me quite a while to get used to the idea of it being sold. I'm pretty much over it now. Between the addition that was put on after my mother's accident and the loss of the gigantic cherry tree that had been outside my bedroom, it was already significantly changed from the house I grew up in, and after two years, I was more than ready for it to just get sold already.

It only took two days and she got more than her asking price, which even in this housing market isn't surprising. It's a ranch house of the type with three bedrooms on one end of the house, living room, dining room and kitchen in the middle, and laundry room and family room at the end behind the garage. After my mother's accident, an addition was built behind the family room and laundry room, since there was no hope of making the main bath accessible. One lovely aspect of Michigan car insurance is that the insurance company is required to pay for everything associated with a car accident, including $80,000 of modifications to a house. So our modifications were done right - a ramp inside the garage so there's a covered ramp, a fully accessible bedroom and bathroom and a door out of the new bedroom leading onto a deck with a ramp leading to a sidewalk that goes around the house. What this adds up to is the perfect mother-in-law apartment for a family with an elderly infirm parent or two who will have a large bedroom with a bit of privacy and even its own sitting room in the form of the family room. Since it's so horrendously expensive to make a house even partially accessible (did I mention the $80,000 ours cost?), the only shocking part is that there wasn't a bidding war.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


It is very late, I have worked over 12 hours today and my mother just got into town, so this is likely to be a busy weekend. So why am I wasting time on the Internet when I could be asleep?

Good night.

Friday, November 12, 2010

School fret

Two months into school, K is lukewarm at best. Somedays, it's not too hard to get her out the door, others, there's a lot of crying and attempts to claim she's sick. I know part of it is that she's not a morning person, but it also happens on mornings when she's been up a while. She's usually happy when I pick her up, but she's going home, so of course she's happy.

Socially, she seems to be doing fine. She has complaints about a boy who sits next to her, but she has a best friend and a boyfriend, and I've seen several other kids hug her goodbye. Sometimes, when she doesn't want to go to school, I can get her on board by reminding her that she'll be able to go play with her friends. Other days, it doesn't help.

Part of the problem, I think, is that she's an introvert, and being around that many people for so long is just plain tiring and stressful for her. I know that she's going to have to learn how to cope with being an introvert in a crowded world, but surely there are better places she can learn than in a class of 30 kids in an urban school. She's also very shy about showing what she knows until she's absolutely sure she knows the answer. She often would rather say she doesn't know something at all than make a guess on something that she knows the answer to, but not confidently. This doesn't mix well with school. But I also got another big clue tonight when she said that she doesn't like school because she gets punished for not paying attention in class. To two parents who spent our primary school careers bored out of minds because class always moved to slowly, that's a big red flag.

So what to do? We're going to an open house for a local Friends school next week, but I have big doubts about our ability to afford it, and doubts about whether it's really the best decision to spend our limited money that way now instead of saving it for college and retirement. That leaves homeschooling, which I'm actually starting to warm up to a bit. Ironically, as much as I dislike homework, it's convincing me that done in the morning when everyone isn't tired and ready to go to bed, doing school work with her could be a lot of fun. There are online charter schools available here, so we wouldn't have to have the responsibility of planning a curriculum, but we could still go at our own speed.

The drawbacks, of course, is that K would be home all day. It feels like missing the point to say that I feel like I could homeschool as long as I had someplace to send her every day, but that about covers it. Even if I tried a lot harder than I have in the past, doing the things that would get her well socialized are profoundly uncomfortable for me, and I've more or less counted on having places to send her where she could get her socialization and I could get a break. Would it be totally weird to send her to an afterschool program?

This is the short short version of everything I've been thinking about the school situation lately. Sometimes I think we really need to find a new situation for her, other times I think I'm overreacting and probably projecting a bit too much and it would be bad to take her away from her friends. Sometimes I think it would be a lot of fun to have her at home, other times I think it would drive me around the bend, especially when I factor in trying to do schoolwork with an active toddler "helping." It all adds up to a big ball of inconclusiveness.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I just finished my work for the night, and am propping my eyelids up with toothpicks and bribing the cats to lick the soles of my feet. So I'm going to bed, and leaving a cop-out post in place. I shall endeavor to do better tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Alec postscript

I've always had trouble precisely describing Alec's personality. He's a very very happy little boy, calm and cheerful most of the time. He has a gigantic fan club due to his happy smile and cheerful wave that he favors people with indiscriminately. But despite that, it's hard for me to describe exactly as "easygoing," because once he experiences distress, he pulls out the drama queen. It's more like his barometer is set at extra happy, so it takes more to get it to dip down into unhappy, but once he's there, he's really there.

Lately, he's started in on tantrums when his will is thwarted, and I must say, he's certainly mastered them with style - arching his back and hitting me if I'm holding him, collapsing dramatically to the ground, crawling along the ground hitting his forehead on the ground. There is no end to the depths of his woe over my refusing to let him fish old coffee cups out of a public trash can.

Today, however, I noticed that while he was collapsed on the ground, weeping, he was glancing up at me to make sure that I was paying attention. This fit in nicely with what his babysitters were telling me earlier today, that when he's begging for their food, he uses an incredibly fake cry to try and convince them that he's starving.

K certainly could throw a good tantrum, but I never got the feeling that she was expressing anything more than the true intensity of her feelings. Alec though? That one is destined for the theatre.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Alec at 16 months

At 16 months, Alec:

* pretends to feed me by shoving a spoon or a cup in my mouth and helpfully saying "Mmmmmm!" in case I don't get the hint
* does the same thing to the cats. They are less receptive (although surprisingly patient given they're getting bashed with a cup)
* takes my face in his hands and kisses me sloppily on the lips
* presses parts of his head (some might say the relevant verb here is actually "bashes") to my lips to get me to kiss him
* happily scribbles on paper with crayons for several minutes before attempting to enjoy a nice colored wax snack
* identifies dogs (and cats) with vigorous woofing, including paging through Sandra Boynton's "Doggies" and woofing
* points to cats in a book and says "Cat!"
* LOVES sending cars down ramps
* has started putting trains together to push along train track instead of just wandering around with a train car in each hand
* walks around with a toy phone pressed to his ear, saying "Hello!"
* can accurately sort shapes into his shape sorter and can place puzzle pieces on the correct slot, although he can't get them in yet
* can turn doorknobs well enough to open all of the doors in the house, making us panic daily
* requests a rousing chorus of "Itsy-bitsy Spider" by making the finger motions
* flirts shamelessly with everyone he meets
* carries a broom and dustpan around whenever I take him to work, which is very convenient because I can still see him even when he's on the other side of the circulation desk
* is quite possibly tied for the cutest thing I've ever encountered


Sunday, November 7, 2010

It feels a little pathetic that with an extra hour yesterday I still couldn't find time to post. In my partial defense, neither of our children is especially interested in sleep lately. I think that's a lot of what's so hard about two children. Not so much the dealing with two sets of needs at the same time, since often that mostly requires efficiency. Mostly, for me, it's the needs that come serially that really get me, when you think you're done for a little while only to have another kid come along and need something more. Or more to the point, get one child to sleep in the middle of the night only to have another crawl in bed and demand attention. Yawn.

