Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The times, they are a-changin'

Well, lots of things have been happening 'round these parts, Internet. My parents, for example, finally, finally sold their house. It had been on the market for THREE YEARS, people. That, my friends, is a long time to live in an open-house-ready home. A looooong time. We (meaning my sisters, brother, sister-in-law, and brothers-in-law) are all thrilled for my parents, but that doesn't change the fact that my parents are moving out of the home they have lived in for 37 years, the house that was my home for the first 24 years of my life, and I went there for the last time ever last Wednesday. That evening, as I was bundling Jack into his car seat, I felt like there should be some sort of grand ceremony marking the the last time I was ever to set foot in my childhood home, but there was only my own shouting through the kitchen windows for someone to come move Big Sister #4's car. So while I am filled with relief on my parents' behalf that their three-year ordeal is over, I can't help but feel a little sad. This is because I am against change. All change. Even change for the better. Back in my day, we didn't HAVE change, and we LIKED it.

I am, of course, lying, because there is another change occurring right now that I am in love with. I am a little bit afraid to discuss it because I don't want to jinx* anything, but Jack has undergone a Sleep Renaissance. About three weeks ago, Jack started waking up every night and requiring two hours of holding and rocking before going back to sleep. Then he started taking longer and longer to go to sleep at bedtime, keeping me stuck in his room rocking and singing for an hour or more. And finally, in exhausted desperation at 10:00 one Tuesday night, I decided to let him cry for 15 minutes so I could lie down for just a little while. Then I gave him 15 more because he was tapering off. At the 31-minute mark, just as I was swinging my legs out of bed, he fell silent and made nary a peep until 6:30 the next morning.


The next time we had to use this technique was in the wee sma's the following Wednesday, after The Husband and I had each taken a turn rocking him for an hour. I set the timer for 31 minutes, and he yelled angrily for 11 of them, rested for 4, then let us know he was still mad, but FINE, he'd go to sleep. And he did. Until the next morning.

The night after that, he took two minutes. TWO MINUTES. I'm positive. I timed it.

Despite these obvious signals from Jack that he no longer required me to rock him to sleep, The Husband and I still planned to ease him into this new routine, probably because I hate change. Jack, on the other hand, is all for change, and over the last week I have come around to his point of view. He's just too big to be comfortable in my arms when I rock him; he needs his bed. So now for naps, bedtime, and any night-wakings, I rock and sing for a few minutes, then I put him in his crib and shut the door on my way out. He usually yells for a minute or two, and that's it.

The part I can't stop discussing with The Husband is how sometimes he falls silent mid-yell. I'm used to babies whose cries slowly taper off as they settle down to bed, but about 25% of the time, Jack says, "Aaaaaaauuuuggghhhh! Aaaaaaauuuuggghhhh! Aaaaaaauuuuggghhhh! Aaaaa-..... (silence)." It is extremely bizarre. The other part I can't stop discussing with The Husband is how unbelievably awesome this new system is. I know how long it is going to take to put him to bed for the night! Where I used to have only about 75% assurance that I'd be out of his room in 40 minutes or so, I'm now positive. And of course I realize that sometimes he'll wake back up or have a bad night or whatever, but this life is so much better than before. The odds that I will be stuck in his room for hours are next to nothing, because whatever the case, I'm going to have at least 31 minutes off.

Even better, Jack is obviously much happier. There was one morning during the weeks of bad sleep where I found him in the morning with dark, dark circles under his eyes. The poor child looked like he'd been up all night chasing No-Doz with shots of espresso. There are few things sadder to see. But these days, he's active, alert, chatty, and smiley**. And he knows the right answer to "Where's Mama?" even though he refuses to prove it for an audience. Ah, yes, life is good.

Dear God, I hope I didn't jinx it.

*My belief in jinxes is an interesting little idiosyncrasy, because I am not superstitious, and I am very disdainful of people who are. I'm a scientist! Superstitions aren't real! I am the type of person who demands to see a data set tracking the number of odd occurrences at different times of the month when someone attributes weird behavior to a full moon. I will always point out that people just count to three and then start over in response to the claim that bad things happen in threes. I walk laughingly under ladders in the house with my umbrella up while smashing mirrors and spilling salt, but when someone says, "Well, at least it can't get any worse," I cry out, "Shut up! Do you want to jinx it?" Because, apparently, I am also the type of person who is a hypocrite.

