Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Totally Lame-Ass NYE

My parents are here, and staying with us, which means we have FREE babysitters for as far into the wee hours as we want to party.

And yet, we are so deeply, profoundly lame that we don't have anywhere to go.

There's a celebration in Charlotte's downtown (er, Uptown) district, but we don't really feel like going to that. It's cold outside, parking downtown is expensive, and I think it's alcohol-free anyway. Any decent bar is charging $20 cover tonight and we don't feel like shelling out $40 to stand around crammed in with a bunch of people we don't know and sip warm $3 Budweisers and a glass of watery champagne at midnight. There's not even a movie that we want to see bad enough to pay full price for. Some friends have invited us to hang out and watch movies at their house, but it's 40 minutes away and we are both pretty tired (we went to bed at 2:00 a.m., our visitors got here at 6:00, and I got a 2-hr nap but Ryan didn't).

So we are hanging around the house with our daughter and my family, snacking and watching movies. I have taken advantage of the baby-occupiers to do a little pretend/fantasy-shopping and indulge my bag obsession. It's nice to spend a couple of hours frittering away time on the Internet without anyone whacking me in the face with a copy of Goodnight Moon.

Monday, December 22, 2008


It is supposed to be 18 degrees here overnight tonight, and while that is not cold for some places it's pretty cold for here, considering yesterday it was in the mid-50's and the day before the high was a warm, wet 68. I was outside in shirtsleeves this weekend, for crying out loud, and now I just want to put on 16 sweaters and crawl under my flannel sheets for about a week.

All this coldness has lit my knitting fire, however. I spent half of Piper's nap (which she actually took today, thank the Gods; I could not do another full day of Crabby Baby Whine Time) adding like 10 new knitting blogs to my Google Reader. I also spent some time browsing various online yarn shops and fantasizing about luscious skeins of handpainted yarn. And if I can keep slaughtering my to-do list, I might actually get to knit some time before Easter.

The Christmas cards are almost all out (email me if you want one, as long as you don't mind it being late), the checkbook is almost balanced, the presents are almost all wrapped. We still have to finish and ship my in-laws' gift (a series of photos in a frame), however. Since that was my husband's bright idea, I will let him take care of it. Okay, technically, the photos-in-frame was my idea first (and they are my photos, I took them this Spring), but I abandoned it due to impracticality (wrapping and shipping a huge picture frame did not sound like fun). He has clung to this as the perfect gift for them this year, despite my pleading to get them something that fits in a flat-rate shipping box, like maybe a book or a photo album. At what point am I absolved of responsibility for this? I know I started it, but I have tried very hard not to finish it. Does that mean I'm off the hook and he can take the heat for what is shaping up to be a VERY late present?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

O Christmas Tree

My husband's family does big things for Christmas. It is not just a major holiday in my in-laws' house; it is THE holiday. I tend to blow it off a bit, since most of the Christmases I spent with my family were miserable and stressful in one way or another. However, now that we have a child, my husband has put his foot down and basically demanded that we do Christmas, at least in some form, especially since we have our own house now . He wanted to get a huge tree this year, possibly of the U-Cut type. I pointed out that with eight cats and a curious, rambunctious toddler, a gigantic, ornament-laden tree would lead to at best the tree merely being toppled over and its ornaments scattered throughout the house. That was my best-case scenario.

So I convinced him that if he wanted a tree at all, a small one in a pot would be the way to go. And we happened to find such a tree at the plant nursery right up the road from our house. It came pre-potted and was the perfect size to sit on our counter. We got some miniature decorations at The Hellmouth Wal-Mart.

My mom had a tradition where she got each of us kids a new ornament for the tree every year. I have done the same thing with Piper. Last year was easy; some weird pink little "Baby's First Christmas" bell-ornament-thing someone gave us. I thought this year would prove a challenge, because she is so into monsters and I wanted to find her a monster ornament but didn't want it to be licensed characters (i.e. Elmo or Monsters, Inc.) since we're still avoiding those as much as possible.

It turned out to be easy. Piper fell in love with this little cutie as soon as I picked it up in Target:

It even has eyelashes!

Here's the finished tree, with presents underneath:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You're Like Fleas

A lot of my childless friends say to me "Oh, Piper so cute and fun! It makes me want one!" To those of you who think this sounds like fun: Here is a warning. Sometimes she is fun, but other times, like tonight, I want to run away with the circus. Tonight I was committing the cardinal sin of attempting to scan through my Google Reader, and she really wanted my attention. She’d already spent the previous couple of hours stomping all over the presents I was wrapping in the living room, unloading the box of Christmas ornaments and throwing them around, demanding food (bananas, peas, yogurt, cookies, crackers, and noodles, by turns) which I’d get for her, then she’d take one look at and scream “NOOOOOO!” before asking for something else. Even though Ryan took her out for an hour or two earlier, I was about at my limit for shenanigans.

However, 18-month-olds are not always the best judges of when Mommy has had enough, so instead of sitting with me and looking at LOLCats or playing in her room, she was climbing all over me, shrieking, pinching me, and hitting me in the face with a copy of Goodnight Moon, demanding that I read it to her RIGHT THIS SECOND. After the third time I deposited her on the floor and she started to climb back onto my lap, I was so exasperated I yelled “PIPER! Stop! For the love of God, you’re…YOU’RE LIKE FLEAS!”

I don’t even know what that means, but at least she got down. She’s unloading the DVD cabinet right now, taking all the discs out of their individual cases and either leaving them on the floor or attempting to put them back in other boxes. *sigh*

Next Year Everyone Is Getting a Lobstergram

1. We finished our holiday shopping last weekend, which was pretty good considering we didn't start until the weekend of Dec. 6th. It only took one episode of us screaming at each other in the mall parking lot, two online orders, one case of me speaking to Ryan through gritted teeth in the middle of the bookstore, eight eggnog lattes and twenty-six apologies to do it. I cannot count how many lessons we learned this year. They were not fun lessons, but valuable; we already have a plan of attack for next year's holiday gifting, one which thankfully does not rely on my speedy completion of handicrafts or Ryan's ability to refrain from cracking jokes when I am already pissed off.

2. Those same gifts that were nearly the cause of a divorce were supposed to be wrapped Saturday night/Sunday afternoon, packaged up, and taken to the post office on Monday. We bought The Golden Compass to watch while wrapping Saturday night. Not much in the way of actual wrapping and packaging got done. From the big pile of stuff, three things got wrapped, none of which are being mailed anywhere. His parents' present (a collection of photos in a frame) is not even half done and although Ryan assures me that he'll figure out some way to ship a picture frame with four glass panels in it, he has yet to come up with any useful ideas. Mostly what happened Saturday was we tried to wrap things together, then I got bossy and Ryan got mad, so he retired to the couch to play with his new deck of trick cards and I spent several hours saying "PIPER! GET DOWN NO! STOP TOUCHING THAT! GET OFF THE TABLE! PUT THE SCISSORS DOWN! BRING THAT BACK HERE! STOP EATING THAT! LEAVE IT ALONE! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP POKING THE CAT WITH THE SCISSORS! DON'T TOUCH THAT! DON'T TOUCH DON'T TOUCH DON'T TOUCH DON'T TOUCH PUT IT BAAAAAAAAAACK!"

3. It is now Thursday and not a single thing has been wrapped all week. Ryan keeps responding with his usual "chill out, wouldja?" attitude when I explain every day that I need some (expletive) time without the baby in the house so I can (expletive) wrap the (expletive) presents so I can take them to the (expletive) post office because they are already going to be (expletive) late. The holiday season has not been good for my resolve to curse less (so that our exceptionally observant parrot daughter doesn't start repeating the f-word in public).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fail: Handcrafted Holiday Cards

I may actually get around to doing Christmas/etc cards this year. They will not be handmade, however, as my ridiculously-optimistic plans for making handmade holiday cards were a big fat FAIL. Realistically, I knew it wasn't going to work out, since I had only the vaguest idea of what I wanted them to look like when they were done, but that didn't stop me from going to the craft store and spending $25 on materials. I promptly came home and found 3 boxes of cards tucked under some old ornaments in the battered, dusty cardboard carton marked "XMAS LIGHTS DON'T DROP." I took a long, hard look at the pile of random paper scraps, paints, stencils, and brushes awaiting me on the dining table and decided maybe I should cut my losses.

Maybe next year I'll start early and make the beautiful embossed holiday greetings I had envisioned, each one a little different and all of them carefully hand-crafted by me.

But probably not.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Super-Easy 15-Minute Chili

We have been eating this about once a week. My husband refused to eat chili until about a year ago; he claimed he "had just never liked it." I don't know what happened, but after I coaxed him into eating a bowl of it last winter, he now loves it. Which is fine with me. This is the easiest way I know to make chili. It tastes great - even better the second day - and it is super-fast.


1 lb. hamburger, ground turkey, deer burger, etc., or meat subsitute of your choice
1 can Bush's (or whoever's) chili beans, mild, medium, or hot according to your preference
1 large jar "thick & chunky" salsa, hotness level also to your preference
Garlic (fresh finely-chopped or powder, it doesn't matter)
Onion (freshly-chopped or dried, it doesn't matter)
Chili powder
Black pepper
Whatever else you like to put in chili


1. Brown hamburger/meat substitute with onion and garlic in a dutch oven (if you have one). If you don't have one, you can use a large, deep skillet, or brown it in a skillet and then dump it in a stock pot. It doesn't much matter, as long as the meat gets cooked. I only drain my hamburger if it's really, really greasy, but usually it's fine.

2. Leave the burner on. Dump in salsa and chili beans. Re-fill salsa jar halfway with water, replace cap, shake, and add salsa-water to pot. You can also skip this step if you started with really watery salsa or if you're short on time.

3. Add spices, to your taste. I'd give amounts, but I never measure. I use a lot of everything, and add some cayenne pepper too. Then we dice some fresh jalapenos and put them right in our individual bowls. We love spicy food around here. Really, I'm only satisfied when the food can actually burn its way through my gut to the outside.

