Monday, December 31, 2007

Graduation

As I have pretty much used up all of my stories about grad school – well, at least those that are safe for publishing – I have finally decided to move my blog. I haven’t gone far, but the title no longer ties me into any particular theme. I won’t be tied down, man!

Come join me at www.docmaureen.com!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Babies are weird, man

From the age of 12 to about 16, babysitting was my main source of income. I have also been an aunt since the age of 14. As such, I have had my fair share of putting babies and kids to bed. In my experience, babies who cry themselves to sleep start off with gusto and then taper off over the next 10-15 minutes with maybe one last, pathetic “Eh!” before finally settling down to sleep for the night.

Not my baby.

My baby doesn’t cry himself to sleep at all… or so we thought. Lately, he has been protesting his naps and bedtime about fifty percent of the time. When he does cry, instead of the 10-15 minutes of winding down exhibited by typical babies, Jack does this:

“AAAAHHHHHH!” (breath) “AAAAHHHHHH!” (breath) “AAAAHHHHHH!” (breath) “AAAAHHHHHH!” (breath) “AAAAHHHHHH!” (breath) “AAAAHHHHHH!” (breath)
“AAAAHHHHHH!” (silence)

You think that last silence is just him taking a breath for the next yell, but… nope! He’s done! The whole process takes maybe 2-3 minutes. On a bad night, it takes 15. It’s at these times that I wish we had a video monitor just so I could see what the heck he’s doing in there. Does he fall asleep mid cry? Does he just decide he’s too tired for all that effort? He’s usually standing up when I leave, so at what point does he lie down?

On nights like these, this is what I imagine is happening in his head:

Why are you leaving me in here all alone? I want another story! I don’t want this stupid bink, I want a story! (snatches bink from mouth, throws it on floor) STORY STORY STORY STORY STORY! (looks around crib, finds second bink, picks it up for the express purpose of throwing it on the floor) I can’t BELIEVE they left me in here all alone! And with no binks! I’m in my bed, I get to have a bink! That’s the rule! How am I supposed to go to sleep with no bink? WHERE IS MY BIN-- (notices third and fourth spare binks in the crib) Oh, wait. There’s one. (puts bink in mouth, ceases crying, lies down, strokes blankie, goes to sleep.)


But of course, I don’t know. All I know is that we have to listen carefully to hear the difference between angry, “I don’t WANNA go to sleep” yells and scared “I want my mommy and where is my bink*?” cries which don’t end, but just get louder.

So, yeah. Babies are weird.

*All four of your binks are on the FLOOR WHERE YOU THREW THEM. Sigh.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Some firsts I'd rather skip

The first year of your child's life is just a series of milestones, one after the other. The first smile. The first word. The first steps. The first trip to the emergency room.

Yes, last Sunday, The Husband and I had the delightful pleasure of taking our baby to the ER to make sure he had not jammed his teeth back up into his head possibly embedding them in his brain. (Short version: He hadn't.) It had happened very suddenly. We had just gotten back from church and The Husband was making grilled cheese sandwiches while I searched for a recipe for cranberry bread and Jack played in the cabinet with the pots and pans. The next thing we knew, he had fallen on his face and blood was pouring from his mouth. Mouths bleed a lot, people.

This was not our first experience with this phenomenon, because Jack has fallen on his mouth at least four other times this year. This was more blood than I had seen, however, and I find bleeding from the mouth particularly troubling, as it is very difficult to see the extent of the damage what with all the crying and wailing and blood pouring out and all. Does he need stitches? Who can tell? At any rate, I held Jack upside down to try and look in there and in the brief flashes I could get, it looked to me like Jack's two front teeth had receded into his gums by at least 50%. I said, "That's it, we're going to the emergency room," and off we went.

I should take a moment here to tell The Husband's side of the story, which is that I "panic" every time Jack gets hurt. He bases this claim on the way I say, "Oh! He's bleeding! Oh! Oh! The blood! Does he need stitches? Should we take him to the ER? How do we clean it? Oh, he's swollen! His lip is swollen! The blood! The blood!" and things along those lines. But it is my position that I do not panic, it's just that I let The Husband be the one in charge of determining the extent of the damage while I take over the job of comforting the screaming, bleeding baby. I do this because I can let him be the one in charge. He's right there, all ready to take charge with his cool, calm, former lifeguard head. If he were not there, however, I would be quite capable of cleaning up the blood and driving to the ER all by myself, because I'd have to be. So no, I don't panic.

So. The ER. The Husband and I were pretty sure that Jack's teeth were probably fine, because he wasn't even crying anymore by the time we were packing him into his car seat, but we weren't going to take any chances with his teeth. He was triaged and registered within 20 minutes of our arrival, and then we had to settle down to wait. The Husband bought Jack a muffin because none of us had had lunch, and Jack had no problems chomping away at it. By the time we were finally seen by the nurse practitioner, Jack was biting a paper cup and pulling on it with his hands, further convincing us that his teeth were fine.

When the NP took a look, he told us that Jack had split his funiculus (that piece of skin that connects the top lip to the gums), but that his teeth looked fine to him. His gums had just swollen up, and that was what made me think his teeth had been jammed. The NP did suggest that we get a dentist to take an x-ray to make sure there was no root damage, and we did that on Saturday. Actually, we didn't. We took him to the dentist, but the dentist said an x-ray wasn't really necessary since Jack's teeth weren't even chipped.

And so it all ended well. Jack's teeth are fine, his funiculus appears to have healed, and we've all agreed that he has filled his quota of accidents for the next year and there will be no more falling on his mouth. We've AGREED.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It won't... stop... beeping...

There was a period of time when I was in high school that I slept in the attic. During this time, I also worked at a small convenience store as a cashier, and occasionally I had to work the 6am-11am shift on Saturdays which required that I get up at 5:30. Now, I am not one who rises easily, so this was, to put it mildly, a challenge. I typically set my alarm - which was always set to the horrible screeching buzzer and never to the music that stood no chance of awakening me - for 5:00 so that I could hit snooze several times before being late. Since I usually had no memory at all of the first and sometimes second times I hit snooze, I felt this 30 minute cushion was a necessity.

My brother, who slept in the room at the bottom of the attic stairs, felt differently.

"Mo," he said to me one Friday night. "If your alarm goes off more than once tomorrow morning, I am going to have to kill you." He was very polite about it, but he really felt he had no alternative. So that night I set the alarm for 5:20 with great trepidation, but also with the full intention of getting up as soon as it went off to spare my brother the morning Chinese alarm torture.

HONK! HONK! HONK!

I awoke with a start, leapt to my alarm and started hammering the snooze button. I wasn't going to use the snooze button, at least, not in the way God intended it to be used. I just wanted to silence the alarm until I had enough coordination to turn it off permanently. But the noise didn't stop! I pushed the snooze button. I pushed it again. I tried tapping it really quickly, and then I tried holding it down really hard. Nothing.

I finally remembered that to turn the alarm off, I had to turn the dial to the left two notches. I turned the dial. No change. In desperation, I turned the dial all the way to the left, then all the way to the right. To the left! To the right! Left right left right left! It was still honking! Wait! Unplug the clock! UNPLUG IT!

I unplugged it.

HONK! HONK! HONK!

Frantically, I looked around the room. Ever so slowly, my powers of deductive reasoning were returning to me, and I was able to determine that the noise was not coming from my alarm clock. It was coming from the window. What was in the window? A fan. I ran to the fan. "I have to turn off the fan," I thought to myself. "That will make the noise stop." But the fan wasn't on. No problem! I just turned on the fan. That way, I could turn it off and make the noise stop.

Astoundingly, this did not work.

I considered the situation. Assuming there was some sort of short circuit causing the on/off switch to fail, I decided to unplug the fan. Hey, it didn't work for the alarm clock because the alarm clock wasn't honking. The fan was honking. So I unplugged the fan.

HONK! HONK! HONK!

"It didn't take!" I thought to myself desperately, and plugged the fan back in so I could try it again. I unplugged and replugged the fan a few more times until a tiny shred of reason managed to penetrate my sleep fogged brain. "Wait," I thought, and held still, plug in my hand. "FANS DON'T HONK."

My father found me a few minutes later, with the window fan on the floor and my face and hands pressed tightly against the screen. I had finally deduced that the honking was coming from outside, but I couldn't shake the feeling of responsibility for the noise and I was trying my best to stop it using only the sheer force of my will. Unfortunately, I had made so much noise storming around my room trying to track down the source of the noise that I woke everyone up. My father gently assured me that the neighbors' malfunctioning car horn was not under my purview, and, thusly relieved, I went back to bed.

I did get up with the first alarm, though.

***

And so I have reached November 30, the last day of NaBloPoMo. I did it! Technically! OK, I totally cheated. Remember this entry? And this one? So I'm not going to put an icon on here that says I did it, because I don't feel like I did it. Well, that and because I don't really know how to make changes to my template. Nevertheless, I wrote a lot more often than usual this month, and that's got to count for something.

But, being incredibly lazy, I will probably slide back into my habit of writing when only I feel like it in December. Plus, I'm going to work on a super secret exciting blog development that I hope to reveal by January, and that will eat up some of my computer time. The rest will be taken up by my mindlessly clicking "Refresh" in my Gmail window.

