Tuesday, January 29, 2013

At the movies

We saw The Hobbit when 's parents were visiting for Christmas. I was both looking forward to it, because it was my favorite Tolkien book, and a little afraid to see it, because it was my favorite Tolkien book. I had a hard time figuring out how they were going to stretch it to three movies and was very afraid of what violence they might do to the plot to achieve that end.

Well! First, it's been years and years since I've read it, so I had a comfortable vagueness about the actual event of the book going, which I think helped a great deal. Periodically, a scene would pop up that I remembered from the book and they always went about how I thought they should. A lot of the extra stuff is showing what Tolkien was telling, which is just fine with me because it makes no sense not to take advantage of a visual storytelling medium. I'm told the rest of the additions were from other Tolkien, and they all seemed to fit the movie pretty well.

I can see all the reasons that people didn't like The Hobbit - too long, boring, shifts in tone (well, except for the accusations of making extra plot up out of whole cloth because all of the additions were drug up from some portion of Tolkien) - but I loved it anyway. I wasn't bored, I thought they did a great job of capturing the humor of the book, yet giving the plot and the character development a great deal more weight than the book does.

So did anyone else wonder if Radagast the Brown started out brown, or if he just became that after too many centuries of not bathing?


Speaking of movies, I've mentioned more than once Katherine's sensitivity to scary things, and my indecision on how much to push her on the issue. I finally decided to leave her alone, both because I don't remember seeing scary things as a child doing anything other than give me something new to terrify me in the middle of the night (I still have nightmares where I'm stuck in a theatre and Sweeney Todd is about to start) and because I decided her life will not be any poorer for not being able to watch horror movies.

And in one of those rare moments, my parenting strategy has proven to be the right one! Over Christmas, Katherine asked to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas and the first two Harry Potter movies. We gave her space and lo and behold, she matured enough on her own to be able to handle more scary stuff, probably much faster because we didn't make her watch anything traumatizing.

We're so excited. This might be the year we can introduce Star Wars!

Friday, January 18, 2013


Every baby we've had has had different songs sung to them. Katherine heard a lot of Lydia the Tattooed Lady. Alec heard Union Maid, Alice's Restaurant turned into Alec's Restaurant, and Alouette, sung as Alexander. Nothing says love to your baby like singing about plucking them. For James, rather than something pedestrian and cliched like Sweet Baby James (mostly because I don't really know the lyrics well), lately he's been hearing variations on the Harvey the Wonder Hamster theme song from the short-lived Weird Al tv show:

Jamesy, Jamesy, Jamesy the Wonder Hamster,
He doesn't bite and
He doesn't squeal,
He just runs around on his hamster wheel,
Jamesy, Jamesy, Jamesy the Wonder Hamster!
Hey, James!

It's a big hit, plus The Wonder Hamster is a good baby nickname. Then Katherine came up with the dog variation:

Jamesy, Jamesy, Jamesy the wonder doggie,
He doesn't bite and
He doesn't bark,
He just runs around all day in the park,
Jamesy, Jamesy, Jamesy the wonder doggie!
Hey, James!

Finally, to avoid species confusion, I came up with a proper human baby version:

Jamesy, Jamesy, Jamesy the wonder baby,
He doesn't bite and
He doesn't poo,
He just jumps around in his jumperoo,
Jamesy, Jamesy, Jamesy the wonder baby!
Hey, James!

Katherine would like to point out that he does in fact poo, copiously. To which I can only respond that he bites too, but I've included the biting line in every version to try and get him to take a hint.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

James at 8 months

So we have this baby, and he keeps growing. And then he develops more physical skills. The nerve, I tell you. Doesn't he know he's supposed to be my tiny baby?

This is such a gross motor age. James can: stand at a table, go from lying down to sitting up, creep across the floor, occasionally in the direction he wants to go in and has pulled himself up nearly to standing at least once. I think he will be crawling next month.

In fine motor skills, he can: pick things up in a fine pincher grip, wave and is working hard on clapping. He uses his pincher grip on the two or so solid meals a day he's eating now. I had to laugh - we were so careful about introducing solid foods to Katherine (although there were food allergy issues there, to be fair). And after a month or so of lackadaisically trying different baby foods to indifferent success, we found James eating Cheerios off of the floor and started giving him Cheerios. As it turns out, the boy just doesn't like mushes. He's also thrilled with apple and pear slices, orange slices cut up small, broccoli*, buttered toast, graham crackers and corn flakes.

Cognitively, he's babbling away like a little brook (the small body of flowing water, that is, not his father). And while visiting my mother, several of us heard him say something that sounded quite a bit like "Hi" in response to people greeting him. I'm pretty sure I've heard "Mama" and "Dada" a couple times, but they don't seem to be repeated too often. Separation anxiety has started to take hold, which means he's not quite so happy to go to other people any more if I'm there.

No matter how big he gets, he's still my sweet little love muffin. He's such a happy, happy baby, who smiles all the time and rarely gets upset. My happy little lovey.