4. Cook on medium heat until it's warm all the way through. If you have time, simmer it a bit so it thickens and the spices mix. If you don't, it's still delicious. And the leftovers? Fabulous.

We usually have cornbread with this - I just use a mix and bake it in a shallow pan so it cooks fast. If I mix it up and put it in while the meat is browning, it's done and ready by the time the chili is.

If I have the time, I spread some frozen corn kernels on a baking sheet and cook them alongside the cornbread. A few minutes in the oven and they're roasted crisp. I love the taste of roasted corn. I sprinkle some into my chili along with the fresh jalapenos and then I crumble my cornbread into it. MMMMM.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Why I Would Never Be a Good Consultant on Anything

I was listening to a radio show about getting kids to read at an early age, and the guest kept going on about how reading to your kids was the best way to help them learn how to read.

Some guy called in. "Yeah, we have a two-year-old, and we want to get him started reading and stuff at an early age, and my wife saw this system - it's called Baby Can Read - and it has a DVD and flash cards. We saw this, and it shows kids as young as two or three spelling out words and identifying words, like they can pick out the card with the word "feet" and the picture of feet. But, um, it is quite expensive, and I was wondering if something like this was a good way to get our child reading, if this was a good investement."

The lady politely said that while she's not denigrating reading systems like that, their kid would probably get just as much or more out of he and his wife reading to and teaching the kid than, say, watching a DVD, and that if you want your kid to read, books are the best way to do that rather than television and other media. She's much nicer than me. I would've said:

"No. That is not a good way to get your kid to read. You are a moron. Have you even been listening to this show for the past forty minutes? If you don't know that reading to your child is the best way to develop their language skills and get them into reading at an early age, if you'd rather plop them down in front of a DVD and wave some flash cards around...well, then there's not much you can actually do for your kid. Stupidity is hereditary. Instead of dropping cash on some idiotic "learning system," try putting it in a savings account for college and instead pick up a book and read to your kid."

Friday, November 07, 2008

Oh Say Say Say

Piper is singing along to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps." It is so cute I think I'm having a heart attack. Did I mention she's also dancing? Fists in the air, bouncing-up-and-down, turning in circles, head-bobbing ROCKING OUT.

Damn, I love that kid.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Not the ribbon (which I do love) but the blog (which I think I love even more than the ribbon). Have you seen this? Kathleen creates the most lovely, amazing clothes...and then gives them away. She GIVES AWAY beautiful clothes like these skirts. You don't have to give her your firstborn or tap-dance or forward an email to ten strong women to win them. You just have to link to her blog. How amazing is that?!

She's opening an online shop soon, and you can bet I'll be buying from her. Piper would look adorable in those clothes. And I'll be forwarding a link to everyone I know so they can get some of her beautiful designs too.

P.S. Check out this amazing costume she made. It would be years too big for Piper, so I didn't enter to win it. It would've been a crime to store it until she grew into that gorgeous dress.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

For Those As Obsessed As I Am

Indulging my well-documented obsession with Babylegs, the tiny-sized leg warmers, I am posting some sales links for those who also find them irresistable:

The excellent Banana Peels Diapers has a lot of deeply discounted designs, many half-off. I've ordered from BPD before and the customer service is OUTSTANDING. They seem to have a ton of designs on sale at the moment. Don't forget to check out their cloth-diapering supplies, too. Lots of good stuff.

Today's Babysteals deal is a two-pack of Babylegs for half off. The pink ones are sold out as of right now, but there's some of the navy/Ivy League sets left.

Little Dudes and Divas has sets at half-off. While I am not crazy about the name of their establishment, they do have "choose your designs" 3-,4-,5-, or 6-packs for half their normal price. There's a limited selection of designs to chose from for the deal, but some cute selections are to be had and the price is great.

BabySnazz has some not-quite-as-good discounts on quite a few designs, as well as "Skidpants," which also appear to be baby legwarmers in cute designs. I don't know much about the website or the Skidpants brand, but they are nice-looking.

I just ordered Piper some very cute See Kai Run shoes that were on mega-sale at Amazon ($15 for shoes that are normally $36? Yes, please!) and I am having to restrain myself from going buck-wild with the Babylegs today. The weather here has cooled off considerably and she wears a pair pretty much every day now, either in place of pants (we have precious few items of cold-weather clothing that will fit over the lumpy bulk of cloth diapers), or under dresses. I am trying not to use this "but she wears them every day!" thing to justify whipping out the Fantastic Plastic and ordering up a few dozen more pairs. They're on SALE, fer crying out loud, HALF OFF. The only thing that has stopped me so far is looking at the sales and realizing just how many of those designs we already own.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today I watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog again (that's only the fourth time, amazingly) and then poked around online reading about it. I had the radio on - NPR, what else? Commercial pop radio makes me want to stick a screwdriver in my ear - while I was futzing online and waiting for my biscotti to finish baking.

This radio vs. internet media convergence has caused a very strange side effect.

I cannot stop thinking "The hammer is my penis" whenever I hear John McCain's name mentioned.

I also cannot stop thinking of Sarah Palin as Moist.

I have been amusing myself with these thoughts all morning. If my next-door neighbor is home, she probably thinks I'm nuts. Our windows are all open (it was 82 yesterday and they're predicting 86 today) and I'm pretty sure my random bursts of hysterical shrieking laughter carry quite far.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lists, Part 1

Things That Freak My Kid Out
The Kitchen-Aid Mixer
The Espresso Machine
The Steam Wand On the Espresso Machine
My Mother-In-Law
The Song "Ted Mosby Is A Jerk"*** (warning: sound)

Things My Kid Is Not Afraid Of
Strangers' Dogs
Strangers' Really HUGE Dogs
The Street
Pulling Things Down Onto Her Head
The Hot Oven
Diving Headfirst Into A Bathtub With Or Without Water In It

***Seriously. She started sobbing within the first ten seconds of the song playing. Sobbing and howling "no, no, no!"

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Things That Are Annoying Me Today

I was never good at math. At least, I was never supposed to be. I jokingly told Ryan the other night that "the only thing I remember about Math is that I was good at English." Which is true - I was a girl, I learned to read early, I was encouraged from a young age to focus on words and forget about the numbers. There was also the subtle, underlying assumption that girls aren't as good at math, and hey since I had the English thing going, why bother to fight nature?

I wish I'd paid more attention, because today most of my gripes are math-oriented*:

- I got a letter from our mortgage co. saying we owe an extra $300 to our escrow account. As near as I can tell, after half an hour of staring at two pages full of tiny columns of numbers labeled with lots of words like "projected," "required," "comparison," and "previous," when they did the initial calculation for our payments, they underestimated the taxes. Or our taxes went up. Or they're going up next year. Or our homeowners insurance went up. Or is going up. Or something.

- The thing is, we switched insurance carriers and got a refund earlier in the year. Our new policy was $200 less than the old one, but I took the whole refund and put it in the escrow account, just to be safe. I can't seem to figure out what happened to the extra, unless our taxes are going up by $500, not $300.

- It seems like we are paying a lot of taxes. When we were house-shopping in California, I'd always look at the estimated taxes on the houses we liked. What we're paying here seems high in comparision, which doesn't make much sense.

- I would not mind paying extravagant taxes if I got something in return. Like maybe if there were sidewalks beyond the borders of our neighborhood, or a bike lane on a road within five miles of here, or if they ran some buses within eight miles of here, or if they had plans to build an arm of the new and very successful light rail anywhere near here in the next 25 years (they don't; I've combed the CATS website).

- Staring at those columns of tiny numbers has also made me pissed off at how much of our payments go to "mortgage insurance" every month. As near as I can tell, "mortgage insurance" means paying someone to sit on their ass and do nothing. It doesn't help me, and people paying it has certainly not helped banks or mortgage carriers stay upright (Helllooooo, Wachovia, Countrywide, Silver State, I'm talking to you). So how about I keep my money every month and make my payments more affordable? I'm sure a lower payment would help prevent a default more than paying your mob-like protection money "mortgage insurance" every month.

- Also, if you are going to screw up the amounts I'm supposed to put in escrow for my taxes and homeowner's insurance, can I just do it myself? I mean, I can't, under the terms of our loan, etc., but I think I'd rather. The mortgage lender has generously offered to front the money (and charge us interest, of course) or work it into our payments (which means our payments are going up by $20 a month) but personally I'd like things to be all separated out so I can see what's going on with each thing, instead of scrutinizing the jumble of figures currently before me.

- They also seem to have the amount of our last payment wrong. It's only off by a small amount, the few dollars extra I put into principal every month to round the payment up to a nice whole number, but now I have to figure out why it doesn't add up and that is also pissing me off.

Non-math related:

- I just ate my last biscotti. Now I have to make some more, and not think about the fact that I am the only one in the house that eats them (well, Piper takes occasional bites) and that I have been making them once a week, which means that every week I am consuming half a stick of butter and 3/4 cup sugar in baked biscotti goodness form. There's other stuff in there too (like, um, flour and eggs), but it's the butter and sugar that I find most objectionable. And by objectionable I mean delicious.

*Also, I wish I'd paid attention because science and math would've served me far better in life than my meandering Liberal Arts education. I would have a viable career now, instead of wondering if I'm going to have to eventually ask people if they would like fries with that.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

16 Months

I haven't done one of these in...I don't know how long. It was long enough ago that I could still keep track of the weeks. I have no idea how many weeks old she is now. I haven't even had time to write down for myself all the things she does. There's so much I've already forgotten.

