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.