Why don't people email me as often as I click "refresh"? You should all email me more.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hi, Honey, I've reentered the domestic habitat!

The following conversation is a near word-perfect transcription of a typical conversation between me and The Husband as we discuss our days.

THE HUSBAND: You know antifreeze?
MO: Uh... yeah?
TH: I froze it today.
MO: Well, everything freezes eventually.*
TH: We had to run a test at -40 Celsius --
MO: Which is also -40 Fahrenheit!
TH: I know! One time I tried to convert -40C to Fahrenheit in my calculator, and it came back as -40! I did it three times before I realized.
MO: Well, the lines aren't parallel! They have to intersect at some point, right?
TH: Yeah. So anyway, antifreeze freezes at -50F, and we had cooled it so quickly that we overshot -40F, and it froze.
MO: That's pretty cold.
TH: So we're going to run it with ethanol instead, since that freezes below -120C.
MO: Ethanol or ethylene glycol?
TH: Ethanol.

*The Husband helped me remember this conversation, and he maintains that not everything freezes. I said that even hydrogen freezes at absolute zero, and he said no it doesn't. I still think it does, but I suppose he might be right, now that I'm typing this, because I guess that freezing is not the same thing as a cessation of molecular vibration. And yes, I'm typing this footnote as an excuse to write the phrase "cessation of molecular vibration," because I like to show off sometimes.

Hi, Honey, I've reentered the domestic habitat

The following conversation is a near word-perfect transcription of a typical conversation between me and The Husband as we discuss our days.

THE HUSBAND: You know antifreeze?
MO: Uh... yeah?
TH: I froze it today.
MO: Well, everything freezes eventually.*
TH: We had to run a test at -40 Celsius --
MO: Which is also -40 Fahrenheit!
TH: I know! One time I tried to convert -40C to Fahrenheit in my calculator, and it came back as -40! I did it three times before I realized.
MO: Well, the lines aren't parallel! They have to intersect at some point, right?
TH: Yeah. So anyway, antifreeze freezes at -50F, and we had cooled it so quickly that we overshot -40F, and it froze.
MO: That's pretty cold.
TH: So we're going to run it with ethanol instead, since that freezes below -120C.
MO: Ethanol or ethylene glycol?
TH: Ethanol.

*The Husband helped me remember this conversation, and he maintains that not everything freezes. I said that even hydrogen freezes at absolute zero, and he said no it doesn't. I still think it does, but I suppose he might be right, now that I'm typing this, because I guess that freezing is not the same thing as a cessation of molecular vibration. And yes, I'm typing this footnote as an excuse to write the phrase "cessation of molecular vibration," because I like to show off sometimes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Uh oh, it's magic!

Nanoposting is almost over, and I am desperately trying to hold my head above water over here. I had no idea posting every day would be so taxing. Well, that's not true. I did foresee difficulties which is why I wasn't going to sign up, and I knew that if I did sign up that I would moan and whine about it, because that's what I do. I'm a complainer. Still, it's been really hard! Did you know that Thanksgiving is in November? And our anniversary? And that I am nursing a cold I've had for over a week and am considering taking Mucinex even though the commercials for Mucinex are the most disgusting commercials ever and I wish not to support them? But still, here I am, slaving away at the keyboard. And it's all for you, Internet! All for you!

Last night, The Husband and I watched Night at the Museum. We thoroughly enjoyed it, despite getting a little over-invested in the plot. (Warning: Extremely minor spoilers ahead. Well, not technically minor in that I sort of give away the end, but if you couldn't have guessed how it ended you have never seen a movie before. Or read a book. Or interacted with humans.) We were both incredibly concerned that the T-Rex and the other museum displays would get stuck outside at sunrise. It seemed impossible to us that Ben Stiller would be able to round them all up. How could he do it? There were too many! Ah, but there was one thing we had forgotten. We had neglected to account for the possibility that magic could solve everything in this story about museum displays magically coming to life. Crisis averted!

I would like to think that it is because the movie was so well done that The Husband and I were so worried. Yes. That must be the reason. Because the only other explanation is that we are both idiots.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

At least it's recyclable

In an ironic twist, today Jack and I played with an old cardboard box for about twenty minutes.

I have yet to order the book from yesterday, but rest assured I will, and I will get organized with my plan. People left some great links in my comments, so I recommend you check them out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Not so fresh air

Today on Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed Mark Schapiro who has written a book called Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power. Because I was driving, I didn’t get to listen to the whole show, I didn’t get to listen as carefully as I would have liked, and I am unable to find a transcript online, so what I’m about to say must be taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, I learned two particularly horrible things from this interview.

First, there is a family of toxic industrial chemicals called phthalates that are used as softeners in PVC plastics. Products made out of these plastics range from dashboards to toys to IV tubes. The E.U. has banned these products, but the U.S. has not. According to Schapiro, companies have had absolutely no problems conforming to the E.U. ban on phthalates. Toy sales have not decreased, and European children are not condemned to play with nothing but old cardboard boxes. And yet these same companies continue to manufacture toys and other products containing phthalates to sell in the U.S.

Second, and according to Schapiro, the E.U. has also banned carcinogens, mutagens, and compounds which affect the reproductive system from all cosmetics. The U.S. has not. Once again, the same companies which are carefully finding replacements for toxic cosmetics ingredients are simultaneously lobbying the U.S. government to stop legislation requiring the disclosure of the ingredients of cosmetics.

It’s getting to the point that I am seeing everything I own, everything manufactured, as a threat to the health of my family. I’m starting to feel like I should get rid of all of Jack’s toys and give him some old cardboard boxes instead. So here’s what I’m proposing: Let’s all send emails and actual, hand-written letters to our representatives, Senators, the president, toy companies, and cosmetic companies calling for a U.S. ban on the same toxic chemicals that the E.U. is banning. This should be a no-brainer; companies are already finding alternatives to comply with the E.U. law, so they should just make the same safer products available to us here. And I’m also asking all of my readers who have their own blogs, especially those of you with more than the 20 readers I have – I’m talking to you, Emily, Arwen, and Maggie – to put the call out to your readers as well.

I need a day or two to get a list of names and addresses of where these letters should be sent, and I need to buy Schapiro’s book to make sure my facts are right. But once I have the information, I’ll post it here.

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but if we could just raise awareness, maybe the American consumer would start to demand better choices, and better choices would become available. Maybe our own children won’t be doomed to a toy box full of old cardboard boxes.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Today's teatime was long and dark

For the first Sunday in weeks, The Husband, Jack and I went to church together as a family. Normally, The Husband goes to the 9:00 Mass and I go to the 11:15 and sing with the choir. Jack is usually napping at 9:00, so and The Husband has a hard time wrangling him all alone at the 11:15, so this is what has been working for us lately. But today Jack slept until almost 8:15 which meant no nap for him at 9:00, and I have laryngitis which meant no singing for me at 11:15. Thus, the family went to mass together.

As much as I like singing with the choir, today was actually quite nice. We only live about a quarter mile from the church, so we always walk and today was a beautiful sunny morning. We left the stroller at the back of the church and as Jack and I walked down the aisle together, I reveled in the expressions of the churchgoers admiring my adorable child. There was a minor kerfuffle when I accidentally chose the only pew with an electrical outlet at the end of it, but overall, Jack was pretty well behaved. I can't say I remember an awful lot of the homily (that's "sermon" to you non-Catholics) thanks to my reading "Little Duck" while the priest was speaking, but we didn't have to take Jack outside or anything. He hit his nap wall just about when Mass was ending, but that worked out pretty nicely for us.

And that is how we found ourselves at home at 10:15 on a Sunday morning with a sleepy baby and a whole day stretching out ahead of us with nothing to do. At first it was fantastic. I read the whole paper. The whole paper! We had coffee and doughnuts. I tried to do the Sudoku. Jack woke up from his nap and had some lunch, and then... it was Sunday afternoon. With nothing to do.

The day just stretched interminably. If Jack were older, I would have suggested a movie, but alas, that was no option. We brought Jack outside for some fresh air, and he had a great time throwing the leaves around. When he started to get cranky I said, "Let's go inside and have some supper," only to discover that it was merely 4:15. There were at least thirty more minutes to endure before we could reasonably give Jack his dinner.

Thank goodness Jack thoughtfully was ready for bed by 6:30 ending our Sunday afternoon ordeal. The hours between 4:00 and 6:30 are usually difficult, but today 4:00 seemed to start around 2:30 or so. And now I've reread this and feel like an enormous jerk for complaining about having a lazy Sunday with a basically well-behaved adorable baby. Man, I have such problems.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I don't know how he likes his martinis

Today we got to have lunch with Professor The Doctor and Mr. Professor The Doctor* and their son, who is 2 1/2. After lunch, Professor The Doctor had some tea, and it reminded me of the time they were visiting and I offered them tea. Mr. Professor accepted, but he asked me how I prepare tea. "Do you add the tea to the water or do you add the water to the tea?" was his question.