The past three (or so) months have seen an astounding word explosion. She learns new words every single day. It's still amazing to us when she pops out with new ones, because hey, we did not explicitly teach her that!. Her little brain is like a sponge right now. She's learning not only the words but also what they mean, which is the thing that floors me. One day I'll ask her "do you want your jacket off?" and the next day she starts screaming "OFF! OFF! OFF!" and tearing at the zipper when she gets too hot. We bought her some Halloween books, and by the third day she is pointing to pictures and words and saying "Witch. Pumpkin. Bats." Whenever I open the fridge, she grabs things out of the door shelves and lines them up on the floor, then picks up each bottle of marinade or jar of jelly and puts it back, all the time saying "Back. Back. Back." She says this when we clean up her room, chanting it as she hands me books and toys to put back in their proper bins, boxes, and shelves.

Yesterday Ryan stayed home from work, felled by a wicked head cold. When he heard Piper stirring in the morning, he went in to see her. When she opened her eyes and saw him, she grinned, kicked her feet, and gave him a big smacking kiss. "Awesome," she said.

She can call the cats by individual names now; so far she knows Fritz, Beckham, Ellie, Joon, Mei-Mei, and sometimes Chick. She really really loves animals, cats and dogs especially. We had to tell her to "be nice" a lot at first, so now whenever she says "nice" it is always accompanied by a petting motion. It's more common these days for her to say "nice one" when she is petting an animal. I don't know where she got that, since it's not something I recall saying to her.

I hear her chattering to the cats in the kitchen sometimes: "Kee ("Kitty"). Fritz. Kee. Nice one. Eyes. Nose. Mouf. Kee. Kee. Ears? Kee. Nice one." I usually come in to keep watch and make sure she isn't poking the cat in the eyes, yanking whiskers, or body-slamming the poor creature. Some of the cats will let her do this kind of stuff, but their tolerance only goes so far.

She likes to comfort us. "Mom-mai?" She says. "Up." So I pick her up and she gives me little reassuring pats on the back. "Mom-mai. Mom-mai," she says as she lays her head on my shoulder. Sometimes when I'm really frustrated with her, she climbs onto my lap and gives me a hug or kiss. "Awright, Mom-mai. Awright." No matter how pissed off I was seconds before, it's impossible to stay mad.

In truth, I don't find myself as irritated and angry with her as often as I used to. I think her new communication skills have helped; she can tell me what she wants most of the time, instead of standing there clenching her fists and shrieking because I don't understand. She seems to have also realized that sometimes Mommy just needs a little space. I can tell her to go play in her room for a few minutes or say "no not right now," and she'll usually comply. It gives me a few minutes to simmer down when I feel like I'm getting near the boiling point.

She's really pretty fun right now. I love watching the things she labels "awesome" (like when I read her favorite books or she hears a song she likes). I love watching her dance. She really likes music and we've watched the evolution of her dance moves over the past few months. The opening credits of Freaks and Geeks had her raising her arms and head-banging in the middle of the floor; classical music makes her bob up and down and flap her arms; Zydeco, the theme song to How I Met Your Mother, and her beloved Cuban music inspire frantic marching in place; the closing credits song for Numb3rs causes her to do this strange routine where she puts her arms behind her back with her elbows sticking out at the sides, sticks out her belly, and does a slow, undulating walk around the living room, sometimes turning in circles on the spot. It is the most hilarious and cute thing I have ever witnessed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Garfield Minus Garfield

A friend turned us on to Garfield Minus Garfield. Have you seen this? It's the Garfield comic strip - without Garfield. Totally hilarious and brilliant.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I was getting something out of a low cupboard, which required me to crouch on the floor. Piper came up behind me.

“Mom-mai?” She asked in her little baby voice.
“What, Baby?”
She patted me gently on the back. “Awesome.”
“Thanks, kiddo,” I said. “You’re pretty awesome too.”

I'm about to tell them they can't visit anymore.

My parents visited last weekend and brought another carload of CRAP. They did not bring my bicycle, but they did bring:

- 5 pairs of my old baby shoes, none of which Piper can wear (3 too small, 1 too trashed, 1 with soles so thick and hard I don't know how I ever learned to walk). My mom knew the too-small ones were too small when she put them in there. She brought them anyway.

- An assortment of clothes, baby clothes, books, and toys that I had put in the give-away bag before we left Michigan. I put them in the garbage bags along with the rest of the stuff my mom had designated for her monthly Purple Heart pick-up. The give-away stuff is always collected in the same spot at her house. She would've had to root through all the other stuff just to pick out the sackfuls of useless-to-me things she brought.

- A pile of fairly hideous 80's baby clothes that belonged to my siblings & me. All of which are either years too big or many months too small for Piper to wear.

- A crate of Fisher-Price Little People toys that, while pretty cool (and only partly because they are the old choke-sized ones), Piper can't play with for at least another year. She is too hard on things right now to turn her loose with so many small, fragile parts.

- A stack of baby/kid books, 98% of which I can't give to Piper because they are either too old and completely falling apart, or they are not the thick cardboard-paged kind, which means she will shred them. She's extremely hard on books.

- A crate of my siblings' and my old baby/preschool toys, in various states of crumbling decay. One shape-sorter dissolved into tiny plastic shards when we tried to wash it.

- My old Fisher-Price "School Days Desk," which was a beloved toy of mine, but is made to be used by someone 7 or more years old.

- YET ANOTHER crate of Piper's outgrown baby clothes. I'm pretty sure this is the last one, because it has a lot of things I couldn't find (like the tiny onesies we decorated for her when she was a newborn). If there are any more crates of clothes lurking about, I will probably set fire to them because I am so sick of trying to find storage space for it all and ye gods people bought us a lot of foofy pink atrocities.

- A HUGE crate of Lego Duplos, which I specifically told my mom Piper is not quite old enough to play with. She doesn't have the dexterity yet to put the things together and get them apart; all that will happen is she'll stick two pieces together and then scream because she can't undo it. I don't need any more reasons for her to screech, thank you.

- A random assortment of kid-sized silverware (there's like one fork, 5 spoons, and a butterknife). Plastic bowls bearing cartoon approximations of the characters from Willow. Willow was our favorite movie when we were kids, and my mom dutifully saved UPCs from boxes of Quaker oatmeal to get a bowl and matching spoon for each of us. She could only find one of the spoons, and I don't know what the hell I am going to do with these, but I don't think I can bear to throw them out.

I honestly don't know what the F my mother expects me to do with all this stuff. When I try to tell her to stop bringing it, she only whines "It's your stuff. You wanted it. You asked for it. I didn't do it. You wanted it."

It's all still sitting in mountainous piles in the living room. Piper has managed to scatter a lot of it throughout the house. The house is usually ankle-deep in debris by the end of the day anyway, because she just goes from room to room destroying things and making messes faster than I can clean them up. The debris is knee-deep now, and I am teetering on the brink of a full-scale meltdown because my house is so messy. I have been struck down with a malady that required an actual doctor's visit and medications, and Ryan has had an hellacious school week plus a part-time job, so we haven't had much chance to go through it, much less drop off the stuff we don't want at the Goodwill up the road. Therefore, the piles and clutter and junk have been spreading all week and I have been edging closer to insanity.

The house was spotlessly clean and 85% totally organized before my parents showed up; only three closets (one each in the spare bedrooms, one in the hall) remained for me to divide, conquer, and organize. Earlier this month, my house was so clean and organized that not only did I go to bed at a reasonable hour three nights in a row, I spent one entire naptime reading a book because I had done all the things that I usually try to frantically accomplish during that 1.5-hour window every day. My home was organized and my brain felt wonderful because of it.

Now it looks like somebody is setting up a thrift store in here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Desperate Measures

My parents are coming tonight and my house is a DISASTER. You can't even walk into the spare bedroom where they're supposed to sleep. Every flat surface in the house is somehow covered in clutter again, despite the fact that I had them all cleared two days ago. Piper got shots on Wed. and has been extra clingy and hard to please ever since. I let her watch the tail-end of Word World on PBS Kids just so I can drink a cup of coffee and asses the mess without her wrapping herself around my legs and screaming.

I always swore I'd never let my kid watch TV until she was older; 2 at least. No way, nohow. I hated the idea of TV for little kids, just training legions of mini-zombies to be the couch-potato consumers of tomorrow. My kid wasn't going to turn out like that. Never mind my own tv-viewing, I would save my child! I thought I would, I don't know, jump in front of the screen or something if she tried to look.

But this is not the first time I have caved. I have been known to pop in my well-worn VHS copy of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine just to get twenty minutes of work-time. She is transfixed by it and will actually sit there quietly and watch, instead of screaming at me and tearing apart whatever I am working on. My kid, who won't even sit still long enough to have her diaper changed, sat in one place for twenty whole minutes.

I didn't intend to let her watch it today. I turned on the TV to find a local news program because of a text message Ryan sent me. It was already on PBS, Word World was on and some computer-generated frog was jumping around. Piper looked up from unloading a file box of our important financial papers and giggled. Then she took a toy and went into the living room and stood in front of the TV. When I went into the kitchen, she didn't follow me and demand "Up! Up!" I got to drink a whole glass of water with no baby-hands grabbing it. The possibility of actually getting something done at some point during the day danced tantalizingly in front of me.

But my glee was short-lived. The show ended and she went back to chasing the cats around and trying to poke them with a plastic fork. Guess I don't need to worry about creating a TV addict so much as an animal abuser.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Unexpected Consequences

You get a lot of advice before you get your first kid.

Some of it is well-intentioned but stupid: “Sleep now while you still can.” As though you can hoard and bank sleep for months beforehand, as though restful, quality sleep is akin to pennies in a piggybank.

Some of it is just stupid: “Crib bumpers! You have to have crib bumpers! The baby will hit its head and get brain damage if you don’t have them!” Yeah, because so many generations of babies who did not have crib bumpers were desperately brain-damaged. Never mind the strangling and suffocation deaths every year from these things, it’s the ridiculous threat of brain-damage that should be driving our bedding purchases.