Poor Alec turned out to have an ear infection. That would explain a lot about how he would perk up magnificently when given ibuprofen - it didn't just bring the fever down, it made his ear stop hurting, until it wore off and he would once again collapse to the floor and imitate an air-raid siren. I know there's a school of thought that says that you shouldn't try to bring down a non-dangerous fever or indeed give antibiotics right away for an ear infection, but while I could see doing that with a child that's a bit punky but not acting like they feel too bad, I can't imagine not doing everything I can for a child who can do nothing but wail in misery. It seems like a lot of the same people I see advocating this are the same ones who feel that crying it out is the worst thing ever because children shouldn't experience the least amount of psychological distress. And yet somehow prolonged physical pain is just fine.

Anyway, he's on the mend and much happier now. Now if we can only kill the persistent UTI K has been carrying around for more than a month. She's had two rounds of antibiotics, and just two days off the last round, she started complaining of pain and her urine started smelling like a sewer again. Sigh. And of course this was late Thursday, so we couldn't get the urine collection cup to get her pee tested until Friday, and it takes a couple days for the lab report to come back, so I don't see getting her on more meds before the end of the week. She's not in acute distress, which is why I'm not pushing for immediate medication, but I wish we could just kick this for good.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Halloween picture post

It's late, and I'm tired and still have a bit more work to do. So this will be a quicky picture post of Halloween pictures.

First, an exercise in 5-year-old problem solving. So you're wearing a very pretty but short-sleeved Cinderella dress that your devoted mother stayed up way too late the night before to finish, but it's about 40 degrees out. What to do? Apparently, this:


Here's a picture where you can see the full dress (it's a bit big, but I figure it will fit longer that way):


And the tired trick-or-treater enjoys her spoils:


Meanwhile, if you're a 16-month-old dinosaur, you don't need candy because you're just high on life:


Of course, that doesn't mean you can't use your cuteness to try and get some anyway:


And in the end, you can use your toddler cunning to steal some from your sister:


And just because, toddler meets chocolate pudding:


(More here)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kid notes

Lately, the best way to get K to go through her number and sight-word flashcards that are part of homework every night is to let her write every number and word down as we cover it. Oooookay, whatever gets you excited, I guess. If she wants to practice handwriting, I'm certainly not going to argue. It's pretty cool to watch her get so excited about writing though.

She has a new best friend, and phone numbers have been exchanged, so hopefully we will progress to playdates (this is an area we've had a combination of bad luck and laziness going). When I picked K up from school today, she announced that she had invited her friend for a sleepover. Way to go for the gusto kid! Don't sweat the little details like asking us first, or even having her over to our house once. On consultation with B, we're theoretically fine with a sleepover, but we think we should try at least one afternoon playdate first before we commit to an entire night. Plus, with the weekend schedules we have, this will take more planning than average. But I love that she has such a good friend already.

She also has a boyfriend (her term), who is her boyfriend because he wears glasses like her father. I guess the theory that women are attracted to men like their fathers IS true. He's replacing last year's preschool boyfriend, with whom she bonded over a mutual love of puzzles before he tragically moved to India. Ah, young love.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sick note

I had more substantial things to say, but instead Alec has developed a fever and refused to settle for more than ten minutes at a time this evening. Poor puny baby. B has been carrying him in a carrier as he alternates between dozing and restlessness. I foresee a fun night ahead. I just hope he's not too sick for daycare tomorrow. Thankfully, since he's the only child they have, I don't see why they can't take him as long as he isn't totally miserable or vomiting.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


One of my favorite birthday presents is this t-shirt from the store for Unshelved the comic strip:

It seems particularly appropriate for my current job wrangling our card catalog into submission.

I was wearing it today and had it remarked upon by one of the librarians at B's library, a woman in her fifties. She started telling me about interlibrary loan as it was practiced in the city in Ukraine she lived in twenty years ago, before the age of networked libraries. Apparently interlibrary loan was her, making phone calls to libraries to find out if they had the books she needed and then travelling all over the city carrying bundles of books between libraries. And she didn't have a car, so she was doing all of this on the bus. Oh my. I guess I'll remind myself of that the next time I'm feeling put upon because I'm hip-deep in catalog cards : at least I'm not carrying stacks of books on the bus in the middle of a Ukrainian winter.


I hesitate to even consider this, given just how bad my posting record has been of late. But I've been doing NaBloPoMo for five years in a row now, and while I haven't always been successful, I've always at least tried. Hopefully having to write even just a little bit every night will help me get back into better habits.

And now it's after midnight, so I guess this will have to do for tonight. This does not bode well.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

(bi)Weekly update

* Life continues busy as usual. The children and I have acquired the sniffles, which is mostly annoying and keeps us all slightly dragged down, but not enough to give up and take to our beds. But mostly, life is just routinely busy, in a very boring way.

* We are watching the new BBC version of Sherlock Holmes on PBS right now. It's actually our second time through because we acquired it when it was being broadcast in Britain, but it's well worth more than one watching. Really, highly recommended viewing, legally or not.

* My birthday was a week ago last Sunday. I spent most of it working, but the compensation for that is that I had taken the previous Friday off when B also had the day off, so we got to spend a whole day together child-free. We had lunch out and got to browse in a bookstore without once spending time at the train table. And now I have new books to read - the latest Terry Pratchett and Caroline Stevermer's Magic Below Stairs, although they're languishing a bit behind the stack of library books.

* Alec has recently decided to start expressing his frustration by headbutting things - the table for instance, or my face if I'm picking him up to take him away from something he wants. Does it make me a bad parent if when in a fit of pique over some outrage like not being allowed to play with knives he pounds his head on the table, I have trouble keeping myself from laughing at the outraged look of "Hey, that HURT!" on his face before he starts crying? I don't actually laugh at my child's pain, of course, and he gets duly comforted, but I confess my sympathy is somewhat tempered by the fact that I'm quite certain he's going to give me a bloody nose before the instant negative reinforcement finally ends this delightful phase.

* K has declared that she is going to be Cinderella for Halloween. Or Belle. Or possibly both, possibly at the same time. I've been working on a Cinderella dress, and I decided to hedge my bets and bought a Belle dress last weekend. I know that both dresses will get plenty of use, but I'm damned if I'm going to work to finish a dress on a deadline only to have K decide she wants to be a different princess. Although I suppose I could have split the difference and made her a green dress.

Update: apparently buying the Belle dress was an excellent example of cunning foresight, since we got a note today about a costume parade at school on Friday. So I seem to have saved myself from having to frantically finish the dress by Friday instead of Sunday. See how smart I am?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Two day weekend!

I didn't realize it when I woke up this morning, but I appear to be enjoying an honest-to-gosh, bona fide two-day weekend. B and K both have the day off because of Columbus Day, but I was expecting to put my four hours in as normal, although enjoying the fact that instead of taking care of Alec all day and K after 3 until 8pm when B gets home from work, then starting in on my paying job, I would get to have a leisurely day at home with another parent to help out, dinner together as a family and maybe even a family outing if we were organized enough.

Instead, once I finally got on the computer (I spent a leisurely morning reading a book. How analog of me), I discovered the server was down at work. And sure enough, when I tried to log in, I got a long page of computer code. And now the server has been taken down deliberately for upgrades. So no work for me!

Two days off together in a row. Gosh. I admit we haven't done much with them - lunch out and a trip to Trader Joe's yesterday, followed by an afternoon of napping, then K and I went to take advantage of good sales at the fabric store today - but not having to do anything is a big treat in and of itself. Somewhere in the dim recesses of my memory, I remember this is how normal weekends used to work, you know, the kind that lasted two days in a row with nobody having to go to work.

