Monday, May 29, 2006

Well, Well, Well, Look What the Cat Dragged In

Technically I should not really be here. I'm not sure if I've ever taken this long a blogging break without having been on vacation. I've nothing terribly exciting to report: I finished editing the book, but not before having to get an extension because I was sick for three days last week. It's May, for heaven's sake -- there should be no flu-like illnesses in May. Had I been up to blogging you'd have gotten an earful of complaints about how everything was completely falling apart in my life. Lordy, it would have been a painful read. Everything seems on much more even a keel now -- what a difference a normal body temperature makes!

Anyway, it hasn't all been work and illness. I had two fun blogger meet-ups, with Liesl and Landismom. The playdate at Liesl's could have been subtitled "Stupid Human Tricks," after I somehow got her son's propeller-operated bubble toy ensnared in my own hair. Yes, I did this to myself; I cannot blame this on my kids. Liesl very patiently untangled my hair and was gracious enough not to laugh at me.

Landismom and I went to a street fair in her town -- a very, shall we say, well-attended street fair. She had the foresight to bring a stroller for her son, whereas I shattered every last nerve in my psyche keeping track of Sean and a stroller-free Allie amid the throng of people. Still, the kids had a good time. Even if a ride operator had to stop the helicopter ride because Allie was sobbing. The problem was not that she disliked the ride but merely that she disliked the color of the helicopter in which she sat.

I have a lot of catching up to do; sorry I haven't been visiting anyone lately. I'll be by this week sometime after I finish a few more projects. I've been so removed from blogging that I even missed the fact that Midwestern Deadbeat had her baby. Welcome, Squig!

Sunday, May 21, 2006


As I was drying off Allie after her bath tonight, she gazed out the bathroom window and commented, "Mommy, something's going to go across the sky."

"Oh, really?"

"Yah! It's going to be a rainbow. We're going to hang it in the sky. With a hanger."

I'd love to live in a world where you can hang rainbows from the sky whenever you feel like it.


And now, my friends, it's time for me to put my nose to the grindstone. It's final crunch week for a book I'm editing. To say that I am behind schedule would be a polite understatement. So, if you don't hear from me till later this week, you'll know why. And if I do pop by the blog before Friday, you'll know that I am not, in fact, finished the project but am merely frittering away precious time. Feel free to chide me accordingly.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Library Musings

Every now and then I get the urge to lob a Molotov cocktail into this quaint little tea party of a blog.

One of these days I will indulge that urge. Tonight, however, I am serving yet another petit four.

The kids and I went to our county library today because the book I sought was not available at our township library. It was to be a quick surgical strike of a visit. I've long since given up hope of being able to linger thoughtfully amidst the stacks, perusing title after title until something catches my fancy. Outside of the children's section, there's simply no point in going if I don't know what I want ahead of time.

Once I found my book, Allie and I engaged in our usual game of "chase the giggling toddler while child-free patrons cast annoyed glances our way." To their credit, the kids were extremely well behaved once we got to the children's section. I love watching them sit quietly at one of those tiny tables, completely engrossed as they flip the pages of their books -- as if they were actually reading them.

As we checked out our books, I was delighted to see the library slam her date stamp on the sticker affixed to the back of each book. The new fancy-pants library in our township uses electronic self-checkout. The computer spits out a receipt that lists the books checked out and their due dates. Efficient, yes, but lacking the delightful sense of history the stamped dates impart. I love patching together a book's borrow-timeline -- the last time the book was checked out, how many times it’s been checked out, the gaps between dates. The book I checked out today, for example, was last borrowed over a year ago. In a bizarre bit of anthropomorphizing, I feel as I'm somehow making this book less lonely.

For the children's books, I enjoy seeing how many other kids have read, and enjoyed, the same books my kids will be reading. Frayed pages, taped seams, and random scribbles may make a book appear shabby, but they also indicate how well a book has been loved by successions of children over the years. I like that my children are part of that lineage.

Another cup of tea, anyone?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

When Your Day Starts Out with a Warning, Take Heed

I greeted Sean this morning with a good measure of cheer. It was not reciprocated.

Me: Good morning, sweetie! How are you today?

Sean: *SIGH* I'm fed up.