Some – very few – of the thousands of “helpful” comments people make when you say you’re about to become first-time parents are true. Of course, you don’t realize this until much later, after you are up to your neck in poop, plastic toys, and temper tantrums. One of “the things people say” has turned out to be true for us, in a way that we had not quite anticipated.

That gem of wisdom? “Becoming a parent changes everything.” That’s an approximation, of course, an amalgamation of all the variations on that thought that were so earnestly dished out by well-meaning folk (most of them parents themselves). It is, however you say it, true.

Before you have an actual child in your house, waking you up at night and demanding more of your energy and time than you ever thought possible, you are apt to laugh at these people. “Oh, come on,” you think. “It won’t change everything. Some things, sure. I’ll get less sleep. I’ll have less money. My clothes will be a bit more stained, and I’ll be intimately familiar with another person’s bodily inputs and outputs. I won’t spend my Saturday nights sucking down Cuba Libres and smoking American Spirits on the back patio of the hippie bar.”

You tell yourself that you will be exactly the same person you are now, just with a child in tow. Preferably a clean-faced little cherub who behaves well and whom you can afford to dress in tiny, cute, stylish clothing. It will be hard, of course, but you will always be certain that the work is worth it, buoyed by the strength of your love. You and your partner will watch this little person grow and help it become a wonderful human being, a majestic model of kindness, brimful of forward-thinking views, and probably the finder of the cure for cancer.

Of course, when the sleep deprivation or the crayon-drawings all over your walls or the anguish over “New Math” or the teenage door-slamming comes, as it inevitably must, it’s easy to poke fun at the person you were pre-kid, to say “Psh. Poor, clueless bastard. You thought you had it all figured out, didn’t you? Yeah, cure cancer, bring world peace, haw-haw.”

But there are also moments of total wonderment at the person you have become. You marvel at your distance from that chick who would walk down any alley in the dark and routinely got into cars with strangers, or how different you are from the college boy who spent his free Saturdays at “band practice” in someone’s smoke-filled basement. Sometimes it just smacks you in the face, this feeling of that is not who I am anymore.

This whole diatribe is rooted in an afternoon-tv showing of Trainspotting. I was idly flipping channels one day when Piper was six or eight months old, and Trainspotting was on. I can remember going to see that movie for the first time, I can remember how we obsessively watched it in college and memorized the dialogue. I have watched that movie at least twenty times in my life, and loved it every time.

Every time except this one. It got to the part where the baby is sitting on that disgusting floor, surrounded by passed-out junkies. She is filthy, it looks like she hasn’t had her diaper changed in days, she’s crying and crying and crying. Just sitting in the middle of the dirty floor, with nobody paying attention to her.

I felt like somebody had punched me in the gut. I felt sick; I almost sobbed out loud. I had to change the channel, I could not watch any further. I was perplexed. I turned the channel back, and again there was that horrible, sick feeling. I could not look at the screen, at that crying baby, for more than three seconds. I had to turn it off again. I thought about what happens to that baby later in the movie, and I swear to God I almost threw up, right there in the living room. I felt a physical urge to reach into the screen and pick up that poor, doomed junkie baby. Instead, I picked Piper up from where she was scooting around the floor drooling on stuffed animals and I hugged her so hard she squealed in protest. I put her back down, feeling at once shaky and edgy and agitated, like I’d ingested large amounts of caffeine on an empty stomach.

I also felt confused. I loved this movie, right? What the hell was wrong with me? I had always mocked people who talked about experiences like this, who sobbed for the children left motherless and the mothers left childless by some far-flung natural disaster or talked how about their mommyhood had ignited an urge to mother all children. I snickered, I rolled my eyes, I snerked at these mommy-zombies. Puh-leeeze, I thought. Spare me. Now it appeared that the sappy, overly-sentimental mommy-shoe was on the other foot. My foot.

I told my story to Ryan, and instead of laughing at me or calling me a mom-bot, he said “Oh my God, you are right. I just remembered what happens to the baby. I don’t think I can watch that movie ever again.” And then we both looked at each other: What the hell was going on here?

It happened again when I was discussing my bicycle. I have a very nice bicycle, which is my favorite color (blue), very cool and retro-looking, and still in Michigan. We don’t have a shed or garage to keep our bikes in, so they’re languishing in my parents’ rusty garden shed until we figure something out. I am so desperate for a mode of transportation that I have asked my parents to bring my bike when they visit later this month (preferably instead of, not in addition to, another carload of useless crap). I plan to put a baby-seat on it and ride as far as I can on our not-at-all-bicycle-friendly roads.

I was thinking about this, about how nice it will be not to be trapped in the house all the time (we have one car, which goes with Ryan every day on his 25-minutes-each-way commute) and how I’d have to get Piper a little bike helmet. And then I realized that I’d have to get one, too.

I used to look down my nose at people who wore bike helmets for casual riding; if you were a crazy mountain-biking mofo like my cousin, who frequently comes back from rides with body parts bloodied, broken, and otherwise damaged – well, I could see where a helmet would be an advantage. If you were a long-distance biker, sharing the road with a lot of cars on a regular basis – yeah, okay, I get it. But the slow cruises around the neighborhood, or the trips to the nearby grocery store? Only obsessive freaks wore helmets for that stuff. You know, losers.

Might as well paint a big fat L on my forehead, then, because caution is about to become my middle name. I laughed out loud at myself, and explained the situation to Ryan this way:

“I would never take Piper on the bike without her wearing a helmet, not even around the block. But what about me? What if we’re riding to the new elementary school up the street to use their playground and one of the many local asshole drivers runs us off the road? There’s not even so much as a shoulder for us to ride on, let alone a bike lane. It wouldn’t take much to send us into a ditch. She might be just fine in her tiny little helmet, but what the hell good does that do if I’m laying there with my head split like an overripe melon? What would happen to her?”

His eyes got big. His mouth made a little round O. “I hadn’t thought of that. Oh my God, you’re right. Holy shit.”


Holy shit, indeed.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


I just made vanilla-cinnamon biscotti from scratch, and while they were baking I made Chocolate-Bourbon-Pecan pie, which is in the oven right now.

I'm pretty sure this is what heaven smells like.

I'm also pretty sure that next time I make biscotti, I should have another adult around. Someone more observant and verbal than a 15-month old. Someone who can, say, point out that I have eaten nearly 1/4 of the raw biscotti dough and I am going to make myself ill if I don't stop shoveling chunks of it into my mouth.

Someone who can also remind me that fresh-from-the-oven biscotti may smell like heaven, but they are very hot and trying to eat them will result in a blistered tongue.

Someone logical enough to point out that if I didn't make myself ill snarfing up raw biscotti dough and gratuitous amounts of freshly-baked biscotti, topping the combo with a large handful of pecans and the dregs of my morning coffee would be a good way to guarantee that I feel sick by the time the pie is halfway done.

If you'll excuse me, I need to go make myself some peppermint tea...

Friday, September 05, 2008

Old Friends Long Forgotten

The other day I was moaning about how I have nothing to listen to all day besides NPR, which was making me kinda crazy, and then I remembered Pandora. I used to use it a lot, especially when I sat at a desk all day clicking my way to boredom. Looking at the stations I had saved there was kind of a time-warp; I hardly listen to any of those things anymore. So I made up some new stations and have been happily listening for days. Ryan even dug out the proper cable for me to hook my laptop up to the big cd/dvd player in the living room so I don't have to max out my laptop's speakers trying to hear it more than three feet away.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It Came From the Laundry Room

Piper and I were doing laundry after Ryan went to bed. I was sitting on the floor of the laundry room with a pile of dirty clothes, handing things to Piper so she could put them in the washer.* I grabbed a piece of clothing and something long, slithery, and many-legged tumbled off it. I jumped up, shrieking, and the Thing slithered back into the laundry pile.

My shriek freaked out Piper, who echoed my "EEEEEEEEEE!!!!" noises while looking very concerned and then started to cry. I picked her up and called "I need some help in here!" across the house. Ryan hadn't gone to bed that long ago; I figured he was still awake. "I NEED SOME HELP IN HERE!" I yelled. No response.

So I charged across the living room, put down the wiggling baby, and together we threw open the master-bedroom door. "I need some HELP IN HERE!" I yelled.

Ryan's head emerged from the covers. "Whaa? Haa? Mmrefah?"

"Iwasgettinglaundryfromthepile and athingfelloutitwashuge OH MY GOD itwasbigitwasoneofthosethings oh my God, the thingswithallthelegs, ohGodoh- a millipede, that's the thing with all the legs, right? Centipede? WELL THERE'S ONE IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM AND IT'S HUGE! Killitkillitpleasecomekillit!"

He sighed. "You want me to come kill it?"

"YespleasebecauseitwasHUGE ohGod HUGE HUGE!"

"Can't you just...oh, never mind," he said irritably as he got up.

I went with him to the laundry room still jabbering about the SIZE of the THING and made him go through the laundry in the basket, piece by piece. He did, grudgingly, the whole time giving me a lecture on how I shouldn't get so "worked up" about the bugs around here, because giant bugs are just a fact of life in this part of the country, and getting upset and freaking out isn't helping anything. He was referring to the fact that the first time a giant flying cockroach palmetto bug got into the house I was screeching and running around like my hair was on fire for half an hour and spent the rest of the evening nervously jumping onto the furniture any time I saw a shadow move.

Personally, I think I have been pretty understanding about the bugs. I spend a lot of time cleaning, scrubbing, re-washing, and sterilizing things to combat the ants (swarms of which have lately been found in such locales as the linen closet and under the computer desk); I didn't have a nervous breakdown when I woke up with a tick on my eyelid and I didn't even scream the time I found an earwig in our bed. In fact, I didn't even wake him up that time, I just killed it myself.

But here he was, giving me a lecture on how I need to "just deal with it" when I find a bug. He went through everything in the basket. I hovered anxiously the whole time, emitting random freak-out noises, which Piper mimicked with astonishing accuracy. When no Creature of Doom appeared, I made him go through it again, which he did, although by now he wasn’t even pretending not to be annoyed at me. The whole time he lectured me in a patronizing tone about how I was going to have to learn to accept the bugs, and why did I have to make such a big deal, it’s not helping anything, blah blah blah. Then he said that since obviously there was nothing here now, he was done.

