Monday, October 31, 2005

I had a longer post in mind for today, but since I regrettably must go about selling my daughter to the gypsies right now, I will not have time to write it.

If anyone would actually LIKE to spend time with someone who this morning has whined and shrieked and shouted and cried more than she has spoken, let me know. It may not be too late to intervene.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

And Along the Same Lines...

Even at age 2, Allie has a rather disconcerting ability to identify cartoon, Thomas the Frickin Tank Engine, and Muppet characters. From Caillou to Bert to Clifford, she's already begun stocking up the Useless Knowledge section of her brain.

The exception seems to be a certain Mouse. Spiking a dagger through the hears of Disney branding executives everywhere, Allie refuses to call Mickey Mouse or Minnie Mouse by those names. They're both "Squeaky Mouse" to her, and she tolerates no dissent to this belief. Squeaky Mouse is a green dress-up mouse in our house (similar to Dapper Dan, for those of you of a certain age) who bears no resemblance to Mickey Mouse other than the round ears.

Take that, Michael Eisner! Here's one child who's already resisting the crushing onslaught of marketing to kids. I'm so proud.

Friday, October 28, 2005

If It's Not in the Oxford English Dictionary, Is It Really a Word?

Scene: The bathtub. Sean, as usual, was using the washcloth for something other than its intended purpose. This time, it was some kind of musical instrument.

Sean: It's a budja-chik! (Proceeds to strum the washcloth, plastered across his chest.)

Allie (indignant): No! It's a cloth-cloth!

Sean: No, budja-chik!

Allie: NOOOO, Sean! CLOTH-CLOTH!!! (Dissolves into tears).

Sean (unrepentant): Budja-chik! Budja-chik!

So, on the one hand we have Sean, championing the descriptivist cause: you know, language belongs to the people, not to some arbitrarily designated group of so-called grammar experts. Allie, meanwhile, espouses what can be characterized as a proscriptive point of view: something along the lines of "there are certain inviolable language rules that are not up to debate by the rabble."

The winner? To be decided...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Seven Things

Sorry that I haven't been around much this week, both here and elsewhere. I hope to resume my daily diet of reading and commenting soon. In the meantime, a meme! Landismom tagged me. Please forgive the pity party that takes up much of the second question.

7 things I want to do before I die:
1. Travel all over the world
2. Learn how to play a musical instrument
3. Do volunteer work regularly
4. Become more engaged politically and socially
5. Live a more unselfish life
6. Meet my great-grandchildren
7. Have something I've written be published

7 things I cannot do:
1. Sing or play a musical instrument
2. Sew, knit, crochet, quilt, weave, or otherwise fasten fabric or yarn
3. Engage in any type of athletic activity with enthusiasm or skill
4. Draw, paint, sculpt. In short, creative or artistic endeavors of any kind.
5. Cook anything that would impress anyone
6. Be deliberately unkind
7. Be an inattentive, uncaring parent

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex:
1. Sense of humor and whimsy
2. Intelligence
3. Open-mindedness
4. Gentlemanly demeanor
5. Kindness
6. Strong work ethic
7. Eyes, shoulders, arms (not to give the physical short shrift!)

7 things that I say most often:
1. Come ON, let's GO!
2. I don't know why I bother.
3. That is not a toy.
4. Please stop doing that; it's not safe.
5. Where did my keys/cellphone go?
6. Are we ready to roll?
7. Oh, Geez Louise.

7 celebrity crushes:
I don't have too many current ones, but here's a walk down my somewhat embarrassing memory lane of crushes:
1. Davey Jones (age 5)
2. Shaun Cassidy (age 7)
3. Steve Perry (age 12)
4. Bono (age 15)
5. Sean Penn (age 16)
6. Michael Stipe (age 19)
7. John Cusack (hey, it's not too pathetic to still have a crush in one's 30s, is it?)