Fed up with what, I never found out. Probably just life in general, a sentiment I can generally agree with. At any rate, it was a fair enough indicator of how things would proceed throughout the day.

I am most relieved that the day is now almost over, and the only whining I can hear is coming from the taptaptap of the keyboard as I type this.

Monday, May 15, 2006

There's a Hole in the Tire, or How I Spent My Mother's Day

Actually, that is entirely too dramatic a post title. See what I'll do to get attention?

In reality, the story is about as prosaic as you can get. I ran over a nail at some point in my gas-guzzling travels. The tire went WHOOOSHHH, PFFFFF sometime on Sunday. Triple A came to put on the donut tire. I had the tire repaired today.

Completely unnoteworthy, except for my inordinate pleasure that the mechanic who worked on my car was a young woman. I think this is the first time I've ever experienced a nonmale mechanic. The warm glow of sisterly solidarity almost made up for the fact that I spent two hours waiting for the tire to be patched and the alignment corrected.

Oh, the rest of Mother's Day, you ask? Just fine. I got to sleep in, we hung out with Jeff's family (who were staying with us this weekend), we went to my sister's for dinner. So pleasant that it made me reflect on the contrast with my first Mother's Day.

Jeff was traveling, and Sean was about 6 weeks old. I've mentioned that he was a complete pill as a baby, right? Like most days, he spent that day crying. I remember one particularly bad stretch, as I walked him around the house, bouncing, cuddling, trying in vain to calm him down. "Please stop crying, please stop crying," I said over and over again, tears streaming down my face and onto his. I couldn’t believe that my first Mother's Day was so miserable, and I was pretty sure that I didn't want to be a mother anymore.

I can't imagine going back to those early days. Since I'm pressed for time at the moment, insert platitudes about how I'm so much more capable and calm and how life is much sweeter now. Because really, it's all true. Happy belated Mother's Day to all the mothers, moms, mamas, mummies, and mommies out there.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Ice Cream Diet Should Appeal to Him, If Nothing Else

In about a month Sean's head will be a few ounces lighter. Or however much tonsils and adenoids weigh.

Sean's pediatrician referred us to an ENT doctor after she noticed his "huge" tonsils during his 4-year-old checkup. "I'm impressed, actually," she said about the size. As you know I stop just this short of groveling when it comes to seeking plaudits for myself or my children. Yet notable tonsils somehow aren't quite what one wants to be known for.

Of course, the enlarged state of affairs wasn't the only thing prompting the referral. Sean not only snores like a man but also suffers from sleep apnea. It's more than a little disconcerting to hear him stop breathing at night. He also has a lot of fluid in both ears that is not draining; it hasn't gotten infected, fortunately, but his hearing is a little diminished.

So. The ENT swiftly recommended surgery; he told me that he prefers to treat this problem medically if at all possible, but Sean's tonsils and adenoids are so big that his airflow is being compromised (hence the apnea, the snoring, the mouth breathing, and his nasal, "thick" voice). I'm reasonably confident, now, that Sean won't be undergoing an unnecessary procedure.

I really like this doctor. He was funny and gentle, and he actually talked to Sean as much as he talked to me. One of things that I dislike about my group-practice pediatrician's office is the varying levels of bedside manners among the doctors. Some of them -- there are six doctors -- barely even say hello to Sean or Allie, whereas others are attentive and friendly. There are two doctors that I like especially, and for well visits I make sure that I schedule the appointments with one of them. For sick visits, it's just the luck of the draw.

Anyway. The procedure takes about 15 minutes in an outpatient surgery center, under general anesthesia. This is a far cry from the overnight hospital stay that I endured when I had my tonsils removed at age 3!

I've decided not to worry about this at all. Not yet, at any rate. I'm sure I will get a little more nerved out the closer the procedure nears, but for now I am being Zen Mommy about it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

This Is Boring Even to Me

I had a post idea in mind, but I'm too tired to flesh it out. Instead, you get administrative minutia. What can I say, I aim to please.

First, I've updated my book list over yonder there to the left. It took almost no time at all because I've been reading so little. And what I've read has underwhelmed me.

