Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On the Move

Charles crawled for, like, two seconds before he learned to walk.  He hated it.  At nine months, he would get up on hands and knees and scream for a few seconds, pissed off about it.  I don’t know, it was hard or something?  It wasn’t fast enough?  He was so chunky that his back muscles couldn’t hack the all-fours position?  Whatever the case, he hated crawling and would do it only begrudgingly at first - he eventually got the hang of it, but long after I began to question my fitness for motherhood.


First babies are just so awesome, amirite?  Nothing will make you feel inadequate faster.


Jamie is a much more reasonable child, it seems.  I hope that continues.


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We’ve started closing the gates at the top of the stairs, and since he can easily pull himself to standing on any item of furniture, I’m going to have to reinstall the toilet locks pretty quick-like.


He loves his mobility, and I’ll frequently set him down in one spot and then find him crawling or creeping along furniture and walls to chase me into the kitchen or the laundry room or wherever.  It’s pretty fun because he is just so stinkin’ happy about moving,


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Young James is weighing in at almost 19 pounds these days (at *gasp* almost TEN MONTHS!).  He’s a climber and loves his big brother and his daddy and his doggy something fierce.  He has two teeth and is working on more and isn’t sleeping very well.  He loves pancakes and bananas and green beans and yogurt.  He sucks his thumb, he makes lots of noise, lots of happy noise, and he has a great smile.


I’m pretty happy he’s mine.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bear Dog’s New Fence

I missed this guy this weekend:


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But Tony was building this:


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So Buster’s absence was for the best.


As homeowners, there is a laundry list of work to be done in addition to the everyday and everyweek chores that keep us clean and healthy and sane.  For us, some of this work has been forced by our dog.  He’s a good dog.  But he’s also a guard dog, one who was abused before he became ours, and one who is EXTREMELY protective of me and the kids.  Apparently he thinks Tony can handle himself.


Anyway, the fence on all sides was rotting when we bought the house.  One of Buster’s “good boy” traits is the he is not a jumper.  As such, we have been perhaps too lazy about replacing the fence.  We replaced the part that borders the street after the storm of 2007 that blew it down, and at the same time built the kennel.  Then, last summer, our neighbor, who is a house framer, rebuilt the fence between our properties.


This last side was so dead that Tony said the posts just fell apart after the fence panels came off.  If Buster were a jumper, he could have knocked them over for sure.  We clearly should have replaced the fence sooner.


One of Buster’s asshole traits, however, is that he is a barker.  And his bark is scary.  And if he thinks you are threatening him after he has barked at you, he will bite.  So it was most definitely a BAD idea to have him home during the fence rebuild – he would have been miserable in the house in 70-degree weather and he would have barked all day long while the fence was down.  This is also the reason that the fence absolutely needed to be replaced; I shudder to think what could have happened if someone (say, a high school student who thinks it’s fun to bark back at my dog, thus provoking him further) were walking by and Buster had pushed through the fence.  If he had felt threatened, he would have defended his home.


Lest you think Buster is a total waste of a dog, let me assure you, he is truly wonderful – he just has some issues.  Our friends have to go through a lengthy introduction and approval process, sure, and we don’t have parties here without locking him in the kennel for the night, but he loves us and he loves our kids.  He is funny and cuddly and a great running partner.  And we’ve got some tweaker neighbors so, honestly, I’m thankful that he is protective.  I never worry for the kids when they are left home with a babysitter.


It was so weird not having him here the whole weekend.  He boarded at a local kennel, one he loves (and the owners love him), so he was happy.  But I was super lonely.  He really is my best friend.  I was lonely in the car.  I was lonely when I went on a run.  I was lonely when I curled up on the couch in the evening.  Sigh.  For a dog that causes me so much grief, I really love the idiot.


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Thursday, April 19, 2012

The moral of this story is that Tony is a great husband.

Today I cried about a machine.


Lately, Charles has been acting out a ton.  He doesn’t listen, endures time out after time out, smack on the butt after smack on the butt, and loss of privilege after loss of privilege, but nothing seems to make much difference.  Our doctor said that he’s “pretty normal,” which I guess he is, and that “his brain doesn’t work yet.”  Meaning that he can’t reason through his emotions and his actions like an adult.