7 people I want to do this:
If you want it, consider yourself tagged!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Into the Woods

The other day Sean and I went for a walk in the woods.

A wholly unremarkable statement, you say? Au contraire, gentle reader. If you were familiar with the area I live in, you'd be just as shocked as I was to discover that there are actual woods smack in the middle of this strip mall-infested, overdeveloped slice of suburbia. Presumably these woods have been here my whole life, and I demand to know why their existence was not brought to my attention sooner.

It was heavenly. I'm not a hiker by any means, but I love strolls through natural settings. This little trail was perfect for a walk with a 3 and a half year old -- just a few gentle inclines, with enough ponds and fallen trees to engage his interest and plenty of tree stumps for him to jump on and off of. Sean seemed fascinated by every sight and sound. And he only asked to be carried once!

Every now and then, the silence was broken by the whoosh of the commuter train line that runs along the edge of the woods. I took the intrusions as a reminder not to get all misty-eyed and romantic about our little tromp through the forest, but for a while I did in fact feel like I was someplace far from home.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Once in Love with Allie, Always in Love with Allie

Good thing, too, because sometimes she doesn't make it easy.

I think I've mentioned Allie's independent streak, her determined nature, her sometimes, to use a term I've loved since reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, sheer bloody-mindedness. These characteristics may drive me crazy, but I think they're terrific qualities for a girl to have.

She can be sweet and adorable, for sure. Just don't ask too much in the way of affection. I guess I've been spoiled by Sean's openly loving nature -- he is extremely affectionate, and gives the best hugs in the world, both in response to mine and of his own volition ("Can I have a hug, Mommy?").

Allie doles out hugs according to some rather opaque criteria, the closest to which I can ascertain is "Whenever the hell I feel like it, okay?". Even when she does deign to hug you, she holds back, never fully committing her strength or body to it. She often begins pushing away almost as soon as the hug begins.

I try not to let this hurt my feelings; it's just her nature, just as it is Sean's nature to seek out affection. She is clearly attached to me -- it's just that I'll have to play by her rules. I sometimes wonder, though, how she is going to be as she grows up. Is this a sign of future difficulties with emotional responses? I also don't want to be judgmental and compare her unfavorably to Sean (gee, like you just did above, Suzanne?); that kind of reaction would set up a lifetime of resentment.

If anyone has any experience with children who have differing thresholds for physical affection, I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

It Is Happening Again*

Drat. Just when I thought it was safe to dip my toe in the blogging waters again, I'm having to retreat back to shore. Awaiting me there is not a lazy day on the beach blanket but rather another week of a drastic editing workload compounded by solo parenting while Jeff is in Germany for work.

One of these days I am going to have a talk with my body about how it responds to stress. Because the chest pains that I get when I'm stressed? SO not fun. (I've had them checked out in the past, and it really is just stress. Still, kind of annoying.)

Before I bid adieu, two movie threads.

I went to the movies last night. (Pause for dramatic effect while audience gasps in surprise.) I think the last time I entered a theater was in the spring to see Revenge of the Sith. My friend M and I went to see In Her Shoes. LOVED it. Funny and touching and weepy, but not in a sappy Steel Magnolias kind of way. I also enjoyed playing "Spot the Philadelphia location" throughout the movie. The city looked gorgeous on film, even in the gray of winter.

And yet. If you've read the book, you know that the Toni Collette character is supposed to be overweight. Toni Collette reportedly gained a lot of weight so that she looked like an average woman. In Hollywood terms, I suppose "average" is better than "emaciated". Still, her body looked, in fact, very much like, umm, mine. And though I'd love to be a little thinner, I really don't think my weight is something to be concerned about. A scene in which Cameron Diaz hurls a "Fat pig" insult at her sister just comes across as ludicrous.