The Beatles biography? 800+ pages, some of it fascinating, some of it tedious. But if you ever wanted confirmation of the enormous chasm between John Lennon the martyred peacenik and John Lennon the young man, here it is. Not that the others come off as burnished icons, either, except perhaps for Ringo. As far as new information, well, I had not known that the phrase "I am the egg man" in "I Am the Walrus" refers to an orgy that John Lennon attended in which eggs were apparently, umm, cracked.

On Beauty? It was pretty engaging, not nearly as good as White Teeth but at least far less self-indulgently clever than Autograph Man. I thought I'd have something (anything) more to say about it, actually. If only I'd read Howard's End, which On Beauty retells. What kind of English major was I, anyway?

A Long Way Down? Clever and funny, with lots of delicious Hornby wit.

Gilead? The one standout in this bunch. Gorgeous prose, and one of the most morally upright but relentlessly self-flagellating narrators I've ever encountered. The theological ruminations were fascinating, if a bit opaque.

Yes, I am reading those Ayelet Waldman Mommy Track mysteries. Death Gets a Timeout is the best so far -- the first three were pretty thin, but I love the detective, a former public defender turned stay-at-home mom (sounds an awful lot like Waldman, doesn't it?). And although I figured out the twist to this book pretty quickly, I still enjoyed it.

Which brings me to Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading, by Maureen Corrigan (book reviewer for NPR's Fresh Air). The in medias res verdict is: Meh. It's a memoir, and the author's linking of literary analysis to her personal experiences seems pretty tenuous to me. But I'll persevere because I admire her writing style.

I know, this is really boring. Now you see why I have completely ignored the "books" part of my tagline.

Second (quick, go check, there really was a "First", way back there at the beginning), having recognized my egregious blogroll neglect, I've done some pruning (so many blogs on there have gone POOF and disappeared!) and added some new blogs.

Thus endeth the administrative trivia post, which took me about as long to write as that substantive post that I was too tired to write would have.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

It's Been a Bad Day, Please Don't Take a Picture*

Otherwise, you'd have seen the sorry bits of the contents of my head after it had exploded.

I'm not sure what spirit beset him, but Sean was truly on his absolute worst behavior today. He didn't listen to a single thing I said. He defied me at every possible juncture. He was the preschooler from hell.

He and Allie must have performed a body swap: Excluding one earth-shaking tantrum, she was an angel today. And of course I am grateful for that. From Allie I've grown to expect difficult behavior that makes me want to pull every strand of my hair out. Sean has his moments but generally can be counted on to listen (if not at first, then at least eventually). This contrast in their diverging capacities for toeing the line has not gone unnoticed: when I'm scolding Allie, he often says proudly, "But I'm being a good listener." (I can't wait for the sibling-rivalry issues that observations like this will engender along the line.)

At bedtime, the final insult led to the aforementioned head explosion. It was over, I believe, train tracks that Sean had spilled all over the upstairs hallway and refused to put away. And other toys that he dumped out after I asked him to help clean up. And a hair-pulling incident with his sister.

I know, it's small-time stuff. But I am ashamed to admit that, after an entire day of similar insults, I lost it. I yelled, sent him to his room, told him that he had lost his bedtime story privileges. And although all day his reaction to my growing impatience with his behavior had been blithe indifference, this time he burst into tears. Which makes me feel terribly guilty for yelling. (I don't regret the other two reactions -- I do think some consequences were definitely in order.)

We managed to end the night on a good note, with a calm discussion about the day we had and how we would work on having a better day tomorrow, followed by a big hug.

Still. I'm wrung out, and feel like I must be doing something horribly wrong for a day like this to have happened. My mother suggested that Sean might be reacting to Jeff's being away again (oh, did I mention that?). If that is it, I feel even worse for not addressing the core problem but instead reacting like a madwoman to the surface behavior.

Here's to a happier tomorrow.

*On a completely unrelated note, if you want to be depressed about the state of the union, read the lyrics to this REM song, written in the 1980's. Nothing has changed since then. Sigh.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

If at First You Don't Succeed...

...Try five or six times and you will indeed have a blogger playdate!

After illness and weather forced rounds of cancellations over the past few months, Liesl and I and our kids finally got together yesterday at a children's museum.