"You're not-not going back to BED are you? WE HAVE TO FIND IT!"

He looked at me, that patronizing, patient look you give small children, pets, and mental patients. "Well, Steph, I've been through everything in the basket and it's not here. I don't know what you want me to do. It's gone."

"What the fuck is the point of being married if I don't even have a husband who will kill bugs for me?!" I yelled. "I made you chocolate-bourbon-pecan pie from scratch, and you can't even kill a gargantuan prehstoric-size millipede for me? It was HUGE! You don't understand! It was on my UNDERWEAR!"

"Well, I looked through all of the laundry twice. It's not here. Where could it possibly go?"

"Move the basket. Maybe it went out one of the holes in the side of the basket."

He started to deliver more of his "My wife is being a hysterical sissy and should not be afraid of bugs and especially should not wake me up to kill them for her" speech, then stopped mid-sentence. His eyes got really big,and he backed up. "I need a shoe," he said in a flat voice.

I gave him a grungy flip-flop from the pile by the back door. He moved the laundry basket, then brought the shoe down like a hammer. He stood up and looked at me.

"I, uh, see how that could be alarming," he said. "I totally apologize, because you are totally correct, that was HUGE. I saw it, it was like this big-" he held up his hand and pointed to indicate the millipede's length. "Oh my God, that's like four inches. Maybe even six. So, um, yeah. I'm sorry. I could definitely see how that would be disconcerting. It's dead and I don't even want to touch it. I am very sorry I doubted you. It was, in fact, HUGE."

"I know!" I said. "And it almost fell on my LEG!" I shuddered. "And...thanks. For killing it. And for acknowledging that my reaction was in proportion to the size of the bug."

"Well, I expect to be faithfully represented on your blog," he said. "Both as a killer of large insects and as an apologetic husband."

I hope I have done him justice here.

*She likes to help, and even though it makes everything take two or three times as long, I really don't mind. Her little face totally lights up when I say "thank you very much!" as she hands me some laundry or clean dishes or puts something away for me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Post About Knitting

Not that I have knit anything recently, mind you. The closest I've come is working three rows on a fuzzy yellow baby bonnet, three rows which Piper promptly unraveled and then carried the (glittery, chunky plastic) knitting needles off into another room.

I did, however, order a bunch of books during the 40% off sale at Knit Picks. I got three Elizabeth Zimmermann books - Knitter's Almanac, The Opinionated Knitter, and Knitting Workshop. I got a couple other ones,too (a Debbie Bliss baby book and Stefanie Japel's Fitted Knits), but so far I have spent the most time with the Zimmermann ones.

I think I'm sorry I ordered them. I didn't go in expecting to love them, since I am no fan of Fair Isle (I don't care for the way it looks, and why in the hell would I spend that much effort on something I'll never wear?) or cables (ditto). I work with and like cotton, silk, or linen waaaay more than wool yarns, since I learned to knit while living in southern California and now live in North Carolina. Neither of those places have climates conducive to working with, let alone wearing, anything resembling wool. But I've heard people rave about EZ and her methods, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

Maybe I should've started with Knitting Without Tears or something, I don't know. I find her work a largely irritating read. Maybe it's just that the stuff I have is beyond me, but I find myself going "Uh-huh, it's GREAT that you went skiing today and all, but could you please tell me what the hell I'm supposed to be doing here?" The directions for patterns are buried in chatter about EZ and her family or activities most of the time. The details of daily life are charming, but not necessarily what I'm looking for in a knitting pattern. I also didn't know that a lot of her stuff involves knitting something, then cutting it apart and machine-sewing as a means of finishing. I don't have a sewing machine, and I'm not yet skilled enough to translate the directions/patterns into a way that doesn't involve one. And as for her "percentage system?" Fugheddaboutit. I have yet to finish an entire adult-size sweater, so I think I'm just not experienced enough to apply what she's trying to teach me there.

I am a fan of Fitted Knits so far, though. I've been going through it trying to pick out what I want to do first. There are so many cute things! And the patterns aren't given in general "S/M/L" sizes, but rather in the actual measurements (mostly the bust measurement) so you can measure yourself first, then pick the right size. Japel also gives instructions in most of the patterns on how to alter them for a better fit as you go.

Trying to pick a project has reminded me of just what an expensive hobby this is - I wanted to make the sweater-coat from Fitted Knits as a Christmas gift for my mom, but it takes 32 balls of yarn. I priced it out and it was over $280! I just don't think I can conscionably turn my mother loose with $300 worth of hand-knitting. I don't think I'd even trust myself in a sweater that expensive, unless I was standing exactly in the middle of a totally white room with nothing in it, and I was doing nothing but admiring my sweater.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Oh, THAT's Why My House is Full of Crap

I just cleaned off my counter and dining table. It took me all weekend to do it, and I'm not even done yet. Mostly it was organizing, filing, sorting, and throwing away. I have been bemoaning the massive amount of clutter around here lately, and frequently find myself at a loss as to how we could have entirely filled up our house with crap in the not-quite-five months we've lived here. We don't buy a lot of stuff anymore; I just can't figure out where all this JUNK comes from.

I think I have the answer. A HUGE box (seriously, I couldn't get my arms around it to carry it inside, I just had to sort of hoist a corner and drag) just arrived from my parents' house, containing:

- Various pieces to Piper's three baby gyms, but not one actual complete gym. One of the main supports to the gym she used most often when she was little is broken. Whoever packed the box was so busy trying to shove more crap in there, they failed to notice that they had snapped the foam pole in half.

- An assortment of heinous baby clothes I left at the house when we moved because they were either a)heinous or b) heinous and too small. All of them still have the tags on.

- A pink plastic My Little Pony tea set. EDIT: Oh, God, it makes noise. It even sings.

- An outfit which my mom made herself, consisting of a reversible pinafore, two pairs of matching bloomers, a tiny coordinating purse, and a matching hat with a gigantic bow. The whole ensemble is solid blue on one side and the other fabric is yellow with pastel lollipops. She has got to be kidding.

- A set of 4 pastel-plaid placemats. A set of 2 Christmas placemats. 4 mismatched cloth napkins (I mentioned a few weeks ago I was on the hunt for table linens).

- A kit for making this dress, in blue. It's pretty cute, actually, and totally a project I would've picked for myself. There's a note inside the bag that says it's my brother's b-day gift to me. Nice job, D!

- An assortment of tank tops for me, none of which I can wear. They're all either way too big or feature spaghetti-straps and shelf bras, which don't work at all with my current g-cup nursing boobs and tank-like nursing bra.

- A tote bag my mom brought back for me from the Globe Theater in London that has "blood-splatter" on it and says "OUT, OUT DAMNED SPOT!" It's a little scary-looking actually.

- Some old clothes of my sister's which I was going to keep but then returned to the give-away box befoe we moved, after remembering that I had 10 boxes of clothing in storage.

- A play tent from Ikea which I told my mom I was going to wait to buy until the Ikea opens here next spring because we don't have room for it right now and my stupid cats will just pee in it anyway.

- Two pairs of British-flag "women's boxer shorts" which I can only assume are meant for me.

- 4 pairs of Piper's shoes, all of which are outgrown and one of which I threw away at some point because the sizes were mismatched.

- A musical card for Piper, tucked inside which I found an old non-working cellphone and 8 expired/used-up card-shaped things: fake gift cards/fake credit-cards etc.

- Some actually fairly rockin' H&M clothes for Piper. My mom and sister must've gotten them when they were in Europe last month. European babies apparently don't need pink OR giant bows to signify their status to the world.

- A pair of shoes for me, from my sister. Cute black-and-white slip-on tennies, but I think they're a little big.

The last box like this my mom sent (last month) is still sitting in the computer room, mostly still packed. I don't know what to do with all this...STUFF. I've asked her to stop sending/bringing it. She just sends more. When my parents came to visit in June, they brought an entire CARLOAD of this sort of junk. The one thing they brought that I had asked for was Piper's other carseat, which, in the process of cramming into the over-stuffed car, they broke. Snapped the seat-belt clip on the right side clean off, so now we can only put it in the center or on the left. The broken cordless phone arrived safely, as did 6 of my baby tee-shirts in various stages of threadbare decay, a large pink stuffed elephant that records and plays back sound, 16 too-small outfits I had put in the give-away bin anyhow, 3 dozen plastic Easter-eggs with ancient candy inside, 3 more bath-toy sets (to add to the bathtub-full she already has), and several more frog-themed outfits Piper doesn't need.

I have asked, begged, and pleaded with them to STOP BRINGING JUNK to my house. We don't have a garage. The back bedroom is entirely given over to the cats. The computer room is stacked floor-to-ceiling with boxes of books and cd's we have no storage for. Every closet in the houe is bursting with crap. And still, the avalanche of junk continues.

At first, I was polite and merely eye-rolling about this; I figured my mom was just trying to help. But there is also a purposefulness at work here. My parents actually laugh when I ask them to stop bringing stuff. They laugh and they tell me, "oh, it happens. When you get a house, it just fills up!" or the laugh and say how pleased they are to be cleaning out their basement and dumping it off at my house. Erm, forgive me for saying so, but if you don't want that crap at your house, I don't want it at mine, either.