To continue the movie theme, Sean, Allie, and I watched The Muppet Movie today. (By which I mean Sean and I watched the movie and Allie ignored it.) I hadn't seen it in years. Oh.My.Goodness. I had forgotten what a sublime delight it is! Sean didn't get most of it, but he especially loved Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Continuing the pangs of nostalgia that I wrote about in my last post, I cried when Kermit sang "Rainbow Connection" at the beginning of the movie -- it's one of the songs I sang to Sean and Allie every night as I rocked them to sleep. I sang it to them again along with Kermit; I wonder if they will remember it as they get older.

Off to work now. If all goes well, I'll check back in mid-week (isn't it amazingly hubristic of me to think that anyone cares?).

*TV trivia time! What show is this line from?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Okay, Now I'm Back, Though No Less Disjointed Than Before

See what happens when I put my mind to something? No blogging, I told myself sternly, until you finish all that work. And, more or less, I obeyed. I've missed reading everyone's blogs, though, and am relishing the end of my self-imposed exile!

Except for the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, that half the people I invited to Allie's party weren't able to come, we had a great time. It was definitely less overwhelming than previous birthday parties. I actually had time to have conversations with people instead of a harried exchange consisting of "Hi! How are you? Do you need anything to drink? Okay! Talk to you soon!" (I'm not the calmest hostess in the world.)

A few photos from the party, if you're interested.

The next biggest excitement of the week came last night. Flush with excitement of having snatched one of Sean's toys, Allie had just begun running away when she tripped and fell. When I checked her to see if she had cut anything, all I could see was an enormous amount of blood spilling out of her mouth.

Long story short, she had bit her tongue pretty hard. Not all the way through, thankfully, but enough to scare me. Although intellectually I understand that mouth injuries produce a lot of blood, it was still quite upsetting to see all of that blood spurting from her mouth. A quick call to the doctor confirmed that nothing could be done. Just lots and lots of comforting (and wiping) till the bleeding subsided. (Quick plug for generic OxyClean here -- it works wonders on blood stains!)

At bedtime, Allie had a hard time going to sleep. Her Binky, which she now uses just when she goes to sleep (slight regression in Binky Deprogramming), was obviously not its usual source of comfort to her. Eventually I picked her up and rocked her to sleep. What a long time it's been since I've done that! As I cradled her in my arms and felt her breathing become slow and regular, I recalled the seemingly thousands of hours Jeff and I spent rocking our children in that chair. And even though many times I would be frustrated or resentful at all the rocking-to-sleep effort, I still marvel at the amazing power parents have. That we can soothe their fears and frustrations just by holding our children close, snuggling with them in a quiet, dark room. What a tremendous gift and privilege that is.

I'll have to keep that in mind the next time the kids are driving me crazy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Almost Have My Head Above Water...

Till then, by popular demand, I give you The Shoes:

Allie LOVES these shoes. She makes such a racket while wearing them that I've taken to calling her Clompy McClomp. And proving that he can tap into his Inner Princess, Sean fancies them, too!

Monday, October 10, 2005

I'm Not Really Back

Thanks for all the sympathetic comments on my crazy day last week. I'm still facing a mountain of work with deadlines that no sane person would have agreed to, so for now I'll just report that the party, though small, was a lot of fun.

Despite my fears, no Barbies surfaced. However, I have four words for you: Clear Plastic Princess Shoes. From my SISTER, no less. Oh, and they light up.

More later!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My Day, by Mimilou

Well, hi there! Thanks for stopping by! Have a seat and let me tell you about my day.

No, don't leave! Humor me, 'kay? Please?