Coming from a strong tea-drinking background, I was a mite offended that he thought I might not know how tea should be made. "I add the water to the tea of course," I replied.

"Oh, no no no!" he said. "You're never supposed to add the water to the tea. Everyone always does that, but it beats the crap out of the teabag! You're supposed to add the tea to the water, to gently release the essence of the tea."

Well. I didn't know where he was getting this information, but he was clearly insane. The water is added to the tea. Everyone always does that because that is how tea is made. Tea that has been brewed by dipping a teabag into a cup of hot water tastes like old dishwater. In fact, 90% of the reason I learned to like coffee is that tea takes too long to prepare correctly at coffee shops and that so many restaurants bring you a cup of hot water - water that is not even boiling - and a teabag after supper. So I was not about to take any lip from someone who was clearly a tea-drinking troglodyte. Besides, he was acting incredibly snooty for someone who was so very very wrong.

I turned on my laptop and looked up tea on the internet. (Whatever did we do before the internet? How were bar bets settled?) I pulled up site after site supporting my tea position, but he would not be dissuaded. "An English person told me that you're supposed to add the tea to the water," he kept insisting.

"No English person told you that," I said, but prepared his "tea" as he requested it.

About a year and a half later, I heard an interview with Giles Hinton, a certified Tea Master, who said the following: "...And then pour it [the water] almost still bubbling onto your tea bag or onto the leaves." He further noted that the boiling water is "... full of oxygen, full of life, full of brightness. And it has a great effect on the tea. It brings it back to life, it brings out the flavor efficiently." Naturally, I emailed the transcript of this interview to Mr. The Professor immediately, because I am always the bigger person and know when to let things go. I also may, possibly, have gloated just a little bit.

Mr. The Professor scrabbled around for a day or so trying to gather evidence supporting his tea recipe, but was finally forced to concede the argument. I mean, come on, I had the direct quote of a TEA MASTER. If he doesn't know how to make tea, who does?

Lest you think I am totally innocent in this relationship, I should tell you that Mr. The Professor are both Scrabble enthusiasts and have played against each other quite a few times. Each of these bouts were preceded by weeks of trash talk in which I proclaimed my Scrabble greatness and promised to reduce Mr. The Professor to a tiny pile of quivering, vowel-less goo.

I think I won once.

*At some point in the past I wrote and entry about these two and let them approve their nicknames, but now I can't remember what they were. After a half-hearted attempt to find that post in my archives I'm going with these, because I have no idea when I wrote it and I have no idea what it was about. Professor The Doctor was in my class in undergrad, and now she, like many of my friends, has become a Professor. You know, quite a lot of my friends grew up to become professors. You might say that's not all that strange given that I went to grad school, but I knew three of them in undergrad. I would be jealous of their exciting careers except that if I were a professor I'd have to kill myself. I think I might be jealous that they want to be professors because I'm jealous of anyone who has a cool job they like, but as far as the actual job goes, they can keep it.

Incidentally, Mr. The Professor reads this blog just about every day, so everyone say hi. Hi, Mr. The Professor!

Friday, November 23, 2007

23 rounds down to 20

So Thanksgiving was yesterday, and we hosted the family dinner this year. This may have been mentioned on this website at some point. Claims may have also been made that The Husband and I were preparing a turkey dinner for 30 people, but these claims, as it turns out, were a bit inflated.

First of all, yes, we prepared a turkey dinner insofar as we roasted a turkey. We also roasted some sweet potatoes, I made a pumpkin pie and a cheesecake, and we bought a couple of appetizers. But that’s it. We farmed the rest of the food out to various family members.

Speaking of family members, did I say there were 30 of them? Because there aren’t. The total number of people requiring a place setting at the table was actually only 23. Adding in the three babies under two and the one adult who couldn’t make it brought the total to 27. This was the number I was carrying around in my head and rounding up to 30. Thirty people! We were going to have 30 people for dinner! Except we weren’t!

As it turned out, 23 people fit quite comfortably around our borrowed tables, and no one had to use plastic utensils. The turkey wasn’t dry at all, despite being done an hour and a half early. Jack, who is quite fond of cranberry sauce, only hollered a little bit during dinner. (The other babies made not a peep.) (Also, the other babies did not throw 90% of their dinners on the floor.) (Note: none of Jack’s cranberry sauce was thrown on the floor.) We also got my parents to bring over their Nintendo Wii, and The Husband set it up in the attic after supper. Strangely, that is just about when the teenagers disappeared.

All in all, it was a good day. If you’ll pardon me for a moment of cheesiness, The Husband and I are blessed with an incredible family, and have a lot to be thankful for. More than most, I’d say.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

When Engineers Cook

Sometimes, we improvise. Like when I couldn't find any "turkey laces" so we had to make do with what was in the pantry.





(In case you can't tell, that there is a gingerbread man cookie cutter.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Communication

Today, Jack slept until 8:00, so I didn't even try to put him down for a nap until 11:00. He went down easily, but started complaining about five minutes after I left the room. I went back in to soothe him back down, but he was having none of it. He was talking, joking, pointing out my ears... the whole nine yards. Since I have a policy of not killing myself getting him to take a nap if he doesn't want to, I gave up and said, "OK, but if you aren't going to take a nap, you have to give me the bink."

I'll be damned if he didn't hand it over!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tagged

On my last day ever at the house I grew up in, Big Sister #4 and I took our kids for a walk. My parents' house was on the border between two towns, and the town line marker that was across the street. As we approached it, I called Elfin Nephew over to show him the initials of the two towns. "Look," I said to him. "See? There's an 'M' on this side, and an 'S' on the other!" My sister looked at the post, then looked at me, shocked and horrified.

"When did you do that?" she cried. My initials, you see, used to be "M.S." She had never known that the post was a town line marker, she just thought it was an old granite fence post or something. But that's not the funny part. I can't fault her; I didn't discover its true purpose until I was an adult either.

No, the funny part is the idea that I had somehow, at some point, perhaps in the dead of night, sneaked out of my house and carved my initials into city property. I, the rule follower, the teacher's pet, the bookworm. I, who never so much as dropped an apple core on the street. The worst thing I ever did was to lie to my mother about watching an R-rated movie when I was naught but 14, but I was so torn up by the guilt that I confessed it to her, through choking, shame-ridden sobs, that very night. She didn't even punish me, I was so pathetic. So to imagine that I would have dared to graffiti at all, never mind graffiti that required a hammer and chisel, is so ridiculous as to be laughable.

And my tag would have been way cooler than that.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blog fodder

Today Big Sister #4 came over with her two kids, Elfin Nephew and The Spitfire. They came to take Jack off my hands for a few hours and give me time to get the place ready for Thursday. When she first arrived, I took the opportunity to vacuum while there was another pair of adult eyes around to make sure Jack wasn’t sticking his hands in it while I used the attachments. Then she offered to take all three kids to the park, so we spent fifteen or so minutes bundling them up and then we all trooped outside. I was with them only to get Jack’s stroller out of my car; as such, I brought my car keys but not my house keys.

While I was unloading the stroller, I heard Elfin Nephew say, “How come the door is open?”

“Oh, because I’m just going right back inside,” I told him. You see, normally when I run outside for a quick thing like this, I check the door handle to make sure it’s not locked, leave it hanging ajar, and do my thing.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Today, I did not check the door handle, and today, Elfin Nephew helpfully closed the door while I was unloading the stroller. So there I was, in the freezing cold wearing naught but my thin cotton 3/4 –length sleeve sweater, locked out of my house.

It could have been worse. I might have left the oven on, or Jack might have still been inside, or my sister and I might have left our car keys and cell phones in the house. Fortunately, none of these things were the case, so we were able to put Jack’s car seat in my sister’s car and drive up to meet The Husband to get his key. Still, it put a bit of a damper on my grand plans for the day.

Sigh.

Incidentally, it turns out that the kitchen hutch lock may not have been designed to withstand professional thieves, but it could withstand two engineers unwilling to damage the hutch, and we couldn’t pick it. But in a stroke of luck, The Husband discovered the key tonight inside a postal box that he was breaking down for recycling. So… score!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bad timing

I knew it was a bad idea to let Jack play with the key that goes to our kitchen hutch, but I did it anyway, and now it's gone and all of our serving dishes and teapots are safely locked away. There they will remain for Thanksgiving, which is at our house. Have I mentioned that?

OK, I'm exaggerating for comedic effect, because it's not like the lock to our kitchen hutch is designed to keep out Nicky Holiday and his gang of burgling models. he Husband is picking it as I type. But still.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

One legged pants

This post is only being posted because I made the insane commitment to NanoBlo... blog every day this month. See, I spent the day today purchasing an outfit for Thanksgiving as I thought it might be nice to wear something that fit next Thursday. And then I spent the evening mildly panicking about the fact that we are hosting our family Thanksgiving and approximately 30 people are coming to my house next week to eat roast turkey which neither The Husband nor I has ever cooked before. Fortunately, these people are all related to me and must therefore love me even if the turkey is dry. And now I have to finish I still haven't finished hemming my new jeans. (The first leg came out pretty good; it is a nice straight, tiny stitch for awhile, and then it goes a little wonky. Apparently, I had enough energy only for 7/8 around.)