Liesl is just delightful -- warm and sunny and easy to talk to. Of course, I already knew from the photos she's posted that Liam would be adorable. What a sweet boy! It's so nice to see a two and a half year old who is so calm and even-tempered. Unlike certain other two and half year olds, if you know what I mean.

Actually, Sean and Allie were on their better behavior. We all managed to stay together in the large museum, with Allie staging only a few jailbreaks here and there. And the kids really had a great time. Things got a little dicey when the quiet museum suddenly erupted with the arrival of approximately seventy bazillion school children on a field trip. Fortunately we were able to escape to the relatively serene, self-contained toddler room. (Serene, that is, except for the icy glare that a mother of a baby gave in response to my murmured "Sorry" as I retrieved Allie from the "crawlers only section".)

Despite what you might suspect, Liesl and I even managed to have not one but several conversations -- from crunchy parenting to blogging personae to working at home. Okay, they were conversations fractured periodically by child-tending and -searching, but conversations nonetheless. Those are always welcome during the day.

Sean and Allie didn’t want to leave but were placated by a promise that we'd all get together again soon. Can't wait!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Diminishing Showers

My best friend's baby shower is on Saturday. Some of you who've been reading my blog for a while might recall her lovely wedding last April. And now a baby! I'm so happy for her and her husband.

With the shower looming on the horizon, I've realized that a once-familiar reaction is surprisingly absent: righteous indignation over the sexism of showers.

Showers used to set me into quite a lather. It all started when I was in college and flush with the rhetoric of my women's studies classes. When I was a college sophomore, I attended a shower for my sister's third baby (who just turned 17, by the way, just to put into perspective my own decrepitude). In the context of my coursework, it dawned on me that showers given for and by women reinforced every single hausfrau stereotype out there. Who needs men at a shower when only the women will be doing the housework and the baby rearing?

For one class assignment I dashed off a fiery screed on this topic -- I can't find the paper right now, but you can bet it was dead earnest, impassioned, and lacking anything resembling relevant supporting data.

Nowadays, I could care less about the implicit (explicit?) sexism of showers. It's not that I travel in particularly socially enlightened circles wherein showers are attended by both men and women. I guess it's just that as I've grown older my passion for tilting at windmills has cooled, my perspective shifted. With so many big-ticket social concerns for me to fret over, showers have moved out of the "So mad I could spit" category and into the "Meh" realm.

I guess this is a standard progression, from youthful fervor to adult complacency. I just hope that this complacency isn't misplaced and that my threshold for indignation isn't now too high. I mean, shower games still set me off, so hope is not lost.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Weekend Snippet

Have I mentioned that we signed Sean up for Tot Soccer? It's quite adorable, all these 3- to -5-year-olds chasing after a single soccer ball. What Sean lacks in natural athletic aggressiveness he makes up for in team spirit. He's the most enthusiastic kid in the class -- whenever the coach says, "Are we ready?", you can hear Sean's voice above all the others: "YEAH!!!" he shouts, and raises his arms above his head in a triumphant, two-fisted salute.

When I asked him why he tends to hang back from the other kids as they trip over themselves to get to the ball, he replied, "I just want them to give the ball to me. Then I'll kick it!" Is it too early to disabuse him of the notion that altruism is a prevalent philosophy practiced on the playing field?

After soccer class, the kids get to play in this enormous "Fun Zone." It's a three-story-high climbing play structure that swallows kids whole. Good luck to any parent who wishes to first find and then extract his or her child in less than 20 minutes. It's actually a bit frightening!

On Saturday, about 30 seconds after Sean and Allie entered the belly of the beast, Allie marched on out. "I'm NOT playing," she announced. "I'm SO mad and I'm NOT playing." Apparently some older kids were blocking her path. Did they not get the memo that Her Royal Highness must be granted immediate access to any location she wishes to enter? At any rate, all she really wanted to do was vent, for after a few additional declamations about how she was NOT playing, she trotted off once again to play.

On a completely unrelated note, guess what? I'm now the proud owner of my very own iPod Nano, courtesy of my thoughtful, ever-lovin' husband in honor of my thirty-seventh (gasp, wheeze, THUNK) birthday today. Imagine how many eighties tunes I can cram in there!