The kicker is that 95% or more of the stuff that my parents claim is mine or which I should be responsible for disposing off my MOM is responsible for. The tiny clothes she saved from my and my siblings' infancies, most of which are now too trashed, have been stored too long, or are too small to be of use to me. Broken toys. The JUNK which she whines that Piper likes to play with - old wallets, broken cordless phones, creaky plastic picture frames, crocheted fun-fur scarves nobody will ever wear, Christmas decorations, a string of beaded tree-garland I had to take away from the baby because it was shedding flecks of green (and probably lead-filled) paint all over her hands and in her mouth. The remains of all those sackfuls of baby clothes I asked her not to buy in the first place. Tiny shoes and bibs I told her not to buy because I'd never put them on the baby anyway. Dozens of stuffed animals and heaps of garish plastic toys the baby never even glanced at twice. Leaky dollar-store sippy-cups; child-size dishes emblazoned with cartoon characters I despise; hats that Piper refuses to wear; mittens that are impractical at best for such a little kid; knitting patterns for an assortment of strange and scary children's garments or toys.

PILES and PILES of this stuff. In my HOUSE. And they're coming to visit again next month.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More Complaining

I just need to get it out, okay?

Here are a few more things about that in-law visit...I'm posting a lot today because a) Piper is taking a nap; b) It's 84 degrees in the house and our electric bill was so high last month it has made me afraid to ever turn the air on again, so it's too hot to fold a dryer-load of hot clothes right now; and c) I am procrastinating dealing with the massive piles of paperwork, bills, and assorted junk that fill my dining table and most of the kitchen counter. So here you go:

- I did apologize to Ryan because it's my fault he got bitched at about the visit. I was an interminable BRAT while they were here. Seriously. There were times when I wanted to smack myself, but the little voice inside that kept yelling "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?" at me was of no help. I was sick with a sinus issue that I was praying wouldn't turn into some raging sinus infection (since I still have no health insurance, natch) so I was not at my best to start with. Add in that Piper sleeps like total crap when my MIL has been anywhere near her (and that is saying A LOT, because she's a pretty crappy sleeper to start with), so I was teetering on the brink of pass-out-on-the-floor exhaustion for several days...and you have a near-perfect recipe for disaster. Which is what happened. I just didn't have the reserves to sit politely by smiling and nodding for three days while they trampled all over their son's feelings, freaked out my kid, and spouted bullshit. Ryan called me on it a few times, and I did try to be nicer, but I also told him that unless he wanted to watch the baby and entertain his parents at the same time so I could take a six-to-ten-hour nap, I didn't think there was much I could do.

- While that is not an excuse for rudeness by any means, it is a large part of why I was so grouchy. While I was sick and exhausted, I had to drag my ass around, listening to my mother-in-law's stream of chatter and responding like this:

"I'm sure that report you saw on Dateline was very informative, but I don't think it applies to Ryan's situation."

"Uh, I think we have enough dresses for now, we don't really need that neon green one with the pink gingham flounce, ruffle-butt bloomers, and matching hairbows."

"Yes, I'm aware that education can make all the difference in a child's life, but the child has to show up for that education and want to be there. They have to want to learn."

"Well, thank you very much! We can certainly find a use for another stack of education magazines, brochures on involved parenting, and Xeroxed articles about child development."

"I do agree that a job with more money doesn't mean total fulfillment, but there is a big difference between being dissatisfied on $25k per year and being dissatisfied on $150k per year."

"Thank you for the offer, but I think she's at least 6-12 months away from having enough hair for hairbows."

- It's not that they're bad. It's just that she tries so hard. She kept picking Piper up and hugging her and fussing with her clothes and patting her arms and squeezing her feet and rubbing her head and pulling up her dress to say "do you want your belly? You want that belly? Do you want your belly belly belly?" Piper did NOT want her belly, and kept tugging her dress back down, then running away. A couple of times in the car - she and I sat in the back with the baby in her car seat, Ryan and his dad sat in front - I wanted to smack her hands and scream "For the love of GOD, woman, stop touching my child!"

- I felt a little bad for MIL sometimes, because she's had hip surgery that didn't go well, and she can't do a lot of physical things. She had to take Piper to the couch whenever she wanted to read a book, for example, because MIL can't get down on the floor. Friday she wanted to take Piper for a walk and I said she was welcome to, but that I usually only get four houses down before I get tired of herding her out of other people's yards and chasing her back from the street. MIL said she probably shouldn't then, because she can't move fast enough to keep the baby from darting into the road. MIL asked for the stroller, and I would've let her attempt it (and wished her good luck while betting that they wouldn't get far before Piper started screaming to be let out), but it was in the back of our car, which Ryan had driven to a work meeting that morning. MIL couldn't get down on the floor to catch Piper at the end of the slide on her tiny-size jungle gym. She couldn't crouch down to count beads on the bead maze and help Piper pull toys out of the toy-box; she couldn't lay on the floor and wrestle. In short, she couldn't do most of the stuff that Piper spends her day doing.

- Then again, she doesn't make the effort, either. She brought a book of poems for us to read to her (some sort of Shel-Silverstein-like stuff that made me want to puncture my ocular cavities with a rusty nail after just one page) and seemed a little put-out when Piper wouldn’t sit still on the couch with her and read through it. This was even after I warned her that she’d have to be careful if she brought the baby up on the couch because as far as Piper is concerned, “let’s sit on the couch” means “neat, I can jump around, climb on the cushions, topple over the back, dive off the front, bounce off the wall, and generally make a good effort at giving myself a serious head injury.” MIL has a very specific agenda when it comes to her grandma-time and has little use for anything that doesn't fit into what she wants out of it. I have expressed concern to Ryan that this will only worsen as Piper gets older - she will be old enough to actually say "Thanks, Granny, but I don't want to make construction-paper Easter baskets" or "Can we read Harry Potter instead?" and I'm afraid MIL will turn it into a big deal about how Piper doesn't like her or we're not raising her with enough respect blah blah blah.

- We tried to find nice, interesting places to take them to eat, which failed miserably. We took them to The Counter, which does "custom-built burgers." They give you a little sheet and you check off what kind of burger you want - chicken, turkey, beef, veggie (their home-made veggie patties are deeee-licious but fall apart easily) and what kind of toppings (tomato? sprouts? carmelized onions?), cheese, sauce, and bun you'd like. We love to eat there (their roasted-garlic aioli is so good I want to drink it through a straw) and since FIL loves hamburgers we thought it'd be a hit. He took one look at the menu and whined, "But I just want a normal hamburger." Which, coming from him, means McDonald's. He eats McDonald's all the time and it grosses me out. In fact, I got into a somewhat heated discussion with him after he slurped down a hand-dipped milkshake from Cook-Out and declared that it wasn't very good because it wasn't very big and "McDonald's are better because you get a lot." I should have shut my mouth, but instead said that while these were smaller, yes, it was a quality issue not quantity, since the shakes at Cook-Out are actually made with real milk, ice cream, chocolate syrup and fresh fruit, unlike the God-knows-what (I didn't say "chilled soft-serve lard" out loud) in the machine at McDonald's. "Yeah, but a lot is better. McDonald's is still better," he asserted (with his mouth full).

- I totally UNLOADED on them after suffering 90 minutes of their views on the current state of education and health care in this country. It's sort of amusing when these discussions come up, actually, because they are in their 60's and more bleeding-heart-liberal/save-the-world than we are in our 20's (er, well, my 30's, now, but you get the picture). His parents think that the country will very soon have a national healthcare system for everyone, because "somebody has to do something, it can't go on this way." Even though we want to believe that's true, Ryan and I know damned well that nobody - especially politicians - ever has to do anything about anything. They also think Ryan should stay in education because "somebody has to save those kids!"; I want him out of it as fast as possible because I am sick of being broke, never seeing my husband, and having him constantly stressed-out, all for the benefit of little shits who think tests are an opportunity to practice making pictures with the bubbles on their their Scantron sheets (not kidding or exaggerating, by the way). I've told his parents time and time again that I don't want them trying to talk shop with Ryan during get-togethers; God knows his mother does enough of that during their weekly phone calls, there's no reason to spoil family and relaxation time with it, too. So I was pretty pissed when they started in with it, and after more than an hour, I was ready to tell them that if they wanted "those poor children" saved so badly, they should go back to school and do it their damned selves. Instead, I treated them to my diatribe on why I want Ryan to find a different job, whatever that entails, and how I will be glad when he or I are making enough that he can quit because the school system is a sinking ship with too many problems and too many people who want ten-minute, sound-bite-friendly solutions that will never work. They just stared at me open-mouthed for a minute, then they started in about how "things have to get better soon, because they can't go on the way they are" and that's when I brought the hammer down and said there would be no more work-talk, because this is Ryan's vacation and we have enough pleasant things to occupy us all, thankyouverymuch.

The Lowlights, AKA Open Letter to MIL

Here's just some of what happened during their now-infamous visit last month:

Dear MIL,


I'm sorry you "didn't feel welcome" during your visit last month and that you "felt like an imposition." But quite frankly, you were. You were supposed to visit in June, near Piper's birthday, but canceled on us at the last minute because you "had something else to do." I'm sure playing around with the boat your husband bought even though he doesn't know how to sail or clipping more education-related articles to clutter up my house with are very important pursuits, but are they really more important than your only grandchild's first birthday? Yes, I know we said we wanted it to be just us on the day-of, but we did tell you that the weekends before and after were free. My parents somehow managed to make it down here and celebrated just fine. Ryan had already taken a week off work so he could hang out with you...and then you canceled, and seemed miffed that we found this last-minute cancellation troublesome.

When you did get around to visiting, in July, it was only on your way to do something else. Forgive me if I'm not feeling like Piper is a priority for you. You bitch and moan at me to put more pictures up on the Internet, you call and ask relentlessly to hear "the stories, I have to hear all the stories," you expect Piper to perform her words or giggles or whatever on cue when you call (sorry, she's not a trained dog here to do tricks for you), you badger and pester me about how "we want to be involved in her life! We want to be part of her life!" Apparently it's only selected parts of her life you want to be a part of, at times and place you designate.