Check back tomorrow; maybe I'll think of something by then.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cloth Diapering Manifesto: Part IV

OK. Now you know why we use cloth diapers, you know about all the different kinds of cloth diapers available, and you know how to wash them. So what else do you need? Accessories!

Here’s what you need:
diaper pail
2 pail liners
2 wet bags
diaper sprayer
rubbing alcohol
rubber gloves

And, if you’re going to use pocket diapers:
Trader Joe’s bar towels

For a diaper pail, all you need is a trash barrel of some sort. The Husband and I splurged a bit here and bought this Simple Human can. Yes. It’s quite expensive. But we wanted something that would last and that would hold the smell in, and this can delivers. We smell nothing until that lid is up, and then…. wooooeeeee! Not having tried any other pail, I can’t say that a cheaper one would not have sufficed, because the liners do a good job of keeping in the smell. But in my experience, cheap trash cans fall apart. So we got the fancy one.

As for pail liners, there are a myriad of choices out there, and they probably all work just fine. We use Wahmies pail liners are quite happy with them. I told you that you need two of them so you are never without when one is in the wash. I should also mention here that there are hanging diaper bags available if space is an issue; in this case, you don’t need the pail at all, just the bag.

You will also need something to carry the dirty diapers when you are out and about. This is called a wet bag. I recommend getting a small wet bag for shorter outings and a larger one for longer trips. Again, lots of choices abound here, and I’m sure they’re all great. We have a Dinkerdoodles bag that holds about 10 or so diapers. The pull string kind of broke so now it doesn’t really close properly, but that doesn’t matter as far as you are concerned because Dinkerdoodles bags are no longer available. We also have a small Bummis tote bag; it can hold about 4 diapers and is ideal for a typical day’s outing. It also seems to be impermeable to odor.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have finally arrived at what you have all been anxiously awaiting: the explanation of the diaper sprayer. A diaper sprayer is a fixture that you attach to your toilet and works just like the sprayer on your sink. You use it to spray the diapers clean, saving yourself from having to dunk and swish the messy diapers. Because although the diaper websites tell you that you don’t have to rinse the diapers because the poop just rolls right off the fleece, they are lying. Yes, sometimes you don’t have to rinse, but, as Kerflop notes, sometimes you do. Trust me, you’ll be able to tell the difference.

Technically, you don’t actually need the diaper sprayer because you can just dunk and swish, but you will probably want the diaper sprayer because, ew. I have been places with no diaper sprayer at critical times, and boy, do I miss it. When you tell your mother (or possibly your grandmother) you are going to use cloth diapers, watch how her skeptical expression changes to amazement when you tell her about the diaper sprayer. My diaper sprayer has impressed cloth diaper veterans far more than my fancy designer pocket diapers.

The diaper sprayer we use is no longer offered at Cotton Babies; instead they have this one and they claim that it does not splash or drip. I hope they are correct, because ours splashes and drips. We have solved the dripping problem by closing the valve when we’re not using it, and I actually recommend getting one with a valve you can shut off if only to thwart your eventual curious toddler. The splashing remains a problem, but we always wipe down the toilet with toilet paper soaked in rubbing alcohol and then flush it, so it’s no big deal.

As for the rubber gloves, we just leave a pair by the toilet and use them when we need to. It’s not totally necessary because you can just wash your hands, but we are squeamish. Again, I have dunked and swished when out somewhere without gloves and I’m still alive, but it’s nice to have the gloves.

I also listed cloth wipes as a needed accessory. While not actually a requirement, I like using cloth wipes when he’s really messy, just to get the bulk so that I can rinse the wipe in the toilet and not have smelly disposable wipes stinking up my bathroom. Diapering sites usually sell special washcloths designed to be wipes, but you can just use a regular baby washcloth. I also keep my Peri bottle from the hospital filled with water to rinse him off if necessary. I always end by wiping with a disposable wipe, though, because I can’t seem to maneuver the cloth ones into all his cracks and crevices.

Last but not least, I would be doing you a disservice if I did not tell you about the Trader Joe’s bar towels. (Trader Joe’s does not have them on their website, so I can’t give you a link.) We ran into a problem with the bumGenius One Size pocket diapers when Jack was about 5 months old or and starting to sleep through the night, because the diapers could not contain a full night’s worth of pee. We tried stuffing them with two inserts, but that made them too tight. In desperation, I emailed Moxie, and she suggested I get some bar towels from Trader Joe’s. They are made of viscose which is thin but highly absorbent, and they CHANGED OUR LIVES. The combination of the insert plus bar towel is enough to keep Jack comfortable all night. We still have occasional leaks, but they don’t wake him up and we are all much happier.

If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s and you run into this problem with a pocket diaper, check the online diaper stores for “doublers.” Or consider going with a different type of diaper for overnight. Tallulah Baby, for example, offers “Simply Nights” diapers; maybe they’ll work. And you would only need two or three of them, because the diapers should be washed every two or three days anyway.

So that’s it! That’s cloth diapering! It may seem overwhelming at first, but once you actually start experimenting, you will find that it is not nearly as complicated as this four-part dissertation makes it seem. And remember, you are allowed to buy things for your baby even after he’s born! So if you try a few diapers but don’t like them, you can try a few others until you find the system that works for you. You can start with one wet bag and then add another later. You can even decide not to buy the diaper sprayer and then change your mind!

Good luck, and feel free to email me with any questions.

Manifesto Part I: Why cloth?
Manifesto Part II: Diaper types
Manifesto Part III: Washing the diapers

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cloth Diapering Manifesto: Part III

If you’ve done any kind of internet research on how to wash cloth diapers, you are probably extremely confused. When I was looking into it, it seemed to me that every site said something different, but no matter what they said, washing diapers sounded very complex. Detergent, not soap! No fabric softener! Baking soda! Vinegar! Pre-soak! Wet pail! Dry pail!

In actuality, it’s no big deal. You just wash them. OK, yes, soap and fabric softener leave residue on the diapers which makes them water resistant, so you have to use detergent and skip the dryer sheets. But good news! Detergent is what you already use! Laundry soap is stuff like Ivory Snow and I think Dreft. Don’t use those. As for vinegar and baking soda – I have never figured out what they’re for, and I don’t use them.

Here’s what we do. We have an LG front loading washing machine, and when we wash diapers, we turn the pail liner inside out inside the washer. We add Tide Free HE and about an eighth of a cup of bleach and run the cotton cycle on hot, heavy soil, with a pre-wash and an extra rinse. After they’re done, we run a quick cycle just to make sure all of the detergent is rinsed out. (Just for the record, our washer actually has a cycle called “quick cycle.”) We run all those extra rinse cycles because front loaders use a lot less water, and we were noticing suds in the water even at the end of the cycle when we didn’t include the extra rinse and the quick cycle. Detergent on the diapers is bad, because it decreases their absorbancy. But because they use more water, I would expect that top loaders need less rinsing cycles.

Now, you might have noticed that we wash the diapers on hot, with bleach. “Noooooo!” you are crying out right now. “All the sites say not to use hot water or bleach!” I know. But washing diapers on cold squicks me. And we tried leaving off the bleach, but without it, the diapers smell terrible. I believe there are oils you can add to the wash to take care of the smell, but I’ve been wary because Jack broke out in a rash after using Burt’s Bees lotion. So we use bleach. And finally, we occasionally “strip” the diapers by running them through a couple of cycles with no detergent. This is just to make sure all the detergent is really gone. We do this when the mood strikes us, or else when the diapers seem to be not holding as much as they used to.

We usually hang our diapers to dry because it saves energy, they last longer, and because we think that residual from the dryer sheets in the dryer may get onto the diapers. But sometimes I tumble them dry if I’m in a hurry.

OK. That wraps up Part III. It’s a lot of words to describe a pretty simply process. Washing the diapers is like doing any other load of laundry, but without having to sort. It’s really, truly, not a big deal.

Tomorrow will bring Part IV, in which I explain all the remaining diapering accessories, including that holiest of holies: the diaper sprayer.

Manifesto Part I: Why cloth?
Manifesto Part II: Diaper types
Manifesto Part IV: Accessorize!


Edited to add:
Sources in the know have informed me that I, in fact, wore disposable diapers, as did at least two of my older sisters. I really thought I was born when disposable diapers were not any good, but apparently I was misinformed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cloth Diapering Manifesto: Part II

Modern cloth diapers are not your mama’s cloth diapers. If you are pregnant and mention to someone that you’re planning to use cloth diapers, there’s a good chance you’ll get a condescending, pitying smile at your naiveté. “Oh, sure,” they think. “She says that now, but she’s not going to want to deal with the hard work of cloth diapers when she’s faced with an actual infant instead of hypothetical dream baby who never poops.” But this sort of attitude just makes using cloth diapers all the more sweet, because you can rub your success in their faces. Not that I am the sort of person who would do that.

So what makes today’s cloth diapers so much better? First of all, no pins. Second of all, one-step diapering. And third and holiest of all, the diaper sprayer. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s just start with the different types of diapers.