*It's bizarre - I have three children who all love broccoli. Goodness knows I haven't done a thing to deserve such good eaters. They get plenty of junk and sweets. And yet last night, out of a meal of chicken, roasted potatoes and broccoli, the only thing either of my older children ate was the broccoli.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Well, that was a ...memorable trip

We are home! My mother is home as well, as of Monday. We left last Sunday, because it was clear she was on the mend and while I hate to abandon her on her sickbed, she needs to be a lot sicker for us to justify missing work. We went through Lafayette and had dinner with friends there, stayed in Columbus for a day and saw various friends and family. We made it home without incident on Tuesday and got to spend a couple more days off before getting back into the work grind.

That said, there was a point driving to Columbus when Katherine was absolutely sick of the car and starting moaning, "Worst trip ever." And I had to think, well, I've had worse trips. Going to South Dakota after my mother's accident, or home for my father's funeral, or to B's grandfather's funeral, where we arrived to discover his great-uncle and cousin had been killed in a car accident all come to mind. But this trip is starting to rank right up there in the top (bottom?) five. I had to give up our plan of a long weekend in Columbus seeing my best friend for two entire days in favor of visiting my mother in the hospital while she had unpleasant things done and only being able to see my best friend for an evening. And as a bonus, we got to go through the colossal hassle of getting James to a doctor in a strange city because he was running a fever and deeply unhappy, and we didn't think it was a good idea to take him on a 9-hour car ride over the mountains if he might have an ear infection (he didn't). It wasn't all bad, of course. We did get to see everyone we wanted to see. But the level of stress involved, and the knowledge that my mother's body is continuing to malfunction, made it a bad trip indeed.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Some progress, little news

I spent much of the day at the hospital today. They did a cat scan on my mother today, so tomorrow we should have an answer as to whether the blockage is caused by either a physical blockage, requiring surgery, or an ileus, which is when a portion of the intestines decides to poop out, or rather not poop out, which basically takes time for the intestines to start working again. An ileus is pretty common with quadriplegics, so it seems likely that's it. It's certainly what we're hoping for. Meanwhile, they're doing some grody things that are helping to relieve the pressure in her rather hard, distended abdomen, which is making her feel better.

So most likely, this is something that won't kill her but is yet another part of her body not working well.


We just watched Brave again on dvd, for the first time since seeing it in the theatre last June. Much as I remember, the animation was exquisite and the story bugged me. Not that it was bad, per se, just that it was full of tired stereotypes, ones that were particularly disappointing in Pixar's first movie with a female protagonist. Basically, it wasn't a movie with a female protagonist, it was a movie about being a girl. And how girl stuff sucks. Until the very end, when being a woman is what's needed to save the kingdom from the idiot man-children who pretend to run it. As far as I can tell, all of the male characters are just ids running around, while Merida would like to be that (and why wouldn't she?) until she finally sees the benefit of being an actual mature person with some semblance of self-control. Really, Pixar? This is really the best you can do? It's like the video game companies that think they should try to capture the girl market and put out a game about dating or makeup, because that's the nerdy guy idea of what girls are like.

Maybe the next time they decide to make a movie starring a girl (some time in the next decade, one hopes), they can resist the urge to simply have the plot stamp "girl" on her forehead and just do a movie about a person who is female.

(Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the movie. It was funny and absolutely beautiful. But only by firmly tamping down my inner feminist)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year

I had an upbeat post planned yesterday, about my plans for the new year and the things I thought we could pretty realistically get accomplished. And instead, my mother is in the ER tonight with a bowel obstruction (her oh-so-useful doctor this morning phoned in a medication for gas. When I have more time, I have a doozy of a rant about the various stories of my mother's medical care make me suspect that people see an elderly woman in a wheelchair and don't try as hard as they might otherwise). Her aide is with her; I am not because I am James's main food source, and a baby in the ER is not a good idea. If it had been something that could have been resolved in an evening, I wouldn't have been needed. Since she's being admitted, we will go over tomorrow morning once she's in a hospital room, away from the ER germs. This all makes perfect sense and does absolutely nothing to assuage my crippling guilt, but the fact remains, a baby in the ER is a bad idea, so here I am.

So now I'm looking at two different years: the one where my mother remains relatively stable and I keep on with my plans, and the other one, where she isn't and I need to figure out how to manage our family while possibly having to be in Michigan often. I'm rapidly starting to think that planning for crisis management is going to have to be the way to go, although I will do my best to not live as if we're in crisis mode when we're at home in Philadelphia. Non-crisis mode involves things like more exercise (B recently got a hefty raise that we're deeply unhappy about (that's another doozy of a post all on its own), which mean we should be able to afford joining the Y), keeping up with our improved cooking habits, continuing to be more involved at church and keeping a better school schedule. Crisis mode preparations, on the other hand, involve making sure bills can get paid and the house kept together if I'm not there, coming up with child care plans, and quite probably looking for a school for Katherine. We haven't been accomplishing more than the minimum since James was born, and the "She's in first grade, it doesn't matter so much if we don't get a lot done this year" starts to wear thin as it stretches throughout second grade as well. I had plans for getting lot more done starting next week. But now I'm not sure if we're getting home next week. I think she needs a teacher less distracted and stressed than I am, and we need to be able to continue her education throughout any upheaval. I was commenting last month that we need some sort of groovy experimental school that gives her a lot of autonomy and fun projects, but is still academically rigorous. We'll see if that's possible.