What shall I do with my evening? I meant to do some crafting Saturday and Sunday, but I wound up, well, picking up the house and sleeping. Worthy pursuits, but not exactly soul-enriching, you know? K and I bought a bunch of fabric today which I have promised to turn into a Cinderella dress before Halloween, so I think the evening shall belong to that.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

No time

Last time I was working both of these jobs, I had spare time. K was in daycare every day and B took bedtime the nights he was home, so I had plenty of blocks of time to both work and do, well, anything else (like update my unbelievably neglected blog).

This time, all of my time is neatly spoken for. Alec is only in daycare three days a week, so I can't start working until after 8pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, which sets me up to need to sleep late Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I'm trying to recover from the night before when I could be working in the morning. Then B comes for lunch, I take him back to work so I can pick the kids up, and if I have a single errand to run, that's pretty much all the time left until I pick K up at three and Alec shortly after. Then dinner, homework, bedtime, and somewhere in there, I attempt to start work. Then I'm up super-late and the cycle starts all over again. Which isn't so bad until I have to be up in the morning on a Friday or Saturday for my other job.

I'm not sure how long I can keep this up. I took a mental health day yesterday and only worked one job. And it felt so good not to work all evening, it's making me seriously question if I want to start working again on Monday. Sigh. Between daycare and taxes, I'm barely adding anything to our monthly income, which just doesn't feel worth it. I think once 's raise finally comes through, I'm going to have to reevaluate the working situation.


We have survived two full weeks of kindergarten so far. K seems to like it and has almost always been happy when I pick her up at the end of the day. We had a lot of resistance the first week when I think it was starting to sink in that this was the new routine and she had to do it every day. But I don't think there was a day once last week that B had to leave her there crying, so that's improving. She seems to be making friends and is getting greeted by classmates as we arrive or leave.

Homework is... argh. It's not hard at all, and there are times it's fun and easy to get her involved with it. Her math assignments, for instance, which involve things like going through the house to find things with numbers on them and pouring water in and out of different containers to see what different volumes look like. Those have been easy to get through. There's just so much more of it though. I've given up on the alphabet flashcards because she doesn't need them, and I save the number flashcards for when she clearly has energy to spare after finishing everything else. The handwriting worksheets started out well but had definitely palled by the end of last week, and by Thursday night, I had to decide how much I intend to flog my five-year-old into finishing her kindergarten homework. Not that much, is what I decided. I have declared that after dinner, there will be no tv until homework is done, so if K wants to watch anything before bed, she has to finish her homework. But if she decides that she doesn't want to watch tv enough to slog her way through it all, I'm not going to try hard to get her to finish. I don't know what consequences there are for not finishing homework at this level, but she can experience them. I realized Thursday that a great deal of my problem is that I don't want to look bad to the teacher, and since her homework requires so much of my involvement, it's hard to detach myself from that. But it's really hers, so I need to give my inner teacher's pet a rest and let her sink or swim based on her initiative.

I'm not sure my opinion on giving kindergarteners homework at all is printable. Part of me sits and wonders why it is exactly that I decided not to homeschool if we're going to go through this volume of schoolwork every night. This is not at all developmentally appropriate, and it really shows in the fact that she's often just too tired to concentrate well. Can they really not accomplish learning letters, numbers and writing in a six-hour schoolday?


And as a break from the tired complaining, a brief update on the one member of our family with energy to spare. Some days, Alec is so high on life he has to lie down and flail his arms and legs out of sheer happiness. He adores Little Einsteins, and will dance to the music and wave his arms when they're increasing the tempo. Tonight, he came by to visit me while I was in the bathroom, and after a brief tour of the room to do important things like poke at the wastebasket and throw some toys in the bathtub, he turned and gave me a big small and a wave good-bye before he left. That boy is so delicious I could devour him whole. I love fifteen months.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

First steps

Alec slept like crap last week. He's never been a great independent sleeper, but last week he simply couldn't sleep without being in contact with another body (if only we could convince the cats to snuggle up to him), and then would be up and ready to greet the rosy fingered dawn.

Meanwhile, he's been doing a lot of taking one stumbling step between objects, but still not doing any real walking. Until Monday, when we went to pick him up from daycare and he walked three feet towards us, which the babysitter said he had been doing all day. And then that night, he slept straight through without a peep. Not a coincidence, I think. Those developmental leaps are tiring for all involved.

So yes, he's walking! He still uses crawling for going at any speed, and he can't stand without pulling up on something so if he falls, he has to switch to crawling. But he's definitely rocking the Frankenstein/Mummy technique, stumbling along with his arms outstretched. And he's just so proud, which is so cute to watch.

Proud walker

Meanwhile, K had her first day of kindergarten on Thursday (am I going to use Alec's first steps as an overwrought metaphor for his sister starting school? Why yes, yes I am). She's been as pleasant as an industrial strength enema most of the summer, which I think was largely due to school anxiety (a choice quote from two weeks ago: "But I don't want to go to college next week!"). She avoided the subject or acted scared every time the subject came up, and her new stack of uniforms languished untouched. But we went in on Wednesday to meet the teacher and see her classroom and suddenly everything was fine and she was nothing but excited.

They were treating us parents like we were very fragile. I suppose I should have been nervous at sending my baby off to kindergarten, but honestly, this is the third year in a row I've sent her off to full-time care. I think I've worked through the abandonment issues (I did have some logistical anxiety, but that's the normal anxiety that comes of trying to figure out a new building and new routines, with the added complication of a babysitter picking her up once a week).

Still, when I saw her in a uniform, lined up with all of the other adorable small children, it still hit me how she looked far too old, and my babies are growing up way too fast:

Proud kindergartener2

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Autumn is icumen in

It was over 90 every day last week, but I can feel Fall coming in my bones. I'm hoping my bones aren't given to wishful thinking. It helps that we just got back from Michigan and have been wearing long pants for the past four days. It was over 90 again when we get home, but temperatures have dropped below 80 again as apparently the weather from Michigan has obligingly decided to follow us home.

There's something about the change to cooler weather in the fall that reactivates me and makes me want to make changes. Maybe over 20 years of living on the academic calendar primed me for the idea that September means starting something new. Or maybe my inner psyche wants to observe the Jewish new year. Either way, this year we're giving into that impulse in spades.

The first change is one I've been talking about for a year now, a larger car. We just paid off the current car, so of course it's time to take on a new car loan, yes? Aargh. I would love to keep our current car and drive it to death, but because we only have one car, it has to serve every purpose we need a car for, including cross-country trips, and after a few trips where we could barely slip in a piece of paper between the roof and all of our crap, it's abundantly clear we need something bigger. Everyone in the back seat would also be a lot more comfortable in a slightly bigger car as well.

I had been thinking about procrastinating on this until the new year, until I talked to my brother about it today. He's buying our old car, and starting in November, he'll have a hard time getting vacation time for a while, limiting when he could travel out to get the car. And then my mother mentioned she had been thinking about driving out this fall, and could bring my brother along, saving the cost of a train ticket. So suddenly a new car by October seems like an excellent idea.