Prefolds

Prefolds are the old-fashioned diapers your parents used on you, back in the day. (Please don’t tell me that you are old enough to have worn modern disposable diapers and are now considering cloth for your own children. Let’s all pretend that you are the same age as me. Or older! Older is fine.) They come in two flavors*: Indian and Chinese. Frankly, I only just discovered the difference between them. It seems that Indian prefolds are softer, but therefore less durable than Chinese prefolds. Both kinds cost somewhere around $1 each.

Prefolds must be used in conjunction with a diaper cover. They can be fastened with a pin, a Snappi, or you can just use the diaper cover to hold the diaper in place. Snappis are rubbery little things with teeth that hold the diapers in place by tension. Here, just look at one. They are hard to describe in words, but easy to use.

Prefold Pros: Cheap cheap cheapity cheap cheap. Remember how I said in Part I that cloth diapering costs $400-$500 at the start? Not if you use prefolds. Also, these are easy to rinse because there is no elastic to trap the… uh… particles.

Prefold Cons: Fancy diaper covers and Snappis aside, these are kind of tricky to put on a squirmy baby. Probably not as tricky as you think, but certainly much more difficult than disposables. Also, the prefold-plus-diaper cover is very bulky.

Fitted or Contoured Diapers

Contoured diapers are, well, contoured. There is no messing around with folding a square diaper into the correct shape because they are already shaped like a diaper. Fitted diapers are contoured diapers with elastic legs so that they… fit. Both fitted and contours usually also have snaps or other fastener built into the construction, so they are pretty easy to put on; they work pretty much like disposable. They are still made of only cloth, though, so just like prefolds, they must be used in conjunction with a diaper cover.

There are a lot of different brands of fitted diapers. The ones I am aware of off the top of my head are Mother-ease, Kissluvs, and Swaddlebees. They all look adorable to me, but I can’t be bothered with a diaper cover, so I’ve never used them.

Fitted and Contour Pros: These are much easier to put on a baby than a prefold. They can be made of natural (and even organic) fibers. Um. Have I mentioned I don’t use them?

Fitted and Contour Cons: They are easier to use than a prefold, but also more expensive. A quick look online gave me a range of price from about $7 - $15 each, depending on the brand. They still require a separate diaper cover, which is an extra step.

Pocket diapers

Pocket diapers are kind of like a diaper cover but with a cloth lining that makes a pocket against the waterproof material into which you stuff something absorbent. The fasteners are built in as either snaps or Velcro tabs. No diaper cover is required, but you do have to take the diapers apart to wash them.

Pocket Diaper Pros: These are very easy to use because they go on just like disposables. Absorbency can be adjusted by stuffing them with more or less material, depending on your baby’s needs. They dry very quickly.

Pocket Diaper Cons: These babies ain’t cheap. The brand I use costs $18 new. That is the only con I have though, because I love these diapers.

All-in-ones

AIO diapers are just like pocket diapers except without the pocket. There is no stuffing with absorbent material, and no diaper cover. The fasteners are built in as snaps or Velcro. Basically, these work exactly like disposables in every way except that you wash them instead of throwing them out.

All-in-one Pros: Easy easy easy easy easy. No stuffing, no diaper covers, just wash and wear. They’re also pretty trim and take up relatively little space in a diaper bag.

All-in-one Cons: These are just as pricey as pocket diapers, but they dry more slowly. The absorbency cannot be adjusted.

My reviews

We have a stash of Chinese prefolds seeing as how they are so cheap, and there have been occasions when we have used them as something other than a changing pad. They work just fine. We use Snappis, but sometimes I just let the diaper cover hold the diaper on. As for diaper covers, we have three each of the small, medium and large Bummis Super Whisper Wraps. I also tried a Pro-Wrap, but I hated it. I think the Bummis are worth the extra money because they stay in place much better and because there are places to fasten the Velcro tabs while washing them. My advice is to just buy a bunch of prefolds and a couple of diaper covers even if you’re planning to use one of the other types. They are cheap and come in very handy in an emergency.

As I said above, I love our pocket diapers. Currently, we use bumGenius One Size, and yes, the “One Size” does mean that they fit babies for their whole diaper-wearing life. I know that Maggie had issues putting them on her SMALL BABY back in the day, but I secretly think that they probably would have worked even if they did look ridiculous. And so far, Jack has not outgrown them. So that is another benefit of these particular pocket diapers: they are three times as cheap as diapers that come in three sizes.

We also used FuzziBunz pocket diapers when Jack was a newborn. I liked them well enough, but I had two complaints. First, they fasten with discrete snaps instead of the continuum that is Velcro, and sometimes Jack was in between snap settings. I also think the snaps would be harder to fasten on squirmy one-year-old Jack, but that wasn’t an issue for newborn Jack who lacked the gross motor skills to squirm. Second, they come in small, medium and large and are therefore three times as expensive as the BGOSes. Otherwise I liked them.

I can’t tell you a thing about fitted or contour diapers. I think I have one Mother-ease One Size that I bought on Ebay in Jack’s closet, but it seemed ridiculously huge when he was new, and then we got into a rhythm with the bumGeniuses, so I have still never tried it.

We also have five bumGenius AIOs in medium and five in large. (We didn’t need any smalls because of the FuzziBunzes**.) I like using the AIOs when I’m out and about, because they take up less room in the bag, but also because it is kind of gross to take apart the pocket diapers when they are wet and cold. I don’t know why wet and warm is less disgusting, but there you go.

There are plenty of other brands of pocket diapers and AIOs out there, but I was drowning in a sea of diapering choices, so I just picked one. Well, I picked a few. What I actually did was buy a few each of the different kinds and try them out before ordering a whole supply, and that is my advice to you. Unless you are going to use prefolds, the best diaper for your baby is going to depend on what shape your baby is, as some diapers are better for chubby little pudgy legs, and others are best for skinny little chicken legs.

I should also mention that there are mysterious wool diaper covers available for people who use diapers that require covers. Apparently, wool is waterproof, but only if you treat it with lanolin? Or something? I don’t really understand the wool diaper covers, but they are an option for those of you interested in natural fibers. The BG diapers have PUL on the outside, which is a synthetic waterproof material.

For reviews of diapers all the other diaper brands out there that I haven’t tried, check out diaperpin.com. It is a fantastic resource.

Places I have bought cloth diapering stuff (in no way a complete list of places out there):
Cotton Babies
Zannadu
Jillian’s Drawers
Wildflower Diapers
Ebay***

Coming tomorrow: Part III in which I explain how to wash the diapers. (Short version: Rinse poop into toilet. Put in washing machine. Wash.)

*In proofing this post, it occurs to me that maybe “flavor” is not the best word choice when describing diapers.

**The brand names are a benefit of cloth diapering that I have so far neglected to mention.

***Gently used bumGenius and FuzziBunz diapers sell for almost full price on Ebay, so be careful if you’re buying. If you’re selling, more power to you!


Manifesto Part I: Why cloth?
Manifesto Part III: Washing the diapers
Manifesto Part IV: Accessorize!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cloth Diapering Manifesto: Part I

When people hear that we use cloth diapers, they assume that The Husband and I are either crazy tree-hugging hippies, saintly all-suffering martyrs, or both. Neither is actually the case. Sure, there’s a little bit of tree-hugger in both of us, and, who am I to deny sainthood when it is bestowed upon me? But the truth is that using cloth diapers is not a big deal. Honest.

I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of cloth diapers here because it has been done, but I will tell you that The Husband and I chose to use cloth mainly because of their reduced environmental impact compared to disposable. We consider the cost benefit and the promised quickening of potty training to be happy bonuses.

When I first started researching cloth diapers however, I was completely and totally overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of different types of diapers out there. I was also quite stunned by the prices, because the initial outlay of money, assuming you purchase fancy diapers instead of old-fashioned prefolds, is about $400 - $500. So although cloth saves money in the long run – especially if the diapers are used for more than one kid – it sort of hurts to start up.

But once we got used to the idea of them costing about eighteen times as much as the prefolds, The Husband and I decided that the fancy diapers were worth it. This is The Husband and I are lazy lazy lazy, and the fancy diapers are at least eighteen times easier to use.

So endeth Part I. In Part II, I will explain the different types of diapers and give you my mini-reviews. But right now, I have to hem my jeans. This is because I bought a new pair of jeans on Sunday. They seemed to fit in the store, bringing the grand total of pants that fit me to a thrilling 1. But I discovered today after that after two wearings the jeans stretch a bit which causes them to sag a bit and, lo, they are way too long. I did not notice they were too long in the dressing room because I was just so excited that they fit at the top, but I can’t wear them like this unless I wear heels every day. Don’t think I didn’t consider that.

Why don’t I take them to a tailor you ask? Well, because the tailor is closed on Wednesdays, and I work on Thursdays and Fridays, and I just can’t wait until next Tuesday to have pants that fit. One pair! I just want one pair of pants that fit!*

Wish me Godspeed, because I don’t have a sewing machine and I’ve never done this before.

*This is a lie. I want at least three pairs.

Manifesto Part II: Diaper types
Manifesto Part III: Washing the diapers
Manifesto Part IV: Accessorize!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Blink blink blink…

Damn you, cursor. Why must you blink at me so persistently?