Aside: I love that our doctor says stuff like that.  It reminds me of Bill Cosby’s “Brain Damage” routine.


So because he is brain damaged, we have to reason for him, and keep explaining situations, helping him to master his reactions when things don’t go his way (which seems to be every minute sometimes), and being consistent with punishment.


For example, every morning Charles wants to do everything, all by himself.  He wants to feed the dog, get the newspaper, make the coffee, make the toast, butter the toast, get the cereal, pour the cereal, pour the milk, pour the orange juice, et cetera.  Some of these activities are not three-year-old activities and the others, well, if he got to do all of them our morning routine would last from 6:30 to 10 am every day.  But when he notices that the coffee has already been made, or the dog fed, or the newspaper brought in, he enters complete and total meltdown: “I wanted to do it!” he’ll shriek in the most horrifically whiny voice you’ve ever heard.  “No!  I wanted to do it!!!”


Lately, the only cure is a time out.  Removing him from the situation so he can cool off.  Then we can explain that he doesn’t get to do everything, that once a thing is done we are not going to undo it just so he can make the coffee or whatever, and that he isn’t allowed to yell and pitch a fit all the time.  Hoo, boy, I have this conversation every morning, it seems like.


In the evening, it’s a bit different.  Charles acts a bit crazy, hyper and out of control.  It’s as if he is grasping at the last bit of activity he can squeeze out of the dying hours of the day.  Honestly, most of the time, when Tony and I work together on bedtime, he is pretty calm and only mildly annoying (“No!  I want to put the toothpaste on the toothbrush!”  “Mommy, I wanted to wear the froggy pyjamas!”).  He works through the routine with what I imagine is the normal amount of toddler stalling and silliness until he actually gets into bed for stories, at which point he is relatively calm and most of the time goes right to sleep.  But when I’m alone?  Chaos.


Lately, he likes to run into Jamie’s room ahead of us, climb the rocking chair up to the changing table and lie down.  This makes it difficult, of course, for me to change Jamie or get him dried off after bath or whatever, so I remove Charles, usually with force.  This evening he did this little routine after bath, when Jamie was wet and in a flimsy infant towel (I don’t know why I feel the need to use those things, they’re so thin), and I shouted at him to get down, then removed him, as per usual.  By this point, Charles had already lost two stories for splashing Jamie in the face during bath, so you can tell that we weren’t exactly on a happy path here.


Then he got mad at me (I guess he had reached the end of his rope, too) and picked up my Kindle from the shelf, threw it on the floor, and rocked the rocking chair over it.  I heard a sickening crack.  Then Charles got to feel a crack on his bare butt.


It was ruined.  The screen was cracked.  Never to be read again.


I haven’t been without that Kindle for almost a year.  It was a birthday gift from my dad and father-in-law, and probably one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.  I love it.  No, really.  I love that machine.


It was white, and the older model with the full keyboard.  It had wireless and 3G.  I had all my books sorted into nifty categories.  It had my name written in blue fine-tip sharpie on the back.


I cried.


Tony, who had been working in the rain in the yard on the first chunk of a fence rebuild (awesome job for his first free weekend since February, right?  Wait for it, he gets even sweeter before this paragraph is over), saw my distress, took the dead Kindle out of my hands, and left me to put the baby to sleep (since I’m the one with the boobs).  Then, after a bit, I heard the garage door open and the car start.  I assumed he was leaving for karaoke – we had made plans with friends, but we couldn’t find a sitter, so Tony is out without me tonight – but he came back.  With a new Kindle.


He hadn’t even showered or changed before running off.


He said, “I’ve seen few things bring you so much joy as that book.”


I might’ve cried again.


It’s not as cool.  In fact, it’s the base model, with the extra advertisements and “sponsorships” and no 3G and it’s black instead of white, but it’s mine.  And as soon as it’s done charging, I can download that book I was in the middle of reading.  And maybe this time I’ll learn to keep it far away from little fingers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book List

I love to read, but of course, I don’t have much time.  For Lent I gave up an hour of reading in bed each night (I’m not Catholic, I just like to give up things for Lent).  Let’s face it, I needed the sleep more than I needed the escapism of reading.  And I don’t think, now that Easter has passed, that I’ll take that hour back for reading.  After all, both of the kids woke up several times last night, so anywhere I can find an hour or more of sleep, I need to do so.