The second big change we're thinking about is moving. Which isn't so much a big change except that B brought up that since the Free Library has a bunch of branch head positions that need to be filled and is therefore about to do a round of promoting and hiring, now is an ideal time for him to ask to transfer to a library in the Northwest part of the city. We had been wanting to move over there right before he was offered his current position, and it's been a very good library. But as I've complained so many times, our section of the city has all of the drawbacks of both the suburbs and the city, except that in the actual suburbs here, there's shopping available. In the Northwest, they have walkable shopping areas with bookstores and coffee shops. Here, we were unbelievably excited when we finally got a Starbucks last year (really, this is possibly the only densely populated geographic area this size I've ever encountered without a Starbucks. There's practically a Starbucks in the parking lot of Starbucks). It's not that I ever really wanted Starbucks per se (although I've managed to develop a shameful frappuccino addiction), but there aren't any local coffee shops either. Or bookstores. Or anything interesting within walking distance, including a train line.

Basically, if we have to live in the city, we'd like some of the positive aspects of city living, like cool shops and convenient public transportation and a playground we don't have to cross a twelve-lane road to get to. That's available in the Northwest. As an added bonus, the fact that the Northeast and Northwest splay out like two outstretched arms over the rest of the city means that we'll be as close or possibly close to most of the places in the suburbs we go now, plus we'll be much closer to all of the things we'd like to do but don't because it's so much effort to drive to the opposite side of the city.

So now we're contemplating which libraries B should express an interest in and I've started looking at rental listings in the Northwest as well as the Northeast. I've been pleasantly surprised at the offerings - when I was last looking two years ago, we couldn't afford nearly as much as we can now, so looking at my target price range has gotten a lot of results. And some of them aren't even cookie-cutter postwar rectangles. Gosh.


Ack. Life just keeps going on and on, doesn't it? It's not so much that I'm incredibly busy as I'm just trying to find my new balance with working and child care with another child in the mix. I spend pretty much all evening alternating working and wrangling children, which leaves no time left over for typing. Lots has been happening, but it's a novel and a half, so here's the brief version:

- Online job is fine. I'm not fond of the stress of constantly having to live up to certain numerically based standards, but I was able to do it fine before, so I can do it again.

- We had our tenth wedding anniversary on the 5th. It's hard to believe it's been an entire decade, and thirteen years that we've been together. *insert various schmoopy things here*

- Remember the gum abscess in February? Well, it never quite went away, and then flared up again, and then I got sent to an every-increasing line of dental specialists until I wound up with a root canal and various doubtful predictions about keeping the tooth. The worry is that the infection is being caused by something like a small fracture in the tooth that is hard to see on an x-ray. My personal theory is that I had strep throat along with the abscess, and only got a week of a rather low dose of penicillin, so I just wasn't given enough antibiotics to knock the infection out. I have it on record that I didn't feel all the way better when the antibiotics were done. I got antibiotics with the root canal and the sore spot on my gum has vanished, so I'm hoping maybe the infection has been killed. Because as little fun as the root canal is, the thought of losing a tooth gives me the shivers.

- The new babysitters are doing fine as well. The kids both love them. I'm looking forward to school starting though, so K will be occupied five days a week instead of just three (because I couldn't really afford full-time daycare for both kids, so they're going three days and I have very, very full days the other two), and I'll bump Alec up to four days. I kind of want to have him home at least one day a week, just because I miss him. We had a good time, just the two of us last year.

- K is starting kindergarten next week. She's starting on a Thursday, which seems a bit weird, but I think it's because the first week of school is so screwed up by Rosh Hoshanah - the schools started the day after Labor Day, go two days and then have two days off for Rosh Hoshanah. Kindergarteners start a week later than the rest of the grades, so starting the following Thursday would be starting five days after everyone else.

-We just got back from spending an extended Labor Day weekend in Michigan with my mother. My brother came up and B's parents came down, so we had a pleasant all-family get-together with gorgeous cool weather.

But my baby is starting kindergarten!

- Our dealings with the Friends group at work has once again descended into utter madness. But that deserves a post all of its own, if not an epic gothic horror novel.

That's it for the moment. I will really try to find more time to update more than once every two weeks.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Alec at thirteen months

You know, I had kind of been dreading this age, the age of mobility with absolutely no sense of self-preservation or discipline. The age when they cheerfully try to kill themselves on a regular basis while ignoring your yelling at them to stop. And then throw a tantrum because you ruined their fun.

What I had forgotten is how astonishingly cute this age is. Little babies are cute because of what they are, while toddlers are cute because of what they do. Whether he's making his toy cell phone play music and dancing to it or clapping and cheering for his ball popper, he exudes cuteness from every pore. He dripped cuteness this morning when he picked up his sister's electronic hamster and went crawling after it. He radiated cuteness as he sat down on the bathmat in the bathroom to examine it closely. And then he positively radiated cuteness as he got up on his knees, lifted the toilet lid and threw it in the toilet, as we shouted and futilely ran to try and stop him, which was difficult given that we were almost helpless with laughter at the same time. That's early toddlerhood in a nutshell for you.

Anyway, Alec is busy adding skills at a great rate:

Gross motor: No walking yet. But he can stand unassisted for a good thirty seconds or more, and can sometimes stay standing when I put him down on his feet. He has taken a step when moving between two support objects. He can also walk while pushing something, but after a few days of doing that, he largely lost interest. He's on the cusp of movement, but just needs to decide he wants to do it.

When it comes to climbing, however, he has seized the day and then some. For quite a while, he would crawl over to the stairs and just look up at them curiously, which was quite a relief given that K had figured out crawling up stairs before she could really crawl across the floor properly. He has it all figured out now though. I'm not sure how to feel about the fact that when he manages to get free in the basement, he now makes a beeline for the stairs instead of the cat food. He can also climb onto couches and the bed. Thankfully, he has also figured out how to climb down safely instead of his previous method of falling off head first.

Fine motor: This is more of a gross motor age, but he's definitely working on using his hands. He's very interested in using a fork and will pick up pieces of food and stick them on his fork. One of his favorite pastimes in restaurants is putting straws through the hole in cup lids.


We're starting to hear new words pretty often: Mama, Dada, Ka (Katherine), cat, woof, book, train, block, uh oh (this is a big favorite, especially when he's peering over the edge of something at an object he's just thrown down. I keep telling him it's not uh oh if you do it on purpose, but does he listen?)

We're seeing a lot of imitative behavior now. Putting the toy phone to his ear, attempting to use silverware, pulling tissues out of the box and blowing his nose are all fun games. The other day, I had grabbed a couple packets of Splenda to put in my iced tea, and he grabbed a packet and looked at me expectantly until I opened it for him and let him pour it in my tea. He looked incredibly pleased when I called him a good helper. And then K got upset because she's supposed to be the helper. Ah, sibling rivalry.

He loves music and paging through books. Books featuring baby faces and touch and feel books are the favorites right now. He's starting to work on stacking rings and nesting cups. It's incredibly cute to watch him put one cup inside another and let out a very pleased "Gah!" with a grin.

At his last checkup, he was 26 pounds six ounces and 31.5 inches (although I think it was close to 32). That's 85 and 95 percentiles respectively. He's pretty much out of 18 month clothes. He's our huge, happy, good natured baby.