**And his smiles involve four teeth! Yes! The top two teeth I've been talking about for months have finally broken through! In an unrelated note, I find that a cool washcloth is wonderfully soothing to tiny teeth marks on my nipples.

Monday, August 20, 2007

He and I lead different lives

Things Jack is afraid of: The hairdryer, the vacuum

Things that The Husband is unaware Jack is afraid of: The hairdryer, the vacuum

(In defense of The Husband) Things Jack is probably afraid of but I wouldn't know: The table saw, the router

Things I sort of wish Jack were afraid of because then I'd have an excuse: Paintbrushes

Friday, August 17, 2007

We have learned NOTHING

Tomorrow, someone is coming to our house. This person is bringing a contract for us to sign. This contract will say that we are hiring this person to knock down our horsehair plaster kitchen walls and replace them with drywall and wainscoting. (Yes! We're finally getting the wainscoting!)

Somebody hold me.

1. When it is over, our disgusting kitchen walls will be gone and we will have shiny new walls that are not covered in grease stains.
2. I am not pregnant.
3. There is no plumbing involved.
4. We are hiring professionals who will work during the day and will not have a full time job doing something else.

1. For "three weeks*," kitchen cabinets will once again be scattered around the house.
2. I have a mobile baby who will probably be walking by the time this actually takes place.
3. Electric work is involved.
4. We are hiring professionals who cost a hell of a lot more than The Husband and my brother.

All in all, the pros outweigh the cons, because the kitchen, it is awful. It makes me cry. I actually hated the kitchen more than I hated the old bathroom, and remember the old bathroom? With the gross crumbly grout and the ugly wallpaper and the soap dispenser?

The kitchen is worse.

So, new walls! Yay! But weeks of construction on our kitchen with a baby in the house! Boo! And also, we have to choose a paint color or else figure out whether we should paint the cabinets to go with the yellow that we already picked out but which, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit does not actually complement the cabinets. Should we do that? Should we paint them? I think we should do that, but what color?

Next year, we plan to refinish our floors. Because apparently, we enjoy suffering.

*Or so they claim at the moment. I expect six weeks, because we have learned a few things after all.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mama? I know not this, "Mama."

Attention, Internet! Achtung! Achtung!*

Jack can say "clock." Granted, it is a distorted version of "clock" that is closer to "cok" and occasionally just "kuh," but he consistently identified the kitchen clock as a "kuh" or "cok" many times this afternoon. And I successfully recorded it as proof. He also unfailingly pointed to the clock when asked where the clock was. Whether this will continue after he wakes up from his nap is unknown, because he no longer raises his hand and squeals when I ask him who the best baby is even though he seemed to have that down last week.

This clock thing is interesting for a couple of reasons. The most significant is that I feel like I've only told him what the clock is a few times, whereas I am constantly telling him what the fan is, but he can't say fan and is also unsure of the proper response when I ask him where it is. The other interesting reason is that he knows where the clock is, and he knows where daddy is (provided he's in the room), and he recognizes the SIGN for "daddy," but the syllables "mama" have no meaning for him WHATSOEVER.

Here's how it goes in our house. "Jack, where's the clock?" (points to clock, possibly says "cok.")

"Where's daddy?" (looks over at The Husband)

"Where's the fan?" (gets expression on his face indicating that he feels he should know this one, the fan, the fan, it's somewhere in the room...)

"Where's mama?" (blank stare)


*As I was writing this entry, I had a flashback to the summer I interned at a chemical company in Germany even though I don't speak German. Every Friday there was a test of the emergency alert system, and there would be a alarm followed by a woman's voice calmly saying, "Achtung, achtung. Sprechen ziety scmesty oiken. Blah blah blahbitten blechen." Except the part after "Achtung" probably wasn't spelled like that and didn't even sound like that and was apparently some sort of instruction about how to get out of the building**. Or something.