1. (Starting at 8 a.m.) Drive the usual 20-minute drive to drop off Allie at my sister's house.
2. Completely backtrack to drop Sean off at preschool.
3. Head on home to work for a few hours.
4. On the way to pick up Sean, stop at FedEx office to drop off a package.
5. Pick up Sean.
6. Drive back to my sister's house to drop Sean off. While there, remember that I had not yet ordered party platter for Allie's party (I know, I should be making a hot entrée or something, but fortunately my guests know to expect a deli tray). Order food, acknowledging one benefit of large number of "No" responses---a cheaper party!
7. Drive into Big City for onsite work at a new client. After sustaining heart failure over the price of parking garages near clients' office, head on over to cheapo parking garage, cheapo because it is in Outer Mongolia. After brisk 15-minute walk, arrive at what I had thought was client's building only to discover I was off by about 1.5 blocks. Finally arrive at client's office 30 minutes late. Set off metal detector because of buckles on shoes.
8. Spend 2 hours with new client, eyeing with dismay the pile of 30 manuscript folders with which I am to trundle back to my car. Sorely curse my lack of teleportation abilities.
9. Walk back to my car, drive back to client's office, pick up box of folders that editorial assistant has brought down for me. Thank goodness for editorial assistants with "other tasks as assigned" in their job descriptions!
10. Pick up Sean and Allie at my sister's. Help Sean use the potty, chase Allie around as she evades maneuvers to get her shoes on her feet, please for the love of heaven.
11. Go to shoe repair shop to drop off a pair of, that's right, shoes that need repair.
12. No, come back! I'm almost done!
13. Arrive home, prepare minimalist dinner (pasta with red sauce) that no one eats anyway.
14. Brinnggg! Telephone! Impromptu playdate with neighbor's granddaughter? Sure, why not? Muster up energy to do the Limbo, Hokey-Pokey, and Chicken Dance with two three-year-olds and a two-year-old.
15. Home again, time to clean up the kitchen from dinner, and give the kids their snack.
16. Bathtime, storytime, bedtime. With sick feeling realize that Allie's sole Binky is still at my sister's. (Allie is serious about her Binky. I sometimes sing to her, to the tune of Madonna's "Material Girl"---"I am living in a Binky world, and I am a Binky Girl.") Bedtime may just be a disaster.
17. Okay, not a disaster, but at 9:45 Allie is still awake, singing to the stuffed animals in her crib. But this does help us work toward our goal of Binky deprogramming by her second birthday.
18. Compose blog entry because the thought of all the freelance work I have to do tonight overwhelms me.
19. While I'm at it, will also avoid thinking about the fact that on tap for tomorrow we have Allie's 2-year-old checkup, full house cleaning in preparation for party on Saturday, and full complement of grocery shopping for party.
20. (Crickets chirping.) Hey, where'd everybody go?

There you have it. I probably won't have much time for posting till Sunday night. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Katrina-related Request

A few weeks ago, I placed a comment on Been There offering to help out a family displaced by Katrina. Somewhat to my surprise, I received an e-mail last week from someone asking for help. We've had several e-mail exchanges, and yesterday I sent her a box of items that she said she and her family needed.

And then I got another e-mail from someone else! I don't want to turn this second person down, but I think I've committed what I could to the first person. If anyone here might be interested in helping her out, send me an e-mail (click on "About Me" in the sidebar) and I'll forward hers to you (first come, first served).

If you have any qualms about this, check out the Being There Clearinghouse site.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Weekend To Make Me All Warm and Fuzzy

Most of the time, I find myself frustrated by weekends. I tend to stay home most of the week, and on weekends I want to Do Things. Then Sunday rolls around, and the Activity-O-Meter registers around a 2 out of 10.

This past weekend, it went all the way to 9.

On Friday, we went apple picking with my friend J and her two children. It was a perfect early fall day -- pleasantly warm, azure skies, a charming bucolic setting. This farm can get crazy on the weekends, but this late afternoon on a weekday was pretty low key. We started in the pumpkin patch, and moved on to the apples. Sean and Allie loved picking the low-hanging apples, although I had to intervene early on so that we weren't paying for apples that resembled kiwifruit in both size and color. What's that? You'd like some photos? Well, okay.