Friday, July 30, 2010

July can suck it

So. I had a bizarre urge to look up my father's obituary tonight, and then realized the reason was that it's the third anniversary of his death. Four days ago on July 26th, I was talking to my mother and realized it was the eighth anniversary of her accident, which ironically was also the twentieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Both of my grandmothers died in July.

If it weren't for the fact that several people I love were born in July, I would happily abolish the month entirely. As it is, I'm happier than I can say that there's only one more day to go.
So I don't think I mentioned before that when I got sick, after the first couple days of fever and achiness, it morphed into a truly impressive hacking cough, the sort that would normally require a three pack a day habit for thirty years while working in a coal mine by day and asbestos removal at night. I lived with it for a few days, then decided when I realized that if I sat quietly I could hear my lungs crackling that perhaps I should take this one to the doctor. As it turns out, I have a lovely case of walking pneumonia. Groovy.

Pneumonia always sounds so drastic, doesn't it? Too many 19th century novels, no doubt. I suspect literature would have lost quite a lot if we could have tossed all of those tragic heroines a Z-pack 150 years ago. I mean, I've been functioning for the past two weeks. Not really well, but everyone's clean and well-fed, just not quite as well-nurtured by me instead of the tv as they might be. I will say that I don't feel so bad any more about my complete failure since we got home to live up to any of my ideals about providing lots of activities and an organized schedule. Now I feel accomplished for maintaining regular feedings and hygiene.

Anyway, after liberal applications of azithromycin, codeine and an inhaler, I'm starting to feel better. Which is good, because I started working my normal schedule at the online job this week. I'm slipping back into the old routine without much effort, although I'm actually hoping to improve on the old routine a bit. I had been in a bad habit of squandering my child-free time before and then being up late at night doing the actual work. I had high hopes of spending my first child-free day today doing just that, until I remembered that they had generously assigned us two more training exercises on top of our regular work, due today, so that's how my afternoon was spent and here I am, yet again, up obscenely late at night with another hour of work to go.

But let's ignore the obscenely late part of that last sentence and focus on the child-free! I managed to find a nice mother-daughter pair looking to start babysitting and willing to take both kids for a quite reasonable price. And they will happily pick K up from school once she starts, so the problem of what to do with her on Fridays when I'm working at the museum until 4 is resolved. I'm a little leery of the fact that they're just starting out and don't have any other kids, and just the fact that our record with home daycares and daycares found off of Craigslist is so very bad, but I'm so giddy with the idea of daycare again that I just don't care. As long as they last through the summer, that will be fine and I'll figure something else out. And if they do work out for the long haul, I'll be very happy, since I think right now, a home daycare is better for Alec. They're willing to do cloth diapers and to rock our finicky baby to sleep, so right now it's all good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oh, I don't want to whine any more. But any description of the past week will wind up sounding like it. So let's just say that spending Tuesday and Wednesday:

-being sick
-taking care of two sick kids (thankfully, they shook it off very quickly)
-attempting to simultaneously do mandatory online training sessions for an hour and a half each day and keep said fractious children occupied while was at work
-doing homework every evening

wasn't my most fun two days ever and leave it at that. But I made it through training, with two sessions next week, thankfully on days B is home (well, since it's training for a job I've already done quite well for a year, it was more like Farmville time while listening in case something important got said), and passed the tests, so I anticipate I'll be starting work next week. Yay?


In happy news, we have a new stove! This is especially happy because unlike the refrigerator last fall, our landlord paid for this one. See, back in the Pleistocene, when the first owner of our old stove used it to cook up a nice greasy mammoth haunch and it dripped all over the bottom of the oven, they didn't bother to clean it up. And this set the pattern for every single disgusting person who has used it since. I could live with a discolored stove, and an oven that apparently used a dart board to decide what temperature it was going to heat to, but having to take the batteries out of every smoke detector on that floor every time we baked something was more than a tad annoying, not to mention flirting with fiery death.

The new stove is nice and shiny, although nothing fancy - it pretty much heats food using fire, without so much as a self-cleaning cycle or a timer. Someday when my ship comes in, I'll have an oven with a proof setting for bread dough.

I keep thinking there are more things I want to write about, but they keep vanishing once I open the computer, replaced by really boring things like how big the floor downstairs suddenly was once I got all of the toys off of it. I'll spare you any similar truly riveting insights.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I really meant for this week to be the week that I started posting more again. Instead I got a fever. Sigh. It wasn't until I went to sleep at 8pm Friday night, then woke up aching and feverish the next morning that I came to the brilliant deduction that the crushing tiredness of the past couple days was from getting sick. And then I got up and dragged myself to work. The B went to work Sunday while I attempted to do as much parenting prone as possible. It's times like these that I really really wish we had family nearby. I wouldn't dream of asking a relative to do fulltime daycare (at least not for free), but someone to dump the kids on for the afternoon when we're sick? What a wonderful thought.

I've been in a pattern of feeling okayish after taking ibuprofen, which brings the fever down, then feeling rotten as the fever goes back up, but I think this evening I'm finally fever-free. And thank goodness, because while B stayed home from work today (I had the night from hell last night, thanks to our lovely children), he can't keep staying home.


Anyway, to get off the self-pity portion of the post, we've been watching The Next Food Network Star lately. This is the third season I've watched and the first one where I've really felt invested in who won.

One of the problems I've always had with the show is that it's constructed in a way to find someone with a wide range of skills, which prejudices it towards a certain type of generalized, bland chef, often someone who's just like someone already on the network. If I could point to one area I think Food Network is really lacking (well, besides, you know, actual cooking shows), is a lack of shows from different non-European ethnicities since they stopped showing the original Iron Chef. The closest they come is various Southern cooking shows and Southwestern cooking as done by a white guy. As much as I love Alton Brown, I would love to, say, learn about Asian cooking from an actual Asian.

So two years ago, I was rooting for the Indian chef, whose downfall was being given fish, something she had never cooked before. Now she really didn't seem like real winner material and she could have handled that challenge with a lot more grace, but it didn't seem like a good way to get a good balance of shows to choose new people based on Iron Chef-style challenges. Last year, it was the Korean chef I was interested in, and it seemed for quite a while like she could go the distance, mostly because she had a background in general catering. But she showed enough personality flaws that I couldn't truly disagree when she washed out.

This year, though, Aarti looks like she could really go the distance. She seems to have just the right combination of the ability to cook and a great personality. I'm just hoping after the bad week she had this week that she manages to pull it together and doesn't lose confidence, because hers is the first show that I would actually like to watch.


File under "Awkward conversations with your five-year-old":

K has been really interested in family relationships this summer, and has been verifying with us multiple times that her grandparents are our parents. So I suppose it shouldn't have come as a surprise when she asked me for the first time where my father was. I've told her about him before, and even said that he was dead, but she's never been very interested in what that meant. Until this time. I think it went fairly well as a first conversation, but not as well as it might have because I surprised myself by choking up, something I haven't done in a long, long time.