While I am discussing your visit, I'd like to add a few more things:

- You FREAK MY KID OUT. She actually hid behind me when you came into the house. You scared her. That has NEVER happened, not even when the drunk proselytizing guy at Jack-in-the-Box touched her her head to try and bless her with the Holy Spirit while I was waiting for my orange creamsicle milkshake. She sleeps like shit when you're around, she's crabby and irritable and unmanageable. Could you be a little less intense, please? I'm sick of dealing with a freaked-out baby for three days after you visit.

- Your husband sucks at babies. He let her run out in the street TWICE when he was supposed to be watching her, then had the gall to act offended when I ran past him to pull her out of the path of an oncoming car. He won't pick up toys she drops, even if the fall on his side of the table or, in some cases, ON his foot. He won't change diapers, instead preferring to come find me in the kitchen and say "We have a report - she either pooped or farted really loud, but it was definitely something, so you might want to check." He sat in my living room and read a book, totally ignoring her while she played. Also, I can't eat meals near him anymore because it makes me physically ill. His table manners are horrid (um, hell-o! if my kid talked with her mouth full like that I'd pop her one), and his constant chew-smack-snuffle-grunt-snort is like listening to someone throw cheeseburgers into a woodchipper.

- We don't drink much, and we don't drink at 10:30 in the morning. It's nice that you showed up at that hour with two bottles of champagne and two cases of beer, but don't get huffy if I don't want any until later in the day. Your excessive alcohol consumption is also part of the reason I haven't accepted your increasingly-more-insistent offers to babysit, BTW.

- I did warn you that Piper doesn't like to sit still, but because you wouldn't shut up about how much you wanted her to make you a finger-painting for your fridge, I agreed to let you try it. Don't blame me if she was screaming to get down after two minutes.

- I appreciate the thought, but that book of poems you brought makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty nail. I know they're supposed to be for kids and all, but really they're just moronic. I don't care what parenting magazine recommended the author, he sucks.

- When I say "no more work-talk," I mean it. I know you like to think you're informed about Ryan's job, but you haven't got a clue. I'm sick of you ruining our family time and his vacations with your blathering.

"Ohana" means family,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This Is Why I Don't Live Closer



My mom and sister just called me from inside Ikea, demanding to know how to buy a bed. Except the phone reception is terrible in there, and my mother likes complaining more than getting to the point, so the conversation sounded like this:

Me: Hello?
My sister's cellphone number: ...ert, I don...errible...keharewaweioare...
Me (thinking she has pocket-dialed): HELLO? HELLO? HELLO!!
My sister's voice: ...aft...Mom, I don't know what you want me to say!


My mom's voice:'t...gur...This is ridiculous! I don't even know how you did this! This is just awful!
Me (still thinking this is an accidental call): HELLOOOOO? MOM? SHILO? HELLO!
My mom's voice: Hello?
My mom's voice (irritated): ..kea, and we're TRYING to...mmmasdfhfff.........bed.
My mom's voice: .....s, and...ow to do this...onfusing...just awful, this is ridiculous...rice...for the slats, or the...?...
Me: Mom, I can't hear you - are you asking about the slats? You need a frame, a midbeam, and a set of slats. Three things. The numbers are on the tags.
My mom's voice: ajeoriaazerrehijt...system, can't fi...khniosuaoieuopuetsn...stupid, awful, it's so conf...mmeardfadaeadak
Me: The reception in there is always bad, I can't hear you...MOM?! ARE YOU THERE? SLATS AND A MIDBEAM!! SLATS AND A MIDBEAM!!


My sister's voice: Mom, that was not very nice.
My mom's voice (distant): afkwl;ejrpoeijaeihrinrhk
Me: Dude, what do you need?  I can barely hear you.
My sister's voice: ...upb...ooking at the beds and there's two prices and we want to know why...kkkrkwe...fffffff...hgmrmew...
Me (wondering why the hell they don't just flag down an employee and ask): Are you upstairs or downstairs?
My sister's voice: Upstairs. And we want to know why it's so much more on the other side. Why is it so much more over there??
Me: Over where? The other side of what?
My sister's voice (impatient): The other side of the THING, where the MATTRESSES are.
Me: Does the other bed have nicer slats? Are you looking at two kinds of slats maybe?
My sister's voice: No, we need two sets of slats or something?
Me: I can barely hear you...there's two pieces to the slats, they go on either side of the midbeam.
My sister's voice (relaying to my mom): Mom, she says we need two pieces of slats.
My mom's voice (faint): grumble grumble grumble Ikea slats grumble stupid grumble too hard grumble stupid too hard dumb system grumble.
My sister's voice: So why does the other tag say $30?
Me: I don't know, dude, we didn't have any trouble at all when we bought our bed...

It was about ten minutes of this total, with my mom complaing and my sister saying "the THING on the SIGN!" and me having no idea what they were actually asking, all of it garbled through terrible phone reception.  The whole time I was getting increasingly annoyed because a) the cell reception in that Ikea is always terrible, everybody knows it, every time I have been there with a member of my family they have commented on it. So why were they calling me?? b) my sister text-messages as much as she breathes. Why not text me whatever the hell it was they were trying to ask? and c)WHY NOT ASK A FRICKEN EMPLOYEE? You know, someone who actually works there and can HEAR WHAT YOU'RE ASKING and CAN SEE WHAT YOU'RE POINTING AT?

Read the damned tags, fercryinoutloud. It's not friggin' rocket science, it's Ikea.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Long-Winded But Not Long Enough

The problem with my infrequent posting is that it forces the stuff I do get around to posting to be novella-length. Like if I were to want to, say, vent about the fact that my MIL called today and whined to Ryan that they "didn't feel welcome" during their visit last month and she thinks "it felt like we were an imposition," I would have to tell you about how that visit went and why she's not far off. I just tried to write some of it out, but it turned into the world's biggest run-on sentence.

And now I have wasted a rare and precious morning nap writing and deleting things.


Friday, August 08, 2008

The Battle of the Closet

*For anyone who likes to look at baby clothes: this post inadvertently turned into a mini-guide to my favorite baby clothes, so enjoy! If you don't like baby stuff, this post will probably bore you so badly you'll impale yourself on a pencil.

We cleaned out Piper's closet today. I put eight pairs of never-worn shoes into the give-away pile. Er, rather the "What the Fuck Do I Do With All This Shit Now?" bin. The WtFDIDWATSN bin is currently a large Ikea laundry hamper; it used to be a shoebox, then a larger shoebox, then a large shopping bag, then an empty box from a mega-pack of disposable diapers. I keep chucking more and more stuff, as I seek to make dressing her easier and the distance from our families makes me feel less compelled to hang onto every fugly outfit they buy her.

Or maybe it's that we're lazy. I love a cute pair of tiny shoes as much as the next mama, but I am also deeply devoted to the path of least resistance when it comes to dressing a baby. When Piper was tiny, we had frilly, foofy outfits with matching bibs, booties, and blankies galore, but I battled the grandmas like hell to put her in onesies or t-shirts every chance I got. My mom bought pair after pair of miniature mary-janes, stacks of bonnets and bloomers with ruffles, or rompers with matching bibs and socks. My MIL brought things, too, although not nearly as many because my mom bought so much, I think my MIL felt crowded out. The things my MIL bought were occasonally cute, but mostly seemed to convey the impression that Piper was going sailing, yachting, or lounging at the country club on a regular basis.

My mom is obsessive with the baby clothes; she'll go into Kohl's and drop $120 a pop, lugging out a sackful of clearance-priced Carter's outfits, half of which will never see the light of day. I've begged, pleaded, and implored her to stop doing this kind of stuff. At first, I told her over and over that I'd rather have ONE cute dress from Tea Collection or Kate Quinn Organics than 10 cutesy-wootsey rompers, 20 pairs of pants decorated with fruit, or more stuff with frogs on it that I will never even put her in, or which, due to the sheer volume of clothing she has, will be worn once and then just take up closet space until they're outgrown. I can't even get her to shop at Old Navy, even though I've raved about how cute their baby clothes are (and, oh, the shoes!), and if you shop their clearance sales, just as cheap as the stuff she brings home from Kohl's, Wal-Mart, and Penney's. I've tried explaining that I'd rather have quality than quantity; that it doesn't matter if "it was only $3.50!," it's a wasted $3.50 if I'm not going to put it on her or if you buy so much stuff I can't even cycle through everything once before it's outgrown.

That tactic did not work, so now I've taken to begging my mother to, instead of buying one more shirt with a frog on it or another dress or more pairs of "ruffle-butt" tights that she will never wear, to please, PLEASE put the money into a college fund instead. "She'll need a college educaton a lot more than she'll ever need another pair of ruffly socks," I tell her.

It's not working. She is getting better; she still sends boxes of stuff, but she's at least listening to my preferences about what to buy. I tell her "t-shirts and bottoms; she's just too busy and too wiggly to wrestle into onesies anymore" or "solid colors are best, she has a lot of patterned stuff it's too hard to match to" and the things still arrive, but I put most of them into rotation without wincing too much. I still haven't convinced her to start buying plain, solid-color AA tees and Baby Soy separates, but *sigh* maybe someday. And as many things as she buys that I don't like, she has subsidized my Babylegs habit quite a few times. Those little suckers are so frickin' cute, and they funky-up any outfit, in addition to being easier to deal with than all the clothes that have 264 snaps on the legs. I chucked quite a few of those kind of pants after several times having to haul a half-dressed baby out of a public restroom because she wouldn't stay still enough on the (filthy, within-grabbing-distance-of-the-trash-can, and never-quite-flat) wall-mounted baby changer. Anyway, back to the Babylegs. They are like crack to me, and I will not disclose how many actual pairs Piper has (or how many more pairs of kneesocks are sitting around here waiting for me to DIY some more), because the number is embarrassingly high.

My next move is going to be to my mother to save her money and spend it on gas to come visit. Maybe that will work: "Wouldn't you rather be playing with her down here than shopping for her up there?"

Now I have to figure out some way to deter my MIL from buying hairbows.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

3:45 a.m.