Now we have a peck of apples that no one wants to eat except me. Sean, as we know, spurns fruit unless it's ensconced in a muffin (which I'll get to in a minute), and Allie has informed that she "no likes them". No problem, thinks I. Since muffins are a surefire way to get the kids to eat vegetables or fruit, I baked a batch of apple muffins. Ha! No one likes the muffins, either.

On Saturday morning, we went to a local book festival. We snagged a lot of children's books (one table was selling them for 10 cents apiece!), grooved to a band (my kids are great stroller dancers), and listened to an author read from one of her children's books. I wish we could have stayed to listen to some other authors (a man Jeff and I went to college with was reading from his new novel), but I am a slave to Allie's naptime. Next year, perhaps.

But wait, there's more! That afternoon, we went to a local historic park located right across the river from the airport. The kids had a great time watching plane after plane descend and land almost right in front of them. On an Activity High, we even went out to dinner afterward.

Sunday, I admit, was more like a typical weekend day for us. We hung out, opened Allie's birthday present (a Sit-n-Spin -- do you know they actually light up and play music now? Ridiculous. I disabled that feature toute de suite), refereed a protracted dispute over who exactly got to play with said present first (Sean not exactly grasping the concept of "birthday girl"), and went to the park.

And now it's time to plan for Allie's party on Saturday. Umm, no, I haven't done anything about it yet. I will, I will. Today, in fact. Really!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Two Years Old?

Allison turns 2 today. How can it be? It seem such a short period of time, yet I can't imagine life without her.

To celebrate, here's the ultimate in mommy blog narcicism: the birth story. I actually wrote this for her first birthday but never posted it. (Warning: it's long; anyone looking for a short and snappy post should check back in a few days!)

My due date was October 3rd. About 2 weeks before that, I began feeling fairly regular contractions. Since my labor with Sean was pretty short in the grand scheme of labors and I'd been told that labor this time around would be even shorter, I didn't want to risk being at work and many, many miles from the hospital when things started cooking. I decided to work at home that week, which was my last week at work before going on maternity leave.

Thus began the fun game of Hurry Up and Wait. Contractions came and went, came and went, and each time I thought "This is it", they'd stop. This went on for 2 weeks. I was growing impatient with the whole process and stopped just short of accusing my unborn child of manipulating me merely for the fun of it.

The night of October 1st was uneventful. The contractions were popping up here and there, but I was jaded at that point and paid them little mind. At 5:20 a.m. the next morning, I woke up just in time to feel a little, umm, wet. I wasn't sure if this was it, for with Sean my water broke with a distinct POP and definitive gushing. After a few minutes and further leaking, I woke up Jeff and told him that I thought FINALLY the show was about to begin.

And begin it did. The contractions, the real kind this time, launched with ferocity. I called my doctors' answering service, and a few minutes later, a doctor called me back. I was so relieved to hear the doctor who delivered Sean on the other end. I could have gotten one of the four doctors in the practice, and although I like all of them to a certain extent, I felt most comfortable with Dr. M. After refreshing her memory about how fast my first labor had been, she told me to go the hospital immediately. No waiting for until I had contractions spaced 5 minutes apart for 2 hours, as she had advised me with Sean.

I called my mom, who had told me she would come over and watch Sean when I went into labor. She had been on pins and needles with me for the past 2 weeks, so I'm sure she was relieved to be awoken by my phone call.

Between that phone call and my mom's arrival (probably about 30 minutes), I dressed, got my bag together, checked on Sean, and paced. Oh, and doubled over in pain from time to time because of the contractions, which were slamming me at this point. Jeff showered and got himself ready.

After my mom arrived, I gave her some hasty instructions on taking care of Sean. I felt sad about leaving him, knowing that this would be the last time we would see him as our only child. Then Jeff and I got in the car and raced to the hospital. One of benefits of living in our particular neck of overdeveloped suburbia is the 7-minute distance between our house and the hospital.