Check back tomorrow for the first installment of my cloth diapering manifesto.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Not just geek humor, bad geek humor

Every time I try to type or say "NaBloPoMo," it comes out as "NanoBloPoMo." In noting this, I said, "That's when you have to write really tiny entries every day for a month!" The Husband replied, "Yeah! And it's held in February, because February is the shortest month!"

And oh, our sides. They were splitting.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Dear Jack,

Every single morning for your entire life, you have started the day by getting your pants changed and THEN having some milk. Every morning! You always get the milk. Have we ever denied you the milk?

So why, then, do you insist upon moaning and wailing and gnashing your teeth as though waiting two extra minutes for the milk is causing you to waste away before our very eyes?

Love,
Mama (the one with the milk)

PS While I have your attention, if you don't want the banana disks I offer you, there is no need to snatch them up and throw them on the floor. Just don't take the banana disks! You're killing me!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Some things

So I signed up for NaBloPoMo at the last possible minute, and now I have to post every day. Every day! Even though I am tired! And a wee bit tipsy! Because The Husband and I went out for a fancy dinner for our 4 year anniversary! And I just spelled that "anniversrary" which means I am actually slurring my typed words. So here I am, posting. But if you think I am going to post something coherent, you have another think coming. (I said "another think" on purpose, because it is funny to me.)

***

When I'm driving and let someone cross the street in front of my car, and out of courtesy the person runs so as to minimize the amount of time I have to wait, it amuses me to think to myself, "Yeah, you BETTER run."

***

Emily asked for some help finding shoes that "might be cute for upcoming holiday parties and a date night or two," and I recommended these, and she wants to get them in gray! Instead of red! So you should all leave her comments telling her that she is crazy, because I am way too emotionally invested in her shoe purchase, and I need her to get the red ones.

***

Speaking of shoes, I have been commissioned to find Maggie a pair of black heels, because Maggie has no black heels! I know! And although the implication there is that Maggie asked me to help her find shoes, the truth is that she admitted to having no black heels and I very pushily started taking over because I like telling people what to do. And also because it would appear that I have a bizarre interest in other people's footwear.

***

Arwen linked to me yesterday, but this time she was complaining about a post of mine in which I expressed my concerns that I was creating a monster baby, addicted to being rocked to sleep. She said that when she read that post, she sort of wanted to smack me. But I am not offended, because, as I reread that post, I also sort of wanted to smack me. When I think of the energy I wasted worrying about things that were not problems, energy I could have spent on researching shoe purchases for other people, I could weep.

***

And that is all for tonight, my friends. Tomorrow I have to go to a baby shower in Maine, but I will try to put together something a bit better than this for my post. One can always hope.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's one of those posts again

Jack is teething again, and it’s having an effect on his digestion. Yesterday, I asked The Husband if Jack’s morning diaper was poopy or not, because the best days are the days that Jack poops once, and The Husband cleans it up. The Husband may not agree with me here, but he’s wrong.

“Yes, of course it was,” said The Husband.

“Was it all gross?” I asked, because for the past several days it’s been… not normal.

“Yes, it was gross and sticky like it has been lately,” he said. Then he added, “But I don’t want to have a conversation about the consistency of Jack’s poop.”

“I hate to break it to you, but we just did.”

***

On a completely unrelated note, The Husband is currently playing pinball on the computer, and I feel the need to tell you all that I once scored over nine million on computer pinball. Nine million! And when you get a score that high, the gravity goes wonky. It’s very cool.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Of clocks and snakes and zombies

Today Jack and I went to The Christmas Tree Shop to buy some Thanksgiving decorations, and there was a display of about twenty or thirty clocks on the wall. Knowing his love for clocks, I turned the cart around so he could see them and said, “Look, Jack! Clocks!”

He looked at the clocks, and then turned back to me with an expression that clearly said, “And your point is?” I shrugged and we headed off to the registers which were located in front of the store’s own clock, a sad solitary, lonely one on the wall. And what do you think I heard but an excited “Cok!” complete with vigorous pointing.

Jack has also been saying “cok” every time the clock in the dining room chimes for many days now, but it was not until dinner tonight that I realized he is also humming the chime song. I will pause now while the adorableness of that sinks in.

In other news, yesterday I taught him what Eskimo kisses are and he gave them to me all day whenever I asked. Tragically, he won’t any more. I think I wore it out. He also now knows what snakes and gorillas say, so I can add those to the list.

I’m really enjoying Jack’s newfound communication skills. He quite clearly understands the bulk of what we say to him; we have had to spell “cookie” for weeks now. When I call his name after he’s been quiet for awhile, he toddles over and looks at me as if to say, “Yeah?” The other night, The Husband told him to go get his blanket and come over to him, and he did! And at dinner we had an entire conversation about the clock and how it chimes. Granted, the conversation was basically, “Clock! Doo doo doo dooo! Clock!” but still. It was a conversation. He’s like an actual person now!

Next up: What a zombie says. (Braainnnssss!)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

His own daughter does not even blink at his scary booming voice

My brother has five sisters and no brothers. (Pause while the internet says, “Oh, the poor guy!” with a sort of bemused smile on its face.) And now I say to you: Poor guy – schmoor guy. His childhood was just fine. We are not all that difficult to live with, and now my sister-in-law is blessed with a husband who has shared a single bathroom with five sisters, three of whom were teenagers, and therefore, no matter how much time she spends in the bathroom it seems like no time at all to my brother.

Growing up, I, as the youngest, had an advantage over my brother. I got to start trouble with near-immunity, because he was six years older than me and was supposed to know better than to respond to my provocations. He got back at me for this, however, by doing that thing where he would mock me while holding me at bay with his hand on my head so that I could not reach him. Those of you out there who have older brothers know just how infuriating this is, I am sure. And those of you out there who are older brothers are probably smiling and nodding at your fond memories.

Oh, who am I kidding; there are no older brothers reading this site. I lost any remaining male readers when I posted the video.

Anyway. My brother had a special relationship with Big Sister #3, one year his junior. He could not resist teasing her at any and every opportunity. He knew exactly what to do and say to get a rise out of her, and she never failed to take the bait.

There was one time, for example, when my brother was sitting at on the floor at the coffee table, ostensibly doing his homework. Big Sister #3 was in the chair, and my mother was in the dining room. I was probably watching TV, because I watched a lot of TV. All was peaceful, until Big Brother cried out, “Mo-om! Big Sister #3 sat on my legs!”

“I DID NOT!” yelled Big Sister #3, and everyone looked over at Big Brother only to find that he had taken off his tube socks, flattened them out, and arranged his shoes to look like his feet were still in them.

While I’m telling stories about my brother, I would like to take this opportunity to record the existence of ATAL for the sake of posterity. ATAL stood for “All-terrain attack lemon.” ATAL came into being one night when we were having fish for dinner, and the lemon juice that comes in a plastic lemon was out on the table. For some reason unknown to mere mortals, Big Brother was inspired to drive the lemon around the table – and over Big Sister #3’s plate – making “vroom vroom” and “beep beep” noises. He also attempted to fire lemon juice at Big Sister #3, and she, of course, was annoyed by this.

I’ve had these recollections rattling around in my head for some time now, but I was finally spurred to post them here after my brother called me tonight to apologize for something. On Saturday, The Husband and I were visiting my brother and his family. They have a gas fireplace which can be turned on with a switch, so when Big Brother saw Jack wandering towards it, he shouted, “NO!” in a scary booming voice. Jack, of course, burst into tears and was inconsolable until we gave him a cider doughnut. (You try crying while eating a cider doughnut. It’s impossible.)

Neither The Husband nor I thought anything further about the incident, unless you count our being amused by it on the way home. Of course Big Brother shouted “No!” at Jack. Jack was heading towards the fireplace, and Jack is most certainly not allowed to touch fireplaces. Big Brother, however, has apparently been losing sleep over the fact that he made Jack cry, and had to call to apologize to me again.

I always knew my brother was a softie, but I had no idea he had such a sensitive soul.

Monday, November 05, 2007

(Insert clever title here)

Tonight I went to a Tae Kwon Do class for the first time in over four years.

Ouch.

The Husband and I used to practice Tae Kwon Do; we’re both blue belts, but I’ll be honest, he could wipe the floor with me. (I win at air hockey though, lest you forget.) He used to take classes at a studio in the town where he lived, and I practiced with a club at the university. My classes were free. Sadly, we had to stop when we got married because we couldn’t afford to pay for both of us to go to classes. We miss it.

So last week I decided to call the academy near our house to find out how much the classes cost. The master didn’t tell me, though; instead he offered to let us each take a class and see how we like it. And that brings us to the reason I’m typing this incredibly dull entry whilst lying on the couch nursing my aching back. I went to my free class tonight, and I loved it, but four years off from TKD didn’t do me any favors.

Unfortunately, The Husband and I realized when I got home from class that this is not going to work, not if we hope to see each other for more than fifteen minutes a day. So when we finally discover that the classes will be too expensive for us, it will not be a terrible blow.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Polly want a go-kuh?