It's almost four in the morning, and what am I doing? Not sleeping. Blogging.

My birthday is next week. The big three-oh. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's just a number, but really? Just thinking about it makes me want to lie down on the floor and not get up. Of course, I can't do that, because the cats will all come lay on me and it's much too hot to be covered in furry, wriggly bodies.

And since my child seems to have inherited my completely, totally, absolutely shitty sleep genes, she will be up in another hour or so anyway. Duty calls, and all that. Somebody has to rock her and shush her and walk the floor with her and beg her to "please, Piper, for the love of God, go to sleep."

My in-laws were here last month, and I was a total brat during their visit. I feel somewhat guilty about it, but I was sick the whole time they were here and spending a lot of time around them tends to make me feel a bit tightly wound and strung-out in the first place. I cooked and planned activities and tried not to roll my eyes too much. I don't think I did a very good job, but I didn't outright scream at them for any of the annoying/stupid things they did while they were here, so I guess it could have been worse.

I've had my new camera for two months, and it's still in its box on my bedroom floor. My current excuse is that there is not a single flat surface in the house that is not-baby-accesible and debris-free so I can set it up and charge the damned battery. While it is an excuse for me not to have to deal with Big Scary Camera, it is also true. Every fucking flat surface in the house is covered in crap.

The clutter and mess are slowly driving me mad. I can't handle all the chaos anymore. Every time I get something cleaned, it's messy again in ten minutes. There is more shit than I know what to do with, and the baby wrecks EVERYTHING as soon as I straighten it. I just feel like crying, because I would feel so much less stressed if my house were at least a little bit neat and orderly. Maybe I wouldn't feel like screaming my lungs out at the end of each day.

I feel like it's some sort of personal failing - who is this messy, honestly? Grownups don't live like this.

Really, I'm just tired of everything right now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mad Drivin' Skillz

Guess who failed her written NC driver's license exam? After a three-hour wait at the DMV spent trying to entertain a one-year-old in a crowded waiting room?

I was not smart enough to accept Ryan's offer to hold Piper during my test and stupidly thought I'd be okay with a crabby, squirming toddler on my lap as I attempted to answer 25 multiple-choice computerized questions. He passed his test, of course. I missed 6 questions, which is a FAIL. It kept asking me oddly specific things ("If you are going 45 MPH, do you put your turn signal on 100, 200, 400, or 50 feet from the spot where you intend to turn?" "How many points will you receive if you commit X offense?") or things that had more than one possible answer in the choices given. So a few days later, we dragged ourselves out of bed early in the morning and spent another 1.5 hours in the waiting room so I could re-take it. I barely passed (missed 4 this time), even though I had spent a couple of days studying the info booklet. Out of 25 questions, at least 7 of mine this time were on the points system. Those were the ones that got me. I have no idea how many points you get in NC for a second drunk driving offense. I don't know how many points you get for X MPH over the speed limit, either. Or Y. Or Z. I guess the computer handing out questions thought that if it kept asking me, eventually I'd somehow manage to pick the right answer.

I do not understand why I only squeaked by, since I am a much less-scary driver than my husband. If someone cuts me off, I do not take it as a personal insult against my family line, nor do I retaliate by cutting anyone else off. I also don't scream and pound on the dash board, or bemoan the fact that there are other cars on this road what are they doing here why are all these people driving on this road WHY WHY WHY?! Nor do I swerve violently on the road because I am trying to retrieve my can't-drive-anywhere-without-it GPS device from under my seat, or because I am playing with the iPod and changing it from my wife's relaxing drive-time playlist to an album full of emo-screaming that sounds like it was recorded by 11-year-olds in someone's garage.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Under Construction

I know I took a hiatus for a while. I apologize (again) and promise (again) to put in some work here. I also apologize (again) for the (repeated) barrage of back-dated posts. It's all part of my blog remodel.

I have dropped our pseudonyms, because they were getting cumbersome. So henceforth I shall be known as "Steph," in case any of my 1.3 readers ever come back this way.

I have changed the look of this thing, and am still tinkering with it. I will also be inserting more back-dated posts. Please forgive me. Right now, I am trying to keep 4 blogs and 2 photo sites updated, and I just can't do it any more. So this flury of activity is in preparation for my transition to using this blog full-time, instead of the afterthought it has been.

The dust will settle eventually, I promise.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


We are doing better. It helps knowing we did the right thing for him, and while my feelings about God or other higher powers are somewhat fuzzy, I'd like to believe that he has gone on to a place where the shrimp buffets are endless and there are more than enough laps to go around.

I will share this, which proves either that we were recovering already or that we are sick, strange bastards:

It started to rain as we pulled out of the vet’s parking lot. The baby was asleep two blocks down the road. The rain quickened on the six-minute drive home, until we could barely see the turnoff to our street. We pulled into our driveway and Ryan turned off the car. We waited, the only sound the metallic noise of rain pounding the car roof. Piper emitted a baby snore from her position strapped into the car seat. The “biodegradable casket” that held Gandalf Mack-Max rested on the seat next to her. It was cardboard, a little bigger than a shoebox, with a rounded top and handles in the sides. Cut out handles with a backing behind them, so you couldn’t see inside. The vet had taped the lid on with white surgical tape wound completely around the box.

We sat there, in the driveway, with sheets of water pouring onto our quiet, still car. We waited for a break in the rain, so we could all get from the car to our front door without getting soaked. We would have to leave the small box on the front porch for the moment; we had no garage to keep it in, and we couldn’t bury him in the rain. And anyway, we didn’t have a shovel. Tomorrow one of us would walk up to the hardware store around the corner, but they were closed now.

Ryan glanced into the back seat. “I kind of wish we could give him a Viking funeral,” he said. “It seems somehow appropriate.”
“Well,” I said, “the Catawba River is right over there.” I pointed behind me and to my left.
“So it is,” he answered.
“Although they may have some ordinances about setting your dead cat aflame and sending him downstream.” I surprised myself and chuckled.
He joined me. “I dare them to prove it was us.”
“And I don’t think Joon will want to travel with him.”
“Screw her then, she’ll never get to Valhalla.”

And we both laughed in our quiet car as the rain poured down outside.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"You're Doing the Right thing"

That was what the vet said to us yesterday, as she stroked his bony gray head, her hand close to mine. We didn't know this vet, I just called them because they were closest to our house. And she (and her staff) turned out to give us the best experience we've ever had at a vet's office.

We brought him in, unhappily caged in our purple cat-carrier with the improbable Easter stickers all over it. Getting him in there was horrible. I had opened Piper's closet to get something, and he darted in, all the way to the back, and lay down behind some boxes. He wouldn't come out. I had to tear half the stuff out of there to get at him. He cried and splayed his thin, fragile limbs when I went to put him in the carrier. I shut the door and he cried again and pressed his face to the wire.

I had been home with him all day, watching as he moved from place to place in the house, trying to get comfortable. He appeared to doze but never sleep; he never curled up and crashed out the way the other cats did. Sometimes he followed me around, and I petted him and kissed his head and wiped way the foul-smelling fluid that drained from the corners of his mouth. Sometimes I cried a little, but not as much as I had on the phone that morning when I called to make the appointment.

We had told the vet what we knew - that he and another cat insisted on being outside, that they had both started to slim down and while the other cat leveled out, he just kept going. He would disappear for a couple of days, hang around the house for a few hours, then go back out. Until Friday, when he came in and I picked him up and found that he was not merely skinny but skeletal. He wasn't eating, he didn't want his buddy Mei-Mei to snuggle with him. One side of his face looked swollen. We watched him over the weekend, tried to tempt him with canned cat food, shrimp, and roast beef. But he just got worse, and fast. His breath started to smell terrible, and by Sunday he was drooling something that was not drool.

We had debated a lot over the weekend on what to do. When he was diagnosed with Feline Leukemia two years ago, they told us that some sort of infection or tumor would most likely be what got him. We wondered if we could fatten him up and get him some antibiotics to kick this. We wondered if he was going to die, and if he'd be better off at home, or if we should take him in.

On Monday, when Ryan got home from a teaching conference, I told him that I didn't think it was going to get any better, and it wasn't going to be quick. We had to take Gandalf Mack-Max in and have him put to sleep.

So I called the unknown vet and got an appointment, and after we were led into an exam room one of the assistants came and asked us questions about what we wanted to do with the body (we opted to take him home, in a “biodegradable casket” that was really a glorified cardboard box) and if we wanted to be with him when they did it – things I hadn’t even thought of. I answered between sniffles.

Which is how we arrived at that moment, the vet and I petting him as she softly told me that no, he wasn't going to get any better. Given his FeLV status and the smell, she thought it was a necrotic tumor. It couldn't be cured, he couldn't get better, she said, and we were doing the right thing for him. Gandalf Mack-Max looked a bit worried and made half-hearted attempts to jump off the table, but mostly he lay there with the weary, pained look he'd been wearing for days. He purred and nuzzled my hand.

So I told her we were ready and that I wanted to be with him when it happened. She had an assistant come in and we all held him while the vet tried to put in an IV. His blood pressure was so low she had trouble getting a vein. I knew then that she was right, that the infection was hopeless, and I felt a stab of guilt at our three days' worth of debate. I was sorry it had taken us this long to help him.

The vet found the vein and gave him the first of what she had explained would be two drugs; number one was a sedative, he'd relax and feel calm. Number two would simply be a high dose of anesthetic, which would stop his heart.

I felt him relax under my hand as the sedative reached him. He felt so calm and warm and I started to cry. I told him I loved him. Then the vet administered the second drug. It didn't take long, his system was so wrecked. He was gone in a few seconds.

They gave us a few minutes with him, and then they came and got him ready for us to take home. The kind veterinarian walked us out to the car and said they would mail us the paperwork, we didn’t need to worry about any of it today. She gave me a kind pat on the back and, on impulse I hugged her and thanked her. She hugged me back and said I was welcome.

And then we took him home.