But the awkward conversation that really surprised me this week was when she asked me what my medications were for. I didn't have a problem explaining the medication for the rapid heartbeat, and even managed a decent explanation of Metformin. But for the life of me I couldn't come up with a child-appropriate explanation of antidepressants without making it sound like there's a magic happy pill for when you're sad, and that's not really the message I want to pass on about either antidepressants or dealing with unhappiness. Hopefully I can avoid the conversation for another couple years until she's capable of a bit of nuance.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I ramble way too much when I'm tired

Four days home, and I keep wishing we were back in Michigan. It was a great trip all around. We drove out through Columbus and spent the night with my friend Sarah and her husband, then went on through Lafayette and had dinner with friends there (we drove past our old house and discovered it was for sale, at a price reduced 18000 from where they had started. Their upper price was what we had priced it at in 2005, before the bubble burst. And we sold it for 10000 less than that. Their new price is less than what we bought the house for when it was a foreclosed house being sold by HUD and needed major work. Goodness, I'm glad we sold it when we did). Then up to my mother's, for a long weekend that happily coincided with a local anime convention that my brother and the Champaign crew always go to. So we got to see at least some of the people we didn't get to see at Christmas, albeit not nearly long enough.

And then up for a glorious week at B's parents, where the only drawback is the lack of fast Internet. Everything else was great - lovely weather, gorgeous scenery, happy hours spent on beautiful beaches, free babysitting. Okay, mentioning the last one seems crass, and I think it goes without saying that we're there to see his parents and would be happy to see them even if there were no babysitting at all. If that weren't the case, we wouldn't spent nearly so much time visiting my mother. But it's been a long, long year with no outside childcare and only having one day off together every other weekend. So being able to relax a little and actually leave the house without children occasionally made it a much better vacation.

As a bonus, B's aunt and uncle and cousins were visiting as well, so we had some enjoyable family meals, and K discovered the joy of playing with older cousins, who were 10 and 13 and absolutely wonderful with her. And it's nice to be able to go someplace to visit with people and not have to worry about entertaining at least one child. There wasn't much chance of prying Alec from my side much. He could be distracted periodically by other people and be taken into a different room, but if I was there, he usually wanted me. However, the presence of other people did give him lots of people to flirt with, so that made him happy and easily entertained. It almost compensated for his learning how to climb stairs.

And then, it was sadly time to come home, far too soon. Back to 100 degree heat and caring for discombobulated children with no help, accomplished by spending far, far too much time in the car. The last hour of the trip was spent with both children sobbing to get out of the car, with K saying over and over again, "I want to go home," to which I could only think "I'm right there with you, kid." I'm so very tired that I was actually dozing off at work today.


Apropos of the whole being tired and overwhelmed issue, I've come to two decisions. The first is that we really need to be making more money*, since we're doing okay for everyday expenses but don't really have enough to weather emergencies. So I've e-mailed my former online job and am in their reserve pool for the next time a job opens, which is expected to happen within the month.

I wasn't enjoying my job very much by the time I left it, but I'm trying to remind myself that I was 9 months pregnant at that point and literally struggling to keep my eyes open by 9pm. There are a lot of jobs I would rather have, but needs must, and part time jobs that pay well enough to pay for daycare and have money left over are a rare beast.

The second decision, not coincidentally, is we're searching for childcare. For one thing, I can't work Fridays this summer unless I have childcare, and since is working a bunch of Sundays downtown, we could go a full 8 weeks without having a day off together if I can't work some Fridays (if I work every Saturday and every other Sunday, and he works the Sundays I don't...yikes. I'm collapsing in nervous exhaustion just thinking about it). But if I'm working 20 hours a week again besides my library job, I'll really need some childcare. I'm a little torn about how to approach it. I've been e-mailing someone with a home daycare who seemed promising that I found through Craigslist, but then she suddenly got a bit weird and I haven't gotten a response to the e-mail I sent five days ago. This is bringing back to me what horrific luck we've had with home daycares since we moved here, and that as childcare finding agencies go, Craigslist is a bit of a back alley operation.

The other option is a center, and we definitely had a lot more luck once we went that route with K. Unfortunately, that center just went out of business. But while I think a center would be great for K, it's not as ideal for a baby/young toddler, and Alec is the one would be staying there into the fall after K goes back to school. The other issue is that everyone is full up with older kids for the summer, so it may be difficult to find someplace in July. I should have made this decision back in April or May.

*The infuriating thing is that we should be making more money, if not for our rat bastard mayor. 's contract ran out over a year ago, so he's currently working under the terms of his old contract until a new one is negotiated (which isn't happening any time soon, since no one really wants to be negotiating their contract during a financial crisis). Standard for pretty much all city employees is that they step up in pay grade every year they work for their first five years, but the mayor is claiming that because they're working without a contract, they don't have to give raises. This is patently absurd, and arbitration has already found in favor of the firefighters over this issue, so once this goes to arbitration for our union, it will almost certainly be found in our favor. However, this was initially supposed to get decided in early May and has been progressively pushed off by the city's attorney until July 20. So who knows when it will happen at this point, while we build up a tidy sum that the city owes us.

While this is plenty of reason to be infuriated, it's all the worse because this is so incredibly typical of how this mayor operates, declaring that what he wants is how it's going to be, without bothering with little details like whether it's legal or not. The hospital next to the park my library is in wanted to lease some park land, and it was building up to a big legal battle until the mayor came into office and declared that it was simply going to happen, and at a nice discount for the hospital. However, once it got to court, it turned out that Pennsylvania has a law forbidding the sale of parkland that's being actively used, which ours most certainly is. He tried to close several library branches, only to have it turn out that the mayor doesn't have the power to close city facilities without city council approval. During the snow emergencies this winter, he tried to make city employees either use their vacation days for the days off they got when city facilities were shut down, or attempt to go into work, a move that was thankfully shut down mighty quick by the unions. People like this are the best reason for unions. Solidarity forever, baby.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


We just got back from a week and a half in Michigan. We had a wonderful time, and are oh so very glad to be out of the car. Although going from temperatures in the 60s and 70s to a high of 99 tomorrow (!!!) is enough to make me tempted to get right back in the car and go back, even though both children spent the last 45 minutes of the trip crying inconsolably out of sheer car exhaustion.

I have lots and lots of news, both small and bigger. But I'm going to do the smarter thing and go imitate my children, who are passed out in their respective beds. More on the morrow.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


One year ago today, I was... in bed asleep, actually. But it's after midnight, so it's technically Alec's birthday. I would wake up in six hours, drive blearily to the hospital, get undressed and sit through an unnecessary EKG (I had had one the day before in my intake appointment, and it would take me three weeks to get all of the residual glue from the sensors off), and then proceeded to surgery to have a baby. And it turned out to be quite a high quality baby indeed. I attribute it to superior genetic material.

It's hard to describe how much I've enjoyed the past year. He is such a joy. And I can't believe how fast he's grown over the past year:

Sitter1Two fisted eater

Happy birthday, Alec. I can't wait to see what the next year brings.

Monday, June 21, 2010


So yesterday we had a birthday party, with cake and princess decorations and lots of splashing in the wading pool. It was a great success all around.

And then today, we woke up with a five-year-old. I can't believe how tall she is, and how much she's grown up over the past year. I know that the infrequency of my posting over the past year means that I'm most likely to post about her when she's driving me crazy, which could give the casual reader the impression that I don't like my older child much. But really, she's quite a delightful little girl.

She's enthusiastic. Everything she likes is her favorite. She loves just about anything you give her.

She's creative. She'll make clever lego creations or creations from paper and tape or cloth that actually resemble what they're supposed to be.

She's imaginative. I love listening to the running dialogues she gives pretty much any inanimate object she plays with. She rides her imaginary horse through the parking lot and then hitches it to the front of the car so it can pull her carriage. She spends about half of her life as a puppy and brings me items to throw so she can play fetch.