Yesterday, Jack asked me for a cracker. It was actually pretty cool. Although “cracker” has been a part of his vocabulary for a few weeks now, but usually he just says it when he’s pointing out the cracker. But this time we were in the living room and there were no crackers in sight. So we went into the kitchen and I got him a cracker. It was lucky for him, though, that he asked me for the cracker, because Jack has a fairly unique pronunciation of the word. It’s sort of “go-kuh,” and I am the only person in the world who understands what he’s saying.

Jack’s vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds these days. Today I discovered that our hard work on what a gorilla says has paid off when he waved his arms around in the general vicinity of his chest and said, “Aaaa!” He also has his own word for water; it’s “Ahhhhhh!” because that’s what you say after you’ve had a refreshing sip of water. He still says “clock,” and we still talk about clocks quite a lot. We point out all the clocks in the house. We comment on the clock when it chimes. We find clocks in other houses and at the doctor’s office and wherever we go. And today, when The Husband took the clock off the wall to change the time, he completely blew Jack’s mind. The clock! The clock! Clockclockclockclockclock!

I just reread the last paragraph to see if I liked the way it turned out, and I would like to take a moment to comment on a strange phenomenon. What is it about babies that makes people say things like, “Are we tired?” or “We have to go to the pediatrician today to get our shots,” or “We finally learned what a gorilla says!” Seriously, what has happened to me? When did I develop the speech patterns of a pushy nurse from a bad sitcom?

Jack says lots of other words too, and because it’s getting late and I only have a few minutes left of working brain cells due to the fact that we seem to be getting a new tooth and we are therefore feeling cranky and clingy and tiring out our mama, I am going to wind this entry up with a list of words Jack currently says. You don’t have to read this part.

clock (cok)
No (noooo)
water (ahhhh!)
duck (da)
What is that, please? (da?)
May I have some of that? (da!) (“da” is tonal)
Balloon (boon) (technically, he’s only said this on one day)

Animal sounds Jack makes
Moo (mmmm)
Meow (owww)
Tweet (weeweeweewee!)
Woof (woo)
Quack (dadada! With hand gestures from “5 Little Ducks” song)
Bunny face
Elephant trumpeting
Gorilla chest thumping

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A shot in the dark

On a trip to Cape May in 2003, The Husband and I played some skee ball, because I have a general rule to play skee ball whenever given the opportunity. It is similar to my rule of playing air hockey whenever possible. The difference is that, while I just play skee ball for fun, I play air hockey to WIN. I am really good at air hockey.

But, as there were no air hockey tables to be found in Cape May, we were forced to stick to skee ball. We decided to save up our tickets for the whole week and get a good prize. Maybe even a back scratcher! On our last night, we pooled our tickets and scanned the prize counter to see what we could afford. Five minutes later, we were the proud owners of a superball and a shot glass silkscreened with the words “Cape May” and a picture of a lighthouse.

That shot glass inspired us, and we decided to start a collection of shot glasses from every place we visited. It seemed like a great idea; shot glasses were small, cheap, and useful! About fourteen trips later, I started to have second thoughts about our plan. We had just moved into our new house, and displaying twenty shot glasses in our formal dining room didn’t quite achieve the look I was going for. I was trying to go for “classic contemporary,” not so much “frat house.”

So it’s just as well that the collection has stagnated, as we no longer go anywhere. I relocated the shot glasses to the more casual china hutch in the kitchen, and they made fabulous practice cups for Jack. The whiskey really seems to calm him down.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Dosage

So. Jack turned one last Wednesday. I made a little movie about it, in case you haven’t seen it yet.

What I’m trying, but failing to do here, is segue smoothly into mentioning that my video was Dosed by Amalah. For those of you unaware of who Amalah is, trust me when I tell you that this was big deal. Very big. I checked my stats about every 30 seconds after she dosed me, and by the day’s end, I had easily tentupled my average daily pageloads. Tentupled! And that’s not even a real word! I’m still kind of reeling from the excitement of it all.

But what’s that you say? I haven’t told you anything about Jack’s birthday party? Let me remedy that immediately.

It was a low-key party. Just my and The Husband’s immediate families and their children came, so there were only about 30 people. You know, just a small gathering. The theme of the party was “Hey! Let’s all have some cake!” Plus hats.

Jack got to experience a few new things as well, and based on his newfound love of potato chips, pizza, cake and ice cream, I think we can all rest assured that he is truly my son.

Why have you kept pizza from me for so long?

I made two cakes because 30 people eat more than one cake, especially when those 30 people are from my family. We are a dessert people. When my mother-in-law saw the layer cake, she asked, quite innocently, “What kind of frosting is that with the brown speckles in it?” Sadly, that frosting was plain vanilla with pieces of ripped up chocolate cake spread throughout. Tell me, internet, what is the secret to frosting a cake so that it does not get all torn up? I always thought this problem was due to my not letting the cake cool properly, but I baked the cakes on Friday night and didn’t frost them till Saturday morning, so I’m at a loss.

Nevertheless, the layer cake appeared to be a success.

What is this you are bringing to me?


I find it to be acceptable.

Yes! Let's all have some cake!

The party was not actually Jack’s first taste of ice cream, but it was the first time he got to do this with it:

Ice cream is a very complex fluid you know. I believe it is non-Newtonian.

Everyone was very generous, and Jack received some lovely presents. Big Sister #2, for example, bought him two books, one of which was the same book she bought him for his baptism*. It is a really good book, though. His paternal grandparents, in typical fashion, bought him about fifty gazillion things. He hasn’t had a chance to play with all of them yet, but he certainly enjoys being pulled around in the sled. He equally enjoys the two corn popper push toys he got. He doesn’t push them, though, he just likes to stand them up so they balance. He also got a toy drill that talks, and he wants to like it, but he really prefers that someone else hold it while it’s making all that noise.

But mostly, he likes to carry around his socks from one room to another. Or a wooden spoon.

Wooden spoons rock.

*This incident reminded Big Sister #1 of the year she bought Big Sister #3 the People MagazinePeople, board game. It was a perfect gift in theory, because Big Sister #3's idea of nirvana is a Diet Coke, a People, and E! on in the background. Unfortunately, we discovered that the game was really awful when we tried to play it, and we never tried again. That’s probably why Big Sister #1 forgot about it and bought it for her again the next year.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Objection! Hearsay!

I often catch myself making sweeping statements about legal procedure before realizing that, in fact, all of my legal knowledge comes from watching episodes of Law and Order.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Searching for Mr. Pickles

This is Mr. Pickles.

MrPickles
This is Mr. Pickles's brother, Mr. Pickles.

BroMrPickles
This is Mr. Pickles, and Mr. Pickles's brother, Mr. Pickles.

MrPicklesAndBro
Mr. Pickles entered my life on Easter, 1998. My mother had placed a few of these tiny yellow chickens in the Easter lily, and, because I kept talking about how adorable they were, she sent one of them back to college with me. At the time, I was sharing a house with four of my friends. Somehow, a game evolved in which one of us would hide the chicken somewhere unexpected, say a cereal box, and let the owner of said cereal box discover the chicken later. Sometimes, it would be several days before the unsuspecting owner of the cereal box would find the chicken - maybe she had bagels for breakfast instead - but it was absolutely crucial to avoid any and all questions about the chicken, even seemingly innocent questions such as, "So... have you had any cereal lately? Don't you want to have some now?" The Chicken Game relied on the element of surprise.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "What a stupid game." But see, you're only thinking that because you've never experienced the joys of finding a small yellow chicken peeking up out of your cereal, or hiding in the medicine chest, or secreted away in your coat pocket. The Chicken Game is awesome.

I brought The Chicken Game with me to grad school and played it with my roommate during my first year. Then, once I joined the lab, I started playing it with my lab mates. That's when Mr. Pickles earned his name. By that point, my mother - a big fan of The Chicken Game - had given me lots of new chickens, and I had two of them on my shelf in the lab. "They need names," said The Doktah, (of course it was The Doktah) and she came up with "Mr. Pickles," for the simple reason that "pickles" is an inherently funny word. Pickles pickles pickles. See? As for Mr. Pickles's brother, Mr. Pickles, I outright stole his name from the Sesame Street characters "Mr. Noodle and Mr. Noodle's brother, Mr. Noodle" because that is comic genius, my friends. Comic genius.

So. Now you know who Mr. Pickles is. And every Easter, I stock up on packages of Mr. Pickleses so that I can continue to play The Chicken Game with my friends and family. Currently, there are two wine glasses full of Mr. Pickleses in my china hutch*. As long as I have extra Mr. Pickleses, I am free to leave Mr. Pickleses here and there as I go through life, in places like a friend's bathroom, or Muffet Niece's pillow. With a stockpile of Mr. Pickleses, I can also mail a Mr. Pickles to one of my college housemates or to The Doktah, if the mood strikes me.

If you're lucky, maybe I'll mail one to you.

*Where do you suggest I keep them?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

One year

A lot can happen in a year. Heck, a lot can happen in six months, as evidenced by my experiences from July to December, 2003, when I had my appendix out, got evicted, moved twice, wrote my thesis, got married, moved again, and defended my thesis to earn my Ph.D.