After we checked in at the ER, a nurse found me a wheelchair and brought us up to the labor and delivery floor. Another pregnant woman registered right after me. She seemed so calm and rather indignantly declined the offer of a wheelchair. But for me, well, the wheelchair was a godsend. The contractions, did I mention the contractions? Oh, they were so painful and so fast. After we got to my labor and deliver room, I practically collared the labor nurse and told her I wanted an epidural.

(That other pregnant woman, the calm one? Not long after she arrived she left because her labor wasn't advanced enough.)

While waiting for the anesthesiologist, the nurse checked my progress. "Three centimeters," she tells me.

Three centimeters?

It felt like my uterus was about to rupture, and she tells me I'm dilated only three centimeters? If that were the case, I thought, the anesthesiologist had better get his or her fanny into my room right now. My relationship with pain is pretty simple: I don't like it, not one little bit.

As the contractions became even more painful, I was gripping Jeff's hand so hard that I was afraid I would break it. Jeff was breathing along with me (hee, hee, hooooooo), which, as it turned out, was not the best course of action.

When the anesthesiologist arrived and was prepping my back for the blessed epidural, I felt it. You know, the "uncontrollable urge to push" that the books warn you about but that I never felt with Sean. I can unequivocally attest that it is indeed uncontrollable; it felt like the baby was going to pop out right then and there regardless of any effort on my part.

Although the baby was ready now, dammit, the doctor hadn't even arrived yet. I had been in the hospital for all of 30 minutes. I was in such pain and so unfocused at this point that I don't know how many people were even in the room. All I could hear were people saying "Don't push!" and "It's okay, push!" and the ever-helpful, "The doctor's not here yet!" At one point someone said, "We can't do anything for you, hon", which in my delirious state I took to mean that I was going to have the baby on my own. In retrospect, of course, I think that the person meant that it was too late to give me an epidural. But the imprecise language caused me considerable anxiety. Note to hospital staff: Choose your words very carefully around women in labor! Do I have to be an editor even when about to give birth?

I don't know how much time elapsed, but the doctor arrived very soon after the urge to push commenced. Thankfully, she got right down to business and told me to push. One striking thing about this experience is that I was so consumed by pain that I couldn't really see, or perhaps focus, very well. But one thing I could see was Jeff next to me, looking as white as a ghost. I remember asking him, in between screeches, "Are you okay?" The nurses kind of laughed at me, saying "Don't worry about him!"

Back to pushing. I don't remember how many pushes it took, but that stage lasted no more than 5 minutes. (I hereby publicly acknowledge all women who struggled with hours and hours of pushing. You are truly my heroines.)

When Dr. M. said "It's a girl," I had two reactions. One was complete surprise, for I had been convinced that I was having another boy. The other was pure gratitude that the pain was over. The doctor put the baby on my chest, and she was already wailing. Healthy as could be.

Over on Jeff's end, though, things weren't going too well.

Through a combination of hyperventilation brought on by his sympathetic breathing and his queasiness over the whole biological experience of birth, Jeff just about passed out. A separate team of nurses surrounded him, hoisted him onto a gurney, and whisked him down to the ER. The only thing I got to say to him before he left was, "Oh, we have a girl!"

The nurses asked me if they could call someone to be with Jeff in the ER. I gave them my mom's number, hoping she could think of someone. The nurses told me later that my brother-in-law Gary would come by before he went to work.

I missed Jeff so much as I held our newly swaddled baby. I can't say it was the calmest half hour -- unlike Sean, who was quiet and calm, Allison cried for much of her first hour of life. But to be honest, it was the sweetest squalling I'd ever heard.

Jeff was in the ER for about an hour; he came back to the delivery suite before my brother-in-law even arrived. He still felt shaky but otherwise was no worse for the wear. And there we were: mom, dad, new baby girl, all set for our trip to the baby floor. From which point the story is as plain vanilla as can be. Thank goodness.

Happy Birthday, Chickie Lou!