Anyhow, reading.  I read when I nurse Jamie.  And that’s about it.  The Kindle has been a Godsend for this, as it is not heavy or floppy and I never lose my place.


I would love to find a simple way to keep track of the books I want to read and the books I have read, but so far, only the Amazon Wishlist seems to work for me.  Are you a member of Goodreads?  I don’t get it.  I’m on there, and I made an account, but there’s just too much,  you know?  Every book, every version of every book.  It takes forever to load, and I do not have a slow connection.  Also, I can’t figure out how to get it to tell me what I want – Amazon does a much better job of suggesting books based on search history than Goodreads does, AND I can change my browsing history if I didn’t like a book.


Anyhow, here is what I’m currently reading:




Have you read it?  It’s interesting, for a variety of reasons I wasn’t expecting.


First, my mom recommended it, and I have to believe that she read it long ago.  Now, my parents are pretty “with it” people, and I don’t for a minute think they’re innocents or anything ridiculous (they had to conceive me, after all), but it is a little strange to read a book and know that your mom also read all the smutty stuff you’re seeing on the pages.  So that was the first thing that surprised me: this book is RAUNCHY.  In a very matter-of-fact way. 


Allow me to back up.  It’s set in 1500s Japan at a time when Japan was a myth to most Europeans and only opened up to trade by the Jesuits for a few decades.  An English sea pilot guides his ill-fated ship there and is embroiled in what amounts to a clan war in the power-vacuum left after a big wig Samurai leader has died. 


This sounds like the stuff of literary magic, right?  The premise is ripe for winding prose and turns of phrases.  You can imagine that an author would wax poetic about the untouched beauty of Japan, etc, etc, no?  But that’s not at all what this book is.


It’s action-packed.  That surprised me, too, because the action basically never stops.  Can you see that I was expecting a tough, literary novel that would make me think?  The point of view jumps from person to person, and that’s tedious (because you have to figure out who’s thinking) and sometimes confusing.  The Japanese are more appalled at the bathing and sexual habits of the Western Barbarians than anything else, and the Japanese disregard for life based on Buddhist reincarnation and Samurai loyalties (and the murder and ritual suicide that frequently goes with it) baffles the Westerners.  It’s the customs of the two sides that get the most discussion, not beauty or faith or anything like that.


But I like it because the characters are real, not some boring ideal protagonist in a prize-winning novel: brooding, introspective, discovering things about him- or herself.  Who does that?  Not many people, that’s for sure.  If we were in Japan in the 1500s and any of the characters in this book, we would act exactly the same.  Sometimes crazy, mostly shocked and scrambling in a time of almost-war.  The prose is not complicated, either.


I think it is a classic because it does a great job of contrasting the Japanese culture and the Western culture of the time.  And though I am only about a third of the way through, I am enjoying it immensely.  So you should read it, too.


Want to know the rest of my reading list?  The following are the books I have on request from the library:

Elegy for Eddie

Trail of the Spellmans

Wicked Business

The Prague Cemetary

Ready Player One


I just wish I had more time to read – Jamie is a power nurser, so it seems as though I get through a book in five- or ten-minute chunks.

Friday, April 6, 2012

What Time is It? TAX TIME.

No matter how you slice it, tax season is tough.  Tony works a LOT.  He’s working less now and seems happier than ever before, but still, the boys and I are alone large chunks of time when Tony was home before. 


Tony’s absence affects us all differently.  For me, I feel the brunt of the effects of Charles and Jamie, in addition to my own loneliness or sometimes feeling like a martyr for all I do to keep things going.  What am I sacrificing?  My sanity.


Tony now has a tough time calming Jamie in the middle of the night.  Whereas before, Tony could get him back to sleep, now I just don’t even wake Tony up to take care of him a good chunk of the time because he’ll go back to sleep for me, but not for Tony.


Charles is acting out like crazy.  He is throwing more tantrums than usual and doesn’t want to be comforted by Tony, only by me.  It’s double duty for mom.


My method to staving off madness?  Stay busy.


In the past few months, we have traveled and we have visited.  We have worked out and gotten out and seen and done things.  We play and we play and we play. 


And what do you know?  Tax season is almost over and it has flown by.  Of course, these next couple of weeks might last forever.


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