**In an orderly manner, undoubtedly. I was in Germany.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I particulary disliked U-571

Before I had a baby, I considered myself to be a pretty empathetic person. I couldn’t stand to watch war movies, for example, not even war movies about fictional people, because those things have happened to someone, somewhere, at some point, and why can’t we all just get along? Most significantly, when I used to hear news items about children being harmed in some way, I would of course be appalled and make “tsk” noises to myself while feeling terribly sorry for the victims and their parents. But then I would forget about it an go make dinner. Or, more likely, eat the dinner The Husband had made for me.

It’s different now.

I knew, of course, that having a baby would change the way I saw things, but I was unprepared for how I felt upon learning, to take one recent example, that some children had died after their parents administered medicine tainted with glycerin. I immediately – and involuntarily – imagined how I would feel had I given my child medicine that turned out to be poisonous, and I almost threw up.

It’s not as though I obsessively worry over every horrifying thing that might happen to Jack; on the contrary, I consider myself to be a pretty relaxed mom, willing to roll with the punches, and able to stay calm when he falls down and bonks his head. But when I am confronted with true-life stories about babies hurt despite the best efforts of their parents, my stomach clenches up and I have a little trouble breathing for a second or two. It really is like having a piece of myself out there crawling around, and the thought of him being seriously harmed, especially at my own hands as in the case of the tainted medicine, is so horrifying as to be unbearable.

I know that The Husband feels the same way. While we were watching the news recently, a story about a sick baby came on, and we both fell silent. “You’re imaging how it would be if that were Jack, aren’t you?” I asked him, and he nodded, a sick look on his face.

So is this the rest of my life? I guess so, right? I suppose I’ll eventually have the relief of knowing that we are no longer 100% responsible for his health, nutrition, safety and development, but that will bring with it the problem that we will no longer be 100% in control of his health, nutrition, safety and development. Eventually, he’ll be responsible for his own self, and he’ll even have the right to fly in an Ultra-light Trike if he wants to. Or – frightening thought – a hang glider.

I do not mean to imply that parenthood is a depressing downward spiral of worry. Not at all. Just that the joys of parenthood come packaged with a slew of very surprising, very intense emotions. Intense emotions and the unexpected ability to act as a jungle gym, should the need arise. Which it does. Often.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Save the milk! The MILLLLLKKKKK!

Yesterday, when I took my nightly "sip" of The Husband's daily Coke, I noticed that it was not really all that cold. This was odd, because he had just removed it from our only two-year-old Maytag refrigerator. You know, the brand of appliances that portrays the really bored repair guy on the commercials? Because he has no work to do? Because their appliances so rarely break down?

I commented on its lack of coldness. "Well, it was in the door, closest to the part that opens, and you've been going in and out of the fridge and it's hot out," he replied. So I didn't worry about it.

Those of you smart enough to pick up on my incredibly subtle foreshadowing probably know that I should have worried about it, because this morning we discovered that the fridge is not so much keeping things cold. Nothing beats throwing the baby into the car to make an ice run at 7 in the morning! But I did get to the store and moved the daily-use stuff into the cooler with some ice, and called my friendly neighbors to ask if they had space in their fridge for the rest of it. Luckily, they have an extra fridge, and Mr. Neighbor even came over to help me transport all the condiments and beer. He would have done so even if I had not told him he could drink the beer if he wanted, because he's a good neighbor.

"Is that everything?" he asked.

"Yeah," I answered. "The freezer still seems to be working, so I just needed a place for our refrigerated stuff."

Then I called Sears to get an appointment with their repair service. The first available was for Friday, which is two days from now. Two hot, summer days. Fortunately, they were able to narrow the scheduling window down to "sometime between 9 and 5," so, you know, there was that to console me.

I hung up the phone and glared at the traitorous refrigerator. "At least the freezer still works," I thought. And then I thought again. What if the freezer doesn't work? What if it just takes longer to warm up because it's starting from a colder temperature? I thought about the four days' worth of breast milk I had stored in there. And then I packed it all up along with the frozen pot roast and chicken drumsticks and hustled it right over to the neighbors. Happily, they also have an extra freezer. Apparently, they need to keep lots of things cold.