But the events of 2003 do not hold a candle to what has happened to our family since October 24, 2006, because that was the day Jack joined me and The Husband here on the outside. It's almost impossible to understand that the toddler currently doing laps around the dining room table is the same being that lay his little head down on my chest that October night. He wasn't crying, he was just gazing up at me with his huge blue eyes as if to say, "Hi. Who are you? I'm hungry." And life hasn't been the same since.

So happy birthday, Jack. You're going to love cake.


Jack: Year One from Maureen on Vimeo.

Music: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Idea for video: Stolen from Amalah

Sunday, October 21, 2007

We interrupt this broadcast for a Muppet News Flash

I have two items of fantastic news. First, Desitin does, in fact, come out. I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief there. Of course, if this bizarre 75-80 degree October weather keeps up, the fact that I have only 3 long-sleeved shirts will not matter.

Second, and, I'm sure we will all agree, no less important, The Doktah has given birth to a beautiful, if slim, baby girl! She's 6 pounds something and 20 inches long! (The baby, not The Doktah.) Everyone is doing as well as can be expected, which is to say that The Doktah sounded a bit weepy on the phone. But all reports agree that the baby is adorable.

The bad news here is that the Moby wrap I bought for The Doktah as a baby gift is currently sitting on my dining room table. But, in my defense, the baby is one week early.

Yes, I'll be mailing it toute suite.

Congratulations, The Doktah and Mr. The Doktah!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

And we've moved this box at least twice.

The Husband was looking for a ruler, any ruler, any one of our several rulers, but they have apparently all disappeared into the ether. Maybe they've slipped through a wormhole and are living on a planet in a dimension uniquely suited to the ruler lifestyle, somewhere near the Byro planet.

At any rate, I tried to help him and decided to look in the cabinet of the desk. The cabinet which I had completely forgotten existed. An although I found no rulers, I found all kinds of interesting stuff. What was it? Well, I'm glad you asked!

1. Our film camera. That's where that is!
2. About fifty 3.5 inch floppy disks. Clearly these contain critical data. I bet one of them is my Engineering 101 project from freshman year in college.
3. A plastic stand-alone drawer full of receipts from 2003 from a short-lived bout of determined organization combined with an obsessive-compulsive urge to save all receipts for a month.
4. About thirty zip disks. Remember zip disks?
5. A box labeled "knick-knacks" which is itself a treasure trove of hilarious artifacts. Namely:

a. A jewelers box containing a cheap shell necklace that was clearly a free gift from the airline that took us to Hawaii in 2004.
b. A baggie of nails and mysterious little wooden dowel caps.
c. A pink paper bag of new buttons for my black trenchcoat that I bought in Nantucket on our honeymoon in 2003.
d. Directions on how to grow a Plumeria.
e. Harry Potter glasses.
f. The "Doc" pin (Doc of the Seven Dwarfs) that I received as a gift from The Professor and Mr. The Professor.
g. A key chain with the meaning of our last name.
h. A cork.
i. A lanyard that is clearly supposed to go to something specific.
j. A broken watch.
k. Black thread.
l. White thread.
m. A tealight.
n. Seven Mr. Pickleses, which are small little chickens made out of pipe cleaner material that I have never explained on this blog, but now I will have to.
o. Two packets of extra buttons.
p. 6 drinks umbrellas from Hawaii.
q. Two drinks swords from Hawaii.
r. A small crucifix. Naturally.
s. A ridiculously out of date collection of business cards which I will not go through.
t. Look! More receipts!
u. Plane ticket stubs.
v. Store cards.
w. A "buy 10 get one free" card from the smoothie place at the food court at grad school. One hole has been punched.
x. A St. Andrew medal.
y. A pen cap.

And last but not least,
z. Three capacitors.

What? Where do you keep YOUR capacitors?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Toddling

Today I will be taking Jack to the fancy schmancy photography studio to get his one-year portrait done. This session is the last in the "baby panel" series, after which I will not be returning to the fancy schmancy photography studio. It is nothing against the pictures; the pictures are gorgeous. It is more the cost of said pictures. You see, the "baby panel" is a promotion run by this studio that includes sittings at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months and one 5x7 from each session, all for $79. Now, this is quite a deal, I have to say, even though I didn't find out about this studio until after I had already missed the 3-month session. So it is not the $79 that is the problem. It is more the cost of prints above and beyond the 5x7s that are included with the promotion.

At the 6-month portrait sitting which took place at 7-months for reasons I will discuss momentarily, I received a booklet of their package prices and I almost dropped dead from the shock. That was when I discovered that by choosing one of their packages, I could save $1700 over the cost of buying that many prints individually. I could SAVE $1700. Saving money is all well and good, but trust me, buying the prints a la carte would not come to a total of $1800.

I also found out that in order to choose the prints, The Husband and I would have to come back to a formal "viewing" where we would be shown a slide show of each picture from the session and anything we didn't choose that day would be deleted. The pressure! We tried to harden our hearts before the viewing and decided to choose only one pose for the cheapest option, 24 wallets, but naturally, we caved and bought two poses divided among one 8x10, one 5x7 and 8 wallets, because adding the 5x7 to the wallets was only $50 more and adding a second pose and the 8x10 was only $50 more on top of that, and that's practically the same price, really, when you think about it, I mean, the 8x10 is practically free, and how could we possibly be expected to choose just one pose of our adorable child?

But why was the 6-month session a month late, you ask? Well the studio has a lot of rules. The "baby panel" is designed to be a series of photos of the baby lying down (3 months), sitting up (6 months), standing holding on (9 months) and standing unassisted (12 months). Jack, naturally, was not able to sit up unassisted at 6 months. About a week before his appointment, I called the studio to tell them he could not yet sit up, as they had requested me to do. "Oh, no," said the guy who makes the appointments. "Well, when will he be able to?" Since Jack had not informed me of his schedule, I had to tell him that I really didn't know. "Well, let's just schedule for next month and hope," said the man at the studio, and we did. Fortunately, Jack got his act together in time and, although he was a little tippy the day of the session, we were spared having to wait until he was almost 9-months to take the 6-month shots.

After the 9-month portrait, the photographer asked me to call as soon as he could stand up unassisted, since she did not like to take portraits of toddlers if she could avoid it. I assumed that this would not be a problem, because Jack was up on all fours rocking back and forth for at least 5 weeks before he actually managed to crawl. I figured we'd have plenty of time.

I called the studio on a Friday and left a message that Jack could stand unassisted, and we should schedule the 12-month session. They did not return my call for 3 days by which point Jack was already teetering around the house pretty skillfully. "Yeah, he's walking," I said. "Sorry. He's pretty wobbly now, but this is happening really really fast, so I imagine he'll be running by next week." The studio panicked and gave me the next available appointment, which was for last Wednesday. But once again, Jack refused to cooperate and instead came down with a cold, so we had to reschedule. That turned out to be a very good thing, however, because the morning of the original appointment, Jack fell on his face and scratched the heck out of his nose. Not something I was anxious to memorialize for eternity.

So the photographer is going to have a little adventure trying to catch Jack standing still for long enough to snap some pictures. We'll schedule the viewing, spend a bit more money than we really want to, and go to Sears or someplace for his next portrait. Because I just don't have $1700 to save.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In the meantime

I'm working on a real post, honest. It's just been difficult to keep up with the blog lately, because, and this may come as a huge shock, raising a baby is hard work! I know! No one told me either. And lately I've had to do actual work stuff at night, and I'm trying to make a year-in-review video of Jack a la Amalah, so my computer time has been accounted for. Also we've been having internet issues. (The Husband tried to explain what he did to fix it, and there was something about the router and the modem and a direct connection which bypasses the electronic whoozywhatsis and blah blah blah, and my eyes glazed over and I said, "Um, I don't actually understand any of the things you are saying. Does the internet work? Yes? Does the wireless connection? No? OK.") Also I am TIRED. Also, Jack skipped his morning nap today. SKIPPED. And then he tried to only sleep for 40 minutes in the afternoon, but I was having NONE OF THAT and rocked his little self back to sleep. One nap a day? I AM NOT READY FOR ONE NAP A DAY.

That being said, I am very sad that I have wasted the linkage from Arwen whom I was lucky enough to meet last week. Because she is not a slacker like me, she actually wrote about this meeting and linked to me twice! Arwen is an internet rockstar, so this shot the number of pageloads for those to days from my average of 30 to a record high 8 billion.* And what did all of these new readers find? The most boring page in existence. And now they'll never come back.

But now I am posting this, so if they do come back, they will find this bizarre stream-of-consciousness post about nothing in particular. Right. This is much better.

Edited to add
Also also, today I got a huge glob of Desitin on my shirt, and I ONLY HAVE THREE SHIRTS. Does Desitin come out? It probably never comes out. (This is true if the word "shirt" implies a shirt that is not a sad sack of faded, shapeless cotton. If you count the sad sacks of faded, shapeless cotton, I have at least six shirts.)

*I was going to quote the actual numbers here, but Statcounter won't load up. Did Statcounter go out of business or something? Why won't Statcounter load up? How am I supposed to keep track of the 7 people who read my blog?