She's an excellent big sister. I won't say there aren't times that she doesn't want her brother touching her stuff, and she's not always gentle about pushing him away. She also takes rampant advantage of his good nature by snatching away things he's playing with, knowing that he probably won't fight. But most of the time, she's very generous with her toys, and very gentle with him. She's the best of all of us at getting him to laugh and is so good about playing with him. She loves her brother so much, she's campaigning for another baby.

She's such a kid. Her body has gotten so long, and her face has lost all of its baby roundness. Tantrums are being replaced with shrewd bargaining.

Happy birthday Katherine. I can't believe you're such a big girl already.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Water baby

We went to what was theoretically SCA archery practice on Sunday, but in reality was a bunch of people hanging out while the kids frolicked in the wading pool and under the sprinkler.

All of the kids had fun, but oh my, Alec is apparently part selkie. He splashed in the pool, he splashed in the water table. He climbed in and out of the pool through sheer force of will. Finally, he crawled over and just sat under the sprinkler, occasionally waving his arms in joy, too exhausted to play any more but utterly unwilling to leave all of the wonderful water.

Incidentally, I have to say that I'm very impressed with the waterproofness of Bumgenius pocket diapers. I had put one on him without any absorbent material as a swim diaper, and it would take on water when it gapped, but then wouldn't let it drain, so he routinely had a cup of water hanging off of his crotch. As I said, impressive water retention abilities there. I finally just took the diaper off and let him frolic naked. I figured everyone there knew what baby boys look like under their diapers and there's really such a short in your life that you're allowed to have no modesty at all.


It was K's last day of school today. They had a short ceremony to celebrate moving up to kindergarten with the parents looking on proudly (and brilliant people that we are, we remembered the camera but forgot that the battery was still in the charger). It was particularly nice that the teacher they had the longest this year came back to be part of the ceremony and say good bye to the kids. Her class had four teachers this year. The regular teacher had to take a leave of absence for health reasons, so they got a long-term sub who was a retired fifth grade teacher. He was pretty good, especially considering he wasn't used to being surrounded by four year olds every day. His training wasn't in preschool, but he tried hard. But then the school district informed him that if he taught past a certain point, he would start losing retirement benefits, so he had to leave six weeks before the end of the year. Then they got the sub who seemed entirely unprepared to deal with small children. My opinion of her was cemented the day she informed me that K had had a tantrum over something and I was supposed to talk to her to keep it from happening again. I... see. One, what on Earth are you doing teaching preschool if you can't handle a tantrum, and two, if only I had realized the way to put an end to tantrums was to talk to her. And here I had been sending her memos, which didn't seem to work at all! Yeesh. But she left after a couple weeks, and they got the final teacher who thankfully seemed to actually know about preschool.

And now I need to figure out what to do with us for the next three months. We can't afford any sort of day camp (do they have camps based on the theme "Get this kid out of my hair for a few hours"?), but I'm thinking I need to figure out at least child care for Fridays. B and I had been switching off working Fridays and Saturdays, which was tiring but at least we got one day a week off together the weeks I didn't work Sundays. But since the branch libraries have stopped Saturday hours for the summer, I'm only going to be able to work Saturdays and Sundays. And since he also managed to get a bunch of Sunday hours at the Central Library downtown, there's going to be something like a seven week period this summer that I will have to work every Saturday and we will switch off who works on Sunday. Meaning that we won't have a day off for nearly two months if I can't get some child care and work some Fridays. Yikes.

As for what to do with the other four days of the week, I foresee taking heavy advantage of museum memberships and trying to schedule a lot of playdates. I really want to get her in some swimming lessons, but that may have to wait depending on what our finances look like.

First, though, we have the kids' birthdays to get through next week and then a pilgrimage Midwestward. I'm looking forward to going home for a while.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Alec at eleven months

My goodness, eleven month olds are exhausting. It's not even so much the chasing Alec around as the sheer physical effort of preventing nearly thirty pounds of determined baby straining towards the object of his desire from actually getting it, or trying to continue holding him up when he's decided he wants to be on the ground and either stops holding on with his legs at all, or attempts to pivot in my arms until he's nearly head-down.

He has gotten very, very fast at crawling and is ready to take advantage of this at the first opening, whether it's finding the gate downstairs open so he can go play in the cat food or his bedroom door unwisely left open during a diaper change, so he can flip over mid-change and crawl hellbent for freedom, naked poopy butt waving jauntily in the air (why am I changing him on the floor instead of the changing table? Because at least when he pulls those maneuvers on the floor, he can't fall off anything. He's perfectly happy to roll over and try to start crawling or scale the wall while on the changing table without regard for trifles like gravity. Babies are kind of dumb like that). I don't think he's made much real progress on the gross motor front beyond getting faster and more confident at crawling and cruising. The closest he comes to standing independently can best be describe as "briefly balancing before toppling in the other direction" or "falling a bit more slowly than normal." He shows no interest in trying to take steps behind a wheeled toy or while we hold his hands. So I would be shocked if he were walking by his birthday. By the same token, I would be surprised if he waited until 16 months like K. 13-14 months maybe? Honestly, I'm not in a hurry for him to have that much more scope for destruction. Imagine what he'll be able to do to a room once he has his hands free.

Despite making him sound like a whirling dervish, Alec is actually remarkably good at quietly entertaining himself for long periods of time, methodically working his way through a room, examining everything he finds with scientific intensity and subjecting them to stress tests. He's gotten much more interested in books as well, and happily pages through them or listens to us read to him.

One thing I like about this age is that he's starting to find ways to communicate with more than just crying. There are the obvious things, like bringing over a book and hitting us with it, and more subtle, like the time he let me know he was thirsty by sticking my finger in his mouth, sucking it for a moment and then giving me a meaningful look.

He's still a little charmer and a flirt. He knows just how to act to get people swooning over him in public. I mean, most babies get attention in public, but he's a master of the coy smile moving into wide grin that really gets people. I'm not sure how the product of my genes could be such a people person. He periodically comes up to me for a cuddle break in the middle of his busy play schedule. He also periodically comes by and bites my toes, or bites my shoulder when I pick him up. He's such a cute little piranha.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Baker's quarter dozen

* Alec still drinks several bottles a day, but we're starting to make the transition to straw cups with water or whole milk during meals and when we go out. I hadn't thought before about the fact that I have very little experience with the way milk behaves in a straw cup; K was allergic to milk until she was two, so hers was always rice milk, and we tend to bring water for her these days. So I hadn't realized quite how... chunky milk gets in such a short time. Yeeurgh.

*Speaking of milk, it's been about three weeks since the last time I pumped. I had wanted to make it the entire year, but my supply drops pretty quickly if I reduce my schedule even slightly, and it just felt so good when I reduced my schedule down to three times a day that I couldn't make myself go back even when it was clear my supply was drying up. And once I was producing less than 10 ounces a day, it wasn't worth it any more to try to limp across the finish line. Alec is a gigantic, robustly healthy baby who is doing just fine drinking formula for a month. I figured out recently that I produced a quart a day for five months, and 25 ounces a day for at least three more months. It's a rough calculation, but I pumped 62 gallons of milk in the past year. Moo. But a rather accomplished moo.