When I got back, I tried calling Maytag directly to see if they could come earlier than Sears, and the oh-so-helpful automated voice menu guided me through the scheduling steps. After several painstaking, clearly enunciated menu choices, Maytag asked me for my model number, "one digit at a time." Since I am incapable of speaking all of the digits simultaneously, I assumed this meant I should pause between each digit. I assumed wrong. I got as far as "M... F..." when the phone robot interrupted me to say, "I'm sorry, I need you to give me your model number, one digit at a time. If you don't know your mode number, say 'I don't know.'" Heaving a sigh, I said, "M...F..." and the phone robot broke in again to say, "Thanks! Let me check for the next available appointment."

Needless to say, there are many more digits in the model number after "MF." And then the next available appointment was for Saturday. So I hung up on the phone robot and called a local place to see if they could come today to repair the fridge, and of course they could not. They could, however, come tomorrow, and they gave me three two-hour windows from which to choose.

Suck on that, phone robot! In your face, Sears!

To sum up: Maytag and Sears are on notice; but my neighbors are awesome. And it is too muggy to come up with a clever ending.

P.S. Can babies have nightmares? I'm pretty sure mine did last night.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

JACOB! Jacob and sons!

My cell phone recently died. As long as the battery is charged it works just fine, but it can no longer charge the battery. And since the phone is about three years old and has a rotten battery life, this flaw basically renders the phone useless. The Husband and looked into switching carriers and getting new, cooler phones, but it turns out that our current plan costs less than any plan out there and it also turns out that The Husband and I are cheap. So. No new plan.

This meant I had to get a new phone, but buying a phone without signing up for a new contract is surprisingly difficult, even if you are willing to pay the non-contract "retail" price. So, to make a long, boring story short (too late!), I ended up buying a pre-paid phone which came with 104 minutes which I decided to spend downloading ringtones and wallpapers, something I've never done before (see above, re: cheap).

Now, every time my phone rings, I find myself singing "Your Racist Friend" by They Might Be Giants a few minutes later. Not because my ringtone is "Your Racist Friend." No, it's because "Your Racist Friend" comes after "Dead" on the TMBG album Flood, and "Dead" is the track after "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," and that is my ringtone. To sum up: My phone rings to the tune of "Istanbul." I answer it, have a conversation, hang up, and start singing "I returned a bag of groceries, accidentally taken off the shelf before the expiration date!" without consciously realizing it. I finish singing "Dead" in its entirety to myself and transition into the next song: "This is where the party ends, I can't stand here listening to you! And your racist friend!" Unfortunately, I don't quite know all of the lyrics to "Your Racist Friend" and get stuck in a loop of singing the first verse to myself and only then do I realize what I am doing.

It took me about a week to realize why "Dead" was getting stuck in my head so frequently. When I finally figured it out, I was reminded of the summer I spent temping in Boston and somehow ended up singing songs from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to myself during my commute. For weeks, I could not understand where these songs were coming from every single day, but then I noticed that there was a billboard advertising the show on my route. Although I never consciously registered seeing the billboard, it was obviously having a subliminal effect on me, dooming me to a drive time ritual of singing "AND IT WAS red and yellow and ruby and gold and scarlet and peach and asher and rose and something and something and pink and orange and BLUE!"

Where does this leave me? It leaves me with the somewhat embarrassing admission that I know all the lyrics to almost every They Might Be Giants song out there as well as most of the lyrics to most Andrew Lloyd Weber musicals (not Cats, though). See, I had a recent revelation when Emily and I were having an IM session. I was telling her how I've never heard of [fill in the blank with pretty much any current musical performer], because all I ever listen to is NPR, and I added that my pop musical education has always been a bit stunted, as I "discovered" Pearl Jam in college. She asked me what I listened to in high school, and I typed, "Pretty much They Might be Giants and musicals."

Then I stared at that sentence and thought, "That can't be right. Is that right? I must have listened to something else. TMBG and musicals? That was it? Really?" and I ran through what I could recall of my tape collection in high school. Let's see, there was They Might Be Giants, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables (both French and London original cast recordings), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ, Superstar, an all a capella compilation...

Oh, Merlin's beard.

This new practice of using swears from Harry Potter is not helping my case any, is it?