* We finally enrolled K in kindergarten a couple weeks ago. We finally landed on public school because the one she's currently going to is one of the best in the city and she would already know some kids in her class. It has some green space and a playground next to it, and it's two minutes away from B's library. We still have reservations about Philadelphia schools, but it seemed like a good situation for early elementary school.

So you can imagine our reaction when we discovered that that's not the school K will be attending. Her preschool program isn't available in every school, so we were assigned to the nearest one with a Bright Futures class, but we don't actually live in that school's area. Our actual school is surrounded by asphalt and doesn't have a playground. And its test scores are a great deal worse. Now I certainly don't think that test scores are any sort of measure of how good a school actually is. But in the era of No Child Left Unscathed, my worry is that a school with poor scores will have to spend a great deal more time prepping for the tests than a school with good scores. And a kid like K, if she takes after her father and me at all, will be shunted aside on the assumption that she'll provide a good score and doesn't need any attention.

So I'm not sure what we're going to do. In the positive column for the new school, when we went to our current school, the office staff was unspeakably rude to us, whereas the reaction of the office staff at the new school was a cheerful "Welcome!" That was enough not to make me immediately run to request a voluntary transfer and at least wait and see to find out what it will be like in September. We're hoping to move when our current lease is up in December, so the simplest solution would be to find a place in the area of the school we like. Failing that, a transfer is a possibility. Or we'll start looking at public school alternatives again.

Or maybe we'll actually like this school. But I feel badly for K, who has spent the past year making friends including a couple best friends, and now she's going to be in a completely different school from them.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy-making things:

- We got a donation of some Bobbsey Twins books at work today, the really classic original ones from 1904. I read them as some of my first chapter books when I was seven or so, but haven't read any in about 25 years. I was paging through the first book and while I had remembered a lot, I had completely forgotten the bit where Nan's foolhardy friends tried to jump rope 100 times in a row and collapsed in a dead faint from the strain. This didn't come as a surprise to Mr. Bobbsey, who had known of multiple little girls who had DIED from jumping too much. I hadn't realized jump rope had such a high fatality rate.

I think I need to read some more of these, because they're entertaining on the same level that a Victorian novel I once read was (or I should say, helped read aloud to friends while we howled with laughter), where a man from a village populated with a freakish number of redheads kills his wife and then develops guilt-induced meningitis. Even as a child, I recognized that things like the book that takes place in Holland, Michigan where they discover everyone there lives in the traditional Dutch fashion (they don't) and prominently featured an abandoned windmill as a plot point (there's one windmill in Holland, and it's a major tourist attraction) was pretty ridiculous, but clearly there's a lot more absurdity to be found by reading these as an adult.

- A new Thai restaurant opened up around the corner from us. One of the more disappointing aspects of where we live in the city is that while there are plenty of takeout and delivery places for food, you have a varied menu available of Italian, Italian, Chinese and Italian. We were excited when the first delivery menu arrived after we moved here, and then the next twelve thousand ninety-six arrived and we discovered that they all had exactly the same menu. We love and really miss Thai food, so it was an exciting day when we spotted the new restaurant to provide something a little different in the sea of cheese steaks that makes up the local restaurant scene. We were both braindead by Friday evening, so we ordered it and it was lovely. They had all of my favorite dishes, with just exactly the right amount of spice. I can handle a lot of spice, but I've actually found with some foods that I prefer it not be too spicy because there are other flavors I like that you can't taste if your tongue is being reduced to a carbon cinder. But my Drunken Noodles were just about perfect. And they even offer some Chinese food, so we were able to order an egg roll for K to make sure she would have something we knew she would eat (sometimes she is quite adventurous with how she eats. And other times, she decides to be four instead).

- I love three day weekends. Of course, in our case that means we only had today off together. But it was still a day off together when normally we would have had to wait until next weekend for that to happen. And since it was today instead of a Sunday when we have to get up for church, I got to sleep in. Bliss. And my mother arrived today for a visit. She was in Oberlin this past weekend for her college reunion, and decided that since she was already halfway here, she might as well come all the way. We're actually planning to be in Michigan at the end of June, but Mom being here now means we can spend less time with her then and take the extra time to go up to B's parents instead. It's a longer trip to them and they're able to travel to us more easily than my mother, so we don't get there nearly as often as we visit my mother. I think it's been three years since I was at their house, so I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully we can get some good beach time in.

- I hesitate to even say this, but right now, we have two children sleeping in their own beds in their own rooms. FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE ALEC WAS BORN! We had decided to co-sleep with Alec when he was born, with the assumption that like K, he would let us know when it was time for him to sleep on his own. For K, she was always very sensitive to outside stimulus and it was a gradual process of her sleeping less and less if she was in the same room with us, until it became clear that co-sleeping was impossible. Alec, on the other hand, has been our little cuddlebug from the beginning, and for a long, long time wouldn't sleep unless he was in contact with another body. But over time, we've been able to put him down more often, until recently we realized we could put him in the pack and play next to us for naps and in the evening and he was sleeping a nice chunk of time. Long enough that I began to wonder how long he might sleep if there wasn't anything interesting around when he woke up to keep him from getting himself back to sleep. Or if he might be able to get through the night without a bottle if there weren't parents conveniently right there to provide a little snack when he woke up. And sure enough, so far tonight we've heard a few whimpers over the monitor but nothing that required any intervention. I'm really curious how long he's going to go.

We managed to get K back in her room a few weeks ago, after months of her in our bed. It was actually largely my fault, because we usually cuddle her for a while as she's going to sleep, and when I was eight months pregnant it was too difficult to get in her bed. So I would put her in my bed, which somehow turned into her in our bed every night. And once the baby came, we didn't have to energy to try and change it. But like Alec, she started to show signs that she would probably be willing to go back to her bed if we pushed, so we did. And bribed a bit. But it worked, so I'm not arguing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

So if I'm going to go this long without posting, I shouldn't do it after writing all about my terrible parenting moments, should I? We're all still alive and unscathed, I swear.

We had a busy, social weekend. Our barony had a small, mellow event on Saturday, with no site fee and a potluck for feast. It was remarkably similar to a church picnic, except with heavy fighting and hobby horse races instead of volleyball. We went and hung out, and enjoyed the fact that with all of the other children there, we barely had to pay attention to ours. There were several older kids happy to carry Alec around as much as he would tolerate. I got more knitting done than I have in the past six months. K won a prize for coming in first among the little kids in the hobby horse races. A good time was had by all.

I'm rather proud of the fact that I started working on the childrens' garb a whole TWO nights before the event, which is a model of early preparedness by the standards of these things (in my years of SCA and cosplay, I've discovered the great uniting factor is that it isn't the night before a convention/event if you aren't frantically sewing). And I managed to do it without spending any money. I pulled out an old SCA peasant blouse I didn't like and cut it down into a dress for K, and Alec got a tunic that started life as a pillowcase. Someone at the event gave us some baby garb too, so he's pretty well set for a while.

Then last night, we went and hung out at the baron and baroness's house for the evening. We were theoretically there to play music, but somehow never got around to it and wound up watching Big Bang Theory and Iron Chef America while discussing all of the tv shows and books we have in common instead, as the children chased each other around shrieking. We haven't had an evening like that since pretty much since we left Indiana, and it felt really good.

If things continue going this way in our social life, I suspect my goal of getting back to the Midwest will be revised to simply getting the hell out of the city.